The Episode of
the Drawn Game
by Grant Allen
THE twelfth of August saw us, as usual, at Seldon Castle,
Ross-shire. It is part of Charles's restless, roving
temperament that, on the morning of the eleventh, wet or
fine, he must set out from London, whether the House is
sitting or not, in defiance of the most urgent three-line
whips; and at dawn on the twelfth he must be at work on his
moors, shooting down the young birds with might and main, at
the earliest possible legal moment.
He goes on like Saul, slaying his thousands, or, like
David, his tens of thousands, with all the guns in the house
to help him, till the keepers warn him he has killed as many
grouse as they consider desirable; and then, having done his
duty, as he thinks, in this respect, he retires
precipitately with flying 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 quiet in
his grave: his ghost will walk the world to terrify old
'At Seldon, at least,' he said to me, with a sigh, as he
stepped into his Pullman, 'I shall be safe from that
And indeed, as soon as he had begun to tire a little of
counting up his hundreds of brace per diem, he found a
trifling piece of financial work cut ready to his hand,
which amply distracted his mind for the moment from Colonel
Clay, his accomplices, and his villainies.
Sir Charles, I ought to say, had secured during that
summer a very advantageous option in a part of Africa on the
Transvaal frontier, rumoured to be auriferous. Now, whether
it was auriferous or not before, the mere fact that Charles
had secured some claim on it naturally made it so; for no
man had ever the genuine Midas-touch to a greater degree
than Charles Vandrift: whatever he handles turns at once to
gold, if not to diamonds. Therefore, as soon as my
brother-in-law had obtained this option from the native
vendor (a most respected chief, by name Montsioa), and
promoted a company of his own to develop it, his great rival
in that region, Lord Craig-Ellachie (formerly Sir David
Alexander Granton), immediately secured a similar option of
an adjacent track, the larger part of which had pretty much
the same geological conditions as that covered by Sir
Charles's right of pre-emption.
We were not wholly disappointed, as it turned out, in the
result. A month or two later, while we were still at
Seldon, we received a long and encouraging letter from our
prospectors on the spot, who had been hunting over the
ground in search of gold-reefs. They reported that they had
found a good auriferous vein in a corner of the tract,
approachable by adit-levels; but, unfortunately, only a few
yards of the lode lay within the limits of Sir Charles's
area. The remainder ran on at once into what was locally
known as Craig-Ellachie's section.
However, our prospectors had been canny, they said; though
young Mr. Granton was prospecting at the same time, in the
self-same ridge, not very far from them, his miners had
failed to discover the auriferous quartz; so our men had
held their tongues about it, wisely leaving it for Charles
to govern himself accordingly.
'Can you dispute the boundary?' I asked.
'Impossible,' Charles answered. 'You see, the limit is a
meridian of longitude. There's no getting over that. Can't
pretend to deny it. No buying over 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 blessed word 'Amalgamate!' was in itself a
'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 on the territory of the option: 'Young
Granton has somehow given us the slip and gone home. We
suspect he knows all. But we have not divulged the secret
'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 to know 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,' my brother-in-law went on. 'A very rich reef,
they say. I must have my finger in it!'
We adjourned into the study, where Sir Charles drafted, I
must admit, a most judicious letter to the rival capitalist.
He pointed out that the mineral resources of the country
were probably great, but as yet uncertain. That the expense
of crushing and milling might be almost prohibitive. That
access to fuel was costly, and its conveyance difficult.
That water was scarce, and commanded by our section. That
two rival companies, if they happened to hit upon ore, might
cut one another's throats by erecting two sets of furnaces
or pumping plants, and bringing two separate streams to the
spot, where one would answer. In short—to employ the
golden word—that amalgamation might prove better in the end
than competition; and that he advised, at least, a
conference 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 of falling into improper hands. Don't
give it to Dobson; let Cesarine take it over to Fowlis in
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.
Cesarine took it as directed—an invaluable servant, that
girl! Meanwhile, we learned from the _Morning Post_ next
day that young Mr. Granton had stolen a march upon us. He
had arrived from Africa by the same mail with our agent's
letter, and had joined his father at once at Glen-Ellachie.
Two days later we received a most polite reply from the
opposing interest. It ran after this fashion:
'DEAR SIR CHARLES VANDRIFT—Thanks for yours of the 20th.
In reply, I can only say I fully reciprocate your amiable
desire that nothing adverse to either of our companies
should happen in South Africa. With regard to your
suggestion that we should meet in person, to discuss the
basis of a possible amalgamation, I can only say my house is
at present full of guests—as is doubtless your own—and I
should therefore find it practically impossible to leave
Glen-Ellachie. Fortunately, however, my son David is now at
home on a brief holiday from Kimberley; and it will give him
great pleasure to come over and hear what you have to say in
favour of an arrangement which certainly, on some grounds,
seems to me desirable in the interests of both our
concessions alike. He will arrive tomorrow afternoon at
Seldon, and he is authorised, in every respect, to negotiate
with full powers on behalf of myself and the other
directors. With kindest regards to your wife and sons, I
remain, dear Sir Charles, yours faithfully,
'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.' A sudden thought
struck him. 'Do you know,' he cried, looking up, 'I really
believe the same thing must have happened to both our
exploring parties. They must have found a reef that goes
under our ground, and the wicked old 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 find by joining hands with
them and showing them ours. Still, it's good business
either way. But I shall be cautious—cautious.'
'What a nuisance!' Amelia cried, when we told her of the
incident. 'I suppose I shall have to put the man up for the
night—a nasty, raw-boned, half-baked Scotchman, you may be
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
'Why, you're not going back to Glen-Ellachie to-night,
surely?' Charles exclaimed, 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,
'Oh no,' he said frankly. 'I didn't mean to go back.
I've put up at the inn. I have my wife with me, you know—
and, I wasn't invited.'
Amelia was of opinion, when we told her this episode, that
David Granton wouldn't stop at Seldon because he was an
Honourable. Isabel was of opinion he wouldn't stop because
he had married an unpresentable young woman somewhere out in
South Africa. Charles was of opinion that, as
representative of the hostile interest, he put up at the
inn, because it might tie his hands in some way to be the
guest of the chairman of the rival company. And I was of
opinion that he had heard of the castle, and knew it well by
report as the dullest 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 Lady Vandrift and Mrs.
Wentworth. So we all returned with him to bring the
Honourable Mrs. Granton up to tea at the Castle.
She was a nice little thing, very shy and timid, but by no
means unpresentable, 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 all her feeble
sallies. She knew little outside South Africa; but of that
she talked 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 the rival options. Our talk was of cyanide
processes, reverberatories, pennyweights, water-jackets.
But it dawned upon us soon that, in spite of his red 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 come for the benefit
of the Honourable David Granton.
'I'm a younger son, Sir Charles,' he said; 'and therefore
I have to feather my nest for myself. I know the ground.
My father will be guided implicitly by what 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 you didn't know of something to the advantage of
my father's company—say, a lode on 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—or deception? Do you mean what you
say? Or do you know some reason why it suits your father's
book to amalgamate as well as it suits mine? And are you
trying to keep it from me?' He fingered his chin. 'If I
only knew that,' he went on, 'I should know how to deal with
Young Granton smiled again. 'You're a financier, Sir
Charles,' he answered. 'I wonder, at your time of life, you
should pause to ask another financier whether he's trying to
fill his own pocket—or his father's. Whatever is my
father's goes to his eldest son—and I am his youngest.'
'You are right as to general principles,' Sir Charles
replied, quite affectionately. 'Most sound and sensible.
But how do I know you haven't bargained already in the same
way with your father? You may have settled with him, and be
trying to diddle me.'
The young man assumed a most candid air. 'Look here,' he
said, leaning forward. 'I offer you this chance. Take it
or leave it. Do you wish to purchase my aid for this
amalgamation by a moderate commission on the net value of my
father's option to yourself—which I know approximately?'
'Say five per cent,' I suggested, in a tentative voice,
just to justify my presence.
He looked me through and through. 'Ten is more usual,' he
answered, in a peculiar tone and with a peculiar glance.
Great heavens, how I winced! I knew what his words meant.
They were the very words I had said myself to Colonel Clay,
as the Count von Lebenstein, about the purchase-money of the
schloss—and in the very same accent. I saw through it all
now. That beastly cheque! This was Colonel Clay; and he
was trying to buy up my silence and assistance by the threat
My blood ran cold. I didn't know how to answer him. What
happened at the rest of that interview I really couldn't
tell you. My brain reeled round. I heard just 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 might turn upon me and disclose the cheque,
which would suffice to ruin me. If I didn't, I ran a risk
of being considered by Charles an accomplice and a
The interview was long. I hardly know how I struggled
through it. At the end young Granton went off, well
satisfied, if it was young Granton; and Amelia invited him
and his wife up to dinner at the castle.
Whatever else they were, they were capital company. They
stopped for three days 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
certainly couldn't help him. I never was placed in such a
fix in my life. I did my best to preserve a strict
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 naively surprised Amelia had
never met her mamma at Durban. They both talked
delightfully, and had lots of good stories—mostly with
points that told against the Craig-Ellachie people.
Moreover, the Honourable David was a splendid swimmer. He
went out in a boat with us, and dived like a seal. He was
burning to teach Charles and myself to swim, when we told
him we could neither of us take a single stroke; he said it
was an accomplishment incumbent upon every true Englishman.
But Charles hates the water; while, as for myself, I detest
every known form of muscular exercise.
However, we consented that he should row us on the Firth,
and made an appointment 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 any suspicions?'
I trembled violently. I felt all was up. 'Suspicions of
whom?' I asked. 'Not surely of Simpson?' (he was Sir
My respected brother-in -law looked at me contemptuously.
'Sey,' he said, 'are you trying to take me in? No, not of
Simpson: of these two young folks. My own belief is—
they're Colonel Clay and Madame Picardet.'
'Impossible!' I cried.
He nodded. 'I'm sure of it.'
'How do you know?'
I seized his arm. 'Charles,' I said, imploring him, 'do
nothing rash. Remember how 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 in Scotland as laird of Seldon, Charles
loves both to dress and to speak the part thoroughly.)
'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
Early next morning, accordingly, a groom was dispatched
with a telegram to Lord Craig-Ellachie. He was to ride over
to Fowlis, send it off at once, and wait for the answer. At
the same time, as it was probable Lord Craig-Ellachie would
have started for the moors before the telegram reached the
Lodge, I did not myself expect to see the reply arrive much
before seven or eight that evening. Meanwhile, as it was
far from certain we had not the real David Granton 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 zeal may be more dangerous than too little.
Nevertheless, taught by previous misfortunes, we kept
watching our man pretty close, determined that on this
occasion, at least, he should neither do us nor yet escape
About four o'clock the red-haired young man and his pretty
little wife came up to call for us. She looked so charming
and squinted so enchantingly, one could hardly believe she
was not as simple and innocent as she seemed to be. She
tripped down to the Seldon boat-house, with Charles by her
side, giggling and squinting her best, and then helped her
husband to get the skiff ready. As she did so, Charles
sidled up to me. 'Sey,' he whispered, 'I'm an old hand, and
I'm not readily taken in. I've been talking to that girl,
and upon my soul I think she's all right. She's a charming
little lady. We may be mistaken after all, of course, about
young Granton. In any case, it's well for the present to be
courteous. A most important option! If it's really he, we
must do nothing to annoy him or let him see we suspect him.'
I had noticed, indeed, that Mrs. Granton had made herself
most agreeable to Charles from the very beginning. And as
to one thing he was right. In her timid, shrinking way she
was undeniably charming. That cast in her eye was all pure
We rowed out on to the Firth, or, to be more strictly
correct, the two Grantons rowed while Charles and I sat and
leaned back in the stern on the luxurious cushions. They
rowed fast and well. In a very few minutes they had rounded
the point and got clear out of sight of the Cockneyfied
towers and false battlements of Seldon.
Mrs. Granton pulled stroke. Even as she rowed she kept up
a brisk undercurrent of timid chaff with Sir Charles,
giggling all the while, half forward, half shy, like a
school-girl who flirts with a man old enough to be her
Sir Charles was flattered. He is susceptible to the
pleasures of female attention, especially from the young,
the simple, and the innocent. The wiles of women of the
world he knows too well; but a pretty little ingenue can
twist him round her finger. They rowed on and on, till they
drew abreast of Seamew's island. It is a jagged stack or
skerry, well out to sea, very wild and precipitous on the
landward side, but shelving gently outward; perhaps an acre
in extent, with steep gray cliffs, covered at that time with
crimson masses of red 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 get some!
Let's land here and pick them. Sir Charles, you shall
gather me a nice bunch 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 a flower of speech itself, but it served
They rowed us round to the far side, where is the easiest
landing-place. It struck me as odd at the moment that they
seemed to know it. Then young Granton jumped lightly
ashore; Mrs. Granton skipped after him. I confess it made
me feel rather ashamed to see how clumsily Charles and I
followed them, treading gingerly on the thwarts for fear of
upsetting the boat, while the artless young thing just flew
over the gunwale. So like White Heather! However, we got
ashore at last in safety, and began to climb the rocks as
well as we were able in search of the valerian.
Judge of our astonishment when next moment those two young
people bounded back into the boat, pushed off with a peal of
merry laughter, and left us there staring at them!
They rowed away, about twenty yards, into deep water.
Then the man turned, and waved his hand at us gracefully.
'Good-bye!' he said, 'good-bye! Hope you'll pick a nice
bunch! We're off to London!'
'Off!' Charles exclaimed turning pale. 'Off! What do you
mean? You don't surely mean to say you're going to leave us
The young man raised his cap with perfect politeness,
while Mrs. Granton smiled, nodded, and kissed her pretty
hand to us. 'Yes,' he answered; 'for the present. We
retire from the game. The fact of it is, it's a trifle too
thin: this is a coup manque.'
'A what?' Charles exclaimed, perspiring visibly.
'A coup manque,' the young man replied, with a
compassionate smile. 'A failure, don't you know; a bad
shot; a fiasco. I learn from my scouts that you sent a
telegram by special messenger to Lord Craig-Ellachie this
morning. That shows you suspect me. Now, it is a principle
of my system never to go on for one move with a game when I
find myself suspected. The slightest symptom of distrust,
and—I back out immediately. My plans can only be worked to
satisfaction when there is perfect confidence on the part of
my patient. It is a well-known rule of the medical
profession. I ever try to bleed a man who 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 quite easily. But the water was deep; the islet
rose sheer from I'm sure I don't know how many fathoms of
sea; and we could neither of us swim. Charles stretched out
his arms imploringly. 'For Heaven's sake,' he cried, 'don't
tell me you really mean to leave us here.'
He looked so comical in his distress and terror that Mrs.
Granton—Madame Picardet—whatever I am to call her—laughed
melodiously in her prettiest way at the 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 you off. Dear David and I only need just time
enough to get well ashore and make—oh!— a few slight
alterations in our personal appearance.' And she indicated
with her hand, laughing, dear David's red wig and false
sandy whiskers, as we felt convinced they must be now. She
looked at them and tittered. Her manner at this moment was
anything but shy. In fact, I will venture to say, it was
that of a bold and brazen-faced hoyden.
'Then you are Colonel Clay!' Sir Charles cried, mopping
his brow with his handkerchief.
'If you choose to call me so,' the young man answered
politely. 'I'm sure it's most 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 yourselves
unnecessarily. I will send a boat to take you away from
this rock at the earliest possible moment consistent with my
personal safety and my dear companion'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,' he continued, 'not to feel how wrong it would be
of me to inconvenience you for nothing. Rest assured that
you shall be rescued by midnight at the 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 temporary hunger.'
Mrs. Granton, no longer squinting—'twas a mere trick she
had assumed—rose up in the boat and stretched out a rug to
us. 'Catch!' she cried, in a merry voice, and flung it at
us, doubled. It fell at our feet; she was a capital
'Now, you Dear Sir Charles,' she went on, 'take that to
keep you warm! You know I am really I quite fond of you.
You're not half a bad old boy when one takes you the right
way. You have a human side to you. Why, I often wear that
sweetly pretty brooch you gave me at Nice, when I was Madame
Picardet! And I'm sure your goodness to me at Lucerne, when
I was the little curate's wife, is a thing to remember.
We're so glad to have seen you in your lovely Scotch home
you were always so proud of! Don't be frightened, please.
We wouldn't hurt you for worlds. We are so sorry we have to
take this inhospitable means of evading you. But dear
David—I must call him dear David still—instinctively felt
that you were beginning to suspect us; and he can't bear
mistrust. He is so sensitive! The moment people mistrust
him, he must break off with them at once. This was the only
way to get you both off our hands while we make the needful
little arrangements to depart; and we've been driven to
avail ourselves of it. However, I will give you my word of
honour, as a lady, you shall be fetched away to-night. If
dear David doesn't do it, why, I'll do it myself.' 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.
'Noboby'd dream of coming to this rock 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 you here
for the moment, and keeping you till we're gone, I venture
to say I've redressed the board, and I think we may count it
a drawn game, mayn't we? The match 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,' he expostulated, one hand held palm
outward, 'do you think it probable I would kill 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 return you on my income-tax paper as five
thousand a year, clear profit of my profession. Suppose you
were to die! I might be compelled to find some new and far
less lucrative source of plunder. Your heirs, executors, or
assignees might not suit my purpose. The fact of it is,
sir, your temperament and mine are exactly adapted one to
the other. I understand you; and you do not understand me—
which is often the basis of the firmest friendships. I can
catch you just where you are trying to catch other people.
Your very smartness assists me; for I admit you are smart.
As a regular financier, I allow, I couldn't hold a candle to
you. But in my humbler walk of life I know just how to
utilise you. I lead you on, where you think you are going
to gain some advantage over others; and by dexterously
playing upon your love of a good bargain, your innate desire
to best somebody else—I succeed in besting you. There,
sir, you have the philosophy of our mutual relations.'
He bowed and raised his cap. Charles looked at him and
cowered. Yes, genius as he is, he positively cowered. 'And
do you mean to say,' he burst out, 'you intend to go on so
The Colonel smiled a bland smile. 'Sir Charles Vandrift,'
he answered, 'I called you just now the goose that lays the
golden eggs. You may have thought the metaphor a rude one.
But you are a goose, you know, in certain relations.
Smartest man on the Stock Exchange, I readily admit; easiest
fool to bamboozle in the open country that ever I met with.
You fail in one thing—the perspicacity of simplicity. For
that reason, among others, I have chosen to fasten upon you.
Regard me, my dear sir, as a microbe of millionaires, 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 a millionaire. In your large way you prey upon society.
You deal in Corners, Options, Concessions, Syndicates. You
drain the world dry of its blood and its money. You
possess, like the mosquito, a beautiful instrument of
suction— Founders' Shares—with which you absorb the
surplus wealth of the community. In my smaller way, again,
I relieve you in turn of a portion of the plunder. I am a
Robin Hood of my age; and, looking upon you as an
exceptionally bad form of millionaire—as well as an
exceptionally easy form of pigeon for a man of my type and
talents to pluck—I have, so to speak, taken up my abode
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 us adore it. As long as I
find such good pickings upon you, I certainly am not going
to turn away from so valuable a carcass, in order to batten
myself, at considerable trouble, upon minor capitalists, out
of whom it is difficult to extract a few hundreds. It may
have puzzled you to guess why I fix upon you so
persistently. Now you know, and understand. When a fluke
finds a sheep that suits 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 the last
'Why do you insult me by telling me all this?' Sir Charles
The Colonel waved his hand. It was small and white.
'Because I love the game,' he answered, with a relish; 'and
also, because the more prepared you are 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 cheating somebody. I must be off at once.... Take care
of yourself, Wentworth. But I know 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 of the island, White Heather—so she
looked—stood up in the stern and shouted aloud 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 I possibly can. And thank you so much for
those lovely flowers!'
The boat rounded the crags. We were alone on the island.
Charles flung himself on 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 with
some difficulty to the top of the cliff, landward, and tried
to make signals of distress with my handkerchief to some
passer-by on the mainland. All in vain. 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 we could 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 our heads in the gray
of twilight. Charles suggested that they might even swoop
down upon us and bite us. They did not, however, but their
flapping wings added 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 much
relieved at the fact that Colonel Clay had not openly
betrayed me in the matter of the commission, as to be
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 rushed down 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 from Niggarey, on the shore of the Firth
A lady and gentleman had sent them, they said, to return
the boat and call for us 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 the gatehouse clock when we reached the castle. Men had
been sent along the coast each 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 in the way of apprehending the miscreants, though
Charles insisted upon dispatching 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 be sure, saying that his son had not left
Glen-Ellachie Lodge; while research the next day and later
showed that our correspondent had never even received our
letter. An empty envelope alone had arrived at the house,
and the postal authorities had been engaged meanwhile, with
their usual lightning speed, in 'investigating the matter.'
Cesarine had posted the letter herself at Fowlis, and
brought back the receipt; so the only conclusion we could
draw was this—Colonel Clay must be in league with somebody
at the post-office. As for Lord 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 bottle of his excellent Rudesheimer, his spirits
and valour revived exceedingly. Doubtless he inherits from
his Boer ancestry a tendency towards courage of the Batavian
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 in time is half-way to
catching him. Only the remoteness of our position at Seldon
Castle saved him from capture. Next set-to, I feel sure, we
will not merely spot him, we will also nab him. I only wish
he would try on such a rig in London.'
But the oddest part of it all was this, that from the
moment those two people landed at Niggarey, and told the
fishermen there were some gentlemen stranded on Seamew's
island, all trace of them vanished. At no station along the
line could we gain any news of them. Their maid had left
the inn the same morning with their luggage, and we tracked
her to Inverness; but there the trail stopped short, no
spoor lay farther. It was a most singular and insoluble
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 the rascal flung back at us as the boat
receded: 'Sir Charles Vandrift, we are a pair of rogues.
The law protects you. It persecutes me. That's all the