Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Al Haines
BY CAMILLA KENYON
WITH FRONTISPIECE BY
To L. T.
In recognition of her faith in me.
I AN AUNT ERRANT
II APOLLO AND SOME OTHERS
III I ENGAGE THE ENEMY
IV THE ISLE OF FORTUNE
V THE CAPTAIN'S LEGACY
VI THE CAVE WITH TWO MOUTHS
VII A RABBIT'S FOOT
VIII AN EXCURSION AND AN ALARM
IX "LASSIE, LASSIE . . ."
X WHAT CRUSOE AND I FOUND
XI MISS BROWNE HAS A VISION
XII THE ISLAND QUEEN'S FREIGHT
XIII I BRING TO LIGHT A CLUE
XIV MR. TUBBS INTERRUPTS
XV SOME SECRET DIPLOMACY
XVI LIKE A CHAPTER FROM THE PAST
XVII FROM DEAD HANDS
XVIII OF WHICH COOKIE IS THE HERO
XIX THE YOUNG PERSON SCORES
XX 'TWIXT CUP AND LIP
XXI THE BISHOP'S CHEST
AN AUNT ERRANT
Never had life seemed more fair and smiling than at the moment when
Aunt Jane's letter descended upon me like a bolt from the blue.
The fact is, I was taking a vacation from Aunt Jane. Being an
orphan, I was supposed to be under Aunt Jane's wing, but this was
the merest polite fiction, and I am sure that no hen with one
chicken worries about it more than I did about Aunt Jane. I had
spent the last three years, since Aunt Susan died and left Aunt
Jane with all that money and no one to look after her but me, in
snatching her from the brink of disaster. Her most recent and
narrow escape was from a velvet-tongued person of half her years
who turned out to be a convict on parole. She had her hand-bag
packed for the elopement when I confronted her with this unpleasant
fact. When she came to she was bitter instead of grateful, and
went about for weeks presenting a spectacle of blighted affections
which was too much for the most self-approving conscience. So it
ended with my packing her off to New York, where I wrote to her
frequently and kindly, urging her not to mind me but to stay as
long as she liked.
Meanwhile I came up to the ranch for a long holiday with Bess and
the baby, a holiday which had already stretched itself out to
Thanksgiving, and threatened to last until Christmas. People wrote
alluringly from town, but what had town to offer compared with a
saddle-horse to yourself, and a litter of collie pups to play with,
and a baby just learning to walk? I even began to consider
ranching as a career, and to picture myself striding over my broad
acres in top-boots and corduroys.
As to Aunt Jane, my state of mind was fatuously calm. She was
staying with cousins, who live in a suburb and are frightfully
respectable. I was sure they numbered no convicts among their
acquaintance, or indeed any one from whom Aunt Jane was likely to
require rescuing. And if it came to a retired missionary I was
But the cousins and their respectability are of the passive order,
whereas to manage Aunt Jane demands aggressive and continuous
action. Hence the bolt from the blue above alluded to.
I was swinging tranquilly in the hammock, I remember, when Bess
brought my letters and then hurried away because the baby had
fallen down-stairs. Unwarned by the slightest premonitory thrill,
I kept Aunt Jane's letter till the last and skimmed through all the
others. I should be thankful, I suppose, that the peace soon to be
so rudely shattered was prolonged for those few moments. I
recalled afterward, but dimly, as though a gulf of ages yawned
between, that I had been quite interested in six pages of prattle
about the Patterson dance.
At last I came to Aunt Jane. I ripped open the envelope and drew
out the letter--a fat one, but then Aunt Jane's letters are always
fat. She says herself that she is of those whose souls flow freely
forth in ink but are frozen by the cold eye of an unsympathetic
listener. Nevertheless, as I spread out the close-filled pages I
felt a mild wonder. Writing so large, so black, so staggering, so
madly underlined, must indicate something above, even Aunt Jane's
usual emotional level. Perhaps in sober truth there _was_ a
missionary-experiment to "Find Capital after , or ;"
Twenty minutes later I staggered into Bess's room.
"Hush!" she said. "Don't wake the baby!"
"Baby or no baby," I whispered savagely, "I've got to have a
time-table. I leave for the city tonight to catch the first
steamer for Panama!"
Later, while the baby slumbered and I packed experiment to "Find
Period in middle" explained. This was difficult; not that Bess is
as a general thing obtuse, but because the picture of Aunt Jane
embarking for some wild, lone isle of the Pacific as the head of a
treasure-seeking expedition was enough to shake the strongest
intellect. And yet, amid the welter of ink and eloquence which
filled those fateful pages, there was the cold hard fact
confronting you. Aunt Jane was going to look for buried treasure,
in company with one Violet Higglesby-Browne, whom she sprung on you
without the slightest explanation, as though alluding to the Queen
of Sheba or the Siamese twins. By beginning at the end and reading
backward--Aunt Jane's letters are usually most intelligible that
way--you managed to piece together some explanation of this Miss
Higglesby-Browne and her place in the scheme of things. It was
through Miss Browne, whom she had met at a lecture upon
Soul-Development, that Aunt Jane had come to realize her claims as
an Individual upon the Cosmos, also to discover that she was by
nature a woman of affairs with a talent for directing large
enterprises, although _adverse influences_ had hitherto kept her
from recognizing her powers. There was a dark significance in these
italics, though whether they meant me or the family lawyer I was
Miss Higglesby-Browne, however, had assisted Aunt Jane to find
herself, and as a consequence Aunt Jane, for the comparatively
trifling outlay needful to finance the Harding-Browne expedition,
would shortly be the richer by one-fourth of a vast treasure of
Spanish doubloons. The knowledge of this hoard was Miss
Higglesby-Browne's alone. It had been revealed to her by a dying
sailor in a London hospital, whither she had gone on a mission of
kindness--you gathered that Miss Browne was precisely the sort to
take advantage when people were helpless and unable to fly from
her. Why the dying sailor chose to make Miss Browne the repository
of his secret, I don't know--this still remains for me the unsolved
mystery. But when the sailor closed his eyes the secret and the
map--of course there was a map--had become Miss Higglesby-Browne's.
Miss Browne now had clear before her the road to fortune, but
unfortunately it led across the sea and quite out of the route of
steamer travel. Capital in excess of Miss Browne's resources was
required. London proving cold before its great opportunity, Miss
Browne had shaken off its dust and come to New York, where a
mysteriously potent influence had guided her to Aunt Jane. Through
Miss Browne's great organizing abilities, not to speak of those
newly brought to light in Aunt Jane, a party of staunch comrades
had been assembled, a steamer engaged to meet them at Panama, and
it was ho, for the island in the blue Pacific main!
With this lyrical outburst Aunt Jane concluded the body of her
letter. A small cramped post-script informed me that it was
against Miss H.-B.'s wishes that she revealed their plans to any
one, but that she did want to hear from me before they sailed from
Panama, where a letter might reach her if I was prompt. However,
if it did not she would try not to worry, for Miss Browne was very
psychic, and she felt sure that any strong vibration from me would
reach her via Miss B., and she was my always loving Jane Harding.
"And of course," I explained to Bess as I hurled things into my
bags, "if a letter can reach her so can I. At least I must
take the chance of it. What those people are up to I don't
know--probably they mean to hold her for ransom and murder her
outright if it is not forthcoming. Or perhaps some of them will
marry her and share the spoils with Miss Higglesby-Browne. Anyway,
I must get to Panama in time to save her."
"Or you might go along to the island," suggested Bess.
I paused to glare at her.
"Bess! And let them murder me too?"
"Or marry you--" cooed Bess.
One month later I was climbing out of a lumbering hack before the
Tivoli hotel, which rises square and white and imposing on the low
green height above the old Spanish city of Panama. In spite of the
melting tropical heat there was a chill fear at my heart, the fear
that Aunt Jane and her band of treasure-seekers had already
departed on their quest. In that case I foresaw that whatever
narrow margin of faith my fellow-voyagers on the _City of Quito_
had had in me would shrink to nothingness. I had been obliged to
be so queer and clam-like about the whole extraordinary
rendezvous--for how could I expose Aunt Jane's madness to the
multitude?--that I felt it would take the actual bodily presence of
my aunt to convince them that she was not a myth, or at least of
the wrong sex for aunts. To have traveled so far in the desperate
hope of heading off Aunt Jane, only to be frustrated and to lose my
character besides! It would be a stroke too much from fate, I told
myself rebelliously, as I crossed the broad gallery and plunged
into the cool dimness of the lobby in the wake of the bellboys who,
discerning a helpless prey, had swooped en masse upon my bags.
"Miss Jane Harding?" repeated the clerk, and at the cool negation
of his tone my heart gave a sickening downward swoop. "Miss Jane
Harding and party have left the hotel!"
"For--for the island?" I gasped.
He raised his eyebrows. "Can't say, I'm sure." He gave me an
appraising stare. Perhaps the woe in my face touched him, for he
descended from the eminence of the hotel clerk where he dwelt apart
sufficiently to add, "Is it important that you should see her?"
"I am her niece. I have come all the way from San Francisco
expecting to join her here."
The clerk meditated, his shrewd eyes piercing the very secrets of
"She knew nothing about it," I hastened to add. "I intended it for
This candor helped my cause. "Well," he said, "that explains her
not leaving any word. As you are her niece, I suppose it will do
no harm to tell you that Miss Harding and her party embarked this
morning on the freighter _Rufus Smith_, and I think it very likely
that the steamer has not left port. If you like I will send a man
to the water-front with you and you may be able to go on board and
have a talk with your aunt."
Did I thank him? I have often wondered when I waked up in the
night. I have a vision of myself dashing out of the hotel, and
then the hack that brought me is bearing me away. Bellboys hurled
my bags in after me, and I threw them largess recklessly. Some
arch-bellboy or other potentate had mounted to the seat beside the
driver. Madly we clattered over cobbled ways. Out on the smooth
waters of the roadstead lay ships great and small, ships with
stripped masts and smokeless funnels, others with faint gray
spirals wreathing upward from their stacks. Was one of these the
_Rufus Smith_, and would I reach her--or him--before the thin gray
feather became a thick black plume? I thought of my aunt at the
mercy of these unknown adventurers with whom she had set forth,
helpless as a little fat pigeon among hawks, and I felt,
desperately, that I must reach her, must save her from them and
bring her safe back to shore. How I was to do this at the eleventh
hour plus about fifty-seven minutes as at present I hadn't
considered. But experience had taught me that once in my clutches
Aunt Jane would offer about as much resistance as a slightly melted
wax doll. She gets so soft that you are almost afraid to touch her
for fear of leaving dents.
So to get there, get there, get there, was the one prayer of my
I got there, in a boat hastily commandeered by the hotel clerk's
deputy. I suppose he thought me a belated passenger for the Rufus
Smith, for my baggage followed me into the boat. "_Pronto_!" he
shouted to the native boatman as we put off. "_Pronto_!" I urged
at intervals, my eyes upon the funnels of the _Rufus Smith_, where
the outpouring smoke was thickening alarmingly. We brought up
under the side of the little steamer, and the wide surprised face
of a Swedish deckhand stared down at us.
"Let me aboard! I must come aboard!" I cried.
Other faces appeared, then a rope-ladder. Somehow I was mounting
it--a dizzy feat to which only the tumult of my emotions made me
indifferent. Bare brawny arms of sailors clutched at me and drew
me to the deck. There at once I was the center of a circle of
speechless and astonished persons, all men but one.
"Well?" demanded a large breezy voice. "What's this mean? What do
you want aboard my ship?"
I looked up at a red-faced man in a large straw hat.
"I want my aunt," I explained.
"Your aunt?" he roared. "Why the devil should you think I've got
"You have got her," I replied with firmness. "I don't see her, but
she's here somewhere."
The captain of the _Rufus Smith_ shook two large red fists above
"Another lunatic!" he shouted. "I'd as soon have a white horse and
a minister aboard as to go to sea in a floating bedlam!"
As the captain's angry thunder died away came the small anxious
voice of Aunt Jane.
"What's the matter? Oh, please tell me what's the matter!" she was
saying as she edged her way into the group. In her severely cut
khaki suit she looked like a plump little dumpling that had got
into a sausage wrapping by mistake. Her eyes, round, pale,
blinking a little in the tropical glare, roved over the circle
until they lit on me. Right where she stood Aunt Jane petrified.
She endeavored to shriek, but achieved instead only a strangled
wheeze. Her poor little chin dropped until it disappeared
altogether in the folds of her plump neck, and she remained
speechless, stricken, immobile as a wax figure in an exhibition.
"Aunt Jane," I said, "you must come right back to shore with me."
I spoke calmly, for unless you are perfectly calm with Aunt Jane
you fluster her.
She replied only by a slight gobbling in her throat, but the other
woman spoke in a loud voice, addressed not to me but to the
universe in general.
"The Young Person is mad!" It was an unmistakably British
This then was Miss Violet Higglesby-Browne, I saw a grim, bony,
stocky shape, in a companion costume to my aunt's. Around the
edges of her cork helmet her short iron-gray hair visibly bristled.
She had a massive head, and a seamed and rugged countenance which
did its best to live down the humiliation of a ridiculous little
nose with no bridge. By what prophetic irony she had been named
Violet is the secret of those powers which seem to love a laugh at
But what riveted my eyes was the deadly glare with which hers were
turned on me. I saw that not only was she as certain of my
identity as though she had guided me from my first tottering steps,
but that in a flash she had grasped my motives, aims and purposes,
and meant once for all to face, out-general and defeat me with
So she announced to the company with deliberation, "The Young
Person is mad!"
It nettled me extremely.
"Mad!" I flung back at her. "Because I wish to save my poor aunt
from such a situation as this? It would be charitable to infer
madness in those who have led her into it!" When I reviewed
this speech afterward I realized that it was not, under the
circumstances, the best calculated to win me friends.
"Jane!" said Miss Higglesby-Browne in deep and awful tones, "the
time has come to prove your strength!"
Aunt Jane proved it by uttering a shrill yelp, and clutching her
hair with a reckless disregard of its having originally been that
of a total stranger. So severe were her shrieks and struggles that
it was with difficulty that she was borne below in the arms of two
I had seen Aunt Jane in hysterics before--she had them that time
about the convict. I was not frightened, but I hurried after
her--neck and neck with Miss Browne. It was fifteen minutes before
Aunt Jane came to, and then she would only moan. I bathed her
head, and held her hand, and did all the regulation things, under
the baleful eye of Miss Browne, who steadfastly refused to go away,
but sat glaring like a gorgon who sees her prey about to be
snatched from her.
In the midst of my ministrations I awoke suddenly to a rhythmic
heave and throb which pervaded the ship. Dropping Aunt Jane's hand
I rushed on deck. There lay the various pieces of my baggage, and
in the distance the boat with the two brown rowers was skipping
shoreward over the ripples.
As for the _Rufus Smith_, she was under weigh, and heading out of
the roadstead for the open sea.
I dashed aft to the captain, who stood issuing orders in the voice
of an aggrieved fog-horn.
"Captain!" I cried, "wait; turn around! You must put my aunt and
He whirled on me, showing a crimson angry face. "Turn around, is
it, turn around ?" he shouted. "Do you suppose I can loaf about
the harbor here a-waitin' on your aunt's fits? You come aboard
without me askin'. Now you can go along with the rest. This here
ship has got her course set for Frisco, pickin' up Leeward Island
on the way, and anybody that ain't goin' in that direction is
welcome to jump overboard."
That is how I happened to go to Leeward Island.
APOLLO AND SOME OTHERS
The _Rufus Smith_, tramp freighter, had been chartered to convey
the Harding-Browne expedition to Leeward Island, which lies about
three hundred miles west of Panama, and could be picked up by the
freighter in her course. She was a little dingy boat with such
small accommodation that I can not imagine where the majority of
her passengers stowed themselves away. My aunt and Miss Browne had
a stateroom between them the size of a packing-box, and somebody
turned out and resigned another to me. I retired there to dress
for dinner after several dismal hours spent in attendance on Aunt
Jane, who had passed from great imaginary suffering into the quite
genuine anguish of seasickness. In the haste of my departure from
San Francisco I had not brought a trunk, so the best I was able to
produce in the way of a crusher for Miss Higglesby-Browne and her
fellow-passengers was a cool little white gown, which would shine
at least by contrast with Miss Browne's severely utilitarian
costume. White is becoming to my hair, which narrow-minded persons
term red, but which has been known to cause the more discriminating
to draw heavily on the dictionary for adjectives. My face is small
and heart-shaped, with features strictly for use and not for
ornament, but fortunately inconspicuous. As for my eyes, I think
tawny quite the nicest word, though Aunt Jane calls them hazel and
I have even heard whispers of green.
Five minutes after the gong sounded I walked into the cabin. Miss
Browne, Captain Watkins of the freighter, and half a dozen men were
already at the table. I slid unobtrusively into the one vacant
place, fortunately remote from the captain, who glared at me
savagely, as though still embittered by the recollection of my
"Gentlemen," said Miss Browne in icy tones, "Miss Virginia Harding."
Two of the men rose, the others stared and ducked. Except for Miss
Browne and the captain, I had received on coming aboard only the
most blurred impression of my fellow-voyagers. I remembered them
merely as a composite of khaki and cork helmets and astounded
staring faces. But I felt that as the abetters of Miss Browne a
hostile and sinister atmosphere enveloped them all.
Being thus in the camp of the enemy, I sat down in silence and
devoted myself to my soup. The majority of my companions did
likewise--audibly. But presently I heard a voice at my left:
"I say, what a jolly good sailor you seem to be--pity your aunt's
I looked up and saw Apollo sitting beside me. Or rather, shall I
say a young man who might have walked straight out of an
advertisement for a ready-made clothing house, so ideal and
impossible was his beauty. He was very tall--I had to tilt my chin
quite painfully to look up at him--and from the loose collar of his
silk shirt his throat rose like a column. His skin was a beautiful
clear pink and white just tinged with tan--like a meringue that has
been in the oven for two minutes exactly. He had a straight,
chiseled profile and his hair was thick and chestnut and wavy and
he had clear sea-gray eyes. To give him at once his full name and
titles, he was the Honorable Cuthbert Patrick Ruthmore Vane, of
High Staunton Manor, Kent, England. But as I was ignorant of this,
I can truthfully say that his looks stunned me purely on their own
Outwardly calm, I replied, "Yes, its too bad, but then who ever
dreamed that Aunt Jane would go adventuring at her time of life? I
thought nobody over the age of thirteen, and then boys, ever went
"Ah, but lads of thirteen couldn't well come such a distance on
their own, you know," returned Apollo, with the kindest air of
making allowance for the female intellect.
I hurriedly turned the subject.
"I really can't imagine Aunt Jane on a desert island. You should
see her behave on the mere suspicion of a mouse! What will she do
if she meets a cannibal and he tries to eat her?"
"Oh, really, now," argued the paragon earnestly, "I'm quite sure
there's no danger of that, don't you know? I believe there are no
natives at all on the island, or else quite tame ones, I forget
which, and here are four of us chaps, with no end of revolvers and
things--shooting-irons, as you call them in America. Mr.
Shaw--sitting opposite Miss Browne, you know--is rather running
things, so if you feel nervous you should talk to him. Was with
the South Polar Expedition and all that--knows no end about this
sort of thing--wouldn't for a moment think of letting ladies run
the risk of being eaten. Really I hope you aren't in a funk about
the cannibals--especially as with so many missionary Johnnies about
they are most likely all converted."
"It's so comforting to think of it in that light!" I said
fervently. At the same time I peeped around Apollo for a
glimpse of the experienced Mr. Shaw. I saw a strong-featured,
weather-beaten profile, the face of a man somewhere in his
thirties, and looking, from this side view at least, not only stern
but grim. He was talking quietly to the captain, whose manner
toward him was almost civil.
I made up my mind at once that the backbone of the party, and
inevitably the leader in its projected villainies, whatever they
might be, was this rugged-looking Mr. Shaw. You couldn't fancy him
as the misled follower of anybody, even the terrific Violet.
As it seemed an unpropitious moment for taking counsel with Mr.
Shaw about cannibals, I tried another tack with the beautiful youth
at my side.
"How did you like Panama? I fancy the old town is very
"Oh, rather!" assented Mr. Vane. "At least, that is what those
painter chaps call it--met a couple of 'em at the hotel. Beastly
little narrow streets and houses in a shocking state and all that.
I like to see property kept up, myself."
"I am afraid," I said severely, "that you are a philistine!"
He blinked a little. "Ah--quite so!" he murmured, recovering
himself gallantly. "One of those chaps that backed Goliath against
From this conversational impasse we were rescued by the
interposition of the gentleman opposite, whose small twinkling eyes
had been taking me in with intentness.
"I did some flittin' about that little old burg on my own hook," he
informed us, "and what I got to say is, it needs wakin' up. Yes,
sir, a bunch of live ones from the U.S.A. would shake up that
little old graveyard so you wouldn't know it. I might have took a
hand in it myself, if I hadn't have met up with Miss Browne and
your a'nt. Yes, sir, I had a slick little proposition or two up my
sleeve. Backed by some of the biggest capital in the U.S.A.--in
fact, there's a bunch of fellers up there in God's country that's
pretty sore on old H.H. for passin' things up this way. Kep' the
wires hummin' for two-three days, till they seen I wasn't to be
switched, and then the Old Man himself--no use mentionin' names,
but I guess you know who I mean--Wall Street would, quick enough,
anyway--the Old Man himself threatened to put his yacht in
commission and come down to find out what sort of little game H. H.
was playin' on him. But I done like Br'er Rabbit--jes lay low.
Hamilton H. Tubbs knows a good thing when he sees it about as quick
as the next one--and he knows enough to keep mum about it too!"
"None can appreciate more profoundly than myself your ability to
maintain that reserve so necessary to the success of this
expedition," remarked Miss Browne weightily from the far end of the
table. "It is to be wished that other members of our party, though
tenderly esteemed, and never more than now when weakness of body
temporarily overpowers strength of soul, had shared your powers of
This shaft was aimed quite obviously at me, and as at the moment I
could think of nothing in reply short of hurling a plate I sank
into a silence which seemed to be contagious, for it spread
throughout the table. Three or four rough-looking men, of whom
one, a certain Captain Magnus, belonged to our party and the rest
to the ship, continued vigorously to hack their way through the
meal with clattering knives and forks. Of other sounds there was
none. Such gloom weighed heavily on the genial spirit of Mr.
Tubbs, and he lightened it by rising to propose a toast.
"Ladies and gentlemen, to her now unfortunately laid low by the
pangs of _mal de mer_--our friend and bony dear, Miss Harding!"
This was bewildering, for neither by friend nor foe could Aunt Jane
be called bony. Later, in the light of Mr. Tubbs's passion for
classical allusion, I decided to translate it _bona dea_, and
consider the family complimented. At the moment I sat stunned, but
Miss Browne, with greater self-possession, majestically inclined
her head and said:
"In the name of our absent friend, I thank you." In spite of
wistful looks from the beautiful youth as we rose from the table,
and the allurement of a tropic moon, I remained constant to duty
and Aunt Jane, and immured myself in her stateroom, where I passed
an enlivening evening listening to her moans. She showed a faint
returning spark of life when I mentioned Cuthbert Vane, and raised
her head to murmur that he was Honorable and she understood though
not the heir still likely to inherit and perhaps after all
The unspoken end of Aunt Jane's sentence pursued me into dreams in
which an unknown gentleman obligingly broke his neck riding to
hounds and left Apollo heir to the title and estates.
I ENGAGE THE ENEMY
It was fortunate that I slept well in my narrow berth on board the
Rufus Smith, for the next day was one of trial. Aunt Jane had
recovered what Mr. Tubbs, with deprecating coughs behind his hand,
alluded to as her sea-legs, and staggered forth wanly, leaning on
the arm of Miss Higglesby-Browne. Yes, of Miss Browne, while I,
Aunt Jane's own niece, trotted meekly in the rear with a cushion.
Already I had begun to realize how fatally I had underrated the
lady of the hyphen, in imagining I had only to come and see and
conquer Aunt Jane. The grim and bony one had made hay while the
sun shone--while I was idling in California, and those criminally
supine cousins were allowing Aunt Jane to run about New York at her
own wild will. Miss Higglesby-Browne had her own collar and tag on
Aunt Jane now, while she, so complete was her perversion, fairly
hugged her slavery and called it freedom. Yes, she talked about
her Emancipation and her Soul-force and her Individuality,
prattling away like a child that has learned its lesson well.
"Mercy, aunty, what long words!" I cried gaily, sitting down beside
her and patting her hand. Usually I can do anything with her when
I pet her up a bit. But the eye of Miss Higglesby-Browne was on
her--and Aunt Jane actually drew a little away.
"Really, Virginia," she said, feebly endeavoring to rise to the
occasion as she knew Miss Browne would have her rise, "really,
while it's very nice to see you and all that, still I hope you
realize that I have had a--a deep Soul-experience, and that I am no
longer to be--trifled with and--and treated as if I were--amusing.
I am really at a loss to imagine why you came. I wrote you that I
was in the company of _trusted friends_."
"Friends?" I echoed aggrievedly. "Friends are all very well, of
course, but when you and I have just each other, aunty, I think it
is unkind of you to expect me to stay thousands of miles away from
you all by myself."
"But it was you who sent me to New York, and insisted on my staying
there!" she cried. Evidently she had been living over her wrongs.
"Yes--but how different!" I interrupted hastily. "There were the
cousins--of course I have to spare you sometimes to the rest of the
family!" Aunt Jane is strong on family feeling, and frequently
reproaches me with my lack of it.
But in expecting Aunt Jane to soften at this I reckoned without
Miss Higglesby-Browne. A dart from the cold gray eyes galvanized
my aunt into a sudden rigid erectness.
"My dear Virginia," she said with quavering severity, "let me
remind you that there are ties even dearer than those of
blood--soul-affinities, you know, and--and, in short, in my dear
friend Miss Higglesby-Browne I have met for the first time in my
life with a--a Sympathetic Intelligence that understands Me!"
So that was Violet's line! I surveyed the Sympathetic Intelligence
with a smiling interest.
"Really, how nice! And of course you feel quite sure that on your
side you thoroughly understand--Miss Higglesby-Browne?"
Miss Browne's hair was rather like a clothesbrush in her mildest
moods. In her rising wrath it seemed to quiver like a lion's mane.
"Miss Harding," she said, in the chest-tones she reserved for
critical moments, "has a nature impossible to deceive, because
itself incapable of deception. Miss Harding and I first met--on
this present plane--in an atmosphere unusually favorable to
soul-revelation. I knew at once that here was the appointed
comrade, while in Miss Harding there was the immediate recognition
of a complementary spiritual force."
"It's perfectly true, Virginia," exclaimed Aunt Jane, beginning to
cry. "You and Susan and everybody have always treated me as if I
were a child and didn't know what I wanted, when the fact is I
always have known _perfectly well_!" The last words issued in a
wail from the depths of her handkerchief.
"You mean, I suppose," I exploded, "that what you have always
wanted was to go off on this perfectly crazy chase after imaginary
treasure!" There, now I had gone and done it. Of course it was my
"Jane," uttered Miss Higglesby-Browne in deep and awful tones, "do
you or do you not realize how strangely prophetic were the warnings
I gave you from the first--that if you revealed our plans malignant
Influences would be brought to bear? Be strong, Jane--cling to the
"I'm clinging!" sniffed Aunt Jane, dabbing away her tears. I never
saw any one get so pink about the eyes and nose at the smallest
sign of weeping, and yet she is always doing it. "Really,
Virginia," she broke out in a whimper, "it is not kind to say, I
suppose, but I would just as soon you hadn't come! Just when I was
learning to expand my individuality--and then you come and somehow
make it seem so much more difficult!"
I rose. "Very well, Aunt Jane," I said coldly. "Expand all you
like. When you get to the bursting point I'll do my best to save
the pieces. For the present I suppose I had better leave you to
company so much more favorable to your soul development!" And I
walked away with my head in the air.
It was so much in the air, and the deck of the _Rufus Smith_ was so
unstable, that I fell over a coil of rope and fetched up in the
arms of the Honorable Cuthbert Vane. Fortunately this occurred
around the corner of the deck-house, out of sight of my aunt and
Miss Browne, so the latter was unable to shed the lurid light on
the episode which she doubtless would if she had seen it. Mr. Vane
stood the shock well and promptly set me on my feet.
"I say!" he exclaimed sympathetically, "not hurt, are you? Beastly
nuisance, you know, these ropes lying about--regular man-traps, I
"Thanks, I'm quite all right," I said, and as I spoke two large
genuine tears welled up into my eyes. I hadn't realized till I
felt them smarting on my eyelids how deeply hurt I was at the
unnatural behavior of Aunt Jane.
"Ah--I'm afraid you are really not quite all right!" returned the
Honorable Cuthbert with profound concern. "Tell me what's the
I shook my head. "It's nothing--you couldn't help me. It's
"Your aunt? Has she been kicking-up a bit? I thought she looked
rather a mild sort."
"Oh--mild! That's just it--so mild that she has let this awful
Higglesby-Browne person get possession of her body and soul."
"Oh, I say, aren't you a bit rough on Miss Browne? Thought she was
a rather remarkable old party--goes in strong for intellect and all
that, you know."
"That's just what fooled Aunt Jane so--but, I thought a man would
know better." My feathers were ruffled again.
"Well, fact is, I'm not so much up in that sort of thing myself,"
he admitted modestly. "Rather took her word for it and all that,
you know. There's Shaw, though--cleverest chap going, I assure
you. I rather fancy Miss Browne couldn't pull the wool over _his_
"She evidently did, though," I said snappishly, "since he's let her
rope him in for such a wild goose chase as this!" In my heart I
felt convinced that the clever Mr. Shaw was merely Miss Browne's
partner in imposture.
"Oh, really, now. Miss Harding, you don't think it's that--that
the thing's all moonshine?" He stared at me in grieved surprise.
"Why, what else can it be?" I demanded, driven by my wrongs to the
cruelty of shattering his illusions. "Who ever heard of a pirate's
treasure that wasn't moonshine? The moment I had read Aunt Jane's
letter telling of the perfectly absurd business she was setting out
on I rushed down by the first boat. Of course I meant to take her
back with me, to put a stop to all this madness; but I was too
late--and you're glad of it, I dare say!"
"I can't help being glad, you know," he replied, the color rising
to his ingenuous cheeks. "It's so frightfully jolly having you
along. Only I'm sorry you came against your will. Rather fancy
you had it in your head that we were a band of cutthroats, eh?
Well, the fact is I don't know much about the two chaps Miss Browne
picked up, though I suspect they are a very decent sort. That odd
fish, Captain Magnus, now--he was quite Miss Browne's own find, I
assure you. And as to old H. H.--Tubbs, you know--Miss Browne met
up with him on the boat coming down. The rum old chap got on her
soft side somehow, and first thing she had appointed him secretary
and treasurer--as though we were a meeting of something. Shaw was
quite a bit upset about it. He and I were a week later in
arriving--came straight on from England with the supplies, while
Miss Browne fixed things up with the little black-and-tan country
that owns the island. I say, Miss Harding, you're bound to like
Shaw no end when you know him--he's such a wonderfully clever chap!"
I had no wish to blight his faith in the superlative Mr. Shaw, and
said nothing. This evidently pained him, and as we stood leaning
on the rail in the shadow of the deck-house, watching the blue
water slide by, he continued to sound the praises of his idol. It
seemed that as soon as Miss Browne had beguiled Aunt Jane into
financing her scheme--a feat equivalent to robbing an infant-class
scholar of his Sunday-school nickel--she had cast about for a
worthy leader for the forthcoming Harding-Browne expedition. All
the winds of fame were bearing abroad just then the name of a
certain young explorer who had lately added another continent or
two to the British Empire. Linked with his were other names, those
of his fellow adventurers, which shone only less brightly than that
of their chief. One Dugald Shaw had been among the great man's
most trusted lieutenants, but now, on the organizing of the second
expedition, he was left behind in London, only half recovered of a
wound received in the Antarctic. The hook of a block and tackle
had caught him, ripped his forehead open from cheek to temple, and
for a time threatened the sight of the eye. Slowly, under the care
of the London surgeons, he had recovered, and the eye was saved.
Meanwhile his old companions had taken again the path of glory, and
were far on their way back to the ice-fields of the South Pole.
Only Dugald Shaw was left behind.
"And so," the even voice flowed on, "when I ran on to him in London
he was feeling fearfully low, I do assure you. A chap of his sort
naturally hates to think he's on the shelf. I had known him since
I was a little 'un, when we used to go to Scotland for our
holidays, and he would be home from sea and staying with his cousin
at the manse. He'd make us boats and spin all sorts of yarns, and
we thought him a bigger man than the admiral of the fleet.
"Well, old Shaw was fancying there was nothing for it but to go
back to his place with the P. & O., which seemed a bit flat after
what he'd been having, and meant he would never get beyond being
the captain of a liner, and not that for a good many years to come,
when a cable came from this Miss Higglesby-Brown offering him
command of this expedition. As neither of us had ever heard of
Miss Higglesby-Browne, we were both a bit floored for a time. But
Shaw smoked a pipe on it, and then he said, 'Old chap, if they'll
give me my figure, I'm their man.' And I said, 'Quite so, old
chap, and I'll go along, too.'
"I had to argue quite a bit, but in the end the dear old boy let me
come--after wiring the pater and what not. And I do assure you,
Miss Harding, it strikes me as no end of a lark--besides expecting
it to put old Shaw on his feet and give us hatfuls of money all
Well, it was a plausible story, and I had no doubt, so far as the
Honorable Cuthbert was concerned, an absolutely truthful one. The
beautiful youth was manifestly as guileless as a small boy playing
pirate with a wooden sword. But as to Mr. Shaw, who could tell
that it hadn't after all been a trumped-up affair between Miss
Browne and him--that his surprise at the message was not assumed to
throw dust in the eyes of his young and trusting friend? Are even
the most valiant adventurers invariably honest? Left behind by his
companions because of his injury, his chance of an enduring fame
cut off, with no prospects but those of an officer on an ocean
liner, might he not lend a ready ear to a scheme for plucking a fat
and willing pigeon? So great was my faith in Aunt Jane's
gullibility, so dark my distrust of Miss Browne, that all connected
with the enterprise lay under the cloud of my suspicion. The
Honorable Mr. Vane I had already so far exculpated as to wonder if
he were not in some way being victimized too; but Mr. Shaw, after
even a casual glimpse of him, one couldn't picture as a victim. I
felt that he must have gone into the enterprise with his eyes open
to its absurdity, and fully aware that the only gold to be won by
anybody must come out of the pocket of Aunt Jane.
As these reflections passed through my mind I looked up and saw the
subject of them approaching. He lifted his helmet, but met my eyes
unsmilingly, with a sort of sober scrutiny. He had the tanned skin
of a sailor, and brown hair cropped close and showing a trace of
gray. This and a certain dour grim look he had made me at first
consider him quite middle-aged, though I knew later that he was not
yet thirty-five. As to the grimness, perhaps, I unwillingly
conceded, part of it was due to the scar which seamed the right
temple to the eyebrow, in a straight livid line. But it was a grim
face anyway, strong-jawed, with piercing steel-blue eyes.
He was welcomed by Mr. Vane with a joyous thump on the
shoulder-blade. "I say, old man, Miss Harding has turned out to be
the most fearful doubting Thomas--thinks the whole scheme quite mad
and all that sort of thing. I'm far too great a duffer to convert
her, but perhaps you might, don't you know?"
Mr. Shaw looked at me steadily. His eyes were the kind that seem
to see all and reveal nothing. I felt a hot spark of defiance
rising in my own.
"And indeed it is too bad," he said coolly, "that the trip should
not be more to Miss Harding's liking." The rough edges of his
Scotch burr had been smoothed down by much wandering, but you knew
at once on which side of the Solway he had seen the light.
"It is not a question of my liking," I retorted, trying to preserve
an unmoved and lofty demeanor, though my heart was beating rather
quickly at finding myself actually crossing swords with the
redoubtable adventurer, this man who had often faced death, I could
not refuse to believe, as steadily as he was facing me now.
"It is not at all a question of my liking or not liking the trip,
but of the trip itself being--quite the wildest thing ever heard of
out of a story-book." Harsher terms had sprung first to my lips,
but had somehow failed to get beyond them.
"Ah--yet the world would be the poorer if certain wild trips had
not been taken. I seem to remember one Christopher Columbus, for
By a vivid lightning-flash of wrath I felt that this adventurer was
laughing at me a little under his sober exterior--even stirring me
up as one does an angry kitten.
"Yes," I flared out, "but Columbus did not inveigle a confiding old
lady to go along with him!" Of course Aunt Jane is not, properly
speaking, an old lady, but it was much more effective to pose her
as one for the moment.
It was certainly effective, to judge by the sudden firm setting of
"Lad," he said quietly, "lend a hand below, will you? They are
overhauling some of our stuff 'tween decks."
He waited until the Honorable Cuthbert, looking rather dazed, had
retired. We stood facing each other, my breath coming rather
hurriedly. There was a kind of still force about this mastered
anger of the dour Scot, like the brooding of black clouds that at
any moment may send forth their devastating fire. Yet I myself was
not endowed with red hair for nothing.
"Miss Harding," he said slowly, "that was a bitter word you said."
My head went up.
"Bitter, perhaps," I flung back, "but is it not true? It is for you
"No, it is not for me to answer, because it is not for you to ask.
But since you talk of inveigling, let me give the history of my
connection with the expedition. You will understand then that I
had nothing to do with organizing it, but was merely engaged to do
my best to carry it through to success."
"I have already heard a version of the matter from Mr. Vane."
"And you think he is in the conspiracy too?" "Certainly not," I
replied hastily. "I mean--of course, I know he told me exactly
what he believes himself."
"Yes, you would take the lad's word, of course." This with a slight
but significant emphasis of which he was perhaps unconscious.
"Then I suppose you consider that he was inveigled too?"
"I am not required to consider Mr. Vane's status at all," I replied
with dignity. "It is my aunt whom I wish to protect." And
suddenly to my dismay my voice grew husky. I had to turn my head
aside and blink hard at the sea. I seemed to be encountering
fearful and unexpected odds in my endeavor to rescue Aunt Jane.
He stood looking down at me--he was a big man, though of lesser
height than the superb Cuthbert--in a way I couldn't quite
understand. And what I don't understand always makes me
"Very well," he said after a pause. "Maybe your opportunity will
come. It would be a pity indeed if Miss Harding were to require no
protecting and a young lady here with such a good will to it. But
if you will take the suggestion of a man of rather broader
experience than your own, you will wait until the occasion arises.
It is bad generalship, really, to waste your ammunition like this."
"I dare say I am not a master of strategy," I cried, furious at
myself for my moment of weakness and at him for the softening tone
which had crept into his voice. "I am merely--honest. And when I
see Aunt Jane hypnotized--by this Violet person--"
"And indeed I have seen no reason to think that Miss
Higglesby-Browne is not a most excellent lady," interrupted Mr.
Shaw stiffly. "And let me say this, Miss Harding: here we are all
together, whether we wish to be or no, and for six weeks or more on
the island we shall see no faces but our own. Are we to be divided
from the beginning by quarrels? Are maybe even the men of us to be
set by the ears through the bickering of women?"
Like the nick of a whip came the certainty that he was thinking of
the Honorable Cuthbert, and that I was the rock on which their
David-and-Jonathan friendship might split. Otherwise I suppose
Miss Higglesby-Browne and I might have clawed each other forever
without interference from him.
"Really," I said with--I hope--well-simulated scorn, "since I am
quite alone against half a dozen of you, I should think you could
count on putting down any rebellion on my part very easily. I
repeat, I had no other object in coming along--though I was really
_kidnaped_ along--than to look after my aunt. The affairs of the
party otherwise--or its personnel---do not interest me at all. As
to the treasure, of course I know perfectly well that there isn't
And I turned my back and looked steadily out to sea. After a
moment or two I heard him turn on his heel and go away. It was
none too soon, for I had already begun to feel unostentatiously for
my handkerchief. Any way, I had had the last word--
The rest of my day was lonely, for the beautiful youth, probably by
malevolent design, was kept busy between decks. Mr. Tubbs danced
attendance on Aunt Jane and Miss Browne, so assiduously that I
already began to see some of my worst fears realized. There was
nothing for me to do but to retire to my berth and peruse a
tattered copy of _Huckleberry Finn_ which I found in the cabin.
At dinner, having the Honorable Cuthbert at my elbow, it was easier
than not to ignore every one else. The small keen eyes of Mr.
Tubbs, under his lofty and polished dome of thought, watched us
knowingly. You saw that he was getting ready to assume a
bless-you-my-children attitude and even to take credit somehow as
match-maker. He related anecdotes, in which, as an emissary of
Cupid, he played a benevolent and leading role. One detected, too,
a grin, ugly and unmirthful, on the unprepossessing countenance of
Captain Magnus. I was indifferent. The man my gaiety was intended
for sat at the far end of the table. I had to wipe out the memory
of my wet eyes that afternoon.
Directly dinner was at an end, remorselessly he led the Honorable
Cuthbert away. I retired to Huckleberry Finn. But a face with a
scar running to the eyebrow looked up at me from the pages, and I
held colloquies with it in which I said all the brilliant and
cutting things which had occurred to me too late.
I was thus engaged when a cry rang through the ship: "Land ho!"
THE ISLE OF FORTUNE
I dropped my book and ran on deck. Every one else was already
there. I joined the row at the rail, indifferent, for the moment,
to the fact that to display so much interest in their ridiculous
island involved a descent from my pinnacle. Indeed, the chill
altitude of pinnacles never agrees with me for long at a time, so
that I am obliged to descend at intervals to breathe the air on the
The great gleaming orb of the tropic moon was blinding as the sun.
Away to the faint translucent line of the horizon rolled an
infinity of shining sea. Straight ahead rose a dark conical mass.
It was the mountainous shape of Leeward Island.
Everybody was craning to get a clearer view. "Hail, isle of
Fortune!" exclaimed Miss Browne. I think my aunt would not have
been surprised if it had begun to rain doubloons upon the deck.
"I bet we don't put it over some on them original Argonaut fellers,
hey?" cried Mr. Tubbs.
Higher and higher across the sky-line cut the dark crest of the
island as the freighter steamed valiantly ahead. She had a manner
all her own of progressing by a series of headlong lunges, followed
by a nerve-racking pause before she found her equilibrium again.
But she managed to wallow forward at a good gait, and the island
grew clearer momently. Sheer and formidable from the sea rose a
line of black cliffs, and above them a single peak threw its shadow
far across the water. Faintly we made out the white line of the
breakers foaming at the foot of the cliffs.
We coasted slowly along, looking for the mouth of the little bay.
Meanwhile we had collected our belongings, and stood grouped about
the deck, ready for the first thrilling plunge into adventure. My
aunt and Miss Browne had tied huge green veils over their cork
helmets, and were clumping about in tremendous hobnailed boots. I
could not hope to rival this severely military get-up, but I had a
blue linen skirt and a white middy, and trusted that my small stock
of similar garments would last out our time on the island. All the
luggage I was allowed to take was in a traveling bag and a
gunny-sack, obligingly donated by the cook. Speaking of cooks, I
found we had one of our own along, a coal-black negro with grizzled
wool, an unctuous voice, and the manners of an old-school family
retainer. So far as I know, his name was Cookie. I suppose he had
received another once from his sponsors in baptism, but if so, it
was buried in oblivion.
Now a narrow gleaming gap appeared in the wall of cliffs, and the
freighter whistled and lay to. There began a bustle at the davits,
and shouts of "Lower away!" and for the first time it swept over me
that we were to be put ashore in boats. Simultaneously this fact
swept over Aunt Jane, and I think also over Miss Browne, for I saw
her fling one wild glance around, as though in search of some
impossible means of retreat. But she took the blow in a grim
silence, while Aunt Jane burst out in lamentation. She would not,
could not go in a boat. She had heard all her life that small
boats were most unsafe. A little girl had been drowned in a lake
near where she was visiting once through going in a boat. Why
didn't the captain sail right up to the island as she had expected
and put us ashore? Even at Panama with only a little way to go she
had felt it suicidal--here it was not to be thought of.
But the preparations for this desperate step went on apace, and no
one heeded Aunt Jane but Mr. Tubbs, who had hastened to succor
beauty in distress, and mingled broken exhortations to courage with
hints that if his opinion had been attended to all would be well.
Then Aunt Jane clutched at Mr. Shaw's coat lapel as he went by, and
he stopped long enough to explain patiently that vessels of the
freighter's size could not enter the bay, and that there really was
no danger, and that Aunt Jane might wait if she liked till the last
boat, as it would take several trips to transfer us and our
baggage. I supposed of course that this would include me, and
stood leaning on the rail, watching the first boat with Mr. Shaw,
Captain Magnus and the cook, fade to a dark speck on the water,
when Mr. Vane appeared at my elbow.
"Ready, Miss Harding? You are to go in the next boat, with me. I
"Oh, thanks!" I cried fervently. He would be much nicer than Mr.
Tubbs to cling to as I went down--indeed, he was so tall that if it
were at all a shallow place I might use him as a stepping-stone and
survive. I hoped drowning men didn't gurgle very much--meanwhile
Mr. Vane had disappeared over the side, and a sailor was lifting me
and setting my reluctant feet on the strands of the ladder.
"Good-by, auntie !" I cried, as I began the descent. "Don't blame
yourself too much. Everybody has to go some time, you know, and
they say drowning's easy."
With a stifled cry Aunt Jane forsook Mr. Tubbs and flew to the
rail. I was already out of reach.
"Oh, Virginia!" she wailed. "Oh, my dear child! If it should be
the last parting!"
"Give my jewelry and things to Bess's baby!" I found strength to
call back. What with the wallowing of the steamer and the natural
instability of rope-ladders I seemed a mere atom tossed about in a
swaying, reeling universe. _What will Aunt Jane do_? flashed
through my mind, and I wished I had waited to see. Then the arms
of the Honorable Mr. Vane received me. The strong rowers bent
their backs, and the boat shot out over the mile or two of bright
water between us and the island. Great slow swells lifted us. We
dipped with a soothing, cradle-like motion. I forgot to be afraid,
in the delight of the warm wind that fanned our cheeks, of the
moonbeams that on the crest of every ripple were splintered
to a thousand dancing lights. I forgot fear, forgot Miss
Higglesby-Browne, forgot the harshness of the Scotch character.
"Oh, glorious, glorious!" I cried to Cuthbert Vane.
"Not so dusty, eh?" he came back in their ridiculous English slang.
Now an American would have said _some little old moon that_! We
certainly have our points of superiority.
All around the island white charging lines of breakers foamed on
ragged half-seen reefs. You saw the flash of foam leaping half the
height of the black cliffs. The thunder of the surf was in our
ears, now rising to wild clamor, fierce, hungry, menacing, now
dying to a vast broken mutter. Now our boat felt the lift of the
great shoreward rollers, and sprang forward like a living thing.
The other boat, empty of all but the rowers and returning from the
island to the ship, passed us with a hail. We steered warily away
from a wild welter of foam at the end of a long point, and shot
beyond it on the heave of a great swell into quiet water. We were
in the little bay under the shadow of the frowning cliff's.
At the head of the bay, a quarter of a mile away, lay a broad white
beach shining under the moon. At the edge of dark woods beyond a
fire burned redly. It threw into relief the black moving shapes of
men upon the sand. The waters of the cove broke upon the beach in
a white lacework of foam.
Straight for the sand the sailors drove the boat. She struck it
with a jar, grinding forward heavily. The men sprang overboard,
wading half-way to the waist. And the arms of the Honorable
Cuthbert Vane had snatched me up and were bearing me safe and dry
The sailors hauled on the boat, dragging it up the beach, and I saw
the Scotchman lending them a hand. The hard dry sand was crunching
under the heels of Mr. Vane. I wriggled a little and Apollo, who
had grown absent-minded apparently, set me down.
Mr. Shaw approached and the two men greeted each other in their
offhand British way. As we couldn't well, under the circumstances,
maintain a fiction of mutual invisibility, Mr. Shaw, with a certain
obvious hesitation, turned to me.
"Only lady passenger, eh? Hope you're not wet through. Cookie's
making coffee over yonder."
"I say, Shaw," cried the beautiful youth enthusiastically, "Miss
Harding's the most ripping sport, you know! Not the least nervous
about the trip, I assure you."
"I was," I announced, moved to defiance by the neighborhood of Mr.
Shaw. "Before we started I was so afraid that if you had listened
you might have heard my teeth chattering. But I had at least the
comforting thought that if I did go to my end it would not be
simply in pursuit of sordid gain!"
"And indeed that was almost a waste of noble sentiment under the
circumstances," answered the dour Scot, with the fleeting shadow of
an enraging smile. "Such disappointingly calm weather as it is!
See that Miss Harding has some coffee, Bert."
I promised myself, as I went with Mr. Vane toward the fire, that
some day I would find the weapon that would penetrate the
Scotchman's armor--and would use it mercilessly.
Cookie, in his white attire, and with his black shining face and
ivory teeth gleaming in the ruddy firelight, looked like a
converted cannibal--perhaps won from his errors by one of Mr.
Vane's missionary Johnnies. He received us with unctuous warmth.
"Well, now, 'clar to goodness if it ain't the li'le lady! How come
you git ashore all dry lak you is? Yes, sah, Cookie'll git you-all
some'n hot immejusly." He wafted me with stately gestures to a
seat on an overturned iron kettle, and served my coffee with an air
appropriate to mahogany and plate. It was something to see him
wait on Cuthbert Vane. As Cookie told me later, in the course of
our rapidly developing friendship, "dat young gemmun am sure one ob
de quality." To indicate the certainty of Cookie's instinct, Miss
Higglesby-Browne was never more to him than "dat pusson." and the
cold aloofness of his manner toward her, which yet never sank to
impertinence, would have done credit to a duke.
On the beach Mr. Shaw, Captain Magnus and the sailors were toiling,
unloading and piling up stores. Rather laggingly, Apollo joined
them. I was glad, for a heavy fatigue was stealing over me.
Cookie, taking note of my sagging head, brought me somebody's
dunnage bag for a pillow. I felt him drawing a tarpaulin over me
as I sank into bottomless depths of sleep.
I opened my eyes to the dying stars. The moon had set. Black
shapes of tree and boulder loomed portentous through the ashen
dimness that precedes the dawn. I heard men shouting, "Here she
comes!" "Stand by to lend a hand!" In haste I scrambled up and
tore for the beach. I must witness the landing of Aunt Jane.
"Where are they, where are they?" I demanded, rubbing my sleepy
"Why didn't you stay by the fire and have your nap out?" asked Mr.
Shaw, in a tone which seemed to have forgotten for the moment to be
frigid--perhaps because I hadn't yet waked up enough to have my
quills in good pricking order.
"Nap? Do you think that for all the treasure ever buried by a
pirate I would miss the spectacle of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne
arriving? I expect it to compensate me for all I have suffered on
this trip so far."
"See what it is, Bert," exclaimed the Scotchman, "to have a truly
gentle and forgiving nature--how it brings its own reward. I'm
afraid you and I miss a great deal in life, lad."
The beautiful youth pondered this.
"I don't know," he replied, "what you say sounds quite fit and
proper for the parson, and all that, of course, but I fancy you are
a bit out in supposing that Miss Harding is so forgiving, old man."
"I didn't know that _you_ thought so badly of me, too!" I said
timidly. I couldn't help it--the temptation was too great.
"I? Oh, really, now, you can't think that!" Through the dusk I saw
that he was flushing hotly.
"Lad," said the Scotchman in a suddenly harsh voice, "lend a hand
with this rope, will you?" And in the dusk I turned away to hide
my triumphant smiles. I had found the weak spot of my foe--as Mr.
Tubbs might have said, I was wise to Achilles's heel.
And now through the dawn-twilight that lay upon the cove the boat
drew near that bore Mr. Tubbs and his fair charges. I saw the
three cork helmets grouped together in the stern. Then the foaming
fringe of wavelets caught the boat, hurled it forward, seemed all
but to engulf it out leaped the sailors. Out leaped Mr. Tubbs, and
disappeared at once beneath the waves. Shrill and prolonged rose
the shrieks of my aunt and Miss Higglesby-Browne. Valiantly Mr.
Shaw and Cuthbert Vane had rushed into the deep. Each now appeared
staggering up the steep, foam-swept strand under a struggling
burden. Even after they were safely deposited on the sand. Miss
Browne and my aunt continued to shriek.
"Save, save Mr. Tubbs!" implored Aunt Jane. But Mr. Tubbs,
overlooked by all but this thoughtful friend, had cannily saved
himself. He advanced upon us dripping.
"A close call!" he sang out cheerfully. "Thought one time old Nep
had got a strangle-hold all right. Thinks I, I guess there'll be
something doing when Wall Street gets this news--that old H. H. is
food for the finny denizens of the deep!"
"Such an event, Mr. Tubbs," pronounced Violet, who had recovered
her form with surprising swiftness, "might well have sent its
vibrations through the financial arteries of the world!"
"It would have been most--most shocking!" quavered poor Aunt Jane
with feeling. She was piteously striving to extricate herself from
the folds of the green veil.
I came to her assistance. The poor plump little woman was
trembling from head to foot.
"It was a most--unusual experience," she told me as I unwound her.
"Probably extremely--unifying to the soul-forces and all that, as
Miss Browne says, but for the moment--unsettling. Is my helmet on
straight, dear? I think it is a little severe for my type of face,
don't you? There was a sweet little hat in a Fifth Avenue
shop--simple and yet so chic. I thought it just the thing, but
Miss Browne said no, helmets were always worn--Coffee? Oh, my dear
child, how thankful I shall be!"
And Aunt Jane clung to me as of yore as I led her up the beach.
THE CAPTAIN'S LEGACY
When in my tender years I was taken to the matinee, usually the
most thrilling feature of the spectacle to me was the scene
depicted on the drop-curtain. I know not why only the decorators
of drop-curtains are inspired to create landscapes of such strange
enchantment, of a beauty which not alone beguiles the senses--I
speak from the standpoint of the ten-year-old--but throws wide to
fancy the gate of dreams. Directly I was seated--in the body--and
had had my hat taken off and been told not to wriggle, I vaulted
airily over the unconscious audience, over an orchestra engaged in
tuning up, and was lost in the marvelous landscape of the
drop-curtain. The adventures which I had there put to shame any
which the raising of the curtain permitted to be seen upon the
I had never hoped to recover in this prosaic world my long-lost
paradise of the drop-curtain, but morning revealed it to me here on
Leeward Island. Here was the feathery foliage, the gushing
springs, the gorgeous flowers of that enchanted land. And here
were the soft and intoxicating perfumes that I had imagined in my
Leeward Island measures roughly four miles across from east to west
by three from north to south. The core of the island is the peak,
rising to a height of nearly three thousand feet. At its base on
three sides lies a plateau, its edges gnawed away by the sea to the
underlying rocky skeleton. On the southeastern quarter the peak
drops by a series of great precipices straight into the sea.
Back from the cove stretches a little hollow, its floor rising
gently to the level of the plateau. Innumerable clear springs
which burst from the mountain converge to a limpid stream, which
winds through the hollow to fall into the little bay. All the
plateau and much of the peak are clothed with woods, a beautiful
bright green against the sapphire of sea and sky. High above all
other growth wave the feathery tops of the cocoa-palms, which
flourish here luxuriantly. You saw them in their thousands,
slender and swaying, tossing all together in the light sea-wind
their crowns of nodding plumes.
The palms were nowhere more abundant than in the hollow by the cove
where our camp was made, and their size and the regularity of their
order spoke of cultivation. Guavas, oranges and lemons grew here,
too, and many beautiful banana-palms. The rank forest growth had
been so thoroughly cleared out that it had not yet returned, except
stealthily in the shape of brilliant-flowered creepers which wound
their sinuous way from tree to tree, like fair Delilahs striving to
overcome arboreal Samsons by their wiles. They were rankest beside
the stream, which ran at one edge of the hollow under the rise of
At the side of the clearing toward the stream stood a hut, built of
cocoa-palm logs. Its roof of palm-thatch had been scattered by
storms. Nearer the stream on a bench were an old decaying wash-tub
and a board. A broken frying-pan and a rusty axe-head lay in the
In the hut itself were a rude bedstead, a small table, and a
cupboard made of boxes. I was excited at first, and fancied we had
come upon the dwelling of a marooned pirate. Without taking the
trouble to combat this opinion, Mr. Shaw explained to Cuthbert Vane
that a copra gatherer had once lived here, and that the place must
have yielded such a profit that he was only surprised to find it
deserted now. Behind this cool, unemphatic speech I sensed an
ironic zest in the destruction of my pirate.
After their thrilling experience of being ferried from the _Rufus
Smith_ to the island, my aunt and Miss Browne had been easily
persuaded to dispose themselves for naps. Aunt Jane, however,
could not be at rest until Mr. Tubbs had been restored by a cordial
which she extracted with much effort from the depths of her
hand-bag. He partook with gravity and the rolled up eyes of
gratitude, and retired grimacing to comfort himself from a private
bottle of his own.
The boats of the _Rufus Smith_ had departed from the island, and
our relations with humanity were severed. The thought of our
isolation awed and fascinated me as I sat meditatively upon a keg
of nails watching the miracle of the tropic dawn. The men were
hard at work with bales and boxes, except Mr. Tubbs, who gave
advice. It must have been valuable advice, for he assured
everybody that a word from his lips had invariably been enough to
make Wall Street sit up and take notice. But it is a far cry from
Wall Street to Leeward Island. Mr. Tubbs, ignored, sought refuge
with me at last, and pointed out the beauties of Aroarer as she
rose from the embrace of Neptune.
"Aroarer Borealis, to be accurate," he explained, "but they didn't
use parties' surnames much in classic times."
The glad cry of breakfast put an end to Mr. Tubbs's exposition of
So does dull reality clog the feet of dreams that it proved
impossible to begin the day by digging up the treasure. Camp had
to be arranged, for folk must eat and sleep even with the wealth of
the Indies to be had for the turning of a sod. The cabin was
reroofed and set apart as the bower of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne.
I declined to make a third in this sanctuary. You could tell by
looking at her that Violet was the sort of person who would
inevitably sleep out loud.
"Hang me up in a tree or anywhere," I insisted, and it ended by my
having a tarpaulin shelter rigged up in a group of cocoa-palms.
Among our earliest discoveries on the island was one regrettable
from the point of view of romance, though rich in practical
advantages; the woods were the abode of numerous wild pigs. This
is not to write a new chapter on the geographical distribution of
the pig, for they were of the humdrum domestic variety, and had
doubtless appertained to the copra gatherer's establishment. But
you should have seen how clean, how seemly, how self-respecting
were our Leeward Island pigs to realize how profoundly the pig of
Christian lands is a debased and slandered animal. These
quadrupeds would have strengthened Jean Jacques's belief in the
primitive virtue of man before civilization debauched him. And I
shall always paraphrase the familiar line to read: "When wild in
woods the noble porker ran."
Aunt Jane had been dreadfully alarmed by the pigs, and wanted to
keep me immured in the cabin o' nights so that I should not be
eaten. But nothing less than a Bengal tiger would have driven me
to such extremity.
"Though if a pig should eat me," I suggested, "you might mark him
to avoid becoming a cannibal at second hand. I should hate to
think of you, Aunt Jane, as the family tomb!"
"Virginia, you are most unfeeling," said Aunt Jane, getting pink
about the eyelids.
"Ah, I didn't know you Americans went in much for family tombs?"
remarked the beautiful youth interestedly.
"No, we do our best to keep out of them," I assured him, and he
walked off meditatively revolving this.
If the beautiful youth had been beautiful on shipboard, in the
informal costume he affected on the island he was more splendid
still. His white cotton shirt and trousers showed him lithe and
lean and muscular. His bared arms and chest were like cream
solidified to flesh. Instead of his nose peeling like common noses
in the hot salt air, every kiss of the sun only gave his skin a
warmer, richer glow. With his striped silk sash of red and blue
about his waist, and his crown of ambrosial chestnut curls--a
development due to the absence of a barber--the Honorable Cuthbert
would certainly have been hailed by the natives, if there had been
any, as the island's god.
Camp was made in the early hours of the day. Then came luncheon,
prepared with skill by Cookie, and eaten from a table of
packing-cases laid in the shade. Afterward every one, hot and
weary, retired for a siesta. It was now the cool as well as the
dry season on the island, yet the heat of the sun at midday was
terrific. But the temperature brought us neither illness nor even
any great degree of lassitude. Always around the island blew the
faint cooling breath of the sea. No marsh or stagnant water bred
insect pests or fever. Every day while we were there the men
worked hard, and grew lean and sun-browned, and thrived on it.
Every afternoon with unfailing regularity a light shower fell, but
in twenty minutes it was over and the sun shone again, greedily
lapping up the moisture that glittered on the leaves. And forever
the sea sang a low muttering bass to the faint threnody of the wind
in the palms.
On this first day we gathered in the cool of the afternoon about
our table of packing-boxes for an event which even I, whose role
was that of skeptic, found exciting. Miss Browne was at last to
produce her map and reveal the secret of the island. So far,
except in general terms, she had imparted it to no one. Everybody,
in coming along, had been buying a pig in a poke--though to be sure
Aunt Jane had paid for it. The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane had told
me incidentally, had insured himself against loss by demanding a
retaining fee beforehand. Somehow my opinion, both of his honesty
and of his intelligence, had risen since I knew this. As to
Cuthbert Vane, he had come purely in a spirit of adventure, and had
paid his own expenses from the start.
However, now the great moment was at hand. But before it comes, I
will here set down the treasure-story of Leeward Island, as I
gathered it later, a little here and there, and pieced it together
into a coherent whole through many dreaming hours.
In 1820, the city of Lima, in Peru, being threatened by the
revolutionaries under Bolivar and San Martin, cautious folk began
to take thought for their possessions. To send them out upon the
high seas under a foreign flag seemed to offer the best hope of
safety, and soon there was more gold afloat on the Pacific than at
any time since the sailing of the great plate-galleons of the
seventeenth century. Captain Sampson, of the brig _Bonny Lass_,
found himself with a passenger for nowhere in particular in the
shape of a certain Spanish merchant of great wealth, reputed
custodian of the private funds of the bishop of Lima. This
gentleman brought with him, besides some scanty personal
baggage--for he took ship in haste--a great iron-bound chest. Four
stout sailors of the _Bonny Lass_ staggered under the weight of it.
The _Bonny Lass_ cruised north along the coast, the passenger
desiring to put in at Panama in the hope that word might reach him
there of quieter times at home. But somewhere off Ecuador
on a dark and starless night the merchant of Lima vanished
overboard--"and what could you expect," asked Captain Sampson in
effect, "when a lubber like him would stay on deck in a gale?"
Strange to say, the merchant's body-servant met the fate of the
Shrugging his shoulders at the carelessness of passengers, Captain
Sampson bore away to Leeward Island, perhaps from curiosity to see
this old refuge of the buccaneers, where the spoils of the sack of
Guayaquil were said to have been buried. Who knows but that he,
too, was bent on treasure-seeking? Be that as it may, the little
brig found her way into the bay on the northeast side of the
island, where she anchored. Water was needed, and there is
refreshment in tropic fruits after a diet of salt horse and
hardtack. So all hands had a holiday ashore, where the captain did
not disdain to join them. Only he went apart, and had other
occupation than swarming up the palms for cocoanuts.
One fancies, then, a moonless night, a crew sleeping off double
grog, generously allowed them by the captain; a boat putting off
from the _Bonny Lass_, in which were captain, mate, and one Bill
Halliwell, able seaman, a man of mighty muscle; and as freight an
object large, angular and ponderous, so that the boat lagged
heavily beneath the rowers' strokes.
Later, Bill, the simple seaman, grows presumptuous on the strength
of this excursion with his betters. It is a word and a blow with
the captain of the _Bonny Lass_, and Bill is conveniently disposed
of. Dead, as well as living, he serves the purpose of the captain,
but of that later.
Away sailed the _Bonny Lass_, sailing once for all out of the
story. As for Captain Sampson, there is a long gap in his history,
hazily filled by the story of his having been lieutenant to Benito
Bonito, and one of the two survivors when Bonito's black flag was
brought down by the British frigate _Espiegle_. But sober history
knows nothing of him until he reappears years later, an aged and
broken man, in a back street of Bristol. Here was living a certain
Hopperdown, who had been boatswain on the _Bonny Lass_ at the time
that she so regrettably lost her passengers overboard. He too had
been at Leeward Island, and may have somewhat wondered and
questioned as to the happenings during the brig's brief stay there.
He saw and recognized his old skipper hobbling along the Bristol
quays, and perhaps from pity took the shabby creature home with
him. Hopperdown dealt in sailors' slops, and had a snug room or
two behind the shop. Here for a while the former Captain Sampson
dwelt, and after a swift illness here he died. With the hand of
death upon him, his grim lips at last gave up their secret. With
stiffening fingers he traced a rough map, to refresh Hopperdown's
memory after the lapse of time since either had seen the
wave-beaten cliffs of Leeward Island. For Captain Sampson had
never been able to return to claim the treasure which he had left
to Bill Halliwell's silent guardianship. Somehow he had lost his
own vessel, and there would be rumors about, no doubt, which would
make it difficult for him to get another. If he had, indeed,
sailed with Bonito, he had kept his secret from his formidable
commander. Even as he had dealt with Bill Halliwell, so might
Bonito deal by him--or at least the lion's share must be yielded
to the pirate captain. And the passion of Captain Sampson's life
had come to be his gold--his hidden hoard on far-off Leeward
Island. It was his, now, all his. The only other who knew its
hiding-place, his former mate, had been killed in Havana in a
tavern brawl. The secret of the bright unattainable treasure was
all the captain's own. He dreamed of the doubloons, gloated over
them, longed for them with a ceaseless gnawing passion of desire.
And in the end he died, in Hopperdown's little shop in the narrow
Hopperdown, an aging man himself, and in his humble way contented,
fell straightway victim to the gold-virus. He sold all he had, and
bought passage in a sailing ship for Valparaiso, trusting that once
so far on the way he would find means to accomplish the rest. But
the raging of the fever in his thin old blood brought him to his
bed, and the ship sailed without him. Before she was midway in the
Atlantic Hopperdown was dead.
The old man died in the house of a niece, to whom by way of legacy
he left his map. For the satisfaction of his anxious mind, still
poring on the treasure, she wrote down what she could grasp of his
instructions, and then, being an unimaginative woman, gave the
matter little further heed. For years the map lay among other
papers in a drawer, and here it was at length discovered by her
son, himself a sailor. He learned from her its history, and having
been in the Pacific, and heard the tales and rumors that cling
about Leeward Island like the everlasting surf of its encompassing
seas, this grand-nephew of old Hopperdown's, by name David Jenkins,
became for the rest of his days a follower of the _ignis fatuus_.
An untaught, suspicious, grasping man, he rejected, or knew not how
to set about, the one course which offered the least hope, which
was to trade his secret for the means of profiting by it. AH his
restless, hungry life he spent in wandering up and down the seas,
ever on the watch for some dimly imagined chance by which he might
come at the treasure. And so at last he wandered into the London
hospital where he died.
And to me the wildest feature of the whole wild tale was that at
the last he should have parted with the cherished secret of a
lifetime to Miss Higglesby-Browne.
In a general way, every one of us knew this history. Even I had
had an outline of it from Cuthbert Vane. But so far nobody had
seen the map. And now we were to see it; the time that intervened
before that great event had already dwindled to minutes, to
But no; for Miss Browne arose and began to make a speech. The
beginning of it dealt in a large and generalizing manner with
comradeship and loyalty, and the necessity of the proper mental
attitude in approaching the business we had in hand. I did not
listen closely. The truth is, I wanted to see that map. Under the
spell of the island, I had almost begun to believe in the chest of
Suddenly I awoke with a start to the fact that Miss Browne was
talking about me. Yes, I, indubitably, was the Young Person whose
motives in attaching herself to the party were so at variance with
the amity and mutual confidence which filled all other breasts. It
was I who had sought to deprive the party of the presence, counsel
and support of a member lacking whom it would have been but a body
without a soul. It was I who had uttered words which were painful
and astounding to one conscious of unimpugnable motives. In the
days of toil to come, we were reminded, the Young Person, to wit,
myself, would have no share. She would be but skeptic, critic,
drone in the busy hive. Thus it was obvious that the Young Person
could not with any trace of justice claim part or lot in the
treasure. Were it not well, then, that the Young Person be
required to make formal and written renunciation of all interest in
the golden hoard soon to reward the faith and enterprise of the
Harding-Browne expedition? Miss Browne requested the sense of the
meeting on the matter.
Under the fire of this arraignment I sat hot-cheeked and
incredulous, while a general wave of agitation seemed to stir the
drowsy atmosphere. Aunt Jane was quivering, her round eyes fixed
on Miss Higglesby-Browne like a fascinated rabbit's on a serpent.
Mr. Hamilton H. Tubbs had pursed his lips to an inaudible whistle,
and alternately regarded the summits of the palms and stole swift
ferret-glances at the faces of the company. Captain Magnus had
taken a sheath-knife from his belt and was balancing it on one
finger, casting about him now and then a furtive, crooked,
roving look, to meet which made you feel like a party to some
hidden crime. Mr. Vane had remained for some time in happy
unconsciousness of the significance of Miss Browne's oration. It
was something to see it gradually penetrate to his perceptions,
vexing the alabaster brow with a faint wrinkle of perplexity, then
suffusing his cheeks with agonized and indignant blushes. "Oh, I
say, really, you know!" hovered in unspoken protest on his tongue.
He threw imploring looks at Mr. Shaw, who alone of all the party
sat imperturbable, except for a viciously bitten lip.
Miss Higglesby-Browne had drawn a deep breath, preparatory to
resuming her verbal ramble, but I sprang to my feet.
"Miss Browne," I said, in tones less coldly calm than I could have
wished, "if you have thought it necessary to--to orate at this
length merely to tell me that I am to have no share in this
ridiculous treasure of yours, you have wasted a great deal of
energy. In the first place, I don't believe in your treasure."
(Which, of course, despite my temporary lapse, I really didn't.)
"I think you are--sillier than any grown-up people I ever saw. In
the second place, anything you do find you are welcome to keep. Do
you think I came along with people who didn't want me, and have
turned my own aunt against me, for the sake of filthy lucre? Did I
come intentionally at all, or because I was shanghaied and couldn't
help myself? Aunt Jane!" I demanded, turning to my stricken
relative, who was gazing in anguish and doubt from Miss Browne to
me, "haven't you one spark left of family pride--I don't talk of
affection any longer--that you sit still and hear me made speeches
at in this fashion? Have you grown so sordid and grasping that you
can think of nothing but this blood-stained pirate gold?"
Aunt Jane burst into tears.
"Good gracious, Virginia," she wailed, "how shocking of you to say
such things! I am sure we all got along very pleasantly until you
came--and in that dreadfully sudden way. You might at least have
been considerate enough to wire beforehand. As to blood-stains,
there was a preparation your Aunt Susan had that got them out
beautifully--I remember the time the little boy's nose bled on the
drawing-room rug. But I should think just washing the gold would
do very well!"
It was impossible to feel that these remarks helped greatly to
clear the situation. I opened my mouth, but Miss Browne was
beforehand with me.
"Miss Virginia Harding has herself admitted that she has no just or
equitable claim to participate in the profits of this expedition--I
believe I give the gist of your words, Miss Harding?"
"Have it your own way," I said, shrugging.
"I move, then, Mr. Secretary"--Miss Browne inclined her head in a
stately manner toward Mr. Tubbs--"that you offer for Miss Virginia
Harding's signature the document prepared by you."
"Oh, I say!" broke out Mr. Vane suddenly, "I call this rotten, you
"In case of objection by any person," said Miss Browne loftily,
"the matter may be put to a vote. All those in favor say aye!"
An irregular fire of ayes followed. Mr. Tubbs gave his with a
cough meant so far as possible to neutralize its effect--with a
view to some future turning of the tables. Captain Magnus
responded with a sudden bellow, which caused him to drop the
gleaming knife within an inch of Aunt Jane's toe. Mr. Shaw said
briefly, "I think the distribution of the treasure, if any is
recovered, should be that agreed upon by the original members of
the party. Aye!"
Aunt Jane's assenting voice issued from the depths of her
handkerchief, which was rapidly becoming so briny and inadequate
that I passed her mine. From Cuthbert Vane alone there came a
steadfast no--and the Scotchman put a hand on the boy's shoulder
with a smile which was like sudden sunlight in a bleak sky.
Mr. Tubbs then produced a legal-looking document which I took to be
the original agreement of the members of the expedition. Beneath
their signatures he had inscribed a sort of codicil, by which I
relinquished all claim on any treasure recovered by the party. Mr.
Tubbs took evident pride in the numerous aforesaids and thereofs
and other rolling legal phrases of his composition, and Miss Browne
listened with satisfaction as he read it off, as though each word
had been a nail in the coffin of my hopes. I signed the clause in
a bold and defiant hand, under the attentive eyes of the company.
A sort of sigh went round, as though something of vast moment had
been concluded. And indeed it had, for now the way was clear for
I suppose that with a due regard for my dignity I should have risen
and departed. I had been so definitely relegated to the position
of outsider that to remain to witness the unveiling of the great
mystery seemed indecently intrusive. Let it be granted, then, that
I ought to have got up with stately grace and gone away. Only, I
did nothing of the sort. In spite of my exclusion from all its
material benefits, I had an amateur's appreciation of that map. I
felt that I should gloat over it. Perhaps of all those present I
alone, free from sordid hopes, would get the true romantic zest and
essence of it--
Covertly I watched the faces around me. Mr. Tubbs's eyes had grown
bright; he licked his dry lips. His nose, tip-tilted and slightly
bulbous, took on a more than usually roseate hue. Captain Magnus,
who was of a restless and jerky habit at the best of times, was
like a leashed animal scenting blood. Beneath his open shirt you
saw the quick rise and fall of his hairy chest. His lips, drawn
back wolfishly, displayed yellow, fang-like teeth. Under the
raw crude greed of the man you seemed to glimpse something
indescribably vulpine and ferocious.
The face of Dugald Shaw was controlled, but there was a slight
rigidity in its quiet. A pulse beat rapidly in his cheek. All
worldly good, all hope of place, power, independence, hung for him
on the contents of the small flat package, wrapped in oil-silk,
which Miss Browne was at this moment withdrawing from her pocket.
Only Cuthbert Vane, seated next to me, maintained without effort
his serenity. For him the whole affair belonged in the category
known as sporting, where a gentleman played his stake and accepted
with equanimity the issue.
As Miss Browne undid the oil-silk package everybody held his
breath, except poor Aunt Jane, who most inopportunely swallowed a
gnat and choked.
The dead sailor's legacy consisted of a single sheet of
time-stained paper. Two-thirds of the sheet was covered by a
roughly-drawn sketch in faded ink, giving the outline of the island
shores as we had seen them from the _Rufus Smith_. Here was the
cove, with the name it bears in the Admiralty charts--Lantern
Bay--written in, and a dotted line indicating the channel. North
of the bay the shore line was carried for only a little distance.
On the south was shown the long tongue of land which protects the
anchorage, and which ends in some detached rocks or islets. At a
point on the seaward side of the tongue of land, about on a line
with the head of the bay, the sketch ended in a swift backward
stroke of the pen which gave something the effect of a cross.
To all appearance the map was merely to give Hopperdown his
directions for entering the cove. There was absolutely no mark
upon it to show where the treasure had been buried.
Now for the writing on the sheet below the map. It was in another
hand than that which had written _Lantern Bay_ across the face of
the cove, and which, though labored, was precise and clear. This
other was an uneven, wavering scrawl:
_He sed it is in a Cave with 2 mouths near by the grave of Bill
Halliwell wich was cut down for he new to much. He sed you can
bring a boat to the cave at the half Tide but beware the turn for
the pull is strong. He sed to find the Grave again look for the
stone at the head marked B. H. and a Cross Bones. In the Chist is
gold Dubloons, a vast lot, also a silver Cross wich he sed leve for
the Grave for he sed Bill walks and thats unlucky_.
That was all. A fairly clear direction for any friend who had
attended the obsequies of Bill and knew where to look for the stone
marked B. H. and a cross-bones, but to perfect strangers it was
A blank look crept into the intent faces about the table.
"It--it don't happen to say in more deetail jest precisely where
that cave might be looked for?" inquired Mr. Tubbs hopefully.
"In more detail?" repeated Miss Browne challengingly. "Pray, Mr.
Tubbs, what further detail could be required?"
"A good deal more, I am afraid," remarked the Scotchman grimly.
Miss Browne whirled upon him. In her cold eye a spark had kindled.
And suddenly I had a new vision of her. I saw her no longer as the
deluder of Aunt Jane, but as herself the deluded. Her belief in
the treasure was an obsession. This map was her talisman, her way
of escape from an existence which had been drab and dull enough, I
"Mr. Shaw, we are given not one, but several infallible landmarks.
The cave has two mouths, it can be approached by sea, it is IN the
immediate neighborhood of the grave of William Halliwell, which is
to be recognized by its headstone. As the area of our search is
circumscribed by the narrow limits of this island, I fail to see
what further marks of identification can be required."
"A grave ninety years old and hidden beneath a tropical jungle is
not an easy thing to find, Miss Browne. As to caves, I doubt but
they are numerous. The formation here makes it more than likely.
And there'll be more than one with two mouths, I'm thinking."
"Mr. Shaw"--Miss Browne gave the effect of drawing herself up in
line of battle--"I feel that I must give expression to the thought
which comes to me at this moment. It is this--that if the members
of this party are to be chilled by carping doubts, the wave of
enthusiasm which has floated us thus far must inevitably recede,
leaving us flotsam on a barren shore. What can one weak
woman--pardon, my unfaltering Jane!--two women, achieve against the
thought of failure firmly held by him to whom, we looked to lead us
boldly in our forward dash? Mr. Shaw, this is no time for crawling
earthworm tactics. It is with the bold and sweeping glance of the
eagle that we must survey this island, until, the proper point
discerned, we swoop with majestic flight upon our predestined goal!"
Miss Browne was somewhat exhausted by this effort, and paused for
breath, whereupon Mr. Tubbs, anxious to retrieve his recent
blunder, seized with dexterity this opportunity.
"I get you. Miss Browne, I get you," said Mr. Tubbs with
conviction. "Victory ain't within the grasp of any individual that
carries a heart like a cold pancake in his bosom. What this party
needs is pep, and if them that was calculated on to supply it
don't, why there's others which is not given to blowin' their own
horn, but which might at a pinch dash forward like Arnold--no
relation to Benedict--among the spears. I may be rather a man or
thought than action, ma'am, and at present far from my native
heath, which is the financial centers of the country, but if I
remember right it was Ulysses done the dome-work for the Greeks,
while certain persons that was depended on sulked in their tents.
Miss Higglesby-Browne, you can count--count, I say--on old H. H.!"
"I thank you, Mr. Tubbs, I thank you!" replied Miss Browne with
emotion. As for Aunt Jane, she gazed upon the noble countenance of
Mr. Tubbs with such ecstatic admiration that her little nose
quivered like a guinea-pig's.
THE CAVE WITH TWO MOUTHS
Obscure as were the directions which Hopperdown's niece had
taken from his dying lips, one point at least was clear--the
treasure-cave opened on the sea. This seemed an immense
simplification of the problem, until you discovered that the great
wall of cliffs was honeycombed with fissures. The limestone rock
of which the island was composed was porous as a sponge. You could
stand on the edge of the cliffs and watch the green water slide in
and out of unseen caverns at your feet, and hear the sullen thunder
of the waves that broke far in under the land.
One of the boats which had conveyed us from the _Rufus Smith_ had
been left with us, and in it Mr. Shaw, with the Honorable Cuthbert
and Captain Magnus, made a preliminary voyage of discovery. This
yielded the information above set down, plus, however, the
thrilling and significant fact that a cave seemingly predestined to
be the hiding-place of treasure, and moreover a cave with the
specified two openings, ran under the point which protected the
anchorage on the south, connecting the cove with the sea.
Although in their survey of the coast the voyagers had covered only
a little distance on either side of the entrance to the bay, the
discovery of this great double-doored sea-chamber under the point
turned all thoughts from further explorations. Only the Scotchman
remained exasperatingly calm and declined to admit that the
treasure was as good as found. He refused to be swept off his feet
even by Mr. Tubbs's undertaking to double everybody's money within
a year, through the favor of certain financial parties with whom he
"I'll wait till I see the color of my money before I reckon the
interest on it," he remarked. "It's true the cave would be a
likely and convenient place for hiding the chest; the question is:
Wouldn't it be too likely and convenient? Sampson would maybe not
choose the spot of all others where the first comer who had got
wind of the story would be certain to look."
Miss Browne, at this, exchanged darkly significant glances with her
two main supporters, and Mr. Tubbs came to the fore with an offer
to clinch matters by discovering the grave of Bill Halliwell, with
its marked stone, on the point above the cave within twenty-four
"Look for it if you like," replied Mr. Shaw impatiently. "But
don't forget that your tombstone is neither more nor less than such
a boulder as there are thousands of on the island, and buried under
the tropic growth of ninety years besides."
Miss Browne murmured to Aunt Jane, in a loud aside, that she well
understood now why the eminent explorer had _not_ discovered the
South Pole, and Aunt Jane murmured back that to her there had
always been something so sacred about a tombstone that she couldn't
help wondering if Mr. Shaw's attitude were really quite reverential.
"Well, friends," remarked Mr. Tubbs, "there's them that sees
nothin' but the hole in the doughnut, and there's them that see the
doughnut that's around the hole. I ain't ashamed to say that old
H. H. is in the doughnut class. Why, the Old Man himself used to
remark--I guess it ain't news to some here about me bein' on the
inside with most of the leadin' financial lights of the country--he
used to remark, 'Tubbs has it in him to bull the market on a Black
Friday.' Ladies, I ain't one that's inclined to boast, but I jest
want to warn you not to be _too_ astonished when H. H. makes
acquaintance with that tombstone, which I'm willin' to lay he does
"Well, good luck to you," said the grim Scot, "and let me likewise
warn all hands not to be too astonished if we find that the
treasure is not in the cave. But I'll admit it is as good a place
as any for beginning the search, and there will be none gladder
than I if it turns out that I was no judge of the workings of
Captain Sampson's mind."
The cave which was now the center of our hopes--I say our, because
somehow or other I found myself hoping and fearing along with the
rest, though carefully concealing it--ran under the point at its
farther end. The sea-mouth of the cave was protected from the full
swell of the ocean by some huge detached rocks rising a little way
offshore, which caught and broke the waves. The distance was about
sixty feet from mouth to mouth, and back of this transverse passage
a great vaulted chamber stretched far under the land. The walls of
the chamber rose sheer to a height of fifteen feet or more, when a
broad ledge broke their smoothness. From this ledge opened cracks
and fissures under the roof, suggesting in the dim light infinite
possibilities in the way of hiding-places. Besides these, a wide
stretch of sand at the upper end of the chamber, which was bare at
low tide, invited exploration. At high water the sea flooded the
cavern to its farthest extremity and beat upon the walls. Then
there was a great surge and roar of waters through the passage from
mouth to mouth, and at turn of tide--in hopeful agreement with the
legend--the suck and commotion of a whirlpool, almost, as the sea
drew back its waves. Now and again, it was to prove, even the
water-worn pavement between the two archways was left bare, and one
could walk dry-shod along the rocks under the high land of the
point from the beach to the cave. But this was at the very bottom
of the ebb. Mostly the lower end of the cave was flooded, and the
explorers went back and forth in the boat.
A certain drawback to boating in our island waters was the presence
of hungry hordes of sharks. You might forget them for a moment and
sit happily trailing your fingers overboard, and then a huge moving
shadow would darken the water, and you saw the ripple cut by a
darting fin and the flash of a livid belly as the monster rolled
over, ready for his mouthful. I could not but admire the
thoughtfulness of Mr. Tubbs, who since his submergence on the
occasion of arriving had been as delicate about water as a cat, in
committing himself to strictly land operations in the search for
Bill Halliwell's tombstone.
Owing, I suppose, to the stoniness of the soil, the woods upon the
point were less dense than elsewhere, and made an agreeable parade
ground for Mr. Tubbs and his two companions--for he was accompanied
in these daring explorations with unswerving fidelity by Aunt Jane
and Miss Higglesby-Browne. Each of the three carried an umbrella,
and they went solemnly in single file, Mr. Tubbs in the lead to
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