But decidedly fortune was kind to him to-day: for, opening the creel, he found Sir Warwick's fly-book within it, bulging with hooks and flies by the score nay, by the hundred. He unbuckled the strap and was turning the leaves to make his choice, when his ear caught the sound of footsteps, and he lifted his eyes to see Sir John Crang coming down the road. "Hullo!" hailed Sir John.
"Are you a friend, sir, of the gentleman that was here just now?" "Sir John Crang?" Mr. Molesworth just managed to command his voice. "I don't know his name, sir. But he left his cigar-case behind. I found it on the settle five minutes after he had gone, and ran out to search for him. . . ." Mr. Molesworth opened the gate and held out a hand for the case. Yes: he recognised it.
Well, sir, for two days she'd been carryin' canvas that fairly smothered us, an' Cap'n Crang not a man to care how we fared forra'd, so long as the water didn' reach aft to his own quarters. But at last the First Lootenant, Mr. Wapshott, took pity on us, and the Cap'n bein' below, takin' his nap after dinner sends the crew o' the maintop aloft to take a reef in the tops'le. Poor Eli was one.
Regularly thrice a week he drove down in his phaeton to the small country station at the foot of his park, and caught the 10.27 up-train: regularly as the train started he lit the cigar which, carefully smoked, was regularly three-parts consumed by the time he crossed the M viaduct; and regularly, as he lit it, he was conscious of a faint feeling of resentment at the presence of Sir John Crang.
The three or four country-people on the sunny platform seemed to have their gaze drawn by the engine, and somebody ahead there was shouting. Sir John Crang, without a backward look, flung the door open and stepped out. Mr.
Whereby the notion came to me that, as he'd come from Botusfieming those bein' his last words back to Botusfleming he should go, an' on that we cooked up a plan. Bill Adams being on duty in the sick-bay, there wasn' no difficulty in sewin' up a dummy in Eli's place; an' the dummy, sir, nex' day we dooly committed to the deep, Cap'n Crang hisself readin' the service.
An' what's more, said he, 'I got the wind o' your little game, an'll do what I can to help it along; for I al'ays liked the deceased, an' in my opinion Captain Crang behaved most unfeelin'. You tell Bill to bring the body to me, an' there'll be no more trouble about it till I hand you over the cask at Plymouth. Well, sir, the man was as good as his word.
Whereby the men had scarcely reached the top afore Cap'n Crang comes up from his cabin an' along the deck, not troublin' to cast an eye aloft. Whereby he missed what was happenin'. Whereby he had just come abreast of the mainmast, when sock at his very feet there drops a man. 'Twas Eli, that had missed his hold, an' dropped somewhere on the back of his skull.
In place of the foreshore with its flat grey stones, his eye travelled down a steep green slope. The hissing sound continued in his ears, louder than ever, but it came with violent jets of steam from a locomotive, grotesquely overturned some twenty yards below him. Fainting, he saw and sank across the body of Sir John Crang, which lay with face upturned among the June grasses, staring at the sky.
'Hallo! says the Cap'n, 'an' where the devil might you come from? Eli heard it, poor fellow an' says he, as I lifted him, 'If you please, sir, from Botusfleming, three miles t'other side of Saltash. 'Then you've had a damn quick passage, answers Cap'n Crang, an' turns on his heel.