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´╗┐Title: Our Pirate Hoard - 1891
Author: Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone), 1849-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Pirate Hoard - 1891" ***

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OUR PIRATE HOARD.

By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers



I

My great-great-great-uncle was one of the many sturdy, honest,
high-spirited men to whom the early years of the last century gave
birth. He was a brave man and a ready fighter, yet was he ever
controlled in his actions by so nice a regard for the feelings of
others, and through the strong fibre of his hardy nature ran a strain
of such almost womanly gentleness and tenderness, that throughout
the rather exceptionally wide circle of his acquaintance he was very
generally beloved.

By profession he was a pirate, and although it is not becoming in me,
perhaps, to speak boastingly of a blood-relation, I would be doing his
memory injustice did I not add that he was one of the ablest and most
successful pirates of his time. His usual cruising-ground was between
the capes of the Chesapeake and the lower end of Long Island; yet now
and then, as opportunity offered, he would take a run to the New England
coast, and in winter he frequently would drop down to the s'uthard and
do a good stroke of business off the Spanish Main. His home station,
however, was the Delaware coast, and his family lived in Lewes, being
quite the upper crust of Lewes society as it then was constituted. When
his schooner, the _Martha Ann_, was off duty, she usually was harbored
in Rehoboth Bay. That was a pretty good harbor for pirate schooners in
those days.

My great-great-great-uncle threw himself into his profession in the
hearty fashion that was to be expected from a man of his sincere,
earnest character. He toiled early and late at sea, and on shore he
regulated the affairs of his family so that his expenses should be well
within his large though somewhat fluctuating income; and the result of
his prudence in affairs was that he saved the greater portion of what he
earned. The people of Lewes respected him greatly, and the boys of
the town were bidden to emulate his steady business ways and habit of
thrift. He was, too, a man of public spirit. At his own cost and charge
he renewed the town pump; and he presented the church--he was a very
regular churchgoer when on shore--with a large bell of singularly sweet
tone that had come into his possession after a casual encounter with a
Cuban-bound galleon off the Bahama Banks.

And yet when at last my great-great-great-uncle, in the fulness of his
years and virtues, was gathered to his fathers, and the sweet-toned
Spanish bell tolled his requiem, everybody was very much surprised to
find that of the fine fortune accumulated during his successful business
career nothing worth speaking of could be found. The house that he owned
in Lewes, the handsome furniture that it contained, and a sea-chest in
which were some odds and ends of silverware (of a Spanish make) and some
few pieces-of-eight and doubloons, constituted the whole of his visible
wealth.

For my great-great-great-aunt, with a family of five sons and seven
daughters (including three sets of twins) all under eleven years of age,
the outlook was a sorry one. She was puzzled, too, to think what had
gone with the great fortune which certainly had existed, and so was
everybody else. The explanation that finally was adopted was that my
great-great-great-uncle, in accordance with well established pirate
usage, had buried his treasure somewhere, and had taken the secret of
its burial-place with him to another and a better world. Probability was
given to this conjecture by the fact that he had died in something of a
hurry. He had been brought ashore by his men after an unexpected (and
by him uninvited) encounter with a King's ship off the capes of the
Delaware. One of his legs was shot off, and his head was pretty well
laid open by a desperate cutlass slash. He already was in a raging
fever, and although the best medical advice in Lewes was procured, he
died that very night. As he lay dying his talk was wild and incoherent;
but at the very last, as my great-great-great-aunt well remembered,
he suddenly grew calm, straightened himself in the bed, and said, with
great earnestness: "Sheer up the plank midway--"

That was all. He did not live to finish the sentence. At the moment,
my great-great-great-aunt believed the words to be nothing more than a
delirious use of a professional phrase; and this belief received color
from the fact that a little before, in his feverish fancy, he had been
capturing a Spanish galleon, and had got about to the part of the affair
where the sheering up of a plank midway between the main and mizzen
masts, for the accommodation of the Spaniards in leaving their vessel,
would be appropriate. Thinking the matter over calmly afterwards, and in
the light of subsequent events, she came to the conclusion that he was
trying to tell her how and where his treasure was hid. Acting upon this
belief, she sheered up all the planks about the house that seemed at all
promising. She even had the cellar dug up and the well dragged. But not
a scrap of the treasure did she ever find.

And the worst part of it was, that from that time onward our family
had no luck at all. Excepting my elderly cousin, Gregory Wilkinson--who
inherited a snug little fortune from his mother, and expanded it into
a very considerable fortune by building up a large manufacture of
carpet-slippers for the export trade--the rule in my family has been a
respectable poverty that has just bordered upon actual want. But all the
generations since my great-great-great-uncle's time have been cheered,
as poverty-stricken people naturally would be cheered, by the knowledge
that the pirate hoard was in existence; and by the hope that some day it
would be found, and would make them all enormously rich at a jump.
From the moment when I first heard of the treasure, as a little boy, I
believed in it thoroughly; and I also believed that I was the member of
the family destined to discover it.



II.

I was glad to find, when I married Susan, that she believed in my
destiny too. After talking the matter over quite seriously, we decided
that the best thing for us to do was to go and live either in or near
Lewes, so that my opportunities for investigation might be ample. I
think, too, that Susan was pleased with the prospect of having a nice
little house of our own, with a cow and peach-trees and chickens,
where we could be very happy together. Moreover, she had notions about
house-keeping, especially about house-keeping in the country, which she
wanted to put into practice.

We found a confirmation of my destiny in the ease with which the
preliminaries of my search were accomplished. The house that we wanted
seemed to be there just waiting for us--a little bit of a house, well
out in the country, with a couple of acres of land around it, the
peach-trees really growing, and a shed that the man said would hold a
cow nicely. What I think pleased Susan most of all was a swallow's nest
under the eaves, with the mother swallow sitting upon a brood of dear
little swallows, and the father swallow flying around chippering like
anything.

"Just think of it!" said the dear child; "it is like living in a feudal
castle, and having kestrels building their nests on the battlements."

I did not check her sweet enthusiasm by asking her to name some
particular feudal castle with a frieze of kestrels' nests. I kissed her,
and said that it was very like indeed.

Then we examined the cow-stable--we thought it better to call it a
cow-stable than a shed--and I pulled out my foot-rule and measured it
inside. It was a very little cow-stable, but, as Susan suggested, if
we could not get a small grown-up cow to fit it, "we might begin with a
young cow, and teach her, as she grew larger, to accommodate herself to
her quarters by standing cat-a-cornered, like the man who used to carry
oxen up a mountain." Susan's allusions are not always very clearly
stated, though her meaning, no doubt, always is quite clear in her own
mind. I may mention here that eventually we were so fortunate as to
obtain a middle-sized cow that got along in the stable very well. We
had a tidy colored girl who did the cooking and the rough part of the
house-work, and who could milk like a steam-engine.

As soon as we got fairly settled in our little home I began to look for
my great-great-great-uncle's buried treasure, but I cannot say that
at first I made much progress. I could not even find a trace of my
great-great-great-uncle's house in Lewes, and nobody seemed ever to have
heard of him. One day, though, I was so fortunate as to encounter a very
old man--known generally about Lewes as Old Jacob--who did remember "the
old pirate," as he irreverently called him, and who showed me where his
house had been. The house had burned down when he was a boy--seventy
years back, he thought it was--and across where it once had stood a
street had been opened. This put a stop to my search in that direction.
As Susan very justly observed, I could not reasonably expect the Lewes
people to let me dig up their streets like a gas-piper just on the
chance of finding my family fortune.

I was not very much depressed by this turn of events, for I was pretty
certain in my own mind that my great-great-great-uncle had not buried
his treasure on his own premises. The basis of this belief was
the difficulty--that must have been even greater in his time--of
transporting such heavy substances as gold and silver across the sandy
region between Lewes and where the _Martha Ann_ used to lie at anchor
in Rehoboth Bay. I reasoned that, the burial being but temporary, my
relative would have been much more likely to have interred his valuables
at some point on the land only a short distance from the _Martha Ann's_
anchorage. When I mentioned this theory to Susan she seemed to be very
much impressed by the common-sense of it, and as I have a great respect
for Susan's judgment, her acquiescence in my views strengthened my own
faith in them.

To pursue my search in the neighborhood of Rehoboth Bay it was necessary
that I should have the assistance of some person thoroughly familiar
with the coast thereabouts. After thinking the matter over I decided
that I could not do better than take Old Jacob into my confidence. So I
got the old man out to the Swallow's Nest--that was the name that Susan
had given our country place: only by the time that she had settled upon
it the little swallows had grown up and the whole swallow family had
gone away--under pretence of seeing if the cow was all right (Old Jacob
was a first-rate hand at cow doctoring), and while he was looking at the
cow I told him all about the buried treasure, and how I wanted him
to help me find it. When I put it in his head this way he remembered
perfectly the story that used to be told about the old pirate's
mysteriously lost fortune, and he entered with a good deal of spirit
into my project for getting it again. Of course I told him that if we
did find it he should have a good slice of it for helping me. I told
Susan that I had made this promise, and she said that I had done exactly
right. So, after we had given him a good supper, Old Jacob went back to
Lewes, promising that early the next week, after he had got through a
job of boat-painting which he had on hand, he would go over with me, and
we would begin operations on the bay. He seemed to think the case very
promising. He said that when he was only a tot of a boy his father had
pointed out to him the _Martha Ann's_ anchorage, and that he thought he
could tell to within a cable's length of where the schooner used to
lie. I did not know how long a cable was, but from the tone in which
Old Jacob spoke of it I judged that it must be short. I felt very well
pleased with the progress that I was making, and when I told Susan all
that Old Jacob had told me, she said that she looked upon the whole
matter as being as good as settled. Indeed, she kept me awake quite
a while that night while she sketched the outlines of the
journey in Europe that we would take as soon as I could get my
great-great-great-uncle's treasure dug up, and its non-interest-bearing
doubloons converted into interest-bearing bonds.



III.

The day after I had this talk with Old Jacob I was rather surprised by
getting a telegram from my cousin Gregory Wilkinson, telling me that he
was coming down to pay us a visit, and would be there that afternoon. I
was not as much astonished as I would have been if the telegram had come
from anybody else, because Gregory Wilkinson had a way of telegraphing
that he was going to do things which nobody expected him to do, and I
was used to it. Moreover, I had every reason for desiring to maintain
very friendly relations with him. He had told me several times that he
had made a will by which his large fortune was to be divided between
me and a certain Asylum for the Relief and Education of Destitute Red
Indian Children that he was very much interested in; and he had more
than hinted that the asylum was not the legatee that was the more to be
envied. This made me feel quite comfortable about the remote future, but
it did not simplify the problem of living comfortably in the immediate
present. My cousin was a very tough, wiry little man, barely turned of
fifty. There was any quantity of life left in him--his father, who had
been just such another, had lived till he was eighty-nine. There was not
much of a chance, therefore, that either the asylum or I would receive
anything from his estate for ever so long--and I may add I was very
glad, for my part, that things were that way. Gregory Wilkinson was a
first-rate fellow, for all his queerness and sudden ways, and I should
have been sorry enough to have been his chief heir. One reason why I
liked him so much was because he was so fond of Susan. When we were
married--although he had not seen her then--he sent her forks, and he
had lived up to those forks ever since.

Susan was rather flustered when I showed her the telegram; but she went
to work with a will, and got the little spare room in order, and stewed
some peaches and made some biscuits for supper. Susan's biscuits were
something extraordinary. Gregory Wilkinson came all right, and after
supper--he said that it was the nicest supper he had eaten in a long
while--she did the honors of the Swallow's Nest in the pretty way that
is her especial peculiarity. She showed him the cow-stable, with the cow
in it, and the colored girl milking away in her usual vigorous fashion,
the chickens, the garden, the peach-trees, and the nest under the eaves
where the swallows had lived when we first came there. Then, as it grew
dark, we sat on the little veranda while we smoked our cigars--that is,
Gregory Wilkinson and I smoked: all that Susan did was to try to poke
her finger through the rings which I blew towards her--and I told why we
had come down there, and what a good start we had made towards finding
my great-great-great-uncle's buried money. And when I had got through,
Susan told how, as soon as I had found it, we were going to Europe.

We neither of us thought that Gregory Wilkinson manifested as much
enthusiasm in the matter as the circumstances of the case demanded; but
then, as Susan pointed out to me, in her usual clear-headed way, it was
not reasonable to expect a man with a fortune to be as eager to get one
as a man without one would be.

"Very likely he'll give us his share for finding it," said Susan; "he
don't want it himself, and it would be dreadful to turn the heads of all
those destitute red Indian children by leaving it to them."

I should have mentioned earlier that, so far as we knew, my cousin and I
were my great-great-great-uncle's only surviving heirs. The family
luck had not held out any especially strong temptations in the way of
pleasant things to live for, and so the family gradually had died off.
Whatever my search should bring to light, therefore, would be divided
between us two.

By the time that Old Jacob got through with his boat-painting, Gregory
Wilkinson had gathered a sufficient interest in our money-digging to
volunteer to go along with us to the bay. We had a two-seated wagon,
and I took with me several things which I thought might be useful in
an expedition of this nature--two spades, a pickaxe, a crow-bar, a
measuring tape that belonged to Susan, an axe, and a lantern (for, as
Susan very truly said, we might have to do some of our digging after
dark). I took also a pulley and a coil of rope, in case the box of
treasure should prove so heavy that we could not otherwise pull it out
from the hole. Old Jacob knew all about rigging tackle, and said that
we could cut a pair of sheer-poles in the woods. We were very much
encouraged by the confident way in which Old Jacob talked about cutting
sheer-poles; it sounded wonderfully business-like. Susan, of course, was
very desirous of going along, and I very much wanted to take her. But
as we intended to stay all night, in case we did not find the treasure
during our first day's search, and as the only place where we could
sleep was an oysterman's shanty that Old Jacob knew about, she saw
herself that it would not do. So she made the best of staying at home,
in her usual cheery fashion, and promised, as we drove off, to have a
famous supper ready for us the next night--when we would come home with
our wagon-load of silver and gold.

It was a long, hot, dusty drive, and the mosquitoes were pretty bad
as we drew near the coast. But we were cheered by the thought of
the fortune that was so nearly ours, and we smoked our pipes at the
mosquitoes in a way that astonished them. After we had taken out the
horses and had eaten our dinner (Susan had put us up a great basket of
provisions, with two of her own delicious peach pies on top) we walked
down to the bay-side, with Old Jacob leading, to look for the place
where the _Martha Ann_ used to anchor. I took the tape-measure along,
both because it might be useful, and because it made me think of Susan.

I was sorry to find that the clearer the lay of the land and water
became, the more indistinct grew Old Jacob's remembrance of where his
father had told him that the schooner used to lie.

"It mought hev ben about here," he said, pointing across to a little bay
some way off on our left; "an' agin it mought hev ben about thar," with
a wave of his hand towards a low point of land nearly half a mile off
on our right; "an' agin it mought hev ben sorter atwixt an' at ween 'em.
Here or hereabouts, thet's w'at I say; here or hereabouts, sure."

Now this was perplexing. My plan, based upon Old Jacob's assurance that
he could locate the anchorage precisely, was to hunt near the shore for
likely-looking places and dig them up, one after another, until we
found the treasure. But to dig up all the places where treasure might be
buried along a whole mile of coast was not to be thought of. We implored
Old Jacob to brush up his memory, to look attentively at the shape of
the coast, and to try to fix definitely the spot off which the schooner
had lain. But the more that he tried, the more confusing did his
statements become. Just as he would settle positively--after much
thinking and much looking at the sun and the coast line--on a particular
spot, doubts would arise in his mind as to the correctness of his
location; and these doubts presently would resolve themselves into
the certainty that he was all wrong. Then the process of thinking and
looking would begin all over again, only again to come to the same
disheartening end. The short and long of the matter was that we spent
all that day and a good part of the next in wandering along the bay-side
in Old Jacob's wake, while he made and unmade his locations at the
rate of about three an hour. At last I looked at Gregory Wilkinson and
Gregory Wilkinson looked at me, and we both nodded. Then we told Old
Jacob that we guessed we'd better hitch up the horses and drive home. It
made us pretty dismal, after all our hopes, to hitch up the horses and
drive home that way.

My heart ached when I saw Susan leaning over the front gate watching for
us as we drove up the road. The wind was setting down towards us, and I
could smell the coffee that she had put on the fire to boil as soon as
she caught sight of us--Susan made coffee splendidly--and I knew that
she had kept her promise, and had ready the feast that was to celebrate
our success; and that made it all the dismaller that we hadn't any
success to celebrate.

When I told her how badly the expedition had turned out she came very
near crying; but she gave a sort of gulp, and then laughed instead, and
did what she could to make things pleasant for us. We had our feast, but
notwithstanding Susan's effort to be cheerful, it was about as dreary a
feast as I ever had anything to do with. We brought Old Jacob in and let
him feast with us; and he, to do him justice, was not dreary at all.
He seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Indeed, the most trying part of that
sorrowful supper-party was the way in which Old Jacob recovered his
spirits and declared at short intervals that his memory now was
all right again. He even went so far as to say that with his eyes
blindfolded and in the dark he could lead us to the precise spot off
which the schooner used to lie.

Susan was disposed to regard these assertions hopefully; but we, who
had been fumbling about with him for two days, well understood their
baselessness. It was not Old Jacob's fault, of course, but his defective
memory certainly was dreadfully provoking. Here was an enormous fortune
slipping through our lingers just because this old man could not
remember a little matter about where a schooner had been anchored.

After he had eaten all the supper that he could hold--which was a good
deal--and had gone home, we told Susan the whole dismal story of how our
expedition had proved to be a total failure. It was best, we thought,
not to mince matters with her; and we stated minutely how time after
time the anchorage of the schooner had been precisely located, and then
in a little while had been unlocated again. She saw, as we did, that as
a clew Old Jacob was not much of a success, and also that he was about
the only thing in the least like a clew that we possessed. Realizing
this latter fact, and knowing that his great age made his death probable
at any moment, Susan strongly advised me, in her clear-sighted way, to
have him photographed.



IV.

Gregory Wilkinson seemed to find himself quite comfortable in our little
home, and settled down there into a sort of permanency. We were glad to
have him stay with us, for he was a first-rate fellow, and always good
company in his pleasant, quiet way, and he told us two or three times
that he was enjoying himself. He told me a great many more than two or
three times that he considered Susan to be a wonderfully fine woman;
indeed, he told me this at least once every day, and sometimes oftener.
He was greatly struck--just as everybody is who lives for any length
of time in the same house with Susan--by her capable ways, and by her
unfailing equanimity and sweetness of temper. Even when the colored girl
fell down the well, carrying the rope and the bucket along with her,
Susan was not a bit flustered. She told me just where I would find the
clothes-line and a big meat-hook; and when, with this hastily-improvised
apparatus, we had fished the colored girl up and got her safely on
dry land again, she knew exactly what to do to make her all right and
comfortable. As Gregory Wilkinson observed to me, after it was all over,
from the way that Susan behaved, any one might have thought that hooking
colored girls up out of wells was her regular business.

As to making Susan angry, that simply was impossible. When things went
desperately wrong with her in any way she would just come right to me
and cry a little on my shoulder. Then, when I had comforted her, she
would chipper up and be all right again in no time. Gregory Wilkinson
happened to come in one day while a performance of this sort was going
on, and for fear that he should think it odd Susan explained to him that
it was a habit of hers when things very much worried her and she felt
like being ugly to people. (The trouble that day was that the colored
girl, who had a wonderful faculty for stirring up tribulation, had
broken an India china teacup that had belonged to Susan's grandmother,
and that Susan had thought the world of.) That evening, while we were
sitting on the veranda smoking, and before Susan, who was helping clear
the supper-table, had joined us, Gregory Wilkinson said to me, with
oven, more emphasis than usual, that Susan was the finest woman he had
ever known; and he added that he was very sorry that when he was my ago
he had not met and married just such another.

He and I talked a good deal at odd times about the money that our
great-great-great-uncle the pirate had buried, and that through all
these years had stayed buried so persistently. He did not take much
interest in the matter personally, but for my sake, and still more for
Susan's sake, he was beginning to be quite anxious that the money should
be found. He even suggested that we should take Old Jacob over to the
bay-side and let him try again to find the _Martha Ann's_ anchorage; but
a little talk convinced us that this would be useless. The old man had
been given every opportunity, during the two days that we had cruised
about with him, to refresh his memory; and we both had been the pained
witnesses of the curious psychological fact that the more he refreshed
it, the more utterly unmanageable it had become. The prospect, we
agreed, was a disheartening one, for it was quite evident that for our
purposes Old Jacob was, as it were, but an elderly, broken reed.

About this time I noticed that Gregory Wilkinson was unusually silent,
and seemed to be thinking a great deal about something. At first we
were afraid that he was not quite well, and Susan offered him both her
prepared mustard plasters and her headache powders. But he said that he
was all right, though he was very much obliged to her. Still, he kept
on thinking, and he was so silent and preoccupied that Susan and I
were very uncomfortable. To have him around that way, and to be always
wondering what he could possibly be thinking about, Susan said, made her
feel as though she were trying to eavesdrop when nobody was talking.

One afternoon while we were sitting on the veranda--Susan and I trying
to keep up some sort of a conversation, and Gregory Wilkinson thinking
away as hard as ever he could think--a thin man in a buggy drove down
the road and stopped at our hitch-ing-post. When he had hitched his
horse he took out from the after-part of the buggy a largo tin vessel
standing on light iron legs, and came up to the house with it. He made
us all a sort of comprehensive bow, but stopped in front of Susan, set
the tin vessel upon its legs, and said:

"Madam, you behold before you the most economical device and the
greatest labor-saving invention of this extraordinarily devicious and
richly inventive age. This article, madam"--and he placed his hand
upon the tin vessel affectionately--"is Stowe's patent combination
interchangeable churn and wash-boiler."

Susan did not say anything; she simply shuddered.

"As at present arranged, madam," the man went on, "it is a churn.
Standing thus upon these light yet firm legs" (the thing wobbled
outrageously), "with this serviceable handle projecting from the top,
and communicating with an exceptionally effective churning apparatus
within, it is beyond all doubt the very best churn, as well as the
cheapest, now offered on the American market. But observe, madam, that
as a wash-boiler it is not less excellent. By the simple process of
removing the handle, taking out the dasher, and unshipping the legs--the
work, as you perceive, of but a moment--the process of transformation
is complete. As to the trifling orifice that the removal of the handle
leaves in the lid, it becomes, when the wash-boiler side of this
Protean vessel is uppermost, a positive benefit. It is an effective
safety-valve. Without it, I am not prepared to say that the boiler would
not burst, scattering around it the scalded, mangled remains of your
washer-woman and utterly ruining your week's wash.

"And mark, madam, mark most of all, the economy of this invention. I
need not say to you, a housekeeper of knowledge and experience,
that churning-day and wash-day stand separate and distinct upon your
household calendar. Under no circumstances is it conceivable that the
churn and the wash-boiler shall be required for use upon the same day.
Clearly the use of the one presupposes and compels the neglect of the
other. Then why cumber your house with these two articles, equally large
and equally unwieldly, when, by means of the beautiful invention that
I have the honor of presenting to your notice, the two in one can be
united, and money and house-room alike can be saved? I trust, madam, I
believe, that I have said enough to convince you that my article is all
that fancy can paint or bright hope inspire; that in every household
made glad by its presence it will be regarded always and forever as a
heaven-given boon!" Suddenly dropping his rhetorical tone and coming
down to the tone of business, the man went on: "You'll buy one, won't
you? The price--"

The change of tone seemed to arouse Susan from the spellbound condition
in which she had remained during this extraordinary harangue.

"O-o-o-oh!" she said, shudderingly, "do take the horrid, horrid thing
right away!" Then she fled into the house.

I was very angry at the man for disturbing Susan in this way, and I told
him so pretty plainly; and I also told him to get out. At this juncture,
to my astonishment, Gregory Wilkinson interposed by asking what the
thing was worth; and when the man said five dollars, he said that he
would buy it. The man had manifested a disposition to be ugly while
I was giving him his talking to, but when he found that he had made a
sale, after all, he grew civil again. As he went off he expressed the
hope that the lady would be all right presently, and the conviction
that she would find the combination churn and wash-boiler a household
blessing that probably would add ten years to her life.

"What on earth did you buy that for?" I asked, when the man had gone.

"Oh, I don't know. It seems to be a pretty good wash-boiler, anyway.
I heard your wife say the other day that she wanted a wash-boiler. She
needn't use it as a churn if she don't want to, you know."

"But my wife never will tolerate that disgusting thing, with its horrid
suggestiveness of worse than Irish uncleanliness, about the house," I
went on, rather hotly. "I really must beg of you to send it away."

"All right," he answered. "I'll _take_ it away. I'm going to New York
to-morrow, and I'll take it along."

"And what ever will you do with it in New York?" I asked.

"Well, I can't say positively yet, but I guess I'll send it out to the
asylum. They'd be glad to get it there, I don't doubt--not as a churn,
you know, but for wash-boiling."

Then he went on to tell me that one of the things that he especially
wanted done at the asylum with his legacy was the construction of a
steam-laundry, with a thing in the middle that went round and round, and
dried the clothes by centrifugal pressure. He explained that the asylum
was only just starting as an asylum, and was provided not only with
very few destitute red Indian children, but also with very few of the
appliances which an institution of that sort requires, and that was
the reason why he had selected it, in preference to many other very
deserving charities, to leave his money to.

I must say that I was glad to hear him talking in this strain, for his
sudden announcement of his intended departure for New York, just after
I had spoken so warmly to him, made me fear that I had offended him. But
it was clear that I hadn't, and that his going off in this unexpected
fashion did not mean anything. He always did have a fancy for doing
things suddenly.

Susan was worried about it, in just the same way, when I told her; but
she ended by agreeing with me that he was not in the least offended at
anything. Indeed, that evening we both were very much pleased to notice
what good spirits he was in. His preoccupied manner was entirely gone,
and, for him, he was positively lively. Evidently, whatever the thing
was that he had been thinking about so hard, he had settled it in a way
that satisfied him.

Just as we were going to bed he told me, in what struck me at the time
as rather an odd tone, that he was under the impression that he had
somewhere a chest full of old family papers, and that possibly among
these papers there might be something that would tell me how to find the
fortune that Susan and I certainly deserved to have. As he said this
he laughed in a queer sort of way, and then he looked at Susan very
affectionately, and then he took each of us by the hand.

"Oh!" said Susan, rapturously (when Susan is excited she always begins
what she has to say with an "Oh!" I like it). "To think of finding a
piece of old yellow parchment with a quite undecipherable cryptogram
written on it in invisible ink telling us just where we ought to dig!
How perfectly lovely! Why _didn't_ you think of it sooner?"

"Because I have been neither more nor less than a blind old fool.
And--and I have to thank you, my dear," he continued, still speaking in
the queer tone, "for having effectually opened my eyes." As he made this
self-derogatory and quite incomprehensible statement he turned to Susan,
kissed her in a great hurry, shook our hands warmly, said goodnight, and
trotted off up-stairs to his room. His conduct was very extraordinary.
But then, as I have already mentioned, Gregory Wilkinson had a way of
always doing just the things which nobody expected him to do.

He had settled back into his ordinary manner by morning; at least he was
not much queerer than usual, and bade us good-bye cheerily at the Lewes
railway station. I had hired a light wagon and had driven him over in
time for the early train, bringing Susan along, so that she might see
the last of him. What with all three of us, his trunk and valise, and
the churn-wash-boiler, we had a wagon-load.

Susan was horrified at the thought of his giving the churn-wash-boiler
to the asylum. "Even if they only are allowed to use it as a
wash-boiler," she argued, earnestly, "think what dreadful ideas of
untidiness it will put into those destitute red Indian children's
heads!--ideas," she went on, "which will only tend to make them disgrace
instead of doing credit to the position of easy affluence to which your
legacy will lift them when they return to their barbaric wilds. If
you _must_ give it to them, at least conceal from them--I beg of you,
conceal from them--the fatal fact that it ever was meant to be a churn
too."

Gregory Wilkinson promised Susan that he would conceal this fact from
the destitute red Indian children; and then the train started, and he
and the churn-wash-boiler were whisked away. We really were very sorry
to part with him.



V.

Two or three days later I happened to meet Old Jacob as I was coming
away from the post-office in Lewes, and I was both pained and surprised
to perceive that the old man was partially intoxicated. When he caught
sight of me he came at me with such a lurch that had I not caught him
by the arm he certainly would have fallen to the ground. At first he
resented this friendly act on my part, but in a moment he forgot his
anger and insisted upon shaking hands with me with most energetic
warmth. Then he swayed his lips up to my ear, and asked in a hoarse
whisper if that old cousin chap of mine had got home safely the night
before; and wanted to know, with a most mysterious wink, if things was
all right _now_.

I was grieved at finding Old Jacob in this unseemly condition, and I
also was ruffled by his very rude reference to my cousin. I endeavored
to disengage my hand from his, and replied with some dignity that Mr.
Wilkinson at present was in New York, whither he had returned several
days previously. But Old Jacob declined to relinquish my hand, and,
with more mysterious winks, declared in a muzzy voice that I might trust
_him_, and that I needn't say that my cousin was in New York, when he
and him had been a-ridin' around together to the bay and back ag'in only
the day before. And then he went off into a rambling account of this
expedition, which in its main features resembled the expedition that
we all three had taken together, but which displayed certain curious
details as it advanced that I could not at all account for. By all odds
the most curious of these details was that they had taken along with
them a large tin vessel, Old Jacob's description of which tallied
strangely closely with that of the churn-wash-boiler, and that they had
left it behind them when they returned. But as he mixed this up with
a lot of stuff about having shown my cousin the course of an old creek
that a storm had filled with sand fifty years and more before, I could
not make head nor tail of it.

Yet somehow there really did seem to be more than mere drunken fancy in
what he was telling me; for in spite of his muzzy way of telling it, his
story had about it a curious air of truth; and yet it all was so utterly
preposterous that belief in it was quite out of the question. To
make matters worse, when I begged the old man to try to remember very
carefully whether or not he really had made a second trip to the bay,
or only was telling me about the trip that the three of us had made
together, he suddenly got very angry, and said that he supposed I
thought he was drunk, and if anybody was drunk I was, and he'd fight me
for five cents any time. And then he began to shake his old fists at
me, and to go on in such a boisterous way that, in order to avoid a very
unpleasant scene upon the public streets, I had to leave him and come
home.

When I told Susan the queer story that Old Jacob bad told me she was
as much perplexed and disturbed by it as I was. To think of Gregory
Wilkinson driving around the lower part of the State of Delaware in this
secret sort of way, in company with Old Jacob and the churn-wash-boiler,
as she very truly said, was like a horrible dream; and she asked me to
pinch her to make sure that it wasn't.

"But even pinching me don't prove anything," she said, when I had
performed that office for her. "For--don't you see?--I might dream that
I was dreaming, and asked you to pinch me, and that you did it; and I
suppose," she went on, meditatively, "that I might even dream that I
woke up when you pinched me, and yet that I might be sound asleep all
the while. It really is dreadfully confusing, when you come to think
of it, this way in which you can have dreams inside of each other, like
little Chinese boxes, and never truly know whether you're asleep or
awake. I don't like it at all."

Without meaning to, Susan frequently talks quite in the manner of a
German metaphysician.

The next day we received a letter from Gregory Wilkinson that we hoped,
as we opened it, would clear up the mystery. But before we had finished
it we were in such a state of excitement that we quite forgot that there
was any mystery to clear up. My cousin wrote from his home in New York,
and made no allusion whatever to a second visit to Lewes, still less to
a second expedition with Old Jacob to Rehoboth Bay. After speaking very
nicely of the pleasant time that he had passed with us, he continued:

"I enclose a memorandum that seems to have a bearing upon the
whereabouts of the hidden family fortune. I am sorry, for Susan's sake,
that it is neither invisible nor undecipherable; but I think that for
practical purposes visible ink and readable English are more useful. I
advise you to attend to the matter at once. It may rain."

The enclosure was a scrap of paper, so brown with age that it looked
as though it had been dipped in coffee, on which was written, in
astonishingly black ink, this brief but clear direction:

_Sheer uppe ye planke midwai atween ye oake and ye hiccorie saplyngs 7
fathom Est of Pequinky crik on ye baye. Ytte is all there_.

There was no date, no signature, to this paper, but neither
Susan nor I doubted for a moment that it was the clew to my
great-great-great-uncle's missing fortune. With a heart almost too full
for utterance, Susan went straight across the room to the big dictionary
(Gregory Wilkinson had given it to us at Christmas, with a handy iron
stand to keep in on), and in a trembling voice the dear child told me in
one single breath that a fathom was a measure of length containing six
feet or two yards, generally used in ascertaining the depth of the sea.
Then, without waiting to close the dictionary, she throw herself into my
arms and asked me to kiss her hard!

Susan wanted to start right off that afternoon--she was determined to
go with me this time, and I had not the heart to refuse her; but I
represented to her that night would be upon us before we could get
across to the bay, and that we had better wait till morning. But I at
once went over and hired the light wagon for the next day, and then we
got together the things which we deemed necessary for the expedition.
The tape-measure, of course, was a most essential part of the outfit.
Susan declared that she would take exclusive charge of that herself;
it made her feel that she was of importance, she said. During all the
evening she was quite quivering with excitement--and so was I, for that
matter--and I don't believe that we slept forty winks apiece all night
long.

We were up bright and early, and got off before seven o'clock--after
Susan had given the colored girl a great many directions as to what she
should and should not do while we were gone. This was the first time
that we ever had left the colored girl alone in the house for a whole
day, and Susan could not help feeling rather anxious about her. It would
be dreadful, she said, to come home at night and find her bobbing up and
down dead at the bottom of the well.

As we drew near the bay I asked several people whom we happened to meet
along the road if they knew where Pequinky Creek was, and I was rather
surprised to find that they all said they didn't. At last, however,
we were so fortunate as to meet with quite an old man who was able
to direct us. He seemed to be a good deal astonished when I put the
question to him, but he answered, readily:

"Yes, yes, o' course I knows where 'tis--'tain't nowhere. Why, young
man, there hain't ben any Pequinky Crik fur th' better part o' sixty
year--not sence thet gret May storm druv th' bay shore right up on eend
an' dammed th' crik short off, an' turned all th' medders thereabouts
inter a gret nasty ma'sh, an' med a new outlet five mile an' more away
t' th' west'ard. Not a sign o' Pequinky Crik will you find at this
day--an' w'at I should like ter know is w'ere on yeth a young feller
like you ever s' much as heerd tell about it."

This was something that I had not counted on, and I could see that Susan
was feeling very low in her mind. But by questioning the old man closely
I gradually got a pretty clear notion of where the mouth of the creek
used to be; and I concluded that, unless the oak and hickory had been
cut down or washed away, I stood a pretty good chance of finding the
spot that I was in search of. Susan did not take this hopeful view of
the situation. She was very melancholy.

Following the old man's directions, I drove down to the point on the
road that was nearest to where the Pequinky in former times had emptied
into the bay; then I hitched the horse to a tree, and with Susan and the
tape-measure began my explorations, They lasted scarcely five minutes.
With no trouble at all I found the oak and the hickory--grown to be
great trees, as I had expected--and with the tape-measure we fixed the
point midway between them in no time. Then I went back to the wagon for
the spade and the other things, Susan going along and dancing around and
around me in sheer delight. It is a fortunate trait of Susan's character
that while her spirits sometimes do fall a very long distance in a
very short time, they rise to proportionate heights with proportionate
rapidity.

The point that we had fixed between the trees was covered thickly with
leaves, and when I had cleared these away and had begun to dig, I was
surprised to find that the soil came up freely, and was not matted
together with roots as wood soil ought to be. I should have paid more
attention to this curious fact, no doubt, had I not been so profoundly
stirred by the excitement incident to the strange work in which I was
engaged. As for Susan, the dear creature said that she had creeps all
over her, for she knew that the old pirate's ghost must be hovering
near, and she begged me to notify her when I came to the skeleton, so
that she might look away. I told her that I did not expect to find a
skeleton, but she replied that this only showed how ignorant _I_ was of
pirate ceremonial; that it was the rule with all pirates when burying
treasure to sacrifice a human life, and to bury the dead body over the
hidden gold. She admitted, however--upon my drawing her attention to the
fact that the treasure which we were in the act of digging up had been
placed here by my relative only for temporary security--that in this
particular instance the human sacrifice part of the pirate programme
might have been omitted.

Just as we had reached this conclusion--which disappointed Susan a
little, I think--my spade struck with a heavy thud against a piece of
wood. Clearing the earth away, I disclosed some fragments of rotten
plank, and beneath these I saw something that glittered! Susan, standing
beside me on the edge of the hole, saw the glitter too. She did not say
one word; she simply put both her arms around my neck and kissed me.

I rapidly removed the loose earth, and then with the pickaxe I heaved
the plank up bodily. But what we saw when the plank came away was not
a chest full of doubloons, pieces-of-eight, moidores, and other such
ancient coins, mingled with golden ornaments thickly studded with
precious stones; no, we saw the very bright lid of a tin box, a circular
box, rather more than two feet in diameter. There was a small round
hole in the centre of the lid, into which a little roll of newspaper
was stuffed--presumably to keep the sand out--and beside this hole I
noticed, soldered fast to the lid, a small brass plate on which my eye
caught the word "Patented." It was strange enough to find the tin box in
such perfect preservation while the stout oak plank above it had rotted
into fragments; but the wisp of newspaper, and the brass plate with its
utterly out-of-place inscription, were absolutely bewildering. My head
seemed to be going around on my shoulders, while something inside of it
was buzzing dreadfully. Suddenly Susan exclaimed, in a tone of disgust
and consternation: "It's--it's that perfectly horrid churn-wash-boiler!"

As she spoke these doomful words I recalled Old Jacob's drunken story,
which I now perceived must have been true, and the dreadful thought
flashed into my mind that Gregory Wilkinson must have gone crazy, and
that this dreary practical joke was the first result of his madness.
Susan meanwhile had sunk down by the side of the hole and was weeping
silently.

As a vent to my outraged feelings I gave the wretched tin vessel a
tremendous poke with the spade, that caved in one side of it and knocked
the lid off. I then perceived that within it was an oblong package
carefully tied up in oiled silk, and on bending down to examine the
package more closely I perceived that it was directed to Susan. With a
dogged resolve to follow out Gregory Wilkinson's hideous pleasantry
to the bitter end, I lifted the package out of the box--it was pretty
heavy--and began to open it. Inside the first roll of the cover was a
letter that also was directed to Susan. She had got up by this time, and
read it over my shoulder.

     "My dear Susan,--I have decided not to wait until I die to
     do what little good I can do in the world. You will be glad,
     I am sure, to learn that I have made arrangements for the
     immediate erection of the steam-laundry at the asylum, as
     well as for the material improvement in several other ways
     of that excellent institution.

     "At the same time I desire that you and your husband shall
     have the benefit immediately of the larger portion of the
     legacy that I always have intended should be yours at my
     death. It is here (in govt. 4's), and I hope with all my
     heart that your trip to Europe will be a pleasant one. I am
     very affectionately yours,

     "Gregory Wilkinson."

"And to think," said Susan--as we drove home through the twilight,
bearing our sheaves with us and feeling very happy over them--"and to
think that it should turn out to be your cousin Gregory Wilkinson
who was the family pirate and had a hoard, and not your
great-great-great-uncle, after all!"





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