Synopsis:—Virginia Jlarding finds that her wealthy and irresponsible Aunt Jane is financing a party to go to Leeward Island, near Panama, in search of treasure, the secret of which is known only to Miss Higglesby-Browne, an Englishwoman of strong character. She sets out in pursuit and just makes the boat in time to go along. In the party she finds a handsome young Englishman named. Vane and a Scotchman, Dugald Shaw, an explorer by profession, who is in charge. She tells the latter that the whole thing is a conspiracy to rob her aunt.
"NO, it is not for me to answer, because it is not for you to ask. But since you talk of inveigling, let me give the history of my
connection with the expedition. You will understand then that I had nothing to do with organizing it, but was merely engaged to do my best to carry it through to success.”
“I have already heard a version of the matter from Mr. Vane.”
“And you think he is in the conspiracy too?” “Certainly not,” I replied hastily. “I mean—of ceurse, I know he told me exactly what he believes himself.”
“Yes, you would take the lad’s word, of course.” This with a slight but significant emphasis of which he was perhaps unconscious. “Then I suppose you consider that he was inveigled too?”
“I am not required to consider Mr. Vane’s status at all,” I replied with dignity. “It is my aunt whom I wish to protect.” And suddenly to my dismay my voice grew husky. I had to turn my head aside and blink hard at the sea. I seemed to be encountering fearful odds in my endeavor to rescue Aunt Jane.
He stood looking down at me—he was a big man, though of lesser height than the superb Cuthbert—in a way I couldn’t quite understand. And what I don’t understand always makes me uncomfortable.
“Very well,” he said after a pause. “Maybe your opportunity will come. It would be a pity indeed if Miss Harding were to require no protecting and a young lady here with such a good will to it. But if you will take the suggestion of a man of rather broader experience than your own, you will wait until the occasion arises. It is bad generalship, really, to waste your ammunition like this.”
“I dare say I am not a master of strategy,” I cried, furious at myself for my moment of weakness and at him for the suspicion of softening which had crept into his tone. “I am merely—honest. And when I see Aunt Jane hypnotized—by this Violet person—”
“And indeed I have seen no reason to think that Miss Higglesby-Browne is not a most excellent lady,” interrupted Mr. Shaw stiffly. “And let me say this, Miss Harding: here we are all together whether we wish to be or no, and for six weeks or more on the island we shall see no faces but our own. Are we to be divided from the beginning by quarrels? Are maybe even the men of us to be set by the ears through the bickering of women?”
Like the flick of a whip came the certainty that he was thinking of the Honorable Cuthbert, and that I was the rock on which their David-and-Jonathan friendship might split. Otherwise I suppose Miss Higglesby-Browne and I might have clawed each other forever without interference from him.
“Really,” I said with—I hope—well-simulated scorn, “since I am quite alone against half a dozen of you, I should think you could count on putting down any rebellion on my part very easily. I repeat, I had no other object in coming along—though I was really kidnapped along—than to look after my aunt. The affairs of the party otherwise—or its personnel—do not interest me at all. As to the treasure, of course I know perfectly well that there isn’t any.”
And I turned my back and looked steadily out to sea. After a moment or two I heard him turn on his heel and go away. It was none too soon, for I had already begun to feel unostentatiously for my handkerchief, Anyway, I had had the last word—
The rest of my day was lonely, for the beautiful youth, probably by malevolent design, was kept busy between decks. Mr. Tubbs danced attendance on Aunt Jane and Miss Browne, so assiduously that I already began to see some of my worst fears realized. There was nothing for me to do but to retire to my berth and peruse a tattered copy of “Huckleberry Finn” which I found in the cabin.
At dinner, having the Honorable Cuthbert at my elbow, it was easier than not to ignore everyone else. The small keen eyes of Mr. Tubbs, under his lofty and polished dome of thought, watched us knowingly. You saw that he was getting ready to assume a blessyou-my-children attitude and even to take credit somehow as match-maker. He related anecdotes, in which, as an emissary of Cupid, he played a benevolent and leading role. One detected, too, a grin, ugly and unmirthful, on the unprepossessing countenance of Captain Magnus. I was indifferent. The man my gaiety was intended for sat at the far end of the table. I had to wipe out the memory of my wet eyes that afternoon.
Directly dinner was at end, remorselessly he led the Honorable Cuthbert away. I retired to “Huckleberry Finn.” But a face with a scar running to the eyebrow looked up at me from the pages, and I held colloquies with it in which I said ali the brilliant and cutting things which had occurred to me too late.
I was thus engaged when a cry rang through the ship:
I DROPPED my book and ran on deck. Everyone else was already there. I joined the row at the rail, indifferent, .for the moment, to the fact that to display so much interest in their ridiculous island involved a descent from my pinnacle. Indeed, the chill altitude of pinnacles never agrees with me for long at a time, so that I am obliged to descend at intervals to breathe the air on the common level.
The great gleaming orb of the tropic moon was blinding as the sun. Away to the faint translucent line of the horizon rolled an infinity of shining sea. Straight ahead rose a dark conical mass. It was the mountainous shape of Leeward Island.
Everybody was craning to get a clearer view. “Hail, isle of Fortune!” exclaimed Miss Browne. I think my aunt would not have been surprised if it had begun to rain doubloons upon the deck.
“I bet we don’t put it over some on them original Argonaut fellers, hey?” cried Mr. Tubbs.
Higher and higher across the skyline cut the dark crest of the island as the freighter steamed valiantly ahead. She had a manner all her own of progressing by a series of headlong lunges, followed by a nerveracking pause before she found her equilibrium again. But she managed to wallow forward at a good gait, and the island grew clearer momently. Sheer and formidable from the sea rose a line of black cliffs, and above them a single peak threw its shadow far across the water. Faintly we made out the white line of the breakers foaming at the foot of the cliffs.
We coasted slowly along, looking for the mouth of the little bay. Meanwhile we had collected our belongings, and stood grouped about the deck, ready for the first thrilling plunge into adventure. My aunt and Miss Browne had tied huge green veils over their cork helmets, and were clumping about in tremendous hobnailed hoots. I could not hope to rival this severely military get-up, but I had a blue linen skirt and a
white middy, and trusted that my small stock of similar garments would last out our time on the island. All the luggage I was allowed to take was in a traveling bag and a gunnysack, obligingly donated by the cook. Speaking of cooks, I found we had one of our own along, a coal-black negro with grizzled wool, and unctuous voice, and the manners of an old-school family retainer. So far as I know, his name was Cookie. I suppose he had received another once from his sponsors in baptism, but if so, it was buried in oblivion.
MOW a narrow gleaming gap appeared in the wall 1 of cliffs, and the freighter whistled and lay to. There began a bustle at the davits, and shouts of “Lower away!” and for the first time it swept over me that we were to be put ashore in boats. Simultaneously this fact swept over Aunt Jane, and I think also over Miss Browne, for I saw her fling one wild glance around, as though in search of some impossible means of retreat. But she took the blow in a grim silence, while Aunt Jane burst out in lamentation. She would not, could not go in a boat. She had heard all her life that small boats were most unsafe. A little girl had been drowned in a lake near where she was visiting once through going in â boat. Why didn’t the captain sail right up to the island as she had expected and put us ashore? Even at Panama with only a little way to go she had felt it suicidal— here it was not to be thought of.
But the preparations for this desperate step went on apace, and no one heeded Aunt Jane but Mr. Tubbs, who had hastened to succor beauty in distress, and mingled broken exhortations to courage with hints that if his opinion had been attended to all would be well.
Then Aunt Jane clutched at Mr. Shaw’s coat lapel as he went by, and he stopped long enough to explain patiently' that vessels of the freighter’s size could not enter the bay, and that there really was no danger, and that Aunt Jane might wait if she liked till the last boat, as it would take several trips to transfer us and our baggage. I supposed of course that this would include me, and stood leaning on the rail, watching the first boat, with Mr. Shaw, Captain Magnus and the cook, fade to a dark speck on the water, when Mr. Vane appeared at my elbow.
“Ready, Miss Harding? You are to go in the next boat, with me. I asked especially.”
“Oh, thanks!” I cried fervently. He would be much nicer than Mr. Tubbs to cling to as I went down— indeed, he was so tall that if it were at all a shallow place I might use him as a stepping-stone and survive. I hoped disowning men didn’t gurgle very much— meanwhile Mr. Vane had disappeared over the side, and a sailor was lifting me and setting my reluctant feet on the strands oT the ladder.
“Good-bye, auntie!” I cried, as I began the descent. “Don’t blame yourself too much. Everybody has to go some time, you know, and they say drowning’s easy7.”
riTH a stifled cry Aunt Jane forsook Mr. Tubbs md flew to the rail. 1 was already out of reach.
“Oh, Virginia!” she wailed. “Oh, my dear child! If it should he the last parting!”
“Give my7 jewelry and things to Bess’s baby!” T found strength to call back. What with the wallowing of the steamer and the natural instability of ropeladders I seemed a mere atom tossed about in a swaying, reeling universe. What will Aunt Jame do? flashed through my mind, and I wished I had waited
to see. Then the arms of the Honorable Mr. Vane received me. The strong rowers bent their backs, and the boat shot out over the mile or two of bright water between us and the island. Great slow swells lifted us. We dipped with a soothing, cradlelike motion. I forgot to be afraid, in the delight of the warm wind that fanned our checks, of the moonbeams that on the crest of every ripple were splintered to a thousand dancing lights. I forgot fear, forgot Miss Higglesby-Browne, forgot the harshness of the Scotch character.
“Oh, glorious, glorious!” I cried to Cuthbert Vane.
“Not so dusty, eh?” he came back in their ridiculous English slang. Now an American would have said some little old moon that! We certainly have our points of superiority.
All around the island white charging lines of breakers foamed on ragged half-seen reefs. You saw the flash of foam leaping half the height of the black cliffs. The thunder of the surf was in our ears, now rising to wild clamor, fierce, hungry, menacing, now dying to a vast broken mutter. Now our boat felt the lift of the great shoreward rollers, and sprang forward like a living thing. The other boat, empty of all but the rowers and returning from the island to the ship, passed us with a hail. We steered warily away from a wild welter of foam at the end of a long point, and shot beyond it on the heave of a great swell into quiet water. We were in the little bay under the shadow of the frowning cliffs.
At the head of the bay, a quarter of a mile away, lay a broad, white beach shining under the moon. At the edge of dark woods beyond a fire burned redly. It threw into relief the black moving shapes of men upon the sand. The waters of the cove broke upon the beach in a white lacework of foam.
STRAIGHT for the sand the sailors drove the boat. She struck it with a jar, grinding forward heavily.
The men sprang overboard, wading halfway to the waist. And the arms of the Honorable Cuthbert Vane had snatched me up and were bearing me safe and dry to shore.
The sailors hauled on the boat, dragging it up the beach, and I saw the Scotchman lending them a hand.
The hard dry sand was crunching under the heels of Mr. Vane. I wriggled a little and Apollo, who had grown absent-minded apparently, set me down.
Mr. Shaw approached and the two men greeted each other in their offhand British way. As we couldn’t, well, under the circumstances, maintain a fiction of mutual invisibility,
Mr. Shaw, with a certain obvious hesitation, turned to me.
“Only lady passenger, eh? Hope you’re not wet through. Cookie’s making coffee over yonder.”
“I say, Shaw,” cried the beautiful youth enthusiastically, “Miss Harding’s the most ripping sport, you know! Not the least nervous about the trip, I assure you.”
“I was,” I announced, moved to defiance by the neighborhood of Mr.
Shaw. “Before we started I was so afraid that if you had listened you might have heard my teeth chattering. But I had at least the comforting thought that if I did go to my end it would not be simply in pursuit of sordid gain!”
“And indeed that was almost a waste of noble sentiment under the circumstances,” answered the dour Scot, with a fleeting shadow of an enraging smile. “Such disappointingly calm weather as it is! See that Miss Harding has some coffee, Bert.”
I promised myself, as I went with Mr. Vane toward the fire, that some day I would find the weapon that would penetrate the Scotchman’s armor—and would use it mercilessly.
Cookie, in his white attire, and with his black shining face and ivory teeth gleaming in the ruddy firelight, looked like a converted cannibal —perhaps won from his errors by one of Mr. Vane’s missionary Johnnies. He received us with unctuous warmth.
“Well, now, ’ciar to goodness if it ain’t the li’lle lady! How come you git ashore all dry lak you is?
Yes, sah, Cookie’ll git you-all some’n hot immejusly.” He wafted me with stately gestures to a seat on an overturned iron kettle, and served my coffee with an air appropriate to mahogany and plate. It was something to see him wait on Cuthbert Vane. As Cookie told me later, in the course of our rapidly developing friendship, “dat young gemmun am sure one ob de quality.” To indicate the certainty of Cookie’s instinct, Miss Higglesby-Browne was never more to him than “dat pusson,” and the cold aloofness of his manner toward her, which yet never sank to impertinence, would have done credit to a duke.
On the beach Mr. Shaw, Captain Magnus and the sailors were toiling, unloading and piling up stores. Rather laggingly, Apollo joined them. I was glad, for a heavy fatigue was stealing over me. Cookie, taking note of my sagging head, brought me somebody’s dunnage bag for a pillow. I felt him drawing a tarpaulin over me as I sank into bottomless depths of sleep.
I opened my eyes to the dying stars. The moon had set. Black shapes of tree and boulder loomed portentous through the ashen dimness that precedes the dawn. I heard men shouting, “Here she comes!” “Stand by to lend a hand!” In haste I scrambled up and tore for the beach. I must witness the landing of Aunt Jane.
“Where are they, where are they?” I demanded, rubbing my sleepy eyes.
“Why didn't you stay by the fire and have your nap out?” asked Mr. Shaw, in a tone which seemed to have forgotten for the moment to be frigid—perhaps because I hadn’t yet waked up enough to have my quills in good pricking order.
“Nap? Do you think that for all the treasure ever buried by a pirate I would miss the spectacle of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne arriving? I expect it to compensate me for all I have suffered on this trip so far.” “See what it is, Bert,” exclaimed the Scotchman, “to have a truly gentle and for giving nature—how it brings its own reward. I’m afraid you and I miss a great deal in life, lad.”
The beautiful youth pondered this.
“I don’t know,” he replied; “what you say sounds quite fit and proper for the parson, and all that, of course, but I fancy you are a bit out in supposing that Miss Harding is so forgiving, old man.” “I didn’t know that you thought so badly of me, too!” I said timidly. I couldn’t help it—the temptation wa|s too great.
“I? Oh, really, now, you can’t think that!” Through the dusk I saw that he was flushing hotly. “Lad,” said the Scotchman in a suddenly harsh voice, “lend a hand with this rope, will you?” And in the dusk I turned away to hide my triumphant
smiles. I had found the weak spot of my foe—as Mr. Tubbs might have said, I was wise to Achilles’ heel.
AND now through the dawn-twilight that lay upon the cove the boat drew near that bore Mr. Tubbs and his fair charges. I saw the three cork helmets grouped together in the stern. Then the foaming fringe of wavelets caught the boat, hurled it forward, seemed all but to engulf it. Out leaped the sailors. Out leaped Mr. Tubbs, and disappeared at once beneath the waves. Shrill and prolonged rose the shrieks of my aunt and Miss Higglesby-Browne. Valiantly Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert Vane had rushed into the deep. Each now appeared staggering up the steep, foam-swept strand under a struggling burden. Even after they were safely deposited on the sand, Miss Browne and my aunt continued to shriek.
“Save, save Mr. Tubbs!” implored Aunt Jane.
But Mr. Tubbs, overlooked by all but this thoughtful friend, had calmly saved himself. He advanced upon us dripping.
“A close call!” he sang out cheerfully. “Thought one time old Nep had got a strangle-hold all right. Thinks I, I guess there’ll be something doing when Wall Street gets this news—that old H. H. is food for the finny denizens of the deep!”
“Such an event, Mr. Tubbs,” pronounced Violet; who had recovered her form with surprising swiftness, “might well have sent its vibrations through the financial articles of the world!”
“It would have been most—most shocking!” quavered poor Aunt Jane with feeling. She was piteously striving to extricate herself from the folds of the green veil.
I came to her assistance. The poor plump little woman was trembling from head to foot.
“It was a most—unusual experience,” she told me as I unwound her. “Probably extremely—unifying to the soul-forces and all that, as Miss Browne says, but for the moment—unsettling. Is my helmet on straight, dear? I think it is a little severe for my type of face, don’t you? There was a sweet little hat in a Fifth Avenue shop—simple and yet so chic. I thought it just the thing, but Miss Browne said no, helmets were always worn—coffee? Oh, my dear child, how thankful I shall be!”
And Aunt Jane clung to me as of yore as I led her up the beach.
WHEN in my tender years I was taken to the matinee, usually the most thrilling feature of the spectacle to me was the scene depicted on the dropcurtain. I know not why only the decorators of dropcurtains are inspired to create landscapes of such strange enchantment, of a beauty which not alone beguiles the senses—I speak from the standpoint of the ten-year-old—but throws wide to fancy the gate of dreams. Directly I was seated—in the body1—and had had my hat taken off and been told not to wriggle, I vaulted airily over the unconscious audience, over an orchestra engaged in tuning up, and was lost in the marvellous landscape of the drop-curtain. The adventures which I had there put to shame any which the raising of the curtain permitted to be seen upon the stage.
I had never hoped to recover in this prosaic world my long-lost paradise of the drop-curtain, but morning revealed it to me here on Leeward Island. Here was the feathery foliage, the gushing springs, the gorgeous flowers of that enchanted land. And here were the soft and intoxicating perfumes that I had imagined in my curtain landscape.
Continued on page 91
Continued, from page 26
Leeward Island measures roughly four miles across from east to west by three from north to south. The core of the island is the peak, rising to a height of nearly three thousand feet. At its base on three sides lies a plateau, its edges gnawed away by the sea to the underlying rocky skeleton. On the southeastern quarter the peak drops by a series of great precipices straight into the sea.
Back from the cove stretches a little hollow, its floor rising gently to the level of the plateau. Innumerable clear springs which burst from the mountain converge to a limpid stream, which winds through the hollow to fall into the little bay. All the plateau and much of the peak are clothed with woods, a beautiful bright green against the sapphire of sea and sky. High above all other growth wave the feathery tops of the cocoa-palms, which flourish here luxuriantly. You saw them in their thousands, slender and swaying, tossing all together in the light sea-wind with their crowns of nodding plumes.
The palms were nowhere more abundant than in the hollow by the cove where our camp was made, and their size and the regularity of their order spoke of cultivation. Guavas, oranges and lemons grew here, too, and many beautiful banana-palms. The rank forest growth had been so thoroughly cleared out that it bad not yet returned, except stealthily in the shape of brilliant-flowrered creepers which wound their sinuous way from tree to tree, like fair Delilahs striving to overcome arboreal Samsons by their wiles. They wrere rankest beside the stream, which ran at one edge of the hollow under the rise of the plateau.
At the side of the clearing toward the stream stood a hut, built of cocoapalm logs. Its roof of palm-thatch had been scattered by storms. Nearer the stream on a bench were an old decaying wash-tub and a board. A broken frying-pan and a rusty axe-head lay in the grass.
In the hut itself 5vas a rude bedstead, a small table, and a cupboard made of boxes: I was excited at first,
and fancied we had come upon the dwelling of a marooned pirate. Without taking the trouble to combat this opinion, Mr. Shaw explained to Cuthbert Vane that a copra gatherer had once lived here, and that the place must have yielded such a profit that he was only surprised to find it deserted now. Behind this cool, unemphatic speech I sensed an ironic zest in the destruction of my pirate.
AFTER their thrilling experience of being ferried from the Rufus Smith to the island, my aunt and Miss Browne had been easily persuaded to dispose themselves for naps. Aunt Jane, however, could not be at rest until Mr. Tubbs had been restored by a cordial which she extracted with much effort from the depths of her handbag. He partook with gravity and the rolled up eyes of gratitude, and retired grimacing to comfort himself from a private bottle of his own.
The boats of the Rufus Smith had departed from the island, and our relations with humanity were severed. The thought of our isolation awed and fascinated me as I sat meditatively upon a keg of nails watching the miracle of the tropic dawn. The men were hard at work with bales and boxes, except Mr. Tubbs, who gave advice. It must have been valuable advice, for he assured everybody that a word from his lips had invariably been enough to make Wall Street sit up and take notice. But it is a far cry from Wall Street to Leeward Island. Mr. Tubbs, ignored, sought refuge with me at last, and pointed out the beauties of Aroarer as she rose from the embrace of Neptune.
“Aroarer Borealis, to be accurate,” he explained, “but they didn’t use
parties’ surnames much in classic times.” ,
The glad cry of breakfast put an end tj Mr. Tubbs’s exposition of mythology.
So does reality clog the feet of dreams that it proved impossible to begin the day by digging up the treasure. Camp had to be arranged, for folk must eat and sleep even with the wealth of the Indies to be had for the turning of a sod. The cabin was reroofed and set apart as the bower of Aunt Jane and Miss Browne. I declined to make a third in this sanctuary. You could tell by looking at her that Violet was the sort of person who would inevitably sleep out loud.
“Hang me up in a tree or anywhere,” I insisted, and it ended by my having a tarpaulin shelter rigged up in a group of cocoa-palms.
Among our earliest discoveries on the island was one regrettable from the point of view of romance, though rich in practical advantages; the woods were the abode of numerous wild pigs. This is not to write a new chapter on the geographical distribution of the pig, for they were of the humdrum domestic variety, and had doubtless appertained to the copra gatherer’s establishment. But you should have seen how clean, how seemly, how selfrespecting were our Leeward Island pigs to realize how profoundly the pig of Christian lands is a debased and slandered animal. These quadrupeds would have strengthened Jean Jacques’ belief in the primitive virtue of man before civilization debauched him. And I shall always parapnraoe the familiar line to read: “When wild in woods
the noble porker ran.”
AUNT JANE had been dreadfully alarmed by the pigs, and wanted* to keep me immured in the cabin o’ nights so that I would not be eaten. But nothing less than a Bengal tiger would have driven me to such extremity.
“Though if a pig should eat me,” I suggested, “you might mark him to avoid becoming a cannibal at second hand. I should hate to think of you, Aunt Jane, as the family tomb!”
“Virginia, you are most unfeeling,” said Aunt Jane, getting pink about the eyelids.
“Ah, I didn’t know you Americans went in much for family tombs?” remarked the beautiful youth interestedly.
“No, we do our best to keep out of them,” I assured him, and he walked off meditatively revolving this.
lí the beautiful youth had been beautiful on shipboard, in the informal costume he affected on the island he was more splendid still. His white cotton shirt and trousers showed him lithe and lean and muscular. His bared arms and chest were like cream solidified to flesh. Instead of his nose peeling like common noses in the hot salt air, every kiss of the sun only gave his skin a warmer, richer glow. With his striped silk sash of red and blue about his waist, and his crown of ambrosial chestnut curls—a development due to the absence of a barber—it would not have needed an esDecially guileless savage to take the Honorable Cuthbert Vane for the island’s igod.
Camp was made in the early hours of the day. Then came luncheon, prepared with skill by Cookie, and eaten from a table of packing cases laid in the shade. Afterwards every one, hot and weary, retired for a siesta. It was now the cool as well as the dry season on the island, yet the heat of the sun at midday was terrific. But the temperature brought us neither illness nor even any great degree of lassitude. Always around the -island blew the faint, cooling breath of the sea. No marsh or stagnant water bred insect pests or fever. Every day while we were there the men worked har*! and grew lean and sun-browned, and thrived on it. Every afternoon with unfailing regularity a light shower fell, but in twenty minutes it was over and the sun shone again, greedily lapping up the moisture that glittered on the leaves. And
forever the sea sang a low muttering bass to the faint threnody of the wind in the palms.
/'AN this first day we gathered in the cool of the afternoon about our table of packing-boxes for an event which even I, whose role was that of skeptic, found exciting. Miss Browne was at last to produce her map and reveal the secret of the island. So far, except in general terms, she had imparted it to no one. Everybody, in coming along, had been buying a pig in a poke—-though to be sure Aunt Jane had paid for it. The Scotchman, Cuthbert Vane had told me incidentally, had insured himself against loss bydemanding a retaining fee beforehand. Somehow my opinion both of his honesty and of his intelligence had risen since I knew this. As to Cuthbert Vane, he had come purely in a spirit of adventure, and had paid his own expenses from the start.
However, nowthe great moment was at hand. But before it, comes. I will here set down the treasure-story of Leeward Island, as I gathered it later, a little here and there, and pieced it together into a coherent whole through many dreaming hours.
In 1820, the city of Lima, in Peru, being threatened by the revolutionaries under Bolivar and San Martin, cautious folk began to take thought for their possessions. To send them out upon the high seas under a foreign flag seemed to offer the best hope of safety, and soon there w-as more gold afloat on the Pacific than at any time since the sailing of the great plate-galleons of the seventeenth century. Captain Sampson, of the brig Bonny Lass, found himself with a passenger for nowhere in particular in the shape of a certain Spanish merchant of great ■wealth, reputed custodian of the private funds of the bishop of Lima. This gentleman brought w-ith him, besides some scanty personal baggage—for he took ship in haste—a great iron-bound chest. Four st^ut sailors of the Bonny Lass staggered under the weight of it.
The Bonny Lass cruised north along the coast, the passenger desiring to put in at Panama in the hope that word might reach him there of quieter times at home. But somewhere off Ecuador on a dark and starless night the merchant of Lima vanished overboard— “and what could you expect,” asked Captain Sampson in effect, “when a lubber like him would stay on deck in a gale?” Strange to say, the merchant’s body-servant met the fate of the heedless also.
OHRUGGING his shoulders at the ^ carelessness of passengers, Gaptain Sampson bore away to Leeward Island, perhaps from curiosity to see this old refuge of the buccaneers, where the spoils of the sack of Guayaquil were said to have been buried. Who knows but that he, too, was bent on treasure-seeking? Be that as it may, the little brig found her way into the bay on the northeast side of the island, where she anchored. Water was needed, and there is refreshment in tropic fruits after a diet of salt horse and hardtack. So all hands had a holiday ashore, where the captain did not disdain to join them. Only he went apart, and had other occupations than swarming up the palms for cocoanuts.
One fancies, then, a moonless night, a crew sleeping off double grog, generously allowed them by the captain; a boat putting off from the Bonny Lass, in which were captain, mate, and one Bill Halliwell, able seaman, a man of mighty muscle; and as freight an object large, angular and ponderous, so that the boat lagged heavily beneath the rower’s strokes.
Later, Bill, the simple seaman, grows presumptuous on the strength of this excursion with his betters. It is a word and blow with the captain of the Bonny Lass, and Bill is conveniently disposed of. Dead, as well as living, he serves the purpose of the captain, hut of that later.
Away sailed the Bonny Lass, sailing once for all out of the story. As for Captain Sampson, there is a long gap in his history, hazily filled by the story of his having been lieutenant to
Benito Bonito, and one of the two survivors when Bonito’s black flag was brought down by the British frigate E spiegle. But sober history knows nothing of him until he re-appears years later, an aged and broken man, in a back street of Bristol. Here was living a certain Hopperdown, who had been boatswain* on the Bonny Lass at the time she had so regrettably lost her passengers overboard. He too had been at Leeward Island, and may have somewhat wondered and questioned as to the happenings during the brig’s brief stay there. He saw and recognized his old skipper hobbling along the Bristol quays, and perhaps from pity took the shabby creature home with him. Hopperdown dealt in sailors’ slops, and had a snug room or two behind the shop. Here for a while the former Captain Sampson dwelt, and after a swift illness here he died. With the hand of death upon him, his grim lips at last gave up their secret. With stiffening fingers he traced a rough map to refresh Hopperdown’s memory after the lapse of time since either had seen the wave-beaten cliffs of Leeward Island. For Captain Sampson had never been able to return to claim the treasure which he had left to Bill Halliwell’s silent guardianship. Somehow he had lost his own vessel, and there would be rumors about, no doubt, which would make it difficult for him to get another. If he had, indeed, sailed with Bonito, he had kept his secret from his formidable commander. Even as he had dealt with Bill Halliwell, so might Bonito deal by him—or at least the lion’s share must be yielded to the pirate captain. And the passion of Captain Sampson’s life had come to be his gold—his hidden hoard on far-off Leeward Island. It was his, now, all his. The only other who knew its hidingplace, his former mate, had been killed in Havana in a tavern brawl. The secret of the bright, unattainable treasure was all the captain’s own. He dreamed of the doubloons, gloated over
them, longed for them with a ceaseless gnawing passion of desire. And in the end he died, in Hopperdown’s little shop in the narrow Bristol by-street.
Hopperdown, an aging man himself, and in his humble way contented, fell straightway victim to the goldvirus. He sold all he had, and bought passage in a sailing ship for Valparaiso, trusting that once so far on the way he would find means to accomplish the rest. But the raging of the fever in his thin old blood brought him to his bed, and the ship sailed without him. Before she was midway in the Atlantic Hopperdown was dead.
The old man died in the house of a niece, to whom by way of legacy he ’eft his map. For the satisfaction of his anxious mind, still poring on the treasure, she wrote down what she could grasp of his instructions, and
then, being an unimaginative woman, gave the matter little further heed. For years the map lay among other papers in a drawer, and here it was at length discovered by her son, himself a sailor. He learned from her its history, and having been in the Pacific and heard the tales and rumors that cling about Leeward Island like the everlasting surf of its encompassing seas, this grand-nephew of old Hopperdown’s, by name David Jenkins, became for the rest of his days a follower of the ignis fatuus. An untaught, suspicious, grasping man. he rejected, or knew not how to set about, the one course which offered the least hope, which was to trade his secret for the means of profiting by it. All his roaming, restless, hungry life he spent in wandering up and down the seas, ever on the watch for somedimly imagined chance by which he might come at the treasure. And so at last he wandered into the London hospital where he died.
And to me the wildest feature of the whole wild tale was that at the last he should have parted with the cherished secret of a lifetime to Miss Higglesby Browne.
IN a general way, every one of us
knew this history. Even I had had an outline of it from Cuthbert Vane. But so far nobody had seen the map. And now we were to see it; the time
that intervened before that great event had already dwindled down to minutes, to seconds—
But no; for Miss Browne arose and began to make a speech. The beginning of it dealt in a large and generalizing manner with comradeship and loyalty, and the necessity of the proper mental attitude in approaching the business we had in hand. I did not listen closely. The truth is, I wanted to see that map. Under the spell of the island, I had almost begun to believe in the chest of doubloons.
Suddenly I awoke with a start to the iBct that Miss Browne was talking about me. Yet, I indubitably, was the Young Person whose motives in attaching herself to the party were so at variance with the amity and mutual confidence which filled all otheT breasts. It was I who had sought to deprive the party of the presence, counsel and support of a member lack-v mg whom it would have been but a body without a soul. It was I who had uttered words which were painful and astounding to one conscious of unimpugnable motives. In the days of toil to come, we were reminded, that the Young Person, to wit, myself, would have no share. She would be hut skeptic, critic, drone in the busy hive. Thus it was obvious that the Young Person could not with any trace of justice claim part or lot in the treasure Were it not well, then, that the Young Person be required to make formal and written renunciation of all interest in the golden hoard soon to reward the faith and enterprise of the HardingBrowne expeditions ? Miss Browne requested the sense of the meeting on the matter.
Under the fire of this arraignment I sat hot-cheeked and incredulous, while a general wave of agitation seemed to stir the drowsy atmosphere. Aunt Jane was quivering, her round eyes fixed on Miss Higglesby-Browne like a fascinated rabbit’s on a serpent. Mr. Hamilton H. Tubbs had pursed his lips to an inaudible whistle, and alternately regarded the summits of the palms and stole swift ferret-glances at the faces of the company. Captain Magnus had taken a sheath-knife from his belt and was balancing it on one finger, casting about him now and then a furtive, crooked, roving look,’ to meet which made you feel like a party to some hidden crime. Mr. Vane had remained for some time in happy unconsciousness of the significance of Miss Browne’s oration. It was something to see it gradually penetrate to his perceptions, vexing the alabaster brow with a faint wrinkle of perplexity, then suffusing his cheeks with agonized and indignant blushes. “Oh, I say, really, you know!” hovered in unspoken protest on his tongue. He threw imploring looks at Mr. Shaw, who alone of all the party sat imperturbable, except for a viciously bitten lip.
"V/flSS Higglesby-Browne had drawn a deep breath, preparatory to resuming her verbal ramble, but I sprang to my feet.
“Miss Browne,” I said, in tones less coldly calm than I could have wished, “if you have thought it necessary to— to orate at this length merely to tell me that I am to have no share in this ridiculous treasure of yours, you have wasted a great deal of energy. In the first place, I don’t believe in your treasure.” (Which, of course, despite my temporary lapse, I really didn’t.) “I think you are—sillier than any grown-up people I ever saw. In the second place, anything you do find you are welcome to keep. Do you think I came along with people who didn’t want me, and have turned my own aunt against me for the sake of filthy lucre ? Did I come intentionally at all, or because I was shanghaied and couldn’t help myself? Aunt Jane!” I demanded, turning to my stricken relative, who was gazing in anguish and doubt from Miss Browne to me, “haven’t you one spark left of family pride—I don’t talk of affection any longer—that you sit still and hear me made speeches at in this fashion ? Have you grown so sordid and grasping that you can think of nothing but this blood-stained pirate gold?”
Aunt Jane burst into tears.
“Good gracious, Virginia,” she wailed, “how shocking of you to say such things! I am sure we all got along very pleasantly until you came—and in that dreadfully sudden way. You might at least have been considerate enough to wire beforehand. As to blood-stains, there was a preparation your Aunt Susan had that got them out beautifully—I remember the time the little boy’s nose bled on the drawing-room rug. But I should think just washing the gold would do very well!” It was impossible to feel that these remarks helped greatly to clear the situation. I opened my mouth, but Miss Browne was beforehand with me.
“Miss Virginia Harding has herself admitted that she has no just or equitable claim to participate in the profits of this expedition—I believe I give the gist of your words, Miss Harding?” “Have it your own way,” I said shrugging.
“I move, then, Mr. Secretary”—Miss Browne inclined her head in a stately manner toward Mr. Tubbs—“that you offer for Miss Virginia Harding’s signature the document prepared by you.” “Oh, I say!” broke out Mr. Vane suddenly, “I call this rotten, you know!” “In case of objection by any person,” said Miss Browne loftily, “the matter may be put to a vote. All those in favor say aye!”
An irregular fire of ayes followed. Mr. Tubbs gave his with a cough meant so far as possible to neutralize its effect—with a view to some future turning of the tables. Captain Magnus responded with a sudden bellow, which caused him to drop the gleaming knife within an inch of Aunt Jane’s toe. Mr. Shaw said briefly, “I think the distribution of the treasure, if any is recovered, should be that agreed upon by the original members of the party. Aye!”
Aunt Jane’s assenting voice issued from the depths of her handkerchief, which was rapidly becoming so briny and inadequate that I passed her mine. From Outhbert Vane alone there came a steadfast no—and the Scotchman put a hand on the boy’s shoulder with a smile which was like sudden sunlight in a bleak sky.
MR. Tubbs then produced a legallooking document which I took to he the original agreement of the members of the expedition. Beneath their signatures he had inscribed a sort of codicil, by which I relinquished all claim on any treasure recovered by the party. Mr. Tubbs took evident pride in the numerous aforesaids and thereofs and other rolling legal phrases of his composition, and Miss Browne listened with satisfaction as he read it off, as though each word had been a nail in the coffin of my hopes. I signed the clause in a bold and defiant hand, under the attentive eyes of the company. A sort of sigh went round, as though something of vast moment had been concluded. And indeed it had, for now the way was clear for Violet’s map.
I suppose that with a due regard for my dignity I should have risen and departed. I had been so definitely relegated to the position of outsider that to remain to witness the unveiling of the great mystery seemed indecently intrusive. Let it be granted, then, that I ought to have got up with stately grace and gone away. Only, I did nothing of the sort. In spite of my exclusion from all its material benefits, I had an amateur’s appreciation of that map. I felt that I should gloat over it. Perhaps of all those present I alone, free from sordid hopes, would get the true romantic zest and essence of it—Covertly I watched the faces around me, Mr. Tubbs’ eyes had grown bright; he licked his dry lips. His nose, tiptilted and slightly bulbous, took on a more than usually roseate hue. Captain Magnus, who was of a restless and jerky habit at the best of times, was like a leashed animal scenting blood. Beneath his onen shirt you saw the quick rise and fall of his hairy chest. His lins, drown back wolfishly, displayed yellow, fang-like teeth. Under the raw, crude greed of the man
you seemed to glimpse something indescribably vulpine and ferocious.
The face of Dugald Shaw was controlled, but there was a slight rigidity in its quiet. A pulse beat rapidly in his cheek. All worldly good, all hope of place, power, independence, hung for him on the contents of the small, flat package, wrapped in oil-silk, which Miss BroAvne was at this moment withdrawing from her pocket.
Only Cuthbert Vane, seated next to me, maintained without effort his serenity. For him the whole affair belonged in the category known as sporting, where a gentleman played his stake and accepted Avith equanimity the issue.
A S Miss BroAvne undid the package * everybody held his breath, except poor Aunt Jane, who most inopportunely SAvalloAved a gnat and choked.
The dead sailor’s legacy consisted of a single sheet of time-stained paper. Two-thirds of the sheet Avas covered by a roughly-drawn sketch in faded ink, giving the outline of the island shores as we had seen them from the Rufus Smith. Here was the cove, with the name it bears in the Admiralty charts —Lantern Bay—Avritten in, and a dotted line indicating the channel. North of the hay the short line was carried for only a little distance. On the south Avas shown the long tongue of land which protects the anchorage, and which ends in some detached rocks or islets. At a point on the seaward side of the tongue of land, about on a line with the head of the bay, the sketch ended in a swift backward stroke of the pen which gave something the effect of a cross.
To all appearance the map was merely to give Hopperdown his direction for entering the cove. There Avas absolutely no mark upon it to show where the treasure had been buried.
Now for the writing on the sheet below the map. It was in another hand than that which had Avritten Lantern Bay across the face of the cove, and which, though labored, was precise and clear. This other was an uneven, Avavering scraAvl:
He sed it is in a Cave with 2 mouths near by the grave of Bill Halliwell wich was cut doAvn for he neAv to much. He sed you can bring a boat to the cave at the half Tide but be\\rare the turn for the pull is strong. He sed to find the Grave again look for the stone at the head marked B. H. and a Cross Bones. In the Chist is gold Dubloons, a vast lot, also a silver Cross wich he sed leve for the Grave for he sed Bill walks and thats unlucky.
That was all. A fairly clear direction for any friend who had attended the obsequies of Bill and knew Avhere to look for the stone marked B. H. and a Cross Bones, but to perfect strangers it was vague.
A blank look crept into the intent faces about the table.
“It—don’t happen to say in more detail jest precisely where the cave might be looked for?” inquired Mr. Tubbs hopefully.
“In more detail?” repeated Miss Browne challengingly. “Pray, Mr. Tubbs, what further detail could be required?”
“A good deal more, I am afraid,” remarked the Scotchman grimly.
MISS Browne whirled upon him. In her cold eve a spark had kindled. And suddenly I bad a new vision of her. I saw her no longer as the deluder of Aunt Jane, but as herself the deluded. Her belief in the treasure was an obsession. This map was her talisman, her way of escape from an existence which had been drab and dull enough, I dare say.
“Mr. ShaAv, we are given not one, but several infallible landmai'ks. The cave has two mouths, it can be approached by sea, it is in the immediate neighborhood of the grave of William Halliwell, AA-hich is to be recognized by its headstone. As the area of our search is curoumscribed by the narroAv limits of this island, I fail to see what further marks of identification can be required.”
“A grave ninety years old and hidden beneath a tropical jungle is not an easy thing to find, Miss Browne. As to caves, I doubt but they are numerous. The formation here makes it more than likely. And there’ll be more than one with two mouths, I’m thinking.”
“Mr. Shaw”—Miss Browne gave the effect of drawing herself up in line of battle—“I feel that I must give expression to the thought which comes to me at this moment. It is this—that if the members of this party are to be chilled by carping doubts, the wave of enthusiasm which has floated us thus far must inevitably recede, leaving us flotsam on a barren shore. What can one weak woman—pardon, my unfaltering Jane!—two women, achieve against the thought of failure firmly held by him to whom we looked to lead us boldly in our forward dash ? Mr. Shaw, this is no time for crawling earthworm tactics. It is with the bold and sweeping glance of the eagle that we must survey this island, until, the proper point discerned, we swoop with majestic flight upon our predestined goal!”
Miss Browne was somewhat exhausted by this effort, and paused for breath, whereupon Mr. Tubbs, anxious to retrieve his recent blunder, seized with dexterity this opportunity.
“I get you, Miss Browne, I get you,” said Mr. Tu'bbs with conviction. “Victory ain’t within the grasp of any individual that carries a heart iike a cold pancake in his bosom. What this party needs is pep, and if them that was calculated on to supply it don’t, why there - others which is not given to blcv m their own horn, but which might at a pinc-h dash forward like Arnold—no relation to Benedict—
among the spears. I may be rather a man of thought than action, ma’am, and at present far from my native heath, which is the financial centres of the country, but if I remember right it was Ulysses done the dome-work for the Greeks, while certain persons that was depended on sulked in their tents. Miss Higglesby-Browne, vou can count —count, I say—on old H. H.!”
“I thank you, Mr. Tubbs, I thank you!” replied Miss Browne with emotion. As for Aunt Jane, she gazed upon the noble countenance of Mr. Tubbs with such ecstatic admiration that her little nose quivered like a guinea-pig’s.
OBSCURE as were the directions which Hopperdown’s niece had taken from his dying lips, one point at least was clear—the treasure-cave opened on the sea. This seemed an immense simplification of the problem, until you discovered that the great wall of cliffs was honeycombed with fissures. The limestone rock of which the island was composed was porous as a sponge. You could stand on the edge of the cliffs and watch the green water slide in and out of unseen caverns at your feet, and hear the sullen thunder of the waves that broke far in under the land.
One of the boats which had conveyed us from the Rufus 'Smith had been left with us, and in it Mr. Shaw, with the Honorable Cuthbert and Captain Masmus, made a preliminary voyage of discovery. This yielded tne lí forma -tion above set down, plus, however, the thrilling and significant fact that a cave seeminglv predestined to be the hiding place of treasure, and moreover a cave with the specified two openings, ran under the point which protected the anchorage on the south, connecting the cove with the sea.
Although in their survey of the coast the vovauers had covered onlv a little distance on either side of the entrance to the hay, the discovery of this .great double-doored sea-chamber under the point turned all thoughts from further explorations. Onlv the Scotchman remained exasperatingly calm and declined to admit that the treasure was as good as found. He refused to he swept off his feet even by Mr. Tubbs’ undertaking to double everybody’s money within a year, through the favor
of certain financial parties with whom he was intimate.
“I’ll wait till I see the color of my money before I reckon the interest on it,” he remarked. “It’s true the cave would be a likely and convenient place for hiding the chest; the question is: Wouldn’t it be too likely and convenient? Sampson would maybe not choose the spot of all others where the first-comer who had got wind of the story would be certain to look.”
Miss Browne, at this, exchanged darkly significant glances with her two main supporters, and Mr. Tubbs came to the fore with an offer to clinch matters by discovering the grave of Bill Halliwell, with its marked stone, on. the point above the cave within twentyfour hours.
“Look for it if you like,” replied Mr. Shaw impatiently. “But don’t forget that your tombstone is neither more nor less than such a boulder as there are thousands of on the island, and buried under the tropic growth of ninety years besides.”
Miss Browne murmured to Aunt. Jane, in a loud aside, that she well understood now why the eminent explorer had not discovered the South Pole, and Aunt Jane murmured back that to her there had always been something so* sacred about a tombstone that she couldn’t help wondering if Mr. Shaw’s attitude were really quite reverential.
“Well, friends,” remarked Mr. Tubbs, “there’s them that sees nothin’ but the hole in the doughnut, and: there’s them that see the doughnut that’s around the hole. I ain’t ashamed to say that old H. H. is in the doughnut class. Why, the Old Man himself used to remark—I guess it ain’t news to some here about me bein’ on the inside with most of the leading’ financial lights of the country—he used to remark, ‘Tubbs has it in him to bull the market on a Black Friday.’ Ladies, I ain’t one that’s inclined to boast, but I jest want to warn you not to be too astonished when H. H. makes acquaintance with that tombstone, which I’m willing to lay he does yet.”
“Well, good luck to you,” said the grim Scot, “and let me likewise warn all hands not to be too astonished if we find that the treasure is not in the cave. But I’ll admit it is as good a place as any for beginning the search, and there will be none gladder than I if it turns out that I was no judge of the workings of Captain Sampson’s mind.”
THE cave which was now the centre of our hopes—I say our, because lomehow or other I found myself hoping and fearing along with the rest, though carefully concealing it—ran under the point at its farther end. The sea-mouth of the cave was protected from the full swell of the ocean by some huge detached rocks rising a little way offshore, which caught the waves and broke them. The distance was •bout sixty feet from mouth to mouth, and back of this transverse passage a great vaulted chamber stretched far under the land. The walls of the chamber rose sheer to a height of fifteen feet or more, when a broad ledge broke their smoothness'. From this ledge opened cracks and fissures under the roof, suggesting in the dim light infinite possibilities in the way of bidin^ places. Besides these, B wide stretch of sand at the upper end of the chamber, which was bare at low tide, invited exploration. At high water the sea flooded the cavern to its farthest extremity and beat up on the walls. Then there was a. great surge and roar of waters through the passage from mouth to mouth, and at turn of tide—in hopeful agreement with the legend—the suck and commotion of a whirlpool, almost, as the sea drew back its waves. Now and again, it was to prove, even the water-worn pavement between the two archways was left bare, and one could walk dryshod along the rocks under the high land of the point from the beach to cave. But this was at the very bottom of the ebb. Mostly the lower end of the cave Was flooded, and the explorers went back and forth in the boat.
A certain drawback to boating in our island wav. .-s was the presence of hungry hordes •*L sharks. You might folget them for a moment and sit happily trailing ycut : ngers overboard, and then a huge moving shadow would darken the water, ana vou saw the ripple cut by a darting fin and the flash of a livid belly as L e monster rolled over, ready for his mouthful. I could not but admire the thoughtfulness of Mr. Tubbs, who, since his submergence on tue occasion of arriving, bad been as delicate about water as a cat, in committing himself to strictly land operations in the search for Bill Halliwell’s tombstone.
Owing, I suppose, to the stoniness of the soil, the woods upon the point were less dense than elsewhere, and made an agreeable parade ground for Mr. Tubbs and his two companions—for he was accompanied in these daring explorations with unswerving fidelity by Aunt Jane and Miss Higglesby-Browne. Each of the three carried an umbrella, and they went solemnly in single file, Mr. Tubbs in the lead to ward off peril in the shape of snakes or jungle beasts.
“To' think of what that man exposes Mmself to for our sakes!” Aunt Jane said to me with emotion. “With no protection but his own bravery in case anything were to spring out!”
But nothing ever did spring out but an angry old sow with a litter of piglets, before which the three umbrellas beat a rapid retreat.
THE routine of life on the island was now established for everyone but me, who belonged neither to the land nor sea divisions, but dangled forlornly between them like Mahomet’s coffin. Aunt Jane had made a magnanimous effort to attach me to the umbrella contingent, and I had felt almost disposed to accept, in order to witness the resultant delight of Miss Higglesby-Browne. But on second thoughts I declined, even though Aunt Jane was thus left unguarded to the blandishments of Mr. Tubbs, preferring, like the little bird in the play, to flock all alone, except when the Honorable Cuthbert could escape from his toil in the cave.
What with the genius of Cookie and the fruitfulness of our island, not to speak of supplies from the Army and Navy Stores, we lived like sybarites. There were fish from stream and sea, cocoanuts and bananas and' oranges from the trees in the clearing. I had hopes of yams and breadfruit also, but if they grew on Leeward, none of us had a speaking acquaintance with them. Cookie did wonders with the pigs that were shot and brought in to him, though I never could sit down with appetite to a massacred infant served up on a platter, which is just what little pigs look like.
“Jes’ yo’ cas’ yo’ eye on dis yere iniiahcent,” Cookie would request, as he placed the suckling before Mr. Tubbs. “Tendah as a new-bo’n babe, he am. Jes’ lak he been tucked up to sleep by his mammy. Sho’ now, how yo’ got de heart to stick de knife in him, Mistah Tubbs?”
It was significant that Mr. Tubbs, after occupying for a day or two an undistinguished middle place at the board, had somehow slid into the carver’s post at the head of the table. Flanking him were the two ladies, so that the land forces formed a solid and imposing phalanx. Everybody else had a sense of sitting in outer darkness, particularly I, whom fate had placed opposite Captain Magnus. Since landing on the island, Captain Magnus had forsworn the effeminacy of forks. Loaded to the hiit, his knife woiild approach his cavernous mouth and disappear in it. Yet when it emerged Captain Magnus was alive. Where did it go? This was a question that agitated me daily.
The history of Captain Magnus was obscure. It was certain that he had his captain’s papers, though how he had mastered the science of navigation sufficiently to obtain them was a problem. Though he held a British navigator’s license, he did not appear to be an Englishman. None of us ever knew,
J think, from what country he originally came. His rough, mumbling, unready speech might have been picked up in any of the seaports of the English-speaking world. His manners smacked of the forecastle, and he was altogether so difficult to classify that I used to toy with the theory that he Ihad murdered the real Captain Magnus for his papers and was masquerading an his character.
The captain, as Mr. Vane had remarked, was Miss Browne’s own find. Before the objections of Mr. Shaw— ■evidently a negative influence from the ■beginning—had caused her to abandon tthe scheme, Miss Browne had planned tfco charter a vessel in New York and Saal around the Horn to the island. When nursing this project she had formed an extensive acquaintance with persons frequenting the New York waterfront, among whom was Captain Magnus. As I heard her remark, he was the one nautical character whom she found sympathetic, by which I judge that the others were skeptical and rude. Being sympathetic, Captain Magnus found it an easy matter to attach himself to the expedition—or perhaps it was Violet who annexed him, I don’t know which.
Mr. Vane used to view the remarkable gastronomic feats of Captain Magnus with the innocent and quite unscornful curiosity of a little boy watching the bears in the zoo. Evidently he felt that a horizon hitherto bounded mainly by High Staunton
Manor was being greatly enlarged. I knew now that the Honorable Cuthbert’s father was a baron, and that he was the younger of two sons, and that the elder was an invalid, so that the beautiful youth wa£ quite certain in the long run to be Lord Grasmere. I had remained stolid under this information, feelingly imparted by Aunt Jane. I had refused to ask questions about High Staunton Manor. For already there was a vast amount of superfluous chaperoning being done. I couldn’t speak to the b. y.—which is short for beautiful youth—without Violet’s gray eye being trained upon us. And Aunt Jane grew flustered directly, and I could see her planning an embroidery design of coronets, or whatever is the proper headgear of barons, for my trousseau. Mr. Tubbs had essayed to be facetious on the matter, but I had coldly quenched him.
BUT Mr. Shaw was much the worst.
Mv most innocent remark to the beautiful youth appeared to rouse suspicion in his self-constituted guardian. If he did not say in so many words, Beware dear lad, she’s stringing you! or whatever the English of that is, it was because nobody could so wound the faith of the b. y.’s candid eyes. But to see the fluttering, anxious wing the Scotchman tried to spread over that babe of six-feet-two you would have thought me a man-eating tigress. And I laughed, and flaunted my indiffer-
ence in his sober face, and went away with bitten lips to the hammock they had swung for me among the palms— The Honorable Cuthbert had a voice, a big, rich, ringing baritone like floods of golden honey. He had also a ridiculous little ukulele, on which he accompanied himself with rhythmic strumming. When, like the sudden falling of a curtain, dusky, velvet, star-spangled, the wonderful tropic night came down, we used to build a little fire upon the beach and sit around it. Then Cuthbert Vane would sing. Of all his repertory, made up of musichall ditties, American ragtime, and sweet old half-forgotten ballads, we liked best a certain wild rollicking song, picked up I don’t know where, but wonderfully effective on that island where Davis, and Benito Bonito, and many another of the roving gentry—not to mention that less picturesque villain, Captain Sampson of the Bonny Lass— had resorted between their flings with fortune.
Oh, who’s, who’s with me for the free life of a rover ?
Oh, who’s, who’s with me for to sail the broad seas over?
In every port we have gold to fling, And what care we though the end is to swing?
Sing ho, sing hey, this life’s but a day, So live it free as a rover may.
Oh, who’s, who’s with me at Fortune's call to wander?
Then, lads, to sea—and ashore with gold to squander!
We’ll set our course for the Spanish Main
Where the great plate-galleons steerfor Spain.
Sing ho, sing hey, this life’s but a day, Then live it free as a rover may.
Then leave toil and cold to the lubbers that will bear it.
The world’s fat with gold, and we’re the lads to share it.
What though swift death is the rover’s lot?
We’ve played the game and we’ll pay the shot.
Sing ho, sing hey, this life’s but a day, Then live it free as a rover may.
“Sing ho, sing hey!” echoed the audience in a loud discordant roar, Cookie over his dishpan flinging it back in a tremendous basso. Cookie was the noble youth’s only musical rival, and when he had finished his work we would invite him to join us at the fire and regale us with plantation melodies and camp-meeting hymns. The negro’s melodious thunder, mingled with the murmur of wind and wave like a kindred note, and the strange plaintive rhythm of his artless songs took one back and back, far up the stream of life, until a fire upon a beach seemed one’s ancestral hearth and home.
I realized that life on Leeward Island might rapidly become a process of reversion.
To be continued