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Chapter 5 THE EPISODE OF THE DRAWN GAME

  • The twelfth of August saw us, as usual, at Seldon Castle, Ross-shire. It i_art of Charles's restless, roving temperament that, on the morning of th_leventh, wet or fine, he must set out from London, whether the House i_itting or not, in defiance of the most urgent three-line whips; and at daw_n the twelfth he must be at work on his moors, shooting down the young bird_ith might and main, at the earliest possible legal moment.
  • He goes on like Saul, slaying his thousands, or, like David, his tens o_housands, with all the guns in the house to help him, till the keepers war_im he has killed as many grouse as they consider desirable; and then, havin_one his duty, as he thinks, in this respect, he retires precipitately wit_lying colours to Brighton, Nice, Monte Carlo, or elsewhere. He must be always
  • "on the trek"; when he is buried, I believe he will not be able to rest quie_n his grave: his ghost will walk the world to terrify old ladies.
  • "At Seldon, at least," he said to me, with a sigh, as he stepped into hi_ullman, "I shall be safe from that impostor!"
  • And indeed, as soon as he had begun to tire a little of counting up hi_undreds of brace per diem, he found a trifling piece of financial work cu_eady to his hand, which amply distracted his mind for the moment from Colone_lay, his accomplices, and his villainies.
  • Sir Charles, I ought to say, had secured during that summer a ver_dvantageous option in a part of Africa on the Transvaal frontier, rumoured t_e auriferous. Now, whether it was auriferous or not before, the mere fac_hat Charles had secured some claim on it naturally made it so; for no man ha_ver the genuine Midas-touch to a greater degree than Charles Vandrift: whatever he handles turns at once to gold, if not to diamonds. Therefore, a_oon as my brother-in-law had obtained this option from the native vendor (_ost respected chief, by name Montsioa), and promoted a company of his own t_evelop it, his great rival in that region, Lord Craig-Ellachie (formerly Si_avid Alexander Granton), immediately secured a similar option of an adjacen_rack, the larger part of which had pretty much the same geological condition_s that covered by Sir Charles's right of pre-emption.
  • We were not wholly disappointed, as it turned out, in the result. A month o_wo later, while we were still at Seldon, we received a long and encouragin_etter from our prospectors on the spot, who had been hunting over the groun_n search of gold-reefs. They reported that they had found a good auriferou_ein in a corner of the tract, approachable by adit-levels; but, unfortunately, only a few yards of the lode lay within the limits of Si_harles's area. The remainder ran on at once into what was locally known a_raig-Ellachie's section.
  • However, our prospectors had been canny, they said; though young Mr. Granto_as prospecting at the same time, in the self-same ridge, not very far fro_hem, his miners had failed to discover the auriferous quartz; so our men ha_eld their tongues about it, wisely leaving it for Charles to govern himsel_ccordingly.
  • "Can you dispute the boundary?" I asked.
  • "Impossible," Charles answered. "You see, the limit is a meridian o_ongitude. There's no getting over that. Can't pretend to deny it. No buyin_ver the sun! No bribing the instruments! Besides, we drew the line ourselves.
  • We've only one way out of it, Sey. Amalgamate! Amalgamate!"
  • Charles is a marvellous man! The very voice in which he murmured that blesse_ord "Amalgamate!" was in itself a poem.
  • "Capital!" I answered. "Say nothing about it, and join forces with Craig- Ellachie."
  • Charles closed one eye pensively.
  • That very same evening came a telegram in cipher from our chief engineer o_he territory of the option: "Young Granton has somehow given us the slip an_one home. We suspect he knows all. But we have not divulged the secret t_nybody."
  • "Seymour," my brother-in-law said impressively, "there is no time to be lost.
  • I must write this evening to Sir David—I mean to My Lord. Do you happen t_now where he is stopping at present?"
  • "The Morning Post announced two or three days ago that he was at Glen- Ellachie," I answered.
  • "Then I'll ask him to come over and thrash the matter out with me," m_rother-in-law went on. "A very rich reef, they say. I must have my finger i_t!"
  • We adjourned into the study, where Sir Charles drafted, I must admit, a mos_udicious letter to the rival capitalist. He pointed out that the minera_esources of the country were probably great, but as yet uncertain. That th_xpense of crushing and milling might be almost prohibitive. That access t_uel was costly, and its conveyance difficult. That water was scarce, an_ommanded by our section. That two rival companies, if they happened to hi_pon ore, might cut one another's throats by erecting two sets of furnaces o_umping plants, and bringing two separate streams to the spot, where one woul_nswer. In short—to employ the golden word—that amalgamation might prov_etter in the end than competition; and that he advised, at least, _onference on the subject.
  • I wrote it out fair for him, and Sir Charles, with the air of a Cromwell, signed it.
  • "This is important, Sey," he said. "It had better be registered, for fear o_alling into improper hands. Don't give it to Dobson; let Césarine take i_ver to Fowlis in the dog-cart."
  • It is the drawback of Seldon that we are twelve miles from a railway station, though we look out on one of the loveliest firths in Scotland.
  • Césarine took it as directed—an invaluable servant, that girl! Meanwhile, w_earned from the Morning Post next day that young Mr. Granton had stolen _arch upon us. He had arrived from Africa by the same mail with our agent'_etter, and had joined his father at once at Glen-Ellachie.
  • Two days later we received a most polite reply from the opposing interest. I_an after this fashion:—
  • > "CRAIG-ELLACHIE LODGE,
  • >
  • > "GLEN-ELLACHIE, INVERNESS-SHIRE.
  • >
  • > "DEAR SIR CHARLES VANDRIFT—Thanks for yours of the 20th. In reply, I ca_nly say I fully reciprocate your amiable desire that nothing adverse t_ither of our companies should happen in South Africa. With regard to you_uggestion that we should meet in person, to discuss the basis of a possibl_malgamation, I can only say my house is at present full of guests—as i_oubtless your own—and I should therefore find it practically impossible t_eave Glen-Ellachie. Fortunately, however, my son David is now at home on _rief holiday from Kimberley; and it will give him great pleasure to come ove_nd hear what you have to say in favour of an arrangement which certainly, o_ome grounds, seems to me desirable in the interests of both our concession_like. He will arrive to-morrow afternoon at Seldon, and he is authorised, i_very respect, to negotiate with full powers on behalf of myself and the othe_irectors. With kindest regards to your wife and sons, I remain, dear Si_harles, yours faithfully,
  • >
  • > "CRAIG-ELLACHIE."
  • "Cunning old fox!" Sir Charles exclaimed, with a sniff. "What's he up to now, I wonder? Seems almost as anxious to amalgamate as we ourselves are, Sey." _udden thought struck him. "Do you know," he cried, looking up, "I reall_elieve the same thing must have happened to  _both_  our exploring parties.
  • _They_  must have found a reef that goes under  _our_  ground, and the wicke_ld rascal wants to cheat us out of it!"
  • "As we want to cheat him," I ventured to interpose.
  • Charles looked at me fixedly. "Well, if so, we're both in luck," he murmured, after a pause; "though  _we_  can only get to know the whereabouts of  _their_ind by joining hands with them and showing them ours. Still, it's goo_usiness either way. But I shall be cautious—cautious."
  • "What a nuisance!" Amelia cried, when we told her of the incident. "I suppos_ shall have to put the man up for the night—a nasty, raw-boned, half-bake_cotchman, you may be certain."
  • On Wednesday afternoon, about three, young Granton arrived. He was a pleasant- featured, red-haired, sandy-whiskered youth, not unlike his father; but, strange to say, he dropped in to call, instead of bringing his luggage.
  • "Why, you're not going back to Glen-Ellachie to-night, surely?" Charle_xclaimed, in amazement. "Lady Vandrift will be  _so_ disappointed! Besides, this business can't be arranged between two trains, do you think, Mr.
  • Granton?"
  • Young Granton smiled. He had an agreeable smile—canny, yet open.
  • "Oh no," he said frankly. "I didn't mean to go back. I've put up at the inn. _ave my wife with me, you know—and, I wasn't invited."
  • Amelia was of opinion, when we told her this episode, that David Granto_ouldn't stop at Seldon because he was an Honourable. Isabel was of opinion h_ouldn't stop because he had married an unpresentable young woman somewher_ut in South Africa. Charles was of opinion that, as representative of th_ostile interest, he put up at the inn, because it might tie his hands in som_ay to be the guest of the chairman of the rival company. And  _I_  was o_pinion that he had heard of the castle, and knew it well by report as th_ullest country-house to stay at in Scotland.
  • However that may be, young Granton insisted on remaining at the Cromarty Arms, though he told us his wife would be delighted to receive a call from Lad_andrift and Mrs. Wentworth. So we all returned with him to bring th_onourable Mrs. Granton up to tea at the Castle.
  • She was a nice little thing, very shy and timid, but by no mean_npresentable, and an evident lady. She giggled at the end of every sentence; and she was endowed with a slight squint, which somehow seemed to point al_er feeble sallies. She knew little outside South Africa; but of that sh_alked prettily; and she won all our hearts, in spite of the cast in her eye, by her unaffected simplicity.
  • Next morning Charles and I had a regular debate with young Granton about th_ival options. Our talk was of cyanide processes, reverberatories, pennyweights, water-jackets. But it dawned upon us soon that, in spite of hi_ed hair and his innocent manners, our friend, the Honourable David Granton, knew a thing or two. Gradually and gracefully he let us see that Lord Craig- Ellachie had sent him for the benefit of the company, but that  _he_  had com_or the benefit of the Honourable David Granton.
  • "I'm a younger son, Sir Charles," he said; "and therefore I have to feather m_est for myself. I know the ground. My father will be guided implicitly b_hat I advise in the matter. We are men of the world. Now, let's be business- like.  _You_  want to amalgamate. You wouldn't do that, of course, if yo_idn't know of something to the advantage of my father's company—say, a lod_n our land—which you hope to secure for yourself by amalgamation. Very well; _I_  can make or mar your project. If you choose to render it worth my while, I'll induce my father and his directors to amalgamate. If you don't, I won't.
  • That's the long and the short of it!"
  • Charles looked at him admiringly.
  • "Young man," he said, "you're deep, very deep—for your age. Is this candour—o_eception? Do you mean what you say? Or do you know some reason why it suit_our father's book to amalgamate as well as it suits mine? And are you tryin_o keep it from me?" He fingered his chin. "If I only knew that," he went on,
  • "I should know how to deal with you."
  • Young Granton smiled again. "You're a financier, Sir Charles," he answered. "_onder, at your time of life, you should pause to ask another financie_hether he's trying to fill his own pocket—or his father's. Whatever is m_ather's goes to his eldest son—and  _I_ am his youngest."
  • "You are right as to general principles," Sir Charles replied, quit_ffectionately. "Most sound and sensible. But how do I know you haven'_argained already in the same way with your father? You may have settled wit_him_ , and be trying to diddle me."
  • The young man assumed a most candid air. "Look here," he said, leanin_orward. "I offer you this chance. Take it or leave it.  _Do_ you wish t_urchase my aid for this amalgamation by a moderate commission on the ne_alue of my father's option to yourself—which I know approximately?"
  • "Say five per cent," I suggested, in a tentative voice, just to justify m_resence.
  • He looked me through and through. " _Ten_  is more usual," he answered, in _eculiar tone and with a peculiar glance.
  • Great heavens, how I winced! I knew what his words meant. They were the ver_ords I had said myself to Colonel Clay, as the Count von Lebenstein, abou_he purchase-money of the schloss—and in the very same accent. I saw throug_t all now. That beastly cheque! This was Colonel Clay; and he was trying t_uy up my silence and assistance by the threat of exposure!
  • My blood ran cold. I didn't know how to answer him. What happened at the res_f that interview I really couldn't tell you. My brain reeled round. I hear_ust faint echoes of "fuel" and "reduction works." What on earth was I to do?
  • If I told Charles my suspicion—for it was only a suspicion—the fellow migh_urn upon me and disclose the cheque, which would suffice to ruin me. If _idn't, I ran a risk of being considered by Charles an accomplice and _onfederate.
  • The interview was long. I hardly know how I struggled through it. At the en_oung Granton went off, well satisfied, if it was young Granton; and Ameli_nvited him and his wife up to dinner at the castle.
  • Whatever else they were, they were capital company. They stopped for thre_ays more at the Cromarty Arms. And Charles debated and discussed incessantly.
  • He couldn't quite make up his mind what to do in the affair; and  _I_ertainly couldn't help him. I never was placed in such a fix in my life. _id my best to preserve a strict neutrality.
  • Young Granton, it turned out, was a most agreeable person; and so, in her way, was that timid, unpretending South African wife of his. She was naivel_urprised Amelia had never met her mamma at Durban. They both talke_elightfully, and had lots of good stories—mostly with points that tol_gainst the Craig-Ellachie people. Moreover, the Honourable David was _plendid swimmer. He went out in a boat with us, and dived like a seal. He wa_urning to teach Charles and myself to swim, when we told him we could neithe_f us take a single stroke; he said it was an accomplishment incumbent upo_very true Englishman. But Charles hates the water; while, as for myself, _etest every known form of muscular exercise.
  • However, we consented that he should row us on the Firth, and made a_ppointment one day with himself and his wife for four the next evening.
  • That night Charles came to me with a very grave face in my own bedroom. "Sey,"
  • he said, under his breath, "have you observed? Have you watched? Have you an_uspicions?"
  • I trembled violently. I felt all was up. "Suspicions of whom?" I asked. "No_urely of Simpson?" (he was Sir Charles's valet).
  • My respected brother-in-law looked at me contemptuously.
  • "Sey," he said, "are you trying to take me in? No,  _not_  of Simpson: o_hese two young folks. My own belief is—they're Colonel Clay and Madam_icardet."
  • "Impossible!" I cried.
  • He nodded. "I'm sure of it."
  • "How do you know?"
  • "Instinctively."
  • I seized his arm. "Charles," I said, imploring him, "do nothing rash. Remembe_ow you exposed yourself to the ridicule of fools over Dr. Polperro!"
  • "I've thought of that," he answered, "and I mean to ca' caller." (When i_cotland as laird of Seldon, Charles loves both to dress and to speak the par_horoughly.) "First thing to-morrow I shall telegraph over to inquire at Glen- Ellachie; I shall find out whether this is really young Granton or not; meanwhile, I shall keep my eye close upon the fellow."
  • Early next morning, accordingly, a groom was dispatched with a telegram t_ord Craig-Ellachie. He was to ride over to Fowlis, send it off at once, an_ait for the answer. At the same time, as it was probable Lord Craig-Ellachi_ould have started for the moors before the telegram reached the Lodge, I di_ot myself expect to see the reply arrive much before seven or eight tha_vening. Meanwhile, as it was far from certain we had not the real Davi_ranton to deal with, it was necessary to be polite to our friendly rivals.
  • Our experience in the Polperro incident had shown us both that too much zea_ay be more dangerous than too little. Nevertheless, taught by previou_isfortunes, we kept watching our man pretty close, determined that on thi_ccasion, at least, he should neither do us nor yet escape us.
  • About four o'clock the red-haired young man and his pretty little wife came u_o call for us. She looked so charming and squinted so enchantingly, one coul_ardly believe she was not as simple and innocent as she seemed to be. Sh_ripped down to the Seldon boat-house, with Charles by her side, giggling an_quinting her best, and then helped her husband to get the skiff ready. As sh_id so, Charles sidled up to me. "Sey," he whispered, "I'm an old hand, an_'m not readily taken in. I've been talking to that girl, and upon my soul _hink she's all right. She's a charming little lady. We may be mistaken afte_ll, of course, about young Granton. In any case, it's well for the present t_e courteous. A most important option! If it's really he, we must do nothin_o annoy him or let him see we suspect him."
  • I had noticed, indeed, that Mrs. Granton had made herself most agreeable t_harles from the very beginning. And as to one thing he was right. In he_imid, shrinking way she was undeniably charming. That cast in her eye was al_ure piquancy.
  • We rowed out on to the Firth, or, to be more strictly correct, the tw_rantons rowed while Charles and I sat and leaned back in the stern on th_uxurious cushions. They rowed fast and well. In a very few minutes they ha_ounded the point and got clear out of sight of the Cockneyfied towers an_alse battlements of Seldon.
  • Mrs. Granton pulled stroke. Even as she rowed she kept up a brisk undercurren_f timid chaff with Sir Charles, giggling all the while, half forward, hal_hy, like a school-girl who flirts with a man old enough to be he_randfather.
  • Sir Charles was flattered. He is susceptible to the pleasures of femal_ttention, especially from the young, the simple, and the innocent. The wile_f women of the world he knows too well; but a pretty little ingénue can twis_im round her finger. They rowed on and on, till they drew abreast of Seamew'_sland. It is a jagged stack or skerry, well out to sea, very wild an_recipitous on the landward side, but shelving gently outward; perhaps an acr_n extent, with steep gray cliffs, covered at that time with crimson masses o_ed valerian. Mrs. Granton rowed up close to it. "Oh, what lovely flowers!"
  • she cried, throwing her head back and gazing at them. "I wish I could ge_ome! Let's land here and pick them. Sir Charles, you shall gather me a nic_unch for my sitting-room."
  • Charles rose to it innocently, like a trout to a fly.
  • "By all means, my dear child, I—I have a passion for flowers;" which was _lower of speech itself, but it served its purpose.
  • They rowed us round to the far side, where is the easiest landing-place. I_truck me as odd at the moment that they seemed to know it. Then young Granto_umped lightly ashore; Mrs. Granton skipped after him. I confess it made m_eel rather ashamed to see how clumsily Charles and I followed them, treadin_ingerly on the thwarts for fear of upsetting the boat, while the artles_oung thing just flew over the gunwale. So like White Heather! However, we go_shore at last in safety, and began to climb the rocks as well as we were abl_n search of the valerian.
  • Judge of our astonishment when next moment those two young people bounded bac_nto the boat, pushed off with a peal of merry laughter, and left us ther_taring at them!
  • They rowed away, about twenty yards, into deep water. Then the man turned, an_aved his hand at us gracefully. "Good-bye!" he said, "good-bye! Hope you'l_ick a nice bunch! We're off to London!"
  • "Off!" Charles exclaimed, turning pale. "Off! What do you mean? You don'_urely mean to say you're going to leave us here?"
  • The young man raised his cap with perfect politeness, while Mrs. Granto_miled, nodded, and kissed her pretty hand to us. "Yes," he answered; "for th_resent. We retire from the game. The fact of it is, it's a trifle too thin: this is a coup manqué."
  • "A  _what_?" Charles exclaimed, perspiring visibly.
  • "A coup manqué," the young man replied, with a compassionate smile. "_ailure, don't you know; a bad shot; a fiasco. I learn from my scouts that yo_ent a telegram by special messenger to Lord Craig-Ellachie this morning. Tha_hows you suspect me. Now, it is a principle of my system never to go on fo_ne move with a game when I find myself suspected. The slightest symptom o_istrust, and—I back out immediately. My plans can only be worked t_atisfaction when there is perfect confidence on the part of my patient. It i_ well-known rule of the medical profession. I  _never_  try to bleed a ma_ho struggles. So now we're off. Ta-ta! Good luck to you!"
  • He was not much more than twenty yards away, and could talk to us quit_asily. But the water was deep; the islet rose sheer from I'm sure I don'_now how many fathoms of sea; and we could neither of us swim. Charle_tretched out his arms imploringly. "For Heaven's sake," he cried, "don't tel_e you really mean to leave us here."
  • He looked so comical in his distress and terror that Mrs. Granton—Madam_icardet—whatever I am to call her—laughed melodiously in her prettiest way a_he sight of him. "Dear Sir Charles," she called out, "pray don't be afraid!
  • It's only a short and temporary imprisonment. We will send men to take yo_ff. Dear David and I only need just time enough to get well ashore an_ake—oh!—a few slight alterations in our personal appearance." And sh_ndicated with her hand, laughing, dear David's red wig and false sand_hiskers, as we felt convinced they must be now. She looked at them an_ittered. Her manner at this moment was anything but shy. In fact, I wil_enture to say, it was that of a bold and brazen-faced hoyden.
  • "Then you  _are_  Colonel Clay!" Sir Charles cried, mopping his brow with hi_andkerchief.
  • "If you choose to call me so," the young man answered politely. "I'm sure it'_ost kind of you to supply me with a commission in Her Majesty's service.
  • However, time presses, and we want to push off. Don't alarm yourselve_nnecessarily. I will send a boat to take you away from this rock at th_arliest possible moment consistent with my personal safety and my dea_ompanion's." He laid his hand on his heart and struck a sentimental attitude.
  • "I have received too many unwilling kindnesses at your hands, Sir Charles," h_ontinued, "not to feel how wrong it would be of me to inconvenience you fo_othing. Rest assured that you shall be rescued by midnight at latest.
  • Fortunately, the weather just at present is warm, and I see no chance of rain; so you will suffer, if at all, from nothing worse than the pangs of temporar_unger."
  • Mrs. Granton, no longer squinting—'twas a mere trick she had assumed—rose u_n the boat and stretched out a rug to us. "Catch!" she cried, in a merr_oice, and flung it at us, doubled. It fell at our feet; she was a capita_hrower.
  • "Now, you dear Sir Charles," she went on, "take that to keep you warm! Yo_now I am really quite fond of you. You're not half a bad old boy when on_akes you the right way. You have a human side to you. Why, I often wear tha_weetly pretty brooch you gave me at Nice, when I was Madame Picardet! And I'_ure your goodness to me at Lucerne, when I was the little curate's wife, is _hing to remember. We're so glad to have seen you in your lovely Scotch hom_ou were always so proud of!  _Don't_  be frightened, please. We wouldn't hur_ou for worlds. We  _are_  so sorry we have to take this inhospitable means o_vading you. But dear David—I _must_  call him dear David still—instinctivel_elt that you were beginning to suspect us; and he can't bear mistrust. H_is_  so sensitive! The moment people mistrust him, he  _must_  break off wit_hem at once. This was the only way to get you both off our hands while w_ake the needful little arrangements to depart; and we've been driven to avai_urselves of it. However, I will give you my word of honour, as a lady, yo_hall be fetched away to-night. If dear David doesn't do it, why, I'll do i_yself." And she blew another kiss to us.
  • Charles was half beside himself, divided between alternate terror and anger.
  • "Oh, we shall die here!" he exclaimed. "Nobody'd ever dream of coming to thi_ock to search for me."
  • "What a pity you didn't let me teach you to swim!" Colonel Clay interposed.
  • "It is a noble exercise, and very useful indeed in such special emergencies!
  • Well, ta-ta! I'm off! You nearly scored one this time; but, by putting yo_ere for the moment, and keeping you till we're gone, I venture to say I'v_edressed the board, and I think we may count it a drawn game, mayn't we? Th_atch stands at three, love—with some thousands in pocket?"
  • "You're a murderer, sir!" Charles shrieked out. "We shall starve or die here!"
  • Colonel Clay on his side was all sweet reasonableness. "Now, my dear sir," h_xpostulated, one hand held palm outward, " _Do_ you think it probable I woul_ill the goose that lays the golden eggs, with so little compunction? No, no, Sir Charles Vandrift; I know too well how much you are worth to me. I retur_ou on my income-tax paper as five thousand a year, clear profit of m_rofession. Suppose you were to die! I might be compelled to find some new an_ar less lucrative source of plunder. Your heirs, executors, or assignee_ight not suit my purpose. The fact of it is, sir, your temperament and min_re exactly adapted one to the other.  _I_ understand  _you_ ; and  _you_  d_ot understand  _me_ —which is often the basis of the firmest friendships. _an catch you just where you are trying to catch other people. Your ver_martness assists me; for I admit you  _are_  smart. As a regular financier, _llow, I couldn't hold a candle to you. But in my humbler walk of life I kno_ust how to utilise you. I lead you on, where you think you are going to gai_ome advantage over others; and by dexterously playing upon your love of _ood bargain, your innate desire to best somebody else—I succeed in bestin_ou. There, sir, you have the philosophy of our mutual relations."
  • He bowed and raised his cap. Charles looked at him and cowered. Yes, genius a_e is, he positively cowered. "And do you mean to say," he burst out, "yo_ntend to go on so bleeding me?"
  • The Colonel smiled a bland smile. "Sir Charles Vandrift," he answered, "_alled you just now the goose that lays the golden eggs. You may have though_he metaphor a rude one. But you  _are_  a goose, you know, in certai_elations. Smartest man on the Stock Exchange, I readily admit; easiest foo_o bamboozle in the open country that ever I met with. You fail in on_hing—the perspicacity of simplicity. For that reason, among others, I hav_hosen to fasten upon you. Regard me, my dear sir, as a microbe o_illionaires, a parasite upon capitalists. You know the old rhyme:
  • > Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, > And these again have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum!
  • >
  • Well, that's just how I view myself.  _You_  are a capitalist and _illionaire. In  _your_  large way you prey upon society. YOU deal in Corners, Options, Concessions, Syndicates. You drain the world dry of its blood and it_oney. You possess, like the mosquito, a beautiful instrument o_uction—Founders' Shares—with which you absorb the surplus wealth of th_ommunity. In  _my_  smaller way, again,  _I_  relieve you in turn of _ortion of the plunder. I am a Robin Hood of my age; and, looking upon  _you_s an exceptionally bad form of millionaire—as well as an exceptionally eas_orm of pigeon for a man of my type and talents to pluck—I have, so to speak, taken up my abode upon you."
  • Charles looked at him and groaned.
  • The young man continued, in a tone of gentle badinage. "I love the plot- interest of the game," he said, "and so does dear Jessie here. We both of u_dore it. As long as I find such good pickings upon you, I certainly am no_oing to turn away from so valuable a carcass, in order to batten myself, a_onsiderable trouble, upon minor capitalists, out of whom it is difficult t_xtract a few hundreds. It may have puzzled you to guess why I fix upon you s_ersistently. Now you know, and understand. When a fluke finds a sheep tha_uits him, that fluke lives upon him. You are my host: I am your parasite.
  • This coup has failed. But don't flatter yourself for a moment it will be th_ast one."
  • "Why do you insult me by telling me all this?" Sir Charles cried, writhing.
  • The Colonel waved his hand. It was small and white. "Because I  _love_  th_ame," he answered, with a relish; "and also, because the more prepared yo_re beforehand, the greater credit and amusement is there in besting you.
  • Well, now, ta-ta once more! I am wasting valuable time. I might be cheatin_omebody. I must be off at once… . Take care of yourself, Wentworth. But _now you  _will_. You always do. Ten per cent  _is_  more usual!"
  • He rowed away and left us. As the boat began to disappear round the corner o_he island, White Heather—so she looked—stood up in the stern and shoute_loud through her pretty hands to us. "By-bye, dear Sir Charles!" she cried.
  • "Do wrap the rug around you! I'll send the men to fetch you as soon as ever _ossibly can. And thank you so much for those lovely flowers!"
  • The boat rounded the crags. We were alone on the island. Charles flung himsel_n the bare rock in a wild access of despondency. He is accustomed to luxury, and cannot get on without his padded cushions. As for myself, I climbed wit_ome difficulty to the top of the cliff, landward, and tried to make signal_f distress with my handkerchief to some passer-by on the mainland. All i_ain. Charles had dismissed the crofters on the estate; and, as the shooting- party that day was in an opposite direction, not a soul was near to whom w_ould call for succour.
  • I climbed down again to Charles. The evening came on slowly. Cries of sea- birds rang weird upon the water. Puffins and cormorants circled round ou_eads in the gray of twilight. Charles suggested that they might even swoo_own upon us and bite us. They did not, however, but their flapping wing_dded none the less a painful touch of eeriness to our hunger and solitude.
  • Charles was horribly depressed. For myself, I will confess I felt so muc_elieved at the fact that Colonel Clay had not openly betrayed me in th_atter of the commission, as to be comparatively comfortable.
  • We crouched on the hard crag. About eleven o'clock we heard human voices.
  • "Boat ahoy!" I shouted. An answering shout aroused us to action. We rushe_own to the landing-place and cooee'd for the men, to show them where we were.
  • They came up at once in Sir Charles's own boat. They were fishermen fro_iggarey, on the shore of the Firth opposite.
  • A lady and gentleman had sent them, they said, to return the boat and call fo_s on the island; their description corresponded to the two supposed Grantons.
  • They rowed us home almost in silence to Seldon. It was half-past twelve by th_atehouse clock when we reached the castle. Men had been sent along the coas_ach way to seek us. Amelia had gone to bed, much alarmed for our safety.
  • Isabel was sitting up. It was too late, of course, to do much that night i_he way of apprehending the miscreants, though Charles insisted upo_ispatching a groom, with a telegram for the police at Inverness, to Fowlis.
  • Nothing came of it all. A message awaited us from Lord Craig-Ellachie, to b_ure, saying that his son had not left Glen-Ellachie Lodge; while research th_ext day and later showed that our correspondent had never even received ou_etter. An empty envelope alone had arrived at the house, and the posta_uthorities had been engaged meanwhile, with their usual lightning speed, in
  • "investigating the matter." Césarine had posted the letter herself at Fowlis, and brought back the receipt; so the only conclusion we could draw wa_his—Colonel Clay must be in league with somebody at the post-office. As fo_ord Craig-Ellachie's reply, that was a simple forgery; though, oddly enough, it was written on Glen-Ellachie paper.
  • However, by the time Charles had eaten a couple of grouse, and drunk a bottl_f his excellent Rudesheimer, his spirits and valour revived exceedingly.
  • Doubtless he inherits from his Boer ancestry a tendency towards courage of th_atavian 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 i_ime is half-way to catching him. Only the remoteness of our position a_eldon Castle saved him from capture. Next set-to, I feel sure, we will no_erely spot him, we will also nab him. I only wish he would try on such a ri_n London."
  • But the oddest part of it all was this, that from the moment those two peopl_anded at Niggarey, and told the fishermen there were some gentlemen strande_n the Seamew's island, all trace of them vanished. At no station along th_ine could we gain any news of them. Their maid had left the inn the sam_orning with their luggage, and we tracked her to Inverness; but there th_rail stopped short, no spoor lay farther. It was a most singular an_nsoluble 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 th_ascal flung back at us as the boat receded: "Sir Charles Vandrift, we are _air of rogues. The law protects  _you_. It persecutes  _me_. That's all th_ifference."