Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

20 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



(Ai. RIGHTS RESERVED.] THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, OR LOST IN THE DARK. BY RICHARD DOWLING. Author of Under St. Paul's," etc., etc. CHAPTER XXIII. WILLIAM SPALDING'S LAST WATCH. The two boats commanded by Lieutenant Mathers pulled slowly and cautiously up Barnacle Bay. one boat at either side of the bay. They reached the head of the waters without finding anything. Ihen they crossed and recrossed the water, d> op pin.; drags as they went. Still they discovered nothing. When an hour had been spent in this profitless search, they approached the oave, cocked their, and rowed inward,very deliberately. The cave was as still as a cathedral at midnight. From the dark roof hung the great Black Bell, as though the least vibration, ,the slightest shock-, would" Taring it down with a stupendous swarm of noises and bury it in an abyss-of shattered waters and a chaos^Qf tumultuous foapi, A man in the bow of each boat held a lamp aloft on a boat-hook, and the bpl.t,b. pulled slowly round the cave. As they passed close to the walls of the cave, the men struck the red rocks with-their oars to ascertain that the walls were real. Lieutenant Mathers was completely baffled. What ebold have happened to the smack which had been seen in-shore last night? If the news of this smack had reached him through the story of the boy without any kind of confirmation be might hav dismissed it as an invention or delusion of the bctY, But that something suspicious hung on the coast last night was clearly proved by the Greenlee boat pulling out; and that a large and determined band of smug, lers were concerned in the venture was conclusively established by the awful means adopted by the smugglers to prevent the Revenue boat overhauling the suspicious craft, What had happened to her ? Their dragging in the Pay showed beyond doubt that she had not, as the boy had suggested, been scuttled ia the Bay, for if she had the drags would have found her, whereas they swept clear over the rocky floor -of the Bay. Well, there was nothing more to be done, but to leave one boat in the bay for the present and go back to Rockfall and learn any additional news that might have been gained since. If -was afternoon before Lieutenant Mathers landed at Rockfall, and reported the complete failure of his expedition. By that time the caval- cade had arrived from Greenlee, and a good deal more was known of the affair. But nothing had yet been learned from either of the wounded men, and it was known from Retcard's history of the interview he had with young Spalding the evening before, and the encounter with old Spalding on the downs in the morning, that the young man could, if he would, throw full light on the whole affair. Vaggers, too, had been brought from Greenlee and was now at the police-station, I -together with Ketcard. the two wounded men, and Markham Spalding s wife. The town was in a state of feverish excitement .and rage. At first, as at Greenlee, the whole weight, of popular indignation had fallen on young Spalding. But as day wore on. when the people had been soothed with the good cheer of Christ- mas .Day, they became less enthusiastic in their conviction of the young boat-builders guilt. Until long after dark the neighbourhood of the police- office was thronged by an excited crowd, eager for news. Later on the medical opinion of the two grounded men s cases leaked out, and to a great -extent modified public feeling against young Spalding. The doctors had declared that the young man's wound had been caused by a blow from something not sharp, such as a stone or slate, and that Reynold s injuries had been in- flicted by gunpowder: the arm was burnt, the breast was burnt, the grains of unexploded gun- powder had been found embedded in the clothes and flesh. Then another and more conclusive fact got abroad—on Reynolds they had found a flint and steel and piece of a slow match. Later on. when it became known that Reynolds ,could not live, that he was so bad the doctors -would not allow him to be removed to the hospital, and that he was about to make a dying disposition, the excitement became intense. The magistrate was seen to go in, ard after an hour, it being then nine o'clock, a policeman was despatched to the coastguard station. A crowd followed the policeman, and waited outside the station. By this time the boat on patrol at Barnacle Bay had been relieved by the one which had returned with Lieutenant Mathers. and the men of the former boat had been dismissed from duty fcr the night. A few minutes after the policeman went into the coastguard station two of the men issued forth, and, followed by a portion of the crowd,proceeded to summon the relieved men. By ten o'clock the relieved boat was once more under way with her full complement of men. and carrying a number of lamps and torches. Lieu- tenant Mathers went in command, and the boats steered west until she reached Barnacle Bay and spoke the other boat. Lieutenant Mathers dis- tributed lamps and torches to the other boat and the two pulled into the Black Bell Cave. The lamps and torches were now lighted, and some of the men lashed four oars together, one after the other. Then drags were got ready, and as soon as these preparations had been made, the boats were pulled slowly round until they were at the rear of the great Bell and commanded the en- trance to the up,er cave, the men holding their carbines on their thighs at full cock. Then the lieutenant called out in a loud voice hailing the upper cave, and commading each and every one there concealed to surrender in the Queen's name. No answer. H The summons was repeated twice, and upon receiving no reply to the third demand the men -were ordered to thrust the long pole formed by the oars lashed together up into the throat of the upper cavern. The tanned sail had been lifted a little when the rope ran and the grappling-iron dashed'through, but still the sail would have con- cealed the opening from the keenest eye unaided by extraordinary light. The sail went upward, and the top of the long pole disappeared. Then with his sword in his teeth and a lamp in his left hand, Lieutenant Mathers ascended by the aid of the pole, which had been stepped in the mast-step of the larger boat, the boat being kept in her position by men holding on by the Bell. In a few moments Mathers disappeared into the cave above, and found the whole place strewn with casks of b andy and bales of tobacco, the cargo of the dandy smack the Vigil of the Moon. He knew that only one man was like y to be | there He had got information from Reynolds' deposition that all the men connected wi th the landing of the cargo were to have been taken off [ -early that morning. But there was no one here. He hoped to capture Spalding, but the place was •deserted. He descended, and ordered the boats to drop their drags and sweep the bottom of the cave. In -deserted. He descended, and ordered the boats to drop 1 their drags and sweep the bottom of the cave. In JS few minutes one of the drags hooked something that would not come to the surface, and that the ..drag could not get clear of. ChRp; All lights here," cried the lieutenant. Hold them aloft." I Half-a-dozen torches and half-a-dozen lamps were held arm high by standing men. The lieutenant leaned over the stern, and shading his -eyes with his hands, peered long and intently into the misty green depths disclosed by the light 'I falling from above. He could see only dimly, but sufficiently well to make out, guided by the intelligence he had gained before setting out from Rockfall, the dis- I i masted dandy smack Vigil of the Moon lying at the bottom of the cave, close under the Bell Rock. cpaldings plan nad been wonderfully bold, wonderfully simple. In the Bay outside the night before they cut down the masts of the Vigil of the Moon. carried a warp from her into the cave. where there were three boats, exclusive of her own. and forty-five men, who made short work of 1 hauling the smack into the cave. Once in the oave they commenced unloading ber, and with the number of men they soon accom- plished that work. Then they opened holes and let her sipk. In the old time, when William Spalding was at 1 sea he had commanded this vessel now lying three fathoms down below. She had nominally been in I ithe fruit trade with Spain, but the value of the I fruit she carried bore a very small proportion to iher profits from tobacco and brandy, gin and sIlk. She had been the swiftest vessel of a fleet of (Smugglers which acted together, and were, in fact the property of a small band of owners who sharea ,all profits-. But these facts in connection with 1 the Vigil of the- oon did not come to light for 1 many yeafs after that awful Christmas Eve and j i^The lieutenant c ied to the men: Hold the lights higher if you can. and pass me a drag.' IThe men caught hands across the boats, aad,' -0.4 .w standing on the gunwales, held the lights alof a their utmost reach. he lieutenant seized the drag handed him by one of the men, dropped the drag very carefully into the water, and then after a moment cried: ,Numbers one and two, one stroke." lie boat moved a little through the water, the drag line tightened in his hand. trailed aft and then fell taut up and down. Mathers pulled softly on the line, and at length a clumsy bundle came in view "Turn him face up," said the lieutenant, "I "1\ w him keeping his last watch on the deck below," Thus on that Christmas night the corpse of the plotter of the formei- night's crime was taken from the deck of the vessel he had sailed for years, and alrllost at the sume moment that the greatest sin and the greatest triumph of his long wicked career had been accomplished. CHAPTER XXIV. BEYOND THE SEAS. THAT night Reynolds died. The portions of his deposition which are essential to the further elucidation of the mystery and the crime are aa follow I wish to state all I know in connection with this bad job, for I want by a full and free confes- sion. now that I have few hours of life in me. to prepare myself as best I can for facing my Judg- Input in the life to come. 1 know most of the ins and ou s of this affair from the very beginning, and through the whole piece I was William Spald- iug s right hand man. William Spalding found the cave, and planned the whole thing. I don't know anything about his tians on the sea, but all his plans on the land were known to me, and 1 had a hand in the whole matter. He found a hole in the overhanging ledge at the entrance to Green Cove, and he himself put twenty pounds of gunpowder in that hole two days before Christmas Eve. Not a soul knew of that part of the plan but William Spalding and myself. First he tried to get his son to buy Captain Colville. but his son refused to have any- thing to do with the matter. His son did not know anything of the blast. This is as true as I am soon to meet my Maker. No one knew any- thing of the blast but William Spalding and me. Voiuig Spalding knew that an attempt was to be made to run a cargo, but when he refused to try and buy his father-in-law, his fathercast about him for some way of keeping back the revenue men, and that way was the blast. I was to fire that blast and get two-hundred- and-fifty pounds for my share. I fired the blast as the revenue yawl was passing under. but either Spalding deceived me as to the length of the fuse, and it went off too soon, or in the dark 1 may have fired some loose powder that set off the blast too soon. 1 think William Spalding wished me to be killed by the blast, so that there would be no one to inform and no money to be paid to me. ■■ I do not know the names of any of old Spald- ing's accomplices on shore. He only told me as far as the landing of the cargo went, and forbade me asking questions. All the men to work the cargo out of the vessel were to come from the sea. I knew about the men coming from the sea, and that the name of the smack running the cargo was the Vigil of the Moon. This is all true, as I am soon to meet my Maker. 1 have been three times in gaol, once for man- slaughter and twice for robbery. I own I am bad, but I was nothing for cool badness to William >palding. He was the biggest villain I ever met. I belong to Portsmouth, and met William Spalding first through bringing him a secret le-ter from a sea-captain in Portsmouth. Spalding allowed me a pound a-week for some months for carrying letters here and there. I used to call at post olfices for letters addressed to different names, and bring the letters to him, and then post letters for him in the different towns. 1 own I deserve my death, and a worse death. but 1 will do myself no good now by telling what is not true, and it is true that young Spalding had no hand in this job, nor had the man lietcard, nor the man Vaggers, nor had anyone I can name but William Spalding. All this is as true as that I am to meet my Maker to-night." Vaggers, Retcard, and Spalding had been con- fronted with the dying man, and his last recorded words were that they had had nothing to do with it. Bv morning Markham Spalding was much better. The doctors said there was no danger in his case, bu that he must be kept quiet for a few clays. His wife had been allowed t.) sit up with him. She was still in the same condition of mental blankness. It was not so much that reason was deposed as that its action was suspended, She sat staring into vacancy, not even ministe ing to her husband, except when he asked her, and then always demanding Will it be soon time to go. Soon time to wake ?" Next day Markham Spalding was informed of his father s death. They thought it best he should not b. told it the day before, lest the news might produce unfavourable symptoms. As soon as he knew his father was no more he asked for a solicitor, and dictated a full statement of his knowledge of and connection with the whole affair. The appended are such extracts from that statment as will complete the history of the crime. '• arly in December, being in town, I met my late father, and he asked me to come to his house. I did so. Here he informed me that all his life he had been connected with a large and successful band of smugglers, and that having lost all his fortune in foreign speculations, he was going to make one more venture in smuggling and run a cargo in this neighbourhood. He fuither communicated to me that he had dis- covered an upper cave over the Black Bell Cave, and he proposed that I should bribe my father-in- law, the late Captain Coville, to winkjat the affair. This L declined doing. I also declined having anything whatever to do with the affair. When we parted he was in great anger with me, and I was in despair. If I had acted honestly I should have denounced my father; but who would blame me much if I could not bring myself to 130 this ? Fiotn the words of my father I gathered that he was determined to run the cargo, no matter whether 1 helped or not 'If I did not denounce my own father the eliance was that there might be bloodshed, in case the revenue men got hold of the thing, and my own father might be in one boat and my wife's father in an opposing boat. This was a terrible condition. I was only a few weeks married, and bow could I look on my wife with the knowledge that m v father and hers might in a short time be in deadly fight, a fight which I could prevent, but only by the sacrifice of my own father. I /!rew to hate my home, fear the very voice of my wife, and wish for,my own death. I was distracted, mad. I think. ( n the morning of the day before Christmas T received a final request from my father to buy Captain Colville, and a promise of money for my- self The note wound up with the statement that whether I helped or not the success of the scheme was safe. At the time I did not dream of that awful affair at. Lpokout Head If I had had the least hint of any such horrible design I would have denounced my father on the spot. (Here followed the history of Christmas Eve spent in Rockfall, from which it is necessary to make only one brief extract). "I met my father-in-law in Rockfall, and was delighted to hear him say that he would go over to Greenlee and s.pend the night with us, as I thought it would Keep Tiiui cut of harm. if harm there was to be. Miserably uku that wari turn out He reported himself to the men, went out in the boat and lost his life. I was on the Head when the blast was fired, but 1 had no more knowledge such a thing was about to occur than the unfortunate men below. I do not remember much about the blast. Some- thing struck me in the face, and I recollected nothing more until I found myself close to my own door where I fell down insensible. My father told me this month the money he had given me at my marriage had been handed to me so that, should he ever have occasion to try and tamper with Captain Colville, I might be the more willing to do what he asked me in conside- ration of that money. If I live and regain my liberty I shall sell the business that money helped me forward in, and give the money I received for it to the widows and orphans made by that awful crime of C hristmas Eve." Markham Spalding v%8 tried for being an accomplice before the aei acquitted. He sold out his business and. a? he had promised, distributed the proceeds of tne sale among the widows and orphans made that night, reserving only so much as served to carry himself and his wife to America. Before h left the shores of England his wife had regained the exercise of her x reason and the voyage out loosened the least faint linking traces of mental tension. The fierce ordeal through which they had both passed drew them moro closely together than could any degree of unclouded happiness, and at this day there is no happier middle ased couple in America no one who has a better name for boat building than Markham Spalding along all the sil, er bays of the Atlantic that lie upon the j\merieftn shores. THE END. I

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