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Title: Pieces of Eight
Author: Le Gallienne, Richard, 1866-1947
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 "Pieces of Eight" ***

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[Illustration: Cover]


PIECES OF EIGHT



_Being the Authentic Narrative of a Treasure Discovered in the Bahama
Islands in the Year 1903--Now First Given to the Public_



BY RICHARD LE GALLIENNE

[Illustration]

_Frontispiece_

[Illustration: "'YOU YOUNG FOOL!' EXCLAIMED CHARLIE, 'THE WATER ROUND
HERE IS THICK WITH SHARKS!'"]


  A.L. BURT COMPANY
  Publishers            New York

Published by arrangement with Doubleday, Page & Company



_Copyright, 1918, by_

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

_All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian_

COPYRIGHT, 1917, 1918, BY THE BUTTERICK PUBLISHING COMPANY



LIFE BEING OF THE NATURE BOTH OF A TREASURE-HUNT AND A PIRATICAL
EXPEDITION, I DEDICATE THIS NARRATIVE TO THE FOLLOWING SAILING
COMPANIONS OF MINE ON THIS ENTERTAINING OLD PIRATE CRAFT WE CALL THE
EARTH, IN THE HOPE THAT EACH MAY FIND HIS TREASURE, AND, AT LEAST,
ESCAPE HANGING AT THE END OF THE TRIP--TO WIT: HARRY DASH JOHNSON, SAM
NICHOLSON, BERT WILLSIE AND CHARLEY BETHEL, ALL ENGAGED IN ONE OR
ANOTHER OF THE PIRATICAL PROFESSIONS.



PROLOGUE


_(The following MS., the authorship of which I am not at liberty to
divulge, came to me in a curious way. Being recently present at a
performance of_ "Treasure Island" _at The Punch and Judy Theatre in New
York City, and, seated at the extreme right-hand end of the front row of
the stalls--so near to the ground-floor box that its occupants were
within but a yard or two of me, and, therefore, very clearly to be
seen--I, in common with my immediate neighbours, could not fail to
remark the very striking and beautiful woman who was the companion of a
distinguished military-looking man on the youthful side of middle age._

_Still young, a little past thirty, maybe, she was unusually tall and
stately of figure, and from her curious golden skin and massive black
hair, one judged her to be a Creole, possibly a Jamaican. Her face,
which was rather heavily but finely moulded, wore an expression of
somewhat poetic melancholy, a little like that of a beautiful animal,
but readily lit up with a charming smile now and again at some sally of
her companion, with whom she seemed to be on affectionate terms, and
with whom, as the play proceeded, she exchanged glances and whispered
confidences such as two who have shared an experience together--which
the play seems to bring to mind--are seen sometimes to exchange in a
theatre._

_But there was one particular which especially accentuated the
singularity of her appearance and was responsible for drawing upon her
an interested observation--seemed, indeed, even in her eyes to condone
it, for she, as well as her companion, was obviously conscious of
it--the two strange-looking gold ornaments which hung from her
delicately shaped ears. These continually challenged the eye, and piqued
the curiosity. Obviously they were two old coins, of thick gold, stamped
with an antique design. They were Spanish doubloons!_

_As, in common with the rest of the audience, I looked at this
picturesque pair, my eyes forsook the lady of the doubloons, and
fastened themselves with a half-certainty of recognition upon her
companion. Why! surely it was ---- ----, an old dare-devil comrade of
mine, whose disappearance from New York some ten years before had been
the talk of the two or three clubs to which we both belonged. A curious
blending of soldier, poet, and mining engineer, he had been popular with
all of us, and when he had disappeared without warning we were sure that
he was off on some Knight-errant business--to Mexico or the Moon!_

_He was, indeed, wearing that disguise of Time, which we all come
involuntarily to wear--an unfamiliar greyness of his hair at the
temples, and a moustache that would soon be a distinguished white; yet
the disguise was not sufficient to conceal the youthful vigour of his
personality from one who had known him so well as I. The more I looked
at him, the more certain I grew that it was he, and I determined to go
round to his box at the conclusion of the second act._

_Then, becoming absorbed in the play, I forgot him and his companion of
the doubloons for a while, and when I looked for them again, they had
vanished. However, a letter in my mail next morning told me that the
observation had not been all on my side. My eyes had not deceived me. It
was my friend--and, at dinner with him and his lady, next evening, I
heard the story of some of those lost years. Moreover, he confided to me
that a certain portion of his adventures had seemed so romantic that he
had been tempted to set them down in a narrative, merely, of course, for
the amusement of his family and friends. On our parting, he entrusted me
with this manuscript, which I found so interesting that I was able to
persuade him to consent to its publication to that larger world which it
seemed to me unfair to rob of one of those few romances that have been
really lived, and not merely conjured up out of the imaginations of
professional romancers._

_His consent was given with some reluctance, for, apart from a certain
risk which the publication of the manuscript would entail, it contains
also matters which my friend naturally regards as sacred--though, in
this respect, I feel sure that he can rely upon the delicacy of his
readers. He made it a condition that every precaution should be taken to
keep secret the name and identity of his wife and himself._

_Therefore, in presenting to the world the manuscript thus entrusted to
me, I have made various changes of detail, with the purpose of the more
surely safeguarding the privacy of my two friends; but, in all
essentials, the manuscript is printed as it came originally into my
hands._

R. Le G.



  CONTENTS

                                                       PAGE
  Prologue                                              vii


  _Book I_

  Out of the Constant East the Breeze                     2

  CHAPTER

  I.     Introduces the Secretary to the Treasury
         of His Britannic Majesty's Government
         at Nassau                                        3

  II.    The Narrative of Henry P. Tobias, Ex-Pirate,
         as dictated on his deathbed,
         in the year of our Lord, 1859                   13

  III.   In which I charter the _Maggie Darling_         21

  IV.    In which Tom catches an enchanted fish,
         and discourses of the dangers of treasure
         hunting                                         30

  V.     In which we begin to understand our unwelcome
         passenger                                       40

  VI.    The incident of the Captain                     48

  VII.   In which the sucking fish has a chance to
         show its virtue                                 57

  VIII.  In which I once again sit up and behold
         the sun                                         64

  IX.    In which Tom and I attend several funerals      69

  X.     In which Tom and I seriously start in
         treasure hunting                                75

  XI.    An unfinished game of cards                     85


  _Book II_

  The dotted cays, with their little trees               92

  I.     Once more in John Saunders's snuggery           95

  II.    In which I learn something                     100

  III.   In which I am afforded glimpses into
         futurity--possibly useful                      108

  IV.    In which we take ship once more                123

  V.     In which we enter the wilderness               141

  VI.    Duck                                           154

  VII.   More particulars concerning our young
         companion                                      160

  VIII.  Better than duck                               169


  _Book III_

  Across the scarce-awakened sea                        178

  I.     In which we gather shells--and other
         matters                                        179

  II.    In which I catch a glimpse of a different
         kind of treasure                               187

  III.   Under the Influence of the Moon                193

  IV.    In which I meet a very strange individual      200

  V.     Calypso                                        213

  VI.    Doubloons                                      223

  VII.   In which the "King" dreams a dream--and
         tells us about it                              232

  VIII.  News!                                          239

  IX.    Old Friends                                    246

  X.     The Hidden Creek                               253

  XI.    An Old Enemy                                   258

  XII.   In which the "King" imprisons me
         with some old books and pictures               266

  XIII.  We Begin to Dig                                274

  XIV.   In which I lose my way                         283

  XV.    In which I pursue my studies as a Troglodyte   292

  XVI.   In which I understand the feelings of a
         Ghost!                                         306

  XVII.  Action                                         315

  XVIII. Gathering up the threads                       321

  Postscript                                            328

  Epilogue By the Editor                                332



BOOK I


    _Out of the constant East the breeze
      Brings morning, like a wafted rose,
        Across the glimmering lagoon,
    And wakes the still palmetto trees,
    And blows adrift the phantom moon,
      That paler and still paler glows--
    Up with the anchor! let's be going!
    O hoist the sail! and let's be going!
      Glory and glee
      Of the morning sea--
    Ah! let's be going!_

    Under our keel a glass of dreams
      Still fairer than the morning sky,
        A jewel shot with blue and gold,
    The swaying clearness streams and gleams,
        A crystal mountain smoothly rolled
      O'er magic gardens flowing by--
    Over we go the sea-fans waving,
      Over the rainbow corals paving
        The deep-sea floor;
        No more, no more
        Would I seek the shore
      To make my grave in--
    _O sea-fans waving_!



PIECES OF EIGHT



CHAPTER I

_Introduces the Secretary to the Treasury of His Britannic Majesty's
Government at Nassau, New Providence, Bahama Islands._


Some few years ago--to be precise, it was during the summer of 1903--I
was paying what must have seemed like an interminable visit to my old
friend John Saunders, who at that time filled with becoming dignity the
high-sounding office of Secretary to the Treasury of His Majesty's
Government, in the quaint little town of Nassau, in the island of New
Providence, one of those Bahama Islands that lie half lost to the world
to the southeast of the Caribbean Sea and form a somewhat neglected
portion of the British West Indies.

Time was when they had a sounding name for themselves in the world;
during the American Civil War, for instance, when the blockade-runners
made their dare-devil trips with contraband cotton, between Nassau and
South Carolina; and before that again, when the now sleepy little
harbour gave shelter to rousing freebooters and tarry pirates, tearing
in there under full sail with their loot from the Spanish Main. How
often those quiet moonlit streets must have roared with brutal revelry,
and the fierce clamour of pistol-belted scoundrels round the wine-casks
have gone up into the still, tropic night.

But those heroic days are gone, and Nassau is given up to a sleepy trade
in sponges and tortoise-shell, and peace is no name for the drowsy tenor
of the days under the palm trees and the scarlet poincianas. A little
group of Government buildings surrounding a miniature statue of Queen
Victoria, flanked by some old Spanish cannon and murmured over by the
foliage of tropic trees, gives an air of old-world distinction to the
long Bay street, whose white houses, with their jalousied verandas, ran
the whole length of the water-front, and all the long sunny days the air
is lazy with the sound of the shuffling feet of the child-like "darky"
population and the chatter of the bean-pods of the poincianas overhead.

Here a handful of Englishmen, clothed in the white linen suits of the
tropics, carry on the Government after the traditional manner of British
colonies from time immemorial, each of them, like my friend, not
without an English smile at the humour of the thing, supporting the
dignity of offices with impressive names--Lord Chief Justice, Attorney
General, Speaker of the House, Lord High Admiral, Colonial Secretary and
so forth--and occasionally a figure in gown and barrister's wig flits
across the green from the little courthouse, where the Lord Chief
Justice in his scarlet robes, on a dais surmounted by a gilded lion and
unicorn, sustains the majesty of British justice, with all the pomp of
Westminster or Whitehall.

My friend the Secretary of the Treasury is a man possessing in an
uncommon degree that rare and most attractive of human qualities,
companionableness. He is a quiet man of middle age, an old white-headed
bachelor with a droll twinkling expression, speaking seldom, and then in
a curious silent fashion, as though the drowsy heat of the tropics had
soaked him through and through. With his white hair, his white clothes,
his white moustachios, his white eyelashes, over eyes that seem to hide
away among quiet mirthful wrinkles, he carries about him the sort of
silence that goes with a miller, surrounded by the white dusty quiet of
his mill.

As we sit together in the hush of his snuggery of an evening,
surrounded by guns, fishing-lines, and old prints, there are times when
we scarcely exchange a dozen words between dinner and bed-time, and yet
we have all the time a keen and satisfying sense of companionship. It is
John Saunders's gift. Companionship seems quietly to ooze out of him,
without the need of words. He and you are there in your comfortable
arm-chairs, with a good cigar, a whisky-and-soda, or a glass of that old
port on which he prides himself, and that is all that is necessary.
Where is the need of words?

And occasionally, we have, as third in those evening conclaves, a big
slow-smiling, broad-faced young merchant, of the same kidney. In he
drops with a nod and a smile, selects his cigar and his glass, and takes
his place in the smoke-cloud of our meditations, radiating, without the
effort of speech, that good thing--humanity; though one must not forget
the one subject on which now and again the good Charlie Webster achieves
eloquence in spite of himself--duck-shooting. That is the only subject
worth breaking the pleasant brotherhood of silence for.

John Saunders's subject is shark-fishing. Duck-shooting and
shark-fishing. It is enough. Here, for sensible men, is a sufficient
basis for life-long friendship, and unwearying, inexhaustible
companionship.

It was in this peace of John Saunders's snuggery, one July evening, in
1903, the three of us being duly met, and ensconced in our respective
arm-chairs, that we got on to the subject of buried treasure. We had
talked more than usual that evening--talked duck and shark till those
inexhaustible themes seemed momentarily exhausted. Then it was I who
started us off again by asking John what he knew about buried treasure.

At this, John laughed his funny little quiet laugh, his eyes twinkling
out of his wrinkles, for all the world like mischievous mice looking out
of a cupboard, took a sip of his port, a pull at his cigar, and then:

"Buried treasure!" he said, "well, I have little doubt that the islands
are full of it--if one only knew how to get at it."

"Seriously?" I asked.

"Certainly. Why not? When you come to think of it, it stands to reason.
Weren't these islands for nearly three centuries the stamping ground of
all the pirates of the Spanish Main? Morgan was here. Blackbeard was
here. The very governors themselves were little better than pirates.
This room we are sitting in was the den of one of the biggest rogues of
them all--John Tinker--the governor when Bruce was here building Fort
Montague, at the east end yonder; building it against pirates, and
little else but pirates at the Government House all the time. A great
old time Tinker gave the poor fellow. You can read all about it in his
'Memoirs.' You should read them. Great stuff. There they are," pointing
to an old quarto on some well lined shelves, for John is something of a
scholar too; "borrow them some time."

"Yes, but I want to hear more about the treasure," interrupted I,
bringing him back to the point.

"Well, as I was saying, Nassau was the rendezvous for all the
cut-throats of the Caribbean Sea. Here they came in with their loot,
their doubloons and pieces of eight"; and John's eyes twinkled with
enjoyment of the rich old romantic words, as though they were old port.

"Here they squandered much of it, no doubt, but they couldn't squander
it all. Some of them were thrifty knaves too, and these, looking around
for some place of safety, would naturally think of the bush. The niggers
keep their little hoards there to this day. Fawcett, over at Andros, was
saying the other night, that he estimates that they have something like
a quarter of a million dollars buried in tin cans among the brush over
there now--"

"It is their form of stocking," put in Charlie Webster.

"Precisely. Well, as I was saying, those old fellows would bury their
hoards in some cave or other, and then go off--and get hanged. Their
ghosts perhaps came back. The darkies have lots of ghost-tales about
them. But their money is still here, lots of it, you bet your life."

"Do they ever make any finds?" I asked.

"Nothing big that I know of. A jug full of old coins now and then. I
found one a year or two ago in my garden here--buried down among the
roots of that old fig tree."

"Then," put in Charlie, "there was that mysterious stranger over at
North Cay. He's supposed to have got away with quite a pile."

"Tell me about him," said I.

"Well, there used to be an old eccentric character in the town here--a
half-breed by the name of Andrews. John will remember him--"

John nodded.

"He used to go around all the time with a big umbrella, and muttering to
himself. We used to think him half crazy. Gone so brooding over this
very subject of buried treasure. Better look out, young man!"--smiling
at me. "He used to be always grubbing about in the bush, and they said
that he carried the umbrella, so that he could hide a machete in it--a
sort of heavy cutlass, you know, for cutting down the brush. Well,
several years ago, there came a visitor from New York, and he got thick
with the old fellow. They used to go about a lot together, and were
often off on so-called fishing trips for days on end. Actually, it is
believed, they were after something on North Cay. At all events, some
months afterward, the New Yorker disappeared as he had come, and has not
been heard from since. But since then, they have found a sort of brick
vault over there which has evidently been excavated. I have seen it
myself. A sort of walled chamber. There, it's supposed, the New Yorker
found something or other--"

"An old tomb, most likely," interrupted John, sceptically. "There are
some like that over at Spanish Wells."

"Maybe," said Charlie, "but that's the story for what it's worth."

As Charlie finished, John slapped his knee.

"The very thing for you!" he said, "why have I never thought of it
before?"

"What do you mean, John?" we both asked.

"Why, down at the office, I've got the very thing. A pity I haven't got
it here. You must come in and see it to-morrow."

And he took a tantalising sip of his port.

"What on earth is it? Why do you keep us guessing?"

"Why, it's an old manuscript."

"An old manuscript!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, an old document that came into my hands a short time ago. Charlie,
you remember old Wicks--old Billy Wicks--'Wrecker' Wicks, they called
him--"

"I should say I do. A wonderful old villain--"

"One of the greatest characters that ever lived. Oh, and shrewd as the
devil. Do you remember the story about his--"

"But the document, for heaven's sake," I said. "The document first; the
story will keep."

"Well, they were pulling down Wicks's own house just lately, and out of
the rafters there fell a roll of paper--now, I'm coming to it--a roll of
paper, purporting to be the account of the burying of a certain
treasure, telling the place where it is buried, and giving directions
for finding it--"

Charlie and I exclaimed together; and John continued, with tantalising
deliberation.

"It's in the safe, down at the office; you shall see it to-morrow. It's
a statement purporting to be made by some fellow on his deathbed--some
fellow dying out in Texas--a quondam pirate, anxious to make his peace
at the end, and to give his friends the benefit of his knowledge."

"O John!" said I, "I sha'n't sleep a wink to-night."

"I don't take much stock in it," said John. "I'm inclined to think it's
a hoax. Some one trying to fool the old fellow. If there'd been any
treasure, I guess one could have trusted old 'Wrecker' Wicks to get
after it.... But, boys, it's bed-time, anyhow. Come down to the office
in the morning and we'll look it over."

So our meeting broke up for the time being, and taking my candle, I went
upstairs, to dream of caves overflowing with gold pieces, and John
Tinker, fierce and moustachioed, standing over me, a cutlass between his
teeth, and a revolver in each hand.



CHAPTER II

_The Narrative of Henry P. Tobias, Ex-Pirate, as Dictated on His
Deathbed, in the Year of Our Lord, 1859._


The good John had scarcely made his leisurely, distinguished appearance
at his desk on the morrow, immaculately white, and breathing his
customary air of fathomless repose, when I too entered by one door, and
Charlie Webster by the other.

"Now for the document," we both exclaimed in a breath.

"Here it is," he said, taking up a rather grimy-looking roll of foolscap
from in front of him.

"A little like hurricane weather," said the broadly smiling Charlie
Webster, mopping his brow.

The room we were in, crowded with pigeon-holes and dusty documents from
ceiling to floor, looked out into an outer office, similarly dreary, and
painted a dirty blue and white, furnished with high desks and stools,
and railed off with ancient painted ironwork, forlornly decorative,
after the manner of an old-fashioned countinghouse, or shipping office.
It had something quaintly "colonial" about it, suggesting supercargoes,
and West India merchants of long ago.

John took a look into the outer office. There was nothing to claim his
attention, so he took up the uncouthly written manuscript, which, as he
pointed out, was evidently the work of a person of very little
education, and began to read as follows:

  "_County of Travas_
  "_State of Texas_
  "_December 1859_


_"I being in very poor health and cannot last long, feeling my end is
near, I make the following statement of my own free will and without
solicitation. In full exercise of all my faculties, and feel that I am
doing my duty by so doing._

_"My friends have shown me much kindness and taken care of me when sick,
and for their kindness I leave this statement in their hands to make the
best of it, when I will now proceed to give my statement, which is as
follows:--_

_"I was born in the city of Liverpool, England (on the 5th day of
December 1784). My father was a seaman and when I was young I followed
the same occupation. And it happened, that when, on a passage from Spain
to the West Indies, our ship was attacked by free-traders, as they
called themselves, but they were pirates._

_"We all did our best, but were overpowered, and the whole crew, except
three, were killed. I was one of the three they did not kill. They
carried us on board their ship and kept us until next day when they
asked us to join them. They tried to entice us, by showing us great
piles of money and telling us how rich we could become, and many other
ways, and they tried to get us to join them willingly, but we would not,
when they became enraged and loaded three cannon and lashed each one of
us before the mouth of each cannon and told us to take our choice to
join them, as they would touch the guns and that dam quick. It is
useless to say we accepted everything before death, so we came one of
the pirates' crew. Both of my companions were killed in less time than
six months, but I was with them for more than two years, in which time
we collected a vast quantity of money from different ships we captured
and we buried a great amount in two different lots. I helped to bury it
with my own hands. The location of which it is my purpose to point out,
so that it can be found without trouble in the Bahama Islands. After I
had been with them for more than two years, we were attacked by a large
warship and our commander told us to fight for our lives, as it would be
death if we were taken. But the guns of our ship were too small for the
warship, so our ship soon began to sink, when the man-of-war ran
alongside of our vessel and tried to bore us, but we were sinking too
fast, so she had to haul off again, when our vessel sunk with everything
on board, and I escaped by swimming under the stern of the ship, as ours
sunk, without being seen, and holding on to the ship until dark, when I
swam to a portion of the wrecked vessel floating not far away. And on
that I floated. The next morning the ship was not seen. I was picked up
by a passing vessel the next day as a shipwrecked seaman._

_"And let me say here, I know that no one escaped alive from our vessel
except myself and those that were taken by the man-of-war. And those
were all executed as pirates,--so I know that no other man knows of this
treasure except myself and it must be and is where we buried it until
to-day and unless you get it through this statement it will remain there
always and do no one any good._

_"Therefore, it is your duty to trace it up and get it for your own
benefit, as well as others, so delay not, but act as soon as possible._

_"I will now describe the places, locations, marks etc., etc., so
plainly that it can be found, without any trouble._

_"The first is a sum of one million and a half dollars--($1,500,000)--"_

At this point, John paused. We all took a long breath, and Charlie
Webster gave a soft whistle, and smacked his lips.

"A million and a half dollars. What ho!"

Then I, happening to cast my eye through the open door, caught sight of
a face gazing through the ironwork of the outer office with a fixed and
glittering expression, a face anything but prepossessing, the face of a
half-breed, deeply pock-marked, with a coarse hook nose, and
evil-looking eyes, unnaturally close together. He looked for all the
world like a turkey buzzard, eagerly hanging over offal, and it was
evident from his expression, that he had not missed a word of the
reading.

"There is some one in the outer office," I said, and John rose and went
out.

"Good morning, Mr. Saunders," said an unpleasantly soft and cringing
voice.

"Good morning," said John, somewhat grumpily, "what is it you want?"

It was some detail of account, which, being despatched, the man shuffled
off, with evident reluctance, casting a long inquisitive look at us
seated at the desk, and John, taking up the manuscript once more
resumed:

_"... a sum of one million and one half dollars--buried at a cay known
as Dead Men's Shoes, near Nassau, in the Bahama Islands."_

"'Dead Men's Shoes!' I don't know any such place, do you?" interrupted
Charlie.

"No, I don't--but, never mind, let's read it through first and discuss
it afterwards," and John went on:

_"Buried at a cay known as Dead Men's Shoes, near Nassau, in the Bahama
Islands; about fifty feet (50 ft.) south of this Dead Men's Shoes is a
rock, on which we cut the form of a compass. And twenty feet (20 ft.)
East from the cay is another rock on which we cut a cross (X). Under
this rock it is buried four feet (4 ft.) deep._

_"The other is a sum of one million dollars ($1,000,000). It is buried
on what was known as Short Shrift Island; on the highest point of this
Short Shrift Island is a large cabbage wood stump and twenty feet (20
ft.) south of that stump is the treasure, buried five feet (5 ft.) deep
and can be found without difficulty. Short Shrift Island is a place
where passing vessels stop to get fresh water. No great distance from
Nassau, so it can be easily found._

"_The first pod was taken from a Spanish merchant and it is in Spanish
silver dollars._

"_The other on Short Shrift Island is in different kinds of money, taken
from different ships of different nations--it is all good money._

"_Now friends, I have told you all that is necessary for you to know, to
recover these treasures and I leave it in your hands and it is my
request that when you read this, you will at once take steps to recover
it, and when you get it, it is my wish that you use it in a way most
good for yourself and others. This is all I ask._

"_Now thanking you for your kindness and care and with my best wishes
for your prosperity and happiness, I will close, as I am so weak I can
hardly hold the pen._

                "_I am, truly your friend,_

                                             HENRY P. TOBIAS.

"Henry P. Tobias?" said Charlie Webster. "Never heard of him. Did you,
John?"

"Never!"

And then there was a stir in the outer office. Some one was asking for
the Secretary of the Treasury. So John rose.

"I must get to work now, boys. We can talk it over to-night." And then,
handing me the manuscript: "Take it home with you, if you like, and
look it over at your leisure."

As Charlie Webster and I passed out into the street, I noticed the
fellow of the sinister pock-marked visage standing near the window of
the inner office. The window was open, and any one standing outside,
could easily have heard everything that passed inside. As the fellow
caught my eye, he smiled unpleasantly, and slunk off down the street.

"Who is that fellow?" I asked Charlie. "He's a queer looking specimen."

"Yes! he's no good. Yet he's more half-witted than bad, perhaps. His
face is against him, poor devil."

And we went our ways, till the evening, I to post home to the further
study of the narrative. There seated on the pleasant veranda, I went
over it carefully, sentence by sentence. While I was reading, some one
called me indoors. I put down the manuscript on the little bamboo table
at my side, and went in. When I returned, a few moments afterward, the
manuscript was gone!



CHAPTER III

_In Which I Charter the "Maggie Darling."_


As luck would have it, the loss, or rather the theft, of Henry P.
Tobias's narrative, was not so serious as it at first seemed, for it
fortunately chanced that John Saunders had had it copied; but the theft
remained none the less mysterious. What could be the motive of the thief
with whom--quite unreasonably and doubtless unjustly--my fancy persisted
in connecting that unprepossessing face so keenly attentive in John
Saunders's outer office, and again so plainly eavesdropping at his open
window.

However, leaving that mystery for later solution, John Saunders, Charlie
Webster, and I spent the next evening in a general and particular
criticism of the narrative itself. There were several obvious objections
to be made against its authenticity. To start with, Tobias, at the time
of his deposition, was an old man--seventy-five years old--and it was
more than probable that his experiences as a pirate would date from his
early manhood; they were hardly likely to have taken place as late as
his fortieth year. The narrative, indeed, suggested their taking place
much earlier, and there would thus be a space of at least forty years
between the burial of the treasure and his deathbed revelation. It was
natural to ask: Why during all those years, did he not return and
retrieve the treasure for himself? Various circumstances may have
prevented him, the inability from lack of means to make the journey, or
what not; but certainly one would need to imagine circumstances of
peculiar power that should be strong enough to keep a man with so
valuable a secret in his possession so many years from taking advantage
of it.

For a long while too the names given to the purported sites of the
treasure _caches_ puzzled us. Modern maps give no such places as "Dead
Men's Shoes" and "Short Shrift Island," but John--who is said to be
writing a learned history of the Bahamas--has been for a long time
collecting old maps, prints, and documents relating to them; and at
last, in a map dating back to 1763, we came upon one of the two names.
So far the veracity of Tobias was supported. "Dead Men's Shoes" proved
to be the old name for a certain cay some twenty miles long, about a day
and a half's sail from Nassau, one of the long string of coral islands
now known as the "Exuma Cays." But of "Short Shrift Island" we sought in
vain for a trace.

Then the details for identification of the sites left something to be
desired in particularity. But that, I reasoned, rather made for Tobias's
veracity than otherwise. Were the document merely a hoax, as John
continued to suspect, its author would have indulged his imagination in
greater elaboration. The very simplicity of the directions argued their
authenticity. Charlie Webster was inclined to back me in this view, but
neither of my friends showed any optimism in regard to the possible
discovery of the treasure.

The character of the brush on the out-islands alone, they said, made the
task of search well nigh hopeless. To cut one's way through twenty miles
of such stubborn thickets, would cost almost as much in labour as the
treasure was worth. And then the peculiar nature of the jagged coral
rock, like endless wastes of clinker, almost denuded of earth, would
make the task the more arduous. As well look for a particular fish in
the sea. A needle in a haystack would be easy in comparison.

"All the same," said I, "the adventure calls me; the adventure and that
million and a half dollars--and those 'Dead Men's Shoes'--and I intend
to undertake it. I am not going to let your middle-aged scepticism
discourage me. Treasure or no treasure, there will be the excitement of
the quest, and all the fun of the sea."

"And some duck perhaps," added Charlie.

"And some shark-fishing for certain," said John.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next thing was to set about chartering a boat, and engaging a crew.
In this Charlie Webster's experience was invaluable, as his friendly
zeal was untiring.

After looking over much likely and unlikely craft, we finally decided on
a two-masted schooner of trim but solid build, the _Maggie Darling,_ 42
feet over all and 13 beam; something under twenty tons, with an
auxiliary gasolene engine of 24 horse power, and an alleged speed of 10
knots. A staunch, as well as a pretty, little boat, with good lines, and
high in the bows; built to face any seas. "Cross the Atlantic in her,"
said the owner. Owners of boats for sale always say that. But the
_Maggie Darling_ spoke for herself, and I fell in love with her on the
spot.

Next, the crew.

"You will need a captain, a cook, an engineer, and a deck-hand," said
Charlie, "and I have the captain, and the cook all ready for you."

That afternoon we rounded them all up, including the engineer and the
deck-hand, and we arranged to start, weather permitting, with the
morning tide, which set east about six o'clock on July 13, 1903. Charlie
was a little doubtful about the weather, though the glass was steady.

"A northeaster's about due," he said, "but unless it comes before you
start, you'll be able to put in for shelter at one or two places, and
you will be inside the reef most of the way."

Ship's stores were the next detail, and these, including fifty gallons
of gasolene, over and above the tanks and three barrels of water, being
duly got aboard, on the evening of July 12, all was ready for the start;
an evening which was naturally spent in a parting conclave in John
Saunders's snuggery.

"Why, one important thing you've forgotten," said Charlie, as we sat
over our pipes and glasses. "Think of forgetting that. Machetes--and
spades and pickaxes. And I'd take a few sticks of dynamite along with
you too. I can let you have the lot, and, if you like, we'll get them
aboard to-night."

"It's a pity you have to give it away that it's a treasure hunt," said
John,--"but, then you can't keep the crew from knowing. And they're a
queer lot on the subject of treasure, have some of the rummest
superstitions. I hope you won't have any trouble with them."

"Had any experience in handling niggers?" asked Charlie.

"Not the least."

"That makes me wish I were coming with you. They are rum beggars. Awful
cowards, and just like a pack of children. You know about sailing
anyhow. That's a good thing. You can captain your own boat, if need be.
That's all to the good. Particularly if you strike any dirty weather.
Though they're cowards in a storm, they'll take orders better than white
men--so long as they see that you know what you are about. But let me
give you one word of advice. Be kind, of course, with them--but keep
your distance all the same. And be careful about losing your temper. You
get more out of them by coaxing--hard as it is, at times. And, by the
way, how would you like to take old 'Sailor' with you?"

"Sailor" was a great Labrador retriever, who, at that moment, turned up
his big head, with a devoted sigh, from behind his master's chair.

"Rather," I said. So "Sailor" was thereupon enrolled as a further
addition to the crew.

"Of course, you needn't expect to start on time," said Charlie, with a
laugh; "you'll be lucky if the crew turns up an hour after time. But
that's all in the game. I know them--lazy beggars."

And the morning proved the truth of Charlie's judgment.

"Old Tom," the cook, was first on hand. I took to him at once. A simple,
kindly old "darky" of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" type, with faithfulness
written all over him, and a certain sad wisdom in his old face.

"You'll find Tom a great cook," said Charlie, patting the old man on the
shoulder. "Many a trip we've taken together after duck, haven't we,
Tom?" said he kindly.

"That's right, suh. That's right," said the old man, his eyes twinkling
with pleasure.

Then came the captain--Captain Jabez Williams--a younger man, with an
intelligent, self-respecting manner, somewhat non-committal,
business-like, evidently not particularly anxious as to whether he
pleased or not, but looking competent, and civil enough, without being
sympathetic.

Next came the engineer, a young hulking bronze giant, a splendid
physical specimen, but rather heavy and sullen and not over-intelligent
to look at. A slow-witted young animal, not suggesting any great love of
work, and rather loutish in his manners. But, he knew his engine, said
Charlie. And that was the main thing. The deck-hand proved to be a
shackly, rather silly effeminate fellow, suggesting idiocy, but
doubtless wiry and good enough for the purpose.

While they were busy getting up the anchor of the _Maggie Darling,_ I
went down into my cabin, to arrange various odds and ends, and presently
came the captain, touching his hat.

"There's a party," he said, "outside here, wants to know if you'll take
him as passenger to Spanish Wells."

"We're not taking passengers," I answered, "but I'll come and look him
over."

A man was standing up in a rowboat, leaning against the ship's side.

"You'd do me a great favour, sir," he began to say in a soft,
ingratiating voice.

I looked at him, with a start of recognition. He was my pock-marked
friend, who had made such an unpleasant impression on me, at John
Saunders's office. He was rather more gentlemanly looking than he had
seemed at the first view, and I saw that, though he was a half-breed,
the white blood predominated.

"I don't want to intrude," he said, "but I have urgent need of getting
to Spanish Wells, and there's no boat going that way for a week. I've
just missed the mail."

I looked at him, and, though I liked his looks no more than ever, I was
averse from being disobliging, and the favour asked was one often asked
and granted in those islands, where communication is difficult and
infrequent.

"I didn't think of taking any passengers," I said.

"I know," he said. "I know it's a great favour I ask." He spoke with a
certain cultivation of manner. "But I am willing, of course, to pay
anything you think well, for my food and my passage."

I waived that suggestion aside, and stood irresolutely looking at him,
with no very hospitable expression in my eyes, I dare say. But really my
distaste for him was an unreasoning prejudice, and Charlie Webster's
phrase came to my mind--"His face is against him, poor devil!"

It certainly was.

Then at last I said, surely not overgraciously: "Very well. Get aboard.
You can help work the boat"; and with that I turned away to my cabin.



CHAPTER IV

_In Which Tom Catches an Enchanted Fish, and Discourses of the Dangers
of Treasure Hunting._


The morning was a little overcast, but a brisk northeast wind soon set
the clouds moving as it went humming in our sails, and the sun, coming
out in its glory over the crystalline waters, made a fine flashing world
of it, full of exhilaration and the very breath of youth and adventure,
very uplifting to the heart. My spirits, that had been momentarily
dashed by my unwelcome passenger, rose again, and I felt kindly to all
the earth, and glad to be alive.

I called to Tom for breakfast.

"And you, boys, there; haven't you got a song you can put up? How about
'The _John B._ sails?'" And I led them off, the hiss and swirl of the
sea, and the wind making a brisk undertone as we sang one of the quaint
Nassau ditties:

    Come on the sloop _John B._
    My grandfather and me,
    Round Nassau town we did roam;
      Drinking all night, ve got in a fight,
    Ve feel so break-up, ve vant to go home.

        _Chorus_
    So h'ist up the _John B._ sails,
      See how the mainsail set,
    Send for the captain--shore, let us go home,
    Let me go home, let me go home,
    I feel so break-up, I vant to go home.

    The first mate he got drunk,
    Break up the people trunk,
      Constable come aboard, take him away;
    Mr. John--stone, leave us alone,
    I feel so break-up, I vant to go home.

        _Chorus_
    So h'ist up the _John B._ sails, _etc.,_ _etc._

Nassau looked very pretty in the morning sunlight, with its pink and
white houses nestling among palm trees and the masts of its sponging
schooners, and soon we were abreast of the picturesque low-lying fort,
Fort Montague, that Major Bruce, nearly two hundred years ago, had had
such a time building as a protection against pirates entering from the
east end of the harbour. It looked like a veritable piece of the past,
and set the imagination dreaming of those old days of Spanish galleons
and the black flag, and brought my thoughts eagerly back to the object
of my trip, those doubloons and pieces of eight that lay in glittering
heaps somewhere out in those island wildernesses.

We were passing cays of jagged cinder-coloured rock covered with low
bushes and occasional palms, very savage and impenetrable. Miles of such
ferocious vegetation separated me from the spot where my treasure was
lying. Certainly it was tough-looking stuff to fight one's way through;
but those sumptuous words of Henry P. Tobias's narrative kept on making
a glorious glitter in my mind: "_The first is a sum of one million and
one half dollars.... The other is a sum of one million dollars.... The
first pod was taken from a Spanish merchant and it is in Spanish silver
dollars. The other on Short Shrift Island is in different kinds of
money, taken from different ships of different nations ... it is all
good money._"

In fact I found to my surprise that I had the haunting thing by heart,
as though it had been a piece of poetry; and over and over again it kept
on going through my head.

Then Tom came up with my breakfast. The old fellow stood by to serve me
as I ate, with a pathetic touch of the old slavery days in his
deferential, half-fatherly manner, dropping a quaint remark every now
and again; as, when drawing my attention to the sun bursting through the
clouds, he said, "The poor man's blanket is coming out, sah"--phrases in
which there seemed a whole world of pathos to me.

Presently, when breakfast was over, and I stood looking over the side
into the incredibly clear water, in which it seems hardly possible that
a boat can go on floating, suspended as she seems over gleaming gulfs of
liquid space, down through which at every moment it seems she must
dizzily fall, Tom drew my attention to the indescribably lovely
"sea-gardens" over which we were passing--waving purple fans, fairy
coral grottoes, and jewelled fishes, lying like a rainbow dream under
our rushing keel. Well might the early mariners people such submarine
paradises with sirens and beautiful water-witches, and imagine a fairy
realm down there far under the sea.

As Tom and I gazed down lost in those rainbow deeps, I heard a voice at
my elbow saying with peculiarly sickening unction:

"The wonderful works of God."

It was my unwelcome passenger, who had silently edged up to where we
stood. I looked at him, with the question very clear in my eyes as to
what kind of disagreeable animal he was.

"Precisely," I said, and moved away.

I had been trying to feel more kindly toward him, wondering whether I
could summon up the decency to offer him a cigar, but "the wonderful
works of God" finished me.

"Hello! Captain," I said presently, pointing to some sails coming up
rapidly behind us. "What's this? I thought we'd got the fastest boat in
the harbour."

"It's the _Susan B.,_ sponger," said the Captain.

The Captain was a man of few words.

The _Susan B._ was a rakish-looking craft with a black hull, and she
certainly could sail. It made me feel ashamed to watch how quickly she
was overhauling us, and, as she finally came abreast and then passed us,
it seemed to me that in the usual salutations exchanged between us there
was mingled some sarcastic laughter; no doubt it was pure imagination,
but I certainly did fancy that I noticed our passenger signal to them in
a peculiar way.

I confess that his presence was beginning to get on my nerves, and I was
ready to get "edgy" at anything or nothing--an irritated state of mind
which I presently took out on George the engineer, who did not belie his
hulking appearance, and who was for ever letting the engine stop, and
taking for ever to get it going again. One could almost have sworn he
did it on purpose.

My language was more forcible than classical--had quite a piratical
flavour, in fact; and my friend of "the wonderful works of God" looked
up with a deprecating air. Its effect on George was nil, except perhaps
to further deepen his sulks.

And this I did notice, after a while, that my remarks to George seemed
to have set up a certain sympathetic acquaintance between him and my
passenger, the shackly deck-hand being apparently taken in as a humble
third. They sat for'ard, talking together, and my passenger read to
them, on one occasion, from a piece of printed paper that fluttered in
the wind. They listened with fallen lower jaws and occasional attempts
to seem intelligent.

The Captain was occupied with his helm, and the thoughts he didn't seem
to feel the necessity of sharing; a quiet, poised, probably stupid man,
for whom I could not deny the respect we must always give to content,
however simple. His hand was on the wheel, his eyes on the sails and the
horizon, and, though I was but a yard away from him, you would have said
I was not there at all, judging by his face. In fact, you would have
said that he was all alone on the ship, with nothing to think of but her
and the sea. He was a sailor, and I don't know what better to say of a
man.

So for companionship I was thrown back upon Tom. I felt, too, that he
was my only friend on board, and a vague feeling had come over me that,
within the next few hours, I might need a friend.

Fishing occurred to me as a way of passing the time.

"Are we going too fast for fishing, Tom?" I asked.

"Not too fast for a barracouta," said Tom; so we put out lines and
watched the stretched strings, and listened to the sea. After awhile,
Tom's line grew taut, and we hauled in a 5-foot barracouta, a bar of
silver with a long flat head, all speed and ferocity, and wonderful
teeth.

"Look!" said Tom, as he pointed to a little writhing eel-like shape,
about nine inches long, attached to the belly of the barracouta.

"A sucking fish!" said Tom. "That's good luck;" and he proceeded to turn
over the poor creature, and cut from his back, immediately below his
head, a flat inch and a half of skin lined and stamped like a rubber
sole--the device by which he held on to the belly of the barracouta much
as the circle of wet leather holds the stone in a school-boy's sling.

"Now," he said, when he had it clean and neat in his fingers, "we must
hang this up and dry it in the northeast wind; the wind is just
right--nor'-nor'east--and there is no mascot like it, specially
when--" Old Tom hesitated, with a slyly innocent smile in his eyes.

"What is it, Tom?" I asked.

"Have I your permission to speak, sah?" he said.

"Of course, you have, Tom."

"Well, sar, then I meant to say that this particular part of a sucking
fish, properly dried in the northeast wind, is a wonderful mascot--when
you're going after treasure." Tom looked frightened again, as though he
had gone too far.

"Who said I was going after treasure?" I asked.

"Aren't you, sah?" replied Tom, "asking your pardon?"

I looked for'ard where the three delegates seemed to have lost interest
for a while in their conversation and the fluttering paper, and appeared
to be noticing Tom and me.

"Let's talk it over later on, when you bring me my dinner, Tom."

Later, as Tom stood, serving my coffee, I took it up with him again.

"What was that you were saying about treasure, Tom?" I asked.

"Well, sar, what I meant was this: that going after treasure is a
dangerous business ... it's not only the living you've got to think
of--." Here Tom threw a careful eye for'ard.

"The crew, you mean?"

He nodded.

"But it's the dead too."

"The dead, Tom?"

"Yes, sar--the dead!"

"All right, Tom," I said, "go on."

"Well, sar," he continued, "there was never a buried treasure yet that
didn't claim its victim. Not one or two, either. Six or eight of them,
to my knowledge--and the treasure just where it was for all that. I
das'say it sounds all foolishness, but it's true for all that. Something
or other'll come, mark my word--just when they think they've got their
hands on it: a hurricane, or a tidal wave, or an earthquake. As sure as
you live, something'll come; a rock'll fall down, or a thunderbolt, and
somebody gets killed--And, well, the ghost laughs, but the treasure
stays there all the same."

"The ghost laughs?" I asked.

"Eh! of course; didn't you know every treasure is guarded by a ghost?
He's got to keep watch there till the next fellow comes along, to
relieve sentry duty, so to speak. He doesn't give it away. My no! He
dassn't do that. But the minute some one else is killed, coming looking
for it, then he's free--and the new ghost has got to go on sitting
there, waiting for ever so long till some one else comes looking for
it."

"But, what has this sucking fish got to do with it?" And I pointed to
the red membrane already drying up in Tom's hand.

"Well, the man who carries this in his pocket won't be the next ghost,"
he answered.

"Take good care of it for me then, Tom," I said, "and when it's properly
dried, let me have it. For I've a sort of idea I may have need of it,
after all."

And just then, old Sailor, the quietest member of the crew, put up his
head into my hands, as though to say that he had been unfairly lost
sight of.

"Yes, and you too, old chap--that's right. Tom, and you, and I."

And then I turned in for the night.



CHAPTER V

_In Which We Begin to Understand our Unwelcome Passenger._


Charlie Webster had hinted at a nor'easter--even a hurricane. As a rule,
Charlie is a safe weather prophet. But, for once, he was mistaken. There
hadn't been much of any wind as we made a lee at sunset; but as I yawned
and looked out of my cabin soon after dawn, about 4.30 next morning,
there was no wind at all.

There was every promise of a glorious day--calm, still, and untroubled.
But for men whose voyaging depended on sails, it was, as the lawyers
say, a _dies non._ In fact, there was no wind, and no hope of wind.

As I stood out of the cabin hatch, however, there was enough breeze to
flutter a piece of paper that had been caught in the mainsail halyard;
it fluttered there lonely in the morning. Nothing else was astir but it
and I, and I took it up in my hand, idly. As I did so, George reared his
head for'ard--

"Morning, George," I said; "I guess we've got to run on gasolene to-day.
No wind in sight--so far as I can see."

"That's right, sar," said George, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
Presently, he came to me in his big hulking way, and said:

"There ain't no gasolene, sir--"

"No gasolene?" I exclaimed.

"It's run out in the night."

"The tanks were filled when we started, weren't they?" I asked.

"Yes, sir."

"We can't have used them up so soon...."

"No sir,--but some one has turned the cocks...."

I stood dazed for a moment, wondering how this could have
happened,--then a thought slowly dawned upon me.

"Who has charge of them?" I said.

George looked a little stupid, then defiant.

"I see," I said; and, suddenly, without remembering Charlie Webster's
advice not to lose your temper with a negro--I realised that this was no
accident, but a deliberate trick, something indeed in the nature of a
miniature mutiny. That fluttering paper I had picked from the halyard
lay near my breakfast table. I had only half read it. Now its import
came to me with full force. I had no firearms with me. Having a quick
temper, I have made it a habit all my life never to carry a
gun--because they go off so easily. But one most essential part of a
gentleman's education had been mine, so I applied it instantly on
George, with the result that a well-directed blow under the peak of the
jaw sent him sprawling, and for awhile speechless, in the cockpit.

"No gasolene?" I said.

And then my passenger--I must give him credit for the courage--put up
his head for'ard, and called out:

"I protest against that; it's a cowardly outrage. You wouldn't dare to
do it to a white man."

"O I see," I rejoined. "So _you_ are the author of this precious paper
here, are you? Come over here and talk it over, if you've the courage."

"I've got the courage," he answered, in a shaking voice.

"All right," I said; "you're safe for the present--and, George, who is
so fond of sleep, will take quite a nap for a while, I think."

"You English brute!" he said.

"You English brute!" he had said; and the words had impelled me to
invite him aft; for I cannot deny a certain admiration for him that had
mysteriously grown up in me. It can only have been the admiration we all
have for courage; for, certainly I cannot have suggested that he had
any other form of attractiveness.

"Come here!" I said, "for your life is safe for the time being. I would
like to discuss this paper with you."

He came and we read it together, fluttering as I had seen it flutter in
his fingers as he read it for'ard to the engineer and to the deck-hand.
George, meanwhile, was lying oblivious to the rhetoric with which it was
plentifully garnished, not to speak of the Latin quotations, taking that
cure of bleeding, which was the fashionable cure of a not-unintelligent
century. It began:--

"THINK HOW MANY WE ARE!--THINK WHAT WE COULD DO! _It isn't either that
we haven't intelligence--if only we were to use it. We don't lack
leaders--we don't lack courage--we don't lack martyrs; All are ready--_"

I stopped reading.

"Why don't you start then?" I asked.

"We have a considerable organisation," he answered.

"You have?" I said. "Why don't you use it then?"

"We're waiting for Jamaica," he answered; "she's almost ready."

"It sounds a pretty good idea to me," I remarked, "from your point of
view. 'From your point of view,' remember, I said; but you mustn't think
that yours is mine--not for one moment--O dear no! On the contrary, my
point of view is that of the Governor of Nassau, or his representative,
quite near by, at Harbour Island, isn't it?"

My pock-marked friend grew a trifle green as I said this.

"We have sails still, remember," I resumed. "George and the lost
gasolene are not everything. Five hours, with anything of a wind, would
bring us to Harbour Island, and--with this paper in my hand it would
be--what do you think yourself?--the gallows?"

My friend grew grave at that, and seemed to be thinking hard inside,
making resolutions the full force of which I didn't understand till
later, but the immediate result of which was a graciousness of manner
which did not entirely deceive me.

"O" he said, "I don't think you quite mean that. You're impulsive--as
when you hit that poor boy down there--"

"Well," I observed, "I'm willing to treat you better than you deserve.
At the same time, you must admit that your manifesto, as I suppose you
would call it, is justified neither by conditions nor by your own best
sense. You yourself are far more English than you are anything else--you
know it; you know how hard it is for white men to live with black men,
and--to tell the truth--all they do for them. The mere smell of negroes
is no more pleasant to you than it is to many other white men.
Englishmen have exiled themselves, for absurdly small salaries, to try
to make life finer and cleaner for those dark--and, I'll admit,
pathetic--barbarians. You can't deny it. And you've too much sense to
deny it. So, I'll say nothing about this, if you like" (pointing to the
manuscript), "and if the wind holds, put you ashore to-morrow at Spanish
Wells. I like you in spite of myself. Is it a bargain?"

On this we parted, and, as I thought, with a certain friendliness on
both sides.

There was no sailing wind, so there was nothing to do but stay where we
were all day. The boys fished and lay around; and I spent most of the
time in my cabin, reading a novel, and, soon after nine, I fell asleep
in a frame of mind unaccountably trustful.

I suppose that I had been asleep about three hours when I was disturbed
by a tremendous roar. It was Sailor (who always slept near me) out on
the cockpit with a man under his paws--his jaws at the man's throat. I
called him off, and saw that it was my pock-marked friend, with his
right hand extended in the cockpit and a revolver a few inches away from
it. So far as I knew it was the only firearm on the ship. "Let's get
hold of that first, Sailor," I said, and I slipped it into my hip
pocket.

"It's too bad that we can't be decent to people, Sailor, isn't it? It
makes life awfully sad," I said.

Sailor wagged his tail.

The stars were fading on the eastern islands.

"Wake up, Tom," I called, and, "wake up, Captain!" Meanwhile, I took out
the revolver from my hip pocket, and held it over the man I seemed to
grow more and more sorry for.

"We've not only got a mutiny aboard," I told the captain, "but we've got
treason to the British Government. Do you want to stand for that? Or
shall I put you ashore with the rest?"

Unruffled as usual, he had nothing to say beyond

"Ay, ay, sir!"

"Take this cord then," I ordered him and Tom, "and bind the hands and
feet of this pock-marked gentleman here; also of George, engineer; and
also of Theodore, the deck-hand. Bind them well. And throw them into the
dingy, with a bottle of water apiece, and a loaf of bread. By noon,
we'll have some wind, and can make our way to Harbour Island, and there
I'll have a little talk with the Commandant."

And as I ordered, all was done. Tom and I rowed the dingy ashore, with
our three captives bound like three silly fowls, and presently threw
them ashore with precious little ceremony, I can tell you; for the coral
rock is not all it sounds in poetry. Then we got back to the _Maggie
Darling,_ with imprecations in our ears, and particularly the promises
of the pock-marked rebel, who announced the certainty of our meeting
again.

Of course we laughed at such threats, but I confess that, as I went down
to my cabin and picked up the "manifesto," which had been forgotten in
all the turmoil, I could not escape a certain thrill as I read the
signature--for it was: "Henry P. Tobias, Jr."



CHAPTER VI

_The Incident of the Captain._


As we hoisted the sails and the sun came up in all his glory, the smell
of Tom's coffee seemed to my prosaic mind the best of all in that
beautiful world. I said: "Let's give 'em a song, boys,--to cheer 'em up.
How about 'Delia gone!'?"

At this suggestion even the imperturbability of the captain broke into a
smile. He was a man hard to move, but this suggestion seemed to tickle
him.

      _Some gave a nickel, some gave a dime;
         I never gave no red cent--
       She was no girl of mine.
         Delia gone! Delia gone!_

seemed to throw him into convulsions, and I took the helm awhile to give
him a chance to recover. The exquisiteness of its appeal to the
scoundrels, so securely trussed there on the island we were swiftly
leaving behind, seemed to get him to such a degree that I was almost
afraid that he might die of laughing, as has been heard of. He laughed
as only a negro can laugh, and he kept it going so infectiously that Tom
and I got started, just watching him. Even Sailor caught the infection,
his big tongue shaking his jaws with the huge joke of it.

I don't know what they thought had happened to us, the three poor devils
there on the jagged coral rock. At all events the laughter did us good
by relieving the tension of our feelings, and when at last we had
recovered and the captain was at the wheel again, once more sober as a
judge, you couldn't have believed such an outbreak possible of him.

The _Maggie Darling_ was sailing so fast that it hardly seemed necessary
to trouble to call at Harbour Island; but, then, the wind might go down,
our adventure was far from over, and gasolene might at any moment be a
prime necessity. So we kept her going, with her beautiful sails filled
out against the bluest sky you can dream of, and the ripple singing at
her bow--the loveliest sight and sound in the world for a man who loves
boats and the sea.

"Is there anything like it, Tom?" I asked. "Do you read your Bible? You
should; it's the greatest book in the world."

Tom hastened to acquiesce.

"You remember in the Book of Job? _Three things are wonderful to me, The
way of a ship on the sea, the way of an eagle in the air, and the way
of a man with a maid._"

"Ay, ay, sir," said Tom, "the way of a ship on the sea--but the way of a
man with a maid--"

"What's the matter with that, Tom?"

"They're all very pretty--just like the boat; but you'll not find one
near so true. We're better without them, if you ask my advice. A man's
all right as long as he keeps on his boat; but the minute he lands--the
girls and the troubles begin."

"Ah! Tom," I said; "but I think you told me you've a family--"

"Yes, sar, but the only good one amongst them is in the churchyard, this
fifteen years."

"Your wife, Tom?"

"Yes, sar, but she was more than a woman. She was a saint. When I talk
of women I don't think of her. No; God be kind to her, she is a saint,
and I only wait around till she calls me."

"Tom, allow me to shake hands with you," I said, "and call myself your
friend for ever."

The tears rolled down the old fellow's cheeks, and I realised how little
colour really matters, and how few white men were really as white as
Tom.

And so that night we made Harbour Island, and met that welcome that can
only be met at the lonely ends of the earth.

The Commandant and the clergyman took me under their wings on the spot,
and, though there was a good hotel, the Commandant didn't consider it
good enough for me.

Bless them both! I hope to be able some day to offer them the kind of
hospitality they brought me so generously in both hands; lonely men,
serving God and the British Empire, in that apparently God-forsaken
outpost of the world.

I liked the attitude they took toward my adventure. Their comments on
"Henry P. Tobias, Jr." and the paper I had with me, were especially
enlightening.

"The black men themselves," they both agreed, "are all right, except, of
course, here and there. It's fellows like this precious Tobias, real
white trash--the negroes' name for them is apt enough--that are the
danger for the friendship of both races. And it's the vein of a sort of
a literary idealism in a fellow like Tobias that makes him the more
dangerous. He's not all to the bad--"

"I couldn't help thinking that too," I interrupted.

"O! no," they said, "but he's a bit mad, too. That's his trouble. He's
got a personal, as well as an abstract, grudge against the British
Government."

"Treasure?" I laughed.

"How did you know?" they asked.

"Never mind; I somehow got the idea."

"And he thinks that by championing the nigger he can kill two birds,
see?"

"I see," I said. "I'm sorry I didn't nab him while I had him."

"Never mind," they rejoined; "if you stick to your present object,
you're bound to meet him again and soon. Only take a word of advice.
Have a few guns with you, for you're liable to need them. We're not
afraid about nabbing the whole bunch; but we don't want to lose good men
going after a bad man. And there's such a thing as having too much
courage."

"I agree," I remarked. "I'll take the guns all right, but I'm afraid
I'll need some more crew. I mean I'll want an engineer, and another
deck-hand."

And, just as I said this, there came up some one post-haste from the
village; some one, too, that wanted the clergyman, as well as me, for my
captain was ill, and at the point of death.

It was an hour or so after dinner time, and we were just enjoying our
cigars.

"What on earth can be the trouble?" I said, but, the three of us,
including the Commandant went.

We found the captain lying in his berth, writhing with cramps.

"What on earth have you been doing with yourself, Cap.?" I asked.

"I did nothing, sir, but eat my dinner, and drink that claret you were
kind enough to give me."

"That half-bottle of claret?"

"Yes, sir, the very same."

"Well, there was nothing to hurt you in that," I said. "Did you take it
half and half with water, as I told you?"

"I did indeed, sir."

"And what did you eat for your dinner?"

"Some pigeon-peas, and some rainbow fish."

"Sure, nothing else?"

"God's truth, sir."

"It's very funny," I said. And then as he began to writhe and stiffen, I
called out to Tom: "Get some rum, Tom, and make it boiling hot,
quick--quick!"

And Tom did.

"We must get him into a sweat."

Very soon we did. Then I said to Tom:

"What do you make out of this smell that's coming from him, Tom?"

"Kerosene, sar," said Tom.

"I thought the very same," I said.

Tom beckoned me to go with him to the galley, and showed me several
quart bottles of water standing on a shelf.

"Two of these were kerosene," he said, "and I suppose Cap. made a
mistake"; for one looked as clear as the other.

Then I took one of them back to the captain.

"Was it a bottle like this you mixed with the claret?" I asked.

"Sure it was, sir," he answered, writhing hard with the cramps.

"But my God, man!" I said. "Couldn't you tell the difference between
that and water?"

"I thought it tasted funny, boss, but I wasn't used to claret."

And then we had to laugh again, and I thought old Tom would die.

"A nigger's stomach and his head," said the Commandant, "are about the
same. I really don't know which is the stronger."

And Tom started laughing so that I believe, if the wind had been blowing
that way, you could have heard him in Nassau.

The captain didn't die, though he came pretty near to it. In fact, he
took so long getting on his feet, that we couldn't wait for him; so we
had practically to look out for a new crew, with the exception of Tom,
and Sailor. The Commandant proved a good friend to us in this, choosing
three somewhat characterless men, with good "characters."

"I cannot guarantee them," he said; "that's impossible, but, so far as I
know, and the parson'll bear me out, they're all quiet, good-living men.
The engineer's in love, and got it bad; he is engaged to be married, and
is all the gladder of the good pay you're offering--more than usually
comes their way--and that always keeps a man straight, at least until
after he's married."

The Commandant was a splendid fellow, and he had a knowledge of human
nature that was almost Shakespearean, particularly when you considered
the few and poor specimens he had to study it by.

As we said good-bye, with a spanking southwest breeze blowing, I could
see that he was a little anxious about me.

"Take care of yourself," he said, "for you must remember none of us can
take care of you. There's no settlement where you're going--no telegraph
or wireless; you could be murdered, and none of us hear of it for a
month, or for ever. And the fellows you're after are a dangerous lot,
take my word for it. Keep a good watch on your guns, and we'll be on
the look out for the first news of you, and anything we can do we'll be
there, you bet."

And so the _Maggie Darling_ once more bared her whiteness to the breeze,
and the world seemed once more a great world.

"It's good to be alive, Tom," I said, "on a day like this, though we get
killed to-morrow."

Tom agreed to this, so did Sailor; and so, I felt, did the _Maggie
Darling,_ the loveliest, proud-sailed creature that ever leaned over and
laughed in the grasp of the breeze.



CHAPTER VII

_In Which the Sucking Fish Has a Chance to Show Its Virtue._


The breeze was so strong that we didn't use our engine that day.
Besides, I wanted to take a little time thinking over my plans. I spent
most of the time studying the charts and pondering John P. Tobias's
narrative, which threw very little light on the situation. There was
little definite to go by but his mark of the compass engraven on a
certain rock in a wilderness of rocks; and such rocks as they were at
that.

As I thought of that particular kind of rock, I wondered too about my
three friends, trussed like fowls, on their coral rock couches. Of
course they had long since cut each other free, and were somewhere
active and evil-doing; and the thought of their faces seemed positively
sweet to me, for of such faces are made "the bright face of danger" that
all men are born to love.

Still the thought of that set me thinking too of my defences. I looked
well to my guns. The Commandant had made me accept the loan of a
particularly expert revolver that was, I could see, as the apple of his
eye. He must have cared for me a great deal to have lent it me, and it
was bright as the things we love.

Then I called Tom to me: "How about that sucking fish, Tom?" I asked.

"It's just cured, sar," he said. "I was going to offer it to you this
lunch time. It's dried out fine; couldn't be better. I'll bring it to
you this minute." And he went and was back again in a moment. "You must
wear it right over your heart," he said, "and you'll see there's not a
bullet can get near it. It's never been known for a bullet to go through
a sucking fish. Even if they come near, something in the air seems to
send them aside. It's God's truth."

"But, Tom," I said, "how about you?"

"I've worn one here, sar, for twenty years, and you can see for
yourself"--and he bared the brown chest beneath which beat the heart
that like nothing else in the world has made me believe in God.

And so we went spinning along, and, if only I had the gift of words, I
could make such pictures of the islands we sailed by, the colours of the
waters, the joy of our going--the white coral sand beaches and the big
cocoanut palms leaning over them, and the white surges that curled along
and along the surf reef, over and over again, running like children to
meet each other and join each other's hands, or like piano keys rippling
white under some master's fingers.

That night we made a good lee, and lay in a pool of stars, very tranquil
and alive with travelling lights, great globed fishes filled with soft
radiance, and dreaming glimmers and pulsating tremors of glory and
sudden errands of fire. Sailor and I stayed up quite late watching the
wonder in which we so spaciously floated, and of the two of us, I am
sure that Sailor knew more than I.

But one thought I had which I am sure was not his, because it was born
of shallower conditions than those with which his instincts have to
deal. I thought: What treasure sunk into the sea by whatsoever lost
ship--galleons piled up and bursting with the gold and silver of Spain,
or strange triangular-sailed boats sailing from Tripoli with the
many-coloured jewels of the east, "ivory, apes, and peacocks"--what
treasure sunk there by man could be compared with the treasure already
stored there by Nature, dropped as out of the dawn and the sunset into
these unvisited waters by the lavish hand of God? What diver could hope
to distinguish among all these glories the peculiar treasures of kings?

We awoke to a dawn that was a rose planted in the sky by the mysterious
hand that seems to love to give the fairest thing the loneliest setting.

But there was no wind, so that day we ran on gasolene. We had some fifty
miles to go to where the narrative pointed, a smaller cay, the cay which
it will be remembered was, according to John Saunders's old map, known
in old days as "Dead Men's Shoes"--but since known by another name
which, for various reasons, I do not deem it politic to divulge--near
the end of the long cay down which we were running.

Tom and I talked it over, and thought that it might be all the better to
take it easy that day and arrive there next morning, when, after a good
night's sleep, we should be more likely to feel rested, and ready to
grapple with whatever we had to face.

So about twilight we dropped anchor in another quiet bay, so much like
that of the night before, as all the bays and cays are along that coast,
that you need to have sailed them from boyhood to know one from another.

The cove we were looking for, known by the cheery name of Dead Men's
Shoes, proved farther off than we expected, so that we didn't come to it
till toward the middle of the next afternoon, an afternoon of the most
innocent gold that has ever thrown its soft radiance over an earth
inhabited for the most part by ruffians and scoundrels.

The soft lapping beauty of its little cove, in such odd contrast to its
sinister name--sunshine on coral sand, and farther inland, the mangrove
trees, like walking laurel stepping out into the golden ripples--Ah! I
should like to try my hand on the beauty of that afternoon; but we were
not allowed to admire it long, for we were far from being alone.

"She's changed her paint," said Tom, at my elbow. And, looking round, I
saw that our rakish schooner with the black hull was now white as a
dove; and, in that soft golden water, hardly a foot and a half deep,
five shadowy young sharks floated, with outstretched fins like huge
bats. Our engineer, who was already wading fearlessly in the water,
beautifully naked, "shooed" them off like chickens. But it was soon to
be evident that more dangerous foes waited for us on the shore.

Yet there was seemingly nothing there but a pile of sponges, and a few
black men. The _Susan B._ had changed her colour, it was true, but she
was a well-known sponger, and I noticed no one among the group ashore
that I recognised.

There was one foolish fellow that reminded me of my shackly deck-hand,
whom I had always thought out of his mind, standing there on his head on
the rocks, and waving his legs to attract attention.

"Why! There's Silly Theodore," called out the captain.

"Look out!" murmured Tom at my elbow.

"I'm going ashore all the same, Tom," I said.

"I'm going with you too," said the Captain. "You needn't be afraid of
me. You're the sort I like. But look after your guns. There's going to
be something doing--quiet as it looks."

So we rowed ashore, and there was Theodore capering in front of a pile
of sponges, but no other face that I knew. But there were seven or eight
negroes whose looks I took no great liking to.

"Like some fancy sponges to send home?" said one of these, coming up to
me. "Cost you five times as much in Nassau."

"Certainly I'd like a few sponges," I said.

And then Theodore came up to me, looking as though he had lost his mind
over the rather fancy silk tie I happened to be wearing.

"Give me dat!" he said, touching it, like a crazy man.

"I can't afford to give you that, Theodore."

"I'd die for dat," he declared.

"Take this handkerchief instead;" but, meanwhile, my eyes were opening.
"Take this instead, Theodore," I suggested.

"I'd die for dat," he repeated, touching it.

His voice and touch made me sick and afraid, just as people in a lunatic
asylum make one afraid.

"Look out!" murmured Tom again at my elbow.

And just then I noticed, hiding in some bushes of seven-year apple
trees, two faces I had good reason to know.

I had barely time to pull out the Commandant's revolver from my pocket.
I knew it was to be either the pock-marked genius or the engineer. But,
for the moment, I was not to be sure which one I had hit. For, as my gun
went off, something heavy came down on my head, and for the time I was
shut off from whatever else was going on.



CHAPTER VIII

_In Which I Once Again Sit Up and Behold the Sun._


"Which did I hit, Tom?" were my first words as I came back to the glory
of the world; but I didn't say them for a long time, and, from what Tom
told me it was a wonder I ever said them at all.

"There he is, sar," said Tom, pointing to a long dark figure stretched
out near by. "I'm afraid he's not the man you were looking for."

"Poor fellow!" I said; it was George, the engineer; "I'm sorry--but I
saw the muzzles of their guns sticking out of the bush there. It was
they or me."

"That no lie, sar, and, if it hadn't been for that sucking-fish's skin,
you wouldn't be here now."

"It didn't save me from a pretty good one on the head, Tom, did it?"

"No, sar, but that was just it--if it hadn't been for that knock on the
head, pulling you down just that minute, that thar pock-marked fellow
would have got you. As it was, he grazed your cheek, and got one of his
own men killed by mistake--the very fellow that hit you. There he
is--over there."

"And who's that other, Tom?" I asked, pointing to another dark figure a
few yards away.

"That's the captain, sar."

"The captain? O I'm sorry for that. God knows I'm sorry for that."

"Yas, sar, he was one of the finest gentlemen I ever knowed was Captain
Tomlinson; a brave man and a good navigator. And he'd taken a powerful
fancy to you, for when you got that crack on the head, he picked up your
gun, and began blazing away, with words I should never have expected
from a religious man. The others, except our special friend--"

"Let's call him Tobias from now on, Tom," I interposed.

"Well him, sar, kept his nerve, but the others ran for the boats as if
the devil was after them; but the captain's gun was quicker, and only
four of them got to the _Susan B._ The other two fell on their faces, as
if something had tripped them up, in a couple of feet of water. But,
just then, Tobias hit the captain right in the heart; ah! if only he had
one of those skins--but he always laughed off such things as
superstitious.

"There was only me and Tobias then, and the dog, for the engineer boy
had gone on his knees to the _Susan B._ fellows, at the first crack,
and begged them to take him away with them. I wouldn't have thought it
of him--for he wasn't afraid o' them sharks, sar, as you saw, but I
suppose it was thinking of his gal--anyway he went off a-praying and
blubbering with what was left of the crew of the _Susan B.,_ who seemed
too scared to notice him, and so let him come; and, as I was saying,
there was no one left but Tobias and the dog and me, and I was sure my
end was not far off, for I was never much of a shot.

"As God is my witness, sar, I was ready to die, and there was a moment
when I thought that the time had come and Martha was calling me; but
Tobias suddenly walked away to the top of the bluff and called out to
the _Susan B._ that was just running up her sails. At his word, they put
out a boat for him, and, while he waited, he came down the hill towards
me and the dog that stood growling over you; and for sure, I thought it
was the end. But he said: 'Tell that fellow there that I'm not going to
kill a defenceless man. He might have killed me once but he didn't. It's
bound to be one of us some day or other, but despise me all he
likes--I'm not such carrion as he thinks me; and if he only likes to
keep out of my way, I'm willing to keep out of his. Tell him, when he
wakes up, that as long as he gives up going after what belongs to
me--for it was my grandfather's--he is safe, but the minute he sets his
foot or hand on what is mine, it's either his life or mine.' And then he
turned away and was rowed to the _Susan B.,_ and they soon sailed away."

"With the black flag at the peak, I suppose, Tom," said I. "Well, that
was a fine speech, quite a flight of oratory, and I'm sure I'm obliged
to him for the life that's still worth having, in spite of this ungodly
aching in my head. But how about the poor captain there! Where does all
his eloquence come in there? He can't call it self-defence. They were
waiting ready to murder us all right behind that seven-year apple tree,
as you saw. I'm afraid the captain and the law between them are all that
is necessary to cook the goose of our friend Henry P. Tobias, Jr.,
without any help from me--though, as the captain died for me, I should
prefer they allowed me to make it a personal matter."

And then I got on my feet, and went and looked at the captain's calm
face.

"It's the beginning of the price," said Tom.

"The beginning of the price?"

"It's the dead hand," continued Tom; "I told you, you'll remember, that
wherever treasure is there's a ghost of a dead man keeping guard, and
waiting till another dead man comes along to take up sentry duty so to
say."

"That's what you said, Tom," I admitted. "Several men have been killed,
it's true, but no one's put his hand on the treasure."

"All the worse for that!" replied Tom, shaking his head. "These are only
a beginning. The ghost is getting busy. And it makes me think that we're
coming pretty near to the treasure, or we wouldn't have had all this
happen."

"Growing warm, you mean, as the children say?"

"The very thing!" said Tom. "Mark me, the treasure's near by--or the
ghost wouldn't be so malicious."

And then, looking around where the captain, and the engineer and Silly
Theodore lay, I said:

"The first thing we've got to do is to bury these poor fellows; but
where," I added, "are the other two that fell in the water?"

"O," said Tom, "a couple of sharks got them just before you woke up."



CHAPTER IX

_In Which Tom and I Attend Several Funerals._


When Tom and I came to look over the ground with a view to finding a
burial-place for the dead, I realised with grim emphasis the truth of
Charlie Webster's remarks--in those snuggery nights that seemed so
remote and far away--on the nature of the soil which would have to be
gone over in quest of my treasure. No wonder he had spoken of dynamite.

"Why, Tom," I said, "there isn't a wheel-barrow load of real soil in a
square mile. We couldn't dig a grave for a dog in stuff like this," and,
as I spoke, the pewter-like rock under my feet clanged and echoed with a
metallic sound.

It was indeed a terrible land from the point of view of the husbandman.
No wonder the Government couldn't dispose of it as a gift. It was a
marvel that anything had the fierce courage to grow on it at all. For
the most part it was of a grey clinker-like formation, tossed, as by
fiery convulsions, in shelves of irregular strata, with holes every few
feet suggesting the circular action of the sea--some of these holes no
more than a foot wide, and some as wide as an ordinary-sized well--and
in these was the only soil to be found. In them the strange and savage
trees--spined, and sown thick with sharp teeth--found their rootage, and
writhed about, splitting the rock into endless cracks and fissures with
their fierce effort--sea-grape, with leaves like cymbal-shaped plates of
green metal; gum-elemi trees, with trunks of glistening bronze; and
seven-year apples, with fruit like painted wood.

Here and there was a thatch-palm, stunted, and looking like the
head-dress of some savage African warrior. Inland, the creek, all white
sand and golden sunny water at its opening, spread out far and near into
noisome swamps overgrown with mangroves. Those strangest of all trees,
that had something tender and idyllic as they stepped out into the
ripple with their fresh child-like laurel-line leaves and dangling rods
of emerald, that were really the suckers of their banyan-like roots, had
grown into an obscene and bizarre maturity, like nightmares striding out
in every direction with skeleton feet planted in festering mud, and
stretching out horned, clawing hands that seemed to take root as one
looked, and to throw out other roots of horror like a dream.

Twilight was beginning to add to its suggestions of _diablerie,_ and
the whole land to seem more and more the abode of devils.

"Come along, Tom, I can't stand any more of this. We'll have to leave
our funerals till to-morrow, and get aboard for the night"--for the
_Maggie Darling_ was still floating there serenely, as though men and
their violence had no existence on the planet.

"We'd better cover them up, against the turkey-buzzards," said Tom, two
of those unsavory birds rising in the air as we returned to the shore.
We did this as well as we were able with rocks and the wreckage of an
old boat strewn on the beach, and, before we rowed aboard--Tom, and
Sailor, and I--we managed to shoot a couple of them,--_pour encourager
les autres._

I don't think two men were ever so glad of the morning, driving before
it the haunted night, as Tom and I; and Sailor seemed as glad as
ourselves, for he too seemed to have been troubled by bad dreams, and
woke me more than once, growling and moaning in his sleep in a
frightened way.

After breakfast, our first thought was naturally to the sad and
disagreeable business before us.

"I tell you what I've been thinking, sar," said Tom, as we rowed ashore,
and I managed to pull down a turkey-buzzard that rose at our
approach--happily our coverings had proved fairly effective--"I've been
thinking that the only one of the three that really matters is the
captain, and we can find sufficient soil for him in one of those big
holes."

"How about the others?"

"Why, to tell the truth, I was thinking that sharks are good enough for
them."

"They deserve no better, Tom, and I think we may as well get rid of them
first. The tide's running out strong and we won't have them knocking
about for long."

So it was done as we said, and carrying them by the feet and shoulders
to the edge of the bluff--George, and Silly Theodore, and the nameless
giant who had knocked me down so opportunely--we skilfully flung them
in, and they glided off with scarce a splash.

"See that fin yonder!" cried Tom eagerly; and next minute one of the
floating figures was drawn under. "Got him already!" (with a certain
grim satisfaction). "That's what I call quick work."

Then we turned to the poor captain, and carried him as gently as we
could over the rough ground to the biggest of the banana holes, as the
natives call them, and there we were able to dig him a fairly
respectable grave.

"Do you know the funeral service, Tom?" I asked.

"No, sar, can't say as I do, though I seem to have heard it pretty
often."

"Wait a minute. I've got a Bible aboard, I'll go and get it."

"I'd rather go with you, sar, if you don't mind."

"Why, you're surely not frightened of the poor fellow here, are you,
Tom?"

"Well, sar, I don't say as I'm exactly that; but somehow he seems kind
of lonesome; and, if you don't mind--"

So we went off, and were back in a few moments with the Bible, and I
read those passages, from Job and the Psalms, immemorially associated
with the passage of the dead:

_"Man, that is born of woman, is of few days, and full of trouble. He
cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: He fleeth also as a shadow,
and continueth not--;_ and again:

_Behold Thou hast made my days as a hand-breadth: and mine age is as
nothing before Thee: Verily every man at his best state is altogether
vanity. Surely every man walketh in a vain show: surely they are
disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall
gather them. When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou
makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is
vanity. Have mercy, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry: hold not thy peace
at my tears, for I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my
fathers were--."_

And, by the time we had got to the end, our tears were falling like rain
into a brave man's grave.



CHAPTER X

_In Which Tom and I Seriously Start in Treasure Hunting._


Tom and Sailor and I were now, to the best of our belief, alone on the
island, and a lonesomer spot it would be hard to imagine, or one touched
at certain hours with a fairer beauty--a beauty wraith-like and, like a
sea-shell, haunted with the marvel of the sea. But we, alas!--or let me
speak for myself--were sinful, misguided men, to whom the gleam and
glitter of God's making spoke all too seldom, and whose hearts were
given to the baser shining of such treasure as that of which I for one
still dreamed--with an obstinacy all the more hardened by the opposition
we had encountered, and by the menace of danger the enterprise now held
beyond peradventure--a menace, indeed, to which Tobias's words had given
the form of a precise challenge. Perhaps but for that, remembering the
count of so many dead men--men who had lost their lives in the
prosecution of my probably vain desire--I would have given the whole
thing up, and sailed the boat back to less-haunted regions, which Tom
and I might easily have done, and as Tom, I could plainly see, would
himself have preferred.

But Tobias's challenge made such a course impossible for any man worthy
of the name, and I never gave the alternative a moment's consideration.
But I did give Tom his choice of staying or going--a choice made
possible that day by a schooner sailing close in shore and easy to
signal. Yet Tom, while making no secret of his real feelings, would not
hear of quitting.

"I sha'n't think a cent worse of you, Tom," I assured him. "Indeed, I
won't. It's no doubt a mad business anyway, and I'm not sure I've the
right to endanger in it any other lives than my own."

"No, sar," said Tom; "I came with you, you have treated me right, and I
am going to see you through."

"You're the real thing; God bless you, Tom," I exclaimed. "But I doubt
if I've the right to take advantage of your goodness. I'm not sure that
I oughtn't to signal those fellows to take you off with them
willy-nilly."

"No, sar, you wouldn't do that, I'm sure. I'm a free man, God be
praised, though my mother and father were slaves"--and he drew himself
up with pathetic pride--"and I can choose my own course, as they
couldn't. Besides, there's no one needs me at home; all my girls and
boys are well fixed; and if I have to go, perhaps there's some one needs
me more in heaven."

"All right, Tom, and thank you; we'll say no more about it." And so we
let the schooner go by, and turned to the consideration of our plans.

First we went over our stores, and, thanks to those poor dead mouths
that did not need to be reckoned with any more, we had plenty of
everything to last us for at least a month, not to speak of fishing, at
which Tom was an expert.

When, however, we turned to our plans for the treasure-hunting, we soon
came to a dead stop. No plans seemed feasible in face of that rocky
wilderness, all knives to the feet, and writhing serpents of fanged and
toothed foliage to the eye, with brambles like barbed-wire fences at
every yard.

The indications given by Tobias seemed, in the face of such a terrain,
naïve to a degree. Possibly the land had changed since his day. Some
little, of course, it must have done. Tom and I went over Tobias's
directions again and again. Of course, there was the compass carved on
the rock, and the cross. There was something definite--something which,
if it was ever there at all, was there still--for in that climate the
weather leaves things unperished almost as in Egypt.

Sitting on the highest bluff we could find, Tom and I looked around.

"That compass is somewhere among these infernal rocks--if it ever was
carved there at all--that's one thing certain, Tom; but look at the
rocks!"

Over twenty miles of rocks north and south, and from two to six from
east to west. A more hopeless job the mind of man could not conceive.
Tom shook his head, and scratched his greying wool.

"I go most by the ghost, sar," he said. "All these men had never been
killed if the ghost hadn't been somewhere near. It's the ghost I go by.
Mark me, if we find the treasure it'll be by the ghost."

"That's all very well," I laughed. "But how are we going to get the
ghost to show his hand? He's got such bloodthirsty ways with him."

"They always have, sar," said Tom, no doubt with some ancestral shudder
of voodoo worship in his blood. "Yes, sar, they always cry out for
blood. It's all they've got to live on. They drink it like you and me
drink coffee or rum. It's terrible to hear them in the night."

"Why, you don't mean to say you've heard them drinking it, Tom," I
asked. "That's all nonsense."

"They'll drink any kind,--any they can get hold of,--chickens' or pigs'
or cows'; you can hear them any night near the slaughterhouse." And Tom
lowered his voice. "I heard them from the boat, the other night, when I
couldn't sleep--heard them as plain as you can hear a dog lapping water.
And it's my opinion there was two of them. But I heard them as plain as
I hear you."

As Tom talked, I seemed to hear Ulysses telling of his meeting with
Agamemnon in Hades, and those terrible ghosts drinking from the
blood-filled trench, and I shuddered in spite of myself; for it is
almost impossible entirely to refuse credence to beliefs held with such
certitude of terror across so many centuries and by such different
people.

"Well, Tom," I remarked, "you may be right, but of one thing I'm
certain; if the ghost's going to get any one, it sha'n't be you."

"We've both got one good chance against them--" Tom was beginning.

"Don't tell me again about that old sucking fish."

"Mind you keep it safe, for all that," said Tom gravely. "I wouldn't
lose mine for a thousand pounds."

"Well, all right, but let's forget the damned old ghosts for the
present," and I broke out into the catch we had sung on so momentous an
occasion--

      _Some gave a nickel, some gave a dime;
         But I didn't give no red cent--
       She was no girl of mine--
         Delia's gone! Delia's gone!_

And it did one good to hear Tom's honest laughter resounding in that
beautiful haunted wilderness, as the song brought back to both of us the
memories of that morning which already seemed so long ago.

"I wonder what's become of our friend of 'the wonderful works of God,'"
I queried.

"Wherever he is, he's up to no good, we may be sure of that," answered
Tom.

At last we decided to try a plan that was really no plan at all; that is
to say, to seek more or less at random, till we consumed all our stores
except just enough to take us home. Meanwhile, we would, each of us,
every day, cut a sort of radiating swathe, working single-handed, from
the cove entrance. Thus we would prospect as much of the country as
possible in a sort of fan, both of us keeping our eyes open for a
compass carved on a rock. In this way we might hope to cover no
inconsiderable stretch of the country in the three weeks, and, moreover,
the country most likely to give some results, as being that lying in a
semi-circle from the little harbour where the ships would have lain. It
wasn't much of a plan perhaps, but it seemed the most possible among
impossibles.

So the next morning, bright and early, we started work, I letting Tom
take Sailor with him as company and protection against the spirits of
the waste; also we took a revolver apiece and cartridge belts, and it
seemed to me that the old fellow showed no little courage to go alone at
all, with such hair-raising beliefs as he had. We each took food and a
flask of rum and water to last us the day, and we promised to halloo now
and again to each other for company, as soon as we got out of sight of
each other. This, however, did not happen the first day. Of course, we
carried a machete and a mattock apiece, though the latter was but little
use, and, if either of us should find any spot worth dynamiting, we
agreed to let the other know.

Harder work than we had undertaken no men have ever set their hands to.
It would have broken the back of the most able-bodied navvy; and when we
reached the boat at sunset, we had scarce strength left to eat our
supper and roll into our bunks. A machete is a heavy weapon that needs
no little skill in handling with economy of force, and Tom, who had been
brought up to it, was, in spite of his years, a better practitioner than
I.

I have already hinted at the kind of devil's underbrush we had to cut
our way through, but no words can do justice to the almost intelligent
stubbornness with which those weird growths opposed us. It really seemed
as though they were inspired by a diabolic will-force pitting itself
against our wills, vegetable incarnations of evil strength and fury and
cunning.

Battalions of actual serpents could scarcely have been harder to fight
than these writhing, tormented shapes that shrieked and hissed and bled
strangely under our strokes, and seemed to swarm with new life at each
onset! And the rock was almost more terrible to grapple with than they.
Jagged and pointed, it was like needles and razors to walk on; and it
was brittle as it was hard. While it could sometimes resist a hammer, it
would at others smash under our feet like a tea-cup. It looked like some
metallic dross long since vomited up from the furnaces of hell.

Only once in a while was a softer, limestone, formation--like the pit
in which we had buried the captain--with hints at honeycombing, and
possibilities that invariably came to nothing. Now again we would come
upon a rock of this kind that seemed for a second to hint at mysterious
markings made by the hand of man, but they proved to be nothing but some
decorative sea-fossilisation, making an accidental pattern, like the
marking you sometimes come across on some old weathered stone on a moor.
Nothing that the fondest fancy could twist into the likeness of a
compass or a cross!

Day after day, Tom and I returned home dead-beat, with hardly a tired
word to exchange with each other.

We had now been at it for about a fortnight, and I loved the old chap
more every day for the grit and courage with which he supported our
terrible labours and kept up his spirits. We had long since passed out
of sight of each other, and much time was necessarily wasted by our
going to and from the place where we left off each day. Many a time I
hallooed to the old man to keep his heart up, and received back his
cheery halloo far and far away.

Once or twice we had made fancied discoveries which we called off the
other to see, and once or twice we had tried some blasting on rocks
that seemed to suggest mysterious tunnellings into the earth. But it had
all proved a vain thing and a weariness of the flesh. And the ghost of
John P. Tobias still kept his secret.



CHAPTER XI

_An Unfinished Game of Cards._


One evening, as I returned to the ship unusually worn-out and
disheartened, I asked Tom how the stores were holding out. He answered
cheerfully that they would last another week, and leave us enough to get
home.

"Well, shall we stick out the other week, or not, Tom? I don't want to
kill you, and I confess I'm nearly all in myself."

"May as well stick it out, sar, now we've gone so far. Then we'll have
done all we can, and there's a certain satisfaction in doing that, sar."

Good old Tom! and I believe that the wise old man had the thought
behind, that, perhaps, when there was evidently nothing more to be done,
I might get rid of the bee in my bonnet, and once more settle down to
the business of a reasonable being.

So next morning we went at it again; and the next, and the next again,
and then on the fourth day, when our week was drawing to its close,
something at last happened to change the grim monotony of our days.

It was shortly after the lunch hour. Tom and I, who were now working too
far apart to hear each other's halloes, had fired our revolvers once or
twice to show that all was right with us. But, for no reason I can give,
I suddenly got a feeling that all was not right with the old man, so I
fired my revolver, and gave him time for a reply. But there was no
answer. Again I fired. Still no answer. I was on the point of firing
again, when I heard something coming through the brush behind me. It was
Sailor racing toward me over the jagged rocks. Evidently there was
something wrong.

"Something wrong with old Tom, Sailor?" I asked, as though he could
answer me. And indeed he did answer as plainly as dog could do, wagging
his tail and whining, and turning to go back with me in the direction
whence he had come.

But I stopped to shoot off my revolver again. Still no answer.

"Off we go then, old chap," and as he ran ahead, I followed him as fast
as I could over those damnable rocks.

It took me the best part of an hour to get to where Tom had been
working. It was an extent of those more porous limestone rocks of which
I have spoken, almost cliff-like in height, and covering a considerable
area. Sailor brushed his way ahead, pushing through the scrub with
canine importance. Presently, at the top of a slight elevation, I came
among the bushes to a softer spot where the soil had given way, and saw
that it was the mouth of a shaft like a wide chimney flue, the earth of
which had evidently recently fallen in. Here Sailor stopped and whined,
pawing the earth, and, at the same time, I heard a moaning underneath.

"Is that you, Tom?" I called. Thank God, the old chap was not dead at
all events.

"Thank the Lord, it's you, sar," he cried. "I'm all right, but I've had
a bad fall--and I can't seem able to move."

"Hold on and keep up your heart--I'll be with you in a minute," I called
down to him.

"Mind yourself, sar," he called cheerily, and, indeed, it was a problem
to get down to him without precipitating the loose earth and rock that
were ready to make a landslide down the hole, and perhaps bury him for
ever.

But, looking about, I found another natural tunnel in the side of the
hill. Into this I was able to worm myself, and in the dim light found
the old man, and put my flask to his lips.

"Anything broken, do you think?"

Tom didn't think so. He had evidently been stunned by his fall, and
another pull at my flask set him on his feet. But, as I helped him up,
and, striking a light, we began to look around the hole he had tumbled
into, he gave a piercing shriek, and fell on his knees, jabbering with
fear.

"The ghosts! the ghosts!" he screamed.

And the sight that met our eyes was certainly one to try the nerves. We
had evidently stumbled upon a series of fairly lofty chambers hollowed
out long ago first by the sea, and probably further shaped by
man--caverns supported here and there by rude columns of the same rock,
and dimly lit from above in one or two places by holes like mine shafts,
down one of which fell masses of snake-like roots of the fig tree, a
species of banyan.

Within the circle of this light two figures sat at a table--one with his
hat tilted slightly, and one leaning sideways in his chair in a careless
sort of attitude. They seemed to be playing cards, and they were
strangely white--for they were skeletons.

I stood hushed, while Tom's teeth rattled at my side. The fantastic awe
of the thing was beyond telling. And, then, not without a qualm or two,
which I should be a liar to deny, I went and stood nearer to them.
Nearly all their clothes had fallen away, hanging but in shreds here
and there. That the hat had so jauntily kept its place was one of those
grim touches Death, that terrible humorist, loves to add to his jests.
The cards, which had apparently just been dealt, had suffered scarcely
from decay--only a little dirt had sifted down upon them, as it had into
the rum glasses that stood too at each man's side. And, as I looked at
the skeleton jauntily facing me, I noticed that a bullet hole had been
made as clean as if by a drill in his forehead of bone--while, turning
to examine more closely his silent partner, I noticed a rusty sailor's
knife hanging from the ribs where the lungs had been. Then I looked on
the floor and found the key to the whole story. For there, within a few
yards, stood a heavy sailor's chest, strongly bound around with iron.
Its lid was thrown back, and a few coins lay scattered at the bottom,
while a few lay about on the floor. I picked them up.

They were pieces of eight!

Meanwhile, Tom had stopped jabbering, and had come nearer, looking on in
awed silence. I showed him the pieces of eight.

"I guess these are all we'll see of one of John P. Tobias's treasure,
Tom," I said. "And it looks as if these poor fellows saw as little of it
as ourselves. Can't you imagine them with it there at their
feet--perhaps playing to divide it on a gamble; and, meanwhile, the
other fellows stealing in through some of these rabbit runs--one with a
knife, the other with a gun--and then: off with the loot and up with the
sails. Poor devils! It strikes me as a very pretty tragedy--doesn't it
you?"

Suddenly--perhaps with the vibration of our voices--the hat toppled off
the head of the fellow facing us, in the most weird and comical
fashion--and that was too much for Tom, and he screamed and made for the
exit hole. But I waited a minute to replace the hat on the rakish one's
head. As I was likely often to think of him in the future, I preferred
to remember him as at the moment of our first strange acquaintance.



BOOK II



      _The dotted cays,
      With their little trees,
    Lie all about on the crystal floor;
      Nothing but beauty--
      Far off is duty,
    Far off the folk of the busy shore._

      _The mangroves stride
      In the coloured tide,
    With leafy crests that will soon be isles;
      And all is lonely--
      White sea-sand only,
    Angel-pure for untrodden miles._

      _In sunny bays
      The young shark plays,
    Among the ripples and nets of light;
      And the conch-shell crawls
      Through the glimmering halls
    The coral builds for the Infinite._

      _And every gem
      In His diadem,
    From flaming topaz to moon-hushed pearl,
      Glitters and glances
      In swaying dances
    Of waters adream like the eyes of a girl._

      _The sea and the stars,
      And the ghostly bars
    Of the shoals all bright 'neath the feet of the moon;
      The night that glistens,
      And stops and listens
    To the half-heard beat of an endless tune._

      _Here Solitude
      To itself doth brood,
    At the furthest verge of the reef-spilt foam;
      And the world's lone ends
      Are met as friends,
    And the homeless heart is at last at home._



BOOK II

CHAPTER I

_Once More in John Saunders's Snuggery._


Need I say that it was a great occasion when I was once more back safe
in John Saunders's snuggery, telling my story to my two friends,
comfortably enfolded in a cloud of tobacco smoke, John with his old port
at his elbow, and Charlie Webster and I flanked by our whiskies and
soda, all just as if I had never stirred from my easy chair, instead of
having spent an exciting month or so among sharks, dead men,
blood-lapping ghosts, card-playing skeletons and such like?

My friends listened to my yarn in characteristic fashion, John
Saunders's eyes more like mice peeping out of a cupboard than ever, and
Charlie Webster's huge bulk poised almost threateningly, as it were,
with the keenness of his attention. His deep-set kind brown eyes glowed
like a boy's as I went on, but by their dangerous kindling at certain
points of the story, those dealing with our pock-marked friend, Henry
P. Tobias, Jr., I soon realised where, for him, the chief interest of
the story lay.

"The ---- rebel!" he roared out once or twice, using an adjective
peculiarly English.

When I come to think of it, perhaps there is no one in His Britannic
Majesty's dominions so wholeheartedly English as Charlie Webster. He is
an Englishman of a larger mould than we are accustomed to to-day. He
seems rather to belong to a former more rugged era--an Englishman say of
Elizabeth's or Nelson's day; big, rough, and simple, honest to the core,
slow to anger, but terrible when roused--a true heart of oak, a man with
massive, slow-moving, but immensely efficient, "governing" brain. A born
commander, utterly without fear, yet always cool-headed and never rash.
If there are more Englishmen like him, I don't think you will find them
in London or anywhere in the British Isles. You must go for them to the
British colonies. There, rather than at home, the sacred faith in the
British Empire is still kept passionately alive. And, at all events,
Charlie Webster may truly be said to have one article of faith--the
glory of the British Empire. To him, therefore, the one unforgivable sin
is treason against that; as probably to die for England--after having
notched a good account of her enemies on his unerring rifle--would be
for him not merely a crown of glory, but the purest and completest joy
that could happen to him.

Therefore it was--somewhat, I will own, to my disappointment--that for
him my story had but one moral--the treason of Henry P. Tobias, Jr. The
treasure might as well have had no existence, so far as he was
concerned, and the grim climax in the cave drew nothing from him but a
preoccupied nod. And John Saunders was little more satisfactory. Both of
them allowed me to end in silence. They both seemed to be thinking
deeply.

"Well?" I said, somewhat dashed, as one whose story has fallen down on
an anti-climax. Still no response.

"I must say you two are a great audience," I said presently, perhaps
rather childishly nettled.

"What's happened to your imagination!"

"It's a very serious matter," said John Saunders, and I realised that it
was not my crony, but the Secretary to the Treasury of his Britannic
Majesty's Government at Nassau that was talking. As he spoke, he looked
across at Charlie Webster, almost as if forgetting me. "Something should
be done about it, eh, Charlie?" he continued.

"---- traitor!" roared Charlie, once more employing that British
adjective. And then he turned to me:

"Look here, old pal, I'll make a bargain with you, if you like. I
suppose you're keen for that other treasure, now, eh?"

"I am," said I, rather stiffly.

"Well then, I'll go after it with you--on one condition. You can keep
the treasure, if you'll give me Tobias!"

"Give you Tobias?" I laughed.

"Yes! if you go after the treasure, he'll probably keep his word, and go
after you. Now it would do my heart good to get him, as you had the
chance of doing that afternoon. Whatever were you doing to miss him?"

"I proposed to myself the satisfaction of making good that mistake," I
said, "on our next meeting. I feel I owe it to the poor old captain."

"Never mind; hand the captain's rights over to me--and I'll help you all
I know with your treasure. Besides, Tobias is a job for an
Englishman--eh, John? It's a matter of 'King and Country' with me. With
you it would be mere private vengeance. With me it will be an execution;
with you it would be a murder. Isn't that so, John?"

"Exactly," John nodded.

"Since you were away," Charlie began again, "I've bought the prettiest
yawl you ever set eyes on--the _Flamingo_--forty-five over all, and this
time the very fastest boat in the harbour. Yes! she's faster even than
the _Susan B._ Now, I've a holiday due me in about a fortnight. Say the
word, and the _Flamingo's_ yours for a couple of months, and her captain
too. I make only that one condition."

"All right, Charlie," I agreed, "he's yours."

Whereat Charlie shot out a huge paw like a shoulder of mutton, and
grabbed my hand with as much fervour as though I had saved his life, or
done him some other unimaginable kindness. And, as he did so, his old
broad sweet smile came back again. He was thinking of Tobias.



CHAPTER II

_In Which I Learn Something._


While Charlie Webster was arranging his affairs so that he might be able
to take his holiday with a free mind, I busied myself with provisioning
the _Flamingo,_ and in casually chatting with one and another along the
water front, in the hope of gathering some hint that might guide us on
our coming expedition. I thought it possible, too, that chance might
thus bring me some information as to the recent movements of Tobias.

In this way, I made the acquaintance of several old salts, both white
and black, one or two of whom time and their neighbours had invested
with a legendary savour of the old "wrecking days," which, if rumour
speaks true, are not entirely vanished from the remoter corners of the
islands. But either their romantic haloes were entirely due to
imaginative gossip, or they themselves were too shrewd to be drawn, for
I got nothing out of them to my purpose. They seemed to be more
interested in talking religion than the sea, and as navigators of
Biblical deep seas little visited except by professional theologians
they were remarkable. Generally speaking, indeed, piety would seem to
have taken the place of piracy among the sea-going population of Nassau;
a fact in which, no doubt, right-thinking folk will rejoice, but which
I, I am ashamed to say, found disappointing.

Those who would master the art of talking to the Nassau negro should
first brush up on their Bibles; for a pious salutation might almost be
said to be Nassau etiquette for opening a conversation. Of course, this
applies mainly to negroes or those "conchs" in whom negro blood
predominates. The average white man in Nassau must not be considered as
implicated in this statement, for he seems to take his religion much as
the average white man takes it in any other part of the world.

One afternoon, in the course of these rather fruitless if interesting
investigations among the picturesque shipyards of Bay Street, I had
wandered farther along that historic water front than is customary with
sight-seeing pedestrians; had left behind the white palm-shaded houses,
the bazaars of the sellers of tortoise-shell, the negro grog-shops and
cabins, and had come to where the road begins to be left alone with the
sea, except for a few country houses here and there among the
surrounding scrub--when my eye was caught by a little store that seemed
to have strayed away from the others--a small timber erection painted in
blue and white with a sort of sea-wildness and loneliness about it, and
with large naïve lettering across its lintel announcing itself as an
"Emporium" (I think that was the word) "of Marine Curiosities."

A bladder-shaped fish, set thick with spines like a hedgehog, swung in
the breeze over the doorway, and the windows on each side of the doorway
displayed, without any attempt at arrangement, all sorts of motley
treasures of the sea: purple sea-fans; coral in every fairy shape, white
as sea-foam; conches patterned like some tessellated pavement of old
Rome; monster star-fish, sharks' teeth, pink pearls, and shells of every
imaginable convolution and iridescence, and many a weird and lovely
thing which I had not the knowledge to name; objects, indeed, familiar
enough in Nassau, but here amassed and presented with this attractive
difference--that they had not been absurdly polished out of recognition,
or tortured into horrible "artistic" shapes of brooch, or earring, or
paper-knife, or ash-tray, but had been left with all their simple
sea-magic upon them--as they might have been heaped up by the sea itself
in some moonlit grotto, paved with white sand.

I pushed open the door. There was no one there. The little store was
evidently left to take care of itself. Inside, it was like an old
curiosity shop of the sea, every available inch of space, rough tables
and walls, littered and hung with the queer and lovely bric-à-brac of
the sea. Presently a tiny girl came in as it seemed from nowhere, and
said she would fetch her father. In a moment or two he came, a tall
weathered Englishman of the sailor type, brown and lean, with lonely
blue eyes.

"You don't seem afraid of thieves," I remarked.

"It ain't a jewelry store," he said, with the curious soft sing-song
intonation of the Nassau "conch."

"That's just what I was thinking it was," I said.

"I know what you mean," he replied, his lonely face lighting up as faces
do at unexpected understanding in a stranger. "Of course, there are some
that feel that way, but they're few and far between."

"Not enough to make a fortune out of?"

"O! I do pretty well," he said; "I mustn't complain. Money's not
everything, you see, in a business like this. There's going after the
things, you know. One's got to count that in too."

I looked at him in some surprise. I had met something even rarer than
the things he traded in. I had met a merchant of dreams, to whom the
mere handling of his merchandise seemed sufficient profit: "There's
going after the things, you know. One's got to count that in too."

Naturally we were neck-deep in talk in a moment. I wanted to hear all he
cared to tell me about "going after the things"--such "things"!--and he
was nothing loth, as he took up one strange or beautiful object after
another, his face aglow, and he quite evidently without a thought of
doing business, and told me all about them--how and where he got them,
and so forth.

"But," he said presently, encouraged by my unfeigned interest, "I should
like to show you a few rarer things I have in the house, and which I
wouldn't sell, or even show to every one. If you'd honour me by taking a
cup of tea, we might look them over."

So we left the little store, with its door unlocked as I had found it,
and a few steps brought us to a little house I had not before noticed,
with a neat garden in front of it, all the garden beds symmetrically
bordered with conch-shells. Shells were evidently the simple-hearted
fellow's mania, his revelation of the beauty of the world. Here in a
neat parlour, also much decorated with shells, tea was served to us by
the little girl I had first seen and an elder sister, who, I gathered,
made all the lonely dreamer's family. Then, shyly pressing on me a
cigar, he turned to show me the promised treasures. He also told me more
of his manner of finding them, and of the long trips which he had to
take in seeking them, to out-of-the-way cays and in dangerous waters.

All this I really believe the reader would find as attractive as I did;
still, as I am under an implied contract to tell him a story, I am not
going to palm off on him merely descriptive or informative matter,
except in so far as such matter is necessary, and I have only introduced
him to my dreamer in "marine curiosities" for a very pertinent reason,
which will immediately appear.

He was showing me the last and rarest of his specimens. He had kept, he
said, the best to the last. To me, as a layman, it was not nearly so
attractive as other things he had shown me--little more to my eye than a
rather commonplace though pretty shell; but he explained--and he gave me
its learned name, which I confess has escaped me, owing, doubtless, to
what he was next to say--that it was found, or had so far been found,
only in one spot in the islands, a lovely, seldom-visited cay several
miles to the north-east of Andros Island.

"What is it called?" I asked, for it was part of our plan for Charlie to
do a little duck-shooting on Andros, before we tackled the business of
Tobias and the treasure.

"It's called ---- Cay nowadays," he answered, "but it used to be called
Short Shrift Island."

"Short Shrift Island!" I cried, in spite of myself, immediately annoyed
at my lack of presence of mind.

"Certainly," he rejoined, looking a little surprised, but evidently
without suspicion. He was too simple, and too taken up with his shell.

"It is such an odd name," I said, trying to recover myself.

"Yes! those old pirate chaps certainly did think up some of the rummiest
names."

"One of the pirate haunts, was it?" I queried with assumed indifference.

"Supposed to be. But one hears that of every other cay in the Bahamas. I
take no stock in such yarns. My shells are all the treasure I expect to
find."

"What did you call that shell?" I asked.

He told me the name again, but again I forgot it immediately. Of course
I had asked it only for the sake of learning more precisely about Short
Shrift Island. He told me innocently enough just where it lay.

"Are you going after it?" he laughed.

"After what?" I enquired in alarm.

"The ----"; (again he mentioned the name of the shell.)

"O! well," I replied, "I am going on a duck-shooting trip to Andros
before long, and I thought I might drop around to your cay and pick a
few of them up for you."

"It would be mighty kind of you, but they're not easy to find. I'll tell
you just exactly--" He went off, dear fellow, into the minutest
description of the habitats of ----, while all the time I was eager to
rush off to Charlie Webster and John Saunders, and shout into their
ears--as, later, I did, at the first possible moment, that evening:
"I've found our missing cay! What's the matter with your old maps, John?
Short Shrift Island is ----; (I mentioned the name of a cay, which, as
in the case of "Dead Men's Shoes," I am unable to divulge.)

"Maybe!" said Charlie, "maybe! We can try it. But," he added, "did you
find out anything about Tobias?"



CHAPTER III

_In Which I am Afforded Glimpses into Futurity--Possibly Useful._


Two or three evenings before we were due to sail, at one of our snuggery
conclaves, I put the question whether any one had ever tried the
divining rod in hunting for treasure in the islands. Charlie took his
pipe out of his mouth, the more comfortably to beam his big brotherly
smile at me.

"What a kid you are!" he said. "You want the whole bag of tricks, eh?"

But I retorted that he was quite behind the times if he considered the
divining rod an exploded superstition. Its efficacy in finding water, I
reminded him, was now admitted by the most sceptical science, and I was
able to inform him that a great American railway company paid a yearly
salary to a "dowser" to guide it in the construction of new roads
through a country where water was scarce and hard to find.

Old John nodded, blinking his mischievous eyes. He had more sympathy
than Charlie with the foolishness of old romance. It was true enough, he
said, and added that he knew the man I wanted, a half-crazy old negro
back there in Grant's Town--the negro quarter spreading out into the
brush behind the ridge on which the town of Nassau proper is built.

"He calls himself a 'king,'" he added, "and the natives do, I believe,
regard him as the head of a certain tribe. Another tribe has its 'queen'
whom they take much more seriously. You must not forget that it is not
so long ago since they all came from Africa, and the oldest negroes
still speak their strange African languages, and keep up their old
beliefs and practices. 'Obeah,' of course, is still actively practised.

"Why," he resumed presently, "I may even be said to practise it myself;
for I protect that part of my grounds here that abuts on Grant's Town by
hanging up things in bottles along the fences, which frighten away at
least a percentage of would-be trespassers. You should go and see the
old man, if only for fun. The lads call him 'Old King Coffee'--a memory
I suppose of the Ashantee War. Any one will tell you where he lives. He
is something of a witch-doctor as well as 'king,' and manages to make a
little out of charms, philtres and such like, I'm told--enough to keep
him in rum anyway. He has a name too as a preacher--among the Holy
Jumpers!--but he's getting too old to do much preaching nowadays. He
may be a little off his head, but I think he's more of a shrewd old
fraud. Go and see him for fun anyway."

So, next morning, I went.

I had hardly been prepared for the plunge into "Darkest Africa" which I
found myself taking, as, leaving Government House behind, perched on the
crest of its white ridge, I walked a few yards inland and entered a
region which, for all its green palms, made a similar sudden impression
of pervading blackness on the mind which one gets on suddenly entering a
coal-mining district, after travelling through fields and meadows.

There were far more blacks than whites down on Bay Street, but here
there were nothing but blacks on every side. The wood of the
cabins--most of them neat enough and pleasantly situated in their little
gardens of bananas and cocoa-nut palms--was black, as with age or coal
dust; and the very foliage, in its suggestion of savage scenes in one's
old picture-books, suggested "natives." The innumerable smart little
pigs that seemed free of the place were black. The innumerable goats,
too, were black. And everywhere, mixed in with the pigs and the goats,
were the blackest of picaninnies. Everywhere black faces peered from
black squares of windows, most of them cheery and round and prosperous
looking, but here and there a tragically old crone with witch-like white
hair.

The roads ran in every direction, and along them everywhere were figures
of black women shuffling with burdens on their heads, or groups of
girls, audaciously merry, most of them bonny, here and there almost a
beauty. There were churches, and dance-halls, and saloons--all
radiating, so to say, a prosperous blackness. It was from these
dance-halls that there came at night that droning and braying of
barbaric music, as from some mysterious "heart of darkness," as one
turned to sleep in one's civilised Nassau beds--a music that kept on and
on into the inner blackness of the night.

At first the effect of the whole scene was a little sinister, even a
little frightening. The strangeness of Africa, the African jungle, was
here, and one was a white man in it all alone among grinning savage
faces. But for the figures about one being clothed, the illusion had
been complete; but for that and the kind-hearted salutations from comely
white-turbaned mammies which soon sprang up about me, and the groups of
elfish children that laughingly blocked one's progress with
requests--not in any weird African dialect but in excellent
national-school English--for "a copper please."

This request was not above the maidenly dignity of quite big and buxom
lasses. One of these, a really superb young creature, not too liberally
clothed to rob one's eyes of her noble contours, caught my attention by
the singularity of something she carried. It was an enormous axe, the
shining blade balanced easily on her head, and the handle jutting out
horizontally like some savage head-dress. She looked like a beautiful
young headswoman. Even she asked for "a copper, please," but with a
saucy coquetry befitting her adolescence.

"A big girl like you too!" I ventured. She gave a fine savage laugh,
without in the least jeopardising the balance of the axe.

"I'll give you one if you'll tell me where the 'King' lives," said I.

"Ole King Coffee?" she asked, and then fell into a very agony of negro
laughter. The poor old king was evidently the best of all possible jokes
to this irreverent young beauty. Then, recovering, she put her finger to
her lips, suggesting silence, and said:

"Come along, I'll show you!"

And, walking by my side, lithe as a young animal, evidently without
giving a thought to her gleaming headdress, she had soon brought me to a
cabin much like the rest, though perhaps a little poorer looking.
Stopping a little short of it, she once more put her finger to her lips.

"Shh! There he is!" and she shook all over again with suppressed
giggles.

I gave her a sixpence and told her to be a good girl. Then I advanced up
a little strip of garden to where I had caught a glimpse of a venerable
white-haired negro seated at the window, as if for exhibition, with a
great open book in his hands. This he appeared to be reading with great
solemnity, through enormous goggles, though I thought I caught a
side-glint of his eye, as though he had taken a swift reconnoitring
glance in my direction--a glance which apparently had but deepened his
attention and increased the dignity of his demeanour. That dignity
indeed was magnificent, and was evidently meant to convey to the
passers-by and the world at large that they were in the presence of
royalty.

As I approached the doorway, my eye was caught by a massive decoration
glittering immediately above it. It was a design of large gilt wooden
letters which I couldn't make out at first, as it had been turned upside
down. I didn't realise its meaning till afterward, but I may as well
tell the reader now.

Shortly before, King Coffee, feeling in need of some insignia to blazon
forth his rank, had appealed to a friend of his, a kindly American
visitor, who practically kept the old fellow alive with his bounty. This
kind friend was a wag too, and couldn't resist the idea that had come to
him. The old man wanted something that glittered. So the American had
bethought him of those big lettered signs which on the face of saloons
brighten the American landscape--signs announcing somebody or other's
"extra." This it was that now glittered in front of me as--the royal
arms!

That it was upside down merely added to its mysterious impressiveness
for the passer-by, and in no way afflicted the old king since, in spite
of that imposing book at the window, he was quite unable to read. That
book, a huge, much-gilded family Bible, was merely another portion of
the insignia--presented by the same kind friend; as also was the
magnificent frock coat, three sizes too big for the shrunken old figure,
in which I found him--installed, shall I say?--as I presently stood
before him in response to a dignified inclination of his head, welcoming
me, at the window.

Remembering that he was not merely royal, but pious also, I made my
salutation at once courtier-like and sanctimonious.

"Good day to Your Majesty," I said; "God's good, God looks after his
servants."

"De Lord is merciful," he answered gravely; "God takes care of his
children. Be seated, sar, and please excuse my not rising, my rheumatism
is a sore affliction to me. But de Lord is good, de Lord giveth and de
Lord He taketh away--and de holy text includes rheumatism too--as I have
told my poor wandering flock many a Sabbath evening."

And he smiled in a sly self-satisfied way at his pious pun. "The old
fellow is far from being crazy," I said to myself.

I was not long in getting to the subject of my visit. The old man
listened to me with great composure, but with a marked accession of
mysterious importance in his manner. So mediæval astrologers drew down
their brows with a solemn assumption of supernatural wisdom when
consulted by some noble client--noble, but pitiably mortal in the
presence of their hidden knowledge. He had put his book down as I
talked. I noticed that he had been holding it--like his royal
arms--upside down.

"It's true, sar," he said, when I had finished, "I could find it for
you. I could find it for you, sure enough; and I'm de only man in all de
islands dat could. But I should have to go wid you, and it's de Lord's
will to keep me here in dis chair wid rheumatics. O! I don't murmur. It
is de Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. De rods has turned
in dese old hands many a time, and I have faith in de Lord dey would
turn again--yes. I'd find it for you; sure enough. I'd find it if any
man could--and it was de Lord's will. But mebbe I can see it for you
widout moving from dis chair. For when de Lord takes away one gift from
his servants, he gives dem another. It is His will dat dese 'ere old
legs are stiff and can carry me round no more. So wot does de good Lord
do? He says: 'Nebber mind dem ole legs; nebber mind dem ole weary eyes;
sit jus' whar yuh are,' says de Lord, 'nebber min' no movin' round.' De
Lord do wondrous things to his faithful followers; He opens de eyes of
de spirit, so, having no eyes, dey shall see. Hallelujah! Glory be to de
Lord!--see down into de bowels of de earth, see thousands of miles away
just as plain as dis room--"

He had worked himself up to a sort of religious ecstasy, as I had seen
the revivalist sect he belonged to, known as the Holy Jumpers, do at
their curious services.

"Do you mean, brother, that the Lord has given you second sight?"

"Dat am it! Glory to His name, Hallelujah!" he answered. "I look in a
glass ball--so; and if de spirit helps me I can see clear as a picture
far under de ground, far, far away over de sea. It's de Lord's truth,
sar--Blessed be His Name!"

I asked him whether he would look into his crystal for me. With a burst
of profanity, as unexpected as it was vivid, he cursed "dem boys" that
had stolen from him a priceless crystal which once had belonged to his
old royal mother, who, before him, had had the same gift of the spirit.
But, he added--turning to a table by his side, and lifting from it a
large cut-glass decanter of considerable capacity, though at present
void of contents--that he had found that gazing into the large glass
ball of its stopper produced almost equally good results at times.

He said this with perfect solemnity, though, as he placed the decanter
on top of his Bible in front of him, I observed, with an inner smile,
that he tilted it slightly on one side, as though remarking, strictly to
himself, that, save for a drain of dark-coloured liquid in one corner,
it was painfully empty.

Then, with a sigh, he applied himself to his business of seer. First, he
asked me to be kind enough to shut the door.

We had to be very quiet, he declared; the spirit could work only in deep
silence. And he asked me to be kind enough to close my eyes. Then I
heard his voice muttering, in a strange tongue, a queer dark gobbling
kind of words, which may have been ancient African spell-words, or sheer
gibberish such as magicians in all times and places have employed to
mystify their consultants.

I looked at him through the corner of my eye--as, doubtless, he had
anticipated, for he was glaring with an air of inspired abstraction into
the ball of the decanter stopper. So we sat silent for, I suppose, some
ten minutes. Then I heard him give another deep sigh. Opening my eyes, I
saw him slowly shaking his head.

"De spirits don't seem communicable dis afternoon," he muttered, once
more tilting the decanter slightly on one side and observing it drearily
as before.

I had been rather slow, indeed, in taking the hint, but I determined to
take it, and see what would happen.

"Do you think, Your Majesty," I asked, with as serious a face as I
could assume, "the spirits might work better--if the decanter were to be
filled?"

The old man looked at me a little cautiously, as though wondering how to
take me. I tried to keep grave, but I couldn't quite suppress a twinkle;
catching it, he took courage--seemed to feel that he could trust me.
Slapping his knee, he let himself go in a rush of that deep, chuckling,
gurgling, child-like negro laughter which is one of the most appealing
gifts of his pathetic race.

"Mebbe, sar; mebbe. Spirits is curious things; dey need inspiration
sometimes, just like ourselves."

"What kind of inspiration, do you think, gets the best results, Your
Majesty?"

"Well, sar, I can't say as dey is very particular, but I'se noticed dey
do seem powerful 'tached to just plain good old Jamaica rum."

"They shall have it," I said.

I had noticed that there was a saloon a few yards away, so before many
more minutes had passed, I had been there and come back again, and the
decanter stood ruddily filled, ready for the resumption of our _séance._
But before we began, I of course accepted the seer's invitation to join
him and the spirits in a friendly libation.

Then--I having closed my eyes--we began again, and it was astonishing
with what rapidity the thick-coming pictures began to crowd upon that
inner vision with which the Lord had endowed his faithful follower!

Of course, I was inclined now to take the whole thing as an amusing
imposture; but presently, watching his face and the curious "seeing"
expression of his eyes, and noting the exactitude of one or two of his
pictures, I began to feel that, however much he might be inventing or
elaborating, there was some substratum of truth in what he was telling
me. I had had sufficient experience of mediums and clairvoyants to know
that, except in cases of absolute fraud, there was usually--beneath a
certain amount of conscious "imaginativeness"--a mysterious gift at
work, independent of their volition; something they did see, for which
they themselves could not account, and over which they had no control.
And as he proceeded I became more and more convinced that this was the
case also with Old King Coffee.

The first pictures that came to him were merely pictures, though
astonishingly clear ones, of Webster's boat, the _Flamingo,_ of Webster
himself, and of the men and the old dog Sailor; but in all this he might
have been visualising from actual knowledge. Yet the details were
curiously exact. We were all bathed in moonlight, he said--very bright
moonlight, moonlight you could read by. Pictures of us out at sea,
passing coral islands and so forth followed, all general in character.
But presently, his gaze becoming more fixed:

"I see you anchored under a little settlement. You are rowing ashore.
Dere are little pathways running up among de coral rock, and a few white
houses. And, yes! Dere is a man in overalls, on de roof of a building,
seeming like a little schoolhouse. He waves to you; he is getting down
from de roof to meet you. But his face is in a mist, I can't see him
right. Now he is gone."

He stopped and waited awhile. Then he resumed:

"Seems to be a forest; big, big trees--not like Nassau trees--and thick
brush everywhere; all choked up so thick and dark, can't see nut'n. Wait
a minute, dough. Dere seems to be old houses all sunk in and los', like
old ruins. Can't see dem right for de brush. And wait--Lord love you,
sar, but I'se afraid--I seem to see a big light coming up trough de
brush from far under de ground--just like you see old rotten wood
shining in de dark--deep, deep down. Didn't I tell you de Lord gave me
eyes to see into de bowels of de earth?--it's de bowels of de earth for
sure--all lit up and shining. Praise de Lord!--it am de gold, for
certain, all hidden away and shining dere under de ground--"

"Can't you see it closer, clearer?" I exclaimed involuntarily; "get some
idea of the place it's in?"

The old man gazed with a renewed intensity.

"No," he said presently, and his disappointed tone seemed to me the best
evidence yet of his truth, "I only see a little golden mist deep, deep
down under de ground; now it is fading away. It's gone; I can only see
de woods and de ruins again."

This brought his visions to an end. The spirits obstinately refused to
make any more pictures, though the old man continued to gaze on in the
decanter stopper for fully five minutes.

"De wind of de spirit bloweth as it listeth," said he at length, with
the note of a more genuine piety in his voice than at the beginning; and
there was a certain hushed gravity in his manner as we said good-bye,
which made me feel that there had been something in his visions that had
even surprised and solemnised himself.



CHAPTER IV

_In Which We Take Ship Once More._


The discovery which--through my friend the dealer in "marine
curiosities"--I had made, or believed myself to have made, of the
situation of Henry P. Tobias's second "pod" of treasure, fitted in
exactly with Charlie Webster's wishes for our trip, small stock as he
affected to take in it at the moment.

As the reader may recall, "Short Shrift Island" lay a few miles to the
northwest of Andros Island. Now Andros is a great haunt of wild duck,
not to speak of that more august bird, the flamingo. Attraction number
one for the good Charlie. Then, though it is some hundred and fifty
miles long and some fifty miles broad at its broadest, it has never yet,
it is said, been entirely explored.

Its centre is still a mystery. The natives declare it to be haunted, or
at all events inhabited by some strange people no one has yet approached
close enough to see. You can see their houses, they say, from a
distance, but as you approach them, they disappear. Here, therefore,
seemed an excellent place for Tobias to take cover in. Charlie's
duck-shooting preserves, endless marl lakes islanded with mangrove
copses, lay on the fringe of this mysterious region. So Andros was
plainly marked out for our destination.

But, when Charlie was ready for the start, the wind, which is of the
essence of any such contract in the Bahamas, was contrary. It had been
blowing stormily from the southwest, the direction we were bound for,
for several days, and nothing with sails had, for a week, felt like
venturing out across the surf-swept bar. It is but forty miles across
the Tongue of Ocean which divides the shores of New Providence and
Andros, but you need to pick your weather for that, if you don't want to
join the numerous craft that have vanished in that brief but fateful
strip of water. However, the wind was liable to change any minute now,
Charlie said, so he warned me to hold myself in readiness to jump aboard
at an hour's notice.

The summons came at last. I had been out for dinner, and returned home
about ten to find the message: "Be ready to sail at midnight."

There was a thrilling suddenness about it that appealed to one's
imagination. Here I had been expecting a landsman's bed, with a book and
a reading-lamp, surrounded by the friendly security of houses; instead,
I was to go faring with the night wind into the mystery of the sea.

It was a night of fitful moonlight, and Nassau, with its white houses
and white streets, seemed very hushed and spectral as I made my way down
to the wharf, vivid in black and silver.

There is always something mysterious about starting a journey at night,
even though it be nothing more out-of-the-way than catching a midnight
train out of the city; and the simple business of our embarkation
breathed an air of romantic secrecy. The moon seemed to have her finger
on her lip, and we talked in lowered voices as though we were bound on
some midnight raid. The night seemed to be charged with the expectancy
of the unknown, and Sailor, who, of course, was to be a fellow-voyager,
whined restlessly from the wharf side at the little yawl that awaited us
in the whispering, lapping water.

Sailor had watched his master getting his guns ready for some days, and,
doubtless, memories stirred in him of Scotch moors they had shot over
together. He raised his head to the night wind, and sniffed impatiently,
as though he already scented the wild duck on Andros Island. He was
impatient, like the rest of us, because, though it was an hour past
sailing-time, we had still to collect two of the crew. The same old
story! I marvelled at the good humour with which Charlie--who is really
a sleeping volcano of berserker rage--took it. But he reminded me of his
old advice as I started for my first trip: "No use getting mad with
niggers--till you positively have to!"

Well, the two loiterers turned up at last, and, all preliminaries being
at length disposed of, we threw off the mooring ropes, and presently
there was heard that most exhilarating of sounds, to any one who loves
sea-faring, the rippling of the ropes through the blocks as our mainsail
began to rise up high against the moon which was beginning to look out
over the huge block of the Colonial Hotel, the sea-wall of which ran
along as far as our mooring. A few lights in its windows here and there
broke the blank darkness of its facade, glimmering through the avenues
of royal palms. I am thus explicit because of something that presently
happened, and which stayed the mainsail in its rippling ascent.

A tall figure was running along the sea-wall from the direction of the
hotel, calling out, a little breathlessly, in a rich young voice as it
ran:

"Wait a minute there, you fellows! Wait a minute!"

We were already moving, parallel with the wall, and at least twelve feet
away from it, by the time the figure--that of a tall boy, cow-boy
hatted, and picturesquely outlined in the half light--stopped just ahead
of us. "Like the herald Mercury," I said to myself. He raised something
that looked like a bag in his right hand, calling out "catch" as he did
so; and, a moment after, before a word could be spoken, he took a flying
leap and landed amongst us, plump in the cock-pit, and was clutching
first one of us and then the other, to keep his balance.

"Did it, by Jove!" he exclaimed in a beautiful English accent, and then
started laughing as only absurd dare-devil youngsters can.

"Forgive me!" he said, as soon as he could get his breath, "but I had to
do it. Heaven knows what the old man will say!"

He seemed to take it all for granted in a delightful, nonchalant way, so
that the angry protest which had already started from Charlie's lips
stopped in the middle. That fearless leap had taken his heart.

"You're something of a long jump!" said Charlie.

"O! I have done my twenty-two and an eighth on a broad running jump, but
I had no chance for a run there," answered the lad, carelessly.

"But suppose you'd hit the water instead of the deck?"

"What of it? Can't one swim?"

"I guess you're all right, young man," said Charlie, softened; "but ...
well, we're not taking passengers."

The words had a familiar sound. They were the very ones I had used to
Tobias, as he stood with his hand on the gunwale of the _Maggie
Darling._ I rapidly conveyed the coincidence--and the difference--to
Charlie. It struck me as odd, I'll admit, that our second start, in this
respect, should be so like the first. Meanwhile, the young man was
answering, or rather pleading, in a boyish way.

"Don't call me a passenger; I'll help work the boat. I'm strong, you'll
see--not afraid of hard work; and anyway, won't you help a chap to an
adventure?... I'll tell the truth. I heard--never mind _how_--about your
trip, and I'm just nutty about buried treasure. Come, be a sport; I've
been watching for you all day. Pretty late starting, aren't you?... We
can let the old guv'nor know, somehow ... and it won't kill him to tear
his hair for a day or two. He knows I can take care of myself."

"Well!" said Charlie, after thinking awhile in his slow way, "we'll
think it over. You can come along till the morning. Then I can get a
good look at you. If I don't like your looks, we'll still be able to put
you off at West End; and if I do--well--right-ho!"

"My looks!" exclaimed our young stranger, with a peculiar mellow laugh.

"What's the joke?" demanded Charlie.

"O! I only wondered what my looks had to do with it!"

"Well," laughed Charlie, entering into the spirit of the lad, "you might
be pock-marked for all I know in this light--and I have a peculiar
prejudice against pock-marked gentlemen."

"Unfeeling of you!" retorted the boy. "Anyhow," he added, with the same
curiously attractive laugh, "I'm not pock-marked."

"We'll see at sunrise," said Charlie. "Now, boys," he shouted, "go ahead
with the sails."

Once more there was that rippling of the ropes through the blocks, as
our mainsail rose up high against the moon and filled proudly with the
steady northeast breeze we had been waiting for. The water began to talk
along our sides, and the immense freshness of the nocturnal sea took us
in its huge embrace. The spray began to fly over our bows as we nosed
into the glassy rollers, one of which, on the starboard side, admonished
us, by half swallowing us, that only the mighty-limbed immortals might
dance with safety on the bar that night, and that it were wise for even
45-foot yawls to hug the land till daylight. So, reluctantly, we kept
the shadowy coast-line for our companion, as we steered for the
southwestern end of the island; to our right, companions more of our
mood, parallel ridges of savage whiteness, where the surf boiled and
gleamed along the coral shoals.

How good it seemed to all of us to be out thus in the freedom of the
night and the sea--not least to the great noble-headed hound sitting up
on his haunches, keen and watchful by the steersman's side. What a
strange waste of a life so short to be sleeping there on the land, when
one might be out and away on such business as ours!

So two or three hours went by, as we plunged on, to the seething sound
of the water, and the singing of our sails, and all the various rumour
of wind and sea. After all, it was a good music to sleep to, and, for
all my scorn of sleeping landsmen, an irresistible drowsiness stretched
me out on the roof of the little cabin, wonderfully rocked into
forgetfulness.

My nap came to an end suddenly, as though some one had flung me out
through a door of blue and gold into a new-born world. There was the
sun rising, the moon still on duty, and the morning star divinely naked
in the heaven. And, with these glories, there rushed in again upon my
ears the lovely zest and turmoil of the sea, heaving huge and tumultuous
about us in gleaming hills and foam-flecked valleys.

And there was Charlie, his broad face beaming with boyish happiness, and
something like a fatherly gentleness in his eyes, as he watched his
companion at the tiller, whom, for a half-asleep moment of waking, I
couldn't account for, till our start all came back to me, when I
realised that it was our young scapegrace of over-night. Charlie and he
evidently were on the best of terms already.

"Nice sailor you are!" Charlie laughed, as I sat up rubbing my eyes.
"Falling asleep on watch! Our young friend here is worth ten of you."

I smiled good morning to our young passenger.

"How about the court-martial on his looks you spoke of last night,
Charlie?" I asked.

"Well, he's not pock-marked, at all events, is he?--he told the truth so
far. But I've still a question or two to ask him before we leave West
End. We'll have breakfast first--to give him courage."

The lad made a humorous face to suggest his fear of the ordeal; as he
did so, I took a good look at him. Charlie might easily have said a
little more about his looks, had it been in his line, for, so far from
being only "not pock-marked," he was something more like a young Apollo:
some six feet in height, upstanding like the statue of a Greek athlete;
a rich olive skin, through which the pink of youth came and went; and
splendid blue-green eyes, fearless, and yet shy as a lad's eyes often
are--at that moment of development when a good-looking lad, in spite of
his height and muscles, has something of the bloom and purity of a girl,
without in the least suggesting effeminacy. So, many tall athletic
girls, for a brief period, suggest boys--without there being the least
danger of mistake as to their real sex.

He was evidently very young--scarcely more than eighteen--and had a
great tendency to blush, for all his attempt at nonchalant grown-up
airs. He was the very embodiment of youth, in its sun-tipped morning
flower. What Charlie could have to "question" this artless young
being--as incapable of plotting, it seemed to me, as a young
faun--passed my conjecture; but, as Charlie had given me a quiet wink,
as he spoke of the after-breakfast examination, I suspected that it was
one of those jokes of his which are apt to have something of the
simplicity and roughness of seafaring tradition.

Meanwhile, old Tom had been busy with breakfast, and soon the smells of
coffee and freshly made "johnny-cake" and frying bacon competed not
unsuccessfully with the various fragrances of the morning. Is there
anything to match for zest a breakfast like that of ours at dawn on the
open sea?

Breakfast over, Charlie filled his pipe, assuming, as he did so, a
judicial aspect. I filled mine, and our young friend followed suit by
taking a silver cigarette-case from his pocket, and striking a match on
the leg of his khaki knickerbockers with a professional air.

"All set?" asked Charlie, and, after a slight pause, he went on:

"Now, young man, you can see we are nearing the end of the island.
Another half-mile will bring us to West End. Whether we put you ashore
there, or take you along, depends on your answers to my questions."

"Fire away," answered the youth, blowing a cloud of cigarette smoke in a
delicate spiral up into the morning sky; "but I've really told you all I
have to tell."

"No; you haven't told us how you came to know of our trip, what we were
supposed to be after, and when we were starting."

"That's true!" flushed the lad, momentarily losing his composure. Then,
partly regaining it: "Is it necessary to answer that question?"

"Absolutely," answered Charlie, beginning to look really serious.

"Because, if you don't mind ... well, I'd just as soon not."

The boy's cheeks were burning with confusion, and he looked more than
ever like a girl.

"For that very reason, I want to know. We are out on a more serious
business than perhaps you realise, and your answer may mean more to us
than you think."

"I'm sure it cannot be of such importance to you. Really it's nothing--a
mere accident; and, besides, it's hardly fair for me to tell. I should
have to give away a friend, and that, I'm sure you'll agree, is not
cricket."

The boy had such a true innocent air, not to speak of his taking ways
which had already quite won my heart, that I protested with Charlie on
his behalf. But Charlie was adamant. He'd got Tobias so on the brain
that there was no reasoning with him, and the very innocent air of the
lad seemed to have deepened his suspicions.

"I'm sorry, but I shall have to insist," replied Charlie, looking very
grim, and more and more like an Elizabethan sea-rover.

"All right, then," answered the youth, looking him straight in the eyes,
"put me ashore."

"No; I won't do that now, either," declared Charlie, sternly setting his
jaw. "I'll put you in irons, rather--and keep you on bread and
water--till you answer my questions."

"You will, eh?" retorted the youth, flashing fire from his fine eyes.
And as he spoke, quick as thought, he leaped up on to the gunwale, and,
without hesitation, dived into the great glassy rollers.

But Charlie was quick too. Like a flash, he grabbed one of the boy's
ankles, so that the beautiful dive was spoiled; and there was the boy,
hanging by an imprisoned leg over the ship's side, a helpless
captive--his arms in the water and his leg struggling vainly to get
free. But he might as well have struggled against the grip of Hercules.
In another moment Charlie had him hauled aboard again, his eyes full of
tears of boyish rage and humiliation.

"You young fool!" exclaimed Charlie. "The water round here is thick with
sharks; you wouldn't have gone fifty yards without one of them getting
you." ...

"Sharks!" gasped out the boy, contemptuously. "I know more about sharks
than you do."

"You seem to know a good many things I don't," said Charlie, whose
grimness had evidently relaxed a little at the lad's display of mettle.
Meanwhile, my temper was beginning to rise on behalf of our young
passenger.

"I tell you what, Charlie," I interposed; "if you are going to keep this
up, you'd better count me out on this trip and set us both ashore at
West End. You're making a fool of yourself. The lad's all right. Any one
can see with half an eye there's no harm in him."

The boy shot me a warm glance of gratitude.

"All right," agreed Charlie, beginning to lose his temper too, "I'm
damned if I don't." And, his hand on the tiller, he made as if to turn
the boat about and tack for the shore.

"No! no!" cried the boy, springing between us, and appealingly laying
one hand on Charlie's shoulder, the other on mine. "You mustn't let me
spoil your trip. I'll compromise. And, skipper, I'll tell your friend
here all there is to tell--everything--I swear--if you will leave it to
his judgment."

Charlie gloomed for a moment or two, thinking it over, while I stood
aloof with an injured air.

"Right-O," agreed Charlie at last; so our passenger and I thereupon
withdrew for our conference.

It was soon over, and I couldn't help laughing aloud at the simplicity
of it all.

"Just as I told you, Charlie," I exclaimed; "it's innocence itself."
Turning to the lad, I said: "Dear boy, there is really no need to keep
such a small secret as that from the skipper here. You'll really have to
let me tell him."

The boy nodded acquiescence.

"All the same, I gave my word," he said

When I told Charlie the innocent secret, he laughed as I had done, and
his usual good humour instantly returned.

"But to think, you young scapegrace," he exclaimed, "that you might
either have been eaten by a shark, or have broken up an old friendship,
for such nonsense as that." And, turning to me, and stretching out his
huge paw, "My hand, old man; forgive my bad temper."

"Mine too," said I.

So harmony was restored, and the stubbornly held secret had merely
amounted to this: Our lad was acquainted with my conchologist, and had
paid him a visit the very afternoon I did, had in fact seen me leaving
the house. Answering to the boy's romantic talk of buried treasure and
so forth, the shell enthusiast had thought no harm to tell him of our
projected trip; and that was the whole of the mysterious matter.

Yet the day was not to end without a little incident which, slight
though indeed it was, was momentarily to arouse Charlie's suspicions of
our charming young companion once more.

By this we had shaken off the unwelcome convoy of the coast-line, and,
having had a thrilling minute or two running the gauntlet of the great
combers of the southwest bar, we were at last really out to sea, making
our dash under a good sailing breeze, with the engine going, too, across
the Tongue of Ocean.

This Tongue of Ocean is but a narrow strip of sea--so narrow indeed that
you scarcely lose sight of one coast before you sight the other--yet the
oldest sailors cross it with fear, for its appalling depth within its
narrow boundaries make it subject to sudden "rages" in certain winds.
Even Charlie, who must have made the trip half a hundred times, scanned
the western horizon with an anxious eye.

Presently, in the far southwest, tiny points like a row of pins began
very faintly to range themselves along the sky-line. They were palm
trees, though you could not make them out to be such, or anything in
particular, till long after. One darker point seemed closer than the
rest.

"There's High Cay!" rang out the rich young voice of our passenger, whom
we'd half forgotten in our tense scanning of the horizon. Charlie and I
both turned to him together in surprise--and his face certainly betrayed
the confusion of one who has let something slip involuntarily.

"Ho! ho! young man," cried Charlie, his face darkening again, "what do
you know about High Cay? I thought this was your first trip."

"So it is," answered the boy, with a flush of evident annoyance, "on the
sea."

"What do you mean by 'on the sea'?"

"I mean that I've done it many a time--on the chart. I know every bluff
and reef and shoal and cay around Andros from Morgan's Bluff to
Washerwoman's Cut--"

"You do, eh?"

"On the chart. Why, I've studied charts since I was a kid, and gone
every kind of voyage you can think of--playing at buccaneering or
whaling, or discovering the North Pole. Every kid does that."

"They do, eh?" said Charlie, evidently quite unimpressed. "_I_ never
did."

"That's because you've about as much imagination as a turnip in that
head of yours," I broke in, in defence of my young Apollo.

"Maybe, if you're so smart," continued Charlie, paying no attention to
me, "you can navigate us through the North Bight?"

"Maybe!" answered our youngster pertly, with an odd little smile. He had
evidently recovered his nerve, and seemed to take pleasure in piquing
Charlie's bearish suspicions.



CHAPTER V

_In Which We Enter the Wilderness._


Andros, as no other of the islands, is surrounded by a ring of reefs
stretching all around its coasts. The waters inside this ring are seldom
more than a fathom or two deep, and, spreading out for miles and miles
above a level coral floor, give something of the effect of a vast
natural swimming-bath. Frequently there is no more than four or five
feet of water, and in calm weather it would be almost possible to walk
for miles across this strange sea-bottom.

Darker and solider grew the point on which our eyes were set, till at
length we were up with a thick-set, little scrub-covered island which,
compared with the low level of the line of coast stretching dimly behind
it, rose high and rocky out of the water. Hence its name, "High Cay,"
and its importance along a coast where such definite landmarks are few.

We were now inside the breakwater of the reefs, and the rolling swell of
ocean gave way at once to a millpond calmness. Through this we sped
along for some ten miles or so, following a low, barren coast-line till
at length, to our right, the water began to spread out inland like a
lake. We were at the entrance of North Bight, one of the three bights
which, dotted with numerous low-lying cays, breaks up Andros Island in
the middle, and allows a passage through a mazelike archipelago direct
to the northwest end of Cuba. Here on the northwest shore is a small and
very lonely settlement--one of the two or three settlements on the
else-deserted island--Behring's Point.

Here we dropped anchor, and Charlie, who had some business ashore,
proposed our landing with him; but here again our passenger aroused his
suspicions--though Heaven knows why--by preferring to remain aboard. If
Charlie has a fault, it is a pig-headed determination to have his own
way--but our passenger was politely obstinate.

"Please let me off," he requested, in his most top-lofty English accent.
"You can see for yourself that there's nothing of interest--nothing but
a beastly lot of nigger cabins, and dirty coral rock that will cut your
boots to pieces. I'd much rather smoke and wait for you in peace;" and,
taking out his case and lighting a cigarette, he waved it gaily to us as
we rowed off.

He had certainly been right about Behring's Point--Charlie was absurdly
certain that he had known it before, and had some reason for not
landing--for a more forlorn and poverty-stricken foot-hold of humanity
could hardly be conceived; a poor little cluster of negro cabins,
indeed, scrambling up from the beach, and with no streets but craggy
pathways in and out among the grey clinker-like coral rock.

But it was touching to find even here that, though the whole worldly
goods of the community would scarcely have fetched ten dollars, the
souls of men were still held worth caring for--one handsome youth's
contempt notwithstanding--for presently we came upon a pretty little
church, with a schoolhouse near by, while from the roof of an adjacent
building we were hailed by a pleasant-faced white man, busy with some
shingling.

It was the good priest of the little place, Father Serapion, disguised
in overalls and the honest grime of his labour; like a true Benedictine,
praying with his strong and skilful hands. He was down from his roof in
a moment, a youngish man with the face of a practical dreamer, strangely
happy-looking in what would seem to most an appalling isolation; there
alone, month after month, with his black flock. But evidently his was no
such thought, for he showed us with pride the new schoolhouse he was
building out of the coral limestone with his own hands, as he had built
the church, every stone of it, and the picturesque well, and the
rampart-like wall round the churchyard. His garden, too, he was very
proud of, as he well might be, wrested as it was out of the solid rock.

Father Serapion and Charlie were old friends, and, when we had accepted
the Father's invitation to step into his neat little house--also built
with his own hands--and dissipate with him to the extent of some grape
juice and an excellent cigar, Charlie took occasion to confide in him
with regard to Tobias, and, to his huge delight, discovered that a man
answering very closely to his description had dropped in there with a
large sponger two days before. He had only stopped long enough to buy
rum at the little store near the landing, and had been off again through
the bight, sailing west. He might have been making for Cuba or for a
hiding-place--of which there were plenty on the western shore of the
island itself. Father Serapion, who knew Charlie Webster's shooting
ground, promised to send a swift messenger, should anything further of
interest to us come to his knowledge within the next week or so. As he
was, naturally, in close touch with the natives, this was not unlikely.

And then we had to bid the good priest farewell--not without a reverent
hush in our hearts as we pondered on the marvel of noble lives thus
unselfishly devoted, and as we thought, too, of the loneliness that
would once more close around him when we were gone.

It was not until we had left him that I suddenly recalled King Coffee's
first vision. Clearly, Father Serapion was the man in overalls shingling
the roof! If only his other visions should prove as true!

Then we sailed away from Behring's Point, due west through the North
Bight. But we had spent too much time with the good Father, and in
various pottering about--making another landing at a lone cabin in
search of fresh vegetables and further loading up our much-enduring
craft with three flat-bottomed skiffs, for duck-shooting, marvellously
lashed to the sides of the cabin deck--to do much more sailing that day.
So at sunset we dropped anchor under the lee of Big Wood Cay, and, long
before the moon rose, the whole boat's crew was wondrously asleep.

Morning found us sailing through a maze of low-lying desert islands of a
bewildering sameness of shape and size, with practically nothing to
distinguish one from another. Even with long experience of them, one is
liable to go astray; indeed Charlie and the captain had several
friendly disputes, and exchanged bets, as to which was which. Then, too,
the curious milky colour of the water (in strange contrast to the
jewel-like clearness of the outer sea) makes it hard to keep clear of
the coral shoals that shelve out capriciously from every island. In the
daylight, the deeper water is seen in a bluish track (something like the
"bluing" used in laundry work), edged on either side by "the white
water." One has to keep a sharp lookout every foot of the way, and many
a time our keel gave an ominous grating, and we escaped some nasty
ledges by the mere mercy of Heaven.

We had tried bathing at sunrise, but the water was not deep enough to
swim in. So we had paddled around picking up "conches"--those great
ornamental shells which house with such fanciful magnificence an animal
something like our winkle, the hard white flesh of which, cut up fine,
makes an excellent salad; that is, as old Tom made it.

There is no fishing to speak of in these inclosed waters; nothing to go
after except sponges, which you see dotting the coral floor in black
patches. We gathered one or two, but the sponge in its natural state is
not an agreeable object. It is like a mass of slimy india-rubber, and
has to "die" and rot out its animal life, which it does with a
protesting perfume of great power, the sponge of our bath-tubs being the
macerated skeleton of the once living sponge.

We had hoped to reach our camp, out on the other side of the island,
that evening, but that dodging the shoals and sticking in the mud had
considerably delayed us. Besides, though Charlie and the captain both
hated to admit it, we had lost our way. We had been looking all
afternoon for Little Wood Cay, but as I said before, one cay was so much
like another--all alike flat, low-lying, desolate islands covered with a
uniform scrub and marked by no large trees--not unbeautiful if one has a
taste for melancholy levels, but unpicturesquely depressing and hopeless
for eyes craving more featured and coloured "scenery."

So night began to fall, and, as there is no sailing in such waters at
night, we once more cast anchor under a gloomy, black shape of land,
exceedingly lonesome and forgotten-looking, which we agreed to call
"Little Wood Cay"--till morning.

Soon all were asleep except Sailor and me. I lay awake for a long time
watching the square yard of stars that shone down through the hatch in
our cabin ceiling like a little window looking into eternity, while the
waters lapped and lapped outside, and the night talked strangely to
itself. It was a wonderful meeting-place of august lonely things--that
nameless, dark island, that shadowy water heaving vast and mournful,
that cry of the wind, that swaying vault of the stars, and, framed in
the cabin doorway, the great black head of the old dog, grave and
moveless and wondering.

Next morning Charlie and the captain were forced to own up that the
island, discovered to the day, was not Little Wood Cay. No humiliation
goes deeper with a sailing man than having to ask his way. Besides, who
was there to ask in that solitude? Doubtless a cormorant flying overhead
knew it, but no one thought to ask him.

However, we were in luck, for, after sailing about a bit, we came upon
two lonely negroes standing up in their boats and thrusting long poles
into the water. They were sponging--most melancholy of occupations--and
they looked forlorn enough in the still dawn. But they had a smile for
our plight. It was evidently a good joke to have mistaken Sapodilla Cay
for Little Wood Cay. Of course, we should have gone--"so." And "so" we
presently went, not without rewarding them for their information with
two generous drinks of old Jamaica rum. I never before saw two men so
grateful for a drink. Their faces positively shone with happiness.
Certainly it must have seemed as if that rum had fallen out of the sky,
the last thing those chilled and lonesome men could have hoped for out
there in the inhospitable solitude.

One of our reasons for seeking Little Wood Cay, which it proved had been
close by all the time, was that it is one of the few cays where one can
get fresh water. "Good water here," says the chart. We wanted to refill
some of our jars, and so we landed there, glad to stretch our legs,
while old Tom cooked our breakfast on the beach, under a sapodilla tree.
The vegetation was a little more varied and genial than we had yet seen,
and some small white flowers, growing in long lines, as if they had been
planted, wafted a very sweet fragrance across our breakfast table of
white coral sand. While we were eating, two or three little lizards with
tails curiously twirled round and round, like a St. Catherine wheel,
made themselves friendly, and ate pieces of bread from our hands without
fear.

Now that we knew where we were, it was clear, but by no means careless
sailing to our camp. By noon we had made the trip through the bight and,
passing out of a narrow creek known as Loggerhead Creek, were on the
southwest side of the island. A hundred and fifty miles or so of
straight sailing would have brought us to Cuba, but our way lay north
up the coast, as we had come down the other. Here was the same white
water as the day before, with the bluish track showing the deeper
channel; the same long, monotonous coast; the same dwarf, rusty-green
scrub; not a sign of life anywhere. Nothing but the endless
blue-streaked white water and the endless desert shore. We were making
for what is known as the Wide Opening, a sort of estuary into which a
listless stream or two crawl through mangrove bushes from the interior
swamps.

But there is one startlingly pleasant river, curiously out of place in
its desolate surroundings, which, after running through several miles of
marl swamps, enters upon an oasis of fresher foliage and even such
stately timber as mahogany, lignum vitæ, and horseflesh; and it was in
this oasis, at the close of the third day out, we found ourselves. Here,
a short distance from the bank, on some slightly ascending rocky ground,
under the spreading shade of something like a stretch of woodland,
Charlie, several years ago, had built a rough log shanty for his
camp--one of two or three camps he had thus scattered for himself up and
down the "out islands," where nearly all the land is no man's, and so
every man's, land. The particular camp at which we had now arrived he
had not visited for a long time.

"Last time I was here," said Charlie, laughing, as, having dropped
anchor, we rowed ashore, "I thought of what seemed to me an infallible
test of the loneliness of the place. Let's see how it has worked."

The log shanty stood before us, doorless, comfortably tucked in under an
umbrella-headed tamarind tree. There was no furniture in it but a rough
table. On the table was a bottle, fallen over on its side. This Charlie
snatched up, with a cry of satisfaction.

"What do you think of this?" he said. "Not a soul has been here but the
turkey-buzzards. The beggars knocked this over, but otherwise it is just
as I left it. Do you want better proof than this?"--and he held out the
bottle for me to look at.

It was a quart of Scotch whisky, corked and sealed as it had left the
distillery. And it had been there for two years! The more the reader
ponders this striking fact, the better will he be able to realise the
depth of the solitude in which we now found ourselves. While the boys
slung the beds, and Tom busied himself with dinner, we sat and smoked,
and savoured together our satisfaction in our complete and grandiose
isolation.

"It might well be weeks before any one could find us!" said my friend,
eager as a boy lapping up horrors from his favourite author. "Yes,
weeks!" And then he added: "It was creeks like this the old pirates used
to hide in."

And so we talked of pirates and buried treasure, while the sun set like
a flight of flamingoes over a scene that was indeed like a picture torn
from a Boy's Own Book of Adventure.

Then Tom brought us our dinner, and the dark began to settle down upon
us, thrillingly lonely, and full of strange, desolate cries of night
creatures from the mangrove swamps that surrounded our little oasis for
miles. Not even when Tom and I had been alone on "Dead Men's Shoes" had
I felt so utterly out of and beyond the world.

Charlie smacked his big smiling lips at the savage solitude of it.

"It's great to get away from everything--like this--isn't it?" he
remarked, looking round with huge satisfaction into the homeless haunted
wild, with its brooding blackness as of primeval chaos.

Sailor lay at our feet, dreaming of to-morrow's duck. His master's
thoughts were evidently in the same direction.

"How are you with a gun?" he asked, turning to the boy.

"O! I won't brag. I had better wait till to-morrow. But, of course, you
will have to lend me a gun."

"I have a beauty for you--just your weight," replied Charlie, his face
beaming as it did only at the thought of his guns, which he kept
polished like jewels and guarded as jealously as a violinist his violin,
or an Arab his harem.



CHAPTER VI

_Duck._


Dawn was just breaking as I felt Charlie's great paw on my shoulder next
morning. He was very serious. For a moment, as I sat up, still half
asleep, I thought he had news of Tobias. But it was only duck. He had
heard a great quacking during the night, and was impatient to make a
start. So was Sailor.

I was scarcely dressed when Tom arrived with breakfast, and in a few
minutes we had shouldered our guns, and were crossing the half mile of
peaty waste that divided us from the marl lakes from which the night
wind had carried that provocative quacking. Ahead of us, the crew were
carrying the skiffs on their shoulders, and very soon we were each
seated in regulation fashion on a canvas chair in front of our
respective skiffs, with our guns across our knees, and a negro behind us
to do the poling.

Charlie went ahead, with Sailor standing in the bow quivering with
excitement. The necessity of absolute silence, of course, had been
impressed upon us all by the most severe of all sportsmen. But the
admonition was scarcely necessary, for, as the sun rose, the scene that
spread before us was beautiful enough to have hushed the most garrulous
tongue. Far and near stretched misty levels of milkwhite water, in which
the mangrove trees made countless islands, sometimes of considerable
extent, impenetrable coppices often thirty or forty feet high. From
horizon to horizon there was nothing but white water and these
coppice-islands of laurel green--one so like another that I marvelled
how Charlie expected to find his way back to camp again in the evening.
As the sun rose, flooding the wide floors with lonely splendour, it
smote upon what at first I took to be gleaming clouds of purest silver
unrolling before it. It was an angelic host of white herons soaring and
circling, stainless spirits of the dawn high up in the fathomless blue.
As we stole silently along in our skiffs, it seemed to me that we were
invading some sanctuary of morning, "occult, withdrawn," at the far
limits of the world.

I looked around to see how it was all affecting my young friend. He was
close behind, almost at my shoulder--his beautiful young face like that
of a Greek god in a dream.

"Isn't it wonderful?" he mused, in that voice like a musical instrument.
My heart went out to him in gratitude, for, as I caught sight of
Charlie's serious figure ahead--with no thought, I was sure, but duck--I
realised how lonely I would have been amid all that solemn morning
without my young fellow-worshipper.

Presently, the herons alighted on one of the near-by mangrove coppices,
and it was as though the green bushes had suddenly been clothed with
miraculous white flowers--or been buried under a fall of virgin snow.
High up against the sun, several larger birds were uncouthly gambolling
in morning joy. It was hard to believe that they were pelicans--such
different birds they seemed from their foolish moping fellows at the
Zoo. And ah! yonder, riding innocent of danger, filling the morning air
with their peaceful quacking, a huge glittering fleet of--teal.

At the sight, Charlie turned with solemn warning hand--at which I heard
my young friend behind me smothering his profane laughter--and made
various signs by which Tom (who was poling me) and I understood that our
job, and also that of my companion, was to steal behind one mangrove
copse after another till we had got on the other side of that
unsuspecting squadron--which might then be expected to take flight in
Charlie's direction and rush by him in a terrified whirlwind. This not
very easy feat of stalking we were able to accomplish, thereby winning
Charlie's immense approval and putting him a splendid temper for the
rest of the day; for, as the wild cloud swept over him, he was able to
bring down no less than seven. Like a true sportsman, in telling the
story afterward in John Saunders's snuggery, he averred that the number
was nine!

I don't know who was happier; he, or Sailor, again and again splashing
through the water and returning with a bird in his mouth. As for me, I'm
afraid I am but a half-hearted sportsman, for I noticed that, as the
bang-bang-bang of the gun shivered the silence like a crystal mirror,
those white spirits of the morning, till then massed in dazzling purity
on the mangrove coppice, rose once more in a silver cloud and vanished.
It was as though beauty were leaving the world.

And once more I was thankful for the presence of dreaming and worshipful
youth.

"I shall hate him in a minute," said the boy, but just then came across
the water to him Charlie's jovial challenge to show his marksmanship,
and he took it forthwith with the same nonchalant skill as he did
everything, making, by long odds, as Charlie generously admitted, the
most brilliant shot of the day.

Now duck-hunting, while exciting enough in itself, makes unexciting
reading, and when I have recorded that Charlie's bag for the day was no
less than seven and a half dozen (I am not sure that our figures will
agree) and related one curious incident of the day, I shall leave the
reader to imagine the rest. The incident was this:

Early in the afternoon, Charlie had made one notable killing (five, I
think it was; he will correct me if I am wrong), but one of the birds,
not quite dead, had fluttered away into a particularly dense coppice.
Sailor had been sent in after it, but, after a lot of fussing about,
came out without his bird. Twice Charlie sent him in; with the same
result. So, growing impatient, he got out of his skiff, went splashing
through the marl water himself, and disappeared in the coppice.
Presently we heard his big laugh, and the next second, his gun. A moment
or two after, he reappeared, shouldering a huge black snake. No wonder
Sailor had been unable to find his bird, for, as Charlie had entered the
coppice, the first thing he saw was this snake coiled up in the centre,
with a curious protuberance bulging out his neck. Flying from Charlie's
gun, the unfortunate duck had landed right into the jaws of the snake!
As Charlie ripped open the snake's side--there, sure enough, was the
duck. So he was added to the day's bag; and, if he was among those Tom
cooked for dinner when we reached camp again that evening, he had the
somewhat unusual experience of being eaten twice in one day.



CHAPTER VII

_More Particularly Concerns Our Young Companion._


The days that now followed for a week might be said to be accurate
copies of that first day. Had one kept a diary, it would have been
necessary to write only: "ditto," "ditto," "ditto" under the happenings
of the first. Wonderful dawn--ditto; white herons and pelicans--ditto;
duck--ditto. But they were none the less delightful for that--for there
is a sameness that is far indeed from monotony--though I will confess
that, for my own tastes, toward the week-end, the carnage of duck began
to partake a little of that latter quality. Still, Charlie and Sailor
were so happy that I wouldn't have let them suspect that for the world.

Besides, I had my wonderful young friend, to whom I grew daily more
attached. He and I, of course, were of the same mind on the subject of
duck, and, as often as possible, would give Charlie the slip and explore
the ins and outs of the mangrove islands--merely for beauty's sake, or
in study of the queer forms of life dimly and uncouthly climbing the
ladder of being in those strange solitudes. In these comradely hours
together, I found myself feeling drawn to him as I can imagine a young
father is drawn to a young son; and sometimes I seemed to see in his
eyes the suggestion of a confidence he was on the edge of making me--a
whimsical, pondering expression, as though wondering whether he dare to
tell me or not.

"What is it, Jack?" I asked him for once when, early in our
acquaintance, we had asked him what we were to call him, he had answered
with a laugh: "O! call me Jack--Jack Harkaway." We had laughed,
reminding him of the schoolboy hero of that name and he had answered:
"Never mind. One name is as good as another. That is my name when I go
on adventures. Tell me your adventure names. I don't want your prosaic
every-day names." "Well," I had replied, entering into the lad's humour,
"my friend here is Sir Francis Drake, and I, well--I'm Sir Henry
Morgan."

"What is it, Jack?" I repeated.

But he shook his head.

"No!" he replied, "I like you ever so much--and I wish I could; but I
mustn't."

"Somebody else's secret again?" I ventured.

"Yes!" And he added: "This time it's mine too. But--some day perhaps;
who knows?--" He broke off in boyish confusion.

"All right, dear Jack," I said, patting his shoulder, "take your own
time. We're friends anyway."

"That we are," responded the lad, with a fine glow.

We left it so at the moment, and had ourselves poled in the direction of
Charlie's voice, which was breaking mirror after mirror of exquisite
lagoon-like silence with demands for our return to camp. He evidently
had shot all the duck he wanted, for that day, and was beginning to be
hungry for dinner.

Yet, I mustn't be too hard on Charlie, for, as we know, even Charlie had
another object in his trip besides duck. As a certain poet brutally puts
it, he had anticipated also "the hunting of man." In addition, though it
is against the law of those Britannic islands, he had promised me a
flamingo or two for decorative purposes. However, flamingoes and Tobias
alike kept out of gunshot, and, as the week grew toward its end, Charlie
began to grow a little restive.

"It looks," he murmured one evening, as we had completed our fourteenth
meal of roast duck, and were musing over our after-duck cigars, "it
looks as if I am not going to have any use for this."

He had taken a paper from his pocket. It was a warrant with which he had
provided himself, empowering him to arrest the said Henry P. Tobias, or
the person passing under that name, on two counts: First, that of
seditious practices, with intent to spread treason among His Majesty's
subjects, and, second, that of wilful murder on the high seas. I should
say that, following my recital of the eventful cruise of the _Maggie
Darling,_ old Tom and I had been required to make sworn depositions of
Tobias's share in the happenings of that cruise, the murder of the
captain and so forth, and I too had surrendered as evidence that
eloquent manifesto which I had seen Tobias reading to the ill-fated
George and "Silly" Theodore, and had afterward discussed with him.

The probabilities were that the Government would treat Tobias's case as
that of a dangerous madman, rather than as a hanging matter, but,
whatever its point of view, it was clearly undesirable for such an
individual to remain at large. So the governing powers in Nassau, with
whom Charlie Webster was _persona grata,_ had been glad to take
advantage of his enthusiastic patriotism and invest him with
constabulary powers, hoping that he might have an opportunity of using
them. Personally, he was rather ashamed of having to employ such tame
legal methods. From his point of view, shooting at sight was all that
Tobias deserved, and to give him a trial by jury was an absurdity of
legal red-tape. In this respect he agreed with the great Mr. Pickwick,
that "the law is a hass." It was always England's way, he said, and, if
she didn't mind, this leniency to traitors would some day be her
undoing!

Charlie put the despised, yet precious, warrant back into his pocket,
and gazed disgustedly across the creek, where the loveliest of young
moons was rising behind a frieze of the homeless, barbaric brush.

"There was never such a place in the world," he asserted, "to hide
in--or get lost in--or to starve in. I have often thought that it would
make the most effective prison in the world. Instead of spending good
public money in housing and feeding scoundrels behind bars, and paying
officials to keep them there, supporting expensive establishments at
Dartmoor and so forth, why doesn't the British Government export her
convicts over here, land them on one of those mangrove shoals, and--give
them their freedom! Five per cent. might succeed in escaping. The
mangrove swamps would look after the rest."

As I have said, Charlie was a terrifying patriot. For most offences he
had the humanity of a vast forgiveness. He was, generally speaking, the
softest-hearted man I have ever met. But for any breach of the sacred
laws of England he was something like a Spanish Inquisitor. England, in
fact, was his religion. I have heard of worse.

The young moon rose and rose, while Charlie sat in the dusk of our
shanty, like a meditative mountain, saying nothing, the glowing end of
his cigar occasionally hinting at the circumference of his broad
Elizabethan face.

"I'll get him, all the same," he said presently, coming out of a sort of
trance, in which, as I understood later, his mind had been making a
geographical survey of our neighbourhood, going up and down every creek
and corner on a radius of fifty miles.

"If," he added, "he knows this island better than I do, I'll give him
this warrant to eat for his breakfast.... But let's turn in. I'll think
it out by the morning. Night brings counsel."

So we sought our respective cots; but I had scarcely begun to undress,
when a foolish accident for which I was responsible happened, an
accident that might have had serious consequences, and which, as a
matter of fact did have--though not at the moment.

As I told the reader at the beginning of this story, I am not accustomed
to guns--being too afraid of my bad temper. Charlie knew this, and was
all the time cautioning me about holding my gun right and so on, and
especially about shaking out any unused cartridges at the end of the
day's shoot.

Well, this special night, I had forgotten his warnings. Neglecting
everything a man should do to his gun when he is finished with it for
the day, I had left two cartridges in it, left the trigger on the
hair-brink of eternity, and other enormities for which Charlie
presently, and quite rightly, abashed me with profanity; in short, my
big toe tripped over the beast as it stood carelessly against the wall
of my cabin, and, as it fell, I received the contents in the fleshy part
of my shoulder.

The explosion brought the whole crew out of their shanty, in a state of
gesticulating nature, and, as Charlie, growling like a bear, was helping
to bring first aid, suddenly our young friend Jack--whose romantic youth
preferred sleeping outside in a hammock slung between two palm
trees--put him aside.

"I know better how to do this than you, Sir Francis," he said, laughing.

"Same as the sharks, eh?" said Charlie.

"Just the same ... but, let's have a look at your medicine chest, and
give me the lint quick."

So Jack took charge, and acted with such confidence and skill,--finally
binding up my wound, which was but a slight one--that Charlie stood by
dumbfounded and with a curious soft look in his face which I didn't
understand till later. The tears came into my eyes at the wonderful
tenderness of the lad, as he bent over me.

"Do I hurt you?" he kept saying. "You and I are pals, you know."

"You don't hurt me a bit, dear Jack," I answered; "what a clever lad you
are!"

Then Jack looked up for a moment, and caught Charlie's wondering look;
and, it seemed to me that he changed colour, and looked frightened.

"Sir Francis is jealous," he said; "but I've finished now. I guess
you'll sleep all right after that dose I gave you. Good night...." And
he slipped away.

Jack had proved himself a practised surgeon, and, as he predicted, I
slept well--so well and so far into next morning that Charlie at last
had to waken me.

"What do you think?" were his first words.

"Why, what?" I asked, sitting up, and wincing from my wounded shoulder.

"Our young friend has skipped in the night!"

"'Skipped?'" I exclaimed, with a curious ache at my heart.

"Sure enough! Gone off on that little nigger sloop that dropped in here
yesterday afternoon, I guess."

"You don't mean it?"

"No doubt of it--I wonder whether you've had the same thought as I
had."

"What do you mean?"

"You know I always said there was a mystery about that boy?"

"Well, what of it?"

"Did you notice the way he bound your shoulder last night?"

"What of it?"

"Did you ever see a man bind a wound like that?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean simply that the mystery about our Jack Harkaway was just this:
Jack Harkaway was no boy at all--but just a girl; a brick of a
dare-devil girl!"



CHAPTER VIII

_Better Than Duck._


Charlie Webster's discovery--if discovery it was--of "Jack Harkaway's"
true sex seemed so far plausible in that it accounted not only for much
that had seemed mysterious about him and his manner, but also (though
this I did not mention to Charlie) it accounted for certain dim feelings
of my own, of which, before, I had been scarcely conscious.

But we were not long left to continue our speculations, being presently
interrupted by the arrival of exciting news--news which, I need hardly
say, promptly drove all thought of "Jack Harkaway" out of Charlie
Webster's head, though it was not so soon to be banished from mine.

The news came in the form of a note from Father Serapion. He had sent it
by the captain of a sponging schooner, who, in turn, had sent it by two
of his men in a rowboat, not being able to venture up the creek himself
owing to the northeast wind which was blowing so hard, that, as
sometimes happens on that coast, he might have been left high and dry.

Father Serapion's note simply confirmed his conjecture that it was
Tobias who had bought rum at Behring's Point, and that he was probably
somewhere in the network of creeks and marl lagoons in our
neighbourhood. Telling Tom to give the men a good breakfast, Charlie
thought the news over.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," he said presently. "I'm going to leave
you here--and I'm going to charter the sponger out there. This river we
are on comes out of a sound that spreads directly south--Turner's Sound.
Turner's Sound has two outlets: this, and Goose River ten miles down the
shore. Now, if Tobias is inside here, he can only get out either down
here, or down Goose River. I am going down in the sponger to the mouth
of Goose River, to keep watch there; and you must stay where you are,
and keep watch here. Between the two of us, a week will starve him out.
Or, if not, I'll chase after him up Goose River; and in that case, he'll
have to come down here--and it will be up to you, for I don't believe
he'll have the nerve to try walking across the marl ponds to the east
coast."

So it was settled, and, presently, Charlie went along with two of his
best guns and Sailor, in the rowboat, and I saw him no more for a week.
Meanwhile, I kept watch and studied the scenery, and old Tom and I
talked about the strange people who inhabited the interior--those houses
that moved away into the mist as soon as you caught sight of them. Some
day old Tom and I are going to explore the interior, for he is not so
much afraid of ghosts as he was, since we tried them out together.

At the end of the week, the wind was blowing strong from the west and
the tides ran high. About noon we caught sight of triumphant sails
making up the river. It was Charlie back again.

"Got him!" was all he said, as he rowed ashore.

Sailor was with him in the rowboat, but I noticed that he was limping,
going on three legs.

"Yes!" said Charlie. "It's lucky for Tobias he only got Sailor's foot,
or, by the living God, I'd have stood my trial for manslaughter, or
whatever they call it. It'll soon be all right, old man," he said,
taking Sailor's wounded paw in his hand, "soon be all right." Sailor
wagged his tail vigorously, to show that a gunshot through one of his
legs was a mere nothing.

"Yes!" said Charlie, as we sat at lunch in the shack, under the tamarind
tree; "we've got him safe there under decks all right; chained up like
a buoy. If he can get away, I'll believe in the Devil."

"Won't you tell me about it?" I asked.

"Not much to tell; too easy altogether. I waited a couple of days at the
mouth of Goose River. Then I got tired, and left the sponger with the
captain and two or three men, while I went up the river with a couple of
guns and Sailor, and a man to pole the skiff--just for some
duck-shooting, you know. We lay low, for two days, on the marshes, and
then Sailor got sniffing the wind one morning, as if there was something
around he didn't care much for. The day before, we had heard firing a
mile or so inland, and had come upon some duck that some one or other
had shot and hadn't had time to pick up. So, that morning, I let Sailor
lead the way. We had been out about an hour, and were stealing under the
lee of a big mangrove island, after some duck we had sighted a little to
the eastward, when, suddenly, apparently without anything to alarm them,
they rose from the water and came flying in our direction. But evidently
something, or somebody, had startled them. They came right by me. It was
hard luck not to be able to take a shot at them. I could have got a
dozen of them at least."

"Probably more," I suggested.

"I really believe I could," agreed Charlie, in entire innocence. "Well,
as I have said, it was hard luck; but Sailor seemed to have something on
his mind, beside duck. As we poled along silently in the direction from
which the duck had risen, he grew more and more excited, and, at last,
as we neared a certain mangrove copse to which all the time he had been
pointing, he barked two or three times, and, I let him go. Poor old
fellow!"

As he told the story, Sailor, who seemed to understand every word,
rubbed his head against his master's hand.

"He went into the mangroves, just as he'd go after duck, but he'd hardly
gone in, when there were two shots, and he came out limping, making for
me. But, by this, I was close up to the mangroves myself, and in another
minute, I was inside; and there, just like that old black snake you
remember, was Tobias--his gun at his shoulder. He had a pot at me, but,
before he could try another, I knocked him down with my
fist--and--Well, we've got him all right. And now you can go after
your treasure, as soon as you like. I'll take him over to Nassau, and
you can fool around for the next month or so. Of course we'll need you
at the trial, but that won't come off for a couple of months. Meanwhile,
you can let me know where you are, in case I should need to get hold of
you."

"All right, old man," I said, "but I wish you were coming along with
me."

"I've got all the treasure I want," laughed Charlie. "But don't you want
to come and interview our friend? He might give you some pointers on
your treasure hunt."

"How does he take it?" I asked.

"Pretty cool. He talked a little big at first, but now he sits with his
head between his hands, and you can't get a word out of him. Something
up his sleeve, I dare say."

"I don't think I'll bother to see him, Charlie," I said. "I'm kind of
sorry for him." Charlie looked at me.

"Sorry for him?"

"Yes! In fact, I rather like him."

"Like him?" Charlie bellowed; "the pock-marked swine!"

"I grant," I said, smiling, and recalling Charlie's own words of long
ago, "that his face is against him."

"Rather like him? You must be crazy! You certainly have the rummiest
taste."

"At least you'll admit this much, Charlie," I said; "he has courage--and
I respect courage even in a cockroach--particularly, perhaps, in a
cockroach ..."

"He's a cockroach, all right," said Charlie.

"Maybe," I assented. "I don't pretend to love him, but--"

"If you don't mind," interrupted Charlie, "we'll let it go at 'but'--".
And he rose. "The tide's beginning to run out. Send me word where you
are, as soon as you get a chance; and good luck to you, old chap, and
your doubloons and pieces of eight!"

Then we walked down to his row-boat, and soon he was aboard the sponger.
Her sails ran up, and they were off down stream--poor Tobias, manacled,
somewhere between decks.

"See you in Nassau!" I shouted.

"Right-O!" came back the voice of the straightest and simplest
Englishman in the world.



BOOK III



    _Across the scarce-awakened sea,
      With white sail flowing,
      And morning glowing,
    I come to thee--I come to thee._

    _Past lonely beaches,
    And gleaming reaches,
    And long reefs foaming,
    Homing--homing--
    A-done with roaming,
      I come to thee._

    _The moon is failing,
    A petal sailing
      Down in the west
      That bends o'er thee;
    And the stars are hiding,
    As we go gliding
      Back to the nest,
      Ah! back to thee._



BOOK III

CHAPTER I

_In Which We Gather Shells--and Other Matters._


With Charlie gone, and duck-shooting not being one of my passions, there
was nothing to detain me in Andros. So we were soon under way, out of
the river, and heading north up the western shore of the big monotonous
island. We had some fifty miles to make before we reached its northern
extremity--and, all the way, we seldom had more than two fathoms of
water, and the coast was the same interminable line of mangroves and
thatch palms, with occasional clumps of pine trees, and here and there
the mouth of a creek, leading into duck-haunted swamps.

It was evident that the island kept its head above water with
difficulty, and that the course we were running over was all the time
aspiring to be dry land, right away from the coast to the Florida
channel. For miles west and north, it would have been impossible to find
more than three fathoms. As I said of the east coast, inside the reef,
it was a vast swimming bath, but of greater dimensions, a swimming bath
with a floor of alabaster, and water that seemed to be made of dissolved
moonstones.

For a while, our going seemed very much as though we were sailing a big
toy-boat in an illimitable porcelain bathtub. There were no rocks to
look out for, no shoals in what was really one vast shoal, and all was
smooth as milk. All the afternoon, till the sun set and the stars came
out and we dropped our anchor in a luminous nothingness, a child could
have navigated us; but, when the next day brought us up to the northwest
corner of Andros, we found ourselves face to face with a variety of
difficulties: glimmering sandbars, reaches of moon-white shoals, patches
of half-made land with pines struggling knee-deep in the tide; here and
there a mile of mangroves, and delusive channels of blue water; beauty
everywhere spreading out her sweeping laces of foam--a welter of a world
still in its making, with no clear passages for any craft drawing more
than a canoe. Loveliness everywhere--again the waving purple fans, and
the heraldic fish, and the branching coral mysteriously making the
world. Loveliness everywhere!--in fact a labyrinth of beauty with no way
out.

And the captain, like nearly every captain I have met in the Bahamas,
knew as little about it as I did. Charlie had been right; you must know
how to sail your own boat when you hoist your sails in Bahaman waters. I
confess that I began to regret Charlie's preoccupation with Tobias--for,
in spite of his missing his way that day in the North Bight, Charlie
seems to know his way in the dark wherever one happens to be on the sea.

However, there was really nothing to worry us. There was no wind. The
weather was calm, and there was lots of time. At last, after studying
the chart and talking it over with Tom, who though he had only shipped
as cook, was the best sailor on board, we decided to run north, and take
a channel described on the chart as "very intricate."

At last we came to a little foam-fringed cay, where it was conceivable
that the shyest and rarest of shells would choose to make its home--a
tiny aristocrat, driven out of the broad tideways by the coarser
ambitions and the ruder strength of great molluscs that feed and grow
fat and house themselves in crude convolutions of uncouthly striving
horn; a little lonely shore, kissed with the white innocence of the sea,
where pearls might secretly make themselves perfect, untroubled by the
great doings of wind and tide--merely rocked into beauty by ripple and
beam, with a teardrop falling, once in a while, into their dim growing
hearts, from some wavering distant star.

It was impossible to imagine a cay better answering to my conchologist's
description of Short Shrift Island. Its situation and general character,
too, bore out the surmise. On landing, also, we found that it answered
in two important particulars to Tobias's narrative. We found, as he had
declared, that there was good water there for passing ships. Also, we
found, in addition to the usual scrub, that cabbage-wood trees grew
there very plentifully, particularly, as he said, on the highest part of
the island. Our conjectures were presently confirmed by the captain of a
little sponging boat that, an hour after our arrival, put in for water.
Yes, he said, it was ---- Cay (giving it the name by which it was
generally known, and by which the conchologist had first mentioned it to
me). So, having talked it all over with Tom, I decided that here we
would stay for a time, and try our luck.

But, first, having heard from the sponging captain, that he was en
route for Nassau, I gave him a letter to Charlie Webster, telling him of
our whereabouts, in case he should have sudden need of me with regard to
Tobias.

It was too late to begin treasure-hunting that day, but Tom and I made
an early start, the following morning, prospecting the island--I having
set the men to work gathering shells, in the hope of being able to
oblige my shell-loving friend. The island was but a small cay compared
with that of Dead Men's Shoes,--on which we had so memorably laboured
side by side--some five miles long and two broad. It was a pretty little
island, rising here and there into low hills, and surprising us now and
again with belts of pine trees. But, of course, the cabbage-wood tree
was our special tree; and, as I said before, this grew plentifully. All
too plentifully, indeed; and cabbage-wood stumps, alas! were scarcely
more rare.

The reader may recall that Tobias's narrative, in reference to his
second "pod" of one million dollars, had run: "_On the highest point of
this Short Shrift Island is a large cabbage-wood stump, and twenty feet
south of that stump is the treasure, buried five feet deep and can be
found without difficulty._" But which was the highest point? There were
several hillocks that might claim to be that--all about equal in height.

We visited them all in succession. There was a "large cabbage-wood
stump" on each and all of them! It had seemed an absurdly inadequate
direction, even as we had talked the narrative over in John Saunders's
snuggery. But, confronted with so many "large cabbage-wood stumps," one
began to suspect Henry P. Tobias of having been a humourist, and to
wonder whether John Saunders was not right after all, and the whole
manuscript merely a hoax for the benefit of buried-treasure cranks like
myself.

However, as the high points of the island were only seven in all, it was
no difficult matter to try them all out, one by one, as we had plenty of
time and plenty of hands for the work. For, of course, it would have
been idle to attempt any concealment of my object from the crew.
Therefore, I took them from their shell-gathering, and, having duly
measured out twenty feet south from each promising cabbage-wood stump,
set them to work. They worked with a will, for I promised them a
generous share of whatever we found.

Alas! it was an inexpensive promise, for, when we had duly turned up the
ground, not only twenty feet, but thirty, forty, and fifty feet, not
only south but north, east and west of the various cabbage-wood stumps
on the seven various eminences, we were none of us the richer by a
single piece of eight. Then we tried the other cabbage-wood stumps on
lower ground, and any other likely looking spots, till, after working
for nearly a fortnight, we must have dug up most of the island.

And then Tom came to me with the news that our provisions were beginning
to give out. As it was, he said, before we returned to Nassau, we should
have to put in at Flying Fish Cove--a small settlement on the larger
island some five miles to the nor'ard,--for the purchase of various
necessities.

"All right, Tom," I said, "I guess the game is up! Let's start out
to-morrow morning."

And then I betook myself, like the great philosopher, to gathering
shells on the sea-shore, finding some specimens which, to my unlearned
eye, seemed identical with that shell so dear to the learned
conchologist's heart.

The following afternoon we put in at Flying Fish Cove, a neat little
settlement, with a pretty show of sponging craft at anchor, a few
prosperous-looking houses on the hill-side, and a sprinkling of white,
or half-white, people in the streets. I instructed Tom and the Captain
to stock in whatever we needed. We would lie there that night, and in
the morning we would make a start, homeward-bound, for Nassau.

"You may as well have your sucking fish back, Tom," I said, laughing in
self-disgust. "I shall have no more need of it. I am through with
treasure-hunting."

"I'd keep it a little longer, sar," answered Tom; "you never know."



CHAPTER II

_In Which I Catch a Glimpse of a Different Kind of Treasure._


I had, as I have said, made up my mind to start on the homeward trip
early the following morning, but something happened that very evening to
change my plans. I had dropped into the little settlement's one store,
to buy some tobacco, the only kind that Charlie Webster--who carried his
British loyalty into the smallest concerns of life, declared fit to
smoke--some English plug of uncommon strength, not to say ferocity, a
real manly tobacco such as one might imagine the favourite chew of
pirates and smugglers.

I stayed chatting with the storekeeper--a lean, astute-looking
Englishman, with the un-English name of Sweeney--who made a pretty good
thing of selling his motley merchandise to the poor natives, on the good
old business principle of supplying goods of the poorest possible
quality at the highest possible prices. He was said to hold a mortgage
on the lives of half the population, by letting them have goods on
credit against their prospective wages from sponging trips, he himself
being the owner of three or four sponging sloops, and so doubly insured
against loss. His low-ceilinged, black-beamed store, dimly lit with
kerosene lamps, was a wilderness of the most unattractive merchandise
the mind of man can conceive, lying in heaps on trestles, hanging from
the rafters, and cluttering up every available inch of space, so that
narrow lanes only were left among dangling tinware, coils of rope,
coarse bedding, barrels in which very unappetising pork lay steeping in
brine, other barrels overflowing with grimy looking "grits" and sailors'
biscuits, drums of kerosene and turpentine, cans of paint, jostling
clusters of bananas, strings of onions, dried fish, canned meats, loaves
of coarse bread, tea and coffee, and other simple groceries.

Two rough planks laid on barrels made the counter, up to which from time
to time rather worn-looking, spiritless negro women and girls would come
to make their purchases, and then shuffle off again in their listless
way. Once in a while a sturdy negro would drop in for tobacco, with a
more independent, well-fed air. The Englishman served them all with a
certain contemptuous indifference in which one somehow felt the presence
of the whip-hand.

While he was thus attending a little group of such customers, I had
wandered toward the back of the store, curiously examining the thousand
and one commodities which supplied the strange needs of humanity here in
this lost corner of the world; and, thus occupied, I was diverted by a
voice like sudden music, a voice oddly rich and laughing and confident
for such grim and sinister surroundings. It was one, too, which I seemed
to have heard before, and not so very long ago. When I turned in its
direction, I was immediately arrested, as one always is by any splendour
of vitality; for a startling contrast indeed--to the spiritless, furtive
figures that had been coming and going hitherto--was this superb young
creature, tall and lithe with proudly carried head on glorious
shoulders. Her skin was a golden olive, and it had been hard to say
which was the more intensely black--her hair, or the proud eyes which,
turning presently in my direction, seemed to strike upon me as with an
actual impact of soft fire. I swear I could feel them touch me, as it
were, with a warm ray, the radiating glow of her fragrant vitality
enfolding me as in a burning golden cloud.

I wondered whether her glance enfolded everything she looked on in the
same way. Perhaps it was but the unconsciously exerted force of her
superb young womanhood intensely alive. Yet--there was too a significant
wild shyness about her. My presence seemed at once to put her on her
guard. The music of her voice was suddenly hushed, as though she had
hurriedly, almost in terror, thrown a robe of reticence about an
impulsive naturalness not to be displayed before strangers. As for the
storekeeper, he was evidently a familiar acquaintance. He had known
her--he said, after she was gone--since she was a little girl.

While he spoke, my eyes had accidentally fallen on the coin still in his
hand, with which she had just paid him.

"Excuse me," I said, "but that is a curious-looking coin."

I thought that a shade of annoyance passed over his face, as though he
had been better pleased if I had not noticed it. However, it was too
late, and he handed it to me to examine--a large antique-looking gold
coin.

"Why!" I said, "this is a Spanish doubloon!"

"That's what it is," said the Englishman laconically.

"But doesn't it strike you as strange that she should pay her bills with
Spanish doubloons?" I asked.

"It did at first," he answered; and then, as if annoyed with himself, he
was attempting to retrieve an expression that carried an implication he
evidently didn't wish me to retain, he added: "Of course, she doesn't
always pay in Spanish doubloons."

"But she does sometimes?"

"O! once in a great while," he answered, evasively. "I suppose they have
a few old coins in the family, and use them when they run out of
others."

It was as lame an explanation as well could be, and no one could doubt
that, whatever his reason for so doing, he was lying.

"But haven't you trouble in disposing of them?" I enquired.

"Gold is always gold," he answered, "and we don't see enough of it here
to be particular as to whose head is stamped upon it, or what date.
Besides, as I said, it isn't as if I got many of them; and you can
always dispose of them as curiosities."

"Will you sell me this one?" I asked.

"I see no harm in your having it," he said, "but I'd just as soon you
didn't mention where you got it."

"Certainly," I answered, disguising my wonder at his secretiveness.
"What is it worth?"

He named the sum of sixteen dollars and seventy-five cents. Having paid
him that amount, I bade him good-night, glad to be alone with my eager,
glowing thoughts. These I took with me to a bit of coral beach made
doubly white by the moon, rustled over by giant palms, and whispered to
by the vast living jewel of the sea. Surely my thoughts had a brightness
to match even this glitter of the night. I took out my strange doubloon,
and flashed it in the moon.

But, brightly as it shone, it hardly seemed as bright as it would have
seemed a short while back; or, perhaps, it were truer to say that in
another, newer aspect it shone a hundred times more brightly. The
adventure to which it called me was no longer single and simple as
before, but a gloriously confused goal of cloudy splendours, the burning
core of which--suddenly raying out, and then lost again in
brightness--were the eyes of a mysterious girl.



CHAPTER III

_Under the Influence of the Moon._


My days now began to drift rather aimlessly, as without apparent purpose
I continued to linger on an island that might well seem to have little
attraction to a stranger--how little I could see by the mystification of
the good Tom, in whom, for once, of course, I could not confide. Yet I
had a vague purpose; or, at least, I had a feeling that, if I waited on,
something would develop in the direction of my hopes. That doubloon
still suggested that it was the key to a door of fascinating mystery to
which Chance might at any moment direct me.

And--why not admit it?--apart from my buried treasure, to the possible
discovery of which the doubloon seemed to point, I was possessed with a
growing desire for another glimpse of those haunting eyes. They needed
not their association with the mysterious gold, they were magnetic
enough to draw any man, with even the rudiments of imagination, along
the path of the unknown. All the paths out of the little settlement were
paths into the unknown, and, day after day, I followed one or another
of them out into the wilderness, taking a gun with me, as an ostensible
excuse for any spying eye, and bringing back with me occasional bags of
the wild pigeons which were plentiful on the island.

One day I had thus wandered unusually far afield, and at nightfall found
myself still several miles from home, on a rocky path overhanging the
sea. The coast-line had been gradually mounting in a series of
precipitous headlands, at the foot of which the sea made a low booming
that suggested hidden caves. Looking over the edge in places, one could
see that it had hollowed out the porous rock well under the base of the
cliffs, and here and there fallen masses of boulder told of a gradual
encroachment which, in course of time, would topple down into the abyss
the precarious pathway on which I stood. Inland the usual level scrub
gave place to a stretch of wild forest, very dense, and composed of
trees of many varieties, loftier than was usual on the island.

There was no sign of habitation anywhere. It was a wild and lonely
place, and presently over its savage beauty stole the glamour of the
moon rising far over the sea. I sat down on a ledge of the cliffs, and
watched the moonlight grow in intensity, as the darkness of the woods
deepened behind me. It was a night full of witchcraft; a night on which
the stars, the moon, and the sea together seemed hinting at some
wonderful thing about to happen.

Far down in the clear water I could see the giant sea-fans waving in a
moony twilight, touched eerily in those glassy depths with sudden rays
of the spectral light; soft bowers of phosphorescence spread a secret
radiance about dimly branching coral groves. And, all the while, the
path of the moon over the sea was growing stronger--laying, it would
seem, an even firmer pathway of silver stretching to the very foot of
the cliff-side.

I am not given to quoting poetry, but involuntarily there came to my
mind some lines remembered from boyhood:

    If on some balmy summer night
    You rowed across the moon-path white,
    And saw the shining sea grow fair
    With silver scales and golden hair--
        What would you do?

"What would you do?" I repeated dreamily, thinking very likely as I said
them, of two eyes of mysteriously enfolding fire; and then, as if the
fairy night were matching the words with a challenge, what was this
bright wonder suddenly present on one of the boulders far down beneath
me?--a tall shape of witchcraft whiteness, standing, full in the moon,
like a statue in luminous marble of some goddess of antiquity. Only once
before, and but for a moment, had I seen a woman's form so proudly
flowerlike in its superb erectness!

My eyes and my heart together told me it was she; and, as she hung
poised over the edge of the water, in the attitude of one about to dive,
a turn of her head gave me that longed-for glimpse of those living eyes
filled with moonlight. She stood another moment, still as the night, in
her loveliness; and the next, she had dived directly into the path of
the moon. I saw her eyes moon-filled again, as she came to the surface,
and began to swim--not, as one might have expected, out from the land,
but directly in toward the unseen base of the cliffs. The moon-path
_did_ lead to a golden door in the rocks, I said to myself, and she was
about to enter it. It was a secret door known only to herself; and then,
for the first time that night, I thought of that doubloon.

Perhaps if I had not thought of it, I should not have done what then I
did. There will, doubtless, be those who will censure me. If so, I am
afraid they must. At all events, it was the thought of that doubloon
that swayed the balance of my hesitation in taking the moon-path in the
track of that bright apparition. The pursuit of my hidden treasure had
long been so fixed an idea in my mind that a scruple would have had to
be strong indeed to withstand my impulse to follow up so exciting a
clue. (When, alas! has the pursuit of gold heeded any scruples?) Or it
is quite possible that a radically different inclination held this
materialistic excuse as a cloak for itself. A moment of such glamorous
excitement may well account for some confused psychology.

I leave it to others who, less fortunate than I, were not exposed to the
breathless enchantments of that immortal night, those sorceries of a
situation lovely as the wildest dreams of the heart. I looked about for
a way down to the edge of the sea. It was not easy to find, but after
much perilous scrambling, I at length found myself on the boulder which
had so lately been the pedestal of that Radiance; and, in another
moment, I had dived into the moon-path and was swimming toward the
mysterious golden door.

Before me the rocks opened in a deep narrow crevasse, a long rift,
evidently slashing back into the cliff, beneath the road on which I had
been treading. I could see the moonlit water vanishing into a sort of
gleaming lane between the vast overhanging walls. In a few moments I was
near the entrance, but, as yet, I could not touch bottom with my feet,
and so I swam on into the giant portal, into a twilight which was still
luminous with reflections, and to which my eyes readily accustomed
themselves.

Presently I felt my feet rest lightly on firm sand, and, still shoulder
deep in the water, I walked on another yard or two--to be brought to a
sudden stop. There she was coming toward me, breast high in that watery
tunnel! The moon, continuing its serene ascension, lit her up with a
sudden beam. O! shape of bloom and glory!

For a moment we both stood looking at each other, as if transfixed. Then
she gave a frightened cry, and put her hands up to her bosom; as she did
so, a stream of something bright--like gold pieces--fell from her mouth,
and two like streams from her opened hands. Then, as quick as light, she
had darted past me, and dived into the moon-path beyond. She must have
swam under the water a long way, for when I saw her dark head rise again
in the glimmering path, it was at a distance of many yards.

I had no thought of following her, but stood in a dream among the watery
gleams and echoes.

So, once in a lifetime, for a few fortunate ones, all the various magics
of the earth, all the mysterious hints and promises of her loveliness
that make the heart overflow with a prophetic sense of some supernatural
happiness on the brink of coming to pass, combine in one supreme shape
of beauty, given to us by divine ordering, on the starlit summit of one
immortal hour.

For me had come that hour of wonder; for me out of that tropic sea, into
whose flawless deeps my eyes had so often gone adream, had risen the
creature of miracle.

O! shape of moonlit marble! O! holiness of this night of moon and stars
and sea!



CHAPTER IV

_In Which I Meet a Very Strange Individual._


Yes! I was in love. Yet I hope, and think, that the reader will not
resent this unexpected incursion into the realms of sentiment when he
considers that my sudden attack was not, like most such sudden attacks,
an interruption in the robuster course of events, but, instead,
curiously in the direct line of my purpose. Because the eyes of an
unknown girl had thus suddenly enthralled me, I was not, therefore, to
lose sight of that purpose.

On the contrary, they had suddenly shone out on the pathway along which
I had been blindly groping. But for the accident of being in the dirty
little store at so psychological a moment, hearing that strangely
familiar voice and catching sight of that mysterious doubloon as well as
those mysterious eyes, I should have set sail that very night, and given
up John P. Tobias's second treasure in final disgust. As it was, I was
now warmly on the track of some treasure--whether his or not--with two
bright eyes further to point the way. Never surely did a man's love and
his purpose make so practical a conjunction.

When I reached my lodging at last in the early morning following that
night of wonders, my eyes and heart were not so dazed with that vision
in the cave that I did not vividly recall one important detail of the
strange picture--those streams of gold that had suddenly poured out of
the mouth and hands of the lovely apparition.

Need I say that over and over again the picture kept coming before
me?--haunting me like that princess from my childhood's fairy-book, from
whose mouth, as she spoke, poured all manner of precious stones. We all
remember that--and had I not seen the very thing itself with my own
grown-up eyes? No wonder it all seemed like a dream, when, late next
forenoon, I woke from a deep sleep that had been long in overtaking me.
Yet, there immediately in my mind's eye, without any shadow of doubt,
was the beautiful picture once more, vivid and exact in every detail.
Without doubting the evidence of my senses, I was forced to believe
that, by the oddest piece of luck, I had stumbled upon the hiding-place
of that hoard of doubloons, on which my fair unknown drew from time to
time as she would out of a bank.

But who was she?--and where was her home? There had seemed no sign of
habitation near the wild place where I had come upon her, though, of
course, a solitary house might easily have escaped my notice hidden
among all that foliage, particularly at nightfall.

To be sure, I had but to enquire of the storekeeper to learn all I
wanted; but I was averse from betraying my interest to him or to any one
in the settlement--for, after all, it was my own affair, and hers. So I
determined to pursue my policy of watching and waiting, letting a day or
two elapse before I again went out wandering with my gun.

Probably she would be making another trip to the settlement, before
long. Doubtless, it was for that purpose that she was visiting her very
original safety-deposit vault when I had come so embarrassingly upon
her.

However, inaction, in the circumstances, was difficult, and when two
days had gone without bringing any sign of her, I determined to follow
the trail of my last expedition, and find out whether that strip of
rocky coast, with its hidden cavern, actually did stand firm somewhere
on the solid earth, or was merely a phantom coast fronting

    "The foam of perilous seas in faery-land forlorn."

As a matter of fact, I did find it, after having lost my way in the
thick brush several times before doing so. I reckoned, when at last I
emerged upon it, that it was a distance of some six or seven miles from
the settlement, though, owing to my ignorance of the way, it had taken
me a whole morning to cover it. Did _she_ have to thread these thorny
thickets every time she came to the little town? No; doubtless she was
acquainted with some easier and shorter path.

However, here was the cliff-bastioned sea-front, and down there was the
boulder on which she had stood like a statue in the moonlight. I craned
my neck over the edge of the cliffs to catch sight of the entrance to
her cave--but in vain. Nor was there apparent any way of reaching it
from above. Evidently it was only approachable from the sea.

Then I looked about for some signs of a house; but, though it was full
noon-day, the forest presented an unbroken front of close-growing trees,
and a rich confusion of various foliage uncommon on those islands. I
counted at least a dozen varieties, among which were horseflesh, wild
tamarind, redwood, pigeon-plum, poison wood, gum-elemi, fig, logwood,
and mahogany.

Evidently there was an unusually thick layer of soil over the coral rock
in this part of the island, which was in the main composed of the usual
clinker and scrub--where it was not mangrove swamp. Yet in spite of
appearances, it was certain that there must be some sort of dwelling
there-about, and not so very far off either--unless, indeed, my
mysterious girl was but a mermaid after all.

So I left the craggy bluff facing the sea, and plunged into the woods. I
had no idea how dark it was going to be, but, coming out of the sun, I
was at once bewildered by the deep and complicated gloom of massed
branches overhead, and the denser darkness of shrubs and vines so
intricately interwoven, as almost to make a solid wall about one. Then
the atmosphere was so close and airless that a fear of suffocation
combined at once with the other fear of being swallowed up in all this
savage green life, without hope of finding one's way out again into the
sun. I had fought my way in but a very few yards when both these fears
clutched hold of me with a sudden horror, and the perspiration poured
from me; I could no longer distinguish between the way I had come and
any other part of the wood! Indeed, there was no way anywhere!

It was now only a question of sturdy fighting and squirming one's way
through the meshes of a gigantic basketwork of every variety of
fantastic branch and stem and stout strangling thorn-set vine, made the
denser with snaky roots--not merely twisting about one's feet, but
dropping from the boughs in nooses and festoons for one's neck;
air-plants too, like birds' nests, further choking up the meshes, and
hanging moss, like rotting carpets, adding still more to the murk and
curious squalor of a foul fertility where beauty, like humanity, found
it impossible to breathe.

I must have battled through this veritable inferno of vegetation for at
least an hour--though it seemed a life-time. Clouds of particularly
unpleasant midges filled my eyes, not to speak of mosquitoes, and a
peculiar kind of persistent stinging fly was adding to my miseries, when
at last, begrimed and dripping with sweat, I stumbled out, with a cry of
thankfulness, on to comparatively fresh air, and something like a broad
avenue running north and south through the wood. It was indeed densely
overgrown, and had evidently not been used for many years. Still, it was
comparatively passable, and one could at least see the sky, and take
long breaths once more.

The rock here emerged again in places through the scanty soil, but it
had evidently been levelled here and there, so as to make it serve as a
rough but practicable road, though plainly it was years since any
vehicles had passed that way. Still, there was no sign of a house
anywhere. Presently, however, as I stumbled along, I noticed something
looming darkly through the matted forest on my left, that suggested
walls. Looking closer, I saw that it was the ruin of a small stone
cottage, roofless, and indescribably swallowed up in the pitiless scrub.
And then, near by, I descried another such ruin, and still another--all,
as it were, sunk in the terrible gloom of the vegetation, as sometimes,
at low tide, one can discern the walls of a ruined village at the bottom
of the sea.

As I struggled on, and my eyes grew accustomed to looking for them, I
detected still more of these ruins, of various shapes and sizes,
impenetrably smothered but a few yards inward on each side of the road.

Evidently I had come upon a long-abandoned settlement, and presently, on
some slightly higher ground to the left, I thought I could make out the
half-submerged walls of a much more ambitious edifice. Looking closer, I
noted, with a thrill of surprise, the beginning of a very narrow path,
not more than a foot wide, leading up through the scrub in its
direction. Narrow as it was, it had clearly been kept open by the
not-infrequent passage of feet. With a certain eerie feeling, I edged my
way into it, and, after following it for a hundred yards or so, found
myself close to the roofless ruin of a spacious stone house with
something of the appearance of an old English manor house. Mullioned
windows, finely masoned, opened in the shattered wall, and an elaborate
stone staircase, in the interstices of which stout shrubs were growing,
gave, or once had given, an entrance through an arched doorway--an
entrance now stoutly disputed by the glistening trunk of a gum-elemi
tree and endless matted rope-like roots of giant vines and creepers that
writhed like serpents over the whole edifice. Forcing my way up this
staircase, I found myself in a stone hall some sixty feet long, at one
end of which yawned a huge fireplace, its flue mounting up through a
finely carved chimney, still standing firmly at the top of the southern
gable. Sockets in the walls, on either side, where massive beams had
once lodged, showed that the building had been in three stories, though
all the floors had fallen in and made a mound of rubble in the centre of
the hall where I stood.

At my entrance something moved furtively out of the fireplace, and shot
with a rustle into the surrounding woods. It looked like a small
alligator, and was indeed an iguana, one of the few reptiles of these
islands.

At the base of a tall fig tree--flourishing in one of the corners, its
dense, wide branching top making a literal roof for the otherwise
roofless hall--an enormous ant's nest was plastered, a black excrescence
looking like burnt paper, and which crumbled like soft crisp cinder as I
poked it with the barrel of my gun, to the dismay of its myriad little
red inhabitants--the only denizens it would seem of this
once-magnificent hall.

How had this almost baronial magnificence come to be in this far-away
corner of a desert island? At first I concluded that here was a relic of
the brief colonial prosperity of the Bahamas, when its cotton lords
lived like princes, with a slave population for retainers--days when
even the bootblacks in Nassau played pitch-and-toss with gold pieces;
but as I considered further, it seemed to me that the style of the
architecture and the age of the building suggested an earlier date.
Could it be that this had been the home of one of those early
eighteenth-century pirates who took pride in flaunting the luxury and
pomp of princes, and who had perhaps made this his headquarters and
stronghold for the storage of his loot on the return from his forays on
the Spanish Main? This, as the more spirited conjecture, I naturally
preferred, and, in default of exact information, decided to accept.

Who knows but that in this hall where the iguana lurked and the ants
laboured at their commonwealth, the redoubtable "Blackbeard"--known in
private life as Edward Teach--had held his famous "Satanic" revels,
decked out in the absurd finery of crimson damask waistcoat and
breeches, a red feather in his hat, and a diamond cross hanging from a
gold chain at his neck? There, perhaps, glass in hand, and "doxy on his
knee," he had roared out many a blood-curdling ditty in the choice
society of ruffians only less ruffianly than himself. Perhaps, too, this
other spacious building adjacent to the great hall, and connected with
it by a ruinous covered way, had been the sybarite's "harem"; for
"Blackbeard"--like that other famous gentleman whose beard was
blue--collected from his unfortunate captive ships treasure other than
doubloons and pieces of eight, and prided himself on his fine taste in
ladies.

The more I pondered upon this fancy, and remarked the extent of the
ruins--including several subsidiary out-houses--and noted, too, one or
two choked stone staircases that seemed to descend into the bowels of
the earth, the more plausible it seemed. In one or two places where I
suspected underground cellars--dungeons for unhappy captives belike, or
strong vaults for the storage of the treasure--I tested the floors by
dropping heavy stones, and they seemed unmistakably to reverberate with
a hollow rumbling sound; but I could find no present way of getting down
into them. As I said, the staircases that promised an entrance into them
were choked with debris. But I promised myself to come some other day,
with pick and shovel, and make an attempt at exploring them.

Meanwhile, after poking about in as much of the ruins as I could
penetrate, I stepped out through a gap in one of the walls and found
myself again on the path by which I had entered. I noticed that it still
ran on farther north, as having a destination beyond. So leaving the
haunted ruins behind, I pushed on, and had gone but a short distance
when the path began to descend slightly from the ridge on which the
ruins stood; and there, in a broad square hollow before me, was the
welcome living green of a flourishing plantation of cocoanut palms! It
was evidently of considerable extent--a quarter of a mile or so, I
judged--and the palms were very thick and planted close together. To my
surprise, too, I observed, as at length the path brought me to them
after a sharp descent, that they were fenced in by a high bamboo
stockade, for the most part in good condition, but here and there broken
down with decay.

Through one of these gaps I presently made my way, and found myself
among the soaring columns of the palms, hung aloft with clusters of the
great green nuts. Fallen palm fronds made a carpet for my feet--very
pleasant after the rough and tangled way I had travelled, and now and
again one of the cocoa nuts would fall down with a thud amid the green
silence. One of these, which narrowly missed my head, suggested that
here I had the opportunity of quenching very agreeably the thirst of
which I had become suddenly aware. My claspknife soon made an opening
through the tough shell, and, seated on the ground, I set my mouth to
it, and, raising the nut above my head, allowed the "milk"--cool as
spring water--to gurgle deliciously down my parched throat. When at
length I had drained it, and my head once more returned to its natural
angle, I was suddenly made aware that my poaching had not gone
unobserved.

"Ha! ha!" called a pleasant voice, evidently belonging to a man of an
unusually tall and lean figure who was approaching me through the palm
trunks; "so you have discovered my hidden paradise--my Alcinoüs garden,
so to say"; and he quoted two well-known lines of Homer in the original
Greek, adding: "or if you prefer it in Pope's translation, which I
think,--don't you?--remains the best:

    "Close to the gates a spacious garden lies,
    From storms defended and inclement skies--

"and so on. Alas! for an old man's memory! It grows shorter and
shorter--like his life, eh? Never mind, you are welcome, sir stranger,
mysteriously tossed up here like Ulysses, on our island coast."

I gazed with natural wonderment at this strange individual, who thus in
the heart of the wilderness had saluted me with a meticulously pure
English accent, and welcomed me in a quotation from Homer in the
original Greek. Who, in the devil's name, was this odd character who, I
saw, as I looked closer at him, was, as he had hinted, quite an old man,
though his unusual erectness and sprightliness of manner, lent him an
illusive air of youth? Who on earth was he?--and how did he happen in
the middle of this haunted wood?



CHAPTER V

_Calypso._


Of course a glance, and the first sound of his voice, had told me that I
had to do with a gentleman, one of those vagabond English gentlemen in
exile who form a type peculiar, I think, to the English race; men that
are a curious combination of aristocrat and gipsy, soldier, scholar, and
philosopher; men of good family, who have drifted everywhere, seen and
seen through everything, but in all their wanderings have never lost
their sense and habit of "form," their boyish zest in living, their
humorous stoicism, and, above all, their lordly accent.

"Now that you have found us, Sir Ulysses"--continued my eccentric host,
motioning me, with an indescribably princely wave of the hand to
accompany him--"you must certainly give us the pleasure of your company
to luncheon. Visitors are as rare as black swans on this _Ultima Thule_
of ours--though, by the way, the black swan, _cygnus atratus,_ is
nothing like so rare as the ancients believed. I have shot them myself
out in Australia. Still they are rare enough for the purpose of
imagery, though really not so rare as a human being one can talk
intelligently to on this island."

Talk! My friend, indeed, very evidently was a talker--one of those
fantastic monologists to whom an audience is little more than a symbol.
I saw that there was no need for me to do any of the talking. He was
more than glad to do it all. Plainly his encounter with me was to him
like a spring in a thirsty land.

"Solitude," he continued, "is perhaps the final need of the human soul.
After a while, when we have run the gamut of all our ardours and our
dreams, solitude comes to seem the one excellent thing, the _summum
bonum._"

I murmured that he certainly seemed to have come to the right place for
it.

"Very true, indeed," he assented, with a courtly inclination of his
head, as though I had said something profound; "very true, indeed, and
yet, wasn't it the great Bacon who said: 'Whoever is delighted with
solitude is either a beast or a god'?--and this particular solitude, I
confess, sometimes seems to me a little too much like that enforced
solitude of the Pontic marshes of which Ovid wailed and whimpered in the
deaf ears of Augustus."

I could not help noticing at last as he talked on with this fantastic
magnificence, the odd contrast between his speech and the almost
equally fantastic poverty of his clothing. The suit he wore, though
still preserving a certain elegance of cut, was so worn and patched and
stained that a negro would hardly have accepted it as a gift; and his
almost painful emaciation gave him generally the appearance of an
animated framework of rags and bones, startlingly embodying the voice
and the manners of a prince. Yet the shabby tie about his neck was bound
by a ring, in which was set a turquoise of great size and beauty.
Evidently he was a being of droll contrasts, and I prepared myself to be
surprised at nothing concerning him.

Presently, as we loitered on through the palms, we came upon two negroes
chopping away with their machetes, trimming up the debris of broken and
decaying palm fans. They were both sturdy, ferocious-looking fellows,
but one of them was a veritable giant.

"Behold my bodyguard!" said my magnificent friend, with the usual
possessive wave of his hand; "my Switzers, my Janissaries, so to say."

The negroes stopped working, touched their great straw hats, and flashed
their splendid teeth in a delighted smile. Evidently they were used to
their master's way of talking, and were devoted to him.

"This chap here is Erebus," said my host, and the appropriateness of the
name was apparent, for he was certainly the blackest negro I had ever
seen, as superbly black as some women are superbly white.

"And this is Samson. Let's have a look at your muscles, Samson--there's
a good boy!"

And, with grins of pleasure, Samson proudly stripped off his thin calico
jacket and exposed a torso of terrifying power, but beautiful in its
play of muscles as that of a god.

    "But since my name is Hercules, the man
    Who owes me hatred hides it if he can,

"eh, Samson?" was his master's characteristic comment.

"Yaas, sar!" said Samson, as pleased as a flattered bulldog, and
understanding the compliment precisely in the same instinctive fashion.

Leaving Samson and Erebus to continue their savage play with their
machetes, we walked on through the palms, which here gave a particularly
jungle-like appearance to the scene, from the fact of their being bowed
out from their roots, and sweeping upward in great curves. One
involuntarily looked for a man-eating tiger at any moment, standing
striped and splendid in one of the openings.

Then suddenly to the right, there came a flash of level green,
suggesting lawns, and the outlines of a house, partly covered with
brilliant purple flowers--a marvellous splash of colour.

"_Bougainvillea! Bougainvillea spectabilis_--of course, you know it. Was
there ever such a purple? Not Solomon in all his glory, _et cetera._ And
here we are at the house of King Alcinoüs--a humble version of it
indeed."

It was evidently quite impossible for my friend to speak otherwise than
in images, picturesque scraps from the coloured rag-bag of a mind stored
with memories of the classics, all manner of romantic literature, and
tags of Greek and Latin which he mouthed with the relish of an epicure.

It was a large rambling stucco house, somewhat decayed looking, and
evidently built on the ruins of an older building. We came upon it at a
broad Italian-looking loggia, supported by stone pillars bowered in with
vines--very cool and pleasant--with mossy slabs for its floor, here and
there tropical ferns set out in tubs, some wicker chairs standing about,
and a table at one side on which two little barelegged negro girls were
busy setting out yellow fruit, and other appurtenances of luncheon, on a
dazzling white cloth.

"Has your mistress returned yet, my children?" asked the master.

"No, sar," said the older girl, with a giggle, twisting and grimacing
with embarrassment.

"My daughter," explained my host, "has gone to the town on an errand.
She will be back at any moment. Meanwhile, I shall introduce you to a
cooling drink of my own manufacture, with a basis of that cocoanut milk
which I need not ask you whether you appreciate, recalling the pleasant
circumstance of our first acquaintance."

Motioning me to a seat, and pushing toward me a box of cigarettes, he
went indoors, leaving me to take in the stretch of beautiful garden in
front of me, the trees of which seemed literally to be hung with
gold--for they were mainly of orange and grapefruit ranged round a
spacious beautifully-kept lawn with the regularity of sumptuous
decoration. In the middle of the lawn, a little rock foundation threw up
a jet of silver, falling with a tinkling murmur into a broad circular
basin from which emerged the broad leaves and splendid pink blossoms of
an Egyptian lotus. Certainly it was no far-fetched allusion of my
classical friend to speak of the garden of Alcinoüs; particularly
connected as it was in my mind with the white beach of a desert isle,
and that marble statue in the moonlight.

As I sat dreaming, bathed in the golden-green light of the orange
trees, and lulled by the tinkling of the fountain, my host returned with
our drinks, his learned disquisition on which I will spare the reader,
highly interesting and characteristic though it was.

Suffice it that it was a drink, whatever its ingredients--and there was
certainly somewhere a powerful "stick" in it--that seemed to have been
drawn from some cool grotto of the virgin earth, so thrillingly cold and
invigorating it was.

While we were slowly sipping it, and smoking our cigarettes, in an
unwonted pause of my friend's fanciful verbosity, I almost jumped in my
chair at the sound of a voice indoors. It was instantly followed by a
light and rapid tread, and the sound of a woman's dress. Then a tall
beautiful young woman emerged on the loggia.

"Ah! there you are!" cried my host, as we both rose; and then turning to
me, "this is my daughter--Calypso. Her real name I assure you--none of
my nonsense--doesn't she look it? Allow me, my dear, to introduce--Mr.
Ulysses!"--for we had not yet exchanged each other's names....

I am a wretched actor, and I am bound to say that she proved herself no
better. For she gave a decided start as she turned those glowing eyes on
me, and the lovely olive of her cheeks glowed as with submerged
rose-colour. Our embarrassment did not escape the father.

"Why you know each other already!" he exclaimed, with natural surprise.

"Not exactly,"--I was grateful for the sudden nerve with which I was
able to hasten to the relief of her lovely distress--"but possibly
Miss--Calypso recalls as naturally as I do, our momentary meeting in
Sweeney's store, one evening. I had no expectation, of course, that we
should meet again under such pleasant circumstances as this."

She gave me a grateful look as she took my hand, and with it--or was it
only my eager imagination?--a shy little pressure, again as of
gratitude.

I had tried to get into my voice my assurance that, of course, I
remembered no other more recent meeting--though, naturally, as she had
given that little start in the doorway, there had flashed on me again
the picture of her standing, moonlit, in another resounding doorway, and
of the wild start she had given then, as the golden pieces streamed from
her lovely surprised mouth, and her lifted hands. And her eyes--I could
have sworn--were the living eyes of Jack Harkaway! Had she a brother, I
wondered. Yet my mind was too dazzled and confused with her nearness to
pursue the speculation.

As we sat down to luncheon, waited upon by the little barelegged black
children--waited on, too, surprisingly well, despite the contortions of
their primitive embarrassment--my host once more resumed his character
of the classic king welcoming the storm-tossed stranger to his board.

"Far wanderer," he said, raising his glass to me, "eat of what our board
affords, welcome without question of name and nation. But if, when the
food and wine have done their genial office, and the weariness of your
journeying has fallen from you, you should feel stirred to tell us
somewhat of yourself and your wanderings, what manner of men call you
kinsman, in what fair land is your home and the place of your loved
ones, be sure that we shall count the tale good hearing, and, for our
part, make exchange in like fashion of ourselves and the passage of our
days in this lonely isle."

We all laughed as he ended--himself with a whinny of laughter. For, odd
as such discourse may sound in the reading, it was uttered so
whimsically, and in so spirited and humorous a style that I assure you
it was very captivating.

"You should have been an actor, my lord Alcinoüs," I said, laughing. I
seemed already curiously at home, seated there at that table with this
fantastic stranger and that being out of fairyland, toward whom I dared
only turn my eyes now and again by stealth. The strange fellow had such
a way with him, and his talk made you feel that he had known you all
your life.

"Ah! I have had my dreams. I have had my dreams!" he answered, his eyes
gazing with a momentary wistfulness across the orange trees.

Then we talked at random, as friendly strangers talk over luncheon,
though we were glad enough that he should do all the talking--wonderful,
iridescent, madcap talk, such as a man here and there in ten thousand,
gifted with perhaps the most attractive of all human gifts, has at his
command.

And, every now and again, my eyes, falling on the paradoxical squalor of
his clothing, would remind me of the enigma of this courtly vagabond;
though--need I say it?--my eyes and my heart had other business than
with him, throughout that wonderful meal, enfolded as I felt myself once
more in that golden cloud of magnetic vitality, which had at first swept
over me, as with a breath of perfumed fire, among the salt pork and the
tinware of Sweeney's store.



CHAPTER VI

_Doubloons._


Luncheon over, the Lady Calypso, with a stately inclination of her
lovely head, left us to our wine and our cigars. For, as I realised, we
were very much in England, in spite of all the orange trees and the
palms, the England of two or three generations ago, and but seldom
nowadays to be found in England itself.

The time had come, after the Homeric formula which my host had
whimsically applied to the situation, for the far-travelled guest to
declare himself, and I saw in my host's eye a courteous invitation to
begin. While his fantastic tongue had gone a-wagging from China to Peru,
I had been pondering what account to give of myself, and I had decided,
for various reasons--of which the Lady Calypso was, of course, first,
but the open-hearted charm of her father a close second--to tell him the
whole of my story. Whatever his and her particular secret was, it was
evident to me that it was an innocent and honourable one; and, besides,
I may have had a notion that before long I was to have a family interest
in it. So I began--starting in with a little prelude in the manner of
my host, just to enter into the spirit of the game:

"My Lord Alcinoüs; your guest, the far wanderer, having partaken of your
golden hospitality, is now fain to open his heart to you, and tell you
of himself and his race, his home and his loved ones across the
wine-dark sea, and such of his adventures as may give pleasure to your
ears" ... though, having no talents in that direction, I was glad enough
to abandon my lame attempt at his Homeric style for a plain
straightforward narrative of the events of the past three months.

I had not, however, proceeded very far, when, with a courteous raising
of his hand, King Alcinoüs suggested a pause.

"If you would not mind," he said, "I would like my daughter to hear this
too, for it is of the very stuff of romantic adventure in which she
delights. She is a brave girl, and, as I often tell her, would have made
a very spirited dare-devil boy, if she hadn't happened to be born a
girl."

This phrase seemed to flash a light upon the questionings that had
stirred at the back of my mind since I had first heard that voice in
Sweeney's store.

"By the way, dear King," I said, assuming a casual manner, "do you
happen to have a son?"

"No!" he answered, "Calypso is my only child."

"Very strange!" I said, "we met a whimsical lad in our travels whom I
would have sworn was her brother."

"That's odd!" said the "King" imperturbably, "but no! I have no son";
and he seemed to say it with a certain sadness.

Then Calypso came in to join my audience, having, meanwhile, taken the
opportunity of twining a scarlet hibiscus among her luxuriant dark
curls. I should certainly have told the story better without her, yet I
was glad--how glad!--to have her seated there, an attentive presence in
a simple gown, white as the seafoam--from which, there was no further
doubt in my mind, she had magically sprung.

I gave them the whole story, much as I had told it in John Saunders's
snuggery--John P. Tobias, Jr.; dear old Tom and his sucking fish, his
ghosts, sharks, skeletons, and all; and when I had finished, I found
that the interest of my story was once more chiefly centred in my
pock-marked friend of "The wonderful works of God."

"I should like to meet your pock-marked friend," said King Alcinoüs,
"and I have a notion that, with you as a bait, I shall not long be
denied the pleasure."

"I am inclined to think that I have seen him already," said Calypso,
using her honey-golden voice for the base purpose of mentioning him.

"Impossible!" I cried, "he is long since safe in Nassau gaol."

"O! not lately," she answered to our interrogative surprise, and giving
a swift embarrassed look at her father, which I at once connected with
the secret of the doubloons.

"Seriously, Calypso?" asked her father, with a certain stern affection,
as thinking of her safety. "On one of your errands to town?"

And then, turning to me, he said:

"Sir Ulysses, you have spoken well, and your speech has been that free,
open-hearted speech that wins its way alike among the Hyperboreans that
dwell in frozen twilight near the northern star, and those dwarfed and
swarthy intelligences that blacken in the fierce sunlight of that
fearful axle we call the equator. Therefore, I will make return to you
of speech no less frank and true ..."

He took a puff at his cigar, and then continued:

"I should not risk this confession, but that it is easy to see that you
belong to the race of Eternal Children, to which, you may have realised,
my daughter and I also belong. This adventure of yours after buried
treasure has not seriously been for the doubloons and pieces of eight,
the million dollars, and the million and a half dollars themselves, but
for the fun of going after them, sailing the unknown seas, coral
islands, and all that sort of blessed moonshine. Well, Calypso and I are
just like that, and I am going to tell you something exciting--we too
have our buried treasure. It is nothing like so magnificent in amount as
yours, or your Henry P. Tobias's--and where it is at this particular
moment I know as little as yourself. In fact it is Calypso's secret...."

I looked across at Calypso, but her eyes were far beyond capture, in
un-plummeted seas.

"I will show you presently where I found it, among the rocks near
by--now a haunt of wild bees.

"Can you ever forget that passage in the Georgics? It makes the honey
taste sweeter to me every time I taste it. We must have some of it for
dinner, by the way, Calypso."

I could not help laughing, and so, for a moment, breaking up the story.
The dear fellow! Was there any business of human importance from which
he could not be diverted by a quotation from Homer or Virgil or
Shakespeare? But he was soon in the saddle again.

"Well," he resumed, "one day, some seven years ago, in a little cave
below the orange trees, grubbing about as I am fond of doing, I came
upon a beautiful old box of beaten copper, sunk deep among the roots of
a fig tree. It was strong, but it seemed too dainty for a pirate--some
great lady's jewel box more likely--Calypso shall show it to us
presently. On opening it--what do you think? It spilled over with golden
doubloons--among which were submerged some fine jewels, such as this tie
ring you see me wearing. Actually, it was no great treasure, at a
monetary calculation--certainly no fortune--but from our romantic point
of view, as belonging to the race of Eternal Children, it was El Dorado,
Aladdin's lamp, the mines of Peru, the whole sunken Spanish Main,
glimmering fifty fathoms deep in mother-of-pearl and the moon. It was
the very Secret Rose of Romance; and, also, mark you, it was some
money--O! perhaps, all told, it might be some five thousand guineas,
or--what would you say?--twenty-five odd thousand dollars; Calypso knows
better than I, and she, as I said, alone knows where it is now hid, and
how much of it now remains."

He paused to relight his cigar, while Calypso and I--Well, he began
again:

"Now my daughter and I," and he paused to look at her fondly, "though
of the race of Eternal Children, are not without some of the innocent
wisdom which Holy Writ countenances as the self-protection of the
innocent--Calypso, I may say, is particularly endowed with this quality,
needing it as she does especially for the guardianship for her foolish
talkative old father, who, by the way, is almost at the end of his tale.
So, when this old chest flashed its bewildering dazzle upon us, we,
being poor folk, were not more dazzled than afraid. For--like the poor
man in the fable--such good fortune was all too likely to be our
undoing, should it come to the ears of the great, or the indigent
criminal. The 'great' in our thought was, I am ashamed to say, the
sacred British Treasury, by an ancient law of which, forty per cent. of
all 'treasure-trove' belongs to His Majesty the King. The 'indigent
criminal' was represented by--well, our coloured (and not so very much
coloured) neighbours. Of course, we ought to have sent the whole
treasure to your friend, John Saunders, of His Britannic Majesty's
Government at Nassau, but--Well, we didn't. Some day, perhaps, you
will put in a word for us with him, as you drink his old port, in the
snuggery. Meanwhile, we had an idea, Calypso and I--"

He paused--for Calypso had involuntarily made a gesture, as though
pleading to be spared the whole revelation--and then with a smile,
continued:

"We determined to hide away our little hoard where it would be safe from
our neighbours, and dispose of it according to our needs with a certain
tradesman in the town whom we thought we could trust--a tradesman, who,
by the way, quite naturally levies a little tax upon us for his
security. No blame to him! I have lived far too long to be hard on human
nature."

"John Sweeney?" I asked, looking over at Calypso, with eyes that dared
at last to smile.

"The very same, my Lord Ulysses," answered my friend.

And so I came to understand that Mr. Sweeney's reluctance in selling me
that doubloon was not so sinister as it had, at the moment, appeared;
that it had in fact come of a loyalty which was already for me the most
precious of all loyalties.

"Then," said I, "as a fitting conclusion to the confidence you have
reposed in me, my Lord Alcinoüs; if Miss Calypso would have the kindness
to let us have a sight of that chest of beaten copper of which you
spoke, I would like to restore this, that was once a part of its
contents, wherever the rest of them" (and I confess that I paused a
moment) "may be in hiding."

And I took from my pocket the sacred doubloon that I had bought from
John Sweeney--may Heaven have mercy upon his soul!--for sixteen dollars
and seventy-five cents, on that immortal evening.



CHAPTER VII

_In Which the "King" Dreams a Dream--and Tells Us About It._


The afternoon, under the spell of its various magic, had been passing
all too swiftly, and at length I grew reluctantly aware that it was time
for me to be returning once more to the solid, not to say squalid,
earth; but, as I made a beginning of my farewell address, King Alcinoüs
raised his hand with a gesture that could not be denied. It was not to
be heard of, he said. I must be their guest till to-morrow, sans
argument. To begin with, for all the golden light still in the garden,
with that silver wand of the fountain laid upon the stillness like a
charm, it was already night among the palms, he said, and blacker than
our friend Erebus in the woods--and there was no moon.

"No moon?" I said, and, though the remark was meaningless, one might
have thought, from Calypso's face--in which rose colour fought with a
suggestion of submerged laughter--that it had a meaning.

If I had found it difficult going at high noon, he continued, with an
immense sunlight overhead, how was I going to find it with the sun gone
head-long into the sea, as was about to happen in a few moments. When
the light that is in thee has become darkness, how great is that
darkness! _Si ergo lumen quod in te est tenebræ sunt, ipsæ tenebræ
quantæ erunt!_ And he settled it, as he settled everything, with a
whimsical quotation.

He had not yet, he said, shown me that haunt of the wild bees, where the
golden honey now took the place of that treasure of golden money; and
there were also other curiosities of the place he desired to show me.
And that led me--his invitation being accepted without further
parley--to mention the idea I had conceived as I came along, of
exploring those curious old ruined buildings. Need I say that the mere
suggestion was enough to set him aflame? I might have known that here,
of all men, was my man for such an enterprise. He had meant to do it
himself for how many years--but age, with stealing step, _et cetera._

However, with youth--so he was pleased to flatter me--to lend him the
sap of energy, why who knows? And in a moment he had us both akindle
with his imaginations of what might--"might"! what a word to use!--no!
what, without question, _must_ lie unsunned in those dark underground
vaults, barricaded with all that deviltry of vegetation, and guarded by
the coils of a three-headed dragon with carbuncles for eyes--eyes that
never slept--for the advantage of three heads to treasure-guarding
dragons, he explained, was that they divided the twenty-four hours into
watches of eight hours each as the ugly beast kept ward over that heap
of gold--bars of it, drifts of it, banks of it minted into gleaming
coins--doubloons, doubloons, doubloons--so that the darkness was bright
as day with the shine of it, or as the bottom of the sea, where a
Spanish galleon lies sunk among the corals and the gliding water snakes.

"O King!" I laughed, "but indeed you have the heart of a child!"

"To-morrow," he announced, "to-morrow we shall begin--there is not a
moment to lose. We will send Samson with a message to your
captain--there is no need for you to go yourself; time is too
precious--and in a week, who knows but that Monte Cristo shall seem like
a pauper and a penny gaff in comparison with the fantasies of our
fearful wealth. Even Calypso's secret hoard will pale before the romance
of our subterranean millions--I mean billions--and poor Henry Tobias
will need neither hangman's rope nor your friend Webster's cartridges
for his quietus. At the mere rumour of our fortune, he will suddenly
turn a green so violent that death will be instantaneous."

So, for that evening, all was laughingly decided. In a week's time, it
was agreed, we should have difficulty in recognising each other. We
should be so disguised in cloth of gold, and so blinding to look upon
with rings and ropes of pearls. As our dear "King" got off something like
this for our good-night, my eyes involuntarily fell upon his present
garments--far from being cloth of gold. Why? I wondered. There was no
real financial reason, it was evident, for these penitential rags. But I
remembered that I had known two other millionaires--millionaires not
merely of the imagination--whom it had been impossible to separate from a
certain beloved old coat that had been their familiar for more than
twenty years. It was some odd kink somewhere in the make-up of the
"King," one more trait of his engaging humanity.

When we met at breakfast next morning, glad to see one another again as
few people are at breakfast, it was evident that, so far as the "King"
was concerned, our dream had lost nothing in the night watches. On the
contrary, its wings had grown to an amazing span and iridescence. It
was so impatient for flight, that its feet had to be chained to the
ground--the wise Calypso's doing--with a little plain prose, a detail or
two of preliminary arrangement, and then....

Calypso, it transpired, had certain household matters--of which the
"King" of course, was ever divinely oblivious--that would take her on an
errand into the town. Those disposed of, we two eternal children were at
liberty to be as foolish as we pleased. The "King" bowed his uncrowned
head, as kings, from time immemorial have bowed their diadems before the
quiet command of the domesticities; and it was arranged that I should be
Calypso's escort on her errand.

So we set forth in the freshness of the morning, and the woods that had
been so black and bewildering at my coming opened before us in easy
paths, and all that tropical squalor that had been foul with sweat and
insects seemed strangely vernal to me, so that I could hardly believe
that I had trodden that way before. And for our companion all the way
along--or, at least, for my other companion--was the Wonder of the
World, the beautiful strangeness of living, and that marvel of a man's
days upon the earth which lies in not knowing what a day shall bring
forth, if only we have a little patience with Time--Time, with those
gold keys at his girdle, ready, at any turn of the way, to unlock the
hidden treasure that is to be the meaning of our lives.

How should I try to express what it was to walk by her side, knowing all
that we both knew?--knowing, or giddily believing that I knew, how her
heart, with every breath she took, vibrated like a living flower, with
waves of colour, changing from moment to moment like a happy trembling
dawn. To know--yet not to say! Yes! we were both at that divine moment
which hangs like a dew-drop in the morning sun--ah! all too ready to
fall. O! keep it poised, in that miraculous balance, 'twixt Time and
Eternity--for this crystal made of light and dew is the meaning of the
life of man and woman upon the earth.

As we came to the borders of the wood, near the edge of the little town,
we called a counsel of two. As the outcome of it, we concluded that,
having in mind the "King's" ambitious plans for our cloth-of-gold
future, and for other obvious reasons, it was better that she went into
the town alone--I to await her in the shadow of the mahogany tree.

As she turned to leave me, she drew up from her bosom a little bag that
hung by a silver chain, and, opening it, drew out, with a laugh--a
golden doubloon!

I sprang toward her; but she was too quick for me, and laughingly
vanished through an opening in the trees. I was not to kiss her that
day.



CHAPTER VIII

_News!_


Calypso was so long coming back that I began to grow anxious--was,
indeed, on the point of going into the town in search of her; when she
suddenly appeared, rather out of breath, and evidently a little
excited--as though, in fact, she had been running away from something.
She caught me by the arm, with a laugh:

"Do you want to see your friend Tobias?" she said.

"Tobias! Impossible!"

"Come here," and she led me a yard or two back the way she had come, and
then cautiously looked through the trees.

"Gone!" she said, "but he was there a minute or two ago--or at least
some one that is his photograph--and, of course, he's there yet, hidden
in the brush, and probably got his eyes on us all the time. Did you see
that seven-year apple tree move?"

"His favourite tree," I laughed.

"Hardly strong enough to hang him on though." And I realised that she
was King Alcinoüs's daughter.

We crouched lower for a moment or two, but the seven-year apple tree
didn't move again, and we agreed that there was no use in waiting for
Tobias to show his hand.

"He is too good a poker-player," I said.

"Like his skeletons, eh?" she said.

"But what made you think it was Tobias?" I asked, "and how did it all
happen?"

"I could hardly fail to recognise him from your flattering description,"
she answered, "and indeed it all happened rather like another experience
of mine. I had gone into Sweeney's store--you remember?--and was just
paying my bill."

"In the usual coinage?" I ventured. She gave me a long, whimsical
smile--once more her father's daughter.

"That, I'm afraid, was the trouble," she answered; "for, as I laid my
money down on the counter, I suddenly noticed that there was a person at
the back of the store ..."

"A person?" I interrupted.

"Yes! suppose we say 'a pock-marked person'; was it you?"

"What a memory you have for details," I parried, "and then?"

"Well! I took my change and managed to whisper a word to Sweeney--a good
friend, remember--and came out. I took a short cut back, but the
'person' that had stood in the back of the store seemed to know the way
almost better than I--so well that he had got ahead of me. He was
walking quietly this way, and so slowly that I had at last to overtake
him. He said nothing, just watched me, as if interested in the way I was
going--but, I'm ashamed to say, he rather frightened me! And here I am."

"Do you really think he saw the--doubloon--like that other 'person'?" I
asked.

"There's no doubt of it."

"Well, then," I said, "let's hurry home, and talk it over with the
'King.'"

The "King," as I had realised, was a practical "romantic" and at once
took the matter seriously, leaving--as might have surprised some of
those who had only heard him talk--his conversational fantasies on the
theme to come later.

Calypso, however, had the first word.

"I always told you, Dad," she said;--and the word "Dad" on the lips of
that big statuesque girl--who always seemed ready to take that inspired
framework of rags and bones and talking music into her protecting
arms--seemed the quaintest of paradoxes--, "I always told you, Dad, what
would happen, with your fairy-tales of the doubloons."

"Quite true, my dear," he answered, "but isn't a fairy-tale worth paying
for?--worth a little trouble? And remember, if you will allow me, two
things about fairy-tales: there must always be some evil fairy in them,
some dragon or such like; and there is always--a happy ending. Now the
dragon enters at last--in the form of Tobias; and we should be happy on
that very account. It shows that the race of dragons is not, as I
feared, extinct. And as for the happy ending, we will arrange it, after
lunch--for which, by the way, you are somewhat late."

After lunch, the "King" resumed, but in a brief and entirely practical
vein:

"We are about to be besieged," he said. "The woods, probably, are
already thick with spies. For the moment, we must suspend operations on
our Golconda"--his name for the ruins that we were to excavate--"and, as
our present purpose--yours no less than ours, friend Ulysses--is to
confuse Tobias, my suggestion is this: That you walk with me a mile or
two to the nor'ard. There is an entertaining mangrove swamp I should
like to show you, and also, you can give me your opinion of an idea of
mine that you will understand all the better when I have taken you over
the ground."

So we walked beyond the pines, down onto a long interminable flat land
of marl marshes and mangrove trees--so like that in which Charlie
Webster had shot the snake and the wild duck--that only Charlie could
have seen any difference.

"Now," said the "King," "do you see a sort of river there, overgrown
with mangroves and palmettos?"

"Yes," I answered, "almost--though it's so choked up it's almost
impossible to say."

"Well," said the "King," "that's the idea; you haven't forgotten those
old ruins we are going to explore. You remember how choked up they are.
Well, this was the covered water-way, the secret creek, by which the
pirates--John Teach, or whoever it was, perhaps John P. Tobias
himself--used to land their loot. It's so overgrown nowadays that no one
can find the entrance but myself and a friend or two; do you
understand?"

We walked a little farther, and then at length came to the bank of the
creek the "King" had indicated. This we followed for half a mile or so,
till we met the fresh murmur of the sea.

"We needn't go any farther," said the "King." "It's the same all the way
along to the mouth--all over-grown as you see, all the way, right out to
the 'white water' as they call it--which is four miles of shoal sand
that is seldom deeper than two fathoms, and which a nor'easter is
liable to blow dry for a week on end. Naturally it's a hard place to
find, and a hard place to get off!--and only two or three persons
besides Sweeney--all of them our friends--know the way in. Tobias may
know of it; but to know it is one thing, to find it is another matter. I
could hardly be sure of it myself--if I were standing in from the sea,
with nothing but the long palmetto-fringed coast-line to go by.

"Now, you see it? I brought you here, because words--"

"Even yours, dear 'King,'" I laughed.

"--could not explain what I suggest for us to do. You are interested
in Tobias. Tobias is interested in you. I am interested in you both. And
Calypso and I have a treasure to guard."

"I have still a treasure to seek," I said, half to myself.

"Good enough," said the "King." "Now, to be practical. We can assume
that Tobias is on the watch. I don't mean that he's around here just
now, for, before we left, I spoke to Samson and Erebus and they will
pass the word to four men blacker than themselves; therefore we can
assume that this square mile or so is for the moment 'to ourselves.' But
beyond our fence you may rely that Tobias and his myrmidons--is that
the word?" he asked with a concession to his natural foolishness--"are
there."

"So," he went on, "I want you to go down to your boat to-morrow morning
to say good-bye to the commandant, the parson, and the postmaster; to
haul up your sail and head for Nassau. Call in on Sweeney on the way,
buy an extra box of cartridges, and say '_Dieu et mon Droit_'--it is our
password; he will understand, but, if he shouldn't, explain, in your own
way, that you come from me, and that we rely upon him to look out for
our interest. Then head straight for Nassau; but, about eight o'clock,
or anywhere around twilight, turn about and head--well, we'll map it out
on the chart at home--anywhere up to eight miles along the coast, till
you come to a light, low down right on the edge of the water. As soon as
you see it, drop anchor; then wait till morning--the very beginning of
dawn. As soon as you can see land, look out for Samson--within a hundred
yards of you--all the land will look alike to you. Only make the Captain
head straight for Samson, and just as you think you are going to run
ashore--Well, you will see!"



CHAPTER IX

_Old Friends._


Next morning I did as the "King" had told me to do. The whole programme
was carried out just as he had planned it. I made my good-byes in the
settlement, as we had arranged, not forgetting to say "_Dieu et mon
Droit_" to Sweeney, and watching with some humorous intent how he would
take it. He took it quietly, as a man in a signal box takes a signal,
with about as much emotion, and with just the same necessary
seriousness. But I suppose he felt that the circumstances justified a
slight heightening of his usual indifference to all mortal things.

"Tell the boss," he said--of course he meant the "King"--"that we are
looking after him. Nothing'll slip through here, if we can help it. Good
luck!"

So I went down to the boat--to old Tom once more, and the rest of our
little crew, who had long since exhausted the attractions of their life
ashore, and were glad, as I was, to "H'ist up the _John B._ Sail." We
sang that classic chanty, as we went out with all our canvas spread to
a lively northeast breeze--and I realised once more how good the sea was
for all manner of men, whatever their colour, for we all livened up and
shook off our land-laziness again, spry and laughing, and as keen as the
jib stretching out like a gull's wing into the rush and spray of the
sea.

Down in my cabin, I looked over some mail that had been waiting for me
at the post-office. Amongst it was a crisp, characteristic word from
Charlie Webster--for whom the gun will ever be mightier than the pen:

"_Tobias escaped--just heard he is on your island--watch out. Will
follow in a day or two._"

I came out on deck about sunset. We were running along with all our
sails drawing like a dream. I looked back at the captain, proud and
quiet and happy there at the helm, and nodded a smile to him, which he
returned with a flash of his teeth. He loved his boat; he asked nothing
better than to watch her behaving just as she was doing. And the other
boys seemed quiet and happy too, lying along the sides of the house,
ready for the captain's order, but meanwhile content to look up at the
great sails, and down again at the sea.

We were a ship and a ship's crew all at peace with one another, and
contented with ourselves--rushing and singing and spraying through the
water. We were all friends--sea, and sails, and crew together. I
couldn't help thinking that a mutiny would be hard to arrange under such
a combination of influences.

Tom was sitting forward, plaiting a rope. For all our experiences
together, he never implied that he was anything more than the ship's
cook, with the privilege of waiting upon me in the cabin at my meals.
But, of course, he knew that I had quite another valuation of him, and,
as our eyes met, I beckoned to him to draw closer to me.

"Tom," I said, "I have found my treasure."

"You don't say so, sar."

"Yes! Tom, and I rely upon you to help me to guard it. There are no
ghosts, this time, Tom," I added--as he said nothing, but waited for me
to go on--"and no need of our sucking fish...."

"Are you sure, sar?" he asked, adding: "You can never be sure about
ghosts--they are always around somewhere. And a sucking fish is liable
at any moment to be useful."

I opened my shirt in answer.

"There it is still, Tom; I agree with you. We won't take any unnecessary
chances."

This comforted the old man more than any one could have imagined.

"It's all right then, sar?" he said. "It will come out all right now,
I'm sure--though, as I wanted to say"--and he hesitated--"I had hoped
that you had forgotten those treasures that--"

"Go on, Tom."

"That moth and rust do corrupt."

"I know, dear old Tom, but neither moth nor rust can ever corrupt the
treasure I meant--the treasure I have already found."

"You have found the treasure, sar?" asked Tom, in natural bewilderment.

"Yes, Tom, and I am going to show it to you--to-morrow."

The old man waited, as a mortal might wait till it pleased his god to
speak a little more clearly.

"Quite true, Tom," I continued; "you shall see my treasure to-morrow;
meanwhile, read this note." Tom was so much to me that I wanted him to
know all about the details of the enterprise we shared together, and in
which he risked his life no less than I risked mine.

Tom took out his spectacles from some recess of his trousers, and
applied himself to Charlie Webster's note, as though it had been the
Bible. He read it as slowly indeed as if it had been Sanscrit, and then
folded it and handed it back to me without a word. But there was quite a
young smile in his old eyes.

"'The wonderful works of God,'" he said presently. "I guess, sar, we
shall soon be able to ask him what he meant by that expression."

Then, as sunlight had almost gone, and the stars were trying to come out
overhead, and the boys were stringing out our lanterns, I surprised our
captain by telling him that I had changed my mind, and that I didn't
want to make Nassau that night, but wanted to head back again, but a
point or so to the south'ard. He demurred a little, because, as he said,
he was not quite sure of his course. We ought to have had a pilot, and
the shoals--so much he knew--were bad that way, all "white water,"
particularly in a northeast wind. This only confirmed what the "King"
had said. So, admitting that I knew all the captain said, I ordered him
to do as I told him.

So we ruffled it along, making two or three "legs"--I sitting abaft the
jib boom, with my back against the mainmast, watching out for Samson and
his light.

Soon the long dark shore loomed ahead of us. I had reckoned it out about
right. But the Captain announced that we were in shoal water.

"How many feet?" I asked, and a boy threw out the lead.

"Sixteen and a half," he said.

"Go ahead," I called out.

"Do you want to go aground?" asked the Captain.

For answer, I pushed him aside and took the wheel. I had caught the
smallest glimmer, like a night-light, floating on the water.

"Drop the anchor," I called.

The light in shore was clear and near at hand, about one hundred yards
away, and there was the big murmur and commotion of the long breakers
over the dancing shoals. We rolled a good deal, and the Captain moodily
took my suggestion of throwing out three anchors and cradling them;
though, as he said, with the way the northeast was blowing, we should
soon be on dry land. It was true enough. The tide was running out very
fast, and the white sand coming ever nearer to our eyes in the
moonlight; and Samson's light, there, was keeping white and steady. With
the thought of my treasure and the "King" so near by, it was hard to
resist the temptation to plunge in and follow my heart ashore. But I
managed to control the boyish impulse, and presently we were all snug,
and some of us snoring, below decks, rocked in the long swells of the
shoal water that gleamed milkily like an animated moonstone under the
stars--old Sailor curled up at my feet, just like old times.



CHAPTER X

_The Hidden Creek._


I woke just as dawn was waking too, very still and windless; for the
threatening nor'easter had changed its mind, and the world was as quiet
as though there weren't a human being in it. Near by, stretched the long
low coast-line, nothing but level brush, with an occasional thatch-palm
lifting up a shock-head against the quickening sky. Out to sea, the
level plains of lucent water spread like a vast floor, immensely
vacant--not a sail or even a wing to mar the perfect void.

As the light grew, I scanned the shore to see whether I could detect the
entrance of the hidden creek; but, though I swept it up and down again
and again, it continued to justify the "King's" boast. There was no sign
of an opening anywhere. Nothing but a straight line of brush, with
mangroves here and there stepping down in their fantastic way into the
water. And yet we were but a hundred yards from the shore. Certainly
"Blackbeard"--if the haunt had really been his--had known his business;
for an enemy could have sought him all day along this coast and found
no clue to his hiding-place.

But, presently, as my eyes kept on seeking, a figure rose, tall and
black near the water's edge, a little to our left, and shot up a long
arm by way of signal. It was Samson; and evidently the mouth of the
creek was right there in front of us--under our very noses, so to
say--and yet it was impossible to make it out. However, at this signal,
I stirred up the still-sleeping crew, and presently we had the anchors
up, and the engine started at the slowest possible speed.

The tide was beginning to run in, so we needed very little way on us. I
pointed out Samson to the captain, and, following the "King's"
instructions, told him to steer straight for the negro. He grumbled not
a little. Of course, if I wanted to run aground, it was none of his
affair--etc., etc. Then I stationed the sturdiest of the two deck-hands
on the port bow with a long oar, while I took the starboard with
another. Very slowly and cautiously we made in, pointing straight for a
thick growth of mangrove bushes. Samson stood there and called:

"All right, sar. Keep straight on. You'll see your way in a minute."

And, sure enough, when we were barely fifty feet away from the shore,
and there seemed nothing for it but to run dead aground, low down
through the floating mangrove branches we caught sight of a narrow gleam
starting inland, and in another moment or two our decks were swept with
foliage as the _Flamingo_ rustled in, like a bird to cover, through an
opening in the bushes barely twice her beam; and there before us,
snaking through the brush, was a lane of water which immediately began
to broaden between palmetto-fringed banks, and was evidently deep enough
for a much larger vessel.

"Plenty of water, sar," hallooed Samson from the bank, grinning a huge
welcome. "Keep a-going after me," and he started trotting along the
creek-side.

As we pushed into the glassy channel, I standing at the bow, my eyes
were arrested by a tremendous flashing commotion in the water to the
right and left of us--like the fierce zigzagging of steel blades, or the
ferocious play of submerged lightning. It was a select company of
houndfish and sharks that we had disturbed, lying hellishly in wait
there for the prey of the incoming tide. It was a curiously sinister
sight, as though one had come upon a nest of water-devils in council,
and the fancy jumped into my mind that here were the spirits of Teach
and his crew once more evilly embodied and condemned to haunt for ever
this gloomy scene of their crimes.

Samson went trotting along the twisting banks, we cautiously feeling our
way after him, for something like a quarter of a mile; and then, coming
round a sudden bend, the creek opened out into a sort of basin. On the
left bank stood two large palmetto shanties. Samson indicated that there
was our anchorage; and then, as we were almost alongside of them, the
cheery halloos of a well-known voice hailed us. It was the "King"; and,
as I answered his welcome, the morning suddenly sang for me--for there
too was Calypso, at his side.

The water ran so deep at the creek's side that we were able to moor the
_Flamingo_ right up against the bank, and, when I had jumped ashore and
greeted my friends, and the "King" had executed a brief characteristic
fantasia on the manifest advantages of having a hidden pirate's creek in
the family, he unfolded his plans, or rather that portion of them that
was necessary at the moment.

The crew of the _Flamingo,_ he said, had better stay where they were for
the present. If they were tired of sleeping aboard, there were his two
palmetto palaces, with couches of down on which to stretch their
limbs--and, for amusement--poor devils!--he swept his eyes whimsically
around that dreariest of landscapes--they might exercise their
imaginations by pretending, after the manner of John Teach, that they
were on an excursion to Hades--this was the famous River Acheron--and so
on. But, seriously, he ended, we would find some way of keeping them
from committing hari-kari and, meanwhile, we would leave them in peace,
and stroll along toward breakfast.

At that moment, Sailor rubbed his head against my knee.

"Ah!" said the "King," "the heroic canine! He, of course, must not be
left behind. We may very well need you in our counsels, eh, old fellow?"
and he made friends with Sailor in a moment, as only a man who loves
dogs can.

I believe I was second in Sailor's affection from that moment of his
meeting the "King." But then, who wouldn't have been?

So then, after a reassuring word or two with Tom and the Captain, we
went our ways toward breakfast--the "King's" tongue and Sailor's wagging
happily in concert every inch of the way.



CHAPTER XI

_An Old Enemy._


Charlie Webster's laconic note was naturally our chief topic over
breakfast. "_Tobias escaped--just heard he is on your island. Watch out.
Will follow in a day or two._" The "King" read it out, when I handed him
the note across the table.

"Your friend writes like a true man of action," he added, "like
Cæsar--and also the electric telegraph. We must send word to Sweeney to
be on the look-out for him. I will send Samson the Redoubtable with a
message to him this morning. Meanwhile, we will smoke and think."

Then for the next hour the "King" thought--aloud; while Calypso and I
sat and listened, occasionally throwing in a parenthesis of comment or
suggestion. It was evident, we all agreed, that Calypso had been right.
It had been Tobias and none other whose evil eye had sent her so
breathless back to me, waiting in the shadow of the woods; and it was
the same evil eye that had fallen vulture-like on her golden doubloon
exposed on Sweeney's counter.

Now what were we to think of Tobias?--what really were his notions
about this supposititious treasure?--and what was likely to be his plan
of action? Had he really any private knowledge of the whereabouts of his
alleged ancestral treasure?--or was his first authentic hint of its
whereabouts derived from the manuscript--first overheard while
eavesdropping at John Saunders's office, and afterward purloined from
John Saunders's verandah?

There seemed little doubt that this second surmise was correct; for, if
he had had any previous knowledge, he would have had no need of the
manuscript and long ago he would have gone after the treasure for
himself, and found it or not, as the case might be. Probably there was a
tradition in his family of the existence somewhere of his grandfather's
treasure; but that tradition was very likely the sum of his inheritance;
and doubtless it was the mere accident of his dropping into Saunders's
office that morning which had set him on the track.

It was also likely, indeed practically certain, that he had been able to
make no more out of the manuscript than I had; that he had concluded
that I had somehow or other unearthed more about it than he; and that,
therefore, his most promising clue to its discovery would be my actions.
To keep me in sight was the first step. So far so good.

But thus far, it would appear to him, I had had no very positive
success. Otherwise, I would not still be on the quest. He had probably
been aware of my movements, and may have been lying hidden on the island
longer than we suspected. From some of his spies he had heard of my
presence in the settlement, and, chance having directed him to Sweeney's
store at the moment of Calypso's ringing down that Spanish gold on the
counter, he had somehow connected Calypso's doubloon with me.

At all events, it was clear that there were such coins on the island in
somebody's possession. Then, when he had watched Calypso on her way
home--and, without any doubt, been the spectator of our meeting at the
edge of the wood though we had been unable to catch sight of him--there
would, of course, be a suspicion in his mind that my quest might at last
be approaching success, and that his ancestral millions might be almost
in my hands. That there might be some other treasure on the island with
which neither he nor his grandfather had any concern would not occur to
him, nor would it be likely to trouble him if it did. My presence was
enough to prove that the treasure was his--for was it not his treasure
that I was after? Logic irrefutable! How was he to know that all the
treasure so far discovered was that modest hoard--unearthed, as I had
heard, in the garden--the present whereabouts of which was known only to
Calypso. The "King" had interrupted himself at this point of argument.

"By the way, Calypso, where is it?" he asked unexpectedly, to the sudden
confusion of both of us. "Isn't it time you revealed your mysterious
Aladdin's cave?"

At the word "cave" the submerged rose in Calypso's cheeks almost came to
the surface of their beautiful olive.

"Cave!" she countered manfully, "who said it was a cave?"

"It was merely a figure of speech, which--if I may say so, my
dear--might apply with equal fitness, say--to a silk stocking."

And Calypso laughed through another tide of rose-colour.

"No, Dad, not that either. Never mind where it is. It is perfectly safe,
I assure you."

"But _are_ you sure, my dear? Wouldn't it be safer, after all, here in
the house? How can you be certain that no one but yourself will
accidentally discover it?"

"I am absolutely certain that _no one will,_" she answered, with an
emphasis on the last three words which sent a thrill through me, for I
knew that it was meant for me. Indeed, as she spoke, she furtively gave
me one of those glances of soft fire which had burnt straight through to
my heart in Sweeney's store--a sort of blended challenge and appeal.

"Of course, Dad," she added, "if you insist--you shall have it. But
seriously I think it is safer where it is, and if I were to fetch it,
how can I be sure that no one"--she paused, with a meaning which I, of
course, understood--"Tobias, for instance, would see me going--and
follow me."

"To be sure--to be sure," said the "King." "What do you think, friend
Ulysses?"

"I think it more than likely that she might be followed," I answered,
"and I quite agree with Miss Calypso. I certainly wouldn't advise her to
visit her treasure just now--with the woods probably full of eyes. In
fact," I added, smiling frankly at her, "I could scarcely answer for
myself even--for I confess that she has filled me with an overpowering
curiosity."

And in my heart I stood once more amid the watery gleams and echoes of
that moonlit cavern, struck dumb before that shining princess from
whose mouth and hands had fallen those strange streams of gold.

"So be it then," said the "King"; "and now to consider what our friend
here graphically speaks of as those eyes in the woods. 'The woods were
full of eyes.' Ah! friend Ulysses, you evidently share my taste for the
romantic phrase. Who cares how often it has been used? It is all the
better for that. Like old wine, it has gained with age. One's whole
boyhood seems to be in a phrase like that--Dumas, Scott, Fenimore
Cooper. How often, I wonder, has that divine phrase been written--'the
woods were full of eyes.' And now to think that we are actually living
it--an old boy like myself even. 'The woods were full of eyes.' Bravo!
Ulysses, for it is still a brave and gallant world!"

The "King" then made a determined descent into the practical. The woods,
most probably, _were_ full of eyes. In plain prose, we were almost
certainly being watched. Unless--unless, indeed, my bogus departure for
Nassau had fooled Tobias as we had hoped. But, even so, with that lure
of Calypso's doubloon ever before him, it was too probable that he would
not leave the neighbourhood without some further investigation--"an
investigation," the "King" explained, "which might well take the form
of a midnight raid; murdered in our beds, and so forth."

That being so, being in fact almost a certainty--the "King" spoke as
though he would be a much disappointed man otherwise--we must look to
our garrison. After all, besides ourselves, we had but Samson and
Erebus, and their dark brethren of doubtful courage, while Tobias
probably had command of a round dozen of doughty desperadoes. On the
whole, perhaps, he said, it might be best to avail ourselves of the crew
of the _Flamingo_--"under cover of the dark," he repeated with a smile.

Yes! that must be the first step. We must get them up there that night,
under cover of the dark; keep them well hidden, and--well! await
developments. Charlie Webster might be expected any moment with his
reinforcements, and then!--"Lay on, Macduff!"

While we had been talking, Samson had long since been on his way with
the word to Sweeney to look out for Webster, and, as he had been
admonished to hurry back, it was scarcely noon when he returned,
bringing in exchange a verbal message from Sweeney.

"The pock-marked party," ran the message as delivered by Samson, "had
left the harbour in his sloop that morning. Yes, sar!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed the "King," turning to me. "So two can play at that
game, says Henry P. Tobias, Jr. But if we haven't fooled him, let's make
sure that he hasn't fooled us. We'll bring up your crew all the
same--what do you think?"

"Under cover of the dark," I assented.



CHAPTER XII

_In Which the "King" Imprisons Me with Some Old Books and Pictures._


Nothing further transpired that day, and, at nightfall, we brought the
crew of the _Flamingo_ up to the house--all but two of them, whom we
left on guard. Two out of six was rather more than we had bargained for,
but we found that none of them had the courage to face the night there
in that dismal swamp alone--and we couldn't blame them, for a more
devil-haunted desolation could not be imagined even in the daylight, and
the mere thought of what might go on there after dark was enough to
uncurl the wool on the head of the bravest negro. And we agreed, too,
that the watch should be changed nightly, a fresh pair going on duty
each evening.

Then there was nothing to do but sit down and await events--amongst
them, the coming of Charlie Webster.

In regard to this, we had decided that it would be as well that, instead
of disembarking at the settlement, he should come and join the
_Flamingo_ in the hidden creek; so Samson was once more despatched down
to Sweeney with a letter for him to hand to Charlie on his arrival,
giving him direction how to find us. Meanwhile, our two men on the
_Flamingo_ could keep watch for him by day, and have a light burning for
him at the entrance of the creek by night.

The "King's" instructions to me were that I was not to show my nose
outside the house. Possibly I might expose the tip of it once in a
while, for a little exercise in the garden--where all this time the
little silver fountain went on playing amid the golden hush of the
orange trees, filling the lotus flowers with big pearls of spray. But,
most of the day, I must regard myself as a prisoner, with the entire
freedom of his study--a large airy room on the second floor, well
furnished with all manner of books, old prints, strange fishes in glass
cases, rods, guns, pipe-racks, curiosities of every kind from various
parts of the world--India, the South Seas, Australia, not forgetting
London and Paris--and all the flotsam and jetsam of a far-wandered man,
who--as the "King" remarked, introducing their autobiographic display
with a comprehensive wave of his hand--had, like that other wanderer
unbeloved of all schoolboys, the pious Æneas, been so much tossed about
on land and sea--_vi superum, sævæ memorem Junonis ob iram_--that he
might found his city and bring safe his household gods from Latium.
Touching his hand lightly on a row of old quartos, in the stout calfskin
and tarnished gold dear to bookmen, he said:

"These I recommend to you in your enforced leisure."

They were a collection of old French voyages--Dampier and
others--embellished with copper-plate maps and quaint engravings of the
fauna and flora of the world, still in all the romantic virginity of its
first discovery.

"This," he said, pointing to a stout old jar of Devonshire ware, "is
some excellent English tobacco--my one extravagance; and here," pointing
to a pipe-rack, "are some well-tried friends from that same 'dear, dear
land,' 'sceptred isle of kings,' and so forth. And now I am going to
leave you, while I go with Samson and Erebus on a little reconnoitring
tour around our domains."

So he left me, and I settled down to a pipe and a volume of Dampier;
but, interesting as I found the sturdy old pages, my thoughts, and
perhaps particularly my heart, were too much in the present for my
attention long to be held by even so adventurous a past; so, laying the
book down, I rose from my chair, and made a tour of inspection of the
various eloquent objects about the room--objects which made a sort of
chronicle in bric-à-brac of my fantastic friend's earthly pilgrimage,
and here and there seemed to hint at the story of his strange soul.

Among the books, for example, was a fine copy of Homer, with the arms of
a well-known English college stamped on the binding, and near by was the
faded photograph of a beautiful old Elizabethan house, with mouldering
garden walls, and a moat brimming with water-lilies surrounding it.
Hanging close by it, was another faded photograph, of a tall stately old
lady, who, at a glance, I surmised must be the "King's" mother. As I
looked at it, my eyes involuntarily sought the garden with its palms and
its orange trees. Far indeed had the son of her heart wandered, like so
many sons of stately English mothers, from that lilied moat and those
old gables, and the proud old eyes that would look on her son no more
forever.

And then in my privileged inspection of these sacred symbols, carried
across so many storm-tossed seas from that far-away Latium, I came upon
another photograph, hanging over the writing-desk--a tall,
Spanish-looking young woman of remarkable beauty. It needed but one
glance to realise that here was Calypso's mother; and, as was natural,
I stood a long time scanning the countenance that was so like the face
which, from my first sight of it, had seemed the loveliest in the world.
This was a flower that had been the mother of a flower. It was a face
more primitive in its beauty, a little less touched with race, than the
one I loved, but the same fearless natural nobility was in it, and the
figure had the same wild grace of pose, the same lithe strength of
carriage.

As I stood looking at it, lost in thought, I heard the "King's" voice
behind me. His step was so light that I had not heard him enter the
room.

"You are looking at Calypso's mother!" he said. "She was a beautiful
creature. I will tell you of her some day, Ulysses."

And indeed, that very night, as we sat over our pipes, he told me; and
without a word of his, I knew that the loneliness of his heart had
singled me out for his friend, since, for all his love of speech, he was
not the man to speak easily of the deep things of his heart.

"Beauty is a very mysterious thing, friend Ulysses," he began, his eyes
musing on the face above his desk, "as our old friends of the Siege of
Troy knew all too well. The eternal Helen! And in nothing is the
divinity of youth so clearly shown as in its worship of beauty, its
faith that there is nothing the world holds--the power and the glory,
the riches and the honours--nothing so well worth fighting for as a
beautiful face. When the world was young, the whole world thought that
too. Now we make ignoble war for markets, but the Greeks made nobler
warfare--for a beautiful face--

    "The face that launched a thousand ships,
    And burnt the topless towers of Ilium.

"So is it still with every young man. 'Fair Helen! make me immortal with
a kiss' is still his cry. Titles and broad lands, and all such earthly
gear--what are these to a youth, with his eyes on the face of the
eternal Helen?--that face we meet once and once only, and either win--to
lose all the rest, or lose--and win what? What is there to win if that
be lost? So, at all events, it was with me, who, after winging away from
those old gables yonder on all the adventurous winds of the seven seas,
and having in truth looked into many a fair face in every corner of the
globe, suddenly, in a certain little island of the French West Indies,
came upon the face I had been unconsciously seeking.

"So, long years before my coming, had it befallen also with a certain
young French nobleman, out there on military service, who had set eyes
on Calypso's grandmother in the streets of that quaint little town,
where the French soul seems almost more at home than in France itself.
All had seemed nothing to him--his ancestral ties, his brilliant
future--compared with that glory of a woman. He married her and settled
down for good, the world well lost, in that dream island. And the dream
he had been faithful to remained faithful to him. He seems to have been
a singularly happy man. I never saw him, for he was dead when I set foot
on his island--destined, though I knew it not, to live his life again in
the love of his daughter.

"She and her mother were living quietly on the small fortune he had left
them, in an old palm-shaded house backed by purple mountains, and sung
to by the sea. The soul of old France seemed to haunt that old house
like a perfume, taking on a richer colour and drawing a more ardent life
from the passionate tropic soul that enfolded it. Both had mysteriously
met and become visibly embodied in the lovely girl, in whose veins the
best blood of France blended with the molten gold of tropic suns. So, as
had happened with her mother, again it happened with her--she took the
wandering man to her heart"--he paused--"held him there for some happy
years"--he paused again--"and the rest is--Calypso."

We did not speak for a long time after he had ended, but his confidence
had touched me so nearly that I felt I owed him my heart in exchange,
and it was hard not to cry out: "And now I love Calypso. Once more the
far-wandered man has found the great light on a lonely shore."

But I felt that to speak yet--believer in the miracle of love though he
had declared himself to be--would seem as though I set too slight a
value on the miracle itself.

There should be a long hush before we speak, when a star has fallen out
of heaven into our hearts.



CHAPTER XIII

_We Begin to Dig._


Two or three days went by, but as yet there was no news of either
Charlie Webster or Tobias. Nothing further had been heard of the latter
in the settlement, and a careful patrolling of the neighbourhood
revealed no signs of him. Either his sailing away was a bona-fide
performance, or he was lying low in some other part of the
island--which, of course, would not be a difficult thing for him to do,
as most of it was wilderness--and as, also, there were one or two coves
on the deserted northern side where he could easily bide his time.
Between that coast and us, however, lay some ten miles of scrub and
mangrove swamps, and it was manifestly out of the question to patrol
them too. There was nothing to do but watch and wait.

"_Vigile et ora,_" said the "King."

But in spite of that counsel, watching and praying was not much in the
"King's" temperament. Besides, as I could see, he was anxious to begin
operations on John Teach's ruined mansion, and was impatient of the
delay.

"With Golconda and Potosi beneath our very feet," he exclaimed at last,
"to be held up by this scurvy pock-marked ruffian, I swear 'I like it
not.' No news from your duck-shooting friend either. It is a slow-moving
world, and the Bird of Time has either lost his wings, or been captured
as a specimen on behalf of the Smithsonian Institute."

At last there came a message from Charlie Webster, another of his
Cæsarian notes: "Sorry delayed a few days longer. Any news?"

That seemed to decide the "King."

"What do you say, Ulysses," he said, "if we begin digging to-morrow?
There are ten of us--with as many guns, four revolvers and plenty of
machetes--not counting Calypso, who is an excellent shot herself."

I agreed that nothing would please me better--so, an early hour of the
following morning found us with the whole garrison--excepting Samson,
whom it had been thought wise to leave at home as a bodyguard for
Calypso--lined up at the old ruined mansion, with picks and shovels and
machetes, ready to commence operations.

The first thing was to get rid of the immense web, which, as I have
already described, the forest had woven with diabolic ingenuity all
around, and in and out the skeleton of the sturdy old masonry. Till
that was done, it was impossible to get any notion of the ground plan of
the several connected buildings. So the first day was taken up with the
chopping and slashing of vegetable serpents, the tearing out of roots
that writhed as if with conscious life, the shearing away of all manner
of haunted leafage, all those dense fierce growths with which Nature
loves to proclaim her luxuriant victory over the work of man's hands--as
soon, so to say, as his back is turned for a moment--like a stealthy
savage foe ever on the watch in the surrounding darkness and only
waiting for the hushing of human voices, for the cessation of human
footsteps, to rush in and overwhelm.

"'I passed by the walls of Balclutha and they were desolate'" quoted the
"King," touched, as a less reflective mind must have been, by this
sinister triumph of those tireless natural forces that neither slumber
nor sleep.

"Here," said he, "is the future of London and Paris--in miniature. The
flora and fauna will be different. There will be none of these nasty
centipedes" (he had just crushed one with his foot), "and oaks, beeches,
and other such friendly trees will take the place of these outlandish
monstrosities. That pretty creature, the wild rose, will fill the
desolation with her sweet breath, but the incredible desolation will be
there; and as we here to-day watch this gum-elemi tree, flourishing
where the good Teach 'gloried and drank deep,' so the men of future days
will hear the bittern booming in the Rue de la Paix and their children
will go a-blackberrying in Trafalgar Square. Selah!"

Two days we were at it with axe and machete--wearisome work which gave
Tom and me occasion to exchange memories of the month we had put in
together on the Dead Men's Shoes. We smiled at each other, as the other
fellows groaned and sweated. It seemed child's play to us, after what we
had gone through.

"They should have been with us, Tom, shouldn't they? They'd have known
what work is;" and I added, for the fun of watching his face: "I wonder
whether we'll find any gentlemen playing poker downstairs, Tom."

"God forbid, sar! God forbid!" he exclaimed, with a look of terror.

The next step was the clearing away of the mounds of fallen masonry and
various rubbish, which still lay between us and our fortune--tedious
preliminaries which chafed the boyish heart of the "King." To tell the
truth, I believe we had both expected to uncover a glittering hoard with
the first stroke of the pick.

"'And metals cry to me to be delivered!'" quoted the "King,"
whimsically, fuming as he took his long strides, hither and thither amid
the rubbish-heaps, so slow to disappear and reveal those underground
passages and hidden vaults, by which the fancies of both of us were
obsessed.

We had worked for a week before we made a clearance of the ground floor.
Then at last we came upon a solidly built stone staircase, winding
downward. After clearing away the debris with which it was choked to a
depth of some twenty or thirty steps, we came to a stout wooden door
studded with nails.

"The dungeon at last," said the "King."

"The kitchens, I bet," said I.

After some battering, the door gave way with a crash, a mouldering
breath as of the grave met our nostrils, and a cloud of bats flew in our
faces, and set the negroes screaming. A huge cavernous blackness was
before us. The "King" called for lanterns.

As we raised these above our heads, and peered into the darkness, we
both gave a laugh.

"'_Yo--ho--ho--and a bottle of rum,_'" sang the "King."

For all along the walls stood, or lay prone on trestles, a silent
company of hogsheads, festooned with cobwebs, like huge black wings. It
was the pirate's wine cellar!

       *       *       *       *       *

Such was our discovery for that day, but there is another matter which I
must mention--the fact that, somehow, the news of our excavation seemed
to have got down to the settlement. It is a curious fact, as the "King"
observed, that if a man should start to dig for gold in the centre of
Sahara, with no possible means of communicating with his fellows, on the
third day, there would not fail to be some one to drop in and remark on
the fineness of the weather. So it was with us. As a general thing, not
once in a month did a human being wander into that wilderness where the
"King" had made his home. There was nothing to bring them there, and, as
I have made clear, the way was not easy. Yet we had hardly begun work
when one and another idle nigger strolled in from the settlement, and
stood grinning his curiosity at our labours.

"I believe it's them black parrots has told them," said old Tom,
pointing to a bird common in the islands--something like a small crow
with a parrot's beak. "They're very knowing birds."

I saw that Tom was serious. So I tried to draw him out.

"What language do they speak, Tom?" I asked.

"Them, sar? They speak Egyptian," he answered, with perfect solemnity.

"Egyptian!"

"Yes, sar," said Tom.

"Egyptian?--but who's going to understand them?"

"There's always some old wise man or woman in every village, sar, who
understands them. You remember old King Coffee in Grant's Town?"

"Does he know Egyptian?"

"O yaas, sar! He knows 'gyptian right enough. And he could tell you
every word them birds says--if he's a mind to."

"I wonder if Tobias knows Egyptian, Tom?"

"I wouldn't be at all surprised, sar," he answered; "he looks like that
kind of man," and he added something about the Prince of the Powers of
the Air, and suggested that Tobias had probably sold his soul to the
devil, and had, therefore, the advantage of us in superior sources of
information.

"He's not unlike one of those black parrots himself, is he, Tom?" I
added, for Tom's words had conjured up a picture for me of Tobias, with
his great beak, and his close-set evil eyes, and a familiar in the form
of a black parrot perched on his shoulders, whispering into one of his
ugly ears.

However, we continued with our digging, and Tobias continued to make no
sign.

But, at the close of the third day from our discovery of John Teach's
wine cellar, something happened which set at rest the question of
Tobias's knowledge of Egyptian, and proved that he was all too well
served by his aërial messengers. The three days had been uneventful. We
had made no more discoveries, beyond the opening up of various prosaic
offices and cellars that may once have harboured loot but were now empty
of everything but bats and centipedes. But, toward evening of the third
day, we came upon a passage leading out of one of these cellars; it had
such a promising appearance that we kept at work later than usual, and
the sun had set and night was rapidly falling as we turned homeward.

As we came in sight of the house, we were struck by the peculiar hush
about it, and there were no lights in the windows.

"No lights!" the "King" and I exclaimed together, involuntarily hurrying
our steps, with a foreboding of we knew not what in our hearts. As we
crossed the lawn, the house loomed up dark and still, and the door
opening on to the loggia was a square of blackness, in a gloom of
shadows hardly less profound. Not a sound, not a sign of life!

"Calypso!" we both cried out, as we rushed across the loggia. "Calypso!
where are you?--but there was no answer; and then, I, being ahead of the
"King," stumbled over something dark lying across the doorway.

"Good God! what is this?" I cried, and, bending down, I saw that it was
Samson.

The "King" struck a match. Yes! it was Samson, poor fellow, with a
dagger firmly planted in his heart.

Near by, something white caught my eye attached to the lintel of the
doorway. It was a piece of paper held there with a sailor's knife. I
tore it off in a frenzy, and--the "King" striking another match--we read
it together. It bore but a few words, written all in capital letters
with a coarse pencil:

"WILL RETURN THE LADY IN EXCHANGE FOR THE TREASURE," and it was signed
"H.P.T."



CHAPTER XIV

_In Which I Lose My Way._


I stood a full minute with the astonishing paper in my hand, too stunned
to speak or move. It seemed too incredible an outrage to realise. Then a
torrent of feelings swept over me--wild fear for her I loved, and
impotent fury against the miscreant who had dared even to conceive so
foul a sacrilege. To think of her beauty subject to such coarse
ruffianism! I pictured her bound and gagged and carried along through
the brush in the bestial grasp of filthy negroes, and it seemed as
though my brain would burst at the thought.

"The audacity of the fellow!" exclaimed the "King," who was the first to
recover.

"But Calypso!" I cried.

The "King" laid his hand on my shoulder, reassuringly.

"Don't be afraid for her," he said. "I know my daughter."

"But I love her!" I cried, thus blurting out in my anguish what I had
designed to reveal in some tranquil chosen hour.

"I have loved her for twenty years," said the "King," exasperatingly
calm. "'Jack Harkaway' can take care of himself."

I was not even astonished at the time.

"But something must be done," I cried. "I will go to the commandant at
once and rouse the settlement. Give me a lantern," I called to one of
the negroes, who by this had come up to us, and were standing around in
a terrified group. I waited only for it to be lit, and then, without a
word, dashed wildly into the forest.

"Hadn't you better take some one with you?" I heard the "King" call
after me, but I was too distraught to reply, plunging headforemost
through the tangled darkness--my brain boiling like a cauldron with
anger and a thousand fears, and my heart stung too with wild unreasoning
remorse. After all, it was my doing.

"To think! to think! to think!" I cried aloud--leaving the rest
unspoken.

I meant that it had all come of my insensate pursuit of that filthy
treasure, when all the time the only treasure I coveted was Calypso
herself. Poor old ignorant Tom had been right, after all. Nothing good
came of such enterprises. There was a curse upon them from the
beginning. And then, as I thought of Tobias, my body shook so that I
could hardly keep on walking, and, next minute, my hatred of him so
nerved me up again that I ran on through the brush, like a madman, my
clothes clutched at by the devilish vines and torn at every yard.

I fled past the scene of our excavations, looking more haunted than ever
in the flashing gleam of the lantern. With an oath, I left them behind,
as the accursed cause of all this evil; but I cannot have gone by them
many yards when suddenly I felt the ground giving way beneath me with a
violent jerk. My arms went up in a wild effort to save myself, and then,
in a panic of fright, I felt myself shooting downward, as one might fall
down the shaft of a mine. Vainly I clutched at rocky walls as I sped
down in the earth-smelling darkness. I seemed to be falling forever, and
for a moment my head cleared and I had time to think of the crash that
was coming, at the end of my fall--a crash which, I said to myself, must
mean death. It came with sudden crunching pain, a swift tightening round
my heart, as though black ropes were being lashed tightly about it,
squeezing out my breath; then entire blackness engulfed me, and I knew
no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

How long I lay there in the darkness I cannot tell. All I remember is my
suddenly opening my eyes on intense blackness, and vaguely wondering
where I was. My head felt strangely clear and alive, but for a moment I
could remember nothing. I was conscious only of a strong earthy smell,
and my eyes felt so keen that, as the phrase goes, they seemed to make
darkness visible. They seemed, too, to see themselves, as rings of light
in the blackness. My head, too, seemed entirely detached from my body,
of which, so far, I was unconscious. But, presently, the realisation of
it returned, and involuntarily I tried to move--to find, with a sort of
indifferent mild surprise, that it was impossible.

So there I lay, oddly content, in the dark--the pungent smell of the
earth my only sensation, and my head uselessly clear.

Then, bit by bit, it all came back to me, like returning circulation in
a numbed limb; but as yet dreamily, as something long ago and far away.
Then I found myself partly risen, leaning on my elbow, and looking
about--into nothingness. Then feeling seemed slowly to be coming back to
the rest of me. My head was no longer isolated. It was part of a heavy
something that lay inert on the ground, and was beginning to feel
numbly--to ache dully. Then I found that I could move one of my legs,
then the other, and eventually, with a mighty effort, I could almost
raise myself. But, for the moment, I had to fall back.

The remembrance of what had happened began to grow in force and keenness
and, of a sudden, the thought of Calypso smote me like a sword! Spurred
to desperate effort, I stood up on the instant and leaned against a
rocky wall. Miracle of miracles! I could stand. I was not dead, after
all. I was not, indeed, so far as I could tell, seriously hurt. Badly
bruised, of course--but no bones broken. It seemed incredible, but it
was so. The realisation made me feel weak again, and I sat down with my
back propped up against the rock, and waited for more strength.

Slowly my thoughts fumbled around the situation. Then, as by force of
habit, my hand went to my pocket. God be praised! I had matches, and I
cried with thankfulness, out of very weakness. But I still sat on in the
dark for a while. I felt very tired. After thinking about it for a long
time, I took out my precious match-box, which unconsciously I had been
hugging with my hand, and struck a light, looking about me in a dazed
fashion. The match burnt down to my fingers, and I threw it away, as the
flame stung me. I had seen something of my surroundings, enough to last
my tired brain for a minute or two. I was at the bottom of a sort of
crevasse, a narrow cleft in the rocks which continued on in a slanting
downward chasm into the darkness. It was a natural corridor, with a
floor of white sand. The sand had accounted for my coming off without
any broken bones.

After another minute or two, I struck another match, and lo! another
miracle. There was my lantern lying beside me. The glass of it was
broken, but that was no matter. As I lit the wick, my hopes leapt up
with the flame. At the worst, I had light.

"_Lux in tenebris!_" I seemed to hear the voice of the
"King"--inextinguishably gay; and, at the thought of him, my inertia
passed. What could he be thinking? His daughter spirited away, and now I
too mysteriously vanished. What was happening up there, all this time?
Up there! How far was it to "up there"? How far had I fallen? All about
me was so terribly still and shut away. I could believe myself at the
very centre of the earth, and it seemed ages ago, æons of time, since I
had last seen the "King." What time was it? I felt for my watch. I found
but the wreck of it. It was the only thing that had suffered. It was
smashed to smithereens.

Then I moved myself again, and, taking up the lantern, raised it aloft,
but the chasm down which I had fallen went up and up in a slanting
direction, and lost itself in darkness. Bringing the lantern down to the
level again, I examined the rock corridor. Behind me, as before me, it
continued--a long, deep fissure, splitting its way through the earth. I
limped my way along some yards of the section that lay before me, but it
seemed to me that it was growing narrower as it went on, as though it
were coming to an end; and indeed, after a while, I came to a place too
narrow for me to pass.

I swung my lantern aloft, seeking the possibilities of a climb, but
everywhere it was sheer, without a ledge or protuberance of any kind to
take advantage of, and it was utterly devoid of vegetation--not a sign
of a friendly shrub or root to hold by.

So I turned back to try my luck in the other direction. But first I
shouted and shouted with all my might. I could not be far away from the
ruins, and there was a chance of some one hearing me. However, I had
little faith in my effort, and was too tired to keep it up; so I turned
with my lantern toward the other end of the corridor. And here it was
easy going, along a gently-graded descent, covered, as I have said, with
white sand, in which shells were here and there embedded. My heart beat
wildly. Perhaps I had only to walk on a little farther to come out on
the sea--for here certainly the sea had been once, whether or not it
came up there any more. Vain hope!--for when I had followed the corridor
some fifty yards or so, it suddenly widened out for a few yards into
something of a cavern, and then as suddenly narrowed into a mere slit,
and so came to an end.

The deadening of my spark of hope weakened me. I slid down, with my back
against the rock, and gave way to despair. As I looked up at the smooth
implacable walls that imprisoned me, I felt like some poor insect
clinging to the side of a bowl partly filled with water. How frantically
the poor creature claws and claws the polished sides, at each effort
slipping nearer and nearer to the fatal flood.

I had sense enough to know that I was too tired to think profitably, and
drowsiness coming over me told me that an hour or two's sleep would give
me the strength I needed to renew with a will, and more chance of
success, my efforts to escape.

Light was too precious to waste, so I blew out my lantern, and, curling
up on the sand, almost instantly fell asleep. But, before I lapsed into
unconsciousness, I had clutched hold of one sustaining thought in the
darkness--the assurance of Calypso's safety, so confidently announced by
her father: "Don't be afraid for her. I know my daughter." Whatever
happened to me, she would come out all right. As her brave shape flashed
before my mind's eye, down there under the earth, I could have no doubt
of that.



CHAPTER XV

_In Which I Pursue My Studies as a Troglodyte._


My instinct had been right in giving way to my drowsiness, for I woke up
from my sleep a new man. How long I had been there, of course, I had no
means of knowing; but I fancy I must have slept a good while, for I felt
so refreshed and full of determination to tackle my escape in good
earnest.

It is remarkable how rest sharpens one's perceptions. When we are weary,
we only half see what we look at, and the very thing we are desperately
seeking may be right under our nose and we quite unaware.

So I had hardly relit my lantern, when its rays revealed something which
it seemed impossible for any one with eyes, however weary, to have
overlooked.

In the right-hand corner of the little cavern, five or six feet above my
head, was a dark hole, like the entrance to a tunnel, or, more properly
speaking, a good-sized burrow--for it was scarcely more than a yard in
diameter. It seemed to be something more than a mere cavity in the rock,
for, when I flashed my lantern up to it, I could see no end. To climb
up to it, at first, seemed difficult; but providentially, I had a stout
claspknife in my pocket, and with this I cut a step or two in the porous
rock, and so managed it. Lying flat on my stomach, I looked in.

It was, as I had thought, a narrow natural tunnel, snaking through the
rocks--as often happens in those curious fantastic coral formations--for
all the world, indeed, as if it had been made ages ago by some monstrous
primeval serpent, a giant worm-hole no less, leading--Heaven alone knew
where.

There was just room to crawl along it on all fours, so I started
cautiously, making sure I had my precious matches, and my jackknife all
safe.

After all, I said to myself, I was no worse off than thousands of poor
devils in mines. I had myself snaked through just such passages in
coal-mines. Still, I confess that the choking sense of being shut in
this earth-smelling tube, like a fox in a drain, and the sudden
realisation of the appalling tonnage of superincumbent earth above
me--liable at any moment to loosen, and, as with a giant thumb, press
out my poor little insect existence--made the sweat pour from me and my
heart stand still. I had to shut my eyes for a moment and command myself
back to calmness and courage, before I could go on. Above all things I
had to blindfold my imagination, the last companion for such a
situation.

After this first flurry of fear, I went on crawling in a methodical way,
allowing no thought to enter my mind that did not concern the yard or
two of earth immediately ahead of me. So I progressed, I should say, for
some twenty or thirty yards when, to my inexpressible relief, I came
out, still on all fours, onto a spreading floor; then, standing up, I
perceived that I was in a cave of considerable loftiness, and some forty
feet or so across. It was good to breathe again such comparatively free
air; yet, as I looked about and made the circuit of the walls, I saw
that I had but exchanged one prison for another. There was this
difference, however: whereas there had only been one passageway from the
cave I had just left, there were several similar outlets from that in
which I now stood. Two or three of them proved to be nothing but alcoves
that ran a few yards and then stopped.

But there were two close by each other which seemed to continue on.
There was not much choice between them, but, as both made in the same
direction, as far as I could judge the direction in which I had so far
progressed, I decided to take the larger one. It proved to be a passage
much like the tunnel I had already traversed, only a little roomier,
and therefore it was easier going, and it, too, brought me out, as had
the other, on another cavern--but one considerably larger in extent.

Here, however, I speedily perceived that it was not a case of one
cavern, but several--opening out, by natural archways one into another.
I walked eagerly through them, scanning their ceilings for sign of some
outlet into the upper air; but in vain. Still, after the strangling
embrace of those tunnels, it was good to have so much space to breathe
and walk about in. In fact, I had stumbled on something like a Monte
Cristo suite of underground apartments. And here for a moment I released
my imagination from her blinders, and allowed her to play around these
strange halls. And in one of her suggestions there was some comfort. It
was hardly likely that caverns of such extent had waited for me to
discover them. They must surely have been known to Teach, or whatever
buccaneer it was who had occupied the ruined mansion not so very far
above-ground. What better place could be conceived for his business? It
was even likely--more than likely, almost certain--that there was some
secret passageway connecting this series of caves with the old house--if
one could only find it. And so the dear creature prattled on to me,
till I thought it was time to blindfold her again--and return to
business.

Still, there was something in what she had said, and I set about the
more carefully to examine every nook and corner. And, if I didn't find
anything so splendid as she had dreamed, I did presently find evidence
that, as she had said, I was not the first human being to stand where
now I stood. Two iron staples imbedded in one of the walls, with rusting
chains and manacles attached, were melancholy proof of one of the uses
to which the place had once been put. Melancholy for certain unhappy
souls long since free of all mortal chains, but for me--need I say
it?--exceedingly joyous. For if there had been a way to bring prisoners
here, it was none the less evident that there had been a way to take
them out. But how and where? Again I searched every nook and cranny.
There was no sign of entrance anywhere.

Then a thought occurred to me. What if the entrance were after the
manner of a mediæval oubliette--through the ceiling! There was a thought
indeed to send one's hopes soaring. I ran in my eagerness through one
cavern after another, holding my lantern aloft. That must be the
solution. There could be no other way. I sought and sought, but alas! it
was a false hope, and I threw myself down in a corner in despair,
deciding that the prisoners must have been forced to crawl in as I
had--though it was hardly like jailers to put themselves to such
inconvenience.

I leaned back against the wall and gazed listlessly upward. Next moment
I had bounded to my feet again. Surely I had seen some short regular
lines running up the face of the rock, like a ladder. I raised my
lantern. Sure enough, they were iron rounds set in the face of the rock,
and they mounted up till I lost them in the obscurity, for the cave here
must have been forty feet high. Blessed heaven! I was saved!

But alas! they did not begin till some six feet above my head, and the
wall was sheer. How was I to reach the lowest rung? The rock was too
sheer for me to cut steps in, as I had done farther back. I looked about
me. Again the luck was with me. In one of the caves I had noticed some
broken pieces of fallen rock. They were terribly heavy, but despair lent
me strength, and after an hour or two's work, I had managed to roll
several of them to the foot of the ladder, and--with an effort of which
I would not have believed myself capable--had been able to build them
one on top of another against the wall. So, I found myself able to grasp
the lowest rung with my hands. Then, fastening the lantern round my
neck with my necktie, I prepared to mount.

The climb was not difficult, once I had managed to get my feet on the
first rung of the ladder, but there was always the chance that one of
the rungs might have rusted loose with time, in which case, of course,
it would have given way in my grasp, and I should have been precipitated
backward to certain death below.

However, the man who had mortised them had done an honest piece of work,
and they proved as firm as on the day they were placed there. Up and up
I went, till I must have been forty feet above the floor, and, then, as
I neared the roof, instead of coming to a trap door, as I had
conjectured, I found that the ladder came to an end at the edge of a
narrow ledge, running along the ceiling much as a clerestory runs near
the roof of some old churches. On to this I managed to climb. It was
barely a yard wide, and the impending roof did not permit of one's
standing erect. It was a dizzy situation, and it seemed safest to crawl
along on all fours, holding the lantern in front of me. Presently it
brought me up sharp in a narrow recess. It had come to an end.

Yes! but imagine my joy! it had come to an end at a low archway rudely
cut in the rock. Deep set in the archway was a stout wooden door. My
first thought was that I was trapped again, but, to my infinite surprise
and gratitude, it proved to be slightly ajar, and a vigorous push sent
it grinding back on its hinges. What next! I wondered. At all events, I
was no longer lost in the bowels of the earth; step by step, I was
coming nearer to the frontiers of humanity.

But I was certainly not prepared for what next met my eyes, as I pushed
through the low doorway with my lantern, and looked around. Yes! indeed,
man had certainly been here, man, too, very purposeful and businesslike.
I was in a sort of low narrow gallery, some forty feet long, to which
the arching rock made a crypt-like ceiling. At my first glance, I saw
that there was another door at the far end similar to the one I had
entered by; and on the left side of the gallery, built of rough stones
from the low ceiling to the floor, was a series of compartments, each
with locked wooden door. They were strong and grim looking, and might
have been taken for prison cells, or family vaults, or possibly
wine-bins. The massive locks were red with rust, and there was plainly
no possibility of my opening them.

On the other side of the gallery there was a litter of old chains, and
some boards, probably left over from the doors. Yes! and there were two
old flintlock guns, and several cutlasses, all eaten away with rust,
also a rough seaman's chest open and falling to pieces. At the sight of
that, a wild thought flashed through my brain. What if--Good God!--What
if this was John Teach's treasury!--behind those grim doors. I threw
myself with all my force against one and then the other. For the moment
I forgot that my paramount business was to escape. But I might as well
have hurled myself against the solid rock. And, at that moment, I
noticed that the place was darker than it had been. My lantern was going
out. In a moment or two, I should be in the pitch dark, and I had
discovered that the door at the end of the gallery was as solid as the
others.

I was to be trapped, after all; and I pictured myself slowly dying there
of hunger--the pangs of which I was already beginning to feel--and some
one, years hence, finding me there, a mouldering skeleton--some one who
would break open those doors, uncover those gleaming hoards, and
moralise on the irony of my end; condemned to die there of starvation,
with the treasure I had so long sought on the other side of those
unyielding doors. Old Tom's words suddenly flashed over me, and I could
feel my hair literally beginning to rise. "There never was a buried
treasure yet that didn't claim its victim." Great God!--and I was to be
the ghost, and keep guard in this terrible tomb till the next dead man
came along to relieve me of my sentry duty!

Frantically I turned up the wick of my lantern at the thought--but it
was no use; it was plainly going out. I examined my match-box; I had
still a dozen or so matches left. And then my eye fell on that shattered
chest. There were those boards, too. At all events I could build a fire
and make torches of slivers of wood, so long as the wood lasted.

And then I had an idea. Why not make the fire against the door at the
end of the gallery, and so burn my way through. Bravo! My spirits rose
at the thought, and I set to at once--splitting some small kindling with
my knife. In a few minutes I had quite a sprightly little fire going at
the bottom of the door; but I saw that I should have to be extravagant
with my wood if the fire was to be effective. However, it was neck or
nothing; so I piled on beams and boards till my fire roared like a
furnace, and presently I had the joy of seeing it begin to take hold of
the door--which, after a short time, began to crackle and splutter in a
very cheering fashion.

Whatever lay beyond, it was evident that I should soon be able to break
my way through the obstacle, and, indeed, so it proved; for, presently,
I used one of the boards as a battering ram, and, to my inexpressible
joy, it went crashing through, with a shower of sparks, and it was but
the work of a few more minutes before the whole door fell flaming down,
and I was able to leap through the doorway into the darkness on the
other side.

As I stood there, peering ahead, and holding aloft a burning
stick--which proved, however, a poor substitute for my lantern--a
wonderful sound smote my ears. I could not believe it, and my knees
shook beneath me. It was the sound of the sea.

Yes! it was no illusion. It was the sound that the sea makes singing and
echoing through hollow caves--the sound I heard that night as I stood at
the moonlit door of Calypso's cavern, and saw that vision which my heart
nearly broke to remember. Calypso! O Calypso! where was she at this
moment? Pray God that she was indeed safe, as her father had said. But I
had to will her from my mind, to keep from going mad.

And my poor torch had gone out, having, however, given me light enough
to see that the door which I had just burnt through let out on to a
narrow platform on the side of a rock that went slanting down into a
chasm of blackness, through which, as in a great shell, boomed that
murmuring of the sea. It had a perilous ugly look, and it was plain that
it would be foolhardy to attempt it at the moment without a light; and
my fire was dying down. Besides, I was beginning to feel lightheaded and
worn out, partly from lack of food, no doubt.

As there was no food to be had, I recalled the old French proverb, "He
eats who sleeps"--or something to that effect--and I determined to
husband my strength once more with a brief rest. However, as I turned to
throw some more wood on my fire--preparing to indulge myself with a
little camp-fire cheerfulness as I dozed off--my eyes fell once more on
that grim line of locked doors; and my curiosity, and an idea, made me
wakeful again. I had burned down one door--why not another? Why not,
indeed?

So I raked over my fire to the family vault nearest to me, and presently
had it roaring and licking against the stout door. It was, apparently,
not so solid as the gallery door had been. At all events, it kindled
more easily, and it was not long before I had the satisfaction of
battering that down too.

As I did so, I caught sight of something in the interior that made me
laugh aloud and behave generally like a madman. Of course, I didn't
believe my eyes--but they persisted in declaring, nevertheless, that
there in front of me was a great iron-bound oaken chest, to begin with.
It might not, of course, contain anything but bones--but it might--! The
thing was too absurd. I must have fallen asleep--must be already
dreaming! But no! I was labouring with all my strength to open it with
one of those rusty cutlasses. It was a tough job, but my strength was as
the strength of ten, for the old treasure-hunting lust was upon me, and
I had forgotten everything else in the world.

At last, with a great wooden groan, as though its heart were breaking at
having to give up its secret at last, it crashed open. I fell on my
knees as though I had been struck by lightning, for it was literally
brimming over with silver and gold pieces--doubloons and pieces of
eight; English and French coins, too--guineas and louis d'or: "all"--as
Tobias's manuscript had said--"all good money."

For a while I knelt over it, dazed and blinded, lost; then I slowly
plunged my hands into it, and let the pieces pour and pour through them,
literally bathing them in gold and silver, as I had read of misers
doing.

Meanwhile, I talked insanely to myself, made all sorts of inarticulate
noises, sang shreds of old songs. Rising at length, I capered up and
down the gallery, talking aloud to the "King" as though he had been
there, and anon breaking out again into absurd song, roaring it out at
the top of my voice, laughing and war-whooping between:

    "There was chest on chest of Spanish gold,
    With a ton of plate in the middle hold,
    And the cabin's riot of loot untold."

Then suddenly I broke out into an Irish jig--never having had any notion
of doing such a thing before.

In fact I behaved as I have read of men doing, whom a sudden fortune has
bereft of reason. For the time, at all events, I was a gibbering madman.
Certainly, there was to be no sleep for me that night! But, in the full
tide of my frenzy, I suddenly noticed something that brought me up
sharp. Out beyond the doorway it was growing light. It was only a dim
tremulous suffusion of it, indeed, but it was real daylight--oozing in
from somewhere or other--the blessed, blessed, daylight! God be
praised!



CHAPTER XVI

_In Which I Understand the Feelings of a Ghost!_


So, I surmised, I had been underground a whole day and two nights, and
this was the morning of the second day after Calypso's disappearance.
What had been happening to her all this time! My flesh crept at the
thought, and, with that daylight stealing in like a living presence, and
the sound and breath of the sea, my anguish returned a hundredfold. It
was like coming to, after an anæsthetic, for I realised that, actively
as I had been occupied in trying to escape, I had been, all the time,
under a curious numbing spell. Just as my ears had seemed muffled with a
silence that was more than the stillest silence above ground; silence
that was itself a captive, airless and gasping, so to say, with the
awful pressure of all that oblivious earth above and around; a silence
that made me realise with a dreadful reality what had been a mere phrase
before, "the silence of the grave"; silence literally buried alive, with
eyes fixed in a trance of horror; just in the same way, all my feelings
of mind and heart, memory and emotion, had likewise been deadened, as
with some heavy narcotic of indifference, so that I felt and yet did
not feel--remembered and yet did not remember.

The events of a few hours before, and the dearly loved friends taking
part in them, seemed infinitely remote, for all their clearness, as when
we see a figure waving to us from a distance, and know that it is
calling to us, but yet we cannot hear a word. Even so one lies back in
the grip of a deadly sickness, and all that formerly had been so
important and moving seems like a picture, definite yet remote, in which
one has no part any more.

I think one would die soon and easily underground, as creatures in a
vacuum, for the will to live has so little to nourish itself on. One's
whole nature falls into a catalepsy; all one's faculties seem asleep,
save the animal impulse to escape--an impulse that would soon grow weary
too. So, it seemed to me, as I saw a little light and drew the breath of
the living world once more, that even my love for Calypso had, so to
say, been in a state of suspended animation during an entombment which
was heavy with the poppy of the grave, and made me understand why the
dead forget us so soon.

But now, as I stood on the little rocky platform outside the door
through which I had burned my way, and looked down into the glimmering
chasm beneath, and heard the fresh voice of the sea huskily rumbling and
reverberating about hidden grottoes and channels, all that Calypso was
to me came back with the keenness of a sword through my heart. Ah! there
was my treasure--as I had known when my eyes first beheld her--compared
with which that gold and silver in there, whose gleam had made me
momentarily distraught, was but so much dust and ashes. Ardently as I
had sought it, what was it compared to one glance of her eyes? What if,
in the same hour, I had lost my true treasure, and found the false? At
the thought, that glittering heap became abhorrent to me, and, without
looking back, I sought for some way by which I could descend.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I saw that there were some
shallow steps cut diagonally in the rock, and down these I had soon made
my way, to find myself in a roomy corridor, so much like that in which I
had seen Calypso standing in the moonlight, that, for a moment, I
dreamed it was the same, and started to run down it, thinking, indeed,
that my troubles were over--that in another moment I would emerge
through that enchanted door and face the sea. The more so, as the sand
was wet under my feet, showing that the tide had but recently left it.

But alas! instead of a broad shining doorway, and open arms of freedom
widespread for me to leap into, I came at last to a mere long narrow
slit--through which I could gaze as a man gazes through a prison window
at the sky.

The entrance had once been wide and free, but a mass of rock had fallen
from above and blocked it up, leaving only a long crack through which
the tides passed to and fro.

I was still in my trap; it seemed more terrible than ever, now that I
could see freedom so close and shining, her very robe rustling within a
few feet of me, her very voice calling to me, singing the morning song
of the sea. But in the caverns behind me, I heard another mocking song,
and I felt a cold breath on my cheek, for Death stood by my side a-grin.

"The treasure!" he whispered, "I need you to guard that. The treasure
you have risked all to win--the treasure for which you have lost--your
treasure! You cannot escape. Go back and count your gold. 'It is all
good money'! Ha! ha! 'it is all good money'!"

The illusion seemed so real to me that I cried aloud: "I will not die! I
will not die!"--cried it so loud, that any one in a passing boat might
have heard me, and shuddered, wondering what poor ghost it was wailing
among the rocks.

But the fright had done me good, and I nerved myself for another effort.
I examined the long crevice through which the sea was glittering so
near. It was not so narrow as at first it had seemed, and I reckoned
that it was some twenty feet through. On my side, it was a little over a
foot across. Wouldn't it be possible to wedge myself through? I tried it
at the opening, and found, that, with my arms extended sidewise, it was
comparatively easy to enter it, though it was something of a tight fit.
If it only kept the same width all through, I ought to be able to manage
it, inch by inch, if it took all day. But, did it? On the contrary, it
seemed to me that it narrowed slightly toward the middle, and--judging
by the way the light fell on the other side--that it widened out again
farther on.

If only I could wriggle past that contraction in the middle, I should be
safe. And if I stuck fast midway! But the more I measured the width with
my eye, the less the narrowing seemed to be. To be so slightly
perceptible, it could hardly be enough to make much difference. Caution
whispered that it might be enough to make the difference between life
and death. But already my choice of those two august alternatives was
so limited as hardly to be called a choice. On the one hand, I could
worm my way back through the caves and tunnels through which I had
passed, and try my luck again at the other end.

"With half-a-dozen matches!" sneered a voice that sounded like
Tobias's--"Precisely" ... and the horror of it was more than I dared
face again any way. So there was nothing for it but this aperture,
hardly wider than one of those deep stone slits that stood for windows
in a Norman castle. It was my last chance, and I meant to take it like a
man.

I stood for a moment nerving myself and taking deep breaths, as though I
expected to take but few more. Then, my left arm extended, I entered
sidewise, and began to edge myself along. It was easy enough for a yard
or two, after which it was plain that it was beginning to narrow. Very
slightly indeed, but still a little. However, I could still go on,
and--I could still go back. I went on--more slowly it is true, yet still
I progressed. But the rock was perceptibly closer to me. I had to
struggle harder. It was beginning to hug me--very gently--but it was
beginning.

I paused to take breath. I could not turn my head to look back, but I
judged that I had come over a third of the way. I was coming up to the
waist that I had feared, but I could still go on--very slowly, scarce
more than an inch at every effort; yet every inch counted, and I had
lots of time. My feet and head were free--which was the main thing.
Another good push or two, and I should be at the waist--should know my
fate.

I gave the good push or two, and suddenly the arms of the rock were
around me. Tight and close, this time, they hugged me. They held me
fast, like a rude lover, and would not let me go. My knees and feet were
fast, and the walls on each side pressed my cheeks. My head too was
fast. I could not move an inch forward--and it was too late to go back!

Panic swept over me. I felt that my hair must be turning white.
Presently I ceased to struggle. But the rocks held me in their giant
embrace. There was no need for me to do anything. I could go on resting
there--it was very comfortable--till--

And then I felt something touching my feet, running away and then
touching them again. O God! It was the incoming tide! It would--And then
I prepared myself to die. I suppose I was lightheaded, with the strain
and the lack of food, for, after the first panic, I found myself
dreamily, almost luxuriously, making pictures of how brave men had died
in the past--brave women too. I fancied myself in one and another
situation. But the picture that persisted was that of the Conciergerie
during the French Revolution. I was a noble, talking gaily to beautiful
ladies also under the shadow of death, and, right in the middle of a
jest, a gloomy fellow had just come in--to lead me to the guillotine.
The door was opening, and I kissed my hand in farewell--

Then the picture vanished, as I felt the swish of the tide round my
ankles. It would soon be up to my knees--

It _was_ up to my knees--it was creeping past them--and it was making
that hollow song in the caves behind me that had seemed so kind to me
that very morning, the song it had made to Calypso ... that far-off
night under the moon.

I turned my eyes over the sea--I could move _them,_ at all events; how
gloriously it was shining out there! And here was I, helpless, with arms
extended, as one crucified. I closed my eyes in anguish, and let my body
relax; perhaps I dozed, or perhaps I fainted--but, suddenly, what was
that that had aroused me, summoned me back to life? It seemed a short,
sharp sound--then another, and then another--surely it was the sound of
firing! I opened my eyes and looked out to sea, and then I gave a great
cry:

"Calypso! Calypso!" I cried. "Calypso!"--and it seemed as though a
giant's strength were in me--that I could rend the rocks apart. I made a
mighty effort, and, whether or not my relaxing had made a readjustment
of my position, I found that for some reason I could move forward again,
and, with one desperate wriggle, I had my head through the narrow space.
To wrench my shoulders and legs after it was comparatively easy, and, in
a moment, I was safe on the outer side, where, as I had surmised, the
aperture did widen out again. Within a few moments, I was on the edge of
the sea, had dived, and was swimming madly toward--

But let me tell what I had seen, as I hung there, so helpless, in that
crevice in the rocks.



CHAPTER XVII

_Action._


I had seen, close in shore, a two-masted schooner under full sail
sweeping by, as if pursued, and three negroes kneeling on deck, with
levelled rifles. As I looked, a shot rang out, from my right, where I
could not see, and one of the negroes rolled over. Another shot, and the
negro next him fell sprawling with his arms over the bulwark.

At that moment, two other negroes emerged from the cabin hatchway, half
dragging and half carrying a woman. She was struggling bravely, but in
vain. The negroes--evidently acting under orders of a white man, who
stood over them with a revolver--were dragging her toward the mainmast.
Her head was bare, her hair in disorder, and one shoulder from which her
dress had been torn in the struggle, gleamed white in the sunlight. Yet
her eyes were flashing splendid scornful fires at her captors; and her
laughter of defiance came ringing to me over the sea. It was then that I
had cried "Calypso!" and wrenched myself free.

The next moment there came dashing in sight a sloop also under full
canvas, and at its bow, a huge white man, with a levelled rifle that
still smoked. At a glance, I knew him for Charlie Webster. He had been
about to fire again, but, as the man dragged Calypso for'ard, he paused,
calm as a rock, waiting, with his keen sportsman's eyes on Tobias--for,
of course, it was he.

"You--coward!" I heard his voice roar across the rapidly diminishing
distance between the two boats, for the sloop was running with power as
well as sails.

Meanwhile, the men had lashed Calypso to the mast, and even in my agony
my eyes recorded the glory of her beauty as she stood proudly there--the
great sails spread above her, and the sea for her background.

"Now, do your worst," cried Tobias, his evil face white as wax in the
sunlight.

"Fire, fire--don't be afraid," rang out Calypso's voice, like singing
gold. At the same instant, as she called, Tobias sprang toward her with
raised revolver.

"Another word, and I fire," shouted the voice of the brute.

But the rifle that never missed its mark spoke again. Tobias's arm fell
shattered, and he staggered away screaming. Still once more, Charlie
Webster's gun spoke, and the staggering figure fell with a crash on the
deck.

"Now, boys, ready," I heard Charlie's voice roar out again, as the sloop
tore alongside the schooner--where the rest of the negro crew with
raised arms had fallen on their knees, crying for mercy.

All this I saw from the water, as I swam wildly toward the two boats,
which now had closed on each other, a mass of thundering canvas, and
screaming and cursing men--and Calypso there, like a beautiful statue,
still lashed to the mast, a proud smile on her lovely lips.

Another moment, and Charlie had sprung aboard, and, seizing a knife from
one of the screaming negroes, he cut her free.

His deep calm voice came to me over the water.

"That's what I call courage," he said. "I could never have done it."

The "King" had been right. He knew his daughter.

By this I was nearing the boats, though as yet no one had seen me. They
were all too busy with the confusion on deck, where four men lay dead,
and three others still kept up their gibberish of fear.

I saw Calypso and Charlie Webster stand a moment looking down at the
figure of Tobias, prostrate at their feet.

"I am sorry I had to kill him," I heard Charlie's deep growl. "I meant
to keep him for the hangman."

But suddenly I saw him start forward and stamp heavily on something.

"No, you don't," I heard him roar--and I learned afterward that Tobias,
though mortally wounded, was not yet dead, and that, as the two had
stood looking down on him, they had seen his hand furtively moving
toward the fallen revolver that lay a few inches from him on the deck.
Just as he had grasped it, Charlie's heavy boot had come down on his
wrist. But Tobias was still game.

"Not alive, you English brute!" he was heard to groan out, and,
snatching free his wrist too swiftly to be prevented, he had gathered up
all his remaining strength, and hurled himself over the side into the
sea.

I was but a dozen yards away from him, as he fell; and, as he rose
again, it was for his dying eyes to fix with a glare upon me. They
dilated with terror, as though he had seen a ghost. Then he gave one
strange scream, and fell back into the sea, and we saw him no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be easier for the reader to imagine, than for me to describe,
the look on the faces of Calypso and Charlie Webster when they saw me
appear at almost the same spot where poor Tobias had just gone bubbling
down. Words I had none, for I was at the end of my strength, and I broke
down and sobbed like a child.

"Thank God you are safe--my treasure, my treasure!" was all I could say,
after they had lifted me aboard, and I lay face down on the deck, at her
feet. Swiftly she knelt by my side, and caressed my shoulder with her
dear hand.

All of which--particularly my reference to "my treasure"--must have been
much to the bewilderment of the good simple-hearted Charlie, towering,
innocent-eyed, above us. I believe I stayed a little longer at her feet
than I really had need to, for the comfort of her being so near and
kind; but, presently, we were all aroused by a voice from the cliffs
above. It was the "King," with his bodyguard, Erebus and the crew of the
_Flamingo_--no Samson, alas! The sound of the firing had reached them in
the woods, and they had come hurrying to discover its cause.

So we deferred asking our questions, and telling our several stories,
till we were pulled ashore.

As Calypso was folded in her father's arms, he turned to me:

"Didn't I tell you that I knew my daughter?" he said.

"And I told you something too, O King," I replied--my eyes daring at
last to rest on Calypso with the love and pride of my heart.

"And where on earth have _you_ been, young man?" he asked, laughing.
"Did Tobias kidnap you too?"

It was very hard, as you will have seen, to astonish the "King."



CHAPTER XVIII

_Gathering Up the Threads._


But, though it was hard to astonish and almost impossible to alarm the
"King," his sense of wonder was quite another matter, and the boyish
delight with which he listened to our several stories would have made it
worth while to undergo tenfold the perils we had faced. And the best of
it was that we each had a new audience in the others--for none of us
knew what had happened to the rest, and how it chanced that we should
all come to meet at that moment of crisis on the sea. Our stories, said
the "King," were quite in the manner of "The Arabian Nights,"
dovetailing one into the other.

"And now," he added, "we will begin with the Story of the Murdered Slave
and the Stolen Lady."

Calypso told her story simply and in a few words. The first part of it,
of which the poor murdered Samson had been the eloquent witness, needed
no further telling. He had done his brave best--poor fellow--but Tobias
had had six men with him, and it was soon over. Her they had gagged and
bound and carried in a sort of improvised sedan-chair; Tobias had done
the thing with a certain style and--she had to admit--with absolute
courtesy.

When they had gone a mile or two from the house, he had had the gag
taken from her mouth, and, on her promise not to attempt to escape
(which was, of course, quite impossible) he had also had her unbound, so
that her hurried journey through the woods was made as comfortable as
possible. Certainly it had not been without its spice of romance, for
four of the men had carried lanterns, and their progress must have had a
very picturesque effect lighting up the blackness of the strange trees.

Tobias had walked at her side the whole way, without speaking a word.

They were making, she had gathered--and as we had surmised--for the
northern shore, and, after about a three hours' march, she heard the
sound of the sea. On the schooner she had found a cabin all nicely
prepared for her--even dainty toilet necessaries--and an excellent
dinner was served, on some quite pretty china, to her alone. Poor Tobias
had seemed bent on showing--as he had said to Tom--that he was not the
"carrion" we had thought him.

After dinner, Tobias had respectfully asked leave for a few words with
her. He had apologised for his action, but explained that it was
necessary--the only way he had left, he said, of protecting his own
interests, and safeguarding a treasure which belonged to him and no one
else, if it belonged to any living man. It had seemed to her that it was
a monomania with him. His eyes had gleamed so, as he spoke of it, that
she had felt a little frightened for the first time--for he seemed like
a madman on the subject.

While he had been talking, she had made up her mind what she would do.
She would tell him the plain truth about her doubloons, and offer him
what remained of them as a ransom. This she did, and was able at last
half to persuade him that, so far as any one knew, that was all the
treasure there was, and that the digging among the ruins of the old
house was a mere fancy of her father's. There might be something there
or not--and she went so far as to give her word of honour that, if
anything was found, he should have his share of it.

It was rather a woman's way, she admitted, but she thought that, so long
as she kept Tobias near the island, some favouring incident might happen
at any moment--that the proffered ransom, in fact, might prove the bait
to a trap.

Tobias had seemed impressed, and promised his answer in the morning,
leaving her to sleep--with a sentry at her cabin door. She had slept
soundly, and wakened only at dawn. As soon as she was up, Tobias had
come to her, saying that he had accepted her offer, and asking her to
direct him to her treasure.

This she had done, and, to avoid passing the settlement, they had taken
the course round the eastern end of the island. As they had approached
the cave (and here Calypso turned a quizzical smile on me, which no one,
of course, understood but ourselves), a sloop was seen approaching them
from the westward ... and here she stopped and turned to Charlie
Webster.

"Now," said the "King," "we shall hear the Story of Apollo--or, let us
say, rather Ajax--the Far-Darter--He of the Arrow that never missed its
mark."

And Charlie Webster, more at home with deeds than words, blushed and
blushed through his part of the story, telling how--having called at the
settlement--he had got our message from Sweeney, and was making up the
coast for the hidden creek. He had spied what he felt sure was Tobias's
schooner--had called on him "In the King's Name" to surrender--("I had
in my pocket the warrant for his arrest," said Charlie, with innocent
pride--"the d----d scoundrel") but had been answered with bullets. He
had been terribly frightened, he owned, when Calypso had been brought on
deck, but she had given him courage--he paused to beam on her, a
broad-faced admiration, for which he could find no words--and, as he had
never yet missed a flying duck at--I forget how many yards Charlie
mentioned--well ... perhaps he oughtn't to have risked it--And so his
story came to an end, amid reassuring applause.

"Now," said the "King," "for the Story of the Disappearing Gentleman and
the Lighted Lantern."

And then I told my story as it is already known to the reader, and I
have to confess that, when I came to the chestful of doubloons and
pieces of eight, I had a very attentive audience. But, at first, the
"King" shook his head with an amused smile.

"Ulysses is romancing for the benefit of my romantic second childhood,"
he said, and then, after his favourite manner he added--

            "I might not this believe
    Without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes ..."

Then, he was for starting off that very night. But, reminded of the
difficult seclusion in which the treasure still lay, he was persuaded to
wait till the morrow.

"At dawn then," he said, "to-morrow--'what time, the rosy-footed dawn'
... so be it. And now I am going to talk to Ajax the Far-Darter of
duck-shooting."

"But wait!" I cried. "Why did 'Jack Harkaway' go to Nassau?"

Calypso blushed. The "King" chuckled.

"I prefer not to be known in Nassau, yet some of my business has to be
done there. Nor is it safe for beauty like Calypso's to go unprotected.
So from time to time, 'Jack Harkaway' goes for us both! And now enough
of explanations!"; and he launched into talk of game and sport in
various parts of the world, to the huge delight of the great
simple-hearted Charlie.

But, after a time, other matters claimed the attention of his other
auditors. During the flow of his discourse night had fallen. Calypso and
I perceived that we were forgotten--so, by an impulse that seemed to be
one, we rose and left them there, and stole out into the garden where
the little fountain was dancing like a spirit under the moon, and the
orange trees gave out their perfume on the night breeze. I took her
hand, and we walked softly out into the moonlight, and looked down at
the closed lotuses in the little pool. And then we took courage to look
into each other's eyes.

"Calypso," I said, "when are you going to show me where you keep your
doubloons?"--and I added, in a whisper, "Jack--when am I going to see
you in boy's clothes again?"

And, with that, she was in my arms, and I felt her heart beating against
my side.

"O! my treasure," I said--ever so softly--"Calypso, my treasure."



POSTSCRIPT


Now, such readers as have been "gentle" enough to follow me so far in my
story, may possibly desire to be told what lay behind those other locked
doors in the underground gallery where I so nearly laid my bones.

I should like nothing better than to gratify their legitimate curiosity.
But, perhaps, they will not have forgotten my friend John Saunders,
Secretary to the Treasury of His Britannic Majesty's Government at
Nassau.

John is a good friend, but he is a man of very rigid principles and a
great stickler in regard to any matters pertaining to the interests and
duties of his office. Were I to divulge--as, I confess, my pen is
itching to do--the dazzling--I will even say blinding--contents of these
other grim compartments (particularly if I were to give any hint of
their value in bullion), no feelings of friendship would for one second
weigh with him as against his duty to the august Government he so
faithfully serves. He may suspect what he likes, but, so long as he
actually knows nothing, we may rely on his inactivity. In fact, I know
that he has no wish to be told--so far he will go with us, but no
further--and, as we wish neither to sully his fine probity, nor, on the
other hand, to disgorge our "illgotten gains"--for which, after all,
each one of us risked his life (and for which one life, most precious of
all, was placed in such terrible jeopardy)--gains too which His
Britannic Majesty is quite rich enough to do without--the readers must
pardon me my caution, and draw upon his imagination for what I must not
tell him.

This, however, I will say: he cannot well imagine too vividly or too
magnificently, and that, in fact, he may accept those hyperboles
fancifully indulged in by the "King" as very slightly overshooting the
mark. We do not, indeed, go disguised in cloth of gold, nor are we
blinding to look upon with rings and ropes of pearls. It does not happen
to be our western fashion to be so garmented. But--well--I won't say
that we couldn't do so if we were so minded.

Nor will I say, either, that the "King" does not occasionally, in
private, masquerade in some such splendour; though, as a rule, he still
prefers that shabby tatterdemalion costume which we have still to accept
as a vagary of his fantastic nature. He is still the same Eternal Child,
and his latest make-believe has been to fit up those caverns, through
which so miserably I wormed my way, with the grandiose luxury of the
Count of Monte Cristo; that, as he says, the prophecy might be fulfilled
which said: "Monte Cristo shall seem like a pauper and a penny gaff in
comparison with the fantasies of our fearful wealth."

Those caverns, we afterward discovered, did actually communicate with
Blackbeard's ruined mansion, and the "King," who has now rebuilt that
mansion and lives in it in semi-feudal state with Calypso and me, is
able to pass from one to the other by underground passages which are an
unfailing source of romantic satisfaction to his dear, absurd soul.

As to whether or not the mansion and the treasure were actually
Blackbeard's--that is, Edward Teach's--we are yet in doubt, though we
prefer to believe that they were. At all events, we never found any
evidence to connect them at all with Henry P. Tobias, whose second
treasure, we have every reason to think, still remains undiscovered.

As for the sinister and ill-fated Henry P. Tobias, Jr., we have since
learned--through Charlie Webster, who every now and again drops in with
sailors from his sloop and carries off the "King" for duck-shooting--that
his real name was quite different; he must have assumed, as a _nom de
guerre,_ the name we knew him by, to give colour to his claim. I am
afraid, therefore, that he was a plain scoundrel, after all, though it
seemed to me that I saw gleams in him of something better, and I shall
always feel a sort of kindness toward him for the saving grace of gallant
courtesy with which he invested his rascally abduction of Calypso.

Calypso.... She and I, just for fun, sometimes drop into Sweeney's
store, and, when she has made her purchases, she draws up from her bosom
a little bag, and, looking softly at me, lays down on the counter--a
golden doubloon; and Sweeney--who, doubtless, thinks us all a little
crazy--smiles indulgently on our make-believe.

Sometimes, on our way home, we come upon Tom in the plantations,
superintending a gang of the "King's" janissaries--among whom Erebus is
still the blackest--for Tom is now the Lord High Steward of our estate.
He beams on us in a fatherly way, and I lay my hand significantly on my
leftside--to his huge delight. He flashes his white teeth and wags his
head from side to side with inarticulate enjoyment of the allusion. For
who knows? He may be right. In so mysterious a world the smallest cause
may lead up to the most august results and there is nothing too
wonderful to happen.



EPILOGUE BY THE EDITOR


_It remains for me, as sponsor for the foregoing narrative, reluctantly
to add a second postscript to that of its author, bringing the fortunes
of himself and his friends a little nearer to the present year of grace.
Not that anything untoward has happened to any of them. Their lives are
still lived happily in the sun, and their treasure is still
safe--somewhere carefully out of the sun. But neither their lives nor
their treasure are where my friend's postscript left them. They are,
indeed, very much nearer New York than at that writing._

_As a matter of fact, after King Alcinoüs had played but a short time at
being the Count of Monte Cristo in his underground palace, it gradually
was borne in upon his essentially common-sense mind, as upon the minds
of Calypso and her husband, that their secret was known to too many for
its absolute safety. Kindly coloured people indeed, and a very friendly
"Secretary to the British Treasury" ... still, there was no knowing,
and, on all accounts, they gradually came to the unromantic conclusion
that the safe deposit vaults of New York were more reliable than
limestone caverns filled with the sound of sea. This conclusion explains
the presence of my friend and his Lady of the Doubloons in the box of
the Punch and Judy Theatre that, to me, eventful evening._

_Since then, I myself have made a pilgrimage to all the places that play
a part in this romance. I have crawled my way through those caves in
which my friend came so near to leaving his bones, looked into those
vaults once glittering with pieces of eight and all that other
undivulged treasure-trove, wedged myself as far as I dared into that
slit in the rocks, looking out like a narrow window on the sea._

_All those places are real; any one, with a mind to, can find them; but,
should any one care to undertake the pilgrimage, he will note, as I did,
that those baronial halls of Edward Teach--for a while the playground of
King Alcinoüs--are rapidly being reclaimed by the savage wilderness,
fiercely swallowed minute by minute by the fanged and serpentine
vegetation--which, after all, was only stayed for a moment, and which,
humanly speaking, will now submerge them for all eternity._

_Once more, to employ one of the favourite quotations of King Alcinoüs,
"I PASSED BY THE WALLS OF BALCLUTHA, AND THEY WERE DESOLATE." The King,
I may be allowed to add, finds New York quite a good place to talk
in--though he is frank in saying that he prefers a coral island._

R. Le G.


THE END



Transcriber's Notes:
List of A.L. Burt Company's Popular Copyright Fiction removed.
Dash lengths standardised.
Page 262: Changed intance to instance
Page 295: Changed Monto Cristo to Monte Cristo.
Page 102: Changed mooonlit (non dialogue) to moonlit.





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