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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Queen's Cup By G. A. Henty Characters: 29840

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Phantom presently came along close to the Osprey, and Carthew shouted:

"Is there anything that I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," Frank replied.

Then Bertha called out:

"I am so sorry."

Frank waved his hand in reply. The men were all busy trying to get the wreckage alongside. The cross-trees had been carried away by the fall of the topmast, and her deck forward was littered with gear. The difficulty was greatly increased by the heavy sea in the race.

"As soon as you have got everything on board, Hawkins, we will put a couple of reefs in the mainsail. She will go well enough under that and the foresail. If the mizzen is too much for her, we can take it off."

It was nearly half an hour before all was clear, and the last of the yachts in the race had passed them before the leeward sheet of the foresail was hauled aft, and the Phantom resumed her course. As soon as she did so, the captain came aft with part of the copper bar of the bobstay.

"There has been foul play, sir," he said. "I thought there must have been, for I could not imagine that this bar would have broken unless there had been a flaw in the metal or it had been tampered with. I unshackled it myself, for I thought it was better that the men should not see it until I had told you about it."

"Quite right, Hawkins. Yes, there is no doubt that there has been foul play. The bar has been sawn three-quarters of the way through with a fine saw, and, of course, it went as soon as she began to dip her bowsprit well into it in the race. You see, whoever has done it has poured some acid into it, and darkened the copper, partly perhaps to prevent the colour of the freshly-cut metal from being noticed, and partly to give it the appearance, after it was broken, of being an old cut."

"It cannot have been that, sir, for we were out in quite as rough a sea as this last week, and the bowsprit would have gone then if this cut had been there. Besides, we should have been sure to have noticed it when we went round her to polish up her sides."

"I don't know about that, Hawkins. You see, the cut is from below, and it is only two or three inches above the waterline. It might very well have been there without being noticed. Still, I agree with you, it could not have been there last week, or it must have gone when she put her nose into it then. In point of fact, I have no doubt that it was done last night or the night before. It could easily have been managed. Of course, everyone was below, both here and in the yachts lying round us, and a man might very well have come out in a small boat between one and two o'clock in the morning, and done this without being noticed."

"He might have done that, sir, but we should have heard the grating down in the forecastle."

"I don't know, Hawkins. A fine steel saw, such as burglars use, will work its way through an iron bar almost noiselessly, and I should say that it would go through copper almost as easily as it would through hard wood. It is as well to say nothing to the crew about it, but I think it my duty to lay the matter before the club committee, and they can do as they like about it. Mind, I don't say for a moment that it was done by anyone on board the Phantom. It may have been someone on shore who had laid a bet of a few pounds against us, and wanted to make sure of winning his money. Besides, the Phantom might very well have hoped to have beaten us fairly, for she was just as much fancied as we were. Take it below, and lay it in my cabin, and when we get in unshackle the other bit of the bar, and put it with this."

It was impossible, however, when the bowsprit and bobstay were brought on board, that the crew should have failed to notice the break in the bar, and the news that there had been foul play had at once been passed round. Seeing the angry faces of the men, and the animated talk forward, Frank told the captain to call all hands aft.

"Look here, my men," he said. "I see that you are all aware of what has taken place. It is most disgraceful and unfortunate, and I need hardly say that I am as much vexed as yourselves at losing the Cup, which, but for that, we must have carried off. However, it is one of those cases in which there is nothing to be done, and we should only make things worse by making a fuss about it. We have no ground whatever for believing that it was the work of one of the Phantom's crew, and it is far more likely that it was the work of some longshore loafer who had laid more than he could afford against us. It has partly been our own fault, but we shall know better in future, and your captain will take good care that there shall be an anchor watch set for two or three nights before we sail another race.

"What I have called you up for is to beg of you not to make this an occasion for disputes or quarrels ashore. Hitherto I have been proud of the good behaviour of my crew, and I should be sorry indeed to hear that there was any row ashore between you and the Phantom's men. They at least have nothing to boast of. They have won the Cup, but we have won the honour. We have shown ourselves the better yacht, and should have beaten them by something like a mile, if it had not been for this accident. Therefore it is my express wish and order that you do not show your natural disappointment on shore. You can give the real reason of our defeat, but do not say a word of blame to anyone, for we know not who was the author of the blackguardly act.

"Of course, the matter cannot be kept altogether a secret, for it will be my duty to lay it before the committee. I shall make no protest. If they choose to institute an inquiry they must do so, but I shall take no steps in the matter, and it is unlikely in the extreme that we shall ever know who did it. I shall pay you all winning money, for that you did not win was no fault of yours. One thing I will wager, though I am not a betting man, and that is, that the next time we meet the Phantom we shall beat her, by as much as we should have done today, but for this accident."

The appearance of the Osprey as she sailed into the anchorage, without topmast or bowsprit, excited great attention; and many of the yachtsmen came on board to inquire how the disaster had happened. To save going through the story a score of times, Frank had the broken pieces of the bobstay bar brought up and laid on the deck near the tiller, and in reply to inquiries simply pointed to them, saying:

"I think that tells the tale for itself."

All were full of indignation at the dastardly outrage.

"What are you going to do, Major?"

"I am not going to do anything, except take it ashore and hand it to the Sailing Committee. That it has been cut is certain. As to who cut it, there is no shadow of evidence."

"If I were in Carthew's place," one of them said, "I should decline to take the Cup under such circumstances, and would offer to sail the race over again with you as soon as you had repaired damages."

"I should decline the offer if he made it," he said, quietly. "It is probable that we shall meet in a race again some day, and then we can fight it out, but for the present it is done with. He has won the Queen's Cup, and I must put up with my accidents."

The effect produced by the facts reported to the committee, and their examination of the broken bar, was very great. Such a thing had not been known before in the annals of yachting, and the committee ordered a poster to be instantly printed and stuck up offering a reward of 100 pounds for proof that would lead to the conviction of the author of the outrage.

Frank returned on board at once, and sent off a boat, towing behind it the broken bowsprit and topmast to Cowes, with instructions to Messieurs White to have two fresh spars got ready, by the following afternoon if possible.

He did not go ashore again until he landed, at half-past ten, at the clubhouse. Every window was lit up, and dancing had begun an hour before. Frank at once obtained a partner, in order to avoid having to talk the unpleasant business over with yachting friends.

Presently he sat down by the side of Lady Greendale.

"I am so sorry, Frank," she said. "It does seem hard when you had set your mind on it."

"I had hoped to win," he said, "but it is not as bad as all that after all. It would have been more mortifying to lose because the Osprey was not fast enough, than to lose from an accident, when she had already proved herself to be the best in the race. You know that I never went in for being a racing yachtsman. I look upon racing as being a secondary part of yachting. I can assure you, I don't feel that I am greatly to be pitied. It might have been better, and it might have been a great deal worse."

"Well, I am glad that you take it in that way," she said. "I can assure you that I was greatly upset over it when I heard it."

He sat chatting with her for some time. Presently Bertha was brought back by her partner to her mother's side.

"Thank you for your hail as you passed us, Miss Greendale. It sounded hearty, and really cheered me up, for just at the moment I was in an exceedingly bad temper, I can assure you. You see, my forebodings came true, and luck was against me."

"Not luck," she said, indignantly. "You would have won but for treachery."

"Treachery is rather a hard word," he said. "However, it is of no use crying over spilt milk. I have lost, and shall live to fight another day, I hope; and next time I shall win. Still, you know, there is really nothing to grumble at. I have been fortunate altogether this season, and as I bought the Osprey as a cruiser, I have done a great deal better with her than I could have expected."

At this moment another partner of Bertha's came up, and was about to carry her off, when she said:

"I suppose the Osprey can sail still, Major Mallett?"

"Oh, yes. She is a lame duck, you know, but she can get about all right."

"Well, why don't you ask mamma and me to take a sail with you tomorrow afternoon?"

"I shall be very happy to do so," he said, "but I almost think that you had better wait until she gets her spars. I don't think that they will be finished before tomorrow evening. The men can get to work early in the morning, and we can be here by two o'clock next day."

"No, I think that we will come tomorrow, Major Mallett.

"It will be a novelty to sail in a cripple, won't it, mamma?

"Besides, you know, or you ought to know, that the day after tomorrow is Sunday, and that at present our plans are arranged for going up to town on Monday."

"That being so," Frank said with a smile, "by all means come tomorrow. Will you come to lunch, or afterwards?"

"Afterwards, I think. We will be down at the club landing stage at half-past two."

"Bertha is bent upon taking possession of you tomorrow," Lady Greendale said, smiling, as the girl turned away; "and I shall be glad for her to have a quiet two or three hours out of the racket. A large party is very fatiguing, and I think that it has been too much for her. Yesterday and today she has been quite unlike herself; at one time sitting quiet and saying nothing, at other times rattling away with Miss Haverley and Lady Olive, and absolutely talking down both of them, which I should have thought impossible. She seems to me to be altogether over-excited. I thought it would have been a rest for her to get away for a week from the fag in London, but I am sorry now that we came down altogether. I am a little worried about it, Frank."

"Well, the season is drawing towards its end now, Lady Greendale, and if you can get a short time at home no doubt it will do you good. I did not think that Bertha was looking well when I saw her yesterday."

Frank danced a couple more dances, and then went to Lady Greendale and said:

"Will you make my excuses to Bertha? and tell her that, having shown myself here, so that it might not be thought that I was out of temper at my bad luck, I shall be off. Indeed, I do not feel quite up to entering into the thing. You can understand, dear Lady Greendale, that at present things are going rather hardly with me."

She gave him a sympathetic look. "I can understand, Frank," she said; "but here she comes. You can make your excuses yourself."

"I can quite understand that you don't care about staying," Bertha said, when he repeated what he had said to her mother. "Well, I will give you the next dance, or, what will be nicer, I will sit it out with you. Ah, here is my partner.

"I am afraid I have made a mistake, Mr. Jennings, and have got my card mixed up. Do you mind taking the thirteenth dance instead of this? I shall be very much obliged if you will."

Her partner murmured his assent.

"Thank you," Frank said, as she took his arm. "Now, shall we go out on the balcony, or on the lawn?"

"The lawn, I think. It is a lovely evening, and there is no fear of catching cold.

"I am afraid that you are very disappointed," she went on, as they went out. "I am disappointed, too. I told you I wanted the best yacht to win, and it has not done so."

"Thank you," he replied, quietly. "I should have liked to have won, just this once, but all along I felt that the chances were against me, and that fortune would play me some trick or other."

"It was not fortune. Fortune had nothing to do with it," she said, indignantly. "You were beaten by a crime-by a mean, miserable crime-by the same sort of crime by which you were beaten before."

"I have no reason for supposing that there is any connection."

"Frank," she broke in, suddenly, and he started as for the first time for years she called him by his Christian name, "you are an old friend of ours, and you promised me that you would always be my friend. Do you think that it is right to be trying to throw dust into my eyes? Don't you think, on the contrary, that as a friend you should speak frankly to me?"

Frank was silent for a moment.

"On some subjects, yes, Bertha; on others, what has passed between us makes it very difficult for a man to know what he ought to do. But be assured that if I saw you make any fatal mistake, any mistake at least that I believed to be fatal, I should not hesitate, even if I knew that I should be misunderstood, and that I should forfeit your liking, by so doing. This is just one of the cases when I do not feel justified, as yet, in speaking. Carthew is not my friend, and you know it. If I had had no personal feud-for it has become that with him-I should be more at liberty to speak, but as it is I would rather remain silent. I tell you this now, that you may know, in case I ever do meddle in your affairs, how painful it is for me to do so, and how unwillingly I do it. At any rate, there is nothing whatever to connect the accident that took place today with him. The event is one of a series of successes

that he has gained over me. It does not affect me much, for though I should have liked to have won today, I don't feel about such matters as I used to.

"You see, when a man has suffered one heavy defeat, he does not care about how minor skirmishes may go."

They walked up and down in silence for some time, then she said quietly:

"The music has stopped. I think, Frank, that I had better go in again. So you will take us tomorrow?"

"Certainly," he said.

He took her in to Lady Greendale, and then went off to the Osprey. He was feeling in higher spirits than he had done for some time, as he walked up and down the deck for an hour before turning in. It seemed to him that she might not after all accept Carthew, and that he would not be obliged to bring trouble upon her by telling the shameful story.

"It will be all the same, as far as I am concerned," he said to himself, "but I am sure that I could stand her marrying anyone else; which, of course, she will do before long, better than Carthew. I hear whispers that he was hard hit at Ascot, though he gives out that he won. Not that that matters much, but it is never a good lookout for a girl to marry a man who gambles, even though she be rich, and her friends take good care to settle her money upon herself. She evidently suspects that he is at the bottom of this trick, and she would hardly think so if she really cared for him. But if she does think so, I fancy that the winning of the Queen's Cup will cost him dearly.

"I wonder why she has apparently so set her mind on going out with us tomorrow."

Carthew enjoyed his triumph that evening, loudly expressed his indignation and regret at the scandalous affair to which he owed his victory, frankly said that he could hardly have hoped to win the Cup had it not been for that, and expressed his determination to add another hundred pounds to the reward offered by the club for the discovery of the author of the outrage. The men felt that it was hard on a fellow to win the Cup by the breakdown of an opponent in that way, and the ladies admired the sincere way in which he expressed his regrets. He was a good dancer, a good talker, and a handsome man; and as few of them knew Frank, they had no particular interest in his misfortune.

He danced only once with Bertha, who said:

"As the hero of the occasion, Mr. Carthew, you must be generous in your attentions and please everyone."

"I suppose I must obey you, Miss Greendale," he said, "but I had hoped to have had an opportunity of saying something particular to you tonight."

"Really?" she answered innocently. "Well, I shall be at home tomorrow morning, and if you come up about eleven you are sure to find me."

"Miss Greendale is at the other end of the garden, sir," the servant said, as he enquired for her the next morning. "She asked me to tell you if you called that she was there."

With considerable assurance of success, Carthew walked into the garden. She must know what he wanted to say to her, and he had of late felt sure that her answer would be favourable when the question was put. She was sitting on the same bench on which two days before she had heard George Lechmere's story.

"You know what I have come for, Miss Greendale," he began at once. "I think that you know how I feel towards you, and how deeply I love you. I have come to ask you to be my wife."

"Before I answer you, Mr. Carthew," she said, calmly, "I must ask you to listen to a story. It was told me here two days ago by a man named George Lechmere. Do you know him?"

"I seem to have heard his name, though I cannot say where," he replied, surprised at the coolness with which she spoke.

"He is a farmer's son, I believe, and he was an interested party, though not the chief actor of the story. The chief actor, I suppose I should say actress, was Martha Bennett. You know her?"

Carthew stepped back as if he had received a sudden blow. His face paled, and he gave a short gasp.

"I see you know her," she went on. "She was a poor creature, I fancy, and her story is one that has often been told before. She threw away the love of an honest man, and trusted herself to a villain. He betrayed the trust, took her away to America and then cast her off, and she went home to die. Her destroyer did not altogether escape punishment. He was attacked and pelted by her father and his friends in the market place at Chippenham. You see, it all happened in my neighbourhood, and the villain, not daring to show his face in the county again, disposed of his estate."

"You don't believe this infamous lie?" Carthew said hoarsely.

"How do you know that it is an infamous lie, Mr. Carthew? I have mentioned no names. I have simply told you the story of a hapless girl, whom you once knew. Your face is the best witness that I can require of its truth. Thank God I heard it in time. Had it not been for that I might have been fool enough to have given you the answer you wanted, for I own that I liked you. I am sure now that I did not love you, for had I done so, I should not have believed this tale; or if I had believed it, it would have crushed me. But I liked you. I found you pleasanter than other men, and I even fancied that I loved you. Had I not known this story, I might have married you, and been the most miserable woman alive, for a man who could play the villain to a hapless girl, who could stoop to so mean and dastardly an action as to cripple a rival yacht, is a creature so mean, so detestable, that wretched indeed would be the fate of the woman that married him.

"Do not contradict it, sir," she said, rising from her seat now with her face ablaze with indignation. "I was watching you. I had heard that story, and had heard another story of how the boat of an antagonist of yours at Henley had been crippled before a race, and I watched you from the time I came on board. I saw that you were strangely confident; I saw how you were watching for something; I saw the flash of triumph in your face when that something happened; and I was absolutely certain that the same base manoeuvre that had won you your heat at Henley had been repeated in your race for the Queen's Cup.

"I don't think, sir, you will want any more specific answer to your question."

"You will repent this," he panted, his face distorted by a raging disappointment. "I do not contradict your statements. It would be beneath me to do so; but some day you may have cause to regret having made them."

"I may tell you," she said, as she turned, "that it is not my intention to make public the knowledge that I gained of your conduct yesterday. I have no proof save my own absolute conviction, and the knowledge that I have of your past."

He did not look round, but walked at a rapid pace down the garden. Half an hour later the Phantom's anchor was got up, and she sailed for Southampton Water. Beyond giving the necessary order to get under way, Carthew did not speak a word until she anchored off the pier, then he went ashore at once and took the next train for town, sending off a telegram before starting.

When he got home he asked the servant briefly if Mr. Conking had come.

"Yes, sir. He is waiting for you in the dining room."

"Well, Carthew, how have things gone off? I see by the papers this morning that you won the Cup, and also that the Osprey's bobstay burst at the right time, and that a great sensation had been caused by the discovery that there had been foul play.

"Why, what is the matter with you? You look as black as a thundercloud."

"And no wonder. I won the race, but I have lost the girl."

"The deuce you have. Why, I thought that you felt quite certain of that."

"So I did; and it would have come off all right if some infernal fellow had not turned up, and told her about an old affair of mine that I thought buried and forgotten three or four years ago; and it took me so aback that, as she said, my face was the best evidence of the truth of the story. More than that, she declared that she knew that I was at the bottom of the Osprey's business. However, she has no evidence about that; but the other story did the business for me, and the game is all up in that quarter. There never was such bad luck. She as much as told me that, if I had proposed to her before she had heard the story, she would have said yes."

"No chance of her changing her mind?"

"Not a scrap."

"It is an awkward affair for you."

"Horribly awkward. Yes, I have only got fifteen thousand left, and unless things go right at Goodwood I shall be cleaned right out. I calculated that everything would be set right if I married this girl. Things have gone badly of late."

"Yes, your luck has been something awful. It did seem that with the pains that we took, and the way I cleared the ground for you by bribing jockeys and so on, we ought to have made pots of money. Of course, we did pull off some good things, but others we looked on as safe, and went in for heavily, all turned out wrong."

"Well, there will be nothing for me but to get across the Channel unless, as I say, things go right at Goodwood."

"I should not be nervous about it, for unless there is some dark horse I feel sure that your Rosney has got the race in hand."

"Yes, I feel sure of that, too. We have kept him well back all the season, and never let him even get a place. It ought to be a certainty."

Then they sat some time smoking in silence.

"By gad, I have half a mind to carry her off," Carthew broke out, suddenly. "It is the only way that I can see of getting things straightened out. She acknowledged that she liked me before she heard this accursed story, and if I had her to myself I have no doubt that I could make her like me again in spite of it."

"It is a risky thing to carry a woman off in our days," Conkling said, thoughtfully, "and a deuced difficult one to do. I don't see how you are going to set about it, or what in the world you would do with her, and where you would put her when you had got her. I have done some pretty risky things for you in my time, Carthew, but I should not care about trying that. We might both find ourselves in for seven years."

"Well, you would have as much as that for getting at a horse, and I don't know that you wouldn't for bribing a jockey. Still, I see that it is an uncommonly difficult thing."

For five minutes nothing more was said; then Conkling suddenly broke the silence.

"By Jove, I should say that the yacht would be just the thing."

"That is a good idea, Jim; a first-rate idea if it could be worked out. It would want a lot of scheming, but I don't see why it should not be done. If I could once get her on board, I could cruise about with her for any time, until she gave in."

"You would have to get a fresh crew, Carthew. I doubt whether your fellows would stand it."

"No, I suppose some of them might kick. At any rate, I would not trust them. No, I should have to find a fresh crew. Foreigners would be best, but it would look uncommonly rum for the Phantom to be cruising about with a foreign crew. Besides, I know men in almost every port I should put into."

"Couldn't you alter her rig, or something of that sort, so that she could not be recognised? It seems to me that if you were to take her across to some foreign port, pay off the crew there and send them home, then get her altered and ship a foreign crew, you might cruise about as long as you liked, especially abroad, without a soul being any the wiser; and the girl must sooner or later give in, and if she would not you could make her."

"That is a big idea, Jim. Yes, if I once got my lady on board you may be sure that she would have to say yes sooner or later. I don't often forgive, and it would be a triumph to make her pay for the dressing down she gave me this morning. Besides, I am really fond of her, and I could forgive her for that outbreak, which I suppose was natural enough, after we were married, and there is no reason why we should not get on very well together.

"I tell you what, I will go down the first thing tomorrow to Southampton, and will sail at once for Ostend. There I will pay her off, alter her rig, and ship a fresh crew. I will draw my money from the bank. If things go well, I shall be set up again. If they go badly, there will be some long faces at Tattersall's on settling day, but I shall be away, and the money will be enough if we have to cruise for a couple of years, or double that, before she gives in.

"I shall try mild measures for a good bit; be very respectful and repentant and all that. If I find after a time that that does not fetch her, I must try what threats will do. Anyhow, she won't leave until she steps on shore to be married, or safer still, till I can get a clergyman on board to marry us there. Would you like to go with us?"

"If the thing bursts up, there is nothing I should like better."

"You will have to help me carry her off, Jim, and the day that she signs her name Bertha Carthew I will give you a couple of thousand pounds."

"That is a bargain," the man said. "It is a good scheme altogether, if we can hit upon some plan for carrying her away."

"It is of no use to think of that, until we know where she will be. I don't see at present how it is to be done, but I know that there is always a way if one can think of it. You telegraph to me every day Poste Restante, Ostend, or wherever I am stopping. I will send you the name of the hotel I put up at directly I get there. You had better send someone down at once to Ryde to let you know what she is doing, and when she comes up to town; it is just on the cards that they may not come for a bit, but may go for a cruise in Mallett's yacht, as they did last autumn. Anyhow, let me know, and if I telegraph for you to come over, cross by the next boat.

"Likely enough I may run over myself as soon as I get the business there going all right; but of course I shall stay there if I can. I should get it done in half the time if I were present to push things on. Of course, you will run down and see how the horse is getting on, and pick up any information that you can, and let me know about it."

"I will put that into good hands, Carthew. It is better that I should stay here and watch things at Tattersall's; then I can keep you informed how things are looking every day, and be ready to start as soon as I get your telegram. But, of course, you won't do anything until after the race is run."

"No, I feel as safe as a man can as to Rosney, but even if he wins I shall carry my idea out. I have had enough of the turf, and burnt my fingers enough over it, and I shall be glad to settle down as a country gentleman again. If I lose I shall make a private sale of all my horses before I leave the course. That ought to bring me in another seven or eight thousand pounds for our trip."

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