Part 9 out of 10
Mrs. Undercliff turned the conversation directly. "My son has given many
hours to Mr. Hand's two letters, and he told me to tell you he is
beginning to doubt whether Mr. Hand is a real person, with a real
handwriting, at all.
"Oh, Mrs. Undercliff! Why, he wrote me two letters! However, I will ask
Mr. Penfold whether Mr. Hand exists or not. When shall I have the
pleasure of seeing you again?"
"Whenever you like, my dear young lady; but not upon this business of
Penfold and Wardlaw. I have done with it forever; and my advice to you,
miss, is not to stir the mud any more." And with these mysterious words
the old lady retired, leaving Helen deeply discouraged at her desertion.
However, she noted down the conversation in her diary, and made this
comment: People find no pleasure in proving an accused person innocent;
the charm is to detect guilt. This day a good, kind friend abandons me
because I will not turn aside from my charitable mission to suspect
another person as wrongfully as he I love has been suspected.
_Mem.:_ To see, or make inquiries about Mr. Hand.
General Rolleston had taken a furnished house in Hanover Square. He now
moved into it, and Helen was compelled to busy herself in household
She made the house charming; but unfortunately stood in a draught while
heated, and caught a chill, which a year ago would very likely have gone
to her lungs and killed her, but now settled on her limbs in violent
neuralgic pains, and confined her to her bed for a fortnight.
She suffered severely, but had the consolation of finding she was
tenderly beloved. Arthur sent flowers every day and affectionate notes
twice a day. And her father was constantly by her bedside.
At last she came down to the drawing-room, but lay on the sofa well
wrapped up, and received only her most intimate friends.
The neuralgia had now settled on her right arm and hand, so that she
could not write a letter; and she said to herself with a sigh, "Oh, how
unfit a girl is to do anything great! We always fall ill just when health
and strength are most needed."
Nevertheless, during this period of illness and inaction, circumstances
occurred that gave her joy.
Old Wardlaw had long been exerting himself in influential channels to
obtain what he called justice for his friend Rolleston, and had received
some very encouraging promises; for the general's services were
indisputable; and, while he was stirring the matter, Helen was
unconsciously co-operating by her beauty, and the noise her adventure
made in society. At last a gentleman whose wife was about the Queen,
promised old Wardlaw one day that, if a fair opportunity should occur,
that lady should tell Helen's adventure, and how the gallant old general,
when everybody else despaired, had gone out to the Pacific, and found his
daughter and brought her home. This lady was a courtier of ten years'
standing, and waited her opportunity; but when it did come, she took it,
and she soon found that no great tact or skill was necessary on such an
occasion as this. She was listened to with ready sympathy, and the very
next day some inquiries were made, the result of which was that the Horse
Guards offered Lieutenant-General Rolleston the command of a crack
regiment and a full generalship. At the same time, it was intimated to
him from another official quarter that a baronetcy was at his service if
he felt disposed to accept it. The tears came into the stout old
warrior's eyes at this sudden sunshine of royal favor, and Helen kissed
old Wardlaw of her own accord; and the star of the Wardlaws rose into the
ascendant, and for a time Robert Penfold seemed to be quite forgotten.
The very day General Rolleston became Sir Edward, a man and a woman
called at the Charing Cross Hotel, and asked for Miss Helen Rolleston.
The answer was, she had left the hotel about ten days.
"Where is she gone, if you please?"
"We don't know."
"Why, hasn't she left her new address?"
"No. The footman came for letters several times."
No information was to be got here, and Mr. Penfold and Nancy Rouse went
home greatly disappointed, and puzzled what to do.
At first sight it might appear easy for Mr. Penfold to learn the new
address of Miss Rolleston. He had only to ask Arthur Wardlaw. But, to
tell the truth, during the last fortnight Nancy Rouse had impressed her
views steadily and persistently on his mind, and he had also made a
discovery that co-operated with her influence and arguments to undermine
his confidence in his employer. What that discovery was we must leave him
Looking, then, at matters with a less unsuspicious eye than heretofore,
he could not help observing that Arthur Wardlaw never put into the office
letter-box a single letter for his sweetheart. "He must write to her,"
thought Michael; "but I am not to know her address. Suppose, after all,
he did intercept that letter."
And now, like other simple, credulous men whose confidence has been
shaken, he was literally brimful of suspicions, some of them reasonable,
some of them rather absurd.
He had too little art to conceal his change of mind; and so, very soon
after his vain attempt to see Helen Rolleston at the inn, he was bundled
off to Scotland on business of the office.
Nancy missed him sorely. She felt quite alone in the world. She managed
to get through the day--work helped her; but at night she sat
disconsolate and bewildered, and she was now beginning to doubt her own
theory. For certainly, if all that money had been Joe Wylie's, he would
hardly have left the country without it.
Now, the second evening after Michael's departure, she was seated in his
room, brooding, when suddenly she heard a peculiar knocking next door.
She listened a little while, and then stole softly downstairs to her own
Her suspicions were correct. It was the same sort of knocking that had
preceded the phenomenon of the hand and bank-notes. She peeped into the
kitchen and whispered, "Jenny--Polly--come here."
A stout washerwoman and the mite of a servant came, wondering.
"Now you stand there," said Nancy, "and do as I bid you. Hold your
tongues, now. I know all about it."
The myrmidons stood silent, but with panting bosoms; for the mysterious
knocking now concluded, and a brick in the chimney began to move.
It came out, and immediately a hand with a ring on it came through the
aperture, and felt about.
The mite stood firm, but the big washerwoman gave signs of agitation that
promised to end in a scream.
Nancy put her hand roughly before the woman's mouth. "Hold your tongue,
ye great soft--" And, without finishing her sentence, she darted to the
chimney and seized the hand with both her own and pulled it with such
violence that the wrist followed it through the masonry, and a roar was
"Hold on to my waist, Polly," she cried. "Jenny, take the poker, and that
string, and tie his hand to it while we hold on. Quick! quick! Are ye
Thus adjured, the mite got the poker against the wall and tried to tie
the wrist to it.
This, however, was not easy, the hand struggled so desperately.
However, pulling is a matter of weight rather than muscle. And the weight
of the two women pulling downward overpowered the violent struggles of
the man; and the mite contrived to tie the poker to the wrist, and repeat
the ligatures a dozen times in a figure of eight.
Then the owner of the hand, who had hitherto shown violent strength,
taken at a disadvantage, now showed intelligence. Convinced that skill as
well as force were against him, he ceased to struggle and became quite
The women contemplated their feat with flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes.
When they had feasted a reasonable time on the imprisoned hand, and two
of them, true to their sex, had scrutinized a green stone upon one of the
fingers, to see whether it was real or false, Nancy took them by the
shoulders, and bundled them good-humoredly out of the room.
She then lowered the gas and came out, and locked the room up, and put
the key in her pocket.
"I'll have my supper with you," said she. "Come, Jenny, I'm cook; and you
make the kitchen as a body could eat off it, for I expect vicitors."
"La, ma'am," said the mite; "he can't get out of the chimbly to visit hus
through the street door."
"No, girl," said Nancy. "But he can send a hambassador; so Show her heyes
and plague her art, as the play says, for of all the dirty kitchens give
me hers. I never was there but once, and my slipper come off for the
muck, a sticking to a body like bird-lime."
There was a knock at Nancy's street door; the little servant, full of
curiosity, was for running to it on the instant. But Nancy checked her.
"Take your time," said she. "It is only a lodging-house keeper."
SIR EDWARD ROLLESTON could not but feel his obligations to the Wardlaws,
and, when his daughter got better, he spoke warmly on the subject, and
asked her to consider seriously whether she had not tried Arthur's
"He does not complain to you, I know," said he; "but he feels it very
hard that you should punish him for an act of injustice that has already
so deeply afflicted him. He says he believes some fool or villain heard
him say that two thousand pounds was to be borrowed between them, and
went and imposed on Robert Penfold's credulity; meaning, perhaps, to call
again after the note had been cashed, and get Arthur's share of the
"But why did he not come forward?"
"He declares he did not know when the trial was till a month after. And
his father bears him out; says he was actually delirious, and his life in
danger. I myself can testify that he was cut down just in this way when
he heard the _Proserpine_ was lost, and you on board her. Why not give
him credit for the same genuine distress at young Penfold's misfortune?
Come, Helen, is it fair to afflict and punish this gentleman for the
misfortune of another, whom he never speaks of but with affection and
pity? He says that if you would marry him at once, he thinks he should
feel strong enough to throw himself into the case with you, and would
spare neither money nor labor to clear Robert Penfold; but, as it is, he
says he feels so wretched, and so tortured with jealousy, that he can't
co-operate warmly with you, though his conscience reproaches him every
day. Poor young man! His is really a very hard case. For you promised him
your hand before you ever saw Robert Penfold."
"I did," said Helen; "but I did not say when. Let me have one year to my
good work, before I devote my whole life to Arthur."
"Well, it will be a year wasted. Why postpone your marriage for that?"
"Yes, but he chose to fancy young Wardlaw is his enemy. You might relax
that, now he tells you he will co-operate with you as your husband. Now,
Helen, tell the truth--is it a woman's work? Have you found it so? Will
not Arthur do it better than you?"
Helen, weakened already by days of suffering, began to cry, and say,
"What shall I do? what shall I do?"
"If you have any doubt, my dear," said Sir Edward, "then think of what I
owe to these Wardlaws."
And with that he kissed her, and left her in tears; and, soon after, sent
Arthur himself up to plead his own cause.
It was a fine summer afternoon; the long French casements, looking on the
garden of the Square, were open, and the balmy air came in and wooed the
beautiful girl's cheek, and just stirred her hair at times.
Arthur Wardlaw came softly in, and gazed at her as she lay; her
loveliness filled his heart and soul; he came and knelt by her sofa, and
took her hand, and kissed it, and his own eyes glistened with tenderness.
He had one thing in his favor. He loved her.
Her knowledge of this had more than once befriended him, and made her
refuse to suspect him of any great ill; it befriended him now. She turned
a look of angelic pity on him.
"Poor Arthur," she said. "You and I are both unhappy."
"But we shall be happy, ere long, I hope," said Arthur.
Helen shook her head.
Then he patted her, and coaxed her, and said he would be her servant, as
well as a husband, and no wish of her heart should go ungratified.
"None?" said she, fixing her eyes on him.
"Not one," said he; "upon my honor." Then he was so soft and persuasive,
and alluded so delicately to her plighted faith, that she felt like a
poor bird caught in a silken net.
"Sir Edward is very good," said he; "he feels for me."
At that moment, a note was sent up.
"Mr. Wardlaw is here, and has asked me when the marriage is to be. I
can't tell him; I look like a fool."
Helen sighed deeply and had begun to gather those tears that weaken a
woman. She glanced despairingly to and fro, and saw no escape. Then,
Heaven knows why or wherefore--probably with no clear design at all but a
woman's weak desire to cause a momentary diversion, to put off the
inevitable for five minutes--she said to Arthur: "Please give me that
prayer-book. Thank you. It is right you should know this." And she put
Cooper's deposition, and Welch's, into his hands.
He devoured them, and started up in great indignation. "It is an
abominable slander," said he. "We have lost ten thousand pounds by the
wreck of that ship, and Wylie's life was saved by a miracle as well as
your own. It is a foul slander. I hurl it from me."
And he made his words good by whirling the prayer-book out of window.
Helen uttered a scream. "My mother's prayer-book!" she cried.
"Oh! I beg pardon," said he.
"As well you may," said she. "Run and send George after it."
"No, I'll go myself," said he. "Pray forgive me. You don't know what a
terrible slander they have desecrated your prayerbook with."
He ran out and was a long time gone. He came back at last, looking
"I can't find it," said he. "Somebody has carried it off. Oh, how
unfortunate I am!"
"Not find it!" said Helen. "But it _must_ be found."
"Of course it must be found," said Arthur. "A pretty scandal to go into
the hands of Heaven knows who. I shall offer twenty guineas reward for it
at once. I'll go down to the _Times_ this moment. Was ever anything so
"Yes, go at once," said Helen; "and I'll send the servants into the
Square. I don't want to say anything unkind, Arthur, but you ought not to
have thrown my prayer-book into the public street."
"I know I ought not. I am ashamed of it myself."
"Well, let me _see_ the advertisement."
"You shall. I have no doubt we shall recover it."
Next morning the _Times_ contained an advertisement offering twenty
guineas for a prayer-book lost in Hanover Square, and valuable, not in
itself, but as a relic of a deceased parent.
In the afternoon Arthur called to know if anybody had brought the
Helen shook her head sadly, and said, "No."
He seemed very sorry and so penitent, that Helen said:
"Do not despair. And if it is gone, why, I must remember you have
forgiven me something, and I must forgive you."
The footman came in.
"If you please, miss, here is a woman wishes to speak to you; says she
has brought a prayer-book."
"Oh, show her up at once," cried Helen.
Arthur turned away his head to hide a cynical smile. He had good reasons
for thinking it was not the one he had flung out of the window yesterday.
A tall woman came in, wearing a thick veil, that concealed her features.
She entered on her business at once.
"You lost a prayer-book in this Square yesterday, madam."
"You offer twenty guineas reward for it."
"Please to look at this one."
Helen examined it, and said with joy it was hers.
Arthur was thunderstruck. He could not believe his senses.
"Let me look at it," said he.
His eyes went at once to the writing.
He turned as pale as death and stood petrified.
The woman took the prayer-book out of his unresisting hand, and said:
"You'll excuse me, sir; but it is a large reward, and gentlefolks
sometimes go from their word when the article is found."
Helen, who was delighted at getting back her book, and rather tickled at
Arthur having to pay twenty guineas for losing it, burst out laughing,
"Give her the reward, Arthur; I am not going to pay for your misdeeds."
"With all my heart," said Arthur, struggling for composure.
He sat down to draw a check.
"What name shall I put?"
"Hum! Edith Hesket."
"No, only one."
"Thank you, sir."
She put the check into her purse, and brought the prayer-book to Helen.
"Lock it up at once," said she, in a voice so low that Arthur heard her
murmur, but not the words. And she retired, leaving Helen staring with
amazement, and Arthur in a cold perspiration.
WHEN the _Springbok_ weighed anchor and left the island, a solitary form
was seen on Telegraph Hill.
When she passed eastward, out of sight of that point, a solitary figure
was seen on the cliffs.
When her course brought the island dead astern of her, a solitary figure
stood on the east bluff of the island, and was the last object seen from
the boat as she left those waters forever.
What words can tell the sickening sorrow and utter desolation that
possessed that yearning bosom!
When the boat that had carried Helen away was out of sight, he came back
with uneven steps to the cave, and looked at all the familiar objects
with stony eyes, and scarce recognized them, for the sunshine of her
presence was there no more. He wandered to and fro in a heavy stupor,
broken every now and then by sharp pangs of agony that almost made him
scream. And so the poor bereaved creature wandered about all day. He
could not eat, he could not sleep, his misery was more than he could
bear. One day of desolation succeeded another. And what men say so
hastily was true for once. "His life was a burden." He dragged it about
with him he scarce knew how.
He began to hate all the things he had loved while she was there. The
beautiful cave, all glorious with pearl, that he had made for her, he
could not enter it, the sight killed him, and she not there.
He left Paradise Bay altogether at last and anchored his boat in a nook
of Seal Bay. And there he slept in general. But sometimes he would lie
down, wherever he happened to be, and sleep as long as he could.
To him to wake was a calamity. And when he did wake, it was always with a
dire sense of reviving misery, and a deep sigh at the dark day he knew
His flesh wasted on his bones, and his clothes hung loosely about him.
The sorrow of the mind reduced him almost to that miserable condition in
which he had landed on the island.
The dog and the seal were faithful to him; used to lie beside him, and
often whimpered; their minds, accustomed to communicate without the aid
of speech, found out, Heaven knows how! that he was in grief or in
These two creatures, perhaps, saved his life or his reason. They came
between his bereaved heart and utter solitude.
Thus passed a month of wretchedness unspeakable.
Then his grief took a less sullen form.
He came back to Paradise Bay, and at sight of it burst into a passion of
These were his first tears, and inaugurated a grief more tender than
ever, but less akin to madness and despair.
Now he used to go about and cry her name aloud, passionately, by night
"Oh, Helen! Helen!"
And next his mind changed in one respect, and he clung to every
reminiscence of her. Every morning he went round her haunts, and kissed
every place where he had seen her put her hand.
Only the cave he could not yet face.
He tried, too. He went to the mouth of it again and again, and looked in;
but go into it and face it, empty of her--he could not.
He prayed often.
One night he saw her in a dream.
She bent a look of angelic pity on him, and said but these words, "Live
in my cave," then vanished.
Alone on an island in the vast Pacific, who can escape superstition? It
fills the air. He took this communication as a command, and the next
night he slept in the cave.
But he entered it in the dark, and left it before dawn.
By degrees, however, he plucked up courage and faced it in daylight. But
it was a sad trial. He came out crying bitterly after a few minutes.
Still he persevered, because her image had bade him; and at last, one
evening, he even lighted the lamp, and sat there looking at the glorious
walls and roof his hapless love had made.
Getting stronger by degrees, he searched about, and found little relics
of her--a glove, a needle, a great hat she had made out of some large
leaves. All these he wept over and cherished.
But one day he found at the very back of the cave a relic that made him
start as if a viper had stung his loving heart. It was a letter.
He knew it in a moment. It had already caused him many a pang; but now it
almost drove him mad. Arthur Wardlaw's letter.
He recoiled from it, and let it lie. He went out of the cave, and cursed
his hard fate. But he came back. It was one of those horrible things a
man abhors, yet cannot keep away from. He took it up and dashed it down
with rage many times; but it all ended in his lighting the lamp at night,
and torturing himself with every word of that loving letter.
And she was going home to the writer of that letter, and he was left
prisoner on the island. He cursed his generous folly, and writhed in
agony at the thought. He raged with jealousy, so that his very grief was
blunted for a time.
He felt as if he must go mad.
Then he prayed--prayed fervently. And at last, worn out with such fierce
and contending emotions, he fell into a deep sleep, and did not wake till
the sun was high in heaven.
He woke; and the first thing he saw was the fatal letter lying at his
feet in a narrow stream of sunshine that came peering in.
He eyed it with horror. This, then, was then to haunt him by night and
He eyed it and eyed it. Then turned his face from it; but could not help
eying it again.
And at last certain words in this letter seemed to him to bear an
affinity to another piece of writing that had also caused him a great
woe. Memory by its subtle links connected these two enemies of his
together. He eyed it still more keenly, and that impression became
strengthened. He took the letter and looked at it close, and held it at
arm's length and devoured it; and the effect of this keen examination was
very remarkable. It seemed to restore the man to energy and to something
like hope. His eyes sparkled, and a triumphant "Ah!" burst from his
He became once more a man of action. He rose, and bathed, and walked
rapidly to and fro upon the sands, working himself up to a daring
enterprise. He took his saw into the jungle, and cut down a tree of a
kind common enough there. It was wonderfully soft, and almost as light as
cork. The wood of this was literally useless for any other purpose than
that to which Penfold destined it. He cut a great many blocks of this
wood, and drilled holes in them, and, having hundreds of yard of good
line, attached these quasi corks to the gunwale, so as to make a
life-boat. This work took him several days, during which time an event
occurred that encouraged him.
One morning he saw about a million birds very busy in the bay, and it
proved to be a spermaceti whale come ashore.
He went out to her directly with all his tools, for he wanted oil for his
enterprise, and the seal oil was exhausted.
When he got near the whale in his boat, he observed a harpoon sticking in
the animal's back. He cut steps with his ax in the slippery carcass, and
got up to it as well as he could, extracted it by cutting and pulling,
and threw it down into his boat, but not till he had taken the precaution
to stick a great piece of blubber on the barbed point. He then sawed and
hacked under difficulties, being buffeted and bothered with thousands of
birds, so eager for slices that it was as much as he could do to avoid
the making of minced fowl; but, true to his gentle creed, he contrived to
get three hundred-weight of blubber without downright killing any of
these greedy competitors, though he buffeted some of them, and nearly
knocked out what little sense they had.
He came ashore with his blubber and harpoon, and when he came to examine
the latter, he found that the name of the owner was cut deeply in the
steel-- Josh. Fullalove, J. Fernandez. This inscription had a great
effect on Robert Penfold's mind. It seemed to bring the island of Juan
Fernandez, and humanity in general, nearer to him.
He boiled down the blubber, and put a barrel of oil on board his
life-boat. He had a ship's lantern to burn it in. He also pitched her
bottom as far as he could get at it, and provisioned her for a long
voyage: taking care to lash the water-cask and beef-cask to the
fore-thwart and foremast, in case of rough weather.
When he had done all this, it occurred to him suddenly that, should he
ever escape the winds and waves, and get to England, he would then have
to encounter difficulties and dangers of another class, and lose the
battle by his poverty.
"I play my stake now," said he. "I will throw no chance away."
He reflected, with great bitterness, on the misery that want of money had
already brought on him; and he vowed to reach England rich, or go to the
bottom of the Pacific.
This may seem a strange vow for a man to make on an unknown island; but
Robert Penfold had a powerful understanding, sharpened by adversity, and
his judgment told him truly that he possessed wealth on this island, both
directly and indirectly. In the first place, knowledge is sometimes
wealth, and the knowledge of this island was a thing he could sell to the
American merchants on the coast of Chili; and, with this view, he put on
board his boat specimens of the cassia and other woods, fruit, spices,
pitch, guano, pink and red coral, pearl oysters, shells, cochineal,
quartz, cotton, etc., etc.
Then he took his chisel, and struck all the larger pearls off the shells
that lined Helen's cave. The walls and roof yielded nine enormous pearls,
thirty large ones, and a great many of the usual size.
He made a pocket inside his waistcoat to hold the pearls safe.
Then he took his spade and dug into the Spanish ship for treasure. But
this was terrible work. The sand returned upon the spade and trebled his
The condition to which time and long submersion had reduced this ship and
cargo was truly remarkable. Nothing to be seen of the deck but a thin
brown streak that mingled with the sand in patches; of the timbers
nothing but the uprights, and of those the larger half eaten and
He dug five days, and found nothing solid.
On the sixth, being now at the bottom the ship, he struck his spade
against something hard and heavy.
On inspection it looked like ore, but of what metal he could not tell; it
was as black as a coal. He threw this on one side, and found nothing
more; but the next day he turned up a smaller fragment, which he took
home and cleaned with lime juice. It came out bright in places like
This discovery threw light on the other. The piece of black ore, weighing
about seven pounds, was in reality silver coin, that a century of
submersion had reduced to the very appearance it wore before it ever went
into the furnace.
He dug with fresh energy on this discovery, but found nothing more in the
ship that day.
Then it occurred to him to carry off a few hundred-weight of pink coral.
He got some fine specimens; and, while he was at that work, he fell in
with a piece that looked very solid at the root and unnaturally heavy. On
a nearer examination this proved to be a foreign substance incrusted with
coral. It had twined and twisted and curled over the thing in a most
unheard-of way. Robert took it home, and, by rubbing here and there with
lemon juice, at last satisfied himself that this object was a silver box
about the size of an octavo volume.
It had no keyhole, had evidently been soldered up for greater security,
and Robert was left to conjecture how it had come there.
He connected it at once with the ship, and felt assured that some attempt
had been made to save it. There it had lain by the side of the vessel all
these years, but, falling clear of the sand, had been embraced by the
growing coral, and was now a curiosity, if not a treasure.
He would not break the coral, but put it on board his life-boat just as
And now he dug no more. He thought he could sell the galleon as well as
the island, by sample, and he was impatient to be gone.
He reproached himself, a little unjustly, for allowing a woman to
undertake the task of clearing him.
"To what annoyances, and perhaps affronts, have I exposed her!" said he.
"No, it is a man's business to defend, not to be defended."
To conclude: At high tide one fine afternoon he went on board with Ponto,
and, hoisting his foresail only, crossed the bay, ranging along the
island till he reached the bluff. He got under this, and, by means of his
compass and previous observations, set the boat's head exactly on the
line the ducks used to take. Then he set his mainsail too, and stretched
boldly out across the great Pacific Ocean.
Time seems to wear out everything, even bad luck. It ran strong against
Robert Penfold for years. But, when it had struck its worst blow, and
parted him and Helen Rolleston, it relaxed, and a tide of good luck set
in, which, unfortunately, the broken-hearted man could not appreciate at
the time. However, so it was. He wanted oil; and a whale came ashore. He
wanted treasure, and the sea gave him a little back of all it had
swallowed; and now he wanted fine weather; and the ocean for days and
nights was like peach-colored glass, dimpled here and there; and soft
westerly airs fanned him along by night and day.
To be sure, he was on the true Pacific Ocean, at a period when it is
really free from storms. Still, even for that latitude, he had wonderful
weather for six days; and on the seventh he fell in with a schooner, the
skipper and crew of which looked over the bulwarks at him with wonder and
cordiality, and, casting out a rope astern, took him in tow.
The skipper had been eying him with amazement for some hours through his
telescope; but he was a man that had seen a great many strange things,
and it was also a point of honor with him never to allow that he was
astonished, or taken by surprise, or greatly moved.
"Wal, stranger," said he, "what craft is that?"
"Where d'ye hail from? not that I am curious."
"From an unknown island."
"Do tell. What, another! Is it anyways nigh?"
"Not within seven hundred miles."
"Je--rusalem! Have you sailed all that in a cockle-shell?"
"Why, what are ye? the Wandering Jew afloat, or the Ancient Mariner? or
only a kinder nautilus?"
"I'm a landsman."
"A landsman! then so is Neptune. What is your name when you are ashore?"
"Robert Penfold. The Reverend Robert Penfold."
"The Reverend-- Je--rusalem!"
"May I ask what is your name, sir?"
"Wal, I reckon you may, stranger. I'm Joshua Fullalove from the States,
at present located on the island of Juan Fernandez!"
"Joshua Fullalove! That is lucky. I've got something that belongs to
He looked about and found the harpoon, and handed it up in a mighty
straightforward, simple way.
Joshua stared at him incredulously at first, but afterward with
amazement. He handled the harpoon, and inquired where Robert had fallen
in with it. Robert told him.
"You're an honest man," said Fullalove," you air. Come aboard." He was
then pleased to congratulate himself on his strange luck in having
drifted across an honest man in the middle of the ocean. "I've heerd,"
said he, "of an old chap as groped about all his life with a lantern, and
couldn't find one. Let's liquor."
He had some celestial mixture or other made, including rum, mint, and
snow from the Andes, and then began his interrogatories, again
disclaiming curiosity at set intervals.
"Whither bound, honest man?"
"The coast of Chili."
"D'ye buy or sell? Not that it is my business."
"I wish to sell."
"What's the merchandise?"
"Knowledge, and treasure."
Fullalove scratched his head. "Hain't ye got a few conundrums to swap for
gold dust as well?"
Robert smiled faintly. The first time this six weeks.
"I have to sell the knowledge of an island with rich products; and I have
to sell the contents of a Spanish treasure-ship that I found buried in
the sand of that island."
The Yankee's eyes glistened.
"Wal," said he, "I do business in islands myself. I've leased this Juan
Fernandez. But one of them is enough at a time. I'm monarch of all I
survey. But then what I survey is a mixallaneous bilin' of Irish and
Otaheitans, that it's pizen to be monarch of. And now them darned Irish
has taken to converting the heathens to superstition and the worship of
images, and breaks their heads if they won't. And the heathens are all
smiles and sweetness and immorality. No, islands is no bait to me."
"I never asked you," said Robert. "What I do ask you is to land me at
Valparaiso. There I'll find a purchaser, and will pay you handsomely for
"That is fair," said Fullalove, dryly. "What will you pay me?"
"I'll show you," said Robert. He took out of his, pocket the smaller
conglomeration of Spanish coin, and put it into Fullalove's hand. "That,"
said he, "is silver coin I dug out of the galleon."
Fullalove inspected it keenly, and trembled slightly. Robert then went
lightly over the taffrail, and slid down the low rope into his boat. He
held up the black mass we have described.
"This is solid silver. I will give it you, and my best thanks, to land me
"Heave it aboard," said the Yankee.
Robert steadied himself and hove it on board. The Yankee caught it, heavy
as it was, and subjected it to some chemical test directly.
"Wal," said he, "that is a bargain. I'll land ye at Valparaiso for this.
Jack, lay her head S.S.E. and by E."
Having given this order, he leaned over the taffrail and asked for more
samples. Robert showed him the fruits, woods, and shells, and the pink
coral, and bade him observe that the boat was ballasted with pearl
oysters. He threw him up one, and a bunch of pink coral. He then shinned
up the rope again, and the interrogatories recommenced. But this time he
was questioned closely as to who he was, and how he came on the island?
and the questions were so shrewd and penetrating that his fortitude gave
way, and he cried out in anguish, "Man, man! do not torture me so. Oh, do
not make me talk of my grief and my wrongs! they are more than I can
Fullalove forbore directly, and offered him a cigar. He took it, and it
soothed him a little; it was long since he had smoked one. His agitation
subsided, and a quiet tear or two rolled down his haggard cheek.
The Yankee saw, and kept silence.
But, when the cigar was nearly smoked out, he said he was afraid Robert
would not find a customer for his island, and what a pity Joshua
Fullalove was cool on islands just now.
"Oh!" said Robert, "I know there are enterprising Americans on the coast
who will give me money for what I have to sell."
Fullalove was silent a minute, then he got a piece of wood and a knife,
and said with an air of resignation, "I reckon we'll have to deal."
Need we say that to deal had been his eager desire from the first?
He now began to whittle a peg, and awaited the attack.
"What will you give me, sir?"
"What, money down? And you got nothing to sell but chances. Why, there's
an old cuss about that knows where the island is as well as you do."
"Then of course you will treat with him," said Robert, sadly.
"Darned if I do," said the Yankee. "You are in trouble, and he is not,
nor never will be till he dies, and then he'll get it hot, I calc'late.
He is a thief and stole my harpoon: you are an honest man and brought it
back. I reckon I'll deal with you and not with that old cuss; not by a
jugful! But it must be on a percentage. You tell me the bearings of that
there island, and I'll work it and pay five per cent on the gross."
"Would you mind throwing that piece of wood into the sea, Mr. Fullalove?"
"Caen't be done, nohow. I caen't deal without whittlin'."
"You mean you can't take an unfair advantage without it. Come, Mr.
Fullalove, let us cut this short. I am, as you say, an honest and most
unfortunate man. Sir, I was falsely accused of a crime and banished my
country. I can prove my innocence now if I can but get home with a great
deal of money. So much for _me._ You are a member of the vainest and most
generous nation in the world."
"Wal, now that's kinder honey and vinegar mixed," said Fullalove; "pretty
good for a Britisher, though."
"You are a man of that nation which in all the agonies and unparalleled
expenses of civil war, smarting, too, under anonymous taunts from
England, did yet send over a large sum to relieve the distresses of
certain poor Englishmen who were indirect victims of that same calamity.
The act, the time, the misery relieved, the taunts overlooked, prove your
nation superior to all others in generosity. At least my reading, which
is very large, affords no parallel to it, either in ancient or modern
history. Mr. Fullalove, please to recollect that you are a member of that
nation, and that I am very unhappy and helpless, and want money to undo
cruel wrongs, but have no heart to chaffer much. Take the island and the
treasures, and give me half the profits you make. Is not that fair?"
Fullalove wore a rueful countenance.
"Darn the critter," said he, "he'll take skin off my bones if I don't
mind. Fust Britisher ever I met as had the sense to see _that._ 'Twas
rather handsome, warn't it? Wal, human nature is deep; every man you
tackle in business larns ye something. What with picking ye out o' the
sea, and you giving me back the harpoon the cuss stole, and your face
like a young calf, when you are the 'cutest fox out, and you giving the
great United States their due, I'm no more fit to deal than mashed
potatoes. Now I cave; it is only for once. Next time don't you try to
palaver me. Draw me a map of our island, Britisher, and mark where the
Spaniard lies. I tell _you_ I know her name, and the year she was lost
in; learned that at Lima one day. Kinder startled me, you did, when you
showed me the coin out of her. Wal, there's my hand on haelf profits,
and, if I'm keen, I'm squar'."
Soon after this he led Robert to his cabin, and Robert drew a large map
from his models; and Fullalove, being himself an excellent draughtsman,
and provided with proper instruments, aided him to finish it.
Next day they sighted Valparaiso, and hove to outside the port.
All the specimens of insular wealth were put on board the schooner and
secreted; for Fullalove's first move was to get a lease of the island
from the Chilian government, and it was no part of his plan to trumpet
the article he was going to buy.
After a moment's hesitation, he declined to take the seven pounds of
silver. He gave as a reason that, having made a bargain which compelled
him to go to Valparaiso at once, he did not feel like charging his
partner a fancy price for towing his boat thither. At the same time he
hinted that, after all this, the next customer would find him a very
difficult Yankee to get the better of.
With this understanding, he gave Robert a draft for eighty pounds on
account of profits; and this enabled him to take a passage for England
with all his belongings.
He arrived at Southampton very soon after the events last related, and
thence went to London, fully alive to the danger of his position.
He had a friend in his long beard, but he dared not rely on that alone.
Like a mole, he worked at night.
HELEN asked Arthur Wardlaw why he was so surprised at the prayer-book
being brought back. Was it worth twenty pounds. to any one except
Arthur looked keenly at her to see whether she intended more than met the
ear, and then said he was surprised at the rapid effect of his
advertisement, that was all.
"Now you have got the book," said he, "I do hope you will erase that
cruel slander on one whom you mean to honor with your hand."
This proposal made Helen blush and feel very miserable. Of the obnoxious
lines some were written by Robert Penfold, and she had so little of his
dear handwriting. "I feel you are right, Arthur," said she; "but you must
give me time. Then, they shall meet no eye but mine; and on our
wedding-day--of course--all memorials of one--" Tears completed the
Arthur Wardlaw, raging with jealousy at the absent Penfold, as heretofore
Penfold had raged at him, heaved a deep sigh and hurried away, while
Helen was locking up the prayer-book in her desk. By this means he
retained Helen's pity.
He went home directly, mounted to his bedroom, unlocked a safe, and
plunged his hand into it. His hand encountered a book; he drew it out
with a shiver and gazed at it with terror and amazement.
It was the prayer-book he had picked up in the Square and locked up in
that safe. Yet that very prayer-book had been restored to Helen before
his eyes, and was now locked up in her desk. He sat down with the book in
his hand, and a great dread came over him.
Hitherto Candor and Credulity only had been opposed to him, but now
Cunning had entered the field against him; a master hand was co-operating
Yet, strange to say, she seemed unconscious of that co-operation. Had
Robert Penfold found his way home by some strange means? Was he watching
over her in secret?
He had the woman he loved watched night and day, but no Robert Penfold
He puzzled his brain night and day, and at last he conceived a plan of
deceit which is common enough in the East, where lying is one of the fine
arts, but was new in this country, we believe, and we hope to Heaven we
shall not be the means of importing it.
An old clerk of his father's, now superannuated and pensioned off, had a
son upon the stage, in a very mean position. Once a year, however, and of
course in the dogdays, he had a kind of benefit at his suburban theater;
that is to say, the manager allowed him to sell tickets, and take half
the price of them. He persuaded Arthur to take some, and even to go to
the theater for an hour. The man played a little part, of a pompous
sneak, with some approach to Nature. He seemed at home.
Arthur found this man out; visited him at his own place. He was very
poor, and mingled pomposity with obsequiousness, so that Arthur felt
convinced he was to be bought, body and soul, what there was of him.
He sounded him accordingly, and the result was that the man agreed to
perform a part for him.
Arthur wrote it, and they rehearsed it together. As to the dialogue, that
was so constructed that it could be varied considerably according to the
cues, which could be foreseen to a certain extent; but not precisely,
since they were to be given by Helen Rolleston, who was not in the
But while this plot was fermenting, other events happened, with rather a
contrary tendency; and these will be more intelligible if we go back to
Nancy Rouse's cottage, where indeed we have kept Joseph Wylie in an
uncomfortable position a very long time.
Mrs. James, from next door, was at last admitted into Nancy's kitchen,
and her first word was, "I suppose you know what I'm come about, ma'am."
"Which it is to return me the sasspan you borrowed, no doubt," was
Nancy's ingenuous reply.
"No, ma'am. But I'll send my girl in with it, as soon as she have cleaned
it, you may depend."
"Thank ye, I shall be glad to see it again."
"You're not afeard I shall steal it, I hope?"
'"La, bless the woman! don't fly out at a body like that. I can't afford
to give away my sasspan."
"Sasspans is not in my head."
"Nor in your hand neither."
"I'm come about my lodger; a most respectable gentleman, which he have
met with an accident. He did but go to put something away in the
chimbley, which he is a curious gent, and has traveled a good deal, and
learned the foreign customs, when his hand was caught in the brick-work,
somehows, and there he is hard and fast."
"Do you know anything about this?" said Nancy to the mite, severely.
"No," said the mite, with a countenance of polished granite.
"La bless me" said Nancy. with a sudden start "Why, is she talking about
the thief as you and I catched putting his hand through the wall into my
room, and made him fast again the policeman comes round?"
"Thief!" cried Mrs. James. "No more a thief than I am. Why, sure you
wouldn't ever be so cruel! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Spite goes a far length.
There, take an' kill me, do, and then you'll be easy in your mind. Ah,
little my poor father thought as ever I should come down to letting
lodgings, and being maltreated this way! I am--"
"Who is a maltreating of ye? Why, you're dreaming. Have a drop o' gin?"
"With them as takes the police to my lodger? It would choke me."
"Well, have a drop, and we'll see about it."
"You're very kind, ma'am, I'm sure. Heaven knows I need it! Here's
wishing you a good husband; and toward burying all unkindness."
"Which you means drounding of it."
"Ah, you're never at a loss for a word, ma'am, and always in good
spirits. But your troubles is to come. _I'm_ a widdy. You will let me see
what is the matter with my lodger, ma'am?"
"Why not? We'll go and have a look at him."
Accordingly, the three women and the mite proceeded to the little room;
Nancy turned the gas on, and then they inspected the imprisoned hand.
Mrs. James screamed with dismay, and Nancy asked her dryly whether she
was to blame for seizing a hand which had committed a manifest trespass.
"You have got the rest of his body," said she, "but this here hand
belongs to me."
"Lord, ma'am, what could he take out of your chimbley, without 'twas a
handful of soot? Do, pray, let me loose him."
"Not till I have said two words to him."
"But how can you? He isn't here to speak to--only a morsel of him."
"I can go into your house and speak to him."
Mrs. James demurred to that; but Nancy stood firm; Mrs. James yielded.
Nancy whispered her myrmidons, and, in a few minutes, was standing by the
prisoner, a reverend person in dark spectacles, and a gray beard, that
created commiseration, or would have done so, but that this stroke of
ill-fortune had apparently fallen upon a great philosopher. He had
contrived to get a seat under him, and was smoking a pipe with admirable
At sight of Nancy, however, he made a slight motion, as if he would not
object to follow his imprisoned hand through the party-wall. It was only
for a moment; the next, he smoked imperturbably.
"Well, sir," said Nancy, "I hopes you are comfortable?"
"Thank ye, miss; yes. I'm at a double sheet-anchor."
"Why do you call me miss?"
"I don't know. Because you are so young and pretty."
"That will do. I only wanted to hear the sound of your voice, Joe Wylie."
And with the word she snatched his wig off with one hand, and his beard
with the other, and revealed his true features to his astonished
"There, mum," said she, "I wish you joy of your lodger." She tapped the
chimney three times with the poker, and, telling Mr. Wylie she had a few
words to say to him in private, retired for the present. Mrs. James sat
down and mourned the wickedness of mankind, the loss of her lodger (who
would now go bodily next door instead of sending his hand), and the
better days she had by iteration brought herself to believe she had seen.
Wylie soon entered Nancy's house, and her first question was, "The 2,000
pounds, how did you get them?"
"No matter how I got them," said Wylie, sulkily. "What have you done with
"Put them away."
"That is all right. I'm blest if I didn't think they were gone forever."
"I wish they had never come. Ill-gotten money is a curse." Then she taxed
him with scuttling the _Proserpine,_ and asked him whether that money had
not been the bribe. But Joe was obdurate. "I never split on a friend,"
said he. "And you have nobody to blame but yourself, you wouldn't splice
without 2,000 pounds. I loved you, and I got it how I could. D'ye think a
poor fellow like me can make 2,000 pounds in a voyage by hauling in
ropes, and tying true-lovers' knots in the foretop?"
Nancy had her answer ready, but this remembrance pricked her own
conscience and paved the way to a reconciliation. Nancy had no high-flown
notions. She loved money, but it must be got without palpable dishonesty;
_per contra,_ she was not going to denounce her sweetheart, but then
again she would not marry him so long as he differed with her about the
meaning of the eighth commandment.
This led to many arguments, some of them warm, some affectionate; and so
we leave Mr. Wylie under the slow but salutary influence of love and
unpretending probity. He continued to lodge next door. Nancy would only
receive him as a visitor.
HELEN had complained to Arthur, of all people, that she was watched and
followed; she even asked him whether that was not the act of some enemy.
Arthur smiled, and said: "Take my word for it, it is only some foolish
admirer of your beauty; he wants to know your habits, in hopes of falling
in with you; you had better let me go out with you for the next month or
so; that sort of thing will soon die away."
As a necessary consequence of this injudicious revelation, Helen was
watched with greater skill and subtlety, and upon a plan well calculated
to disarm suspicion; a spy watched the door, and by a signal
unintelligible to any but his confederate, whom Helen could not possibly
see, set the latter on her track. They kept this game up unobserved for
several days, but learned nothing, for Helen was at a standstill. At last
they got caught, and by a truly feminine stroke of observation. A showily
dressed man peeped into a shop where Helen was buying gloves.
With one glance of her woman's eye she recognized a large breast-pin in
the worst possible taste; thence her eye went up and recognized the
features of her seedy follower, though he was now dressed up to the nine.
She withdrew her eye directly, completed her purchase, and went home,
brooding defense and vengeance.
That evening she dined with a lady who had a large acquaintance with
lawyers, and it so happened that Mr. Tollemache and Mr. Hennessy were
both of the party. Now, when these gentlemen saw Helen in full costume, a
queen in form as well as face, coroneted with her island pearls,
environed with a halo of romance, and courted by women as well as men,
they looked up to her with astonishment, and made up to her in a very
different style from that in which they had received her visit.
Tollemache she received coldly; he had defended Robert Penfold feebly,
and she hated him for it. Hennessy she received graciously, and,
remembering Robert's precept to be supple as a woman, bewitched him. He
was good-natured, able and vain. By eleven o'clock she had enlisted him
in her service. When she had conquered him, she said, slyly, "But I ought
not to speak of these things to you except through a solicitor."
"That is the general rule," said the learned counsel; "but in this case
no dark body must come between me and the sun."
In short he entered into Penfold's case with such well-feigned warmth, to
please the beauteous girl, that at last she took him by the horns and
"I am followed," said she.
"I have no doubt you are; and on a large scale; if there is room for
another, I should be glad to join the train."
"Ha! ha! I'll save you the trouble. I'll meet you half way. But, to be
serious, I am watched, spied and followed by some enemy to that good
friend whose sacred cause we have undertaken. Forgive me for saying
"I am too proud of the companionship to let you off. 'We' is the word."
"Then advise me what to do. I want to retaliate. I want to discover who
is watching me, and why. Can you advise me? Will you?"
The counsel reflected a moment, and Helen, who watched him, remarked the
power that suddenly came into his countenance and brow.
"You must watch the spies. I have influence in Scotland Yard, and will
get it done for you. If you went there yourself they would cross-examine
you and decline to interfere. I'll go myself for you and put it in a
certain light. An able detective will call on you. Give him ten guineas,
and let him into your views in confidence; then he will work the public
machinery for you."
"Oh, Mr. Hennessy, how can I thank you?"
"By succeeding. I hate to fail. And now your cause is mine."
Next day a man with a hooked nose, a keen black eye, and a solitary
foible (Mosaic), called on Helen Rolleston, and told her he was to take
her instructions. She told him she was watched, and thought it was done
to baffle a mission she had undertaken; but, having got so far, she
blushed and hesitated.
"The more you tell me, miss, the more use I can be," said Mr. Burt.
Thus encouraged, and also remembering Mr. Hennessy's advice, she gave Mr.
Burt, as coldly as she could, an outline of Robert Penfold's case, and of
the exertions she had made, and the small result.
Burt listened keenly, and took a note or two; and, when she had done, he
told her something in return.
"Miss Rolleston," said he, "I am the officer that arrested Robert
Penfold. It cost me a grinder that he knocked out."
"Oh, dear!" said Helen, "how unfortunate! Then I fear I cannot reckon on
"Why not, miss? What, do you think I hold spite against a poor fellow for
defending himself? Besides, Mr. Penfold wrote me a very proper note.
Certainly for a parson the gent is a very quick hitter; but he wrote very
square; said he hoped I would allow for the surprise and the agitation of
an innocent man; sent me two guineas, too, and said he would make it
twenty but he was poor as well as unfortunate; that letter has stuck in
my gizzard ever since; can't see the color of felony in it. Your felon is
never in a fault; and, if he wears a good coat, he isn't given to show
"It was very improper of him to strike you," said Helen, "and very noble
of you to forgive it. Make him still more ashamed of it; lay him under a
"If he is innocent, I'll try and prove it," said the detective. He then
asked her if she had taken notes. She said she had a diary. He begged to
see it. She felt inclined to withhold it, because of the comments; but,
remembering that this was womanish, and that Robert's orders to her were
to be manly on such occasions, she produced her diary. Mr. Burt read it
very carefully, and told her it was a very promising case. "You have done
a great deal more than you thought," he said. _"You have netted the
"I NETTED the fish! what fish?"
"The man who forged the promissory note."
"Oh, Mr. Burt!"
"The same man that forged the newspaper extracts to deceive you forged
the promissory note years ago, and the man who is setting spies on you is
the man who forged those extracts; so we are sure to nail him. He is in
the net; and very much to your credit. Leave the rest to me. I'll tell
you more about it to-morrow. You must order your carriage at one o'clock
tomorrow and drive down to Scotland Yard; go into the Yard, and you will
see me; follow me without a word. When you go back, the other spies will
be so frightened they will go off to their employer, and so we shall nail
Helen complied with these instructions strictly, and then returned home,
leaving Mr. Burt to work. She had been home about half an hour, when the
servant brought her up a message saying that a man wanted to speak to
her. "Admit him," said Helen.
"He is dressed very poor, miss."
"Never mind; send him to me."
She was afraid to reject anybody now, lest she might turn her back on
A man presented himself in well-worn clothes, with a wash-leather face
and close-shaven chin; a little of his forehead was also shaven.
"Madam, my name is Hand." Helen started. "I have already had the honor of
writing to you."
"Yes, sir," said Helen, eying him with fear and aversion.
"Madam, I am come"--(he hesitated)--"I am an unfortunate man. Weighed
down by remorse for a thoughtless act that has ruined an innocent man,
and nearly cost my worthy employer his life, I come to expiate as far as
in me lies. But let me be brief and hurry over the tale of shame. I was a
clerk at Wardlaw's office. A bill-broker called Adams was talking to me
and my fellow-clerks, and boasting that nobody could take him in with a
feigned signature. Bets were laid; our vanity was irritated by his
pretension. It was my fortune to overhear my young master and his friend
Robert Penfold speak about a loan of two thousand pounds. In an evil hour
I listened to the tempter and wrote a forged note for that amount. I took
it to Mr. Penfold; he presented it to Adams, and it was cashed. I
intended, of course, to call next day, and tell Mr. Penfold, and take him
to Adams, and restore the money and get back the note. It was not due for
three months. Alas! that very day it fell under suspicion. Mr. Penfold
was arrested. My young master was struck down with illness at his
friend's guilt, though he never could be quite got to believe it; and
I--miserable coward!--dared not tell the truth. Ever since that day I
have been a miserable man. The other day I came into money, and left
Wardlaw's service. But I carry my remorse with me. Madam, I am come to
tell the truth. I dare not tell it to Mr. Wardlaw; I think he would kill
me. But I will tell it to you, and you can tell it to him; ay, tell it to
all the world. Let my shame be as public as his whom I have injured so
deeply, but, Heaven knows, unintentionally. I--I--I--"
Mr. Hand sank all in a heap where he sat, and could say no more.
Helen's flesh crawled at this confession, and at the sight of this
reptile who owned that he had destroyed Robert Penfold in fear and
cowardice. For a long time her wrath so overpowered all sense of pity
that she sat trembling; and, if eyes could kill, Mr. Hand would not have
outlived his confession.
At last she contrived to speak. She turned her head away not to see the
wretch and said, sternly:
"Are you prepared to make this statement on paper, if called on?"
Mr. Hand hesitated, but said, "Yes."
"Then write down that Robert Penfold was innocent, and you are ready to
prove it whenever you may be called upon."
"Write that down?" said Hand.
"Unless your penitence is feigned, you will."
"Sooner than that should be added to my crime I will avow all." He wrote
the few lines she required.
"Now your address, that I may know where to find you at a moment's
notice." He wrote, "J. Hand, 11 Warwick Street, Pimlico."
Helen then dismissed him, and wept bitterly. In that condition she was
found by Arthur Wardlaw, who comforted her, and, on hearing her report of
Hand's confession, burst out into triumph, and reminded her he had always
said Robert Penfold was innocent. "My father," said he, "must yield to
this evidence, and we will lay it before the Secretary of State and get
"His pardon! when he is innocent!"
"Oh, that is the form--the only form. The rest must be done by the warm
reception of his friends. I, for one, who all these years have maintained
his innocence, will be the first to welcome him to my house an honored
guest. What am I saying? Can I? dare I? ought I? when my wife-- Ah! I am
more to be pitied than my poor friend is; my friend, my rival. Well, I
leave it to you whether he can come into your husband's house."
"But, at least, I can send the _Springbok_ out, and bring him home; and
that I will do without one day's delay."
"Oh, Arthur!" cried Helen, "you set me an example of unselfishness."
"I do what I can," said Arthur. "I am no saint. I hope for a reward."
Helen sighed. "What shall I do?"
"Have pity on _me!_ your faithful lover, and to whom your faith was
plighted before ever you saw or knew my unhappy friend. What can I do or
suffer more than I have done and suffered for you? My sweet Helen, have
pity on me, and be my wife."
"I will, some day."
"Bless you. Bless you. One effort more. What day?"
"I can't. I can't. My heart is dead."
"This day fortnight. Let me speak to your father. Let him name the day."
As she made no reply, he kissed her hand devotedly, and did speak to her
father. Sir Edward, meaning all for the best, said, "This day fortnight."
THE next morning came the first wedding presents from the jubilant
bridegroom, who was determined to advance step by step, and give no
breathing time. When Helen saw them laid out by her maid, she trembled at
the consequences of not giving a plump negative to so brisk a wooer.
The second post brought two letters; one of them from Mrs. Undercliff.
The other contained no words, but only a pearl of uncommon size, and
pear-shaped. Helen received this at first as another wedding present, and
an attempt on Arthur's part to give her a pearl as large as those she had
gathered on her dear island. But, looking narrowly at the address, she
saw it was not written by Arthur; and, presently, she was struck by the
likeness of this pearl in shape to some of her own. She got out her
pearls, laid them side by side, and began to be moved exceedingly. She
had one of her instincts, and it set every fiber quivering with
excitement. It was some time before she could take her eyes off the
pearls, and it was with a trembling hand she opened Mrs. Undercliff's
letter. That missive was not calculated to calm her. It ran thus:
"MY DEAR YOUNG LADY-- A person called here last night and supplied the
clew. If you have the courage to know the truth, you have only to come
here, and to bring your diary, and all the letters you have received from
any person or persons since you landed in England. I am yours obediently,
The courage to know the truth!
This mysterious sentence affected Helen considerably. But her faith in
Robert was too great to be shaken. She would not wait for the canonical
hour at which young ladies go out, but put on her bonnet directly after
breakfast. Early as she was, a visitor came before she could start--Mr.
Burt, the detective. She received him in the library.
Mr. Burt looked at her dress and her little bag, and said, "I'm very glad
I made bold to call so early."
"You have got information of importance to communicate to me?"
"I think so, miss;" and he took out his note-book. "The person you are
watched by is Mr. Arthur Wardlaw." The girl stared at him. "Both spies
report to him twice a day at his house in Russell Square."
"Be careful, Mr. Burt; this is a serious thing to say, and may have
"Well, miss, you told me you wanted to know the truth."
"Of course I want to know the truth."
"Then the truth is that you are watched by order of Mr. Wardlaw."
Burt continued his report.
"A shabby-like man called on you yesterday."
"Yes; it was Mr. Hand, Mr. Wardlaw's clerk. And, oh, Mr. Burt, that
wretched creature came and confessed the truth. It was he who forged the
note, out of sport, and for a bet, and then was too cowardly to own it."
She then detailed Hand's confession.
"His penitence comes too late," said she, with a deep sigh.
"It hasn't come yet," said Burt, dryly. "Of course my lambs followed the
man. He went first to his employer, and then he went home. His name is
not Hand. He is not a clerk at all, but a little actor at the Corinthian
Saloon. Hand is in America; went three months ago. I ascertained that
from another quarter."
"Oh, goodness!" cried Helen, "what a wretched world! I can't see my way a
yard for stories."
"How should you, miss? It is clear enough, for all that. Mr. Wardlaw
hired this actor to pass for Hand, and tell you a lie that he thought
would please you."
Helen put her hand to her brow, and thought; but her candid soul got
sadly in the way of her brain. "Mr. Burt," said she, "will you go with me
to Mr. Undercliff, the expert?"
"With pleasure, ma'am; but let me finish my report. Last night there was
something new. Your house was watched by six persons. Two were Wardlaw's,
three were Burt's; but the odd man was there on his own hook; and my men
could not make him out at all; but they think one of Wardlaw's men knew
him; for he went off to Russell Square like the wind and brought Mr.
Wardlaw here in disguise. Now, miss, that is all; and shall I call a cab,
and we'll hear Undercliff's tale?"
The cab was called, and they went to Undercliff. On the way Helen
brooded; but the detective eyed every man and everything on the road with
the utmost keenness.
Edward Undercliff was at work at lithographing. He received Helen
cordially, nodded to Burt, and said she could not have a better
He then laid his fac-simile of the forged note on the table, with John
Wardlaw's genuine writing and Penfold's indorsement. "Look at that, Mr.
Burt inspected the papers keenly.
"You know, Burt, I swore at Robert Penfold's trial that he never wrote
that forged note."
"I remember," said Burt.
"The other day this lady instructed me to discover, if I could, who did
write the forged note. But, unfortunately, the materials she gave me were
not sufficient. But, last night, a young man dropped from the clouds,
that I made sure was an agent of yours, Miss Rolleston. Under that
impression I was rather unguarded, and I let him know how far we had got,
and could get no further. 'I think I can help you,' says this young man,
and puts a letter on the table. Well, Mr. Burt, a glance at that letter
was enough for me. It was written by the man who forged the note."
"A letter!" said Helen.
"Yes. I'll put the letter by the side of the forged note; and, if you
have any eye for writing at all, you'll see at once that one hand wrote
the forged note and this letter. I am also prepared to swear that the
letters signed Hand are forgeries by the same person." He then coolly put
upon the table the letter from Arthur Wardlaw that Helen had received on
board the _Proserpine,_ and was proceeding to point out the many points
of resemblance between the letter and the document, when he was
interrupted by a scream from Helen.
"Ah!" she cried, "he is here. Only one man in the world could have
brought that letter. I left it on the island. Robert is here. He gave you
"You are right," said the expert, "and what a fool I must be! I have no
eye except for handwriting. He had a beard; and such a beard!"
"It is Robert!" cried Helen, in raptures. "He is come just in time."
"In time to be arrested," said Burt. "Why, his time is not out. He'll get
into trouble again."
"Oh, Heaven forbid!" cried Helen, and turned so faint she had to be laid
back on a chair, and salts applied to her nostrils.
She soon came to, and cried and trembled, but prepared to defend her
Robert with all a woman's wit. Burt and Undercliff were conversing in a
low voice, and Burt was saying he felt sure Wardlaw's spies had detected
Robert Penfold, and that Robert would be arrested and put into prison as
a runaway convict. "Go to Scotland Yard this minute, Mr. Burt," said
"Why, you must take the commission to arrest him. You are our friend."
Burt slapped his thigh with delight.
"That is first-rate, miss," said he. "I'll take the real felon, first,
you may depend. Now, Mr. Undercliff, write your report, and hand it to
Miss Helen with fac-similes. It will do no harm if you make a declaration
to the same effect before a magistrate. You, Miss Rolleston, keep
yourself disengaged, and please don't go out. You will very likely hear
from me again to-day."
He drove off, and Helen, though still greatly agitated by Robert's danger
and the sense of his presence, now sat down, trembling a little, and
compared Arthur's letter with the forged document. The effect of this
comparison was irresistible. The expert, however, asked her for some
letter of Arthur's that had never passed through Robert Penfold's hands.
She gave him the short note in which he used the very words, Robert
Penfold. He said he would make that note the basis of his report.
While he was writing it, Mrs. Undercliff came in, and Helen told her all.
She said, "I came to the same conclusion long ago; but when you said he
was to be your husband--"
"Ah," said Helen, "we women are poor creatures; we can always find some
reason for running away from the truth. Now explain about the
"Well, miss, I felt sure he would steal it, so I made Ned produce a
fac-simile. And he did steal it. What you got back was your mother's
prayer-book. Of course I took care of that."
"Oh, Mrs. Undercliff," cried Helen, "do let me kiss you."
Then they had a nice little cry together, and, by the time they had done,
the report was ready in duplicate.
"I'll declare this before a magistrate," said the expert, "and then I'll
send it you.
At four o'clock of this eventful day, Helen got a message from Burt to
say that he had orders to arrest Robert Penfold, and that she must wear a
mask, and ask Mr. Wardlaw to meet her at old Mr. Penfold's at nine
o'clock. But she herself must be there at half-past eight, without fail,
and bring Undercliff's declaration and report with her, and the
Accordingly Helen went down to old Mr. Penfold's at half-past eight and
was received by Nancy Rouse, and ushered into Mr. Penfold's room; that is
to say, Nancy held the door open, and, on her entering the room, shut it
sharply and ran down stairs.
Helen entered the room; a man rose directly, and came to her; but it was
not Michael Penfold--it was Robert. A faint scream, a heavenly sigh, and
her head was on his shoulder, and her arm round his neck, and both their
hearts panting as they gazed, and then clung to each other, and then
gazed again with love unutterable. After a while they got sufficient
composure to sit down hand in hand and compare notes. And Helen showed
him their weapons of defense, the prayer-book, the expert's report, etc.
A discreet tap was heard at the door. It was Nancy Rouse. On being
invited to enter, she came in and said, "Oh, Miss Helen, I've got a
penitent outside, which he done it for love of me, and now he'll make a
clean breast, and the fault was partly mine. Come in, Joe, and speak for
On this, Joe Wylie came in, hanging his head, piteously.
"She is right, sir," said he; "I'm come to ask your pardon and the
lady's. Not as I ever meant you any harm; but to destroy the ship, it was
a bad act, and I've never throve since. Nance, she have got the money.
I'll give it back to the underwriters; and, if you and the lady will
forgive a poor fellow that was tempted with love and money, why, I'll
stand to the truth for you, though it's a bitter pill."
"I forgive you," said Robert; "and I accept your offer to serve me."
"And so do I," said Helen. "Indeed, it is not us you have wronged. But
oh, I _am_ glad, for Nancy's sake, that you repent."
"Miss, I'll go through fire and water for you," said Wylie, lifting up
Here old Michael came in to say that Arthur Wardlaw was at the door, with
"Show him in," said Robert.
"Oh, no, Robert!" said Helen. "He fills me with horror."
"Show him in," said Robert, gently. "Sit down, all of you."
Now Burt had not told Arthur who was in the house, so he came, rather
uneasy in his mind, but still expecting only to see Helen.
Robert Penfold told Helen to face the door, and the rest to sit back; and
this arrangement had not been effected one second, when Arthur came in,
with a lover's look, and, taking two steps into the room, saw the three
men waiting to receive him. At sight of Penfold, he started and turned
pale as ashes; but, recovering himself, said: "My dearest Helen, this is
indeed an unexpected pleasure. You will reconcile me to one whose worth
and innocence I never doubted, and tell him I have had some little hand
in clearing him."
His effrontery was received in dead silence. This struck cold to his
bones, and, being naturally weak, he got violent. He said, "Allow me to
send a message to my servant."
He then tore a leaf out of his memorandum-book, wrote on it: "Robert
Penfold is here; arrest him directly, and take him away"; and, inclosing
this in an envelope, sent it out to Burt by Nancy.
Helen seated herself quietly, and said, "Mr. Wardlaw, when did Mr. Hand
go to America?"
Arthur stammered out, "I don't know the exact date."
"Two or three months ago?"
"Then the person you sent to me to tell me that falsehood was not Mr.
"I sent nobody."
"Oh, for shame! for shame! Why have you set spies? Why did you make away
with my prayer-book; or what you thought was my prayer-book? Here _is_ my
prayer-book, that proves you had the _Proserpine_ destroyed; and I should
have lost my life but for another, whom you had done your best to
destroy. Look Robert Penfold in the face, if you can."
Arthur's eyes began to waver. "I can," said he. "I never wronged him. I
always lamented his misfortune."
"You were not the cause?"
"Never!--so help me Heaven!"
"Monster!" said Helen, turning away in contempt and horror.
"Oh, that is it--is it?" said Arthur, wildly. "You break faith with me
for _him?_ You insult me for _him?_ I must bear anything from you, for I
love you; but, at least, I will sweep _him_ out of the path."
He ran to the door, opened it, and there was Burt, listening.
"Are you an officer?"
"Then arrest that man this moment: he is Robert Penfold, a convict
returned before his time."
Burt came into the room, locked the door and put the key in his pocket.
"Well, sir," said he to Robert Penfold, "I know you are a quick hitter.
Don't let us have a row over it this time. If you have got anything to
say, say it quiet and comfortable."
"I will go with you on one condition," said Robert. "You must take the
felon as well as the martyr. This is the felon," and he laid his hand on
Arthur's shoulder, who cowered under the touch at first, but soon began
to act violent indignation.
"Take the ruffian away at once," he cried.
"What, before I hear what he has got to say?"
"Would you listen to him against a merchant of the city of London, a man
of unblemished reputation?"
"Well, sir, you see we have got a hint that you were concerned in
scuttling a ship; and that is a felony. So I think I'll just hear what he
has got to say. You need not _fear_ any man's tongue if you are
"Sit down, if you please, and examine these documents," said Robert
Penfold. "As to the scuttling of the ship, here is the deposition of two
seamen, taken on their death-bed, and witnessed by Miss Rolleston and
"And that book he tried to steal," said Helen.
Robert continued: "And here is Undercliff's fac-simile of the forged
note. Here are specimens of Arthur Wardlaw's handwriting, and here is
The detective ran his eye hastily over the report, which we slightly
On comparing the forged note with genuine specimens of John Wardlaw's
handwriting, no less than twelve deviations from his habits of writing
strike the eye; and every one of these twelve deviations is a deviation
into a habit of Arthur Wardlaw, which is an amount of demonstration
rarely attained in cases of forgery.
1. THE CAPITAL L.--Compare in London (forged note) with the same letter
in London in Wardlaw's letter.
2. THE CAPITAL D.--Compare this letter in "Date" with the same letter in
3. THE CAPITAL T.--Compare it in "Two" and "Tollemache."
4. The word "To"; see "To pay," in forged note and third line of letter.
5. Small "o" formed with a loop in the up-stroke.
6. The manner of finishing the letter "v."
7. Ditto the letter "w."
8. The imperfect formation of the small "a." This and the looped" o" run
through the forged note and Arthur Wardlaw 's letter, and are habits
entirely foreign to the style of John Wardlaw.
9. See the "th" in connection.
10. Ditto the "of" in connection.
11. The incautious use of the Greek e. John Wardlaw never uses this e.
Arthur Wardlaw never uses any other, apparently. The writer of the forged
note began right, but, at the word Robert Penfold, glided insensibly into
his Greek e, and maintained it to the end of the forgery. This looks as
if he was in the habit of writing those two words.
12. Compare the words "Robert Penfold" in the forged document with the
same words in the letter. The similarity is so striking that on these two
words alone the writer could be identified beyond a doubt.
13. Great pains were taken with the signature, and it is like John
Wardlaw's writing on the surface; but go below the surface, and it is all
The looped o, the small r, the 1 drooping below the d, the open a, are
all Arthur Wardlaw's. The open loop of the final w is a still bolder
deviation into A. W. 's own hand. The final flourish is a curious
mistake. It is executed with skill and freedom; but the writer has made
the lower line the thick one. Yet John Wardlaw never does this.
How was the deviation caused? Examine the final flourish in Arthur
Wardlaw's signature. It contains one stroke only, but then that stroke is
a thick one. He thought he had only to prolong his own stroke and bring
it round. He did this extremely well, but missed the deeper
characteristic--the thick upper stroke. This is proof of a high
character: and altogether I am prepared to testify upon oath that the
writer of the letter to Miss Rolleston, who signs himself Arthur Wardlaw,
is the person who forged the promissory note.
To these twelve proofs one more was now added. Arthur Wardlaw rose, and,
with his knees knocking together, said, "Don't arrest him, Burt; let him
"Don't let _him_ go," cried old Penfold. "A villain! I have got the
number of the notes from Benson. I can prove he bribed this poor man to
destroy the ship. Don't let him go. He has ruined my poor boy."
At this Arthur Wardlaw began to shriek for mercy. "Oh, Mr. Penfold," said
he, "you are a father and hate me. But think of my father. I'll say
anything, do anything. I'll clear Robert Penfold at my own expense. I
have lost _her._ She loathes me now. Have mercy on me, and let me leave
He cringed and crawled so that he disarmed anger, and substituted
"Ay," said Burt. "He don't hit like you, Mr. Penfold; this is a chap that
ought to have been in Newgate long ago. But take my advice; make him
clear you on paper, and then let him go. I'll go downstairs awhile. I
mustn't take part in compounding a felony."
"Oh, yes, Robert," said Helen "for his father's sake."
"Very well," said Robert. "Now, then, reptile, take the pen, and write in
your own hand, if you can."
He took the pen, and wrote to dictation--
"I, Arthur Wardlaw, confess that I forged the promissory note for 2,000
pounds, and sent it to Robert Penfold, and that 1,400 pounds of it was to
be for my own use, and to pay my Oxford debts. And I confess that I
bribed Wylie to scuttle the ship _Proserpine_ in order to cheat the
Penfold then turned to Wylie, and asked him the true motive of this
"Why, the gold was aboard the _Shannon,_" said Wylie; "I played
hanky-panky with the metals in White's store."
"Put that down," said Penfold. "Now go on."
"Make a clean breast," said Wylie. "I have. Say as how you cooked the
_Proserpine's_ log, and forged Hiram Hudson's writing."
"And the newspaper extracts you sent me," said Helen, "and the letters
from Mr. Hand."
Arthur groaned. "Must I tell all that?" said he.
"Every word, or be indicted," said Robert Penfold, sternly.
He wrote it all down, and then sat staring stupidly. And the next thing
was, he gave a loud shriek, and fell on the floor in a fit. They
sprinkled water over him, and Burt conveyed him home in a cab, advising
him to leave the country, but at the same time promising him not to
exasperate those he had wronged so deeply, but rather to moderate them,
if required. Then he gave Burt fifty guineas.
Robert Penfold, at Helen's request, went with her to Mr. Hennessy, and
with the proofs of Arthur's guilt and Robert's innocence; and he
undertook that the matter should go in proper form before the Secretary
of State. But, somehow, it transpired that the _Proserpine_ had been
scuttled, and several of the underwriters wrote to the Wardlaws to
threaten proceedings. Wardlaw senior returned but one answer to these
gentlemen: "Bring your proofs to me at my place of business next Monday
at twelve, and let me judge the case, before you go elsewhere."
"That is high and mighty," said one or two; but they conferred, and
agreed to these terms, so high stood the old merchant's name.
They came; they were received with stiff courtesy. The deposition of
Cooper and Welch was produced, and Wylie, kept up to the mark by Nancy,
told the truth and laid his two thousand pounds intact down on the table.
"Now that is off my stomach," said he, "and I'm a man again."
"Ay, and I'll marry you next week," said Nancy.
"Well, gentlemen," said old Wardlaw, "my course seems very clear. I will
undo the whole transaction, and return you your money less the premiums,
but plus five per cent. interest." And this he did on the spot, for the
firm was richer than ever.
When they were gone, Robert Penfold came in and said, "I hear, sir, you
devote this day to repairing the wrongs done by your firm: what can you
do for me?" He laid a copy of Arthur's confession before him. The old man
winced a moment where he sat, and the iron passed through his soul. It
was a long time before he could speak. At last he said, "This wrong is
irreparable, I fear."
Robert said nothing. Sore as his own heart was, he was not the one to
strike a grand old man, struggling so bravely against dishonor.
Wardlaw senior touched his handbell.
"Request Mr. Penfold to step this way."
Michael Penfold came.
"Gentlemen," said the old merchant, "the house of Wardlaw exists no more.
It was built on honesty, and cannot survive a fraud. Wardlaw and Son were
partners at will. I had decided to dissolve that partnership, wind up the
accounts and put up the shutters. But now, if you like, I will value the
effects, and hand the business over to Penfold and Son on easy terms.
Robert Penfold has been accused of forging John Wardlaw's name; to prove
this was a calumny, I put Penfold over my door instead of Wardlaw. The
city of London will understand that, gentlemen, believe me."
"Mr. Wardlaw," said Robert, "you are a just, a noble--" He could say no
"Ah, sir," said Michael, "if the young gentleman had only been like you!"
"Mention his name no more to me. His crime and his punishment have killed me."
"Oh," said Robert, hastily, "he shall not be punished for your sake."
"Not be punished? It is not in your hands to decide. God has punished
him. He is insane."
"Quite mad;--quite mad. Gentlemen, I can no longer support this
interview. Send me your solicitor's address; the deeds shall be prepared.
I wish the new firm success. Probity is the road to it. Good-day."
He wound up the affairs, had his name and Arthur's painted out at his own
expense, and directed the painters to paint the Penfolds' in at theirs;
went home to Elmtrees, and died in three days. He died lamented and
honored, and Robert Penfold was much affected. He got it into his head
that he had killed him with Arthur's confession, putting it before him so
suddenly. "I have forgotten who said 'Vengeance is mine,' " said Robert
The merchant priest left the office to be conducted by his father; he
used the credit of the new firm to purchase a living in the Vale of Kent;
and thither he retired, grateful to Providence, but not easy in his
conscience. He now accused himself of having often distrusted God, and
seen his fellow creatures in too dark a light. He turned toward religion
and the care of souls.
Past suffering enlightens a man, and makes him tender; and people soon
began to walk and drive considerable distances to hear the new vicar. He
had a lake with a peninsula, the shape of which he altered, at a great
expense, as soon as he came there. He wrote to Helen every day, and she
to him. Neither could do anything _con amore_ till the post came in.
One afternoon as he was preaching with great unction, he saw a long
puritanical face looking up at him with a droll expression of amazement
and half-irony. The stranger called on him and began at once. "Wal,
parson, you are a buster, you air. You ginn it us hot--_you_ did. I'm
darned if I ain't kinder ashamed to talk of this world's goods to a saint
upon airth like you. But I never knowed a parson yet as couldn't collar
After this preamble he announced that he had got a lease of the island
from Chili, dug a lot of silver plate out of the galleon, sold ten tons
of choice coral, and a ship-load of cassia and cocoanuts. He had then
disposed of his lease to a Californian company for a large sum. And his
partner's share of net profits came to 17,247 pounds 13s. 3 1/2 d. which
sum he had paid to Michael, for Robert, Penfold in drafts on Baring, at
thirty days after sight.
Robert shook his hand, and thanked him sincerely for his ability and
probity. He stayed that night at the Vicarage, and by that means fell in
with another acquaintance. General Rolleston and his daughter drove down
to see the parsonage. Helen wanted to surprise Robert; and, as often
happens, she surprised herself. She made him show her everything; and so
he took her on to his peninsula. Lo! the edges of it had been cut and
altered, so that it presented a miniature copy of Godsend Island.
As soon as she saw this, Helen turned round with a sudden cry of love,
"Oh, Robert!" and the lovers were in each other's arms. "What could any
other man ever be to me?"
"And what could any other woman ever be to me?"
They knew that before. But this miniature island made them speak out and
say it. The wedding-day was fixed before she left.