Part 2 out of 4
ward off peril in the shape of snakes or jungle beasts.
"To think of what that man exposes himself to for our sakes!" Aunt
Jane said to me with emotion. "With no protection but his own
bravery in case anything were to spring out!"
But nothing ever did spring out but an angry old sow with a litter
of piglets, before which the three umbrellas beat a rapid retreat.
The routine of life on the island was now established for every one
but me, who belonged neither to the land nor sea divisions, but
dangled forlornly between them like Mahomet's coffin. Aunt Jane
had made a magnanimous effort to attach me to the umbrella
contingent, and I had felt almost disposed to accept, in order to
witness the resultant delight of Miss Higglesby-Browne. But on
second thoughts I declined, even though Aunt Jane was thus left
unguarded to the blandishments of Mr. Tubbs, preferring, like the
little bird in the play, to flock all alone, except when the
Honorable Cuthbert could escape from his toil in the cave.
What with the genius of Cookie and the fruitfulness of our island,
not to speak of supplies from the Army and Navy Stores, we lived
like sybarites, There were fish from stream and sea, cocoanuts and
bananas and oranges from the trees in the clearing. I had hopes of
yams and breadfruit also, but if they grew on Leeward none of us
had a speaking acquaintance with them. Cookie did wonders with the
pigs that were shot and brought in to him, though I never could sit
down with appetite to a massacred infant served up on a platter,
which is just what little pigs look like,
"Jes' yo' cas' yo' eye on dis yere innahcent," Cookie would
request, as he placed the suckling before Mr. Tubbs. "Tendah as a
new-bo'n babe, he am. Jes' lak he been tucked up to sleep by his
mammy. Sho' now, how yo' got de heart to stick de knife in him,
It was significant that Mr. Tubbs, after occupying for a day or two
an undistinguished middle place at the board, had somehow slid into
the carver's post at the head of the table. Flanking him were the
two ladies, so that the Land Forces formed a solid and imposing
phalanx. Everybody else had a sense of sitting in outer darkness,
particularly I, whom fate had placed opposite Captain Magnus.
Since landing on the island, Captain Magnus had forsworn the
effeminacy of forks. Loaded to the hilt, his knife would approach
his cavernous mouth and disappear in it. Yet when it emerged
Captain Magnus was alive. Where did it go? This was a question
that agitated me daily.
The history of Captain Magnus was obscure. It was certain that he
had his captain's papers, though how he had mastered the science of
navigation sufficiently to obtain them was a problem. Though he
held a British navigator's license, he did not appear to be an
Englishman. None of us ever knew, I think, from what country he
originally came. His rough, mumbling, unready speech might have
been picked up in any of the seaports of the English-speaking
world. His manners smacked of the forecastle, and he was
altogether so difficult to classify that I used to toy with the
theory that he had murdered the real Captain Magnus for his papers
and was masquerading in his character.
The captain, as Mr. Vane had remarked, was Miss Browne's own find.
Before the objections of Mr. Shaw--evidently a Negative Influence
from the beginning--had caused her to abandon the scheme. Miss
Browne had planned to charter a vessel in New York and sail around
the Horn to the island. While nursing this project she had formed
an extensive acquaintance with persons frequenting the New York
water-front, among whom was Captain Magnus. As I heard her remark,
he was the one nautical character whom she found sympathetic, by
which I judge that the others were skeptical and rude. Being
sympathetic, Captain Magnus found it an easy matter to attach
himself to the expedition--or perhaps it was Violet who annexed
him. I don't know which.
Mr. Vane used to view the remarkable gastronomic feats of Captain
Magnus with the innocent and quite unscornful curiosity of a little
boy watching the bears in the zoo. Evidently he felt that a
horizon hitherto bounded mainly by High Staunton Manor was being
greatly enlarged. I knew now that the Honorable Cuthbert's father
was a baron, and that he was the younger of two sons, and that the
elder was an invalid, so that the beautiful youth was quite certain
in the long run to be Lord Grasmere. I had remained stolid under
this information, feelingly imparted by Aunt Jane. I had refused
to ask questions about High Staunton Manor. For already there was
a vast amount of superfluous chaperoning being done. I couldn't
speak to the b. y.--which is short for beautiful youth--without
Violet's cold gray eye being trained upon us. And Aunt Jane grew
flustered directly, and I could see her planning an embroidery
design of coronets, or whatever is the proper headgear of barons,
for my trousseau. Mr. Tubbs had essayed to be facetious on the
matter, but I had coldly quenched him.
But Mr. Shaw was much the worst. My most innocent remark to the
beautiful youth appeared to rouse suspicion in his self-constituted
guardian. If he did not say in so many words, _Beware, dear lad,
she's stringing you_! or whatever the English of that is, it was
because nobody could so wound the faith in the b. y.'s candid eyes.
But to see the fluttering, anxious wing the Scotchman tried to
spread over that babe of six-feet-two you would have thought me a
man-eating tigress. And I laughed, and flaunted my indifference in
his sober face, and went away with bitten lips to the hammock they
had swung for me among the palms--
The Honorable Cuthbert had a voice, a big, rich, ringing baritone
like floods of golden honey. He had also a ridiculous little
ukulele, on which he accompanied himself with a rhythmic strumming.
When, like the sudden falling of a curtain, dusky, velvet,
star-spangled, the wonderful tropic night came down, we used to
build a little fire upon the beach and sit around it. Then
Cuthbert Vane would sing. Of all his repertory, made up of
music-hall ditties, American ragtime, and sweet old half-forgotten
ballads, we liked best a certain wild rollicking song, picked up I
don't know where, but wonderfully effective on that island where
Davis, and Benito Bonito, and many another of the roving
gentry--not to mention that less picturesque villain, Captain
Sampson of the _Bonny Lass_--had resorted between their flings with
Oh, who's, who's with me for the free life of a rover?
Oh, who's, who's with me for to sail the broad seas over?
In every port we have gold to fling,
And what care we though the end is to swing?
Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
So live it free as a rover may.
Oh, who's, who's with me at Fortune's call to wander?
Then, lads, to sea--and ashore with gold to squander!
We'll set our course for the Spanish Main
Where the great plate-galleons steer for Spain.
Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
Then live it free as a rover may.
Then leave toil and cold to the lubbers that will bear it.
The world's fat with gold, and we're the lads to share it.
What though swift death is the rover's lot?
We've played the game and we'll pay the shot.
Sing ho, sing hey, this life's but a day,
Then live it free as a rover may.
"Sing ho, sing hey!" echoed the audience in a loud discordant roar.
Cookie over his dishpan flinging it back in a tremendous basso.
Cookie was the noble youth's only musical rival, and when he had
finished his work we would invite him to join us at the fire and
regale us with plantation melodies and camp-meeting hymns. The
negro's melodious thunder mingled with the murmur of wind and wave
like a kindred note, and the strange plaintive rhythm of his
artless songs took one back and back, far up the stream of life,
until a fire upon a beach seemed one's ancestral hearth and home.
I realized that life on Leeward Island might rapidly become a
process of reversion.
A BABBIT'S FOOT
It was fortunate that Cookie knew nothing of the solitary grave
somewhere on the island, with its stone marked with B. H. and a
cross-bones, nor that the inhabitant thereof was supposed to walk.
If he had, I think the strange spectacle of a lone negro in a small
boat rowing lustily for the American continent might soon have been
witnessed on the Pacific by any eyes that were there to see. And
we could ill have spared either boat or cook.
Yet even though unvexed by this gruesome knowledge, after two or
three days I noticed that Cookie was ill at ease. As the leisure
member of the party, I enjoyed more of Cookie's society than the
rest. On this occasion while the morning was still in its early
freshness he was permitting me to make fudge. But his usual
joviality was gone. I saw that he glanced over his shoulder at
intervals, muttering darkly to himself. Also that a rabbit's foot
was slung conspicuously about his neck.
Having made my fudge and set the pan on a stone in the stream to
cool, I was about to retire with a view to conducting a limited
exploring expedition of my own. The immunity of the umbrellas and
the assurances of Mr. Shaw--not personally directed to me, of
course; the armed truce under which we lived did not permit of
that--had convinced me that I had not to dread anything more
ferocious than the pigs, and the wildest of them would retire
before a stick or stone. Besides, I boasted a little automatic,
which I carried strapped about my waist in a businesslike manner.
Mr. Vane had almost got me to the point where I could shoot it off
without shutting my eyes.
Thus equipped, I was about to set off into the woods. Secretly I
had been rehearsing a dramatic scene, with myself in the leading
_Treasure-seekers assembled, including a cold and cynical Scot.
Enter Virginia Harding. She wears an expression elaborately
casual, but there is a light of concealed triumph in her eye_.
_Aunt Jane_: You thoughtless child, where have you been? Really,
my state of mind about you--etc., etc.
_V. H._: Only for a stroll, dear aunt. And by the way, in case
it's of interest to any one, I might mention that during my walk I
fell over a boulder which happened to be marked with the letters B.
H. and a cross-bones.
_Immense commotion and excitement. Every gaze turned to V. H.
(including that of cynical Scot) while on every cheek is the blush
of shame at remembering that this is the same Young Person whom
Miss Higglesby-Browne was permitted to cut off by treaty from the
ranks of the authorised treasure-seekers_.
Lured by this pleasing vision I had turned my back on Cookie and
the camp, when I was arrested by an exclamation:
I turned to, find Cookie gazing after me with an expression which,
in the familiar phrase of fiction, I could not interpret, though
among its ingredients were doubt and anguish. Cookie, too, looked
pale. I don't in the least know how he managed it, but that was
the impression he conveyed, dusky as he was.
"Miss Jinny, it mos' look lak yo' 'bout to go perambulatin' in dese
"I am, Cookie," I admitted.
The whites of Cookie's eyes became alarmingly conspicuous. Drawing
near in a stealthy manner he whispered:
"Yo' bettah not, Miss Jinny!"
"Better not?" I repeated, staring.
He answered with a portentous head-shake.
"Oh, nonsense, Cookie!" I said impatiently, "There's not a thing on
the island but the pigs!"
"Miss Jinny," he solemnly replied, "dey's pigs and pigs."
"Yes, but pigs _is_ pigs, you know," I answered, laughing. I was
about to walk on, but once more Cookie intervened.
"Dey's pigs and pigs, chile--live ones and--dead ones.
"Dead ones? Of course--haven't we been eating them?"
"Yo' won't neveh eat dis yere kind o' dead pig, Miss Jinny.
It's--it's a ha'nt!"
The murder was out. Cookie leaned against a cocoa-palm and wiped
his ebon brow.
Persistently questioned, he told at last how, today and yesterday,
arising in the dim dawn to build his fire before the camp was
stirring, he had seen lurking at the edge of the clearing a white
four-footed shape. It was a pig, yet not a pig; its ghostly hue,
its noiseless movements, divided it from all proper mundane porkers
by the dreadful gulf which divides the living from the dead. The
first morning Cookie, doubtful of his senses, had flung a stone and
the spectral Thing had vanished like a shadow. On its second
appearance, having had a day and a night for meditation, he had
known better than to commit such an outrage upon the possessor of
ghostly powers, and had resorted to prayer instead. This had
answered quite as well, for the phantom pig had dissolved like the
morning mists. While the sun blazed, what with his devotions and
his rabbit's foot and a cross of twigs nailed to a tree. Cookie
felt a fair degree of security. But his teeth chattered in his
head at the thought of approaching night. Meanwhile he could not
in conscience permit me to venture forth into the path of this
horror, which might, for all we knew, be lurking in the jungle
shadows even through the daylight hours. Also, though he did not
avow this motive, I believe he found my company very reassuring.
It is immensely easier to face a ghost in the sustaining presence
of other flesh and blood.
"Cookie," said I sternly, "you've been drinking too much
cocoanut-milk and it has gone to your head. What you saw was just
a plain ordinary pig."
Cookie disputed this, citing the pale hue of the apparition as
against the fact that all our island pigs were black.
"Then there happens to be a blond pig among them that we haven't
seen," I assured him.
But the pig of flesh, Cookie reminded me, was a heavy lumbering
creature. This Shape was silent as a moonbeam. There was also
about it a dreadful appearance of stealth and secrecy--Cookie's
eyes bulged at the recollection. Nothing living but a witch's cat
could have disappeared from Cookie's vision as did the ghostly pig.
For a moment I wavered in my determination. What if the island had
its wild creatures after all? But neither lynx nor panther nor any
other beast of prey is white, except a polar bear, and it would be
unusual to meet one on a tropical island.
I decided that Cookie's pig was after all a pig, though still in
the flesh. I thought I remembered having seen quite fair pigs,
which would pass for white with a frightened negro in the dim light
of dawn. So far only black pigs had been visible, but perhaps the
light ones were shyer and kept to the remote parts of the island.
I consoled Cookie as best I could by promising to cross my fingers
if I heard or saw anything suspicious, and struck out into the
For all my brave words to Cookie, I had no intention of going very
far afield. From the shore of the cove I had observed that the
ground behind the clearing rose to the summit of a low ridge,
perhaps four hundred feet in height, which jutted from the base of
the peak. From this ridge I thought I might see something more of
the island than the limited environment of Lantern Bay.
As the woods shut out the last glimpse of the white tents in the
clearing, as even the familiar sound of the surf died down to a
faint, half-imagined whisper mingling with the rustling of the
palms overhead, I experienced a certain discomfort, which persons
given to harsh and unqualified terms might have called fear. It
seemed to me as if a very strong cord at the rear of my belt were
jerking me back toward the inglorious safety of camp. Fortunately
there came to me a vision of the three umbrellas and of Mr. Tubbs
heroically exposing his devoted bosom to non-existent perils, and I
resolved that the superior smiles with which I had greeted Aunt
Jane's recital should not rise up to shame me now. I fingered my
automatic and marched on up the hill, trying not to gasp when a
leaf rustled or a cocoanut dropped in the woods.
There was little undergrowth between the crowding trunks of the
cocoa-palms. Far overhead their fronds mingled in a green thatch,
through which a soft light filtered down. Here and there the close
ranks of the palms were broken by an outcropping of rock, glaring
up hot and sunbeaten at a distant patch of the sky. The air of the
forest was still and languid, its heat tempered like that of a room
with drawn blinds.
I gained the summit of the ridge, and stood upon a bare rock
platform, scantily sheltered by a few trees, large shrubs rather,
with a smooth waxy leaf of vivid green. On the left rose the great
mass of the peak. From far above among its crags a beautiful foamy
waterfall came hurtling down. Before me the ground fell away to
the level of the low plateau, or mesa, as we say in California,
which made up the greater part of the island. Cutting into the
green of this was the gleaming curve of a little bay, which in Mr.
Shaw's chart of the island showed slightly larger than our cove.
Part of it was hidden by the shoulder of the peak, but enough was
visible to give a beautiful variety to the picture, which was set
in a silver frame of sea.
I had not dreamed of getting a view so glorious from the little
eminence of the ridge. Here was an item of news to take back to
camp. Having with great originality christened the place Lookout,
I turned to go. And as I turned I saw a shape vanish into the
It was an animal, not a human shape. And it was light-footed and
swift and noiseless--and it was white. It had, indeed, every
distinguishing trait of Cookie's phantom pig. Only it was not a
pig. My brief shadowy glimpse of it had told me that. I knew what
it was not, but what it was I could not, as I stood there rooted,
Would it attack me, or should I only die of fright? I wondered if
my heart were weak, and hoped it was, so that I should not live to
feel the teeth of the unknown Thing sink in my flesh. I thought of
my revolver and after an infinity of time managed to draw it from
the case. My fingers seemed at once nervelessly limp and woodenly
rigid. This was not at all the dauntless front with which I had
dreamed of meeting danger. I had fancied myself with my automatic
making a rather pretty picture as a young Amazon--but I had now a
dreadful fear that my revolver might spasmodically go off and wound
the Thing, and then even if it had meditated letting me go it would
certainly attack me. Nevertheless I clung to my revolver as to my
I began to edge away crab-wise into the wood. Like a metronome I
said to myself over and over monotonously, _don't run, don't run_!
Dim legends about the power of the human eye floated through my
brain. But how quell the creature with my eye when I could not see
it? As for the hopeless expedient of screaming, I hadn't courage
for it. I was silent, as I would fain have been invisible. Only
my dry lips kept muttering soundlessly, _don't run, don't run_!
I did not run. Instead, I stepped on a smooth surface of rock and
slid downhill like a human toboggan until I fetched up against a
dead log. I discovered it to be a dead log after a confused
interval during which I vaguely believed myself to have been
swallowed by an alligator. While the alligator illusion endured I
must have lain comatose and immovable. Indeed, when my senses
began to come back I was still quite inert. I experienced that
curious tranquillity which is said to visit those who are actually
within the jaws of death. There I lay prone, absolutely at the
mercy of the mysterious white prowler of the forest--and I did not
care. The whole petty business of living seemed a long way behind
Languidly at last I opened my eyes. Within three yards of me, in
the open rock-paved glade where I had fallen, stood the Thing.
As softly as I had opened my eyes I shut them. I had an annoyed
conviction that they were deceiving me--a very unworthy thing for
eyes to do that were soon to be closed in death. Again I lifted my
lids. Yes, there it was--only now it had put an ear back and was
sniffing at me with a mingling of interest and apprehension..
The strange beast of the jungle was a white bull-terrier.
Abruptly I sat up. The terrier gave a startled sidewise bound, but
paused again and stood regarding me.
"Here, pup! Here, pup! Nice, nice doggums!" I said in soothing
The dog gave a low whine and stood shivering, eager but afraid. I
continued my blandishments. Little by little the forlorn creature
drew nearer, until I put out a cautious hand and stroked his ears.
He dodged affrightedly, but presently crept back again. Soon his
head was against my knee, and he was devouring my hand with avid
caresses. Some time, before his abandonment on the island, he had
been a well-brought-up and petted animal. Months or years of wild
life had estranged him from humanity, yet at the human touch the
old devotion woke again.
The thing now was to lure him back to camp and restore him to the
happy service of his gods. I rose and picked up my pistol, which
had regained my confidence by not going off when I dropped it.
With another alluring, "Here, doggums!" I started on my way. He
shrank, trembled, hesitated, then was after me with a bound. So we
went on through the forest. As we neared the camp the four-footed
castaway's diffidence increased. I had to pet and coax. But at
last I brought him triumphantly across the Rubicon of the little
stream, and marched him into camp under the astounded eyes of
At sight of the negro the dog growled softly and crouched against
my skirt. Cookie stood like an effigy of amazement done in black
"Fo' de Lawd's sake, Miss Jinny," he burst out at last, "am dat de
"It was, Cookie, but I changed him into a live dog by crossing my
fingers. Mind your rabbit's foot. He might eat it, and then very
likely we'd have a ghost on our hands again. But I think he'll
stay a dog for the present."
"Yo' go 'long, Miss Jinny," said Cookie valiantly. "Yo' think I
scared of any ghos' what lower hissel to be a live white mong'ol
dog? Yere, yo' ki-yi, yo' bettah mek friends with ol' Cookie,
'cause he got charge o' de grub. Yere's a li'le fat ma'ow bone
what mebbe come off'n yo' own grandchile, but yo' ain' goin' to
mind dat now yo' is trans formulated dis yere way." And evidently
the reincarnated ghost-pig did not.
With the midday reunion my hour of distinction arrived. The tale
of the ghost-pig was told from the beginning by Cookie, with high
tributes to my courage in sallying forth in pursuit of the phantom.
Even those holding other views of the genesis of the white dog were
amazed at his presence on the island. In spite of Cookie's
aspersions, the creature was no mongrel, but a thoroughbred of
points. Not by any means a dog which some little South American
coaster might have abandoned here when it put in for water. The
most reasonable hypothesis seemed to be that he had belonged to the
copra gatherer, and was for some reason left behind on his master's
departure. But who that had loved a dog enough to make it the
companion of his solitude would go away and leave it? The thing
seemed to me incredible. Yet here, otherwise unaccounted for, was
the corporeal presence of the dog.
I had named the terrier in the first ten minutes of our
acquaintance. Crusoe was the designation by which he was presented
to his new associates. It was good to see how swiftly the habits
of civilization returned to him. Soon he was getting under foot
and courting caresses as eagerly as though all his life he had
lived on human bounty, instead of bringing down his own game in
royal freedom. Yet with all his well-bred geniality there was no
wandering of his allegiance. I was his undisputed queen and lady
Crusoe, then, became a member of the party in good and regular
standing--much more so than his mistress. Mr. Tubbs compared him
not unfavorably with a remarkable animal of his own, for which the
New York Kennel Club had bidden him name his own price, only to be
refused with scorn. Violet tolerated him. Aunt Jane called him a
dear weenty pettums love. Captain Magnus kicked him when he
thought I was not looking, Cuthbert Vane chummed with him in
frankest comradeship, and Mr. Shaw softened toward him to an extent
which made me mainly murmur _Love me, love my dog_--only reversed.
Not that I _in the least_ wanted to be loved, only you feel it an
impertinence in a person who so palpably does not love you to
endeavor to engage the affections of your bull-terrier.
As to Cookie, he magnanimously consented to overlook Crusoe's
dubious past as a ghost-pig, and fed him so liberally that the
terrier's lean and graceful form threatened to assume the contours
of a beer-keg.
AN EXCURSION AND AN ALARM
As the only person who had yet discovered anything on the island, I
was now invested with a certain importance. Also, I had a
playfellow and companion for future walks, in lieu of Cuthbert
Vane, held down tight to the thankless toil of treasure-hunting by
his stem taskmaster. But at the same time I was provided with an
annoying, because unanswerable, question which had lodged at the
back of my mind like a crumb in the throat:
By what strange chance had the copra gatherer gone away and left
Crusoe on the island?
Since the discovery of Crusoe the former inhabitant of the cabin in
the clearing had been much in my thoughts. I had been dissatisfied
with him from the beginning, first, because he was not a pirate,
and also because he had left behind no relic more fitting than a
washtub. Not a locket, not a journal, not his own wasted form
stretched upon a pallet--
I had expressed these sentiments to Cuthbert Vane, who replied that
in view of the washtub it was certain that the hermit of the island
had not been a pirate, as he understood they never washed. I said
neither did any orthodox hermit, to which Mr. Vane rejoined that he
probably was not orthodox but a Dissenter. He said Dissenters were
so apt to be peculiar, don't you know?
One morning, instead of starting directly after breakfast for the
cave, Mr. Shaw busied himself in front of the supply tent with
certain explosives which were to be used in the digging operations
later. The neighborhood of these explosives was a great trial to
Aunt Jane, who was constantly expecting them to go off. I rather
expected it too, and used to shudder at the thought that if we all
went soaring heavenward together we might come down inextricably
mixed. Then when the Rufus Smith returned and they tried to sort
us out before interment, I might have portions of Violet, for
instance, attributed to me. In that case I felt that, like Bill
Halliwell, I should walk.
Having inquired of the Honorable Cuthbert and found that for an
hour or two the boat would not be in requisition, I permitted the
beautiful youth to understand that I would not decline an
invitation to be rowed about the cove. Mr. Shaw had left his
marine glasses lying about, and I had been doing some exploring
with them. Under the great cliffs on the north shore of the bay I
had seen an object that excited my curiosity. It seemed to be the
hull of a small vessel, lying on the narrow strip of rocks and sand
under the cliff. Now wreckage anywhere fills me with sad and
romantic thoughts, but on the shore of a desolate island even a
barrel-hoop seems to suffer a sea-change into something rich and
strange. I therefore commanded the b. y. to row me over to the
spot where the derelict lay.
I lay back idly in the stern as the boat skimmed over the smooth
water beneath the strokes of my splendid oarsman. More than ever
he looked like the island god. Every day he grew more brown and
brawny, more superb in his physical vigor. But his hands, once so
beautiful, were getting rough and hard with toil. There was a
great raw bruise on his arm. I exclaimed pityingly.
"Oh, it's nothing. We get knocked about a bit by the sea in the
cave now and then."
"You mean you are risking your lives every day for the sake of this
legendary treasure that you have no _reasonable_ reason to suppose
"Perhaps not," he admitted, "but then it's such good fun looking,
"That's according to one's idea of fun," I said ironically.
"Oh, well, a chap can't spend his days on flowery beds of ease, of
course. Really, I find this story-book kind of thing we're doing
is _warm stuff_, as you Americans say. And then there's
Shaw--think of the difference it will make to the dear old chap if
we find the gold--buy a ship of his own and snap his fingers at the
P. & O."
"And you'll go along as cabin-boy or something?" "'Fraid not," he
said quite simply. "A chap has his bit to do at home, you know."
The cliffs on the north shore of the cove were considerably higher
than on the other side. The wreck lay close in, driven high upon
the narrow shelf of rocks and sand at the base of the sheer ascent.
Sand had heaped up around her hull and flung itself across her deck
like a white winding-sheet. Surprisingly, the vessel was a very
small one, a little sloop, indeed, much like the fragile
pleasure-boats that cluster under the Sausalito shore at home. The
single mast had been broken off short, and the stump of the
bowsprit was visible, like a finger beckoning for rescue from the
crawling sand. She was embedded most deeply at the stem, and
forward of the sand-heaped cockpit the roof of the small cabin was
"Poor forlorn little boat!" I said. "What in the world do you
suppose brought such a mite of a thing to this unheard-of spot?"
"Perhaps she belonged to the copra chap. One man could handle her."
"What would he want with her? A small boat like this is better for
fishing and rowing about the cove."
"Perhaps she brought him here from Panama, though he couldn't have
counted on taking back a very bulky cargo."
"Then why leave her strewn about on the rocks? And besides"--here
the puzzle of Crusoe recurred to me and seemed to link itself with
this--"then how did he get away himself?"
But my oarsman was much more at home on the solid ground of fact
than on the uncharted waters of the hypothetical.
"Don't know, I'm sure," he returned uninterestedly. Evidently the
hermit had got away, so why concern one's self about the method? I
am sure the Light Brigade must have been made up of Cuthbert Vanes.
"Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die--"
We rowed in close under the port bow of the sloop, and on the rail
I made out a string of faded letters. I began excitedly to spell
"I--s--l--oh, _Island Queen_! You see she did belong here.
Probably she brought the original porcine Adam and Eve to the
"Luckily forgot the snake, though!" remarked the Honorable Bertie
with unlooked-for vivacity. For so far Aunt Jane's trembling
anticipations had been unfulfilled by the sight of a single snake,
a fact laid by me to the credit of St. Patrick and by Cookie to
that of the pigs.
"Snakes 'd jes' be oysters on de half shell to dem pigs," declared
As we rowed away from the melancholy little derelict I saw that
near by a narrow gully gave access to the top of the cliff, and I
resolved that I would avail myself of this path to visit the
_Island Queen_ again. My mind continued to dwell upon the unknown
figure of the copra gatherer. Perhaps the loss of his sloop had
condemned him to weary months or years of solitude upon the island,
before the rare glimmer of a sail or the trail of a steamer's smoke
upon the horizon gladdened his longing eyes. Hadn't he grown very
tired of pork, and didn't his soul to this day revolt at a ham
sandwich? What would he say if he ever discovered that he might
have brought away a harvest of gold instead of copra from the
island? Last but not least, did not his heart and conscience, if
he by chance possessed them, ache horribly at the thought of the
Suddenly I turned to Cuthbert Vane.
"How do you know, really, that he ever did leave the island?" I
"Who--the copra chap? Well, why else was the cabin cleared out so
carefully--no clothes left about or anything?"
"That's true," I acknowledged. The last occupant of the hut had
evidently made a very deliberate and orderly business of packing up
We drifted about the cove for a while, then steered into the dim
murmuring shadow of the treasure-cavern. It was filled with
dark-green, lisping water, and a continual resonant whispering in
which you seemed to catch half-framed words, and the low ripple of
laughter. Mr. Vane indicated the point at which they had arrived
in their exploration among the fissures opening from the ledge.
The place held me with its fascination, but we dared not linger
long, for as the tide turned one man would have much ado to manage
the boat. So we slid through the archway into the bright sunshine
of the cove, and headed for the camp.
As we neared the beach we saw a figure pacing it. I knew that free
stride. It was Dugald Shaw. And quite unexpectedly my heart began
to beat with staccato quickness. Dugald Shaw, who didn't like me
and never looked at me--except just sometimes, when he was
perfectly sure I didn't know it. Dugald Shaw, the silent,
unboastful man who had striven and starved and frozen on the
dreadful southern ice-fields, who had shared the Viking deeds of
the heroes--whom just to think of warmed my heart with a safe,
cuddled, little-girl feeling that I had never known since I was a
child on my father's knee. There he was, waiting for us, and
splashing into the foam to help Cuthbert beach the boat--he for
whom a thousand years ago the skalds would have made a saga--
The b. y. hailed him cheerfully as we sprang out upon the sand.
But the Scotchman was unsmiling.
"Make haste after your tools, lad," he ordered. "We'll have fine
work now to get inside the cave before the turn."
Those were his words; his tone and his grim look meant, _So in
spite of all my care you are being beguiled by a minx_--
It was his tone that I answered.
"Oh, don't scold Mr. Vane!" I implored. "Every paradise has its
serpent, and as there are no others here I suppose I am it. Of
course all lady serpents who know their business have red hair.
Don't blame Mr. Vane for what was naturally all my fault."
Not a line of his face changed. Indeed, before my most vicious
stabs it never did change. Though of course it would have been
much more civil of him, and far less maddening, to show himself a
little bit annoyed.
"To be sure it seems unreasonable to blame the lad," he agreed
soberly, "but then he happens to be under my authority."
"Meaning, I suppose, that you would much prefer to blame _me_," I
"There's logic, no doubt, in striking at the root of the trouble,"
he admitted, with an air of calm detachment.
"Then strike," I said furiously, "strike, why don't you, and not
beat about the bush so!" Because then he would be quite hopelessly
in the wrong, and I could adopt any of several roles--the coldly
haughty, the wounded but forgiving, etc., with great enjoyment.
But without a change in his glacial manner he quite casually
"It would seem I had struck--home."
I walked away wishing the dynamite would go off, even if I had to
be mixed with Violet till the last trump.
Fortunately nobody undertook to exercise any guardianship over
Crusoe, and the little white dog bore me faithful company in my
rambles. Mostly these were confined to the neighborhood of the
cove. I never ventured beyond Lookout ridge, but there I went
often with Crusoe, and we would sit upon a rock and talk to each
other about our first encounter there, and the fright he had given
me. Everybody else had gone, gazed and admired. But the only
constant pilgrim, besides myself, was, of all people, Captain
Magnus. Soon between us we had worn a path through the woods to
the top of the ridge. The captain's unexpected ardor for scenery
carried him thither whenever he had half an hour to spare from the
work in the cave. Needless to say, Crusoe and I timed our visits
so as not to conflict with his. A less discreet beast than Crusoe
would long ere this have sampled the captain's calves, for the
sailor missed no sly chance to exasperate the animal. But the wise
dog contented himself with such manifestations as a lifted lip and
twitching ears, for he had his own code of behavior, and was not to
be goaded into departing from it.
One day, as Crusoe and I came down from the ridge, we met Captain
Magnus ascending. I had in my hand a small metal-backed mirror,
which I had found, surprisingly, lying in a mossy cleft between the
rocks. It was a thing such as a man might carry in his pocket,
though on the island it seemed unlikely that any one would do' so.
I at once attributed the mirror to Captain Magnus, for I knew that
no one else had been to the ridge for days. I was wondering as I
walked along whether by some sublime law of compensation the
captain really thought himself beautiful, and sought this retired
spot to admire not the view but his own physiognomy.
When the captain saw me he stopped full in the path. There was a
growth of fern on either side. I approached slowly, and, as he did
not move, paused, and held out the mirror.
"I think you must have dropped this, Captain Magnus. I found it on
For an instant his face changed. His evasive eyes were turned to
me searchingly and sharply. He took the glass from my hand and
slipped it into his pocket. I made a movement to pass on, then
stopped, with a faint dawning of discomfort. For the heavy figure
of the captain still blocked the path..
A dark flush had come into the man's face. His yellow teeth showed
between his parted lips. His eyes had a swimming brightness.
"What's your hurry?" he remarked, with a certain insinuating
I began to tremble.
"I am on my way back to camp, Captain Magnus. Please let me pass."
"It won't do no harm if you're a little late. There ain't no one
there keepin' tab. Ain't you always a-strayin' off with the
Honorable? I ain't so pretty, but--"
"You are impertinent. Let me pass."
"Oh, I'm impert'nent, am I? That means fresh, maybe. I'm a plain
man and don't use frills on my langwidge. Well, when I meets a
little skirt that takes my eyes there ain't no harm in lettin' her
know it, is there? Maybe the Honorable could say it nicer--"
With a forward stride he laid a hand upon my arm. I shook him off
and stepped back. Fear clutched my throat. I had left my revolver
in my quarters. Oh, the dreadful denseness of these woods, the
certainty that no wildest cry of mine could pierce them!
And then Crusoe, who had been waiting quietly behind me in the
path, slipped in between us. Every hair on his neck was bristling.
The lifted upper lip snarled unmistakably. He gave me a swift
glance which said, _Shall I spring_?
Quite suddenly the gorilla blandishments of Captain Magnus came to
"Say," he said harshly, "hold back that dog, will you? I don't
want to kill the cur."
"You had better not," I returned coldly. "I should have to explain
how it happened, you know. As it is I shall say nothing. But I
shall not forget my revolver again when I go to walk."
And Crusoe and I went swiftly down the path which the captain no
"LASSIE, LASSIE. . ."
Two or three days later occurred a painful episode. The small
unsuspected germ of it had lain ambushed in a discourse of Mr.
Shaw's, delivered shortly after our arrival on the island, on the
multifarious uses of the cocoa-palm. He told how the juice from
the unexpanded flower-spathes is drawn off to form a potent toddy,
so that where every prospect pleases man may still be vile.
Cookie, experimentally disposed, set to work. Mr. Vane, also
experimentally, sampled the results of Cookie's efforts. The
liquor had merely been allowed to ferment, whereas a complicated
process is necessary for the manufacture of the true arrack, but
enough had been achieved to bring about dire consequences for
Cuthbert Vane, who had found the liquid cool and refreshing, and
was skeptical about its potency.
Aunt Jane took the matter very hard, and rebuked the ribald mirth
of Mr. Tubbs. He had to shed tears over a devastating poem called
"The Drunkard's Home," before she would forgive him. Cookie made
his peace by engaging to vote the prohibition ticket at the next
election. My own excuses for the unfortunate were taken in very
ill part. My aunt said she had always understood that life in the
tropics was very relaxing to the moral fiber, and mine was
certainly affected--and besides she wasn't certain that barons wore
Mr. Shaw was disturbed over Cuthbert, who was not at all bad, only
queer and sleepy, and had to be led away to slumber in retirement.
Also, it was an exceptionally low tide and Mr. Shaw had counted on
taking advantage of it to work in the cave. Now Cuthbert was laid
"You and I will have to manage by ourselves, Magnus."
"Nothing doing--boat got to be patched up--go out there without it
and get caught!" growled the captain.
"Well, lend a hand, then. We can be ready with the boat inside an
The captain hesitated queerly. His wandering eyes seemed to be
searching in every quarter for something they did not find. At
last he mumbled that he thought he felt a touch of the sun, and had
decided to lay off for the afternoon and make his way across the
island. He said he wanted to shoot water-fowl and that they had
all been frightened away from the cove, but that with the glass he
had seen them from Lookout thickly about the other bay.
"Very well," said the Scotchman coldly. "I suppose you must suit
yourself. I can get the boat in shape without help, I dare say."
I saw him presently looking in an annoyed and puzzled fashion after
the vanishing figure of the sailor.
Mr. Tubbs and the umbrellas soon disappeared into the woods. I
believe the search for Bill Halliwell's tombstone was no longer
very actively pursued, and that the trio spent their time ensconced
in a snug little nook with hammocks and cushions, where Mr. Tubbs
beguiled the time with reading aloud--Aunt Jane and Violet both
being provided with literature--and relating anecdotes of his rise
to greatness in the financial centers of the country. I more than
suspected Mr. Tubbs of feeling that such a bird in the hand as Aunt
Jane was worth many doubloons in the bush. But in spite of
uneasiness about the future, for the present I rested secure in the
certainty that they could not elope from the island, and that there
was no one on it with authority to metamorphose Aunt Jane into Mrs.
Hamilton H. Tubbs.
The waters of the cove had receded until a fringe of rocks under
the high land of the point, usually covered, had been left bare. I
had watched the emergence of their black jagged surfaces for some
time before it occurred to me that they offered a means of access
to the cave. The cave--place of fascination and mystery! Here was
the opportunity of all others to explore it, unhampered by any one,
just Crusoe and I alone, in the fashion that left me freest to
indulge my dreams.
I waited until the Scotchman's back was safely turned, because if
he saw me setting forth on this excursion he was quite certain to
command me to return, and I had no intention of submitting to his
dictatorial ways and yet was not sure how I was successfully to
defy him. I believed him capable of haling me lack by force, while
tears or even swoons left him unmoved. Of course he would take the
absurd ground that the cave was dangerous, in the face of the
glaring fact that a girl who had come to this island solely to
protect Aunt Jane ought certainly to be able to protect herself.
Besides, what right had he to care if I was drowned, anyhow?
But of course I was not going to be.
The retreating tide had left deep pools behind, each a little
cosmos of fairy seaweeds and tiny scuttling crabs and rich and
wonderful forms of life which were strange to me. Crusoe and I
were very much interested, and lingered a good deal on the way.
But at last we reached the great archway, and passed with a
suddenness which was like a plunge into cool water from the hot
glare of the tropic sunshine into the green shadow of the cavern.
At the lower end, between the two arches, a black, water-worn rock
paving rang under one's feet. Further in under the point the floor
of the cave was covered with white sand. All the great shadowy
place was murmuring like a vast sea-shell. Beyond the southern
archway spread the limitless heaving plain of the Pacific. Near at
hand bare black rocks rose from the surges, like skeletons of the
land that the sea had devoured. And after a while these walls that
supported the cavern roof would be nibbled away, and the roof would
fall, and the waves roar victorious over the ruins.
I wished I could visit the place in darkness. It would be thrice
as mysterious, filled with its hollow whispering echoes, as in the
day. I dreamed of it as it might have been when a boat from the
_Bonny Lass_ crept in, and the faint winking eye of a lantern
struck a gleam from the dark waters and showed nothing all around
but blackness, and more blackness.
From the ledge far above my head led off those narrow, teasing
crevices in which the three explorers did their unrewarded
burrowing. I could see the strands of a rope ladder lying coiled
at the edge of the shelf, where it was secured by spikes. The men
dragged down the ladder with a boat-hook when they wanted to
ascend. I looked about with a hope that perhaps they had left the
I found no boat-hook but instead a spade, which had been driven
deep into the sand and left, too firmly imbedded for the tide to
bear away. At once a burning hope that I, alone and unassisted,
might bring to light the treasure of the Bonny Lass seethed in my
veins. I jerked the spade loose and fell to.
I now discovered the great truth that digging for treasure is the
most thrilling and absorbing occupation known to man. Time ceased
to be, and the weight of the damp and close-packed sand seemed,
that of feathers. This temporary state of exaltation passed, to be
sure, and the sand got very heavy, and my back ached, but still I
dug. Crusoe watched proceedings interestedly at first, then
wandered off on business of his own. Presently he returned and
began to fuss about and bark. He was a restless little beast,
wanting to be always on the move. He came and tugged at my skirt,
uttering an uneasy whine.
"Be quiet, Crusoe!" I commanded, threatening him with my spade.
The madness of the treasure-lust possessed me. I was panting now,
and my hands began to feel like baseball mitts, but still I dug.
Crusoe had ceased to importune me; vaguely I was aware that he had
got tired and run off. I toiled on, pausing now and then for
breath. I was leaning on my spade, rather dejectedly considering
the modest excavation I had achieved, when I felt a little cool
splash at my feet. Dropping my spade I whirled around--and a
shriek echoed through the cave as I saw pouring into it the dark
insidious torrent of the returning tide.
How had I forgotten it, that deadly thing, muttering to itself out
there, ready to spring back like an unleashed beast? Crusoe had
warned me--and then he had forsaken me, and I was alone.
And yet at first, wild as my terror was, I had no thought but that
somehow I could escape. That these waters were for me the very
face of death, sure and relentless, terrible and slow, did not at
once seize hold upon my heart.
Frantically I sprang for the entrance on the cove. The floor of
the cave was sloping, and the water deepened swiftly as I advanced.
Soon I was floundering to my knees, and on the instant a great wave
rushed in, drenching me to the waist, dazing me with its spray and
uproar, and driving me back to the far end of the cave.
With a dreadful hollow sucking sound the surge retreated. I
staggered again toward the archway that was my only door to life.
The water was deeper now, and swiftly came another fierce inrush of
the sea that drove me back. Between the two archways a terrible
current was setting. It poured along with the rush of a mountain
river, wild, dark, tumultuous.
I had fled to the far end of the cave, but the sea pursued me.
Swiftly the water climbed--it flung me against the wall, then
dragged me back. I clutched at the naked rock with bleeding
Again, after a paroxysm during which I had seemed to stand a great
way off and listen to my own shrieks, there came to me a moment of
calm. I knew that my one tenuous thread of hope lay in launching
myself into that wild flood that was tearing through into the cove.
I was not a strong swimmer, but a buoyant one. I might find refuge
on some half-submerged rock on the shores of the cove--at least I
should perish in the open, in the sunlight, not trapped like a
desperate rat. And I began to fight my way toward the opening.
And then a dreadful vision flashed across my mind, weighed down my
feet like lead, choked back even the cry from my frozen lips.
Sharks! The black cutting fin, the livid belly, the dreadful jaws
opening--no, no, better to die here, better the clean embrace of
the waters--_if indeed the sharks did not come into the cave_.
And then I think I went quite mad. I remember trying to climb up
to the ledge which hung beetling fifteen feet above. Afterward my
poor hands showed how desperately. And I remember that once I
slipped and went clear under, and how I choked and strangled in the
salt water. For my mouth was always open, screaming, screaming
And when I saw the boat fighting its way inch by inch into the cave
I was sure that it was a vision, and that only my own wild
beseeching of him to save me had made the face of Dugald Shaw arise
before my dying eyes. Dugald Shaw was still mending the boat on
the shore of the cove, and this was a mocking phantom.
Only the warm human clasp of the arms that drew me into the boat
made me believe in him.
The boat bobbed quietly in the eddy at the far end of the cave,
while a wet, sobbing, choking heap clung to Dugald Shaw. I clasped
him about the neck and would not let him go, for fear that I should
find myself alone again, perishing in the dark water. My head was
on his breast, and he was pressing back my wet hair with strong and
What was this he was saying? "My lassie, my little, little lassie!"
And no less incredible than this it was to feel his cheek pressed,
very gently, against my hair--
After a little my self-control came back to me. I stopped my
senseless childish crying, lifted my head and tried to speak. I
could only whisper, "You came, you came!"
"Of course I came!" he said huskily. "There, don't tremble so--you
are safe--safe in my arms!"
After a while he lifted me into the stern and began to maneuver the
boat out of the cave. I suppose at another time I should have
realized the peril of it. The fierce flow through the archway all
but swamped us, the current threatened to hurl us against the
rocks, but I felt no fear. He had come to save me, and he would.
All at once the dreadful shadow of the cavern was left behind, and
the sunshine immersed my chilled body like a draught of wine. I
lay huddled in the stern, my cheek upon my hand, as he rowed
swiftly across the cove and drove the boat upon the beach.
Everybody but Captain Magnus was assembled there, including Crusoe.
Crusoe it was who had given warning of my danger. Like a wise
little dog, when I ignored his admonitions he had run home. At
first his uneasiness and troubled barking had got no notice. Once
or twice the Scotchman, worried by his fretfulness, had ordered him
away. Then across his preoccupied mind there flashed a doubt. He
laid down his tools and spoke to the animal. Instantly Crusoe
dashed for the rocks, barking and crying with eagerness. But the
path was closed, the tide was hurrying in, and Crusoe whined
pitiably as he crept back and crouched against the man who of
course knew better than a little dog what must be done.
Then Mr. Shaw understood. He snatched the painter of the boat and
dragged it down the beach. He was shoving off as Cookie, roused by
Crusoe's barking, appeared from the seclusion of his afternoon
siesta. To him were borne the Scotchman's parting words:
"Virginia Harding--in the cave--hot blankets--may be drowning--"
"And at dat," said Cookie, relating his part in the near-tragedy
with unction, "I jes' natchully plumped right down on mah ma'ah
bones and wrestled with de Lawd in prayah."
This unique proceeding on Cookie's part necessarily awoke the
interest both of the recovered Cuthbert Vane, just emerging after
his prolonged slumbers, and of the trio who had that moment
returned from the woods. Importuned for an explanation, Cookie
arose from his devotional posture and put the portentous query:
"Mistah Vane, sah, be dey any propah coffin-wood on dis yere
Instantly connecting my absence with this terrible question, Aunt
Jane shrieked and fell into the arms of Mr. Tubbs. I got the story
from Cuthbert Vane, and I must say I was unpleasantly struck by the
facility with which my aunt seemed to have fallen into Mr. Tubbs's
embrace--as if with the ease of habit. Mr. Tubbs, it appeared, had
staggered a little under his fair burden, which was not to be
wondered at, for Aunt Jane is of an overflowing style of figure and
Mr. Tubbs more remarkable for brain than brawn. Violet, however,
had remained admirably calm, and exhorted Aunt Jane to remember
that whatever happened it was all for the best.
"Poor Violet," I commented. "To think that after all it didn't
A slow flush rose to the cheeks of the beautiful youth. He
was sitting beside the hammock, where I was supposed to be
recuperating. Of course it was to please Aunt Jane that I had to
be an invalid, and she had insisted on mounting guard and reading
aloud from one of Miss Browne's books about Psycho-evolution or
something until Cuthbert Vane came along and relieved her--and me.
"It would have happened, though," said the Honorable Cuthbert
solemnly, "if it hadn't been for old Shaw. I can't get over it,
Vir--Miss Virginia, that I wasn't on deck myself, you know. Here's
old Dugald been doing the heroic all his life, and now he gets his
chance again while I'm sleeping off those bally cocoanuts. It's
hard on a chap. I--I wish it had been me."
However dubious his grammar, there was no mistaking the look that
brightened like the dawn in the depths of his clear eyes. My
breath went from me suddenly.
"Oh," I cried excitedly, "isn't that---yes, I _thought_ it was the
For as if in response to my dire need, the clang of Cookie's gong
echoed through the island silences.
WHAT CRUSOE AND I FOUND
When after those poignant moments in the boat I met Dugald Shaw in
commonplace fashion at the table, a sudden, queer, altogether
unprecedented shyness seized me. I sat looking down at my plate
with the gaucherie of a silly child.
The episode of the afternoon provided Mr. Tubbs with ammunition for
a perfect fusillade of wit. He warned Mr. Shaw that hereafter he
might expect Neptune to have a grudge against him for having robbed
the sea-god of his beauteous prey. I said I thought most likely it
was not Neptune that was robbed but sharks, but sharks not being
classic, Mr. Tubbs would have none of them. He said he believed
that if Mr. Shaw had not inopportunely arrived, Neptune with his
tripod would soon have up-reared upon the wave.
"Oh--_tripod_, Mr. Tubbs?" I said inquiringly.
"Yes, sure," he returned undaunted. "Them camera supports is named
for it, you know. But of course this gay gink of a Sandy had to
come buttin' in. Too bad the Honorable Bertie had partook so free.
He'd have looked the part all right when it come to rescuin' beauty
in distress. But Fortune bein' a lady and naturally capricious,
she hands the stunt over to old Sobersides here."
Just then old Sobersides cut across the flow of Mr. Tubbs's
sprightly conversation and with a certain harshness of tone asked
Captain Magnus if he had had good sport on the other side of the
island. Captain Magnus, as usual, had seemed to feel that time
consecrated to eating was wasted in conversation. At this
point-blank question he started confusedly, stuttered, and finally
explained that though he had taken a rifle he had carried along
pistol cartridges, so had come home with an empty bag.
At this moment I happened to be looking at Cookie, who was setting
down a dish before Mr. Tubbs. The negro started visibly, and
rolled his eyes at Captain Magnus with astonishment depicted in
every dusky feature. He said nothing, although wont to take part
in our conversation as it suited him, but I saw him shake his great
grizzled head in a disturbed and puzzled fashion as he turned away.
After this a chill settled on the table. You felt a disturbance in
the air, as though wireless currents were crossing and recrossing
in general confusion. Mr. Tubbs began again on the topic of my
rescue, and said it was too bad Mr. Shaw's name wasn't Paul,
because then we'd be Paul and Virginia, he, he! My aunt said
encouragingly, how true! because they had lived on an island,
hadn't they? She had read the book many years ago, and had mostly
forgotten it, not having Mr. Tubbs's marvelous memory, but she
believed there was something quite sad about the end, though very
sweet. She agreed with Mr. Tubbs that Mr. Vane would have looked
most picturesque going to the rescue on account of his sash, and it
was too bad he had not been able, but never mind, it was most kind
of Mr. Shaw, and she was sure her niece appreciated it though she
was afraid she hadn't thanked Mr. Shaw properly.
By this time it was perfectly clear that Mr. Shaw had been most
inconsiderate in dashing out after me in that thoughtless manner.
He should have waked Cuthbert Vane and helped him to array himself
becomingly in the sash and then sent for a moving-picture man to go
out in another boat and immortalize the touching scene. All this
came seething to my lips, but I managed to suppress it. It was
only on Cuthbert Vane's account. As for my aunt and Mr. Tubbs, I
could have bumped their heads together as remorselessly as two
cocoanuts. I understood Aunt Jane, of course. In spite of the
Honorable Cuthbert's recent lapse, her imagination still played
about certain little cards which should announce to an envious
world my engagement to the Honorable Cuthbert Patrick Ruthmore
Vane, of High Staunton Manor, Kent. So such a _faux pas_ as my
rescue from drowning by a penniless Scotch seaman couldn't but
figure in her mind as a grievance.
I stole a glance at the recipient of these sorry thanks. His face
was set and--once I should have called it grim, but I knew better
now. There was nothing I could say or do. Any words of mine would
have sounded forced and puerile. What he had done was so far
beyond thanks that spoken gratitude belittled it. And yet, suppose
he thought that like the rest I had wished another in his place?
Did he think that--could he, with the memory of my arms about his
I only knew that because of the foolish hateful words that had been
said, the gulf between us was wider than before.
I sat dumb, consumed with misery and hoping that perhaps I might
meet his glance and so tell him silently all that words would only
mar. But he never looked at me. And then the first bitterness,
which had made even Cuthbert seem disloyal in wishing himself in
his friend's place, passed, and gave way to dreary doubt. Cuthbert
knew, of course, that he himself would have prized--what to Dugald
Shaw was a matter of indifference. Yes, that was it, and the worst
that Dugald Shaw was suffering now was boredom at hearing the
affair so everlastingly discussed.
So I began talking very fast to Mr. Vane and we were very gay and
he tied his own necktie on Crusoe on consideration that he be held
hereafter jointly. And--because I saw that Dugald Shaw was looking
now--I smiled lingeringly into the eyes of the beautiful youth and
said all right, perhaps we needn't quarrel over our mutual dog, and
then skipped off lightsomely, feeling exactly like a scorpion that
has been wounding itself with its own sting.
As I passed Cookie at his dishpan a sudden thought struck me.
"Cookie," I remarked, "you had a frightfully queer look just now
when Captain Magnus told about having taken the wrong cartridges.
What was the matter?"
Cookie took his hands out of the water and wiped off the suds,
casting about stealthy and mysterious glances. Then he rolled a
dubious eye at me.
"What was it, Cookie?" I urged.
"War am Cap'n now?"
"Down on the beach; he can't possibly hear you."
"You won't say nothin' to git Cookie in a rumpus?"
"Cross my heart to die, Cookie."
"Well, den"--Cookie spoke in a hoarse whisper--"Cap'n say he forgit
to take his gun ca'tridges. Miss Jinny, when he come back, I see
him empty his gun ca'tridges out'n his belt and put back his pistol
cartridges. So dere now!"
I turned from Cookie, too surprised to speak. Why had Captain
Magnus been at pains to invent a lie about so trivial a matter? I
recalled, too, that Mr. Shaw's question had confused him, that he
had hesitated and stammered before answering it. Why? Was he a
bad shot and ashamed of it? Had he preferred to say that he had
taken the wrong ammunition rather than admit that he could get no
bag? That must be the explanation, because there was no other.
Certainly no imaginable errand but the one assigned could have
taken the captain to the other side of the island.
Several days went by, and still the treasure was unfound. Of
course, as the unexplored space in the cave contracted, so daily
the probability grew stronger that Fortune would shed her golden
smile upon us before night. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that the
optimistic spirits of most were beginning to flag a little. Only
Mr. Shaw, though banned as a confirmed doubter and pessimist,
now by the exercise of will kept the others to their task. It
took all Cuthbert Vane's loyalty, plus an indisposition to be
called a slacker, to strive against the temptation to renounce
treasure-hunting in favor of roaming with Crusoe and me. As for
Captain Magnus, his restlessness was manifest. Several times he
had suggested blowing the lid off the island with dynamite, as the
shortest method of getting at the gold. He was always vanishing on
solitary excursions inland.
Mr. Tubbs remarked, scornfully, that a man with a nose for money
ought to have smelted out the chest before this, but if his own
nasal powers were of that character he did not offer to employ them
in the service of the expedition. Miss Higglesby-Browne, however,
had taken to retiring to the hut for long private sessions with
herself. My aunt reverentially explained their purpose. The
hiding-place of the chest being of course known to the Universal
Wisdom, all Violet had to do was to put herself in harmony and the
knowledge would be hers. The difficulty was that you had first to
overcome your Mundane Consciousness. To accomplish this Violet was
struggling in the solitude of the hut.
Meanwhile Mr. Tubbs sat at the feet of Aunt Jane, reading aloud
from a volume entitled _Paeans of Passion_, by a celebrated lady
lyric poet of our own land.
After my meeting with Captain Magnus in the forest, Lookout Ridge
was barred to me. Crusoe and I must do our rambling in other
directions. This being so, I bethought me again of the wrecked
sloop lying under the cliffs on the north shore of the cove. I
remembered that there had seemed to be a way down the cliffs. I
resolved to visit the sloop again. The terrible practicality of
the beautiful youth made it difficult to indulge in romantic
musings in his presence. And to me a derelict brings a keener tang
of romance than any other relic of man's multitudinous and futile
The descent of the gully proved an easy matter, and soon I was on
the sand beside the derelict. Sand had heaped up around her hull,
and filled her cockpit level with the rail, and drifted down the
companion, stuffing the little cabin nearly to the roof, Only the
bow rose free from the white smother of sand. Whatever wounds
there were in her buried sides were hidden. You felt that some
wild caprice of the storm had lifted her and set her down here, not
too roughly, then whirled away and left her to the sand.
Crusoe slipped into the narrow space under the roof of the cabin,
and I leaned idly down to watch him through a warped seam between
the planks. Then I found that I was looking, not at Crusoe, but
into a little dim enclosure like a locker, in which some small
object faintly caught the light. With a revived hope of finding
relics I got out my knife--a present from Cuthbert Vane--and set
briskly to work widening the seam.
I penetrated finally into a small locker or cubby-hole, set in the
angle under the roof of the cabin, and, as subsequent investigation
showed, so placed as to attract no notice from the casual eye. I
ascertained this by lying down and wriggling my head and shoulders
into the cabin. In other words, I had happened on a little private
depository, in which the owner of the sloop might stow away certain
small matters that concerned him intimately. Yet the contents of
the locker at first seemed trifling. They were an old-fashioned
chased silver shoe-buckle, and a brown-covered manuscript book.
The book had suffered much from dampness, whether of rains or the
wash of the sea. The imitation leather cover was flaking off, and
the leaves were stuck together. I seated myself on the cabin roof,
extracted a hairpin, and began carefully separating the
close-written pages. The first three or four were quite illegible,
the ink having run. Then the writing became clearer. I made out a
word here and there:
. . . . directions vague . . . . my grandfather . . . .
man a ruffian but . . . . no motive . . . . police of
Havana . . . . frightful den . . . . grandfather made
sure . . . . registry . . . . _Bonny Lass_ . . . .
And at that I gave a small excited shriek which brought Crusoe to
me in a hurry. What had he to do, the writer of this journal, what
had he to do with the _Bonny Lass_?
Breathlessly I read on:
. . . . thought captain still living but not
sure . . . . lost . . . . Benito Bon . . . .
I closed the book. Now, while the coast was clear, I must get back
to camp. It would take hours, perhaps days, to decipher the
journal which had suddenly become of such supreme importance. I
must smuggle it unobserved into my own quarters, where I could read
at my leisure. As I set out I dropped the silver shoe-buckle into
my pocket, smiling to think that it was I who had discovered the
first bit of precious metal on the island. Yet the book in my
hand, I felt instinctively, was of more value than many
Safely in my hammock, with a pillow under which I could slip the
book in case of interruption, I resumed the reading. From this
point on, although the writing was somewhat faded, it was all, with
a little effort, legible.
If Sampson did live to tell his secret, then any day there may be a
sail in the offing. And still I can not find it! Oh, if my
grandfather had been more worldly wise! If he hadn't been too
intent on the eternal welfare of the man he rescued from the Havana
tavern brawl to question him about his story. A cave on Leeward
Island--near by a stone marked with the letters B. H. and a
cross-bones--_I told the captain_, said the poor dying wretch, _we
wouldn't have no luck after playing it that low down on Bill_! So
I presume Bill lies under the stone.
Well, all I have is in this venture. The old farm paid for the
_Island Queen_--or will, if I don't get back in time to prevent
foreclosure. All my staid New England relatives think me mad. A
copra gatherer! A fine career for a minister's son! Think how
your father scrimped to send you to college--Aunt Sarah reproached
me. Well, when I get home with my Spanish doubloons there will be
another story to tell. I won't be poor crazy Peter then. And
Helen--oh, how often I wish I had told her everything! It was too
much to ask her to trust me blindly as I did. But from the moment
I came across the story in grandfather's old, half-forgotten
diary--by the way, the diary habit seems to run in the family--a
very passion of secrecy has possessed me. If I had told Helen, I
should have had to dread that even in her sweet sleep she might
whisper something to put that ferret, her stepmother, on the scent.
Oh, Helen, trust me, trust me!
December 25. I have a calendar with me, so I am not reduced to
notching a stick to keep track of the days. I mark each off
carefully in the calendar. If I were to forget to do this, even
for a day or two, I believe I should quite lose track. The days
are so terribly alike!
My predecessor here in the copra-gathering business, old Heintz,
really left me a very snug establishment. It was odd that I should
have run across him at Panama that way. I sounded him on the
question of treasure. He said placidly that of course the island
had been the resort of Edward Davis and Benito Bonito and others of
the black flag gentry, and he thought it very likely they had left
some of their spoils behind them, but though he had done a little
investigating as he had time he had come on nothing but a ship's
lantern, a large iron kettle, and the golden setting of a bracelet
from which the jewels had been removed. He had already disposed of
the bracelet. The kettle I found here, and sank in the spring to
keep the water clear. (Where it still is. V. H.) Evidently old
Heintz knew nothing of the _Bonny Lass_. This was an immense
satisfaction, as it proves that the story can not have been noised
Christmas Day! I wonder what they are all doing at home? December
28. Of course the cave under the point is the logical place. I
have been unable to find any stone marked B. H. on the ground above
it, but I fear that a search after Bill's tombstone would be
hopeless. Although the formation of the island is of the sort to
contain numerous caves, still they must be considerably less
plentiful than possible tombstones. Under circumstances such
as those of the mate's story, it seems to me that all the
probabilities point to their concealing the chest in the cave with
an opening on the bay. It must have been necessary for them to act
as quickly as possible, that their absence from the ship might go
unnoticed--though I believe the three conspirators had made the
crew drunk. Then to get the boat, laden with the heavy chest,
through the surf to any of the other caves--if the various cracks
and fissures I have seen are indeed properly to be called
caves--would be stiff work for three men. Yes, everything
indicates the cavern under the point. The only question is, isn't
it indicated too clearly? Would a smooth old scoundrel such as
this Captain Sampson must have been have hidden his treasure in the
very place certain to be ransacked if the secret ever got out?
Unless it was deeply buried, which it could have been only at
certain stages of the tide, even old Heintz would have been apt to
come across it in the course of his desultory researches for the
riches of the buccaneers. And I am certain placid old Heintz did
not mislead me. Besides, at Panama, he was making arrangements to
go with some other Germans on a small business venture to Samoa,
which he would not have been likely to do if he had just unearthed
a vast fortune in buried treasure. Still, I shall explore the cave
thoroughly, though with little hope.
Oh, Helen, if I could watch these tropic stars with you to-night!
January 6. I think I am through with the cave under the point--the
Cavern of the Two Arches, I have named it. It is a dangerous place
to work in alone, and my little skiff has been badly battered
several times. But I peered into every crevice in the walls, and
sounded the sands with a drill. I suppose I would have made a more
thorough job of it if I had not been convinced from the first that
the chest was not there. It was not reason that told me so--I know
I may well be attributing too much subtlety of mind to Captain
Sampson--but that strange guiding instinct--to put it in its lowest
terms--which I know in my heart I must follow if I would succeed.
Shall I ever forget the feeling that stirred me when first I turned
the pages of my grandfather's diary and saw there, in his faded
writing, the story of the mate of the _Bonny Lass_, who died in
Havana in my grandfather's arms? My grandfather had gone as
supercargo in his own ship, and while he did a good stroke of
business in Havana--trust his shrewd Yankee instincts for that--he
managed to combine the service of God with that of Mammon. Many a
poor drunken sailor, taking his fling ashore in the bright,
treacherous, plague-ridden city, found in him a friend, as did the
mate of the _Bonny Lass_ in his dying hour. Oh, if my good
grandfather had but made sure from the man's own lips exactly where
the treasure lay! It is enough to make one fancy that the unknown
Bill, who paid for too much knowledge with his life, has his own
fashion of guarding the hoard. But I ramble. I was going to say,
that from the moment when I learned from my grandfather's diary of
the existence of the treasure, I have been driven by an impulse
more overmastering than anything I have ever experienced in my
life. It was, I believe, what old-fashioned pious folk would call
a _leading_. The impetus seemed somehow to come from outside my
own organism. All my life I had been irresolute, the sport of
circumstances, trifling with this and that, unable to set my face
steadfastly toward any goal. Yet never, since I have trodden this
path, have I looked to right or left. I have defied both human
opinion and the obstacles which an unfriendly fate has thrown in my
way. All alone, I, a sailor hitherto of pleasure-craft among the
bays and islands of the New England coast, put forth in my little
sloop for a voyage of three hundred miles on the loneliest wastes
of the Pacific. All alone, did I say? No, there was Benjy the
faithful. His head is at my knee as I write. He knows, I think,
that his master's mood is sad to-night. Oh, Helen, if you ever see
these lines, will you realize how I have longed for you--how it
sometimes seems that my soul must tear itself loose from my body
and speed to you across half a world?
February 1. Since my last record my time has been well filled. In
the _Island Queen_ I have been surveying the coasts of my domain,
sailing as close in as I dared, and taking note of every crevice
that might be the mouth of a cave. Then, either in the rowboat or
by scrambling down the cliffs, I visit the indicated point. It is
bitterly hard labor, but it has its compensations. I am growing
hale and strong, brown and muscular. Aunt Sarah won't offer me any
more of her miserable decoctions when I go home. Heading first
toward the north, I am systematically making the rounds of the
island, for, after all, how do I know for certain that Captain
Sampson buried his treasure near the east anchorage? For greater
security he may have chosen the other side, where there is another
bay, I should judge deeper and freer of rocks than this one, though
more open to storms.
So far I have discovered half a dozen caves, most of them quite
small. Any one of them seemed such a likely place that at first I
was quite hopeful. But I have found nothing. Usually, the floor
of the cave beneath a few inches of sand is rock. Only in the
great cave under the point have I found sand to any depth. The
formation in some cases is little more than a hardened clay, but to
excavate it would require long toil, probably blasting--and I have
no explosives. And I go always on the principle that Captain
Sampson and his two assistants had not time for any elaborate work
of concealment. Most likely they laid the chest in some natural
niche. Sailors are unskilled in the use of such implements as
spades, and besides, the very heart of the undertaking was haste
and secrecy. They must have worked at night and between two tides,
for few of the caves can be reached except at the ebb. And I take
it as certain that the cave must have opened directly on the sea.
For three men to transport such a weight and bulk by land would be
February 10. To-day a strange, strange thing happened--so strange,
so wonderful and glorious that it ought to be recorded in luminous
ink. And I owe it all to Benjy! Little dog, you shall go in a
golden collar and eat lamb-chops every day! This morning--
Across my absorption in the diary cut the unwelcome clangor of
Cookie's gong. Right on the breathless edge of discovery I was
summoned, with my thrilling secret in my breast, to join my
unsuspecting companions. I hid the book carefully in my cot. Not
until the light of to-morrow morning could I return to its perusal.
How I was to survive the interval I did not know. But on one point
my mind was made up--no one should dream of the existence of the
diary until I knew all that it had to impart.
MISS BROWNE HAS A VISION
Perhaps because of the secret excitement under which I was
laboring, I seemed that evening unusually aware of the emotional
fluctuations of those about me. Violet looked grimmer than ever,
so that I judged her struggles with her mundane consciousness to
have been exceptionally severe. Captain Magnus seemed even beyond
his wont restless, loose-jointed and wandering-eyed, and performed
extraordinary feats of sword-swallowing. Mr. Shaw was very silent,
and his forehead knitted now and then into a reflective frown. As
for myself, I had much ado to hide my abstraction, and turned cold
from head to foot with alarm when I heard my own voice addressing
Crusoe as Benjy.
A faint ripple of surprise passed round the table.
"Named your dog over again, Miss Jinny?" inquired Mr. Tubbs. Mr.
Tubbs had adopted a facetiously paternal manner toward me. I knew
in anticipation of the moment when he would invite me to call him
"I say, you know," expostulated Cuthbert Vane, "I thought Crusoe
rather a nice name. Never heard of any chap named Benjy that lived
on an island."
"When I was a little girl, Virginia," remarked Aunt Jane, with the
air of immense age and wisdom which she occasionally assumed, "my
grandmother--your great-grandmother, of course, my love--would
never allow me to name my dolls a second time. She did not approve
of changeableness. And I am sure it must be partly due to your
great-grandmother's teaching that I always know my own mind
directly about everything. She was quite a remarkable woman, and
very firm. Firmness has been considered a family trait with us.
When her husband died--your great-grandfather, you know, dear--she
rose above her grief and made him take some very disagreeable
medicine to the very last, long after the doctors had given up
hope. As some relation or other said, I think your Great-Aunt
Susan's father-in-law, anybody else would have allowed poor John
Harding to die in peace, but trust Eliza to be firm to the end."
Under cover of this bit of family history I tried to rally from my
confusion, but I knew my cheeks were burning. Looks of deepening
surprise greeted the scarlet emblems of discomfiture that I hung
"By heck, bet there's a feller at home named Benjy!" cackled Mr.
Tubbs shrilly, and for once I blessed him.
Aunt Jane turned upon him her round innocent eyes.
"Oh, no, Mr. Tubbs," she assured him, "I don't think a single one
of them was named Benjy!"
The laughter which followed this gave me time to get myself in hand
"Crusoe it is and will be," I asserted. "Like Great-Grandmother
Harding, I don't approve of changeableness. It happens that a girl
I know at home has a dog named Benjy." Which happened fortunately
to be true, for otherwise I should have been obliged to invent it.
But the girl is a cat, and the dog a miserable little high-bred
something, all shivers and no hair. I should never have thought of
him in the same breath with Crusoe.
That evening Mr. Shaw addressed the gathering at the
camp-fire--which we made small and bright, and then sat well away
from because of the heat--and in a few words gave it as his opinion
that any further search in the cave under the point was useless.
(If he had known the strange confirmatory echo which this awoke in
my mind!) He proposed that the shore of the island to a reasonable
distance on either side of the bay-entrance should be surveyed,
with a view to discover whether some other cave did not exist which
would answer the description given by the dying Hopperdown as well
as that first explored.
Mr. Shaw's words were addressed to the ladies, the organizer and
financier, respectively, of the expedition, to the very deliberate
exclusion of Mr. Tubbs. But he might as well have made up his mind
to recognize the triumvirate. Enthroned on a camp-chair sat Aunt
Jane, like a little goddess of the Dollar Sign, and on one hand Mr.
Tubbs smiled blandly, and on the other Violet gloomed. You saw
that in secret council Mr. Shaw's announcement had been foreseen
and deliberated upon.
Mr. Tubbs, who understood very well the role of power behind the
throne, left it to Violet to reply. And Miss Browne, who carried
an invisible rostrum with her wherever she went, now alertly
"My friends," she began, "those dwelling on a plane where the
Material is all may fail to grasp the thought which I shall put
before you this evening. They may not understand that if a
different psychic atmosphere had existed on this island from the
first we should not now be gazing into a blank wall of Doubt. My
friends, this expedition was, so to speak, called from the Void by
Thought. Thought it was, as realized in steamships and other
ephemeral forms, which bore us thither over rolling seas. How then
can it be otherwise than that Thought should influence our
fortunes--that success should be unable to materialize before a
persistent attitude of Negation? My friends, you will perceive
that there is no break in this sequence of ideas; all is
"In order to withdraw myself from this atmosphere of Negation, for
these several days past I have sought seclusion. There in silence
I have asserted the power of Positive over Negative Thought, gazing
meanwhile into the profound depths of the All. My friends, an
answer has been vouchsafed us; I have had a vision of that for
which we seek. Now at last, in a spirit of glad confidence, we may
advance. For, my friends, the chest is buried--in sand."
With this triumphant announcement Miss Higglesby-Browne sat down.
A heavy silence succeeded. It was broken by a murmur from Mr.
"Wonderful--that's what I call wonderful! Talk about the eloquence
of the ancients--I believe, by gum, this is on a par with
"A vision, Miss Browne," said Mr. Shaw gravely, "must be an
interesting thing. I have never seen one myself, having no talents
that way, but in the little Scotch town of Dumbiedykes where I was
born there was an old lady with a remarkable gift of the second
sight. Simple folk, not being acquainted with the proper terms to
fit the case, called her the Wise Woman. Well, one day my aunt had
been to the neighboring town of Micklestane, five miles off, and on
the way back to Dumbiedykes she lost her purse. It had three
sovereigns in it--a great sum to my aunt. In her trouble of mind
she hurried to the Wise Woman--a thing to make her pious father
turn in his grave. The Wise Woman--gazed into the All, I suppose,
and told my aunt not to fret herself, for she had had a vision of
the purse and _it lay somewhere on the food between Micklestane and
"Now, Miss Browne, I'll take the liberty of drawing a moral from
this Story to fit the present instance: _where on the road between
Micklestane and Dumbiedykes is the chest_?"
Though startled at the audacity of Mr. Shaw, I was unprepared for
the spasm of absolute fury that convulsed Miss Browne's countenance.
"Mr. Shaw," she thundered, "if you intend to draw a parallel
between me and an ignorant Scotch peasant--!"
"Not at all," said Mr. Shaw calmly, "forebye the Wise Woman was a
most respectable person and had a grandson in the kirk. The point
is, can you indicate with any degree of exactness the whereabouts
of the chest? For there is a good deal of sand on the shores of
"Oh, but Mr. Shaw!" interposed Aunt Jane tremulously. "In the
sand--why, I am sure that is such a helpful thought! It shows
quite plainly that the chest is not buried in--in a rock, you
know." She gave the effect of a person trying to deflect a
thunderstorm with a palm-leaf fan.
"Dynamite---dynamite--blow the lid off the island!" mumbled Captain
"If any one has a definite plan to propose," said Mr. Shaw, "I am
very ready to consider it. I have understood myself from the first
to be acting under the directions of the ladies who planned this
expedition. As a mere matter of honesty to my employers, I should
feel bound to spare no effort to find the treasure, even if my own
interests were not so vitally concerned. Considering its
importance to myself, no one can well suppose that I am not doing
all in my power to bring the chest to light. Tomorrow, if the sea
is favorable, it is my intention to set out in the boat to
determine the character of such other caves as exist on the island.
I'll want you with me, lad, and you too, Magnus."
Captain Magnus looked more ill at ease than usual. "Did you think
o' rowin' the whole way round the dinged chunk o' rock?" he
"Certainly not," said Mr. Shaw with an impatient frown. So the
man, in addition to his other unattractive qualities, was turning
out a shirk! Hitherto, with his strength and feverish if
intermittent energy, plus an almost uncanny skill with boats, he
had been of value. "Certainly not. We are going to make a careful
survey of the cliffs, and explore every likely opening as
thoroughly as possible. It will be slow work and hard. As to
circumnavigating the island, I see no point in it, for I don't
believe the chest can have been carried any great distance from the
"Oh--all right," said Captain Magnus.
Mr. Tubbs, who had been whispering with Aunt Jane and Miss Browne,
now with a very made-to-order casualness proposed to the two ladies
that they take a stroll on the beach. This meant that the
triumvirate were to withdraw for discussion, and amounted to notice
that henceforth the counsels of the company would be divided.
Captain Magnus, after an uneasy wriggle or two, said he guessed
he'd turn in. Cookie's snores were already audible between
splashes of the waves on the sands. The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane
and I continued to sit by the dying fire. Mr. Shaw had got out his
pipe and sat silently puffing at it. He might have been sitting in
solitude on the topmost crag of the island, so remote seemed that
impassive presence. Was it possible that ever, except in the sweet
madness of a dream, I had been in his arms, pillowed and cherished
there, that he had called me _lassie_--
I lifted my eyes to the kind honest gaze of Cuthbert Vane. It was
as faithful as Crusoe's and no more embarrassing. A great impulse
of affection moved me. I was near putting out a hand to pat his
splendid head. Oh, how easy, comfortable, and calm would be a life
with Cuthbert Vane! I wasn't thinking about the title
now--Cuthbert would be quite worth while for himself. For a moment
I almost saw with Aunt Jane's eyes. _Fancy trotting him out before
the girls_! stole insidiously into my mind. How much more dazzling
than a plain Scotch sailor--
I turned in bitterness and yearning from the silent figure by the
I think in an earlier lifetime I must have been a huntress and
loved to pursue the game that fled.
THE ISLAND QUEEN'S FREIGHT
I woke next morning with a great thrill of exhilaration. Perhaps
before the sun went down again I should know the secret of the
The two divisions of our party, which were designated by me
privately the Land and Sea Forces, went their separate ways
directly after breakfast, which we ate in the cool of earliest
morning, I could retire to the perusal of the journal which I had
recovered from the wrecked sloop without fear of interruption.
I resumed my reading with the entry of February 10.
This morning, having grown very tired of fish, of which I get
plenty every time I go out in the boat by dragging a line behind, I
decided to stay ashore and hunt pig. I set out across the base of
the point, nearly due south--whereas I had been working along the
coast to the north of the cove. On my right the slope of the
mountain rose steeply, and as I approached the south shore the rise
of the peak became more abrupt, and great jutting crags leaned out
over the tree-tops below.
I reached the edge of the cliffs and found that on my right hand
the mountain dropped in a sheer precipice from hundreds of feet
above me straight into the sea. I considered, and made up my mind
that by striking back some distance one might by a very rough climb
gain the top of the precipice, and so swing around the shoulder of
the mountain. I did not feel inclined to attempt it. The cliffs
at this point offered no means of descent, and the few yards of
sand which the receding tide had left bare at their foot led
So far I had seen no pig, and I began to think they must all be
feeding on the other side of the island. I turned to go back, and
at that moment I heard an outcry in the bushes and Benjy came
tearing out at the heels of a fine young porker. I threw up my gun
to fire, but the evolutions of Benjy and the pig were such that I
was as likely to hit one as the other. The pig, of course, made
desperate efforts to escape from the cul-de-sac in which he found
himself. His only hope was to get back into the woods on the
point. Benjy kept him headed off successfully, and I began to edge
up, watching my chance for a shot. Suddenly the pig came dashing
straight toward me--oblivious, I suppose, to everything but the
white snapping terror at his heels. Taken by surprise, I
fired--and missed. The pig shot between my knees, Benjy after him.
I withstood the shock of the pig, but not of Benjy. I fell,
clawing wildly, into a matted mass of creepers that covered the
ground beside me.
I got to my feet quickly, dragging the whole mass of vines up with
me. Then I saw that they had covered a curiously regular little
patch of ground, outlined at intervals with small stones. At one
end was a larger stone.
The patch was narrow, about six feet long--instantly suggestive of
a grave. But swift beyond all process of reason was the certainty
that flashed into my mind. I fell on my knees beside the stone at
the head and pulled away the torn vine-tendrils. I saw the letters
B. H. and an attempt at cross-bones rudely cut into the surface of
I closed my eyes and tried to steady myself. I thought, I am
seeing things. _This is the mere projection of the vision which
has been in my mind so long_.
I opened my eyes, and lo, the fantasy, if fantasy it were,
remained. I smote with my fist upon the stone. The stone was
solid--it bruised the flesh. And as I saw the blood run, I
screamed aloud like a madman, "_It's real, real, real_!"
Under the stone lay the guardian of the treasure of the _Bonny
Lass_--And his secret was within my grasp.
I don't know how long I crouched beside the stone, as drunk with
joy as any hasheesh toper with his drug. I roused at last to find
Benjy at my shoulder, thrusting his cool nose against my feverish
cheek. I suppose he didn't understand my ignoring him so, or
thought I scorned him for losing out in his race with the pig. Yet
when I think of what I owe that pig I could swear never to taste
Brought back to earth and sanity, I rose and began to consider my
surroundings. Somewhere close at hand was the mouth of the
cave--but where? The cliffs, as I have already said, were too
steep for descent. Nothing but a fly could have crawled down them.
I turned to the craggy face of the mountain. There, surely, must
be the entrance to the cave! For hours I clambered among the
rocks, risking mangled limbs and sunstroke--and found no cave. I
came back at last, wearily, to the grave. There lay the dust of
the brain that had known all--and a wild impulse came to me to tear
away the earth with my bare hands, to dig deep, deep--and then with
listening ear wait for a whispered word.
I put the delirious fancy from me and moved away to the edge of the
cliffs. Looking down, I saw a narrow sloping shelf which dropped
from the brink to a distance of ten or twelve feet below, where it
met a slight projection of the rock. I had seen it before, of
course, but it had carried no significance for my mind. Now I
stepped down upon the ledge and followed it to its end in the angle
of the rock.
Snugly hidden in the angle was a low doorway leading into blackness.
Now of course I ought in prudence to have gone back to the hut and
got matches and a lantern and a rope before I set foot in the
darkness of that unknown place. But what had I to do to-day with
prudence--Fortune had me by the hand! In I went boldly, Benjy at
my heels. The passage turned sharply, and for a little way we
walked in blackness. Then it veered again, and a faint and far-off
light seemed to filter its way to us through a web woven of the
very stuff of night. The floor sloped a little downward. I felt
my way with my feet, and came to a step--another. I was going
along a descending passage, cut at its steepest into rough,
irregular stairs. With either hand I could touch the walls. All
the while the light grew clearer. Presently, by another sharp
turn, I found myself in a cave, some thirty feet in depth by
eighteen across, with an opening on the narrow strip of beach I had
seen from the top of the cliffs.
The roof is high, with an effect of Gothic arches. Near the mouth
is a tiny spring of ice-cold water, which has worn a clean
rock-channel for itself to the sea. Otherwise the cave is
perfectly dry. The shining white sand of its floor is above the
highest watermark on the cliffs outside. There is no doubt in my
mind that in the great buccaneering days of the seventeenth
century, and probably much later, the place was the haunt of
pirates. One fancies that Captain Sampson of the _Bonny Lass_ may
have known of it before he brought the treasure to the island.
There were queer folk to be met with in those days in the Western
Ocean! The cave is cool at blazing midday, and secret, I fancy,
even from the sea, because of the droop of great rock-eaves above
its mouth. Either for the keeping of stores or as a hiding-place
for men or treasure it would be admirable. Yes, the cave has seen
many a fierce, sea-tanned face and tarry pigtail, and echoed to
strange oaths and wild sea-songs. Men had carved those steps in
the passage--thirty-two of them. In the sand of the floor, as I
kicked it up with my feet, hoping rather childishly to strike the
corner of the chest, I found the hilt and part of the blade of a
rusty cutlass, and a chased silver shoe-buckle. I shall take the
buckle home to Helen--and yet how trivial it will seem, with all
else that I have to offer her! Nevertheless she will prize it as
my gift, and because it comes from the place to which some kind
angel led me for her sake.
I left the cave and hurried back to the cabin for a spade, walking
on air, breaking with snatches of song the terrible stillness of
the woods, where one hears only the high fitful sighing of the
wind, or the eternal mutter of the sea. As I came out of the hut
with the spade over my shoulder I waved my hand to the _Island
Queen_ riding at anchor.
"You'll soon be showing a clean pair of heels to Leeward, old
girl!" I cried. Back in the cave, I set to work feverishly, making
the light sand fly. I began at the rear of the cavern, reasoning
that there the sand would lie at greater depth, also that it would
be above the wash of the heaviest storms. At the end of half an
hour, at a point close to the angle of the wall my spade struck a
hard surface. It lay, I should judge, under about two feet of
sand. Soon I had laid bare a patch of dark wood which rang under
my knuckles almost like iron. A little more, and I had cleared
away the sand from the top of a large chest with a convex lid,
heavily bound in brass.
Furiously I flung the sand aside until the chest stood free for
half its depth--which is roughly three feet. It has handles at the
ends, great hand-wrought loops of metal. I tugged my hardest, but
the chest seemed fast in its place as the native rock. I laughed
exultantly. The weight meant gold--gold! I had hammer and chisel
with me, and with these I forced the massive ancient locks. There
were three of them, one for each strip of brass which bound the
chest. Then I flung up the lid.
No glittering treasure dazzled me. I saw only a surface of stained
canvas, tucked in carefully around the edges. This I tore off and
flung aside--eclipsing poor Benjy, who was a most interested
spectator of my strange proceedings. Still no gleam of gold,
merely demure rows of plump brown bags. With both hands I reached
for them. Oh, to grasp them all! I had to be content with two,
because they were so heavy, so blessedly heavy!
I spread the square of canvas on the sand, cut the strings from the
bags, and poured out--gold, gold! All fair shining golden coins
they were, not a paltry silver piece among them! And they made a
soft golden music as they fell in a glorious yellow heap.
I don't know how long I sat there, playing with my gold, running it
through my fingers, clinking the coins together in my palm. Benjy
came and sniffed at them indifferently, unable to understand his
master's preoccupation. He thrust his nose into my face and
barked, and said as clearly as with words, _Come, hunt pig_!
"Benjy," I said, "we'll leave the pork alone just now. We have
work enough to count our money. We're rich, old boy, rich, rich!"
Of course, I don't yet know exactly what the value of the treasure
is. I have counted the bags in the chest; there are one hundred
and forty-eight. Each, so far as I have determined, contains one
thousand doubloons, which makes a total of one hundred and
forty-eight thousand. Estimating each coin, for the sake of even
figures, at a value of seven dollars--a safe minimum--you get one
million, thirty-six thousand dollars. And as many of the coins are
ancient, I ought to reap a harvest from collectors.
Besides the coin, I found, rather surprisingly, laid between the
upper layers of bags, a silver crucifix about nine inches long. It
is of very quaint old workmanship, and badly tarnished. Its money
value must be very trifling, compared to the same bulk of golden
coins. I think it must have had some special character of
sacredness which led to its preservation here. It is strange to
find such a relic among a treasure so stained by blood and crime.
And now I have to think about moving the gold. First of all I must
get the chest itself aboard the _Island Queen_. This means that I
shall have to empty it and leave the gold in the cave, while I get
the chest out by sea. When the chest is safely in the cabin of the
sloop--where it won't leave much room for Benjy and his master, I'm
Back to Full Books