The Tickencote Treasure(1903)
Being the Story of a Silent Man, a Sealed Script And a Singular Secret
A novel by William le Queux
If you are fond of a mystery I believe you will ponder over this curious narrative just as I have pondered. Certain persons, having heard rumours of the strange adventures that once happened to me, have asked me to write them down in detail, so that they may be printed and given to the world in their proper sequence. Therefore, in obedience, and in order to set at rest for ever certain wild and unfounded reports which crept into the papers at the time, I do so without fear or favour, seeking to conceal no single thing, but merely to relate what I actually saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. I read somewhere the other day the sweeping statement, written probably by one of our superior young gentlemen just down from Oxford, that Romance is dead. This allegation, however, I make so bold as to challenge-first, because in my own humble capacity I have actually been the unwilling actor in one of the most remarkable romances of modern times; and, secondly, because I believe with that sage old chronicler, Richard of Cirencester, that the man whose soul is filled with Greek has a heart of leather. Fortunately I can lay claim to neither. Apart from my association with the present chain of curious events I am but an ordinary man, whose name is Paul Pickering, whose age is thirty-two, and whose profession at the time the romance befell me was the very prosaic one of a doctor without regular practice. You will therefore quickly discern that I was not overburdened either by fame, fortune, or fashionable foibles, and further that, as locum tenens for country doctors in ill-health or on holiday, I advertised regularly in the Lancet, and was glad enough to accept the fee of three guineas weekly. Hard work in a big practice at Stepney and Poplar had resulted in a bad touch of influenza with its attendant debility; therefore, when one of my patients, a sun-tanned old salt named Seal, suggested that I should go a trip with him up the Mediterranean, I hailed the idea with delight. Job Seal was quite a chance patient. He called one evening at the surgery in Commercial Road East, where I was acting as locumfor a doctor named Bidwell, and consulted me about his rheumatism. A big, deep-chested, thick-set man, with grey hair, reddish uncut beard, big hands, shaggy brows, and a furrowed face browned by sea and sun; he spoke in a deep bass, interlarding his conversation with nautical expressions which were, to me, mostly unintelligible. The liniment I gave him apparently suited his ailment, for he came again and again, until one evening he called and declared that I had effected a cure as marvellous as that of Sequah. "My boat, the Thrush, is layin' at Fresh Wharf, and I sail on Saturday for Cardiff, where we take in coal for Leghorn. Now, if you ain't got anything better to do, doctor, don't you sign on why as steward at a bob a day, and come with me for the round trip?" he suggested. "You told me the other night that you're bein' paid off from here on Saturday. My boat ain't exactly a liner, you know, but I daresay you could shake down comfortable like, and as the trip'll take a couple o' months, you'd see most of the ports up to Smyrna. Besides, this is just the right time o' year for a blow. It 'ud do you good." The suggestion certainly appealed to me. I had never been afloat farther than Ramsgate by the Marguerite, and for years had longed to go abroad and see those wonderful paradises of the Sunny South of which, like other people, I had witnessed highly-coloured dissolving views. Therefore I accepted the bluff old captain's hospitality, signed the ship's papers in a back office off Leadenhall Street, and on Saturday evening boarded as black, grimy, and forbidding a craft as ever dropped down the Thames.
Used availability for William le Queux's The Tickencote Treasure
November 2018 : UK Paperback
October 2018 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition