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The Tickencote Treasure

The Tickencote Treasure
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Title: The Tickencote Treasure
Release Date: 2018-09-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE TICKENCOTE TREASURE

“ ‘I believe I could take the old tub from the Gib. to Naples without a compass.’ ” (Chapter 1.)


The Tickencote Treasure]                [Frontispiece

 

 

THE TICKENCOTE

TREASURE

 

 

BY

WILLIAM LE QUEUX

 

Author of “A Secret Service,” “The Temptress,”

“In White Raiment,” etc.

 

 

 

WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED

LONDON, MELBOURNE AND TORONTO

1913

 

 


CONTENTS

CHAP.PAGE
   
IIn which Job Seal Borrows a Fusee7
   
IIWhat We Saw and What We Heard16
   
IIIThe Mysterious Man24
   
IVIn Which I Examine the Parchments32
   
VWith a Story to Tell39
   
VIAn Expert Opinion46
   
VIIWhat was Written in the Vellum Book56
   
VIIIThe Seven Dead Men65
   
IXOne Point is Made Clear71
   
XThe Guardian of the Secret79
   
XIForestalled88
   
XIIJob Seal Makes a Proposal96
   
XIIIA Call, and its Consequence105
   
XIVRequires Explanation114
   
XVReveals Something of Importance122
   
XVIMrs. Graham’s Visitor132
   
XVIIThe Seller of the Secret139
   
XVIIIThe Silent Man’s Warning147
   
XIXThe Lady from Bayswater154
   
XXPhilip Reilly Tells a Strange Story161
   
XXIWe Make a Discovery in the Manor House171
   
XXIIBlack Bennett180
   
XXIIIJob Seal Relates His Adventures188
   
XXIVThe Mystery of Margaret Knutton195
   
XXVReveals the Death-Trap204
   
XXVIIn which Ben Knutton Grows Confidential211
   
XXVIIDorothy Drummond Prefers Secrecy220
   
XXVIIIWe Receive Midnight Visitors228
   
XXIXDorothy Makes a Confession237
   
XXXThe Silent Man’s Story245
   
XXXIThe House at Kilburn253
   
XXXIIWhat We Discovered at the Record Office261
   
XXXIIIWe Decipher the Parchment270
   
XXXIVOur Search at Tickencote and its Results278
   
XXXVThe Spy, and What He Told Us286
   
XXXVINine Points of the Law295
   
XXXVIIContains the Conclusion299

CHAPTER I
IN WHICH JOB SEAL BORROWS A FUSEE

If you are fond of a mystery I believe you will ponderover this curious narrative just as I have pondered.

Certain persons, having heard rumours of the strangeadventures that once happened to me, have askedme to write them down in detail, so that they maybe printed and given to the world in their propersequence. Therefore, in obedience, and in order toset at rest for ever certain wild and unfoundedreports which crept into the papers at the time, I do sowithout fear or favour, seeking to conceal no singlething, but merely to relate what I actually saw withmy own eyes and heard with my own ears.

I read somewhere the other day the sweeping statement,written probably by one of our superior younggentlemen just down from Oxford, that Romance isdead. This allegation, however, I make so bold asto challenge—first, because in my own humble capacityI have actually been the unwilling actor in one of themost remarkable romances of modern times; and,secondly, because I believe with that sage old chronicler,Richard of Cirencester, that the man whose soulis filled with Greek has a heart of leather.

Fortunately I can lay claim to neither. Apart frommy association with the present chain of curious eventsI am but an ordinary man, whose name is Paul Pickering,whose age is thirty-two, and whose profession atthe time the romance befell me was the very prosaicone of a doctor without regular practice. You willtherefore quickly discern that I was not overburdenedeither by fame, fortune, or fashionable foibles, andfurther that, as locum tenens for country doctors in ill-healthor on holiday, I advertised regularly in theLancet, and was glad enough to accept the fee of threeguineas weekly.

Hard work in a big practice at Stepney and Poplarhad resulted in a bad touch of influenza with its attendantdebility; therefore, when one of my patients,a sun-tanned old salt named Seal, suggested that Ishould go a trip with him up the Mediterranean, Ihailed the idea with delight.

Job Seal was quite a chance patient. He called oneevening at the surgery in Commercial Road East, whereI was acting as locum for a doctor named Bidwell,and consulted me about his rheumatism. A big,deep-chested, thick-set man, with grey hair, reddishuncut beard, big hands, shaggy brows, and a furrowedface browned by sea and sun; he spoke in a deep bass,interlarding his conversation with nautical expressionswhich were, to me, mostly unintelligible. Theliniment I gave him apparently suited his ailment, forhe came again and again, until one evening he calledand declared that I had effected a cure as marvellousas that of Sequah.

“My boat, the Thrush, is layin’ at Fresh Wharf,and I sail on Saturday for Cardiff, where we take incoal for Leghorn. Now, if you ain’t got anythingbetter to do, doctor, don’t you sign on why as stewardat a bob a day, and come with me for the round trip?”he suggested. “You told me the other night thatyou’re bein’ paid off from here on Saturday. Myboat ain’t exactly a liner, you know, but I daresayyou could shake down comfortable like, and as thetrip’ll take a couple o’ months, you’d see most of theports up to Smyrna. Besides, this is just the righttime o’ year for a blow. It ’ud do you good.”

The suggestion certainly appealed to me. I hadnever been afloat farther than Ramsgate by the Marguerite,and for years had longed to go abroad andsee those wonderful paradises of the Sunny South ofwhich, like other people, I had witnessed highly-coloureddissolving views. Therefore I accepted thebluff old captain’s hospitality, signed the ship’s papersin a back office off Leadenhall Street, and onSaturday evening boarded as black, grimy, and forbiddinga craft as ever dropped down the Thames.

Job Seal was right. The Thrush was not by anymeans a liner, and its passenger accommodation wasrestricted. My cabin was very small, very stuffy,and very dirty; just as might be expected of a Mediterraneantramp steamer. As the outward cargo wasinvariably Cardiff steam coal consigned to the well-knownfirm of Messrs. Agius, of Naples, and Malta,there was over everything a layer of fine coal dust,while the faces of both officers and crew seemed ingrainedwith black.

The first day out I confess that I did not feel overwell. A light vessel and a choppy sea are neverpleasant to a landsman. Nevertheless, I very soongot my sea legs, and then the voyage down Channelwas pleasant enough. It was the end of June, andthe salt breezes were gratifying after the stuffy backstreets of Stepney. Before my advent Job Seal wasin the habit of eating alone in his cabin, because hewas an omnivorous reader, and the chatter of hisofficers disturbed him. He welcomed me, however,as a companion. Max Pemberton, Conan Doyle, andHyne he swore by, and in one corner of his cabin hehad whole stacks of sixpenny reprints.

The first day out I rather regretted my hasty decisionto sail with him, but ere we sighted Lundy Islandand Penarth I was as merry and eager to smoke asany of the villainous-looking crew.

After four days loading in Cardiff the vessel was aninch deep in coal dust, and as the heavy-swearing handsin the forecastle began “cleaning up” we slowlyglided out of the Bute Docks to the accompanimentof shouting, gesticulating, and strong language. AtSeal’s suggestion I had provided myself with certainarticles of food to my taste, but as the grit of coal andthe taste of tar were inseparable from the cuisine, andthe cook’s galley the most evil-smelling corner in thewhole vessel, I enjoyed eating least of all. The weatherwas, however, perfect, even in the long roll of theAtlantic, and the greater part of each day I spent withthe burly skipper on his bridge, lolling in an old deck-chairbehind a screen of canvas lashed to the rail tokeep off the wind. I had quite a cosy corner to myself,and there I smoked my pipe, breathed the salt oceanbreezes, and yarned with my deep-chested friend.

“We don’t carry forty-quid salooners on this ’ereboat,” remarked Joe Thorpe, the first mate, when Imentioned casually that the rats gnawed my bootsat night and scampered around my cabin and overmy bunk. “When a passenger comes with us he hasto rough it, but he sees a sight more than if he travelledby the P. and O. or the Orient. You’ll see a lot,doctor, before you’re back in London.”

His words were prophetic. I did see a lot, as youwill gather later on.

Craft and crew were,

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