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Beasts and Super-Beasts

The Treasure Ship
THE great galleon lay in semi-retirement under the sand and weed and water of the
northern bay where the fortune of war and weather had long ago ensconced it. Three and
a quarter centuries had passed since the day when it had taken the high seas as an
important unit of a fighting squadron - precisely which squadron the learned were not
agreed. The galleon had brought nothing into the world, but it had, according to tradition
and report, taken much out of it. But how much? There again the learned were in
disagreement. Some were as generous in their estimate as an income-tax assessor, others
applied a species of higher criticism to the submerged treasure chests, and debased their
contents to the currency of goblin gold. Of the former school was Lulu, Duchess of
Dulverton.
The Duchess was not only a believer in the existence of a sunken treasure of alluring
proportions; she also believed that she knew of a method by which the said treasure
might be precisely located and cheaply disembedded. An aunt on her mother's side of the
family had been Maid of Honour at the Court of Monaco, and had taken a respectful
interest in the deep-sea researches in which the Throne of that country, impatient perhaps
of its terrestrial restrictions, was wont to immerse itself. It was through the
instrumentality of this relative that the Duchess learned of an invention, perfected and
very nearly patented by a Monegaskan savant, by means of which the home-life of the
Mediterranean sardine might be studied at a depth of many fathoms in a cold white light
of more than ball-room brilliancy. Implicated in this invention (and, in the Duchess's
eyes, the most attractive part of it) was an electric suction dredge, specially designed for
dragging to the surface such objects of interest and value as might be found in the more
accessible levels of the ocean-bed. The rights of the invention were to be acquired for a
matter of eighteen hundred francs, and the apparatus for a few thousand more. The
Duchess of Dulverton was rich, as the world counted wealth; she nursed the hope, of
being one day rich at her own computation. Companies had been formed and efforts had
been made again and again during the course of three centuries to probe for the alleged
treasures of the interesting galleon; with the aid of this invention she considered that she
might go to work on the wreck privately and independently. After all, one of her
ancestors on her mother's side was descended from Medina Sidonia, so she was of
opinion that she had as much right to the treasure as anyone. She acquired the invention
and bought the apparatus.
Among other family ties and encumbrances, Lulu possessed a nephew, Vasco Honiton, a
young gentleman who was blessed with a small income and a large circle of relatives, and
lived impartially and precariously on both. The name Vasco had been given him possibly
in the hope that he might live up to its adventurous tradition, but he limited himself
strictly to the home industry of adventurer, preferring to exploit the assured rather than to
explore the unknown. Lulu's intercourse with him had been restricted of recent years to
the negative processes of being out of town when he called on her, and short of money
when he wrote to her. Now, however, she bethought herself of his eminent suitability for
the direction of a treasure-seeking experiment; if anyone could extract gold from an
 
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