Part 3 out of 4
afraid--I will take the bags of coin out by the land entrance. I
can't think of risking my precious doubloons in the voyage around
Of course I should have liked to get to the task to-day, but after
the first mad thrill of the great event was over, I found myself as
weak and unnerved as a woman. So by a great effort I came away and
left my glorious golden hoard. Now I dream and gloat, playing with
the idea that to-morrow I shall find it all a fantasy. The
pleasure of this is, of course, that all the while I _know_ this
wildest of all Arabian fairy tales to be as real as the most drab
and sober fact of my hitherto colorless life.
After all, on the way back from the cave Benjy brought down a pig.
So he is as well pleased with the day as I am. Now I am sitting in
the doorway of my cabin, writing up my journal, and trying to calm
down enough to go to bed. If it were not for the swift fading of
daylight, I would go back to the cave for another peep into the
chest. But all round the island the sea is moaning with that
peculiarly melancholy note that comes with the falling of night.
The sea-birds have risen from the cove and gone wheeling off in
troops to their nests on the cliffs. Somehow a curious dislike,
almost fear, of this wild, sea-girt, solitary place has come over
me. I long for the sound of human voices, the touch of human
hands. I think of the dead man lying there at the door of the
cave, its silent guardian for so long. I suppose he brooded once
on the thought of the gold as I do--perhaps he has been brooding so
these ninety years! I wonder if he is pleased that I, a stranger,
have come into possession of his secret hoard at last?
Oh, Helen, turn your heavenly face on me--be my refuge from these
shuddering unwholesome thoughts! The gold is for you--for you!
Surely that must cleanse it of its stains, must loose the clutch of
the dead hands that strive to hold it!
February 11. This morning I was early at the cave. Yes, there it
was, the same wonder-chest that I had dreamed of all night long.
It was absurd how the tightness in my breast relaxed.
I began at once the work of removing the bags from the chest and
stacking them in the corner of the cave. It was a fatiguing job, I
had to stoop so. At the bottom of the chest I found a small
portfolio of very fine leather containing documents in Spanish.
They bear an official seal. Although I should be interested to
know their meaning, I think I shall destroy them. They weaken my
feeling of ownership; I suppose there is a slight flavor of
lawlessness in my carrying off the gold from the island like this.
Very likely the little Spanish-American state which has some claim
to overlordship here would dispute my right to the treasure-trove.
I spent so much time unloading the chest and poring over the
papers, trying, by means of my ill-remembered Latin, to make out
the sense of the kindred Spanish, that before I was ready to go for
my boat the tide was up and pounding on the rocks below the cave.
I find that only at certain stages of the tide is the cave
approachable by sea. At the turn after high water, for instance,
there is such a terrific undertow that it sets up a small maelstrom
among the reefs lying off the island. At low tide is the time to
February 12. Got the chest out of the cave, though it was a
difficult job. I don't know of what wood the thing is built--some
South American hardwood, I fancy--but it weighs like metal. The
heavy brass clampings count for something, of course. Luckily
there was no sea, and I had a smooth passage around the point, I
laughed rather ruefully as I passed the Cave of the Two Arches. To
think of the toil I wasted there! I wish Benjy had encountered the
fateful pig a little sooner.
Got the chest aboard the _Island Queen_ and stowed in the cabin.
Not room left to swing a kitten. Contrived an elaborate
arrangement of ropes and spikes to keep it in place in a heavy sea.
In the afternoon began moving the gold. It's the deuce of a job.
February 15. Been hard at it for three days. Most of the gold
moved. Have to think too of provisions and water for the trip. I
am making rather a liberal allowance, in case of being blown out of
my course by a tropical gale.
February 16. On board the _Island Queen_. Have moved my traps
from the hut and am sleeping on the sloop. Want to be near the
gold. "Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also," and
in this case the body as well. To-morrow I have only to bring the
last of the gold aboard--a trifling matter--and then go out with
the ebb. I would have got all the bags on board to-day, but I
noticed a worn stretch in the cable holding the sloop and stopped
to repair it. I can't have the sloop going on the rocks in case a
blow comes up to-night. There are only about a load and a half of
bags left in the cave.
A queer notion seized me to-day about the crucifix, when I was
bringing it from the cave. It seemed to float into my brain--I
can't say from what quarter--_that I had better leave the crucifix
for Bill_. It wasn't more than he had a right to, really--and
there is no virtue in a cross-bones to make a man sleep well.
Of course I put the absurd idea from me, and brought the crucifix
aboard along with the rest of the gold. I shall be glad when I
know that the vines have again covered that lonely-looking
gravestone from sight. I can't help feeling my own glorious good
fortune to be somehow an affront to poor unlucky Bill.
To-morrow one last trip to the cave, and then hey, for home and
The diary ended here.
I closed the book, and stared with unseeing eyes into the green
shadows of the encompassing woods. What happened to the writer of
the diary on that last trip to the cave? For he had never left the
island. Crusoe was here to prove it, as well as the wreck of the
Island Queen. And, in all human probability, under the sand which
choked the cabin of the derelict was the long-sought chest of
But what was the mysterious fate of Peter? Had he fallen,
overboard from the sloop and been drowned? Had he returned to the
cave--and was he there still? It was all a mystery--but a mystery
which I burned to solve.
Of course I might have solved it, very quickly, merely by
communicating the extraordinary knowledge which had come to me to
my companions. But for the present at least I meant to keep this
astounding secret for my own. Somehow or other, by guile or lucky
circumstance, I must bring it about that the document I had signed
at Miss Browne's behest was canceled. Was I, who all unaided had
discovered, or as good as discovered, the vainly-sought-for
treasure, to disclose its whereabouts to those who would deny me
the smallest claim upon its contents? Was I to see all those
"fair, shining golden coins," parceled out between Miss Browne, and
Mr. Tubbs, and Captain Magnus (the three who loomed large in my
indignant thoughts), and not possess a single one myself? Or
perhaps accept a little stingy present of a few? I really wasn't
very covetous about the money, taken just as money; but considered
as buried treasure it made my mouth water.
Then besides, while I kept my secret I had power; everybody's
destiny was in my hands. This was a sweet thought. I felt that I
should enjoy going about with a deceptive meekness, and taking the
severest snubs from Miss Browne, knowing that at any moment I could
blossom forth into the most exalted and thrilling importance.
Also, not only did I want a share in the treasure myself, but I
wanted, if possible, to divide it up on a different basis from the
present. I wanted Cuthbert Vane to have a lot of it--and I should
have been much better pleased not to let Mr. Tubbs or Captain
Magnus have any. I did not crave to enrich Violet, and I thought
Aunt Jane had already more money than was good for her. Give her
another half-million, and Mr. Tubbs would commit bigamy, if
necessary, for her sake.
And then there was Dugald Shaw, who had saved my life, and who
seemed to have forgotten it, and that I had ever had my arms about
his neck--and who was poor--and brave--
Yes, decidedly, I should keep my secret yet while, till I saw how
the cards were going to fall.
I BRING TO LIGHT A CLUE
My first and all but overpowering impulse was to possess myself of
a spade and dash for the wreck of the _Island Queen_. Sober second
thought restrained me. Merely to get there and back would consume
much time, for the descent of the cliffs, and still more the climb
up again, was a toilsome affair. Also, reflection showed me that
to dig through the damp close-packed sand of the cabin would be no
trifling task, for I should be hampered by the need of throwing out
the excavated sand behind me through the narrow companionway. I
could achieve my end, no doubt, by patient burrowing, but it would
require much more time than I had at my command before the noon-day
sounding of Cookie's gong. I must not be seen departing or
returning with a spade, but make off with the implement in a
stealthy and burglarious manner. Above all, I must not risk
betraying my secret through impatience.
But there was nothing to forbid an immediate pilgrimage to the
much-sought gravestone with its sinister symbol. The account in
Peter's diary of his adventure with the pig placed the grave with
such exactness that I had no doubt of finding it easily. That
done, I would know very nearly where to look for the cave--and in
order to bid defiance to a certain chill sense of reluctance which
beset me at the thought of the cave I started out at once, skirting
the clearing with much circumspection, for it seemed to me that
even the sight of my vanishing back must shout of mystery to Cookie
droning hymns among his pots and pans. Crusoe, of course, came
with me, happily unconscious of his own strange relation to our
Following in the steps of Peter, who seemed in an airy and
uncomfortable fashion to be bearing me company, I struck across the
point, at the base of the rough slope which marks the first rise of
the peak. As I neared the sea on the other side great crags began
to overhang the path, which was, of course, no path, but merely the
line of least resistance through the woods. Soon the noise of the
sea, of which one was never altogether free on the island, though
it reaches the recesses of the forest only as a vast nameless
murmur, broke in heightened clamor on my ears. I heard the waves
roaring and dashing on rocks far below--and then I stood at the
dizzy edge of the plateau looking out over the illimitable gleaming
reaches of the sea.
Somewhere in this angle between the ragged margin of the cliffs and
the abrupt rise of the craggy mountainside, according to Peter's
journal, lay the grave. I began systematically to poke with a
stick I carried into every low-growing mass of vines or bushes.
Because of the comparatively rocky, sterile soil the woods were
thinner here, and the undergrowth was greater. Only the very
definite localization of the grave by the accommodating diarist
gave any hope of finding it.
And then, quite suddenly, I found it. My proddings had displaced a
matted mass of ground-creeper. Beneath, looking raw and naked
without its leafy covering, was the "curiously regular little
patch of ground, outlined at intervals with small stones."
Panic-stricken beetles scuttled for refuge. A great green slug
undulated painfully across his suddenly denuded pasture, A whole
small world found itself hurled back to chaos.
At the head of the grave lay a large, smoothly-rounded stone.
I knelt and brushed away some obstinate vine-tendrils, and
the letters "B. H." revealed themselves, cut deeply and
irregularly into the sloping face of the stone. Below was the
half-intelligible symbol of the crossed bones.
There was something in the utter loneliness of the place that
caught my breath sharply. At once I had the feeling of a marauder.
Here slept the guardian of the treasure--and yet in defiance of him
I meant to have it. So, too, had Peter--and I didn't know yet what
he had managed to do to Peter--but I guessed from his journal that
Peter had been a slightly morbid person. He had let the wild
solitude of the island frighten him. He had indulged foolish
fancies about crucifixes. He had in fact let the defenses of his
will be undermined ever so little--and then of course there was no
telling what They could do to you.
With an impatient shiver I got up quickly from my knees. What
abominable nonsense I had been talking--was there a miasma about
that old grave that affected one? I whistled to Crusoe, who was
trotting busily about on mysterious intelligence conveyed to him by
his nose. He ran to me joyfully, and I stooped and patted his warm
"Let Bill walk, Crusoe," I remarked, "let him! He needn't be a dog
in the manger about the treasure, anyhow."
Now came the moment which I had been trying not to think about. I
had to find the entrance to the cave, and then go into it or part
with my own esteem forever. I went and peered over the cliff. I
had an unacknowledged hope that the shelf of which Peter had
written had been rent off by some cataclysm and that I could not
possibly get down to the doorway in the rock. My hope was vain.
The ledge was there--not an inviting ledge, nor one on which the
unacrobatically inclined would have any impulse to saunter, but a
perfectly good ledge, on which I had not the slightest excuse for
declining to venture. Seventy feet below I saw a narrow strip of
sand, from which the tide was receding. It ran along under the
great precipice which rose on my right, forming the face of the
mountain on the south side. On that strip of sand the old
hiding-place of the-pirates opened. I thought I saw the
overhanging eaves of rock of which the diary had spoken.
There was truly nothing dangerous about the ledge. It was nearly
three feet wide, and had an easy downward trend. Yet you heard the
hungry roar of the surf below, and try as you would not to, caught
glimpses of the white swirl of it. I moved cautiously, keeping
close to the face of the cliff. Crusoe, to my annoyance, sprang
down upon the ledge after me. I had a feeling that he must
certainly trip me as I picked my way gingerly along.
An angle in the rock--a low dark entrance-way--it was all as Peter
had described it. I peered in--nothing but impenetrable blackness.
I took a hesitating step. The passage veered sharply, as the diary
had recorded. Once around the corner, there would be nothing but
darkness anywhere. One would go stumbling on, feeling with feet
and hands--hands cold with the dread of what they might be going to
touch. For, suddenly portentous and overwhelming, there rose
before me the unanswered question of what had become of Peter on
that last visit to the cave. Unanswered--and unanswerable except
in one way: by going in to see.
But if by any strange chance--where all chances were strange--he
were still there, I did not want to see. I did not like to
contemplate his possible neighborhood. Indeed, he grew enormously
more real to me with every instant I stood there, and whereas I had
so far thought principally about the treasure, I now began to think
with intensity of Peter. What ironic stroke of fate had cut him
down in the very moment of his triumph? Had he ever reached the
cave to bring away the last of the doubloons? Were they
still waiting there unclaimed? Had he fallen victim to some
extraordinary mischance on the way back to the _Island Queen_? Had
a storm come up on that last night, and the weakened cable parted,
and the _Island Queen_ gone on the rocks, drowning Peter in the
cabin with his gold? Then how had Crusoe got away, Crusoe, who
feared the waves so, and would bark at them and then turn tail and
Speaking of Crusoe, where was he? I realized that a moment ago he
had plunged into the passage. I heard the patter of his feet--a
pause. A queer, dismal little whine echoed along the passage. I
heard Crusoe returning--but before his nose appeared around the
angle of the tunnel, his mistress had reached the top of the cliff
at a bound and was vanishing at a brisk pace into the woods.
With bitterness, as I pursued my way to camp, I realized that I was
not a heroine. Here was a mystery--it was the business of a
heroine to solve it. Now that I was safely away from the cave, I
began to feel the itch of a torturing curiosity. How, without
going into the terrifying place alone, should I find out what was
there? Should I pretend to have accidentally discovered the grave,
lead the party to it, and then--again accidentally--discover the
tunnel? This plan had its merits--but I discarded it, for fear
that something would be found in the cave to direct attention to
the _Island Queen_. Then I reflected that very likely the
explorers would work round the island far enough to find the
sea-mouth of the cave. This would take matters entirely out of my
hands. I should perhaps be enlightened as to the fate of Peter and
the last remaining bags of doubloons, but might also have to share
the secret of the derelict with the rest. And then all my dreams
of playing fairy godmother and showering down on certain
heads--like coals of fire--torrents of beautiful golden doubloons,
would be over.
On the whole I could not tell whether I burned with impatience to
have the cave discovered, or was cold with the fear of it.
And then, so vigorous is the instinct to see one's self in heroic
postures, I found I was trying to cheat myself with the pretense
that I meant presently to abstract Aunt Jane's electric torch and
returning to the tunnel-mouth plunge in dauntlessly.
MR. TUBBS INTERRUPTS
I had determined as an offset to my pusillanimous behavior about
the cave to show a dogged industry in the matter of the _Island
Queen_. It would take me a long while to get down through the sand
to the chest, but I resolved to accomplish it, and borrowed of
Cookie, without his knowledge, a large iron spoon which I thought I
could wield more easily than a heavy spade. Besides, Cookie would
be less sleuth-like in getting on the trail of his missing property
than Mr. Shaw--though there would be a certain piquancy in having
that martinet hale me before him for stealing a spade.
But that afternoon I was tired and hot--it really called for a
grimmer resolve than mine to shovel sand through the languor of a
Leeward Island afternoon. Instead, I slept in my hammock, and
dreamed that I was queen of a cannibal island, draped in necklaces
made of the doubloons now hidden under the sand in the cabin of the
Later, the wailing of Cookie was heard in the land, and I had to
restore the spoon to free Crusoe of the charge of having stolen it.
I said I had wanted it to dig with. But of course it occurred to
no one that it was the treasure I had expected to dig up with
Cookie's spoon. It was touching to see the universal faith in the
trivial nature of my employments, to know that every one imagined
themselves to be seriously occupied, while I was merely a
girl--there is no common denominator for the qualifying
adjective--who roamed about idly with a dog, and that no one
dreamed that we had thus come to be potentially among the richest
dogs and girls in these latitudes.
A more serious obstacle to my explorations on the _Island Queen_
presented itself next day. Instead of putting to sea, Mr. Shaw and
Captain Magnus hauled the boat up on the beach and set to work to
repair it. The wild work of exploring the coast had left the boat
with leaky seams and a damaged gunwale. The preceding day had been
filled with hardship and danger--so much so that my heart sank a
little at the recountal of it. You saw the little boat threading
its way among the reefs, tossed like seaweed by the white teeth of
gnawing waves, screamed at by angry gulls whose homes were those
clefts and caves which the boat invaded. And all this, poor little
boat, on a hopeless quest--for no reward but peril and wounds.
Captain Magnus had a bruised and bleeding wrist, but refused to
have it dressed, vaunting his hardihood with a savage pride.
Cuthbert Vane, however, had a sprained thumb which could not be
ignored, and on the strength of which he was dismissed from the
boat-repairing contingent, and thrown on my hands to entertain. So
of course I had to renounce all thoughts of visiting the sloop. I
should not have dared to go there anyway, with Mr. Shaw and the
captain able more or less to overlook my motions from the beach,
for I was quite morbidly afraid of attracting attention to the
derelict. It seemed to me a happy miracle that no one but myself
had taken any interest in her, or been inspired to ask by what
chance so small a boat had come to be wrecked upon these desolate
shores. Fortunately in her position in the shadow of the cliff she
was inconspicuous, so that she might easily have been taken for the
half of a large boat instead of the whole of a small one, or she
must before this have drawn the questioning notice of the
Scotchman. As to the captain, his attention was all set on the
effort to discover the cave, and his intelligence was not lively
enough to start on an entirely new tack by itself. And the
Honorable Cuthbert viewed derelicts as he viewed the planetary
bodies; somehow in the course of nature they happened.
So, dissembling my excitements and anxieties, I swung placidly in
my hammock, and near by sat the beautiful youth with his thumb
carried tenderly in a bandage. In my preoccupied state of mind, to
entertain him might have seemed by no means an idle pastime, if he
hadn't unexpectedly developed a talkative streak himself. Was it
merely my being so distrait, or was it quite another reason, that
led him to open up so suddenly about his Kentish home? Strange to
say, instead of panting for the title, Cuthbert wanted his brother
to go on living, though there was something queer about his spine,
poor fellow, and the doctors said he couldn't possibly-- Of course
I was surprised at Cuthbert's views, for I had always thought that
if there were a title in your family your sentiments toward those
who kept you out of it were necessarily murderous, and your tears
crocodile when you pretended to weep over their biers. But
Cuthbert's feelings were so human that I mentally apologized to the
nobility. As to High Staunton Manor, I adored it. It is mostly
Jacobean, but with an ancient Tudor wing, and it has a chapel and a
ghost and a secret staircase and a frightfully beautiful and wicked
ancestress hanging in the hall--I mean a portrait of her--and
quantities of oak paneling quite black with age, and silver that
was hidden in the family tombs when Cromwell's soldiers came, and a
chamber where Elizabeth once slept, and other romantic details too
numerous to mention. It is all a little bit run down and shabby,
for lack of money to keep it up, and of course on that account all
the more entrancing. Naturally the less money the more
aristocracy, for it meant that the family had never descended to
marrying coal miners and brewers--which comment is my own, for
Cuthbert was quite destitute of swank.
The present Lord Grasmere lived up to his position so completely
that he had the gout and sat with his foot on a cushion exactly
like all the elderly aristocrats you ever heard of, only when I
inquired if his lordship cursed his valet and flung plates at the
footmen when his foot hurt him his son was much shocked and pained.
He did not realize so well as I--from an extensive course of
novel-reading--that such is the usual behavior of titled persons.
It was delightful, there in the hot stillness of the island, with
the palms rustling faintly overhead, to hear of that cool, mossy,
ancient place. I asked eager questions--I repeated gloatingly
fragments of description--I wondered enviously what it would be
like to have anything so old and proud and beautiful in your very
blood--when suddenly I realized that, misled by my enthusiasm,
Cuthbert was saying something which must not be said--that he was
about to offer the shelter of that ancient roof to me. To me,
whose heart could never nest there, but must be ever on the wing, a
wild bird of passage in the track of a ship--
I sat up with a galvanic start. "Oh--listen--didn't you hear
something?" I desperately broke in. For somehow I must stop him.
I didn't want our nice jolly friendship spoiled--and besides, fancy
being cooped up on an island with a man you have refused!
Especially when all the while you'd be wanting so to pet and
But with his calm doggedness Cuthbert began again--"I was a bit
afraid the old place would have seemed too quiet and dull to you--"
when the day was saved and my interruption strangely justified by a
shrill outcry from the camp.
I knew that high falsetto tone. It was the voice of Mr. Tubbs, but
pitched in a key of quite insane excitement. I sprang up and ran,
Crusoe and the Honorable Cuthbert at my heels. There in the midst
of the camp Mr. Tubbs stood, the center of a group who were
regarding him with astonished looks. Mr. Shaw and the captain had
left their tinkering, Cookie his saucepans, and Aunt Jane and
Violet had come hurrying from the hut. Among us all stood Mr.
Tubbs with folded arms, looking round upon the company with an
extraordinary air of complacency and triumph.
"What is it, oh, what is it, Mr. Tubbs?" cried Aunt Jane,
fluttering with the consciousness of her proprietorship.
But Mr. Tubbs glanced at her as indifferently as a sated
turkey-buzzard at a morsel which has ceased to tempt him.
"Mr. Tubbs," commanded Violet, "speak--explain yourself!"
"Come, out with it, Tubbs," advised Mr. Shaw.
Then the lips of Mr. Tubbs parted, and from them issued this
"What?" screamed Miss Higglesby-Browne. "_You have found it_?"
Solemnly Mr. Tubbs inclined his head.
"Eureka!" he repeated. "I have found it!"
Amidst the exclamations, the questions, the general commotion which
ensued, I had room for only one thought--that Mr. Tubbs had somehow
discovered the treasure in the cabin of the _Island Queen_.
Indeed, I should have shrieked the words aloud, but for a
providential dumbness that fell upon me. Meanwhile Mr. Tubbs had
unfolded his arms from their Napoleonic posture on his bosom long
enough to wave his hand for silence.
"Friends," he began, "it has been known from the start that there
was a landmark on this little old island that would give any party
discovering the same a line on that chest of money right away.
There's been some that was too high up in the exploring business to
waste time looking for landmarks. They had ruther do more fancy
stunts, where what with surf, and sharks, and bangin' up the boat,
they could make a good show of gettin' busy. But old Ham Tubbs, he
don't let on to be a hero. Jest a plain man o' business--that's
old H. H. Consequence is, he leaves the other fellers have the
brass band, while he sets out on the q. t. to run a certain little
clue to earth. And, ladies and gentlemen, he's run it!"
"You have found--you have found the treasure!" shrilled Aunt Jane.
Contrary to his bland custom, Mr. Tubbs frowned at her darkly.
"I said I found the _clue_," he corrected. "Of course, it's the
same thing. Ladies and gentlemen, not to appear to be a hot-air
artist, I will tell you in a word, that I have located the
tombstone of one William Halliwell, deceased!"
Of course. Not once had I thought of it. Bare, stark, glaring up
at the sun, lay the stone carved with the letters and the
cross-bones. Forgetting in the haste of my departure to replace
the vines upon the grave, I had left the stone to shout its secret
to the first comer. And that had happened to be Mr. Tubbs.
Happened, I say, for I knew that he had not had the slightest
notion where to look for the grave of Bill Halliwell. This running
to earth of clues was purely an affair of his own picturesque
I wondered uneasily what he had made of the uprooted vines--but he
would lay them to the pigs, no doubt. In the countenance of Mr.
Tubbs, flushed and exultant, there was no suspicion that the secret
was not all his own.
Miss Higglesby-Browne had been settling her helmet more firmly upon
her wiry locks. She had a closed umbrella beneath her arm, and she
drew and brandished it like a saber as she took a long stride
"Mr. Tubbs," she commanded, "lead on!"
But Mr. Tubbs did not lead on. He stood quite still, regarding
Miss Browne with a smile of infinite slyness.
"Oh, no indeed!" he said. "Old H. H. wasn't born yesterday. It
may have struck you that to possess the sole and exclusive
knowledge of the whereabouts of a million or two--ratin' it low--is
some considerable of an asset. And it's one I ain't got the least
idee of partin' with unless for inducements held out."
Aunt Jane gave a faint shriek. I had been silently debating what
my own course should be in the face of this unexpected development.
Suddenly I saw my way quite clear. I would say nothing. Mr. Tubbs
should reveal his own perfidy. And the curtain should ring down
upon the play, leaving Mr. Tubbs foiled all around, bereft both of
the treasure and of Aunt Jane. Oh, how I would enjoy the farce as
it was played by the unconscious actors! How I would step in at
the end to reward virtue and punish guilt! And how I would point
the moral, later, very gently to Aunt Jane, an Aunt Jane all
penitence and docility!
Little I dreamed what surprises ensuing acts of the play were to
hold for me, or of their astounding contrast with the farce of my
I took no part in the storm that raged round Mr. Tubbs. It is said
that in the heart of the tempest there is calm, and this great
truth of natural philosophy Mr. Tubbs exemplified. His face
adorned by a seraphic, buttery smile, he stood unmoved, while Miss
Higglesby-Browne uttered cyclonic exhortations and reproaches,
while Aunt Jane sobbed and said, "_Oh, Mr. Tubbs_!" while Mr. Shaw
strove to make himself heard above the din. He did at least
succeed in extracting from the traitor a definite statement of
terms. These were nothing less than fifty per cent. of the
treasure, secured to him by a document signed, sealed and delivered
into his own hands. To a suggestion that as he had discovered the
all-important tombstone so might some one else, he replied with
tranquillity that he thought not, as he had taken precautions
against such an eventuality. In other words, as I was later to
discover, the wily Mr. Tubbs had contrived to raise the boulder
from its bed and push it over the cliff into the sea, afterward
replacing the mass of vines upon the grave.
As to the entrance to the tunnel, it was apparent to me that Mr.
Tubbs had not yet discovered it. Even if he had, I am certain that
he would have been no more heroic than myself about exploring it,
though there was no missing Peter to haunt his imagination. But
with the grave as a starting-point, there could be no question as
to the ultimate discovery of the cave.
I was so eager myself to see the inside of the cave, and to know
whatever it had to reveal of the fate of Peter, that I was inclined
to wish Mr. Tubbs success in driving his hard bargain, especially
as it would profit him nothing in the end. But this sentiment was
exclusively my own. On all hands indignation greeted the rigorous
demands of Mr. Tubbs. With a righteous joy, I saw the fabric of
Aunt Jane's illusions shaken by the rude blast of reality. Would
it be riven quite in twain? I was dubious, for Aunt Jane's
illusions have a toughness in striking contrast to the uncertain
nature of her ideas in general. Darker and darker disclosures of
Mr. Tubbs's perfidy would be required. But judging from his
present recklessness, they would be forthcoming. For where was the
Tubbs of yesterday--the honey-tongued, the suave, the anxiously
obsequious Tubbs? Gone, quite gone. Instead, here was a Tubbs who
cocked his helmet rakishly, and leered round upon the company, deaf
to the claims of loyalty, the pleas of friendship, the voice of
Manfully Miss Higglesby-Browne stormed up and down the beach. She
demanded of Mr. Shaw, of Cuthbert Vane, of Captain Magnus, each and
severally, that Mr. Tubbs be compelled to disgorge his secret. You
saw that she would not have shrunk from a regimen of racks and
thumbscrews. But there were no racks or thumbscrews on the island.
Of course we could have invented various instruments of torture--I
felt I could have developed some ingenuity that way myself--but too
fatally well Mr. Tubbs knew the civilized prejudices of those with
whom he had to deal. With perfect impunity he could strut about
the camp, sure that no weapons worse than words would be brought to
bear upon him, that he would not even be turned away from the
general board to browse on cocoanuts in solitude.
Long ago Mr. Shaw had left the field to Violet and with a curt
shrug had turned his back and stood looking out over the cove,
stroking his chin reflectively. Miss Browne's eloquence had risen
to amazing flights, and she already had Mr. Tubbs inextricably
mixed with. Ananias and Sapphira, when the Scotchman broke in upon
"Friends," he said, "so far as I can see we have been put a good
bit ahead by this morning's work. First, we know that the grave
which should be our landmark has not been entirely obliterated by
the jungle, as I had thought most likely. Second, we know that it
is on this side of the island, for the reason that this chap Tubbs
hasn't nerve to go much beyond shouting distance by himself.
Third, as Tubbs has tried this hold-up business I believe we should
consider the agreement by which he was to receive a sixteenth share
null and void, and decide here and now that he gets nothing
whatever. Fourth, the boat is now pretty well to rights, and as
soon as we have a snack Bert and Magnus and I will set out, in
twice as good heart as before, having had the story that brought us
here confirmed for the first time. So Tubbs and his tombstone can
go to thunder."
"I can, can I?" cried Mr. Tubbs. "Say, are you a human iceberg, to
talk that cool before a man's own face? Say, I'll--"
But Cuthbert Vane broke in.
"Three rousing cheers, old boy!" he cried to the Scotchman
enthusiastically. "Always did think the chap a frightful bounder,
don't you know? We'll stand by old Shaw, won't we, Magnus?" Which
comradely outbreak showed the excess of the beautiful youth's
emotions, for usually he turned a large cold shoulder on the
captain, though managing in some mysterious manner to be perfectly
civil all the time. Perhaps you have to be born at High Staunton
Manor or its equivalent to possess the art of relegating people to
immense distances without seeming to administer even the gentlest
But unfortunately the effect of the Honorable Cuthbert's cordiality
was lost, so far as the object of it was concerned, because of the
surprising fact, only now remarked by any one, that Captain Magnus
SOME SECRET DIPLOMACY
The evanishment of Captain Magnus, though quite unlooked for at so
critical a moment, was too much in keeping with his eccentric and
unsocial ways to arouse much comment. Everybody looked about with
mild ejaculations of surprise, and then forgot about the matter.
Whistling a Scotch tune, Dugald Shaw set to work again on the boat.
In the face of difficulty or opposition he always grew more brisk
and cheerful. I used to wonder whether in the event of a tornado
he would not warm into positive geniality. Perhaps it would not
have needed a tornado, if I had not begun by suspecting him of
conspiring against Aunt Jane's pocket, or if the Triumvirate,
inspired by Mr. Tubbs, had not sat in gloomy judgment on his every
movement. Or if he hadn't been reproached so for saving me from
the cave, instead of leaving it to Cuthbert Vane--
But now under the stimulus of speaking his mind about Mr. Tubbs the
Scotchman whistled as he worked, and slapped the noble youth
affectionately on the back when he came and got in the way with
As I wanted to observe developments--a very necessary thing when
you are playing Providence--I chose a central position in the shade
and pulled out some very smudgy tatting, a sort of Penelope's web
which there was no prospect of my ever completing, but which served
admirably to give me an appearance of occupation at critical
Mr. Tubbs also had sought a shady spot and was fanning himself with
his helmet. From time to time he hummed, in a manner determinedly
gay. However he might disguise it from himself, this time Mr.
Tubbs had overshot his mark. In the first thrill of his great
discovery he had thought the game was in his hands. He had looked
for an instant capitulation.
The truth was, since our arrival on the island Mr. Tubbs had felt
himself the spoiled child of fortune. Aunt Jane and Miss
Higglesby-Browne were the joint commanders of the expedition, and
he commanded them. The Scotchman's theoretical rank as leader had
involved merely the acceptance of all the responsibility and blame,
while authority rested with the petticoat government dominated by
the bland and wily Tubbs.
Had Mr. Tubbs but continued bland and wily, had he taken his fair
confederates into his counsels, who knows how fat a share of the
treasure they might have voted him. But he had abandoned his safe
nook behind the throne, and sought to come out into the open as
dictator. _Sic semper tyrannis_. So had the mighty fallen.
Faced with the failure of his _coup d'etat_, Mr. Tubbs's situation
was, to say the least, awkward. He had risked all, and lost it.
But he maintained an air of jaunty self-confidence, slightly tinged
with irony. It was all very well, he seemed to imply, for us to
try to get along without H. H. We would discover the impossibility
of it soon enough.
Aunt Jane, drooping, had been led away to the cabin by Miss
Higglesby-Browne. You now heard the voice of Violet in
exhortation, mingled with Aunt Jane's sobs. I seemed to see that
an ear of Mr. Tubbs was cocked attentively in that direction, He
had indeed erred in the very wantonness of triumph, for a single
glance would have kept Aunt Jane loyal and prodigal of excuses for
him in the face of any treachery. Not even Violet could have
clapped the lid on the up-welling fount of sentiment in Aunt Jane's
heart. Only the cold condemning eye of H. H. himself had congealed
that tepid flood.
The morning wore on with ever-increasing heat, and as nothing
happened I began to find my watchful waiting dull. Crusoe, worn
out perhaps by some private nocturnal pig-hunt, slept heavily where
the drip of the spring over the brim of old Heintz's kettle cooled
the air. Aunt Jane's sobs had ceased, and only a low murmur of
voices came from the cabin. I began to consider whether it would
not be well to take a walk with Cuthbert Vane and discover the
tombstone all over again. I knew nothing, of course, of Mr.
Tubbs's drastic measures with the celebrated landmark. As to
Cuthbert's interrupted courtship, I depended on the vast excitement
of discovering the cave to distract his mind from it. For that was
the idea, of course--Cuthbert Vane and I would explore the cave,
and then whenever I liked I could prick the bubble of Mr. Tubbs's
ambitions, without relating the whole strange story of the diary
and the _Island Queen_. I was immensely pleased already by the
elimination of Mr. Tubbs from the number of those who need have a
finger in the golden pie. I thought that perhaps with time and
patience I might coax events to play still further into my hand.
But meanwhile the cave drew me like a magnet. I jealously desired
to be the first to see it, to snatch from Mr. Tubbs the honors of
discovery. And I wanted to know about poor Peter--and, the
doubloons that he had gone back to fetch.
But already Captain Magnus had forsaken the post of duty and
departed on an unknown errand. Could I ask Cuthbert Vane to do it,
too? And then I smiled a smile that was half proud. I might ask
him--but he would refuse me. In Cuthbert's simple code, certain
things were "done," certain others not. Among the nots was to fail
in standing by a friend. And just now Cuthbert was standing by
Dugald Shaw. Therefore nods and becks and wreathed smiles were
vain. In Cuthbert's quiet, easy-mannered, thick-headed way he
could turn his back calmly on the face of love and follow the harsh
call of duty even to death. It would not occur to him not to. And
he never would suspect himself of being a hero--that would be quite
the nicest part of it.
And yet I knew poor Cuthbert was an exploded superstition, an
anachronism, part of a vanishing order of things, and that the
ideal which was replacing him was a boiler-plated monster with
clock-work heart and brain, named Efficiency. And that Cuthbert
must go, along with his Jacobean manor and his family ghost, and
the oaks in the park, and everything else that couldn't prove its
right to live except by being fine and lovely and full of garnered
sweetness of the past--
At this point in my meditations the door of the cabin opened and
Miss Browne came out, looking sternly resolute. Aunt Jane
followed, very pink about the eyes and nose. She threw an anxious
fluttering glance at Mr. Tubbs, who sat up briskly, and in a
nervous manner polished with a large bandana that barren zone, his
cranium, which looked torrid enough to scorch the very feet of the
flies that walked on it. It was clear that on the lips of Miss
Browne there hovered some important announcement, which might well
be vital to the fortunes of Mr. Tubbs.
With a commanding gesture Miss Browne signaled the rest to
approach. Mr. Tubbs bounced up with alacrity. Mr. Shaw and
Cuthbert obeyed less promptly, but they obeyed. Meanwhile Violet
waited, looking implacable as fate.
"And where is Captain Magnus?" she demanded, glancing about her.
But no one knew what had become of Captain Magnus.
As for myself, I continued to sit in the shade and tat. But I
could hear with ease all that was said.
"Mr. Tubbs," began Miss Browne, "your recent claims have been
matter of prolonged consideration between Miss Harding and myself.
We feel--we can not but feel--that there was a harshness in your
announcement of them, an apparent concentration on your own
interests, ill befitting a member of this expedition. Also, that
in actual substance, they were excessive. Not half, Mr. Tubbs; oh,
no, not half! But one-quarter, Miss Harding and myself, as the
joint heads of the Harding-Browne expedition, are inclined to think
no more than the reward which is your due. We suggest, therefore,
a simple way out of the difficulty, Mr. Dugald Shaw was engaged on
liberal terms to find the treasure. He has not found the treasure.
He has not found the slightest clue to its present whereabouts.
Mr. Tubbs, on the contrary, has found a clue. It is a clue of the
first importance. It is equivalent almost to the actual discovery
of the chest. Therefore let Mr. Shaw, convinced I am sure by this
calm presentation of the matter of the justice of such a course,
resign his claim to a fourth share of the treasure in favor of Mr.
Hamilton H. Tubbs, and agree to receive instead the former
allotment of Mr. Tubbs, namely, one-sixteenth."
Having offered this remarkable suggestion, Miss Browne folded her
arms and waited for it to bear fruit.
It did--in the enthusiastic response of Mr. Tubbs. Having already
played his highest trump and missed the trick, he now found himself
with an entirely fresh hand dealt to him by the obliging Miss
Higglesby-Browne. The care in his countenance yielded to beaming
"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "To think of your takin' old H. H.
that literal! O' course, havin' formed my habits in the financial
centers of the country, I named a stiff price at first--a stiff
price, I won't deny. But that's jest the leetle way of a man used
to handlin' large affairs--nothin' else to it, I do assure you.
The Old Man himself used to say, 'There's old H. H.--you'd think
he'd eat the paint off a house, he'll show up that graspin' in a
deal. And all the time it's jest love of the game. Let him know
he's goin' to win out, and bless you, old H. H. will swing right
round and fair force the profits on the other party. H. H. is
slicker than soap to handle, if only you handle him right.' Can I
say without hard feelin's that jest now H. H. was not handled
right? Instead o' bein' joshed with, as he looked for, he was took
up short, and even them which he might have expected to show
confidence"--here Mr. Tubbs cast a reproachful eye at Aunt
Jane--"run off with the notion that he meant jest what he said.
All he'd done for this expedition, his loyalty and faith to same,
was forgotten, and he was thought of as a self-seeker and Voracious
Shark!" The pain of these recollections dammed the torrent of Mr.
"Oh, Mr. Tubbs!" breathed Aunt Jane heart-brokenly, and of course a
tear trickled gently down her nose, following the path of many
previous tears which had already left their saline traces.
Mr. Tubbs managed in some impossible fashion to roll one eye
tenderly at Aunt Jane, while keeping the other fastened shrewdly on
the remainder of his audience.
"Miss Higglesby-Browne and Miss Jane Harding," he resumed, "I
accept. It would astonish them as has only known H. H. on his
financial side to see him agree to a reduction of profits like this
without a kick. But I'm a man of impulse, I am. Get me on my soft
side and a kitten ain't more impulsive than old H. H. And o'
course the business of this expedition ain't jest business to me.
It's--er--friendship, and--er--sentiment--in short, there's
feelin's that is more than worth their weight in gold!"
At these significant words the agitation of Aunt Jane was extreme.
Was it possible that Mr. Tubbs was declaring himself in the
presence of others--and was a response demanded from herself--would
his sensitive nature, so lately wounded by cruel suspicion,
interpret her silence as fatal to his hopes? But while she
struggled between maiden shyness and the fear of crushing Mr. Tubbs
the conversation had swept on.
"Mr. Shaw," said Miss Browne, "you have heard Mr. Tubbs, in the
interest of the expedition, liberally consent to reduce his claim
by one-half. Doubtless, if only in a spirit of emulation, you will
attempt to match this conduct by canceling our present agreement
and consenting to another crediting you with the former sixteenth
share of Mr. Tubbs."
"Don't do it, Shaw--hold the fort, old boy!" broke in Cuthbert
Vane. "I say, Miss Browne, this is a bally shame!"
Miss Browne had always treated the prospective Lord Grasmere with
distinguished politeness. Even now her air was mild though lofty.
"Mr. Vane, I must beg leave to remind you that the object of this
expedition was yet unattained when Mr. Tubbs, by following clues
ignored by others, brought success within our reach. Mr. Dugald
Shaw having conspicuously failed--"
"Failed!" repeated Cuthbert, with unprecedented energy. "Failed!
I say, that's too bad of you, Miss Browne. Wasn't everybody here a
lot keener than old Shaw about mucking in that silly cave where
those Johnnies would have had hard work to bury anything unless
they were mermaids? Didn't the old chap risk his neck a dozen
times a day while this Christopher Columbus stayed high and dry
ashore? Suppose he did find the tombstone by stubbing his silly
toes on it--so far he hasn't found the cave, much less the box of
guineas or whatever those foreign chaps call their money. Let Mr.
Tubbs go sit on the tombstone if he likes. Shaw and I can find the
cave quite on our own, can't we, Shaw?"
"Mr. Vane," replied the still deferential Violet, "as a member of
the British aristocracy, it is not to be supposed that you would
view financial matters with the same eye as those of us of the
Middle Classes, who, unhappily perhaps for our finer feelings, have
been obliged to experience the harsh contacts of common life. Your
devotion to Mr. Shaw has a romantic ardor which I can not but
admire. But permit us also our enthusiasm for the perspicacity of
Mr. Tubbs, to which we owe the wealth now within our grasp."
Mr. Shaw now spoke for the first time.
"Miss Browne, I do not recognize the justice of your standpoint in
this matter. I have done and am still prepared to do my best in
this business of the treasure. If Mr. Tubbs will not give his
information except for a bribe, I say--let him keep it. We are no
worse off without it than we were before, and you were then
confident of success. My intention, ma'am, is to hold you to our
original agreement. I shall continue the search for the treasure
on the same lines as at present."
"One moment," said Miss Browne haughtily. She had never spoken
otherwise than haughtily to Mr. Shaw since the episode of the Wise
Woman of Dumbiedykes. "One moment, Jane--and you, Mr. Tubbs--"
She drew them aside, and they moved off out of earshot, where they
stood with their backs to us and their heads together.
It was my opportunity. Violet herself had proposed that the
original agreement--the agreement which bound me to ask for no
share of the treasure--should be canceled. Nothing now was
necessary to the ripening of my hopes but to induce Dugald Shaw to
immolate himself. Would he do so--on my bare word? There was no
time to explain anything--he must trust me.
I sprang up and dashed over to the pair who stood looking gloomily
out to sea. They turned in surprise and stared down, the two big
men, into my flushed up-tilted face.
"Mr. Shaw," I whispered quickly, "you must do as Miss Browne
wishes." In my earnestness I laid a hand upon his arm. He
regarded me bewilderedly.
"You must--you must!" I urged. "You'll spoil everything if you
The surprise in his face yielded to a look composed of many
elements, but which was mainly hard and bitter.
"And still I shall refuse," he said sardonically.
"Oh, no, no," I implored, "you don't understand! I--oh, if you
would only believe that I am your friend!"
His face changed subtly. It was still questioning and guarded, but
with a softening in it, too.
"Why don't you believe it?" I whispered unsteadily. "Do you forget
that I owe you my life?"
And at the recollection of that day in the sea-cave the scarlet
burned in my cheeks and my head drooped. But I saw how the lines
about his mouth relaxed. "Surely you must know that I would repay
you if I could!" I hurried on. "And not by--treachery."
He laughed suddenly. "Treachery? No! I think you would always be
an open foe."
"Indeed I would!" I answered with a flash of wrath. Then, as I
remembered the need of haste, I spoke in an intense quick whisper.
"Listen--I can't explain, there isn't time. I can only ask you to
trust me--to agree to what Miss Browne wishes. Everything--you
don't dream how much--depends on it!" For I felt that I would let
the treasure lie hidden in the _Island Queen_ forever rather than
that Mr. Tubbs should, under the original contract, claim a share
The doubt had quite left his face.
"I do trust you, little Virginia," he said gently. "Yes, I trust
in your honesty, heaven knows, child. But permit me to question
your wisdom in desiring to enrich our friend Tubbs."
"Enrich him--enrich _him_! The best I wish him is unlimited gruel
in an almshouse somewhere. No! What I want is to get that
wretched paper of Miss Browne's nullified. Afterward we can divide
things up as we like--"
Bewilderment, shot with a gleam of half-incredulous understanding,
seemed to transfix him. We stood a long moment, our eyes
challenging each other, exchanging their countersign of faith and
steadfastness. Then slowly he held out his hand. I laid mine in
it--we stood hand in hand, comrades at last. Without more words he
turned away and strode over to the council of three.
I now became aware of Cuthbert Vane, whom perplexity had carried
far beyond the bounds of speech and imprisoned in a sort of torpor.
He was showing faint symptoms of revival, and had got as far as "I
say--?" uttered in the tone of one who finds himself moving about
in worlds not realized, when the near-by group dissolved and moved
rapidly toward us. Miss Browne, exultant, beaming, was in the van.
She set her substantial feet down like a charger pawing the earth.
You might almost have said that Violet pranced. Aunt Jane was
round-eyed and twittering. Mr. Tubbs wore a look of suppressed
astonishment, almost of perturbation. _What's his game_? was the
question in the sophisticated eye of Mr. Tubbs. But the Scotchman
had when he chose a perfect poker face. The great game of bluff
would have suited him to a nicety. Mr. Tubbs interrogated that
inexpressive countenance in vain.
Miss Browne advanced on Cuthbert Vane and seized both his hands in
an ardent clasp.
"Mr. Vane," she said with solemnity, "I thank you--in the name of
this expedition I thank you--for the influence you have exerted
upon your friend!"
And this seemed to be to the noble youth the most stunning of all
the shocks of that eventful morning.
Now came the matter of drawing up the new agreement. It was a
canny Scot indeed who, acting on the hint I had just given him,
finally settled its terms. In the first place, the previous
agreement was declared null and void. In the second, Mr. Tubbs was
to have his fourth only if the treasure were discovered through his
direct agency. And it was under this condition and no other that
Dugald Shaw bound himself to relinquish his original claim.
Virginia Harding signed a new renunciatory clause, but it bore only
on treasure _discovered by Mr. Tubbs_. Indeed, the entire contract
was of force only if Mr. Tubbs fulfilled his part of it, and fell
to pieces if he did not. Which was exactly what I wanted.
Miss Browne and Mr. Tubbs demurred a little at the wording on which
Mr. Shaw insisted, but Mr. Tubbs's confidence in the infallibility
of the tombstone was so great that no real objection was
interposed. No difficulty was made of the absence of Captain
Magnus, as his interests were unaffected by the change. Space was
left for his signature. Mine came last of all, as that of a mere
interloper and hanger-on. I added it and handed the paper demurely
across to Violet, who consigned it to an apparently bottomless
pocket. Copies were to be made after lunch.
My demonstrations of joy at this happy issue of my hopes had to be
confined to a smile--in which for a startled instant Violet had
seemed to sense the triumph. It was still on my lips as with a
general movement we rose from the table about which we had been
grouped during the absorbing business of drawing up the contract.
Cookie had been clamoring for us to leave, that he might spread the
table for lunch. I had opened my mouth to call to him, "All right,
Cookie!" when a shrill volley of barks from Crusoe shattered the
stillness of the drowsy air. In the same instant the voice of
Cookie, raised to a sharp note of alarm, rang through the camp:
"_My Gawd, what all dis yere mean_?"
I turned, to look into the muzzle of a rifle.
LIKE A CHAPTER FROM THE PAST
Five men had emerged from the woods behind the clearing, so quietly
that they were in the center of the camp before Crusoe's shrill
bark, or the outcry of the cook, warned us of their presence. By
that time they had us covered. Three of them carried rifles, the
other two revolvers. One of these was Captain Magnus.
Advancing a step or two before the others he ordered us to throw up
our hands. Perhaps he meant only the men--but my hands and Aunt
Jane's and Miss Higglesby-Browne's also went up with celerity. He
grinned into our astounded faces with a wolfish baring of his
"Never guessed I wasn't here jest to do the shovel work, but might
have my own little side-show to bring off, hey?" he inquired of no
one in particular. "Here, Slinker, help me truss 'em up."
The man addressed thrust his pistol in his belt and came forward,
and with his help the hands of the Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane and Mr.
Tubbs were securely tied. They were searched for arms, and the
sheath-knives which Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert carried at their belts
were taken away. The three prisoners were then ordered to seat
themselves in a row on the trunk of a prostrate palm.
The whole thing had happened in the strangest silence. Except for
a feeble moaning from Aunt Jane, like the bleating of a sheep,
which broke forth at intervals, nobody spoke or made a sound. The
three riflemen in the background, standing like images with their
weapons raised, looked like a well-trained chorus in an opera.
And indeed it was all extraordinarily like something on a stage.
Slinker, for instance. He had a prowling, sidelong fashion of
moving about, and enormous yellow mustaches like a Viking. Surely
some artist in the make-up line had invented Slinker! And the
burly fellow in the background, with the black whiskers--too bad
he'd forgotten his earrings---
But I awoke to the horrid reality of it all as Captain Magnus,
smiling his wolfish smile, turned and approached me.
"Well, boys," he remarked to his followers, who had now lowered
their weapons and were standing about at ease, "here's the little
pippin I was tellin' of. 'Fraid we give her a little scare bustin'
in so sudden, so she ain't quite so bright and smilin' as I like to
see. Its all right, girlie; you'll soon cheer up when you find out
you're go'in' to be the little queen o' this camp. Things will be
all your way now--so long as you treat me right." And the
abominable creature thrust forth a hairy paw and deliberately
chucked me under the chin.
I heard a roar from the log--and coincidently from Captain Magnus.
For with the instant response of an automaton--consciously I had
nothing at all to do with it--I had reached up and briskly boxed
the captain's ears.
Furiously he caught my wrist. "Ah, you red-headed little devil,
you'll pay for this! I ain't pretty, oh, no! I ain't a handsome
mooncalf like the Honorable; I ain't got a title, nor girly pink
cheeks, nor fine gentleman ways. No walks with the likes o' me, no
tatey-tates in the woods--oh, no! Well, it's goin' to be another
story now, girlie. I guess you can learn to like my looks, with a
little help from my fist now and then, jest as well as you done the
Honorable's. I guess it won't be long before I have you crawlin'
on your knees to me for a word o' kindness. I guess--"
"Aw, stow that soft stuff, Magnus," advised Slinker. "You can do
your spoonin' with the gal later on. We're here to git that gold,
and don't you forget it. Plenty o' time afterwards to spark the
"That's the talk," chimed in Blackbeard. "Don't run us on a lee
shore for the sake of a skirt. Skirts is thicker'n herring in
every port, ain't they?"
"I got a score to settle with this one," growled Magnus sullenly,
but his grasp loosened on my arm, and I slipped from him and fled
to Aunt Jane--yes, to Aunt Jane--and clung to her convulsively.
The poor little woman was crying, of course, making a low
inarticulate whimper like a frightened child. Miss
Higglesby-Browne seemed to have petrified. Her skin had a withered
look, and a fine network of lines showed on it, suddenly clear,
like a tracery on parchment. Beyond her I saw the face of Dugald
Shaw, gray with a steely wrath. A gun had been trained anew on him
and Cuthbert, and the bearer thereof was arguing with them
profanely. I suppose the prisoners had threatened outbreak at the
spectacle of the chin-chucking.
No one had bothered to secure Cookie, and he knelt among the pots
and pans of his open-air kitchen, pouring forth petitions in a
steady stream. Blackboard, who seemed a jovial brute, burst into a
"Ha, ha! Look at old Soot-and-Cinders gittin' hisself ready for
glory!" He approached the negro and aimed at him a kick which
Cookie, arising with unexpected nimbleness, contrived to dodge.
"Looky here, darky, git busy dishin' up the grub, will you? I
could stand one good feed after the forecastle slops we been livin'
Blackbeard, whom his companions addressed indiscriminately as
"Captain," or "Tony," seemed to exercise a certain authority. He
went over to the prisoners on the log and inspected their bonds.
"You'll do; can't git loose nohow," he announced. Then, with a
savage frown, "But no monkey business. First o' that I see, its a
dose o' cold lead for youse, savvy?"
He turned to us women.
"Well, chickabiddies, we ain't treated you harsh, I hope? Now I
don't care about tyin' youse up, in case we can help it, so jest be
good girls, and I'll let youse run around loose for a while."
But Magnus struck in with an oath.
"Loose? You're turnin' soft, I say. The future Mrs. M.
there--which I mean to make her if she behaves right--she's a
handful, she is. There ain't no low trick she won't play on us if
she gets the chance. Better tie her up, I say."
"Magnus," responded Tony with severity, "it'd make a person think
to hear you talk that you wasn't no gentleman. If you can't keep
little Red-top in order without you tie her, why, then hand her
over to a guy what can. I bet I wouldn't have a speck o' trouble
with her--her and me would git along as sweet as two turtle-doves."
"You dry up, Tony," said Magnus, lowering. "I'll look after my own
affairs of the heart. Anyway, here's them two old hens what have
been makin' me sick with their jabber and nonsense all these weeks.
Ain't I goin' to have a chance to get square?"
"Here, youse!" struck in Slinker, "quit your jawin'! Here's a feed
we ain't seen the like of in weeks."
Tony thereupon ordered the women to sit down on the ground in the
shade and not move under penalty of "gettin' a wing clipped." We
obeyed in silence and looked on while the pirates with wolfish
voracity devoured the meal which had been meant for us. They had
pocket-flasks with them, and as they attacked them with frequency
the talk grew louder and wilder. By degrees it was possible to
comprehend the extraordinary disaster which had befallen us, at
least in a sketchy outline of which the detail was filled in later.
Tony, it appeared, was the master of a small power-schooner which
had been fitting out in San Francisco for a filibustering trip to
the Mexican coast. His three companions were the crew. None was
of the old hearty breed of sailors, but wharf-rats pure and simple,
city-dregs whom chance had led to follow the sea. Tony, in whom
one detected a certain rough force and ability, was an Italian, an
outlaw specimen of the breed which mans the fishing fleet putting
forth from the harbor of San Francisco. When and where he and
Magnus had been friends I do not know. But no sooner had the
wisdom of Miss Browne imparted the great secret to her chance
acquaintance of the New York wharves, than he had communicated with
his old pal Tony. The power-schooner with her unlawful cargo stole
out through the gate, made her delivery in the Mexican port, took
on fresh supplies, and stood away for Leeward Island. The western
anchorage had received and snugly hidden her. Captain Magnus,
meanwhile, by means of a mirror flashed from Lookout, had
maintained communication with his friends, and even visited them
under cover of the supposed shooting expedition. And now, while we
had been striving to overcome the recalcitrancy of Mr. Tubbs,
Captain Magnus had taken a short cut to the same end. You felt
that the secret of Mr. Tubbs would be extracted, if need be, by no
But Mr. Tubbs's character possessed none of that unreasonable
obstinacy which would make harsh measures necessary under such
conditions. His countenance, as the illuminating conversation of
the pirates had proceeded, lost the speckled appearance which had
characterized it at the height of his terrors. Something like his
normal hue returned. He sat up straighter, moistened his dry lips,
and looked around upon us, yes, even upon Aunt Jane and Miss
Higglesby-Browne, with whom he had been so lately and so tenderly
reconciled, with a sidelong, calculating glance. After the pirates
had eaten, the prisoners on the log were covered with a rifle and
their hands untied, while Cookie, in a lugubrious silence made
eloquent by his rolling eyes, passed around among us the remnants
of the food. No one can be said to have eaten with appetite except
Mr. Tubbs, who received his portion with wordy gratitude and
devoured it with seeming gusto. The pirates, full-fed, with pipes
in mouths, were inclined to be affable and jocular. "Feeding the
animals," as Slinker called it, seemed to afford them much
agreeable diversion. Even Magnus had lost in a degree his usual
sullenness, and was wreathed in simian smiles. The intense terror
and revulsion which he inspired in me kept my unwilling eyes
constantly wandering in his direction. Yet under all the terror
was a bedrock confidence that there was, there must be somehow in
the essence of things, an eternal rightness which would keep me
safe from Captain Magnus. And as I looked across at Dugald Shaw
and met for an instant his steady watchful eyes, I managed a swift
little smile--a rather wan smile, I dare say, but still a smile.
Cuthbert Vane caught, so to speak, the tail of it, and was
electrified. I saw his lips form at Mr. Shaw's ear the words,
_Wonderful little sport, by jove_! For some time after our capture
by the pirates Cuthbert's state had been one of settled
incredulity. Even when they tied his hands he had continued to
contemplate the invaders as illusions. It was, this remarkable
episode, altogether a thing without precedent--and what was that
but another name for the impossible? And then slowly, by painful
degrees--you saw them reflected in his candid face--it grew upon
him that it was precisely the impossible, the unprecedented, that
A curious stiffening came over Cuthbert Vane. For the first time
in my knowledge of him he showed the consciousness--instead of only
the sub-consciousness--of the difference between Norman blood and
the ordinary sanguine fluid. His shoulders squared; he lost his
habitual easy lounge and sat erect and tall. Something stern and
aquiline showed through the smooth beauty of his face, so that you
thought of effigies of crusading knights stretched on their ancient
tombs in High Staunton church. He was their true descendant after
all, this slow, calm, gentle-mannered Cuthbert. It was a young
lion that I had been playing with, and the claws were there, strong
and terrible in their velvet sheath.
Captain Tony, having finished his pipe, knocked the ashes out
against the heel of his boot and put the pipe in his pocket.
"Well," he said, stretching, "I'd ruther have a nap, but business
is business, so let's get down to it. Which o' them guys has the
line on the stuff, Magnus?"
"Old Baldy, here," returned Magnus, with a nod at Mr. Tubbs. "Old
Washtubs I call him generally, ha, ha!"
"Then looky here, Washtubs," said Tony, addressing Mr. Tubbs with
sudden sternness, "maybe you could bluff these here soft guys, but
we're a different breed o' cats, we are. Whatever you know, you'll
come through with it and come quick, or it'll be the worse for your
Mr. Tubbs rose from the log with promptness.
"Captain," he said earnestly, "from long experience in the
financial centers of the country, I have got to be a man what
understands human nature. The minute I looked at you, I seen it in
your eye that there wasn't no use in tryin' to bluff you. What's
more, I don't want to. Once he gets with a congenial crowd, there
ain't a feller anywheres that will do more in the cause o'
friendship than old Hamilton H. Tubbs. And you are a congenial
crowd, you boys--gosh, but you do look good to me after the bunch
o' stiffs I been playin' up to here! All I ask is, to let me in on
it with you, and I'll be glad to put you wise to the best tricks of
a sly old fox who ain't ever been caught yet without two holes to
his burrow. I won't ask no half, nor no quarter, either, though I
jest signed up for that amount with the old girl here. But give me
freedom, and a bunch o' live wires like you boys! I've near froze
into a plaster figure o' Virtue, what with talkin' like a
Sunday-school class, and sparkin' one old maid, and makin' out like
I wouldn't melt butter with the other. So H. H. will ship along of
you, mates, and we'll off to the China coast somewheres where the
spendin' is good and the police not too nosy, and try how far a
trunkful of doubloons will go!"
With a choky little gurgle in her throat Aunt Jane fell limply
against me. It was too much. All day long she had been tossed
back and forth like a shuttlecock by the battledore of emotion.
She had borne the shock of Mr. Tubbs's sordid greed for gold, his
disloyalty to the expedition, his coldness to herself; she had been
shaken by the tender stress of the reconciliation, had been
captured by pirates, and now suffered the supreme blow of this
final revelation of the treachery of Tubbs. To hear her romance
described as the sparking of an old maid--and by the sparker! From
Miss Higglesby-Browne had come a snort of fury, but she said
nothing, having apparently no confidence in the effect of oratory
on pirates. She did not even exhort Aunt Jane, but left it to me
to sustain my drooping aunt as best I could.
As Mr. Tubbs made his whole-hearted and magnanimous proposal
Captain Tony opened his small black eyes and contemplated him with
attention. At the conclusion he appeared to meditate. Then he
glanced round upon his fellows.
"What say, boys? Shall we ship old Washtubs on the schooner and
let him have his fling along with us? Eh?" And as Captain Tony
uttered these words the lid of his left eye eclipsed for an instant
that intelligent optic.
From the pirates came a scattering volley of assents. "All
right--hooray for old Washtubs--sure, close the deal."
"All right, Washtubs, the boys are willing. So I guess, though
this island is the very lid of the hot place, and when I come again
it's going to be with an iceberg in tow to keep the air cooled off,
I guess we better be moving toward that chest of doubloons."
It was arranged that Slinker and a cross-eyed man named Horny
should remain at the camp on guard. As a measure of precaution
Cookie, too, was bound, and Aunt Jane, Miss Browne and I ordered
into the cabin. The three remaining pirates, armed with our spades
and picks and dispensing a great deal of jocular profanity, set out
for the cave under the guidance of Mr. Tubbs.
Thankful as I was for the departure of Captain Magnus, I underwent
torments in the stifling interior of the cabin. Aunt Jane wept
piteously. I had almost a fellow-feeling with Miss
Higglesby-Browne when she relapsed from her rigidity for a moment
and turning on Aunt Jane fiercely ordered her to be still. This
completed the wreck of Aunt Jane's universe. Its two main props
had now fallen, and she was left sitting solitary amid the ruins.
She subsided into a lachrymose heap in the corner of the cabin,
where I let her remain for the time, it was really such a comfort
to have her out of the way. At last I heard a faint moan:
I went to her. "Yes, auntie?"
"Virginia," she murmured weakly, "I think I shall not live to leave
the island, even if I am not--not executed. In fact, I have a
feeling now as though the end were approaching. I have always
known that my heart was not strong, even if your Aunt Susan _did_
call it indigestion. But oh, my dear child, it is not my
digestion, it is my heart that has been wounded! To have reposed
such confidence in a Serpent! To realize that I might have been
impaled upon its fangs! Oh, my dear, faithful child, what would I
have done if you had not clung to me although I permitted Serpents
to turn me from you! But I am cruelly punished. All I ask is that
some day--when you are married and happy, dear--you will remove
from this desolate spot the poor remains of her who--of her who--"
Sobs choked Aunt Jane's utterance.
"Jane--" began Miss Higglesby-Browne.
"I was speaking to my niece," replied Aunt Jane with unutterable
dignity from her corner. Her small features had all but
disappeared in her swollen face, and her hair had slipped down at a
rakish angle over one eye. But, of course, being Aunt Jane, she
must choose this moment to be queenly.
"There, there, auntie," I said soothingly, "of course you are not
going to leave your bones on this island. If you did, you know,
you and Bill Halliwell might ha'nt around together--think how cozy!
(Here Aunt Jane gave a convulsive shudder.) As to my being
married, if you were betting just now on anybody's chances they
would have to be Captain Magnus's, wouldn't they ?"
"Good gracious, Virginia!" shrieked Aunt Jane faintly. But I went
on relentlessly, determined to distract her mind from thoughts of
her approaching end.
"All things considered, I suppose I really ought to ask you to put
my affairs in order when you get back. If I am carried off by the
pirates, naturally I shall have to jump overboard at once, though I
dislike the idea of drowning, and especially of being eaten by
sharks. Would you mind putting up a little headstone--it needn't
cost much--in the family plot, with just 'Virginia' on it? And
anything of mine that you don't want yourself I'd like Bess to have
for the baby, please. Ask her when the little duck is old enough
to tell her my sad story--"
By this time Aunt Jane was sobbing loudly and waving her little
hands about in wild beseeching.
"Oh, my precious girl, a _headstone_! My love, would I grudge you
a _monument_--all white marble--little angels--'From her
heart-broken aunt'? Oh, why, why are we not safe at home together?
Why was I lured away to wander about the world with perfect
"Jane!" broke in Miss Browne again in awful tones. But at that
moment the door of the cabin opened and the face of Slinker peered
"Say," he remarked, "there ain't no sense in you girls stayin'
cooped up here that I see. I guess me and Horny can stand you off
if you try to rush us. Come out and cool off a little."
The great heat of the day was over and the sun already dropping
behind the peak of the island. Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert had been
allowed to sit in the shade, and I thought their wrists were not
too tightly bound for comfort. Cookie had been released, and under
the eye of Horny was getting supper. Crusoe had earlier in the day
received a kick in the ribs from Captain Magnus, fortunately too
much occupied with the prisoners to pursue his vengeance further,
and had fled precipitately, to my enormous relief. The dog was
quite wise enough to know that he would help me best by keeping out
of the clutches of our common foe. I hoped he had gone back to his
solitary pig-chasing, though I thought I had caught a glimpse of
him once at the edge of the wood. But at least he knew better than
to venture into the clearing.
I tried to pass in a casual manner close to Mr. Shaw and
Cuthbert--who looked more of a crusading Norman than ever--in hopes
of a whispered word, but was impeded by Aunt Jane, who clung to me
tottering. So I led her to a seat and deposited her, with the
sympathetic assistance of Slinker.
"Now, now, old girl, cheer up!" he admonished her. "Between you
and me, old Washtubs ain't worth crying over. Sooner or later he'd
of give you the slip, no matter how tight a rein you kep' on him."
As Slinker turned away after this effort at consolation he came
face to face with Miss Higglesby-Browne. I suppose in the stress
of surprising and capturing the camp he had not been struck with
her peculiarities. Just now, between the indignity of her captive
state and the insubordination of Aunt Jane, Miss Browne's aspect
was considerably grimmer than usual. Slinker favored her with a
stare, followed by a prolonged whistle.
"Say," he remarked to me in a confidential undertone, though
pitched quite loud enough for Miss Browne's ears, "is it real?
Would it have bendable j'ints, now, same as you and me?"
Miss Browne whirled upon him.
"'Old your tongue, you 'orrid brute!" she shrieked.
So, in the twinkling of an eye, Miss Higglesby-Browne, fallen
forever from her high estate, was strewn in metaphorical fragments
at our feet. I turned away, feeling it time to draw the veil of
charity upon the scene. Not so Slinker. He looked about him
carefully on the ground.
"Lady drop anything?" he inquired solicitously.
What might have transpired, had Miss Higglesby-Browne had time to
gather breath, I dare not think, but just then there came from the
woods the sound of footsteps and voices, and the three pirates and
Mr. Tubbs entered the clearing. A thrill ran through the camp.
Captors and captives forgot all else but the great, the burning
question--had the treasure been discovered? And I am sure that no
one was so thrilled as I, although in my mind the question took
For now I was going to know what had been waiting for me there in
the cave, when I stood yesterday at its black entrance, afraid to
FROM DEAD HANDS
At the head of the file, Captain Tony advanced through the
clearing, and what with his flowing black beard, his portly form,
and a certain dramatic swagger which he possessed, he looked so
entirely Italian and operatic that you expected to hear him at any
moment burst out in a sonorous basso. With a sweeping gesture he
flung down upon the table two brown canvas bags, which opened and
discharged from gaping mouths a flood of golden coins.
His histrionic instinct equal to the high demands of the moment,
Captain Tony stood with folded arms and gazed upon us with a
haughty and exultant smile.
Slinker and the cross-eyed man shouted aloud. They ran and
clutched at the coins with a savage greed.
"Gold, gold--the real stuff! It's the doubloons all right--where's
the rest of 'em?" These cries broke from Slinker and Horny
confusedly as the gold slid jingling between their eager fingers.
"The rest of 'em is--where they is," pronounced Tony oracularly.
"Somewheres in the sand of the cave, of course. We'll dig 'em up
"What was the point in not digging 'em all up while you was about
it?" demanded Slinker, lowering. "What was the good o' digging up
jest these here couple o' bag's and quitting?"
"Because we didn't dig 'em up," responded Tony darkly. "Because
these was all ready and waiting. Because all we had to do was to
say 'Thankee,' to the feller that handed 'em out."
"I say," interposed one of the party nervously, "what's the good of
that kind of talk? They ain't any sense in hunting trouble, that
ever I heard of!" He glanced over his shoulder uneasily.
The rest burst out in a guffaw.
"Chris is scared. He's been a-going along looking behind him ever
since. Chris will have bad dreams to-night--he'll yell if a owl
hoots." But I thought there was a false note in the laughter of
more than one.
"Oh, of course," remarked Slinker with indignant irony, "me and
Horny ain't interested in this at all. We jest stayed bumming
round camp here 'cause we was tired. When you're through with this
sort of bunk and feel like getting down to business, why jest
mention it, and maybe if we ain't got nothing better to do we'll
listen to you."
"I was jest telling you, wasn't I?" demanded Tony. "Only that fool
Chris had to butt in. We got these here bags of doubloons, as I
says, without havin' to dig for 'em--oncet we had found the cave,
which it's no thanks to old Washtubs we ain't looking for it yet.
We got these here bags right out of the fists of a skeleton. Most
of him was under a rock, which had fell from the roof and pinned
him down amidships. Must of squashed him like a beetle, I guess.
But he'd still kep' his hold on the bags." I turned aside, for
fear that any one should see how white I was. Much too white to be
accounted for even by this grisly story. To the rest, these poor
bones might indeed bear mute witness to a tragedy, but a tragedy
lacking outlines, vague, impersonal, without poignancy. To me,
they told with dreadful clearness the last sad chapter of the tale
of Peter, Peter who had made me so intimately his confidante, whose
love and hopes and solitary strivings I knew all about. Struck
down in the moment of his triumph by a great stupid lump of
soulless stone, by a blind, relentless mechanism which had been at
work from the beginning, timing that rock to fall--just then. Not
the moment before, not the moment after, out of an eternity of
moments, but at that one instant when Peter stooped for the last of
his brown bags--and then I rejected this, and knew that there was
nothing stupid or blind about it--and wondered whether it were
instead malicious, and whether all might have been well with Peter
if he had obeyed the voice that bade him leave the crucifix for
Vaguely I heard around me a babble of exclamations and conjectures.
Murmurs of interest rose even from our captive band. Then came
Slinker's voice, loud with sudden fear:
"Say, you don't suppose the--the Bones would of got away with the
rest of the coin somehow, do you?" he demanded.
"Got away with it?" Tony contemptuously thrust aside the
possibility. "Got away with it how? He sure didn't leave the
island with it, did he? Would he of dug it up from one place jest
to bury it in another? Huh! Must of wanted to work if he did!
Now my notion is that this happened to one of the guys that was
burying the gold, and that the rest jest left him there for a sort
of scarecrow to keep other people out of the cave."
"But the gold?" protested Slinker. "They wouldn't leave that for a
scarecrow, would they?"
"Maybe not," admitted Tony, "but suppose that feller died awful
slow, and went on hollering and clutching at the bags? And they
couldn't of got that rock off'n him without a block and tackle, or
done much to make things easy for him if they had, him being jest a
smear, as you may say. Well, that cave wouldn't be a pleasant
place to stay in, would it? And no one would have the nerve to
snatch them bags away to bury 'em, 'cause a dying man, especially
when he dies hard, can have an awful grip. So what they done was
just to shovel the sand in on the gold they'd stowed away and light
out quick. And what we got to do to-morrow is to go there and dig
If the ingenuity of this reasoning was more remarkable than its
logic, the pirates were not the men to find fault with it. Indeed,
how many human hopes have been bolstered up with arguments no
sounder? Desire is the most eloquent of advocates, and the five
ruffians had only to listen to its voice to enjoy in anticipation
all the fruits of their iniquitous schemes. The sight of the
golden coins intoxicated them. They played with the doubloons like
children, jingling them in their calloused palms, guessing at
weight and value, calculating their equivalent in the joy of
living. Laughter and oaths resounded. Mr. Tubbs, with a somewhat
anxious air, endeavored to keep himself well to the fore, claiming
a share in the triumph with the rest. There was only the thinnest
veil of concealment over the pirates' mockery. "Old Washtubs" was
ironically encouraged in his role of boon companion. His air of
swaggering recklessness, of elderly dare-deviltry, provoked
uproarious amusement. When they sat down to supper Mr. Tubbs was
installed at the head of the table. They hailed him as the
discoverer who had made their fortunes. From their talk it was
clear that there had been much difficulty about finding the cave,
and that for a time Mr. Tubbs's position had been precarious.
Finally Captain Magnus had stumbled upon the entrance.
"Jest in time," as he grimly reminded Mr. Tubbs, "to save you a
header over the cliff."
"Ha, ha!" cackled Mr. Tubbs hysterically, "you boys will have your
little joke, eh? Knew well enough you couldn't get along without
the old man, didn't you? Knew you was goin' to need an old
financial head to square things in certain quarters--a head what
understands how to slip a little coin into the scales o' justice to
make 'em tilt the right way. Oh, you can't fool the old man, he,
While the marauders enjoyed their supper, the women prisoners were
bidden to "set down and stay sot," within sweep of Captain Tony's
eye. Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert Vane still held the position they had
occupied all afternoon, with their backs propped against a palm
tree. Occasionally they exchanged a whisper, but for the most part
were silent, their cork helmets jammed low over their watchful
eyes. I was deeply curious to know what Mr. Shaw had made of the
strange story of the skeleton in the cave. He could hardly have
accepted Captain Tony's explanation of it, which displayed, indeed,
an imperfect knowledge of the legend of the _Bonny Lass_. Might
not the Scotchman, by linking this extraordinary discovery with my
unexplained request of him this morning, have arrived already at
some glimmering of the truth? I hoped so, and longed to impart to
him my own sure knowledge that the confident expectations of the
freebooters for the morrow were doomed to disappointment. There
seemed a measure of comfort in this assurance, for our moment of
greatest peril well might be that in which the pirates, with the
gold in their possession and on the point of fleeing from the
island, recalled the respectable because so truthful maxim that
dead men tell no tales. Therefore in the postponement of the
crucial moment lay our best hope of rescue or escape.
On the other hand, I fancied them returning from the cave surly and
disappointed, ready to vent their wrath on us. All, except the
unspeakable Magnus, had shown so far a rough good nature, even
amusement at our plight, but you felt the snarl at the corner of
the grinning lips. You knew they would be undependable as savages
or vicious children, who find pleasure in inflicting pain. And
then there was always my own hideous danger as the favored of the
And I wondered, desperately, if I might buy safety for us all at
the price of the secret of the _Island Queen_, if a promise from
the five scoundrels around the table would have more meaning than
their wild boasts and shoutings now?
And now the night that I unutterably dreaded was upon us. But the
pirates still thought of nothing but the gold. They had exhausted
their own portable supplies of liquor, and were loud in their
denunciations of our bone-dry camp, as they termed it. Mr. Tubbs
enlarged upon the annoyance which Mr. Shaw's restrictions in this
matter had been to him, and regretted that he had long ago
exhausted the small amount of spirituous refreshment which he had
been able to smuggle in. Tony, however, was of another mind. "And
a good thing, too," he declared, "that you guys can't booze
yourselves blind before morning, or there wouldn't be much gold
took out of that there cave to-morrow. Once we make port
somewheres with that chest of treasure aboard you can pour down
enough to irrigate the Mojave Desert if you like."
It was Tony, too, who intercepted a tentative movement of Captain
Magnus in my direction, and ordered me into the cabin with my aunt
and Miss Browne. Through the walls of the hut we heard loud and
eager talk of the morrow and its certain golden harvest as the
pirates made their dispositions for the night. Then the voices
trailed off sleepily and silence succeeded, broken only by the
ceaseless murmur of the waves around the island.
OF WHICH COOKIE IS THE HERO
Next morning I came out of the hut in time to see Mr. Shaw and his
companion in duress led forth from the sleeping quarters which they
had shared with their captors. They were moored as before to a
palm tree, by a rope having a play of two or three feet, and their
hands unbound while they made a hasty breakfast under the eye of a
watchful sentinel. Then their wrists were tied again, not
painfully, but with a firmness which made any slipping of their
While the pirates were breakfasting a spirited dispute took place
among them as to who should go to the treasure cave and who stay in
camp to guard the prisoners. Slinker and Horny urged with justice
that as they had missed all the excitement of the preceding day it
was their turn to visit the cave. There not only the probable
rapture of exhuming the chest awaited them, but the certain
privilege of inspecting "the Bones." This ghastly relic seemed to
exercise an immense fascination upon their imaginations, a
fascination not unmingled with superstitious dread. The right to
see the Bones, then, Slinker and Horny passionately claimed. Tony
supported them, and it ended with Chris and Captain Magnus being
told off as our guards for the morning.
At this Chris raised a feeble lamentation, but he was evidently a
person whose objections nobody was accustomed to heed. Captain
Magnus, who might with plausibility have urged claims superior to
those of all the rest, assented to the arrangement with a
willingness which filled me with boding. I had caught his restless
furtive eye fixed gloatingly upon me more than once. I saw that he
was aware of my terror, and exulted in it, and took a feline
pleasure in playing me, as it were, and letting me realize by slow
degrees what his power over me would be when he chose finally to
exert it. My best hope for the present, once the merciful or
prudent Tony was out of sight, lay in this disposition of
my tormentor to sit quiescent and anticipate the future.
Nevertheless, in leaving the cabin I had slipped into my blouse a
small penknife which I had found in Aunt Jane's bag. It was quite
new, and I satisfied myself that the blades were keen. My own
large sheath-knife and my revolver I had been deprived of at the
suggestion of the thoughtful Magnus. I had surrendered them
unprotestingly, fearful of all things that my possessions might be
ransacked and Peter's diary, though hidden with much art at the
bottom of a bag, be brought to light. For I might yet sell the
secret of the Island Queen at a price which should redeem us all.
Unobtrusively clutching for comfort at the penknife in my blouse, I
watched the departure of the pirates, including my protector Tony.
They had taken Mr. Tubbs with them, although he had magnanimously
offered to remain behind and help guard the camp. Evidently his
experience of the previous day had not filled him with confidence
in his new friends. It might be quite possible that he intended,
if left behind, to turn his coat again and assist us in a break for
liberty. If so, he was defeated by the perspicacious Tony, who
observed that when he found a pal that suited him as well as
Washtubs he liked to keep him under his own eye. With a spade over
his reluctant shoulder, and many a dubious backward glance, Mr.
Tubbs followed the file into the woods.
Aunt Jane had a bad headache, and as nobody objected she had
remained in the cabin. Miss Browne and I had been informed by Tony
that we might do as we liked so long as we did not attempt to leave
the clearing. Already Violet had betaken herself to a camp-chair
in the shade and was reading a work entitled _Thoughts on the
Involute Spirality of the Immaterial_. Except for the prisoners
tied to the palm tree, the camp presented superficially a scene of
peace. Cookie busied himself with a great show of briskness in his
kitchen. Because of the immense circumspection of his behavior he
was being allowed a considerable degree of freedom. He served his
new masters apparently as zealously as he had served us, but
enveloped in a portentous silence. "Yes, sah--no, sah," were the
only words which Cookie in captivity had been heard to utter. Yet
from time to time I had caught a glance of dark significance from
Cookie's rolling eye, and I felt that he was loyal, and that this
enforced servitude to the unkempt fraternity of pirates was a
degradation which touched him to the quick.
I had followed the example of Miss Higglesby-Browne as regards the
camp-chair and the book. What the book was I have not the least
idea, but I perused it with an appearance of profound abstraction
which I hoped might discourage advances on the part of Captain
Magnus. Also I made sure that the penknife was within instant
reach. Meanwhile my ears, and at cautious intervals my eyes, kept
me informed of the movements of our guards.
For a considerable time the two ruffians, lethargic after an
enormous breakfast, lay about idly in the shade and smoked. As I
listened to their lazy, fragmentary conversation vast gulfs of
mental vacuity seemed to open before me. I wondered whether after
all wicked people were just stupid people--and then I thought of
Aunt Jane--who was certainly not wicked--
As the heat increased a voice of lamentation broke from Chris. He
was dry--dry enough to drink up the condemned ocean. No, he didn't
want spring water, which Cookie obsequiously tendered him; he
wanted a _drink_--wouldn't anybody but a fool nigger know that?
There was plenty of the real stuff aboard the schooner, on the
other side of the--adjective--island. Why had they, with
incredible lack of forethought, brought along nothing but their
pocket flasks? Why hadn't they sent the adjective nigger back for
more? Where was the bottle or two that had been rooted out last
night from the medical stores? Empty? Every last drop gone down
somebody's greedy gullet? The adjectives came thick and fast as
Chris hurled the bottle into the bay, where it swam bobbingly upon
the ripples. Captain Magnus agreed with the gist of Chris's
remarks, but deprecated, in a truly philosophical spirit, their
unprofitable heat. There wasn't any liquor, so what was the good
of making an adjective row? Hadn't he endured the equivalent of
Chris's present sufferings for weeks? He was biding his time, he
was. Plenty of drink by and by, plenty of all that makes life soft
and easy. He bet there wouldn't many hit any higher spots than
him. He bet there was one little girl that would be looked on as
lucky, in case she was a good little girl and encouraged him to
show his natural kindness. And I was favored with a blood-curdling
leer from across the camp, of which I had put as much as possible
between myself and the object of my dread.
But now, like a huge black Ganymede, appeared Cookie, bearing cups
and a large stone crock.
"It suhtinly am a fact, Mistah Chris, sah," said Cookie, "dat dey
is a mighty unspirituous fluidity 'bout dis yere spring watah.
Down war I is come from no pussons of de Four Hund'ed ain't eveh
'customed to partake of such. But the sassiety I has been in
lately round dis yere camp ain't of de convivulous ordah; ole
Cookie had to keep it dark dat he got his li'le drop o' comfort on
de side. Dis yere's only home-made stuff, sah. 'Tain't what I
could offah to a gennelmun if so be I is got the makin's of a
genuwine old-style julep what is de beverage of de fust fam'lies.
But bein' as it is, it am mighty coolin', sah, and it got a li'le
kick to it--not much, but jes' 'bout enough to make a gennelmun
feel lak he is one."
Cookie's tones dripped humility and propitiation. He offered the
brimming cup cringingly to the pale-eyed, red-nosed Chris, who
reached for it with alacrity, drank deep, smacked his lips
meditatively, and after a moment passed the cup back.
"'Tain't so worse," he said approvingly. "Anyhow, it's _drink_!"
Magnus suddenly began to laugh.
"S'elp me, it's the same dope what laid out the Honorable!" he
chortled. "Here, darky, let's have a swig of it!"
Cookie complied, joining respectfully in the captain's mirth.
"I guess you-all is got stronger haids den dat young gennelmun!" he
remarked. "Dis yere ole niggah has help hissef mighty freely and
dat Prohibititionist Miss Harding ain't eveh found it out. Fac'
is, it am puffeckly harmless 'cept when de haid is weak."
False, false Cookie! Black brother in perfidy to Mr. Tubbs! One
friend the less to be depended on if a chance for freedom ever came
to us! A hot flush of surprise and anger dyed my cheeks, and I
felt the indignant pang of faith betrayed. I had been as sure of
Cookie's devotion as of Crusoe's--which reminded me that the little
dog had not returned to camp since he fled before the onslaught of
the vengeful captain.
Cookie refilled the pirates' cups, and set the crock beside them on
"In case you gennelmun feels yo'selfs a li'le thursty later on," he
remarked. He was retiring, when Captain Magnus called to him.
"Blackie, this ain't bad. It's coolin', but thin--a real nice
ladylike sort of drink, I should say. Suppose you take a swig over
to Miss Jinny there with my compliments--I'm one to always treat a
lady generous if she gives me half a chance."
Obediently Cookie hastened for another cup, set it on a tray, and
approached me with his old-time ornate manner. I faced him with a
withering look, but, unmindful, he bowed, presenting me the cup,
and interposing his bulky person between me and the deeply-quaffing
pirates. At the same time his voice reached me, pitched in a low
and anxious key.
"Fo' de Lawd's sake, Miss Jinny, spill it out! It am mighty
powerful dope--it done fumented twice as long as befo'--it am boun'
to give dat trash de blind-staggahs sho'tly!"
Instantly I understood, and a thrill of relief and of hope
inexpressible shot through me. I raised to the troubled black face
a glance which I trust was eloquent--it must needs have been to
express the thankfulness I felt. Cookie responded with a solemn
and convulsive wink--and I put the cup to my lips and after a brief
parade of drinking passed it back to Cookie, spilling the contents
on the ground en route.
Cookie retired with his tray in his most impressive cake-walk
fashion, and in passing announced to Captain Magnus that "Miss
Jinny say she mos' suhtinly am obligated to de gennelmun to' de
refreshment of dis yere acidulous beverage." Which bare-faced
mendacity provoked a loud roar of amusement from the sentinels, who
were still sampling the cooling contents of the stone crock.
"Learning to like what I do already, hey?" guffawed the captain,
and he called on Chris to drain another cup with him to the lady of
I have believed since that dragging, interminable time which I now
lived through, that complete despair, where you rest quite finally
on bedrock and have nothing to dread in the way of further tumbles,
must be a much happier state than the dreadful one of oscillating
between hope and fear. For a leaden-footed eternity, it seemed to
me, I oscillated, longing for, yet dreading, the signs that
Cookie's powerful dope had begun to work upon our guards--for might
not the first symptoms be quite different from the anticipated
blind staggers? Fancy a murderous maniac pair reeling about the
clearing, with death-vomiting revolvers and gleaming knives!
And then suddenly time, which had dragged so slowly, appeared to
gallop, and the morning to be fleeing past, so that every wave that
broke upon the beach was the footfalls of the returning pirates.
Long, long before that thirsty, garrulous pair grew still and
torpid their companions must return--
And I saw Cookie, his stratagem discovered, dangling from a
Gradually the rough disjointed talk of the sailors began to
languish. Covertly watching, I saw that Chris's head had begun to
droop. His body, propped comfortably against a tree, sagged a
little. The hand that held the cup was lifted, stretched out in
the direction of the enticing jar, then forgetting its errand fell
heavily. After a few spasmodic twitchings of the eyelids and
uneasy grunts, Chris slumbered.
Captain Magnus was of tougher fiber. But he, too, grew silent and
there was a certain meal-sack limpness about his attitude. His
dulled eyes stared dreamily. All at once with a jerk he roused
himself, turned over, and administered to the sleeping Chris a prod
with his large boot.
"Hey, there, wake up! What right you got to be asleep at the
switch?" But Chris only breathed more heavily.
Captain Magnus himself heaved a tremendous yawn, settled back in
greater comfort against his sustaining tree, and closed his eyes.
I waited, counting the seconds by the beating of the blood in my
ears. In the background Cookie hovered apprehensively. Plainly he
would go on hovering unless loud snores from the pirates gave him
assurance. For myself, I sat fingering my penknife, wondering
whether I ought to rush over and plunge it into the sleepers'
throats. This would be heroic and practical, but unpleasant. If,
on the other hand, I merely tried to free the prisoners and Captain
Magnus woke, what then? The palm where they were tied was a dozen
yards from me, much nearer to the guards, and within range of even
their most languid glance. Beyond the prisoners was Miss Browne,
glaring uncomprehendingly over the edge of her book. There was no
help in Miss Browne.
I left my seat and stole on feet which seemed to stir every leaf
and twig to loud complaint toward the captive pair. Tense,
motionless, with burning eyes, they waited. There was a movement
from Captain Magnus; he yawned, turned and muttered. I stood
stricken, my heart beating with loud thumps against my ribs. But
the captain's eyes remained closed.
"Virginia--quick, Virginia!" Dugald Shaw was stretching out his
bound hands to me, and I had dropped on my knees before him and
begun to cut at the knotted cords. They were tough strong cords,
and I was hacking at them feverishly when something bounded across
the clearing and flung itself upon me. Crusoe, of course!--and
wild with the joy of reunion. I strangled a cry of dismay, and
with one hand tried to thrust him off while I cut through the rope
with the other.
"Down, Crusoe!" I kept desperately whispering. But Crusoe was
unused to whispered orders. He kept bounding up on me, intent to
fulfil an unachieved ambition of licking my ear. Cuthbert Vane
tried, under his breath, to lure him away. But Crusoe's emotions
were all for me, and swiftly becoming uncontrollable they burst
forth in a volley of shrill yelps.
A loud cry answered them. It came from Captain Magnus, who had
scrambled to his feet and was staggering across the clearing. One
hand was groping at his belt--it was flourished in the air with the
gleam of a knife in it--and staggering and shouting the captain
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