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John Gayther's Garden and the Stories Told Therein By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 43881

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It was on a morning in June that John Gayther was hoeing peas, drawing the fine earth up about their tender little stems as a mother would tuck the clothes about her little sleeping baby, when, happening to glance across several beds, and rows of box, he saw approaching the Daughter of the House. Probably she was looking for him, but he did not think she had yet seen him. He put down his hoe, feeling, as he did, that this June morning was getting very warm; and he gathered up an armful of pea-sticks which were lying near by. With these he made his way toward a little house almost in the middle of the garden, which was his fortress, his palace, his studio, or his workshop, as the case might be.

It was a low building with a far-outreaching roof, and under the shade of this roof, outside of the little building, John liked to do his rainy-day and very-hot-weather work. From the cool interior came a smell of dried plants and herbs and bulbs and potted earth.

When John reached this garden-house, the young lady was already there. She was not tall; her face was very white, but not pale; and her light hair fluffed itself all about her head, under her wide hat. She wore gold spectacles which greatly enhanced the effect of her large blue eyes. John thought she was the prettiest flower which had ever showed itself in that garden.

"Good morning, John," she said. "I came here to ask you about plants suitable for goldfishes in a vase. My fishes do not seem to be satisfied with the knowledge that the plants through which they swim were put there to purify the water; they are all the time trying to eat them. Now it strikes me that there ought to be some plants which would be purifiers and yet good for the poor things to eat."

John put down his bundle of pea-sticks by the side of a small stool. "Won't you sit down, miss?" pointing to a garden-bench near by, "and I will see what I can do for you." Then he seated himself upon the stool, took out his knife, and picked up a pea-stick.

"The best thing for me to do," he said, "is to look over a book I have which will tell me just the kind of water plants which your goldfish ought to have. I will do that this evening, and then I will see to it that you shall have those plants, whatever they may be. I do not pretend to be much of a water gardener myself, but it's easy for me to find out what other people know." John now began to trim some of the lower twigs from a pea-stick.

"Talking about water gardens, miss," he said, "I wish you could have seen some of the beautiful ones that I have come across!-more beautiful and lovely than anything on the top of the earth; you may be sure of that. I was reminded of them the moment you spoke to me about your goldfish and their plants."

"Where were those gardens?" asked the young lady; "and what were they like?"

"They were all on the bottom of the sea, in the tropics," said John Gayther, "where the water is so clear that with a little help you can see everything just as if it were out in the open air-bushes and vines and hedges; all sorts of tender waving plants, all made of seaweed and coral, growing in the white sand; and instead of birds flying about among their branches there were little fishes of every color: canary-colored fishes, fishes like robin-redbreasts, and others which you might have thought were blue jays if they had been up in the air instead of down in the water."

"Where did you say all this is to be seen?" asked the Daughter of the House, who loved all lovely things.

"Oh, in a good many places in warm climates," said John. "But, now I come to think of it, there was one place where I saw more beautiful sights, more grand and wonderful sights, under the water than I believe anybody ever saw before! Would you like me to tell you about it?"

"Indeed-I-would!" said she, taking off her hat.

John now began to sharpen the end of his pea-stick. "It was a good many years ago," said he, "more than twenty-and I was then a seafaring man. I was on board a brig, cruising in the West Indies, and we were off Porto Rico, about twenty miles northward, I should say, when we ran into something in the night,-we never could find out what it was,-and we stove a big hole in that brig which soon began to let in a good deal more water than we could pump out. The captain he was a man that knew all about that part of the world, and he told us all that we must work as hard as we could at the pumps, and if we could keep her afloat until he could run her ashore on a little sandy island he knew of not far from St. Thomas, we might be saved. There was a fresh breeze from the west, and he thought he could make the island before we sank.

"I was mighty glad to hear him say this, for I had always been nervous when I was cruising off Porto Rico. Do you know, miss, that those waters are the very deepest in the whole world?"

"No," said she; "I never heard that."

"Well, they are," said John. "If you should take the very tallest mountain there is in any part of the earth and put it down north of Porto Rico, so that the bottom of it shall rest on the bottom of the sea, the top of that mountain would be sunk clean out of sight, so that ships could sail over it just as safely as they sail in any part of the ocean.

"Of course a man would drown just as easily in a couple of fathoms of water as in this deep place; but it is perfectly horrible to think of sinking down, down, down into the very deepest water-hole on the face of the whole earth."

"Didn't you have any boats?" asked the young lady.

"We hadn't any," said John. "We had sold all of them about two months before to a British merchantman who had lost her boats in a cyclone. One of the things our captain wanted to get to St. Thomas for was to buy some more boats. He heard he could get some cheap ones there.

"Well, we pumped and sailed as well as we could, but we hadn't got anywhere near that sandy island the captain was making for, when, one morning after breakfast, our brig, which was pretty low in the water by this time, gave a little hitch and a grind, and stuck fast on something; and if we hadn't been lively in taking in all sail there would have been trouble. But the weather was fine, and the sea was smooth, and when we had time to think about what had happened we were resting on the surface of the sea, just as quiet and tranquil as if we had been a toy ship in a shop-window.

"What we had stuck on was a puzzle indeed! As I said before, our captain knew all about that part of the sea, and, although he knew we were in shallow soundings, he was certain that there wasn't any shoal or rock thereabout that we could get stuck on.

"We sounded all around the brig, and found lots of water at the stern, but not so much forward. We were stuck fast on something, but nobody could imagine what it was. However, we were not sinking any deeper, and that was a comfort; and the captain he believed that if we had had boats we could row to St. Thomas; but we didn't have any boats, so we had to make the best of it. He put up a flag of distress, and waited till some craft should come along and take us off.

"The captain and the crew didn't seem to be much troubled about what had happened, for so long as the sea did not get up they could make themselves very comfortable as they were. But there were two men on board who didn't take things easy. They wanted to know what had happened, and they wanted to know what was likely to happen next. I was one of these men, and a stock-broker from New York was the other. He was an awful nervous, fidgety, meddling sort of a man, who was on this cruise for the benefit of his health, which must have been pretty well worn out with howling, and yelling, and trying to catch profits like a lively boy catches flies. He was always poking his nose into all sorts of things that didn't concern him, and spent about half of his time trying to talk the captain into selling his brig and putting the money into Pacific Lard-or it might have been Mexican Balloon stock, as well as I remember. This man was tingling all over with anxiety to find out what we had stuck on; but as he could not stick his nose into the water and find out, and as there was nobody to tell him, he had to keep on tingling.

"I was just as wild to know what it was the brig was resting on as the stock-broker was; but I had the advantage of him, for I believed that I could find out, and, at any rate, I determined to try. Did you ever hear of a water-glass, miss?"

"No, I never did," said the Daughter of the House, who was listening with great interest.

"Well, I will try to describe one to you," said John Gayther. "You make a light box about twenty inches high and a foot square, and with both ends open. Then you get a pane of glass and fasten it securely in one end of this box. Then you've got your water-glass-a tall box with a glass bottom.

"The way that you use it is this: You get in a boat, and put the box in the water, glass bottom down. Then you lean over and put your head into the open end, and if you will lay something over the back of your head as a man does when he is taking photographs, so as to keep out the light from above, it will be all the better. Then, miss, you'd be perfectly amazed at what you could see through that glass at the bottom of the box! Even in northern regions, where the water is heavy and murky, you can see a good way down; but all about the tropics, where the water is often so thin and clear that you can see the bottom in some places with nothing but your naked eyes, it is perfectly amazing what you can see with a water-glass! It doesn't seem a bit as if you were looking down into the sea; it is just like gazing about in the upper air. If it isn't too deep, things on the bottom-fishes swimming about, everything-is just as plain and distinct as if there wasn't any water under you and you were just looking down from the top of a house.

"Well, I made up my mind that the only way for me to find out what it was that was under the brig was to make a water-glass and look down into the sea; and so I made one, taking care not to let the stock-broker know anything about it, for I didn't want any of his meddling in my business. I had to tell the captain, but he said he would keep his mouth shut, for he didn't like the stock-broker any more than I did.

"Well, miss, I made that water-glass. And when the stock-broker was taking a nap, for he was clean tired out poking about and asking questions and trying to find out what he might get out of the business if he helped to save the brig, the captain and I, with a few men, quietly let down into the water the aft hatch, one of those big doors they cover the hatchways with, and when that was resting on the water it made a very good raft for one man. And I got down on it, with my water-glass and an oar.

"The first thing I did, of course, was to paddle around the brig to the place where she had been stove in. She wasn't leaking any more, because the water inside of her was just as high as the water outside; so, if we could do anything, this was the time to do it. I looked down into the water on our starboard bow, and I soon found the place where the brig had been stove in, probably by some water-logged piece of wreckage. I located the hole exactly, and I reported to the captain, who was leaning over the side. Then I paddled around the brig to see if I could find out what we were resting on.

"When I had sunk my water-glass well into the water, and had got my head into the top of it, I looked down on a scene which seemed like fairyland. The corals and water plants of different colors, and the white glistening sand, and the fishes, big and little, red, yellow, pink, and blue, swimming about among the branches just as if they had wings instead of fins, that I told you of just now, were all there; and the light down under the water seemed so clear and bright that I could see everything under me that was as big as a pea."

"That must have been an entrancing vision!" said the Daughter of the House.

"Indeed it was," replied John Gayther. "But, would you believe me, miss? I didn't look at it for more than half a minute; for when I turned my water-glass so that I could look under the brig, I could not give a thought to anything else in the world except the astonishing objects our brig was resting on.

"At first I could not believe my eyes. I paddled around and around, and I put down my water-glass, and I stared and I stared, until I felt as if my eyes were coming out of my head! At last I had to believe what I saw. There was no use trying to think that my eyes had made a mistake. It was all just as plain to me as you are now.

"Down in the water, resting on the bottom of this shallow part of the sea, were two great ships-ships of the olden time, with enormously high poops, which were the stern part of old-fashioned vessels, built 'way up high like a four-story house. These two antiquated vessels were lying side by side and close together, with their tall poops reaching far up toward the surface of the sea; and right on top of them, resting partly on one ship and partly on the other, was our brig, just as firmly fixed as if she had been on the stocks in a shipyard!

"The whole thing was so wonderful that it nearly took away my breath. I got around to the stern of the brig, and then I stared down at the two vessels under her until I forgot there was anything else in this whole world than those two great old-fashioned ships and myself. The more I looked the more certain I became that no such vessels had floated on the top of the sea for at least two hundred years. From what I had read about old-time ships, and from the pictures I had seen of them, I made up my mind that one of those vessels was an old Spanish galleon; and the other one looked to me very much as if it were an English-built ship."

"And how did they ever happen to be wrecked there, side by side?" almost gasped the young lady.

"Oh, they had been fighting," said John. "There could be no mistake about that. They had been fighting each other to the death, and they had gone down together, side by side. And there was our brig, two hundred years afterwards, resting quietly on top of both of them.

"I was still wrapped up, body and soul, in this wonderful discovery, when I heard a hail from the stern of the brig, and there was that stock-broker, shouting to me to know what I was looking at. Of course that put an end to my observations, and I paddled to the side and got on board.

"'Lend me that box,' said the stock-broker, 'and let me get down on your raft. What is it you've been looking at, and what did you see in that box?'

"But he had got hold of the wrong man. 'No, sir,' said I. 'Find a box for yourself, if you want one.' And I held mine so that he could not see that the bottom of it was glass. Then the captain came along and told him not to try to get down on that hatch, for if he did he would topple into the water and get himself drowned, which would have been certain to happen, for he could not swim. Then the hatch was hauled on deck, and I went below with the captain to his cabin to tell him what I had seen. The stock-broker tried awfully hard to come with us, but we wouldn't let him.

"When the captain had heard all I had to tell him, he wasn't struck sentimentally the least bit, as I had been. It did not make any more difference to him whether those two ships had been down there two hundred years or two years; but there was another part to the affair that was very interesting to him.

"'Gayther,' said he, 'it's ten to one that them ships has got treasure aboard, and what we've got to do is to form a company and go to work and get it.'

"'And how would you do that?' said I.

"The captain was from Provincetown, Cape Cod, and it didn't take him two seconds to work out his whole plan.

"'It's this way,' said he. 'The first thing to do is to form a company. I am president and you can be the other officers. When that is all fixed we can go to work, and we'll mend that hole in our bow. Now if you know just where it is, we'll work day and night in that hold, water or no water, and we'll stop it up. Then we'll pump the brig out, and I believe she'll float. Then we'll mark this place with a buoy, and we'll sail away as fast as we can, with our company all formed and everything fixed and settled. Then we'll come back with the vessels and machines, and we'll get out that treasure. We'll divide it into three parts. One part will be mine; one part will be yours; and the other part will go to the crew.'

"'And how about the stock-broker?' said I. 'Going to let him in the company?'

"'No, sir,' said the captain, bringing his fist down on the table. 'Whatever else happens, he is to be kept out.'

"This was a very fine plan, but it didn't altogether suit me. I didn't want to sail away from that spot and perhaps never see those two ships again. There was no knowing what more I might find out with my water-glass if that stock-broker could be kept from bothering me.

"I told the captain this, and he looked hard at me and he said: 'It will take a couple of days to mend that leak and to pump out the brig. If this fine weather keeps on I think we can do it in that time. And if while we are working at it you choose to try to find out more about them two ships, you can do it.'

"'And how can I do it?' said I.

"'If you can go down in a diver's suit you can do it,' said he. 'I don't know whether you know anything about that business, but if you want to try, I have got a whole kit on board, air-pump, armor, and everything. It belongs to a diver that was out with me about a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico. He had to go North to attend to some business, and he told me he would let me know when he would come back and get his diving-kit. But he hasn't come back yet, and the whole business is stowed away here on board. Do you know anything about going down in a diving-suit?'

"Now I had never done anything in the way of diving, but I had heard a good deal about it, and I had seen divers at work, and my whole soul was so jumping and shouting inside of me at the very idea of going down and searching into the secrets of those two old ships that I told the captain I was ready to undertake the diving business just the minute he could get things in shape.

"Well, miss, early the next morning-and I can tell you I didn't sleep much that night-everything was ready for me to go down, and two of the crew who had done that sort of thing before were detailed to attend to the air-pumps and all the other business. The stock-broker he was like a bee on a window-pane; he was buzzing, and kicking, and bumping his head trying to find out what we expected to do. But the captain wouldn't tell him anything; you may be sure I wouldn't; and nobody else knew.

"As soon as we could get things straightened out I was lowered over the side of the brig, and sunk out of sight into the water. The captain and all the crew, except the men who were attending to me, then went to work to mend the hole in the side of the brig. And the last thing I heard as I went under the water was the stock-broker howling and yelling and rampaging around the deck.

"As I told you before, miss, I had never been down in a diving-suit; but I paid the greatest attention to everything I knew, and I got down to the bottom all right, having a hard time to keep from being scratched to pieces by the barnacles on the sterns of the big ships.

"I clumped about for a while on the sandy bottom so as to get familiar with the air-tubes, signal-cords, and all that, and then I signalled to be hauled up a bit; and, after a good deal of trouble, I got on board the vessel which I was sure was a Spanish galleon. As I stood on her upper deck, looking around, I felt as if I was in a world of wonders. There was water everywhere, of course-in and around and about everything. But I could see so plainly that I forgot that I was not moving about in the open air.

"I can't tell you, miss, everything I saw on that great ship, for it would take too long; but as soon as I could, I set to work to see if I could find the treasure that I hoped was on board of her. Here and there about the decks I saw swords and pistols and old cannon, but not a sign of any of the brave fellows that had fought the ship, for the fish had eaten them up long ago, bones and all.

"While hunting about, and being careful to keep my air-tube from fouling, I looked into a cabin with the door open; and you will believe me, miss, when I tell you that a cold chill ran down my back when I saw something moving inside, just as if it was a man getting up to see what I wanted. It turned out to be a big fish, about half my size, and he did not ask any questions, but just swam through the open door, almost brushing me, and went his way."

"I wonder you weren't frightened to death!" said the Daughter of the House.

"It would be hard to kill me with fright," said John Gayther, "and I'll prove that to you, miss. As I moved on, still looking for the treasure, I came to the door of another cabin, and this was shut and bolted on the outside. I had a hatchet with me, and with this I knocked back the bolts and forced open the door; and there I saw something to make anybody jump. Sitting on a locker, right in front of the door, was the skeleton of a man. The room had been shut up so tight that no fish big enough to eat bones could get in; but the little things that live in the water and can get through any crack had eaten all of that man except his bones, his gold buttons, that were lying about on the floor, the golden embroidery of his uniform, that was still hanging about on his skeleton, and the iron fetters on his hands and feet. He was most likely a prisoner of

rank who was being taken back to Spain, and he had been shut up there through all the fight.

"The first thought that came into my mind when I looked at him was that he might be Columbus, and that the Spaniards had made up the story about their really getting him back to Spain at the time when he was to be brought home in irons. But thinking more about it, I knew that this could not be true, and so I shut the door so as to keep the poor fellow from any intrusions so long as he might happen to stay there.

"Then I went to work in real earnest to find the treasure, and I tell you, miss, I did find it."

"What!" exclaimed the Daughter of the House. "You really found the treasure on that Spanish galleon?"

"Indeed I did," replied John Gayther. "It was in boxes stowed away in a big room in the stern. I smashed the door, and there were the boxes. I went to work at one of them with my hatchet; and I had just forced up one corner of the lid, and had seen that it was filled with big gold pieces, when I felt a pull on my signal-rope, and knew that they wanted me to come up. So I put my fingers into the crack and got out a few of the coins. I could not take a whole box; it would have been too heavy. And then I went out of that room, and signalled that I was ready to go up. It was time, I can tell you, miss, for I was getting mighty nervous and excited, and I needed rest and something to eat.

"When I was safe on the deck of the brig, I found everybody gathered there, waiting to hear what I had to tell. They had stopped work for dinner, and that is the reason I had been signalled.

"But I didn't say anything to anybody. As soon as my helmet was unscrewed and I was out of my diving-suit I went below with the captain; and although the stock-broker followed us close and nearly pushed himself into the cabin, we shut the door on him and kept him out. Then I told the captain everything, and I showed him the three gold coins, which I had kept all the time tightly clinched in my right hand. I can tell you the eyes of both of us were wide open when we looked at those coins. Two of them were dated sixteen hundred and something, and one of them fifteen hundred. They were big fellows, worth about ten dollars apiece. The captain took them and locked them up.

"'Now,' said he, 'do you think you will be able to go down again to-day? If you want to see what's in the other ship you've got to be lively about it, for I think we can get the brig pumped out in twenty-four hours; and if a stiff breeze should spring up to-morrow afternoon-and I am inclined to think it will-we don't want to be caught here. If the other ship's a treasure-ship,' he went on to say, 'you know it would be a good deal better for our company; and so it might be well to find out.'

"I didn't need any spurring to make me go down again, for I was all on fire to know what was on board the other ship, which I was sure was English, having had a good opportunity of looking at it while I was down there.

"So as soon as I had taken a rest and had had my dinner, I went on deck to get ready for another diving expedition. There was the stock-broker, watching me like a snake watching a bird. He didn't stamp around and ask any more questions: he just kept his venomous eye on me as if he would like to kill me because I knew more than he did. But I didn't concern myself about him, and down I went, and this time I got myself aboard the English vessel just as soon as I could.

"It wasn't as interesting as the old Spanish vessel, but still I saw enough to fill up a book if I had time to tell it. There were more signs of fighting than there had been on the other ship. Muskets and swords were scattered about everywhere, and, although she was plainly a merchant-vessel, she had a lot of the small cannon used in those days.

"I looked about a great deal, and it struck me that she had been a merchantman trading with the West Indies, but glad enough to fight a Spanish treasure-ship if she happened to come across one. It was more than likely that her crew had been a regular set of half-buccaneers, willing to trade if there was trade, and fight if there was any fighting on hand. Anyway, the two vessels had had a tough time of it, and each of them had met her match. I could see the grappling-irons which had fastened them together. They had blown so many holes in each other's sides that they had gone to the bottom as peaceably as a pair of twins holding each other by the hands.

"I worked hard on that English ship, and I went everywhere where I dared to go, but I couldn't find any signs that she had carried treasure. I hadn't the least doubt that she was on an outward voyage, and that the Spaniard was homeward bound.

"At last I got down into the hold, and there I found a great number of big hogsheads, that were packed in so well under the deck that they had never moved in all these years. Of course I wanted to know what was in them, for, although it would not be gold or silver, it might be something almost as precious if it happened to be spirits of the olden time.

"After banging and working for some time I got out the bung of one of these hogsheads, and immediately air began to bubble up, and I could hear the water running in. It was plain the hogshead was empty, and I clapped the bung in again as quick as I could. I wasn't accustomed to sounding barrels or hogsheads under water, but as I knew this was an empty one I sounded it with my hatchet; and then I went around and got the same kind of a sound from each of the others that I hammered on. They were all empty, every blessed one of them.

"Now I was certain that this vessel had been outward bound; she had been taking out empty hogsheads, and had expected to carry them back full of West Indian rum, which was a mighty profitable article of commerce in those days. But she had fallen into temptation, and had gone to the bottom; and here were her hogsheads just as tight and just as empty as on the day she set sail from England.

"As I stood looking at the great wall of empty hogsheads in front of me, wondering if it would not be better to give up searching any more on this vessel, which evidently had not been laden with anything valuable, and go again on board the Spanish ship and make some sort of a plan for fastening lines to those treasure-boxes so that they might be hauled up on board the brig, I began to feel a sort of trouble with my breath, as if I might suffocate if I did not get out soon. I knew, of course, that something was the matter with my air-supply, and I signalled for them to pump lively. But it was of no use; my supply of fresh air seemed to be cut off. I began to gasp. I was terribly frightened, you may be sure; for, with air gone and no answer to my signals, I must perish. I jerked savagely at my signal-cord to let them know that I wanted to be pulled up,-it was possible that I might reach the surface before being suffocated,-but the cord offered no resistance; I pulled it toward me as I jerked. It had been cut or broken.

"Then I took hold of my air-tube and pulled it. It, too, was unattached at the other end; it had no connection with the air-pump.

"Breathing with great difficulty, and with my legs trembling under me, a thought flashed through my mind. As rapidly as possible I drew in the india-rubber air-tube. Presently I had the loose end of it in my hand. Then I caught hold of the bung of the hogshead which I had opened and which was just in front of me, and the instant I pulled it out I thrust in the end of the air-tube. To my great delight, it fitted tightly in the bung-hole. And now in an instant I felt as if I was sitting upon the pinnacles of Paradise. Air, fresh air, came to me through the tube! Not in abundance, not freely, for there was some water in the tube and there was a good deal of gurgling. But it was air, fresh air; and every time an exhaled breath escaped through the valve in my helmet, a little air from the hogshead came in to take its place.

"I stood for a while, weak with happiness. I did not know what had happened; I did not care. I could breathe; that was everything in the world to me.

"By gradually raising the tube a few feet at a time I managed to empty the water it contained into the hogshead, and then I breathed more easily. As I did not wish to wait until the air in the hogshead had been exhausted, I went to work on the bung in the next one, and soon transferred the end of my tube to that, which would probably last me a good while, for it was almost entirely free from water.

"Now I began to cogitate and wonder. I pulled in the end of the signal-cord, and I found it had not been rubbed and torn by barnacles; the end of it had been clean cut with a knife. I remembered that this was the case with the air-tube; as I placed it into the bung-hole of the first hogshead I had noticed how smoothly it had been severed.

"Now I felt a tug at the rope by which I was raised and lowered. I didn't like this. If I should be pulled up I might be jerked away from my air-supply and suffocate before I got to the surface. So I took a turn of the rope around a stick of timber near by, and they might pull as much as they chose without disturbing me. There I stood, and thought, and wondered. But, above everything, I could not help feeling all the time how good that air was! It seemed to go through every part of me. It was better than wine; it was better than anything I had ever breathed or tasted. A little while ago I was on the point of perishing. Now before me there were tiers of hogsheads full of air! If it had not been that I would be obliged to eat, I might have stayed down there as long as I pleased.

"I had stayed a long time, and I was at work on the air in a third hogshead-not having half used up the contents of the other two-before I really made up my mind as to what had happened. I was sure that there had been foul play, and I felt quite as sure that the stock-broker was at the bottom of it. Except that man, there was no one on board the brig who would wish to do me a harm. The stock-broker he hated me; I had seen that in his face as plainly as if it had been painted on a sign-board. I knew something which he did not know; I was trying to get something which was to be kept a secret from him. If I could be put out of the way he probably thought he might have some sort of a chance. I could not fathom the man's mind, but that's the way it looked to me.

"I had been down there a long time, and it must have been getting toward the end of the afternoon; so I prepared to leave my watery retirement. I had made a plan, and it worked very well. I placed the end of my air-tube far into the bung-hole of the hogshead, so that I might not accidentally pull it out; I loosened myself from the bit of timber; and then I made my way to the bow of the vessel on which I was. Looking upward, I found that our brig, which was resting on the tall poops of the two sunken vessels, was so suspended above me that her fore chains, which ran under her bowsprit, were almost over my head.

"Now I stood and took some long, deep breaths; then, having made everything ready, I jerked myself out of that diving-suit in a very few seconds, and, standing free, I gave a great leap upward, and went straight to the surface. I am a good swimmer, and with a few strokes I caught the chains. Stealthily I clambered up, making not the least noise, and peeped over the rail. There was nobody forward. The whole ship's company seemed to be crowded aft, where there was a great stir and confusion. I slipped quietly over the rail and, without being seen by anybody, made my way into the forecastle. I hurried to my sea-chest. I took off my wet things and dressed myself in an almost new suit of shore clothes which I had never worn on the brig. I did not lose any more time than I could help, but I took unusual care in dressing myself. I put on a new pair of yellow shoes, and turned up the bottom of my trousers so as to show my red socks. I had a big felt hat which I had bought in Mexico, with a little feather in it; and this I put on, pulling it rakishly over on one side. I put around my neck a long blue silk cravat with white spots, which I tied in the biggest bow I could make. Then, feeling that I ought to have something in my hands, I picked up a capstan-bar, and laying it across my arm after the manner of a cutlass, I went boldly on deck.

"Making as much noise as possible, and advancing with what you might call a majestic tread, I strode to the stern of that brig. At first my approach was not noticed, for there was still a great hubbub, and everybody seemed to be shouting or swearing or shaking his fist. The stock-broker stood on one side, and his tongue was going as fast as anybody's; but I noticed that his hands were tied behind him, and there was a rope around his neck.

"The captain was the first to see me. He gave me just one look; he turned pale; and then, with a sort of a scared grunt, down he went on his knees.

"When the rest of the men laid eyes on me, you never saw such a scared lot in your life. Their mouths and their eyes went open, and their swarthy faces were as white as you could wash a dirty sail. Some of them shook so that their caps fell off, and one or two began to pray.

"As to the stock-broker, he at first seemed greatly startled; but he recovered himself in a moment. There was nothing superstitious about him, and he knew well enough that I was no spirit risen from the deep, but a living man.

"'Ha, ha!' he shouted. 'Here you are, after trying to rob and cheat us, and making believe to be dead, you water thief!-hiding safe and sound on deck while such a row is being raised here about your death, and all sorts of threats being made against me on account of it. Look at him, my brave men!' said he, turning to the crew; 'look at the fellow who has been trying to rob us! And he is the man you ought to hang to the yard-arm!'

"Then he turned again to me. 'You are a fool of a thief, anyway. After you had gone down under this vessel I found your box with the glass in the bottom of it. I got down close to the water and I watched you. I saw you going about in that big sunken ship looking after treasure, and, no doubt, finding it; filling your pockets with gold and telling nobody. I didn't want to kill you when I cut your air-tube, as I have told these good sailors; but I wanted to make you stop stealing and come up, and I did it. The treasure under this vessel belongs to us all, and you have no right to make a secret business out of it, and keep it for yourself and the captain. Now, my good men,' he shouted to the crew, 'there is the fellow you ought to hang! Look at him, dressed up in fine clothes, while you thought he was soaked and dead at the bottom of the sea! Hang him up, I say! Then we'll get the treasure, and we'll divide it among us fair and even.'

"This was a dangerous moment for me. The men had recovered from their fright. They saw I was no spirit, and they believed that I had been trying to deceive and defraud them. A good many of them drew their knives and came toward me, the stock-broker urging them on. The captain tried to restrain the men who were near him, but they pushed him aside.

"I now stepped forward; I pulled my great hat still further over my face; I glared at the men before me; and I brought my capstan-bar with a tremendous thump upon the deck.

"'Sirrah, varlets!' I roared. 'What mean ye? Stop where ye are, and if one man of ye comes nearer I'll cleave him to the chine! Caitiffs! varlets! hounds! dare ye threaten me? Ods-bodikins, I like it well! By our lady, ye are a merry set of mariners who draw your blades upon a man who is come upon this deck to tell ye how to fill your pockets with old gold! Back there, every man of ye, and put up your knives, ere I split your heads and toss ye into the sea!'

"As I spoke these words my voice and tones were so loud and terrible that I almost frightened myself. The crew fell back as I advanced a step or two, and every man of them sheathed his knife. Even the stock-broker seemed to be overawed by my tremendous voice and my fierce appearance."

"John Gayther," said the Daughter of the House, who had been listening very eagerly, "what made you talk like that, and strut about, and pound the deck? That's not like you. I would not have supposed that you ever could have acted so."

"You will understand it all, miss," said the gardener, "when you remember that for nearly two hours I had been breathing the atmosphere of the sixteenth century. That atmosphere was the air which for two hundred years had been fastened up in those empty hogsheads. I had drawn it into my lungs; it had gone into my blood, my nerves, my brain. I was as a man who swash-buckles-a reckless mariner of the olden time. I longed to take my cutlass in my teeth and board a Spaniard. As I looked upon the villainous stock-broker before me, I felt as if I could take him by the throat, plunge down with him to the deck of the Spanish galleon, and shut him up fast and tight in the room with that manacled Spaniard who could not have been Columbus. I thrilled with a fierce longing for combat. It was the air of the sixteenth century which had permeated my every pore.

"Now I fixed upon the stock-broker a terrible glare and stepped toward him. 'Money miscreant!' I yelled, 'you it was who tried first to murder me, and then to turn the hearts of all these good men against me!' I raised my capstan-bar in the air. 'Aroint thee, fiend!' I yelled. 'Get thee below; and if anon I see thee I will break thy dastardly skull!'

"At this the stock-broker, frightened nearly out of his wits, and with his hands still tied and the rope around his neck, made a dive for the companionway, and disappeared below. I stood up very bold; I threw out my chest, and gazed around in triumph. The air of the sixteenth century had saved me! Those men would have no more dared to attack me, as I stood roaring out my defiance and my threat, than they would have ventured to give battle to the boldest and the blackest of all bloody buccaneers.

"I now called the men around me, and I told them all my story. You may imagine that they opened their eyes and mouths so wide that I thought some of them would never get them shut again. But the captain-he was from Provincetown, Cape Cod, and he went straight to business.

"'We've mended the leak,' said he, 'and we'll pump all night, and it may be to-morrow we shall float free. Then we'll form a company for the recovery of the treasure on that Spanish galleon. I will take one third of it; Mr. Gayther shall have one third; and one third shall be divided among the crew. Then we'll anchor a buoy near this spot and sail away, to come back again as soon as may be.'

"Everybody agreed to this, and we all went to supper. Early the next morning a breeze blew very fresh from the southwest; then it increased to a gale; and before ten o'clock the waves began to run so high that one of them lifted the brig clean off the sunken ships on which she had been resting, and we were afloat. In ten seconds more we were lying broadside to the wind. Then indeed we had to skip around lively, get up some sails, and put her properly on the wind. Before we had time to draw an easy breath we were scudding along, far from the spot which we had intended to mark with an anchored buoy. There was a good deal of water in the hold, but the brig went merrily on as if glad to get away from those two old sea spectres of the past with which she had been keeping such close company.

"Of course it was impossible to beat up against such a wind, and so we kept on toward St. Thomas. The captain had carefully taken the longitude and latitude of the spot where we had been stranded on the ancient ships, and he was sure he could find the place again by sounding in fair weather.

"Before we reached port, he came on deck with the three gold pieces which I had brought up from the Spanish galleon. One of these he put into his own pocket; one he gave to me; and the other he gave to the crew to be changed into small coin and divided. The stock-broker got nothing, and I saw him no more on that voyage. I had sworn to break his head if my eyes ever fell upon him, and he was wise enough to keep out of my sight."

"And that is all the money you ever got from the galleon?" asked the Daughter of the House.

"Yes," said John Gayther, "that was all. I have the ancient gold piece in my room now, and some day I will show it to you.

"As soon as we could do it, we all went with the captain to New York, and there we organized our company, and sold a lot of stock, and chartered a good steamer with derricks and everything necessary for raising sunken treasure. But, although the weather was fair, and we sounded and sounded day after day at the very point of longitude and latitude where we had left the two great ships of the olden time, we never could find them.

"One day, just before we had concluded to give up the search, we saw another vessel not far away, also sounding. This we afterwards heard belonged to the stock-broker. He had chartered a steamer, and he had on board of her a president, a secretary, a treasurer, a board of trustees, and four derricks. We steamed away and soon left him, and I am very sure that if his company had ever declared any dividends I should have heard of it."

"And that is the end of your story, John Gayther?" said the Daughter of the House, as she rose from her seat.

"Yes, miss; that is the end of it," replied the gardener.

The young lady said no more, but walked away in quiet reflection, while John Gayther picked up the only pea-stick on which he had been at work that morning.





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