Part 4 out of 4
"Ah, you would, would you? I'll teach you--but first I settle
_him_, the porridge-eatin' Scotch swine--"
The reeling figure with the knife was right above me. I sprang up,
in my hand the little two-inch weapon which was all I had for my
defense--and Dugald Shaw's. There were loud noises in my ears, the
shouting of men, and a shrill continuous note which I have since
realized came from the lungs of Miss Higglesby-Browne. Magnus made
a lunge forward--the arm with the knife descended. I caught
it--wrenched at it frantically--striving blindly to wield my little
penknife, whether or not with deadly intent I don't know to this
day. He turned on me savagely, and the penknife was whirled from
my hand as he caught my wrist in a terrible clutch.
All I remember after that is the terrible steely grip of the
captain's arms and a face, flushed, wild-eyed, horrible, that was
close to mine and inevitably coming closer, though I fought and
tore at it--of hot feverish lips whose touch I knew would scorch me
to the soul--and then I was suddenly free, and falling, falling, a
long way through darkness.
THE YOUNG PERSON SCORES
My first memory is of voices, and after that I was shot swiftly out
of a tunnel from an immense distance and opened my eyes upon the
same world which I had left at some indefinite period in the past.
Faces, at first very large, by and by adjusted themselves in a
proper perspective and became quite recognizable and familiar.
There was Aunt Jane's, very tearful, and Miss Higglesby-Browne's,
very glum, and the Honorable Cuthbert's, very anxious and a little
dazed, and Cookie's, very, very black. The face of Dugald Shaw I
did not see, for the quite intelligible reason that I was lying
with my head upon his shoulder.
As soon as I realized this I sat up suddenly, while every one
exclaimed at once, "There, she's quite all right--see how her color
is coming back!"
People kept Aunt Jane from flinging herself upon me and soothed her
into calm while I found out what had happened. The penknife that I
had lost in my struggle with Captain Magnus had fallen at the
Scotchman's feet. Wrenching himself free of his all but severed
bonds he had seized the knife, slashed through the rope that held
him to the tree, and flung himself on Captain Magnus. It was a
brief struggle--a fist neatly planted on the ruffian's jaw had
ended it, and the captain, half dazed from his potations, went down
Meanwhile Cookie had appeared upon the scene flourishing a kitchen
knife, though intending it for no more bloody purpose than the
setting free of Cuthbert Vane. Throughout the fray Chris slumbered
undisturbed, and he and the unconscious Magnus were now reposing
side by side, until they should awake to find themselves neatly
trussed up with Cookie's clothes-lines.
But my poor brave Crusoe dragged a broken leg, from a kick bestowed
on him by Captain Magnus, at whom he had flown valiantly in my
So far so good; we had signally defeated our two guards, and the
camp was ours. But what about the pirates who were still in the
cave and would shortly be returning from it? They were three armed
and sturdy ruffians, not to include Mr. Tubbs, whose habits were
strictly non-combative. It would mean a battle to the death.
Our best hope would be to wait in ambush behind the trees of the
clearing--I mean for Dugald Shaw and Cuthbert Vane to do it--and
shoot down the unsuspecting pirates as they returned. This
desperate plan, which so unpleasantly resembled murder, cast gloom
on every brow.
"It's the women, lad," said the Scotchman in a low voice to
Cuthbert. "It's--it's Virginia." And Cuthbert heavily assented.
Seeing myself as the motif of such slaughter shocked my mind
suddenly back to clearness.
"Oh," I cried, "not that! Why not surprise them in the cave, and
make them stay there? One man could guard the entrance easily--and
afterward we could build it up with logs or something."
"A remarkably neat scheme," said Mr. Shaw, "but impossible of
application, I'm afraid, because none of us knows where to find the
I shook my head.
There was a lengthy silence. People looked at one another, and
their eyes said, _This has been too much for her_!
"I _know_," I impatiently repeated. "I can take you straight
there. I found the tombstone before Mr. Tubbs did, and the cave
too. Come, let's not waste time. We must hurry--they'll be
Amazement, still more than half incredulous, surged round me. Then
Mr. Shaw said rapidly:
"You're right. Of course, if you have found the cave, the best
thing we can do is to keep them shut up in it. But we must move
fast--perhaps we're too late already. If they have found the chest
they may by now be starting for camp with the first load of
Again I shook my head.
"They haven't found the gold," I assured him.
The astonished faces grew more anxious. "It sho' have told on
li'le Miss Jinny's brain," muttered Cookie to himself.
"They haven't found the gold," I reiterated with emphasis, "because
the gold is not in the cave. Don't ask me how I know, because
there isn't time to tell you. There was no gold there but the two
bags that the pirates brought back last night. The--the skeleton
moved it all out."
"My Lawd!" groaned Cookie, staggering backward.
"Virginia! I had no idea you were superstitious!" quavered Aunt
"I say, do take some sleeping tablets or something and quiet your
nerves!" implored Cuthbert with the tenderest solicitude.
In my exasperation I stamped my foot.
"And while we are arguing here the pirates may be starting back to
camp! And then we'll have to kill them and go home and give
ourselves up to be hanged! Please, please, come with me and let me
show you that I know!" I lifted my eyes to the intent face of
"All right," he said tersely. "I think you do know. How and what,
we'll find out later." Rapidly he made his plan, got together the
things needful for its execution, looked to the bonds of the still
dazed and drowsy prisoners, posted Cookie in their neighborhood
with a pair of pistols, and commanded Aunt Jane to dry her tears
and look after Miss Higglesby-Browne, who had dismayed every one by
most inopportunely toppling over in a perfectly genuine swoon.
Then the Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane and I set off through the woods.
The men were heavily armed, and I had recovered my own little
revolver and restored it to my belt. Mr. Shaw had seen to this,
and had said to me, very quietly:
"You know, Virginia, if things don't go our way, it may be
necessary for you to use it--on yourself."
And I nodded assentingly.
We went in silence through the green hush of the woods, moving in
single file. My place as guide was in the van, but Mr. Shaw
deposed me from it and went ahead himself, while Cuthbert Vane
brought up the rear. No one spoke, even to whisper. I guided
Dugald Shaw, when needful, by a light touch upon the arm. Our
enterprise was one of utmost danger. At any moment we might hear
the steps and voices of the returning pirates. Thus fore-warned,
we might of course retreat into the woods and let them pass,
ourselves unseen. But then, what of those whom we had left in
camp? Could we leave them undefended to the vengeance of Captain
Magnus? No, if we met the pirates it was their lives or ours--and
I recall with incredulity my resolution to imbed five of my six
bullets in a pirate before I turned the sixth upon myself. I
reflected with satisfaction that five bullets should be a fatal
dose to any pirate unless an exceptionally tough one. And I hoped
he would not be tough--
But I tell myself with shudders that it was not I, but some
extraordinary recrudescence of a primitive self, that indulged
these lethal gloatings.
No steps but our own, no voices but of birds, broke the stillness
of the woods. We moved onward swiftly, and presently the noise of
the sea came to us with the sudden loudness that I remembered. I
paused, signaled caution to my companions, and crept on.
We passed the grave, and I saw that the vines had been torn aside
again, and that the tombstone was gone. We came to the brink of
the cliff, and I pointed silently downward along the ledge to the
angle in which lay the mouth of the cave. My breath came quickly,
for at any instant a head might be thrust forth from the opening.
Already the sun was mounting toward the zenith. The noontide heat
and stillness was casting its drowsy spell upon the island. The
air seemed thicker, the breeze more languid. And all this meant
meal-time--and the thoughts of hungry pirates turning toward camp.
My hope was that they were still preoccupied with the fruitless
search in the cave.
Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert dropped down upon the ledge. Though under
whispered orders to retreat I could not, but hung over the edge of
the cliff, eager and breathless. Then with a bound the men were
beside me. Mr. Shaw caught my hand, and we rushed together into
A quake, a roar, a shower of flying rocks. It was over--the
dynamite had done its work, whether successfully or not remained to
be seen. After a little the Scotchman ventured back. He returned
to us where we waited in the woods--Cuthbert to mount guard over
me--with a cleared face.
"It's all right," he said. "The entrance is completely blocked. I
set the charge six feet inside, but the roof is down clear to the
mouth. Poor wretches--they have all come pouring out upon the
All three of us went back to the edge of the cliff. Seventy feet
below, on the narrow strip of sand before the sea-mouth of the
cave, we saw the figures of four men, who ran wildly about and
sought for a foothold on the sheer face of the cliff. As we stood
watching them, with, on my part, at least, unexpected qualms of
pity and a cold interior sensation very unlike triumph, they
discovered us. Then for the first time, I suppose, they understood
the nature of their disaster. We could not hear their cries, but
we saw arms stretched out to us, fists frantically shaken, hands
lifted in prayer. We saw Mr. Tubbs flop down upon his unaccustomed
knees--it was all rather horrible.
I drew back, shivering. "It won't be for long, of course," I said
uncertainly, "just till the steamer comes--and we'll give them lots
to eat--but I suppose they think--they will soon be just a lot more
skeletons--" And here I was threatened with a moist anticlimax to
my late Amazonian mood.
Why should the frequent and natural phenomena of tears produce such
panic in the male breast? At a mere April dewiness about my lashes
these two strong men quaked.
"Don't--don't cry!" implored Cuthbert earnestly.
"It's been too much for her!" exclaimed the once dour Scot in tones
of anguish. "Hurry, lad--we must find her some water--"
"Nonsense," I interposed, winking rapidly. "Just think of some way
to calm those creatures, so that I shan't see them in my dreams,
begging and beseeching--" For I had not forgotten the immensity of
my debt to Tony.
So a note was written on a leaf torn from a pocketbook and thrown
over the cliff weighted with a stone. The captives swooped upon
it. Followed then a vivid pantomime by Tony, expressive of eased
if unrepentant minds, while Mr. Tubbs, by gestures, indicated that
though sadly misunderstood, old H. H. was still our friend and
It was an attentive group to which on our return to camp I related
the circumstances which had made possible our late exploit of
imprisoning the pirates in the cave. The tale of my achievements,
though recounted with due modesty, seemed to put the finishing
touch to the extinction of Violet, for she wilted finally and
forever, and was henceforth even bullied by Aunt Jane. The diary
of Peter was produced, and passed about with awe from hand to hand.
Yesterday's discovery in the cave had rounded out the history of
Peter to a melancholy completion. But though we knew the end we
guessed in vain at the beginning, at Peter's name, at that of the
old grandfather whose thrifty piety had brought him to Havana and
to the acquaintance of the dying mate of the _Bonny Lass_, at the
whereabouts of the old New England farm which had been mortgaged to
buy the _Island Queen_, at the identity of Helen, who waited still,
perhaps, for the lover who never would return.
But even our regrets for Peter did not chill the exultation with
which we thought of the treasure-chest waiting there under the sand
in the cabin of the _Island Queen_.
All afternoon we talked of it. That, for the present, was all we
could do. There were the two prisoners in camp to be guarded--and
they had presently awakened and made remarks of a strongly personal
and unpleasant trend on discovering their situation. There was
Crusoe invalided, and needing petting, and getting it from
everybody on the score of his romantic past as _Benjy_ as well as
of his present virtues. The broken leg had been cleverly set by
Dugald--somehow in the late upheaval _Miss_ and _Mister_ had
dropped quite out of our vocabularies--with Cuthbert as surgeon's
assistant and me holding the chloroform to the patient's nose.
There was the fatigue and reaction from excitement which everybody
felt, and Peter's diary to be read, and golden dreams to be
indulged. And there was the delicate question to be discussed, of
how the treasure should be divided.
"Why, it all belongs to Virginia, of course," said Cuthbert,
opening his eyes at the thought of any other view being taken but
this obvious one.
"Nonsense!" I hastily interposed. "My finding the diary was just
an accident; I'll take a share of it--no more."
Here Miss Browne murmured something half inaudible about
"--confined to members of the Expedition--" but subsided for lack
"I suggest," said Dugald, "that our numbers having most fortunately
diminished and there being, on the basis of Peter's calculations,
enough to enrich us all, that we should share and share alike."
And this proposal was received with acclamations, as was a second
from the same source, devoting a certain percentage of each share
to Cookie, to whom the news of his good fortune was to come later
as a great surprise.
As an earnest of our riches, we had the two bags of doubloons which
the pirates had recovered from the fleshless fingers of the dead
man. They were old worn coins, most of them, many dating from the
seventeenth century, and bearing the effigies of successive kings
of Spain. Each disk of rich, yellow Peruvian gold, dug from the
earth by wretched sweating slaves and bearing the name of a narrow
rigid tyrant, had a history, doubtless, more wild and bloody than
even that we knew. The merchant of Lima and his servant, Bill
Halliwell, and afterward poor Peter had died for them. For their
sake we had been captives in fear of death, and for their sake now
four wretched beings were prisoners in the treasure-cave and two
more cursed, fate and their bonds within hearing of our outraged
ears. And who knew how much more of crime and blood and violence
we should send forth into the world with the long-buried treasure?
Who knew--and, ah, me, who cared? So riotous was the gold-lust in
my veins that I think if I had known the chest to be another
Pandora's box I should still have cried out to open it.
Shortly before sundown Cuthbert and Cookie were despatched by
Dugald Shaw to the cliff above the cave with supplies for the
inhumed pirates. These were let down by rope. A note was brought
up on the rope, signed by Mr. Tubbs, and containing strangely
jumbled exhortations, prayers and threats. A second descent of the
rope elicited another missive, neatly folded and addressed in the
same hand to Miss Jane Harding. Cuthbert gave this privately to
me, but its contents must forever be unknown, for it went, unread,
into Cookie's fire. I had no mind to find Aunt Jane, with her
umbrella as a parachute, vanishing over the cliffs to seek the arms
of a repentant Tubbs.
The fly in the ointment of our satisfaction, and the one remaining
obstacle to our possession of the treasure, was the presence of the
two pirates in our midst. They were not nice pirates. They were
quite the least choice of the collection. Chris, when he was not
swearing, wept moistly, and so touched the heart of Aunt Jane that
we lived in fear of her letting him go if she got the opportunity.
He told her that he had lost an aunt in his tender youth, of whom
she reminded him in the most striking way, and that if this
long-mourned relative had lived he felt he should have been a
better man and not led away against his higher nature by the chance
of falling in with bad companions. Aunt Jane thought her
resemblance to Chris's aunt a remarkable coincidence and an
opportunity for appealing to his better self which should be
improved. She wanted to improve it by untying his hands, because
he had sprained his wrist in his childhood and it was sensitive.
He had sprained it in rescuing a little companion from drowning,
the child of a drunkard who had unfeelingly thrown his offspring
down a well. This episode had been an example to Chris which had
kept him from drinking all his life, until he had fallen into his
present rough company.
Aunt Jane took it very hard that the Scotchman seemed quite
unfeeling about Chris's wrist. She said it seemed very strange to
her in a man who had so recently known the sorrows of captivity
himself. She said she supposed even suffering would not soften
As to Magnus, his state of sullen fury made him indifferent even to
threats of punishment. He swore with a determination and fluency
worthy of a better cause. For myself, I could not endure his
neighborhood. It seemed to me I could not live through the days
that must intervene before the arrival of the _Rufus Smith_ in the
constant presence of this wretch.
More than all, it made Dugald and Cuthbert unwilling to leave the
camp together. There was always the possibility that the two
ruffians might find means to free themselves, and, with none but
Cookie and the women present, to obtain control of the firearms and
the camp. For the negro, once the men were free, could not surely
be depended on to face them. Loyal he was, and valiant in his
fashion, but old and with the habit of submission. One did not see
him standing up for long before two berserker-mad ruffians.
What to do with the pirates continued for a day and a night a
It was Cuthbert Vane who solved it, and with the simplicity of
"Why not send 'em down to their chums the way we do the eats?" he
It seemed at first incredibly fantastic, but the more you thought
of it the more practical it grew. It was characteristic of
Cuthbert not to see it as fantastic. For him the sharp edges of
fact were never shaded off into the dim and nebulous. Cuthbert,
when he saw things at all, saw them steadily and whole. He would
let down the writhing, swearing Magnus over the cliff as tranquilly
as he let down loaves of bread, aware merely of its needing more
muscular effort. Only he would take immense care not to hurt him.
Dire outcries greeted the decision. Aunt Jane wept, and Chris
wept, and said this never could have happened to him if his aunt
had lived. Oaths flowed from Captain Magnus in a turgid stream.
Nevertheless the twain were led away, firmly bound, and guarded by
Dugald, Cuthbert and the negro. And the remarkable program
proposed by Cuthbert Vane was triumphantly carried out. Six
prisoners now occupied the old cave of the buccaneers.
With the camp freed from the presence of the pirates all need of
watchfulness was over. The prisoners in the cave were provided
with no implements but spades, whereas dynamite and crowbars would
be necessary to force a way through the debris which choked the
mouth of the tunnel. A looking over of the ground at the daily
feeding time would be enough.
To-morrow's sun would see our hopes crowned and all our toil
rewarded by the recovery of the treasure from the _Island Queen_.
'TWIXT CUP AND LIP
Next morning an event occurred sufficiently astonishing to divert
our thoughts from even the all-important topic of the _Island
Queen_. Cookie, who had been up on the high land of the point
gathering firewood, came rushing back to announce that a steamer
had appeared in the offing. All the party dropped their
occupations and ran to look. That the _Rufus Smith_ had returned
at an unexpectedly early date was of course the natural explanation
of the appearance of a vessel in these lonely seas. But through
the glass the new arrival turned out to be not the tubby freighter
but a stranger of clean-cut, rakish build, lying low in the water
and designed for speed rather than carrying capacity.
A mile offshore she lay to, and a boat left her side. Wondering
and disquieted, we returned to the beach to await her coming. Was
it another pirate? What possible errand could bring a steamer to
this remote, unvisited, all but forgotten little island? Had
somebody else heard the story of the _Bonny Lass_ and come after
the doubloons, unknowing that we were beforehand with them? If so,
must we do battle for our rights?
The boat shot in between the points and skimmed swiftly over the
rippling surface of the cove, under the rhythmic strokes of half a
dozen flashing oars. The rowers wore a trim white uniform, and in
the stern a tall figure, likewise white-clad, turned toward us a
dark face under a pith helmet.
As the oarsmen drove the boat upon the beach the man in the stern
sprang agilely ashore. Dugald Shaw stepped forward, and the
stranger approached, doffing his helmet courteously.
"You are the American and English party who landed here some weeks
ago from the _Rufus Smith_?"
His English was easy and correct, though spoken with a pronounced
Spanish accent. His dark high-featured face was the face of a
Spaniard. And his grace was the grace of a Spaniard, as he bowed
sweepingly and handed Mr. Shaw a card.
"Senor Don Enrique Gonzales," said Dugald, bowing in his
stiff-necked fashion, "I am very happy to meet you. But as you
represent His Excellency the President of the Republic of Santa
Marina I suppose you come on business, Senior Gonzales?"
"Precisely. I am enchanted that you apprehend the fact without the
tiresomeness of explanations. For business is a cold, usually a
disagreeable affair, is it not so? That being the case, let us get
"First do us the honor to be seated, Senor Gonzales."
Comfortably bestowed in a camp-chair in the shade, the Spaniard
"My friend, this island belongs, as of course you are aware, to the
republic of which I have the honor to be a citizen. All rights and
privileges, such as harvesting the copra crop, are strictly
conserved by the republic. All persons desiring such are required
to negotiate with the Minister of State of the Republic. And how
much more, when it is a question of treasure--of a very large
The Scotchman's face was dark.
"I had understood," he replied, without looking in the direction of
Miss Higglesby-Browne, who seemed in the last few moments to have
undergone some mysterious shrinking process, "that negotiations in
the proper quarter had been undertaken and brought to a successful
conclusion--that in short we were here with the express permission
of the government of Santa Marina."
This was a challenge which Miss Browne could not but meet.
"I had," she said hoarsely, "I had the assurance of a--a person
high in the financial circles of the United States, that through
his--his influence with the government of Santa Marina it would not
be necessary--in short, that he could _fix_ the President--I employ
his own terms--for a considerable sum, which I--which my friend
Miss Harding gave him."
"And the name of this influential person?" inquired the Santa
"Hamilton H. Tubbs," croaked Miss Browne.
Senor Gonzales smiled.
"I remember the name well, madam. It is that of the pretended
holder of a concession from our government, who a few years ago
induced a number of American school-teachers and clergymen and
other financially innocent persons to invest in imaginary coffee
plantations. He had in some doubtful fashion become possessed of a
little entirely worthless land, which formed the basis of his
transactions. His frauds were discovered while he was in our
country, and he was obliged to leave between two days, according to
your so picturesque idiom. Needless to say his application for
permission to visit Leeward Island for any purpose would instantly
have been refused, but as a matter of fact it was never made."
In a benumbed silence we met the blow. The riches that had seemed
within our grasp would never be ours. We had no claim upon them,
for all our toil and peril; no right even to be here upon the
island. Suddenly I began to laugh; faces wearing various shades of
shocked surprise were turned on me. Still I laughed.
"Don't you see," I cried, "how ridiculous it all is? All the time
it is we who have been pirates!"
The Spaniard gave me a smile made brilliant by the gleam of
smoldering black eyes and the shine of white teeth.
"Senorita, with all regret, I must agree."
"Miss Virginia Harding," said Miss Browne with all her old
severity, rejuvenated apparently by this opportunity to put me in
my place, "would do well to consult her dictionary, before applying
opprobrious terms to persons of respectability. A pirate is one
who commits robbery upon the high seas. If such a crime lies at
the door of any member of this expedition I am unaware of it."
"What's in a name?" remarked Dugald Shaw, shrugging. "We were
after other people's property, anyway. I am very sorry about it,
Senor Gonzales, but I would like to ask, if you don't mind telling,
how you happened to learn of our being here, so long as it was not
through the authentic channels. On general principles, I tried to
keep the matter quiet."
"We learned in a manner somewhat--what do you say?--curious,"
returned the Spaniard, who, having presented the men with cigars
and by permission lighted one himself, was making himself extremely
at home and appeared to have no immediate intention of haling us
away to captivity in Santa Marinan dungeons. "But before I go
further, kindly tell me whether you have had any--ah--visitors
during your stay on the island?"
"We have," Mr. Shaw replied, "very troublesome ones."
The Spaniard smiled.
"Then answer your own question. These men, while unloading a
contraband cargo in a port of Mexico near the southern border, grew
too merry in a wineshop, and let it be known where they were bound
when again they put to sea. The news, after some delay, found its
way to our capital. At once the navy of the republic was
despatched to investigate the matter. It is the navy of Santa
Marina, ladies and gentlemen, which at this moment guards the
entrance of the bay." And Senor Gonzales waved an ironic hand in
the direction of the little steamer lying off the island,
"On the way here I put in at Panama, where certain inquiries were
satisfactorily answered. There were those in that port who had
made a shrewd guess at the destination of the party which had
shipped on the _Rufus Smith_. I then pursued my course to Leeward.
But admit, my friends, that I have not by my arrival, caused you
any material loss. Except that I have unfortunately been compelled
to present you to yourselves in the character of--as says the young
lady--pirates--madam, I speak under correction--I have done you no
injury, eh? And that for the simple reason that you have not
discovered what you sought, and hence can not be required to
We looked at one another doubtfully. The ambiguous words of the
Spaniard, the something humorous and mocking which lay behind his
courtly manner, put us quite in the dark.
"Senor Gonzales," replied the Scotchman, after a moment's
hesitation, "it is true that so far only a negligible amount of
what we came to find has rewarded us. But I can not in honesty
conceal from you that we know where to look for the rest of it, and
that we had certainly expected to leave the island with it in our
The dark indolent eyes of our visitor grew suddenly keen.
Half-veiled by the heavy lashes, they searched the face of Dugald
Shaw. It seemed that what they found in that bold and open
countenance satisfied them. His own face cleared again.
"I think we speak at cross-purposes, Mr. Shaw," he said
courteously, "and that we may better understand each other, I am
going to tell you a little story. At about this season, two years
ago, the navy of Santa Marina, the same which now lies off the
island, was making a voyage of inspection along the coast of the
republic. It was decided to include Leeward in the cruise, as it
had been unvisited for a considerable time. I hold no naval
rank--indeed, we are not a seafaring people, and the captain of _La
Golondrina_ is a person from Massachusetts, Jeremiah Bowles by
name, but as the representative of His Excellency I accompanied _La
Golondrina_. On our arrival at Leeward I came ashore in the boat,
and found to my surprise a small sloop at anchor in the cove.
About the clearing were the signs of recent habitation, yet I knew
that the old German who had had the copra concession here had been
gone for some time. There were no personal trifles left in the
hut, however, and indeed it was plain that weeks had passed since
there had been any one about. No one responded to our shouts and
"I turned my attention to the sloop. In the cabin, besides a few
clothes, I found something that interested me very much--a large
brass-bound chest, of an antique type such as is common enough in
my own country.
"Of course I had heard of the many legends of treasure buried on
Leeward Island. Consequently I was somewhat prepared to find in
the chest, what in fact I did find there, over a million dollars in
old Spanish coins.
"These coins, which were packed in strong canvas bags, were, as you
may fancy, very quickly transferred to the cutter. We did not
trouble ourselves with the unwieldy chest, and it remains, I
suppose, in the cabin of the sloop, which I observed as we crossed
the cove to have been washed up upon the rocks.
"As my curiosity was extremely piqued regarding the owner of the
sloop, the manner in which he had discovered the treasure, and
still more his extraordinary disappearance, I should have wished to
make a thorough search of the island. But the season for storms
was shortly to begin, and already the weather signs were so
threatening that Captain Bowles was reluctant to remain longer in
the neighborhood of the island, which has a bad name for dangerous
shoals and reefs. For the same reason it was thought unwise to
risk a man or two aboard the sloop to sail her to the mainland.
Indeed, we ourselves were glad to get safely home with our
doubloons in the teeth of a tropical gale."
"This is a very interesting story, Senor Gonzales," said Dugald
Shaw quietly, "and as you say, your visit here deprives us of
nothing, but merely saves us further unprofitable labor. We are
grateful to you."
The Spaniard bowed.
"You do me too much honor. But as you remark, the story is
interesting. It has also the element of mystery. For there
remains the question of what became of the owner of the sloop. His
final preparations for leaving the island had evidently been made,
his possessions removed from the hut, provisions for the voyage
brought on board the sloop--and then he had vanished. What had
befallen him? Did the gold carry with it some deadly influence?
One plays, as it were, with this idea, imagining the so melancholy
and bloody history of these old doubloons. How, in the first
place, had he found them? Through chance--by following some
authentic clue? And then, in the moment of success, he
disappears--pouf!" And Senor Gonzales disposed of the unknown by
blowing him airily from the tips of his fingers.
"However, we have the treasure--the main point, is it not? But I
have often wondered--"
"If you would like to hear the rest of the story," said Mr. Shaw,
"we are in a position to enlighten you. That we are so, is due
entirely to this young lady, Miss Virginia Harding."
The Spaniard rose, and made obeisance profoundly. He resumed his
seat, prepared to listen--no longer the government official, but
the cordial and interested guest and friend.
The story, of course, was a long one. Everybody took a hand in the
telling, even Cookie, who was summoned from his retirement in the
kitchen to receive the glory due him as a successful strategist.
The journal of Peter was produced, and the bags of doubloons handed
over to the representative of the little republic. I even offered
to resign the silver shoe-buckle which I had found in the secret
locker on the Island Queen, but this excess of honesty received its
"The doubloons being now in the possession of the Santa Marinan
nation, I beg that you will consider as your own the Island Queen
and all it may contain," said Don Enrique to me with as magnificent
an air as though the sand-filled hulk of a wrecked sloop were
really a choice gift to bestow on a young woman.
Plans were discussed for transferring the pirates from the cave to
the cutter, for they were to be taken to Santa Marina to meet
whatever punishment was thought fit for their rather indefinite
ill-doing. They had not murdered us, they had robbed us of nothing
but the provisions they had eaten, they had, after all, as much
right on the island as ourselves. Yet there remained their
high-handed conduct in invading our camp and treating us as
prisoners, with the threat of darker possibilities. I fancy that
Santa Marinan justice works mainly by rule of thumb, and that the
courts do not embarrass themselves much with precedents. Only I
hope they did not shoot the picturesque Tony against a wall.[*]
The power-schooner, manned by a crew from the cutter, was to be
taken to Santa Marina also. Senor Gonzales remained with us for
the day as our guest, and on the next the boats from the cutter
took off the pirates from the cave. We did not see them again.
Through the convenient elasticity of Santa Marinan procedure, Mr.
Tubbs was herded along with the rest, although he might plausibly,
if hypocritically, have pleaded that he had complied with the will
of the invaders under duress. Aunt Jane wept very much, and handed
me _Paeans of Passion_ with the request that she might never see it
We parted from Senor Gonzales not without regrets. It was an
impressive leave-taking--indeed, Senor, Gonzales in his least word
and gesture was impressive. Also, he managed subtly and
respectfully to impart to me the knowledge that he shared Titian's
tastes in the matter of hair. On his departure he made a pretty
little speech, full of compliments and floral specimens, and
bestowed upon me--as being mine by right, he earnestly
protested--the two bags of Spanish doubloons.
[*]Since the above was written, Mr. Shaw has run across Tony on the
San Francisco water-front. Tony tells him that they got off with
three months' imprisonment. The American consul interested himself
and the schooner was restored to her owners, who were Tony's
relations and hence did not prosecute. Before the discharged
prisoners left the republic Captain Magnus was stabbed over a card
game by a native. Mr. Tubbs married a wealthy half-caste woman,
the owner of a fine plantation, but a perfectly genuine Mrs. Tubbs
from Peoria turned up later, and the too much married H. H. was
obliged to achieve one of his over-night flittings.
THE BISHOP'S CHEST
W3 waited nine days for the coming of the _Rufus Smith_. During
that time an episode occurred as a result of which I sat one
morning by myself on the rocks beside the sloop, on which such
ardent hopes had been centered, only like the derelict itself to be
wrecked at last. It was a lonely spot and I wanted to be alone. I
felt abused, and sad, and sore. I realized that I was destined to
do nothing but harm in this world, and to hurt people I was fond
of, and be misunderstood by every one, and to live on--if I wasn't
lucky enough to meet with a premature and sudden end--into a sour,
lonely, crabbed old age, when I would wish to goodness I had
married anybody, and might even finish by applying to a Matrimonial
As I sat nursing these melancholy thoughts I heard a footstep. I
did not look up--for I knew the footstep. I should have known it
if it had trodden over my grave.
"I take it you are not wanting company, you have come so far out of
the way of it," said Dugald Shaw.
Still I did not look up.
"Nobody seemed to want _me_," I remarked sulkily, after a pause.
He made no reply, but seated himself upon the rocks. For a little
there was silence.
"Virginia," he said abruptly, "I'm thinking you have hurt the lad."
"Oh," I burst out, "that is all you think of--the lad, the lad!
How about me? Don't you suppose it hurt me too?"
"No," he made deliberate answer. "I was not sure of that. I
thought maybe you liked having men at your feet."
"Liked it? Liked to wound Cuthbert--_Cuthbert_? Oh, if only it
had not happened, if we could have gone on being friends! It was
all my fault for going with him into the cave. It was after you
had buried the skeleton, and I wanted to see poor Peter's
resting-place. And we spoke of Helen, and it was all frightfully
melancholy and tender, and all at once he--he said it. And I meant
he never should!" In the soreness of my heart I began to weep.
"There, lassie, there, don't cry!" he said gently. "The boy didn't
speak of it, of course. But I knew how it must be. It has hit him
hard, I am afraid."
"I suppose," I wept, "you would have had me marry him whether I
wanted to or not, just to keep from hurting him."
"No," he answered quickly. "I did not say that--I did not say that
I would have had you marry him. No, lass, I did not say that."
"Then why are you scolding me?" I asked in a choked whisper.
"Scolding you? I was not. It was only that--that I love the
lad--and I wish you both so well--I thought perhaps there was some
mistake, and--it would not matter about me, if I could see you both
"There is a mistake," I said clearly. "It is a great mistake,
Dugald Shaw, that you should come to me and court me--for some one
There was silence for a while, the kind of silence when you hear
When he spoke his voice was unsteady.
"But the boy has everything to offer you--his ancient name, his
splendid unstained youth, a heart that is all loyalty. He is
strong and brave and beautiful. Virginia, why couldn't you love
"I could not love him," I replied, very low, "because my love was
not mine any more to give. It belongs to--some one else. Is his
name ancient? I don't know. It is his, and he ennobles it.
Cuthbert has youth, but youth is only promise. In the man I love I
find fulfilment. And he is loyal and brave and honest--I am afraid
he isn't beautiful, but I love him the better for his scars--"
After that I sat quite still, and I knew it depended on the next
half minute whether I went all the days of my life crowned and
glorious with happiness, or buried my shame and heartbreak under
the waters of the cove.
And then Dugald Shaw took me in his arms.
By and by he said huskily:
"Beloved, I had no right to ask you to share such a life as mine
must be--the life of a poor sailor."
At this I raised my head from its nestling-place and laughed.
"Ask me? Silly, I asked you! Of course you could have refused me,
but I depended on your not having the courage."
"And indeed that is a charge I'll not allow--that I am so little of
a man as to let my courting be done for me. No, no, it was my love
compelling you that made you speak the words you did--the love of a
selfish man who should have thought only of shielding you from the
hardships of such a wandering, homeless life as mine."
"Well, Heaven reward you for your selfishness," I said earnestly.
"I am thankful you were not so noble as to let me throw myself at
your head in vain. I have been doing it for ever so long, in fact,
but it is such a thick Scotch head that I dare say I made no
"Sweet imp! You'll pay for that--oh, Virginia, if I had only
something to offer you!"
"You can offer me something that I want very much, if you will, and
at no cost but to your strong right arm."
"It is an arm which is at your service for life--but what am I to
do with it now? And indeed I think it is very well employed at
"But it must be employed much more strenuously," I remarked, moving
a little away, "if you are to get me what I want. Before you came,
I was meditating possible ways of getting it for myself. I wanted
it for a melancholy relic--a sort of mausoleum in which all my
hopes were buried. Now its purpose is quite different; it is to be
my bride's chest and hold the dowry which I shall bring to one
"You mean _the_ chest--the chest that held the Spanish
doubloons--that lies under the sand in the sloop?"
"Exactly. And now I shall know whether you are the true prince or
not, because he always succeeds in the tasks he undertakes to win
It was low tide, such a tide as had all but lured me to my death in
the cave. One could go and come from the beach along the rocks,
without climbing the steep path up the cliff. It was not long
before Dugald was back again with spade and pick. He tore off the
shrunken, sun-dried boards from the cabin roof, and fell to work.
It was not, after all, a labor of Hercules. The cabin was small
and the chest large. I watched with the pride of proprietorship
the swift ease with which the steel-sinewed arms of the Scot made
the caked sand fly. Then the spade struck something which sent
back a dull metallic sound through the muffling sand.
I gave a little shriek of excitement. Hardly could I have been
more thrilled if I had believed the chest still to contain the
treasure of which it had been ravished. It was filled to its
brass-bound lid with romance, if not with gold.
A little more and it lay clear to our view, a convex surface of
dark smoky brown, crossed by three massive strips of tarnished
brass. Dugald dug down until the chest stood free to half its
height; then by its handles--I recognized the "great hand-wrought
loops of metal," of the diary--we dragged it from its bed, and drew
it forth into the cockpit.
For a little while we sat before it in happy contemplation. It was
indeed for its own sake quite well worth having, that sturdy old
chest. Even in an antique shop I should have succumbed to it at
once; how much more when we had dug it up ourselves from a wrecked
sloop on a desert island, and knew all its bloody and delightful
At length, kneeling before it, I raised with an effort the heavy
"Empty, of course--no more brown bags. But oh, Dugald, had ever a
girl such a wonderful bride's chest as this? O--oh!"
"Nothing, only there is a crack in the bottom, running all the way
along where it joins the side."
"Warped a bit, I suppose. No matter, it can be easily
repaired--crack? I say, lassie, look here!"
Under the pressure of Dugald's fingers the floor of the chest was
swinging upward on an invisible hinge. Between it and the true
bottom was a space of about three inches in depth. It seemed to be
filled with a layer of yellowed cotton-wool.
For a long moment we held our breath, gazing at each other with
eyes which asked the same question. Then Dugald lifted a corner of
the sheet of cotton and plucked it away.
At once all the hues of the rainbow seemed to be flashing and
sparkling before us. Rubies were there like great drops of the
blood that the chest and its treasure had wrung from the hearts of
men; sapphires, mirroring the blue of the tropic sky; emeralds,
green as the island verdure; pearls, white as the milk of the
cocoanuts and softly luminous as the phosphorescent foam which
broke on the beach in the darkness. And there were diamonds that
caught gleams of all the others' beauty, and then mocked them with
a matchless splendor.
Some of the stones lay loose upon their bed of cotton; others were
in massive settings of curious old-time workmanship. Every gem was
of exceptional size and beauty, the pearls, I knew at once, were
the rarest I had ever looked upon. They were strung in a necklace,
and had a very beautiful pendant of mingled pearls and diamonds.
There were nine heavy bracelets, all jewel-set; twenty-three rings,
eight of them for the hand of a man. Some of these rings contained
the finest of the diamonds, except for three splendid unset stones.
There were numbers of elaborate old-fashioned earrings, two
rope-like chains of gold adorned with jewels at intervals, and
several jeweled lockets. There was a solid gold snuff-box,
engraved with a coat of arms and ornamented with seventeen fine
emeralds. There were, besides the three diamonds, eighty-two unset
stones, among them, wrapped by itself in cotton, a ruby of
extraordinary size and luster. And there was a sort of coronet or
tiara, sown all over with clear white brilliants.
There is the inventory, not entirely complete, of the treasure
which we found hidden under the false bottom of the chest, a
treasure whose existence none of those who had striven and slain
and perished for the sake of the Spanish doubloons can have
suspected. The secret of it died with the first guardian of the
chest, the merchant of Lima who went overboard from the _Bonny
Lass_ on that stormy night ninety years ago. Now sea and sun and
sand had done their work and warped the wood of the chest enough to
make us masters of its mystery. And we sat in the sand-heaped
cock-pit of the wrecked sloop, playing like children with our
Ours? Yes, for whether or not there were an infection of piracy in
the very air of the island, so that to seize with the high hand, to
hold with the iron grasp, seemed the law of life, we decided
without a qualm against the surrender of our treasure-trove to its
technical owners. Technical only; for one felt that, in essence,
all talk of ownership by this man or that had long ago become idle.
Fate had held the treasure in fee to give or to withhold. Senor
Gonzales had had his chance at the chest, and he had missed the
secret of the hidden hoard, had left it to lie forgotten under the
sand until in some tropic storm it should be engulfed by the waters
of the cove. More than this, had he not most specifically made
over to me the _Island Queen_ and all that it contained? This was
a title clear enough to satisfy the most exacting formalist. And
we were not formalists, nor inclined in any quibbling spirit to
question the decrees of Fortune. As treasure-hunters, we had been
her devotees too long.
So after all it was not my scornful skepticism but the high faith
of Miss Higglesby-Browne which was justified by the event, and the
Harding-Browne expedition left the island well repaid for its toils
and perils. Plus the two bags of doubloons, which were added to
the spoils, the treasure brought us a sum so goodly that I dare not
name it, for fear of the apparition of Senor Gonzales and the Santa
Marinan navy looming up to demand restitution. Like true comrades,
we divided share and share alike, and be sure that no one grudged
Cookie the percentage Which each was taxed for his benefit.
Certain of the rarest; jewels were not sold, but found their way to
me as gifts of the Expedition severally and collectively. The
brightest of the diamonds now shines in my engagement ring.
Cuthbert, by the way, showed up so splendidly when I explained to
him about the engagement--that the responsibility was entirely
mine, not Dugald's--that I earnestly wished I were twins so that
one of me could have married the beautiful youth--which indeed I
had wished a little all the time.
And now I come to the purpose of this story--for though well
concealed it has had one from the beginning. It is to let Helen,
whoever and wherever she may be, if still of this world, know of
the fate of Peter, and to tell her that when she asks for them she
is to have my most cherished relics of the island, Peter's journal
and the silver shoe-buckle which he found in the sand of the
treasure-cave and was taking home to her.
Only, she must let me keep Crusoe, please.
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