with her propeller. Nearer hand, and just within, a big
white boat came skimming to the stroke of many oars,
her ensign blowing at the stern.
" One word more," said Wicks, after he had taken in
"Mac, you've been in China ports? All
right ; then you can speak for yourself. The rest of you
I kept on board all the time we were in Hongkong, hop-
ing you would desert ; but you fooled me and stuck to
the brig. That'll make your lying come easier."
The boat was now close at hand ; a boy in the stern
sheets was the only officer, and a poor one plainly, for
the men were talking as they pulled.
" Thank God, they've only sent a kind of a middy ! "
A BAD BARGAIN. 535
ejaculated Wicks. "Here you, Hardy, stand forward!
I'll have no deck hands on my quarter-deck," he cried,
and the reproof braced the whole crew like a cold
The boat came alongside with perfect neatness, and
the boy officer stepped on board, where he was respect-
fully greeted by Wicks.
" You the master of this ship ? " he asked.
" Yes, sir," said Wicks. " Trent is my name, and this
is the Flying Scud of Hull."
" You seem to have got into a mess," said the officer.
" If you'll step aft with me here, I'll tell you all there
is of it," said Wicks.
"Why, man, you're shaking! " cried the officer.
" So would you, perhaps, if you had been in the same
berth," returned Wicks ; and he told the whole story of
the rotten water, the long calm, the squall, the seamen
drowned ; glibly and hotly ; talking, with his head in the
lion's mouth, like one pleading in the dock. I heard the
same tale from the same narrator in the saloon in San
Francisco; and even then his bearing filled me with sus-
picion. But the officer was no observer.
"Well, the captain is in no end of a hurry," said he;
*but I was instructed to give you all the assistance in
my power, and signal back for another boat if more
bands were necessary. What can I do for you ? "
"0, we won't keep you no time," replied Wicks,
cheerily. "We're all ready, bless you men's chests,
chronometer, papers and all."
536 THE WRECKER.
" Do you mean to leave her ? " cried the officer. " She
seems to me to lie nicely ; can't we get your ship off ? "
" So we could, and no mistake ; but how we're to keep
her afloat's another question. Her bows is stove in,"
The officer coloured to the eyes. He was incompe-
tent and knew he was ; thought he was already detected,
and feared to expose himself again. There was nothing
further from his mind than that the captain should
deceive him; if the captain was pleased, why, so was
he. " All right," he said. " Tell your men to get their
" Mr. Goddedaal, turn the hands to to get the chests
aboard," said Wicks.
The four Currency Lasses had waited the while on
tenter-hooks. This welcome news broke upon them like
the sun at midnight ; and Hadden burst into a storm of
tears, sobbing aloud as he heaved upon the tackle. But
the work went none the less briskly forward ; chests,
men, and bundles were got over the side with alacrity ;
the boat was shoved off ; it moved out of the long shadow
of the Flying Scud, and its bows were pointed at the
So much, then, was accomplished. The sham wreck
had passed muster ; they were clear of her, they were
safe away; and the water widened between them and
her damning evidences. On the other hand, they were
drawing nearer to the ship of war, which might very
A BAD BARGAIN. 537
well prove to be their prison and a hangman's cart to
bear them to the gallows of which they had not yet
learned either whence she came or whither she was bound ;
and the doubt weighed upon their heart like mountains.
It was Wicks who did the talking. The sound was
small in Carthew's ears, like the voices of men miles
away, but the meaning of each word struck home to him
like a bullet. " What did you say your ship was ? " in-
" Tempest, don't you know ? " returned the officer.
Don't you know ? What could that mean ? Per-
haps nothing : perhaps that the ships had met already
Wicks took his courage in both hands. " Where is she
bound ? " he asked.
" 0, we're just looking in at all these miserable islands
here," said the officer. "Then we bear up for San
" 0, yes, you're from China ways, like us ? " pursued
" Hong Kong," said the officer, and spat over the side.
Hong Kong. Then the game was up ; as soon as they
set foot on board, they would be seized ; the wreck
would be examined, the blood found, the lagoon perhaps
dredged, and the bodies of the dead would reappear to
testify. An impulse almost incontrollable bade Car-
thew rise from the thwart, shriek out aloud, and leap
overboard ; it seemed so vain a thing to dissemble longer,
to dally with the inevitable, to spin out some hundred
538 THE WRECKER.
seconds more of agonised suspense, "with shame and
death thus visibly approaching. But the indomitable
Wicks persevered. His face was like a skull, his voice
scarce recognisable ; the dullest of men and officers (it
seemed) must have remarked that telltale countenance
and broken utterance. And still he persevered, bent
"Nice place, Hong Kong ? " he said.
"I'm sure I don't know," said the officer. "Only a day
and a half there ; called for orders and came straight on
here. Never heard of such a beastly cruise." And he
went on describing and lamenting the untoward fortunes
of the Tempest.
But Wicks and Carthew heeded him no longer. They
lay back on the gunnel, breathing deep, sunk in a stupor
of the body : the mind within still. nimbly and agreeably
at work, measuring the past danger, exulting in the pres-
ent relief, numbering with ecstasy their ultimate chances
of escape. For the voyage in the man-of-war they were
now safe ; yet a few more days of peril, activity, and pres-
ence of mind in San Francisco, and the whole horrid tale
was blotted out ; and Wicks again became Kirkup, and
Goddedaal became Carthew men beyond all shot of
possible suspicion, men who had never heard of the Fly-
ing Scud, who had never been in sight of Midway Eeef.
So they came alongside, under many craning heads of
seamen and projecting mouths of guns ; so they climbed
on board somnambulous, and looked blindly about them
A BAD BARGAIN. 539
at the tall spars, the white decks, and the crowding ship's
company, and heard men as from far away, and answered
them at random.
And then a hand fell softly on Carthew's shoulder.
"Why, Nome, old chappie, where have you dropped
from ? All the world's been looking for you. Don't
you know you've come into your kingdom ? "
He turned, beheld the face of his old schoolmate Se-
bright, and fell unconscious at his feet.
The doctor was attending him, awhile later, in Lieu-
tenant Sebright's cabin, when he came to himself. He
opened his eyes, looked hard in the strange face, and
spoke with a kind of solemn vigour.
" Brown must go the same road," he said ; " now or
never." And then paused, and his reason coming to him
with more clearness, spoke again : " What was I saying ?
Where am I ? Who are you ? "
"I am the doctor of the Tempest" was the reply.
" You are in Lieutenant Sebright's berth, and you may
dismiss all concern from your mind. Your troubles are
over, Mr. Carthew."
" Why do you call me that ? " he asked. " Ah, I re-
member Sebright knew me ! ! " and he groaned
and shook. "Send down Wicks to me; I must see
Wicks at once ! " he cried, and seized the doctor's wrist
with unconscious violence.
" All right," said the doctor. " Let's make a bargain.
You swallow down this draught, and I'll go and fetch
540 THE WRECKER.
And he gave the wretched man an opiate that laid him
out within ten minutes and in all likelihood preserved
It was the doctor's next business to attend to Mac;
and he found occasion, while engaged upon his arm, td
make the man repeat the names of the rescued crew.
It was now the turn of the captain, and there is no doubt
he was no longer the man that we have seen; sudden
relief, the sense of perfect safety, a square meal and
a good glass of grog, had all combined to relax his vigi-
lance and depress his energy.
"When was this done?" asked the doctor, looking at
"More than a week ago," replied Wicks, thinking
singly of his log.
" Hey ? " cried the doctor, and he raised his head and
looked the captain in the eyes.
" I don't remember exactly," faltered Wicks.
And at this remarkable falsehood, the suspicions of
the doctor were at once quadrupled.
" By the way, which of you is called Wicks ? " he asked
"What's that?" snapped the captain, falling white
"Wicks," repeated the doctor; "which of you is he?
that's surely a plain question."
Wicks stared upon his questioner in silence.
"Which is Brown, then? " pursued the doctor.
A BAD BARGAIN. 541
" What are you talking of ? what do yon mean by
this?" cried Wicks, snatching his half-bandaged hand
away, so that the blood sprinkled in the surgeon's face.
He did not trouble to remove it. Looking straight at
his victim, he pursued his questions. "Why must
Brown go the same way ? " he asked.
Wicks fell trembling on a locker. "Carthew's told
you," he cried.
" No," replied the doctor, " he has not. But he and
you between you have set me thinking, and I think
there's something wrong."
" Give me some grog," said Wicks. " I'd rather tell
than have you find out. I'm damned if it's half as bad
as what any one would think."
And with the help of a couple of strong grogs, the
tragedy of the Flying Scud was told for the first time.
It was a fortunate series of accidents that brought the
story to the doctor. He understood and pitied the posi-
tion of these wretched men, and came whole-heartedly
to their assistance. He and Wicks and Carthew (so
soon as he was recovered) held a hundred councils and
prepared a policy for San Francisco. It was he who
certified " Goddedaal " unfit to be moved and smuggled
Carthew ashore under cloud of night ; it was he who
kept Wicks's wound open that he might sign with
his left hand ; he who took all their Chile silver
and (in the course of the first day) got it converted
for them into portable gold. He used his influence ii
542 THE WRECKER.
the wardroom to keep the tongues of the young officers
in order, so that Carthew's identification was kept out of
the papers. And he rendered another service yet more
important. He had a friend in San Francisco, a million,
aire ; to this man he privately presented Carthew as a
young gentleman come newly into a huge estate, but
troubled with Jew debts which he was trying to settle
on the quiet. The millionaire came readily to help;
and it was with his money that the wrecker gang was
to be fought. What was his name, out of a thousand
guesses ? It was Douglas Longhurst.
As long as the Currency Lasses could all disappear
under fresh names, it did not greatly matter if the brig
were bought, or any small discrepancies should be dis-
covered in the wrecking. The identification of one of
their number had changed all that. The smallest scan-
dal must now direct attention to the movements of Nor-
ris. It would be asked how he, who had sailed in a
schooner from Sydney, had turned up so shortly after in
a brig out of Hong Kong; and from one question to
another all his original shipmates were pretty sure to be
involved. Hence arose naturally the idea of preventing
danger, profiting by Carthew's new-found wealth, and
buying the brig under an alias ; and it was put in hand
with equal energy and caution. Carthew took lodgings
alone under a false name, picked up Bellairs at random,
and commissioned him to buy the wreck.
"What figure, if you please ? " the lawyer asked.
A BAD BARGAIN. 543
w I want it bought," replied Carthew. " I don't mind
about the price."
" Any price is no price," said Bellairs. " Put a name
" Call it ten thousand pounds then, if you like ! " said
In the meanwhile, the captain had to walk the streets,
appear in the consulate, be cross-examined by Lloyd's
agent, be badgered about his lost accounts, sign papers
with his left hand, and repeat his lies to every skipper
in San Francisco : not knowing at what moment he
might run into the arms of some old friend who should
hail him by the name of Wicks, or some new enemy
who should be in a position to deny him that of Trent.
And the latter incident did actually befall him, but was
transformed by his stout countenance into an element
of strength. It was in the consulate (of all untoward
places) that he suddenly heard a big voice inquiring for
Captain Trent. He turned with the customary sinking
at his heart.
" You ain't Captain Trent ! " said the stranger, falling
back. " Why, what's all this ? They tell me you're
passing off as Captain Trent Captain Jacob Trent
a man I knew since I was that high."
" 0, you're thinking of my uncle as had the bank in
Cardiff," replied Wicks, with desperate aplomb.
" I declare I never knew he had a newy ! " said the
544 THE WBECKBK.
" Well, you see he has ! " says Wicks.
"And how is the old man ? " asked the other.
"Fit as a fiddle," answered Wicks, and was oppor-
tunely summoned by the clerk.
This alert was the only one until the morning of the
sale, when he was once more alarmed by his interview
with Jim ; and it was with some anxiety that he attended
the sale, knowing only that Carthew was to be repre-
sented, but neither who was to represent him nor
what were the instructions given. I suppose Captain
Wicks is a good life. In spite of his personal appear-
ance and his own known uneasiness, I suppose he is
secure from apoplexy, or it must have struck him
there and then, as he looked on at the stages of
that insane sale and saw the old brig and her not very
valuable cargo knocked down at last to a total stranger
for ten thousand pounds.
It had been agreed that he was to avoid Carthew,
and above all Carthew's lodging, so that no connexion
might be traced between the crew and the pseudonymous
purchaser. But the hour for caution was gone by, and
he caught a tram and made all speed to Mission Street.
Carthew met him in the door.
"Come away, come away from here," said Carthew;
and when they were clear of the house, "All's up ! " he
"0, you've heard of the sale then ? " said Wicks.
"The sale!" cried Carthew. "I declare I had for-
EPILOGUE: TO WILL H. LOW. 545
gotten it." And he told of the voice in the telephone,
and the maddening question : Why did you want to buy
the Flying Scud ?
This circumstance, coming on the back of the mon-
strous improbabilities of the sale, was enough to have
shaken the reason of Immanuel Kant. The earth seemed
banded together to defeat them ; the stones and the boys
on the street appeared to be in possession of their guilty
secret. Plight was their one thought. The treasure of
the Currency Lass they packed in waist-belts, expressed
their chests to an imaginary address in British Columbia,
and left San Francisco the same afternoon, booked for
The next day they pursued their retreat by the South-
ern Pacific route, which Carthew followed on his way
bo England; but the other three branched off for
TO WILL H. LOW.
DEAR Low : The other day (at Manihiki of all places)
I had the pleasure to meet Dodd. We sat some two
hours in the neat, little, toy-like church, set with pews
after the manner of Europe, and inlaid with mother-of-
pearl in the style (I suppose) of the New Jerusalem-
546 THE WKECKER.
The natives, who are decidedly the most attractive
inhabitants of this planet, crowded round us in the pew,
and fawned upon and patted us ; and here it was I put
my questions, and Dodd answered me.
I first carried him back to the night in Barbizon when
Carthew told his story, and asked him what was done
about Bellairs. It seemed he had put the matter to his
friend at once, and that Carthew took it with an inim-
itable lightness. "He's poor, and I'm rich," he had
said. " I can afford to smile at him. I go somewhere
else, that's all somewhere that's far away and dear
to get to. Persia would be found to answer, I fancy.
No end of a place, Persia* Why not come with me ? "
And they had left the next afternoon for Constanti-
nople, on their way to Teheran. Of the shyster, it is
only known (by a newspaper paragraph) that he returned
somehow to San Francisco and died in the hospital.
" Now there's another point," said I. " There you are
off to Persia with a millionaire, and rich yourself. How
come you here in the South Seas, running a trader ? "
He said, with a smile, that I had not yet heard of
Jim's last bankruptcy. " I was about cleaned out once
more," he said ; " and then it was that Carthew had this
schooner built, and put me in as supercargo. It's his
yacht and it's my trader ; and as nearly all the expenses
go to the yacht, I do pretty well. As for Jim, he's
right again : one of the best businesses, they say, in the
West, fruit, cereals, and real estate ; and he has a Tartar
EPILOGUE: TO WILL H. LOW. 547
of a partner now Nares, no less. Nares will keep
him straight, Nares has a big head. They have their
country-places next door at Saucelito, and I stayed with
them time about, the last time I was on the coast. Jim
has a paper of his own I think he has a notion of
being senator one of these days and he wanted me to
throw up the schooner and come and write his editorials.
He holds strong views on the State Constitution, and so
" And what became of the other three Currency Lasses
after they left Carthew ? " I inquired.
" Well, it seems they had a huge spree in the city of
Mexico," said Dodd ; " and then Hadden and the Irish-
man took a turn at the gold fields in Venezuela, and
Wicks went on alone to Valparaiso. There's a Kirkup
in the Chilean navy to this day, I saw the name in the
papers about the Balmaceda war. Hadden soon wearied
of the mines, and I met him the other day in Sydney.
The last news he had from Venezuela, Mac had been
knocked over in an attack on the gold train. So there's
only the three of them left, for Amalu scarcely counts.
He lives on his own land in Maui, at the side of Hale-a-
ka-la, where he keeps Goddedaal's canary ; and they say
he sticks to his dollars, which is a wonder in a Kanaka.
He had a considerable pile to start with, for not only
Hemstead's share but Carthew's was divided equally
among the other four Mac being counted."
" What did that make for him altogether ? " I could
548 THE WEBCKBK.
not help asking, for I had been diverted by the number
of calculations in his narrative.
" One hundred and twenty-eight pounds nineteen shil-
lings and eleven pence halfpenny," he replied with
composure. "That's leaving out what little he won at
Van John. It's something for a Kanaka, you know."
And about that time we were at last obliged to yield
to the solicitations of our native admirers, and go to the
pastor's house to drink green cocoanuts. The ship I
was in was sailing the same night, for Dodd had been
beforehand and got all the shell in the island; and
though he pressed me to desert and return with him to
Auckland (whither he was now bound to pick up Car-
thew) I was firm in my refusal.
The truth is, since I have been mixed up with Havens
and Dodd in the design to publish the latter's narrative,
I seem to feel no want for Carthew's society. Of course
I am wholly modern in sentiment, and think nothing
more noble than to publish people's private affairs at so
much a line. They like it, and if they don't, they ought
to. But a still small voice keeps telling me they will
not like it always, and perhaps not always stand it.
Memory besides supplies me with the face of a press-
man (in the sacred phrase) who proved altogether too
modern for one of his neighbours, and
Qui nunc it per tier tenebricosum
as it were, marshalling us our way. I am in no haste to
EPILOGUE; TO WILL H. LOW. 549
be that man's successor. Carthew has a record as "a
clane shot," and for some years Samoa will be good
enough for me.
We agreed to separate, accordingly ; but he took me
on board in his own boat with the hard-wood fittings,
and entertained me on the way with an account of his
late visit to Butaritari, whither he had gone on an
errand for Carthew, to see how Topelius was getting
along, and, if necessary, to give him a helping hand.
But Topelius was in great force, and had patronised and
well out-manoeuvred him.
"Carthew will be pleased," said Dodd; "for there's
no doubt they oppressed the man abominably when they
were in the Currency Lass. It's diamond cut diamond
This, I think, was the most of the news I got from
my friend Loudon ; and I hope I was well inspired, and
have put all the questions to which you would be curious
to hear an answer.
But there is one more that I daresay you are burning
to put to myself ; and that is, what your own name is
doing in this place, cropping up (as it were uncalled-for)
on the stern of our poor ship ? If you were not born
in Arcadia, you linger in fancy on its margin; your
thoughts are busied with ^he flutes of antiquity, with
550 THE WRECKER.
daffodils, and the classic poplar, and the footsteps of the
nymphs, and the elegant and moving aridity of ancient
art. Why dedicate to you a tale of a caste so modern ;
full of details of our barbaric manners and unstable
morals ; full of the need and the lust of money, so that
there is scarce a page in which the dollars do not jingle;
full of the unrest and movement of our century, so
that the reader is hurried from place to place and sea
to sea, and the book is less a romance than a panorama ;
in the end, as blood-bespattered as an epic ?
Well, you are a man interested in all problems of art,
even the most vulgar ; and it may amuse you to hear the
genesis and growth of The Wrecker. On board the schoon-
er Equator, almost within sight of the Johustone Islands
(if anybody knows where these are) and on a moonlit night
when it was a joy to be alive, the authors were amused
with several stories of the sale of wrecks. The subject
tempted them; and they sat apart in the alley- way to
discuss its possibilities. "What a tangle it would
make," suggested one, "if the wrong crew were
aboard. But how to get the wrong crew there?"
"I have it!" cried the other; "the so-and-so affair!"
For not so many months before, and not so many hun-
dred miles from where we were then sailing, a propo-
sition almost tantamount to that of Captain Trent
had been made by a British skipper to some British
Before we turned in, the scaffolding of the tale had
EPILOGUE: TO WILL H. LOW. 551
been put together. But the question of treatment was
as usual more obscure. We had long been at once
attracted and repelled by that very modern form of the
police novel or mystery story, which consists in begin-
ning your yarn anywhere but at the beginning, and
finishing it anywhere but at the end; attracted by its
peculiar interest when done, and the peculiar difficulties
that attend its execution; repelled by tha v "rpearance of
insincerity and shallowness of tone, which seems its inev-
itable drawback. For the mind of the reader, always bent
to pick up clews, receives no impression of reality or life,
rather of an airless, elaborate mechanism ; and the book
remains enthralling, but insignificant, like a game of
chess, not a work of human art. It seemed the cause
might lie partly in the abrupt attack; and that if the
tale were gradually approached, some of the characters
introduced (as it were) beforehand, and the book started
in the tone cf a novel of manners and experience briefly
treated, this defect might be lessened and our mystery
seem to inhere in life. The tone of the age, its move-
ment, the mingling of races and classes in the dollar
hunt, the fiery and not quite unromantic struggle for
existence with its changing trades and scenery, and two
types in particular, that of the American handy-man of
business and that of the Yankee merchant sailor we
agreed to dwell upon at some length, and make the woof
to our not very precious warp. Hence Dodd's father,
and Pinkerton, and Nares, and the Dromedary picnics,
552 THE WKECKER.
and the railway work in New South Wales the last an
unsolicited testimonial from the powers that be, for the
tale was half written before I saw Carthew's squad toil
in the rainy cutting at South Clifton, or heard from the
engineer of his " young swell." After we had invented