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   Chapter 17 SAM ADAMS’S TASK

The Mystery of the Sea By Bram Stoker Characters: 11562

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Adams began at once: "Archie I want to tell you something; but it is in the strictest confidence. You must promise me not to mention to any one, mind any one, what I say; or even that I have spoken to you on the subject." I thought for a moment before replying. It flashed across me that what he had to say must concern Marjory, so I answered:

"I fear I cannot make such a promise, if the matter is regarding some one other than myself." A shade of annoyance passed across his face as he said:

"Well, it is about some one else; but really you must trust me. I would not for the world, old fellow, ask you to do anything that was not correct."

"I know that" I said "I know it right well; but you see it might be regarding some one with whom my relations might be peculiar-not fixed you know. It might be necessary for me to speak. Perhaps not now; but later on." I was stumbling blindly, so sought refuge in fact and query, "Tell me" I said "does it relate to Miss Drake?"

"It does; but I thought that you who are a friend of hers might like to do her a service."

"Of course I would." I answered. "There is nothing I would not do for her if it were in my power."

"Except hold your tongue!" he said with a touch of bitterness unusual with him. I could see that anxious as I was to hear he was still more anxious to tell me; so I was able to keep my temper and not make matters worse by answering back sarcastically. I said:

"Yes, old chap, even by holding my tongue. If I could see that I would benefit her by holding my tongue, or by cutting out my tongue, I would do it. What I must refuse is to promise to hold my tongue. Come, old fellow, don't put me in a wrong position. You don't know all that I do, or exactly how I am placed. Why don't you trust me? I am willing to promise that I won't speak at all of the matter unless it be necessary; and that I won't speak at all in any case of having been told anything by you." He brightened up at once and said:

"All right, then we can drive on. I take it that since we met last"-that was a few minutes ago, but he was a diplomatist-"you have learned more about Miss Drake, or rather of her history and her position and importance, than you knew at that time?"

"Yes," I answered, and I could not help smiling.

"Then we needn't go into that. We take facts for granted. Well, that fine act of hers-you know what I mean-has brought her, or may bring her, a peck of trouble. There are, or there were, a certain lot of Spaniards-Copperheads-at home who look on her as a sort of embodiment of the American antagonism to their own nation. They are the low lot; for mind you, though we are at war with them I say it, the good Spaniard is a fine fellow. It came to the ears of the authorities in Washington that there was some sort of plot on foot to do her a harm. The Secret Service was a little at fault, and couldn't get accurate or full information; for naturally enough the Spaniards didn't trust any but themselves in such a matter. We know enough, however, to be somewhat concerned for her; and it was arranged that a secret watch should be kept on her, so that no harm should come that could be prevented. The proper men had been detailed off for the work; when to our surprise, and a little to our consternation, it turned out that the young lady had disappeared. We knew of course that her going was voluntary; she had left word to that effect, so that there might not be any bother made about her. But the trouble was that she did not know of the danger which threatened her; and as our people didn't know where she was, no step could be taken to protect or warn her. It is clear that my lady got tired of fireworks and of the Joan of Arc business, and bolted. It was considered necessary at headquarters that we should in the meantime all keep our heads shut. But we were advised at the Embassy in London that the plot was on, and that we should hump ourselves a bit to look after her in case she was in England. The matter was handed over to me, and I have been on the run ever since; but I have not been able to hear tale or tiding of her. Two days ago we got a cable in our cipher which told us that, from information received and the rest of it, they suspected she was in England, or probably in Scotland; and that there was later evidence that the plot was more active than ever. Unfortunately we have as yet no details, and not even a clue. That is why I am here. I came down with Cathcart, who fortunately was bound for the North, as it covered up my purpose. I have been in a regular stew for days past. Marjory Drake is too good to have any trouble come to her that any American can help. You can imagine my delight when I saw her this evening; for now that I have located her, I can take steps to look after her safety if necessary. You two went so fast on your wheels that I lost you at the Bridge; but I surmised that you would be coming here anyhow after your ride. So I came up as quickly as I could, and saw you two and the old lady come up from the railway station. I couldn't get to see Miss Drake to-night; but I expect to look her up pretty early in the morning."

Here was a new entanglement. It seemed to me as more than likely that Marjory, having seen Adams and knowing his diplomatic position, suspected some interference with her liberty, and made an escape at once. This, then, was the reason why she had asked me to stay and eat dinner alone; I was to cover up her tracks and secure her a night's delay. Thus, even to Adams, my tongue was tied as to her movements. I did not wish to seem to deceive him, so avoided the subject. In answer to him I asked:

"But tell me, old fellow, how and where do I come into your story? Why do you tell me this?" He answered very gra

vely:

"Because I want your help. This is, or rather may be, a very serious matter to Miss Drake. The whole business is entrusted by our government to my chief, who has detailed me on the service. It is of so delicate and secret a nature that I cannot make confidence with many people, and I am loth to trust any one but a gentleman. Besides Miss Drake is a very peculiar girl. She is absolutely independent, thoroughly determined, and more than plucky. If she knew there was a plot on foot, as likely as not she would try to encourage it out of mere recklessness; and would try to counterplot all by herself. Her enemies know this, and will avail themselves of every chance and of every false move of hers; so that she might help to work out herself the evil intended for her. This we cannot permit; and I am quite sure that you, who are a friend of hers, are at one with me here. Now, if you want to know exactly how you can help I will tell you; and you will, I am sure, pardon me if I say too much-or too little. If she were to know that the matter of her protection was a Government one, nothing on earth would make her yield herself to our views. But if it were suggested by a-a friend whom she-she valued, her action would probably be quite the opposite. She is a girl all heart and soul. When she is taken rightly you can lead her with a thread; but you can't drag her with gun-ropes. From what I saw yesterday, I am inclined to think that you might have more influence with her than any one else I could pick out."

I could not say anything to this, either positive or negative, so I remained silent. He went on:

"There is one other reason why I ask you to help, but it is secondary to the other one, believe me, and one I only use to fortify a better one. I ask you as an old friend to help me in a matter which, even if you are not concerned in it, may be of the utmost importance to me in my diplomatic career. This matter has been placed in my hands, and it would not do for me to fail. There is not much κυδο? to be got out of it if all be well-except with my immediate chiefs; but if I failed it would go far against me. If Marjory Drake should suffer from this Spanish plot, she who had, so to speak, fired the torch of the nation in the war, it would be formal, official ruin to me. There wouldn't be a man from Maine to California, from the Lakes to the Gulf, who wouldn't look on me as an imbecile, or worse!" Whilst he was speaking I was thinking, and trying to make up my mind as to what I should do. Manifestly, I could not tell him of the dawning relations between Marjory and myself. I was not yet prepared to speak of the Pope's treasure. I could not in honour give away Marjory's confidence in me in asking me to cover up her escape, or the implied promise of my acceptance of it. Still, Adams's confidence required some measure of frankness from me. His last appeal to me as an old friend to help him as an individual in an important work, which might mar if it could not make him, demanded that I should stretch every point I could in his favour. So I said:

"Sam, I shall do all I honestly or honourably can. But I must ask you to wait a while and trust me. The fact is I am not at liberty just at present to turn any way I choose. I am already committed to certain confidences, which were made before I saw you or had any knowledge of what you tell me. Moreover, I am in certain ways ignorant in matters that you would not expect. I shall at once take every step I can to be in a position to speak to you more freely. I am more deeply stirred, old fellow, by what you have told me than I can say; and out of the depths of my heart I am grateful to you and your Government for your care for Miss Anita-Miss Drake. I may say this, that until to-morrow at all events, I am unable to help you in any possible way. Were I to try to do anything till a certain thing happens, it would hinder rather than help your purpose. So wait patiently and do please try to understand me."

He replied with unwonted sarcasm:

"Try to understand you! Why man alive I've been trying whilst you were speaking, until my brain reels. But I'm blamed if I can make head or tail of what you say. You seem to be snarled up in more knots than a conjuror. What the hell does it all mean? You don't seem to be able to turn anywhere or do anything, even when the safety or the life of such a girl as Marjory Drake is in question. On my faith Mr. Hunter I hope I don't make any mistake about you!"

"Yes, you do, Sam!" I said quietly, for I could not but feel that he had good cause for disappointment or even anger. "At the first moment I am free to do so, I shall tell you all I can; and you shall then see that I am only doing what you would under similar circumstances do yourself. Won't you trust me, old friend!" He gazed at me steadily for a few seconds, and then his look softened.

"By God I will!" he said, as he held out his hand.

"Now tell me," I said "what can I do to keep in touch with you. I must go back to Cruden in the morning. It is necessary." This was in answer to his questioning look. "It is the first step in my doing as you wish." I knew that Marjory would send to me, if at all, to Cruden. "But tell me how or where I can wire you in case we are not within hail." For answer he pulled out of his pocket a bundle of "priority" telegrams addressed to the United States Embassy in London.

"Take them and use them as may be required. I am in constant touch with the Embassy and they will know where to find me. How will I find you?"

"Send to me care of Post-office, Cruden Bay," I said, "I shall keep you advised of wherever I may be." With that we said good night.

"I shall see you in the morning," he said as he went out.

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