Page:In the Roar of the Sea.djvu/291

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283
IN THE ROAR OF THE SEA.

It was a question also whether proceedings could be taken relative to the exhibition of lights that had misguided the merchantman. The coast-guard had come on Mr. Menaida and Judith on the downs with a light, but he was conducting her to her new house, and there could be entertained against them no suspicion of having acted with evil intent.

"Do you know, father," said Oliver, after he was rested, had slept and fed, "I am pretty sure that the scoundrel who attacked me was Captain Coppinger. I cannot swear. It is many years now since I heard his voice, and when I did hear it, it was but very occasionally. What made me suspect at the time that I was struggling with Captain Cruel was that he had my head back over the gunwale and called for an axe, swearing that he would treat me like Wyvill. That story was new when I left home, and folk said that Coppinger had killed the man."

Mr. Menaida fidgeted.

"That was the man who was at the head of the entire gang. He it was who issued the orders which the rest obeyed; and he, moreover, was the man who required the passengers to deliver up their purses and valuables before he allowed them to enter the boat."

"Between ourselves," said Uncle Zachie, rubbing his chin and screwing up his mouth, "between you and me and the poker, I have no doubt about it, and I could bring his neck into the halter if I chose."

"Then why do you not, father? The ruffian would not have scrupled to hack off my head had an axe been handy, or had I waited till he had got hold of one."

Mr. Menaida shook his head.

"There are a deal of things that belong to all things," he said. "I was on the down with my little pet and idol, Judith, and we had the lantern, and it was that lantern that proved fatal to your vessel."

"What, father! We owe our wreck to you?"

"No, and yet it must be suffered to be so supposed, I must allow many hard words to be rapped out against me, my want of consideration, my scatterbrainedness. I admit that I am not a Solomon, but I should not be such an ass, such a criminal, as on a night like the last to walk over the downs above the cliffs with a lantern. Nevertheless I cannot clear myself."

"Why not?"