AND indeed it was all extraordinarily like something on a stage. Slinker, for instance. He had a prowling, sidelong fashion of moving about, and enormous yellow mustaches like a Viking. Surely some artist in the make-up line had invented Slinker! And the burly fellow in the background with the black whiskers—too bad he’d forgotten his earrings.
But I awoke to the horrid reality of it all as Captain Magnus, smiling his wolfish smile, turned and approached me.
“Well, boys,” he remarked to his followers, who had now lowered their weapons and were standing about at ease, “here’s the little pippin I was tellin’ of. ’Fraid we give her a little scare bustin’ in so sudden, so she aint quite so bright and smilin’ as I like to see. It’s all right, girlie; you’ll soon cheer up when you find out you’re goin’ to be the little queen o’ this camp. Things will be all your way now—so long as you treat me right.” And the abominable creature thrust forth a hairy paw and deliberately chucked me under the chin.
I heard a roar from the log—and coincidently from Captain Magnus. For with the instant response of an automaton—consciously I had nothing at all to do with it—I had reached up and briskly boxed the captain’s ears.
Furiously he caught my wrist. “Ah, you red-headed little devil, you’ll pay for this! I aint pretty, oh, no! I aint a handsome mooncalf like the Honorable; I aint got a title, nor girly pink cheeks, nor fine gentleman ways. No walks with the likes o’ me, no tatey-tates in the woods—oh, no! Well, it's goin’ to be another story now, girlie. I guess you can learn to like my looks, with a little help from my fist now and then, jest as well as you done the Honorable’s. I guess it won’t be long before I have you crawlin’ to me for a word o’ kindness. I guess—”
“Aw, stow that soft stuff, Magnus,” advised Slinker. “You can do your spoonin’ with the gal later on. We’re here to git that gold, and don’t you forget it. Plenty o’ time afterwards to spark the wimmen.”
“That’s the talk,” chimed in Blackbeard. “Don’t run us on a lee shore for the sake of a skirt. Skirts is thicker’n herring in every port, aint they?”
“I got a score to settle with this one,” growled Magnus sullenly, but his grasp loosened on my arm, and I slipped from him and fled to Aunt Jane—yes, to Aunt Jane—and clung to her convulsively. The poor little woman was crying, of course, making a low inarticulate whimper like a frightened child. Miss Higglesby-Browne seemed to have petrified. Her skin had a withered look, and a fine network of lines showed on it, suddenly clear, like a tracery on parchment. Beyond her I saw the face of Dugald Shaw, gray with a steely wrath. A gun had been trained anew on him and Cuthbert, and the bearer thereof was arguing with them profanely. I suppose the prisoners had threatened outbreak at the spectacle of the chin-chucking.
NO one had bothered to secure Cookie, and he knelt among the pots and pans of his open-air kitchen, pouring forth petitions in a steady stream. Blackbeard, who seemed a jovial brute, burst into a loud guffaw.
“Ha, ha! Look at old Soot-and-Cinders gittin’ hisself ready for glory!” He approached the negro and aimed at him a kick which Cookie, arising with unexpected nimbleness, contrived to dodge. “Looky here, darky, git busy dishin’ up the grub, will you? I could stand one good feed after the forecastle slops we been livin’ on.”
Blackbeard, whom his companions addressed indiscriminately as “Captain,” or “Tony,” seemed to exercise a certain authority. He went over to the prisoners on the log and personally inspected their bonds.
“You’ll do; can’t git loose nohow,” he announced. Then, with a savage frown, “But no monkey business. First o’ that I see, it’s a dose o’ cold lead for youse, savvy?”
He turned to us women.
“Well, chickabiddies, we aint treated you harsh, I hope? Now I don’t care about tyin’ youse up, in case we can help it, so jest be good girls, and I’ll let youse run around loose for awhile.”
But Magnus struck in with an oath.
“Loose? You’re turnin’ soft, I say. The future Mrs. M. there—which I mean to make her if she behaves right—she’s a handful, she is. There ain’t no low trick she won’t play on us if she gets the chance. Better tie her up, I say.”
“Magnus,“ responded Tony with severity, “it'd make a person think to hear you talk that you wasn’t no gentleman. If you can’t keep little Red-top in order without you tie her, why then hand her over to a guy what can. I bet I wouldn’t have a speck o’ trouble with her—her and me would git along as sweet as two turtle-doves.”
"You dry up, Tony,” said Magnus, lowering. “I’ll look after my own affairs of the heart. Anyway, here’s them two old hens what have been makin’ me sick with their jabber and nonsense all these weeks. Aint I goin’ to have a chance to get square?”
Here, youse!” struck in Slinker, “quit your jawin’I Here’s a feed we aint seen the like on in weeks.”
TONY thereupon ordered the women to sit down on the ground in the shade and not move under penalty of gettin’ a wing clipped.” We obeyed in silence and looked on while the pirates with wolfish voracity devoured the meal which had been meant for us. They had pocket-flasks with them, and as they attacked them with frequency the talk grew louder and wilder. By degrees it was possible to comprehend the extraordinary disaster which had befallen us, at least in an intelligible if sketchy outline of which the detail was filled in later. Tony, it appeared, was the master of a small power-schooner which had been fitting out in San Francisco for a filibustering trip to the Mexican coast. His three companions were the crew. None was of the old hearty breed of sailors, but wharf-rats pure and simple, city-dregs whom chance had led to follow the sea. Tony, in whom one detected a certain rough force and ability, was an Italian, an outlaw specimen of the breed which mans the fishing fleet putting forth from the harbor of San Francisco. When and where he and Magnus had been friends I do not know. But no sooner had the wisdom of Miss Browne imparted the great secret to her chance acquaintance of the New York wharves, than he had communicated with his old pal Tony. The power-schooner with her unlawful cargo stole out through the gate, made her delivery in the Mexican port, took on fresh supplies, and stood away for Leeward Island. The western anchorage had received and snugly hidden her. Captain Magnus, meanwhile, by means of a mirror flashed from Lookout, had maintained communication with his friends, and even visited them under cover of the supposed shooting expedition. And now, while we had been striving to overcome the recalcitrancy of Mr. Tubbs, Captain Magnus had taken a short cut to the same end. You felt that the secret of Mr. Tubbs would be extracted, if need be, by no delicate methods.
But Mr. Tubbs’s character possessed none of that unreasonable obstinacy which would make harsh measures necessary under such conditions. His countenance, as the illuminating conversation of the pirates had proceeded, lost the speckled appearance which had characterized it at the height of his terrors. Something like his normal hue returned. He sat up straighter, moistened his dry lips, and looked around upon us, yes, even upon Aunt Jane and Miss Higglesby-Browne, with whom he had been so lately and so tenderly reconciled, with a sidelong, calculating glance. After the pirates had eaten, the prisoners on the tog were covered with a rifle and their hands untied, while Cookie, in a lugubrious silence made eloquent by his rolling eyes, passed around among us the remnants of the food. No one can be said to have eaten with appetite except Mr. Tubbs, who received his portion with wordy gratitude and devoured it with seeming gusto. The pirates, full-fed, with pipes in mouths, were inclined to be affable and jocular. “Feeding the animals,” as Slinker called it, seemed to afford them much agreeable diversion. Even Magnus had lost in a degree his usual sullenness, and was wreathed in simian smiles. The intense terror and revulsion which he inspired in me kept my unwilling eyes constantly wandering in his direction. Yet under all the terror was a bedrock confidence that there was, there must be somehow in the essence of things, an eternal rightness which would keep me safe from Captain Magnus. And as t looked across at Dugald Shaw and met for an instant his steady, watchful eyes, I managed a swift little smile—a rather wan smile, I dare say, but still a smile.
Cuthbert Vane caught, so to speak, the tail of it, and was electrified. I saw his lips form at Mr. Shaw’s ear the words, Wonderful little sport, by Jove! For some time after our capture by the pirates Cuthbert’s state had been that of settled incredulity. Even when they tied his hands he had continued to contemplate the invaders as illusions. It was, this remarkable episode, altogether a thing without precedent and what was that but another name for the impossible? And then slowly, by painful degrees you saw them reflected in his candid face—it grew upon him that it was precisely the impossible, the unprecedented, that was happening.
A CURIOUS stiffening came over Cuthbert Vane. For the first time in my knowledge of him he showed the consciousness—-instead of only the sub-consciousness—of the difference between Norman blood and the ordinary sanguine fluid. His shoulders squared; he lost his habitual easy lounge and sat erect and tall. Something stern and aquiline showed through the smooth beauty of his face, so that you thought of effigies of crusading knights stretched on their ancient, tombs in High Staunton church. He was their true descendant after all, this slow, calm, gentle mannered Cuthbert. It was a young lion that I had been playing with, and the claws were there, strong and terrible in their velvet sheath.
Captain Tony having finished his pipe knocked the ashes out against the heel of his boot and put the pipe in his pocket.
“Well,” he said, stretching, “I’d ruther have a nap, but business is business, so let’s get down to it. W’hich o’ them guys has the line on the stuff, Magnus?"
“Old Baldy, here,” returned Magnus, with a nod at Mr. Tubbs. “Old Washtubs I call him generally, ha, ha!”
“Then looky here, Washtubs,” said Tony, addressing Mr. Tubbs with sudden sternness, “maybe you could bluff these here soft guys, but we’re a different breed o’ cats, we are. Whatever you know, you’ll come through with it and come quick, or it’ll be the worse for your hide, see?”
Mr. Tubbs rose from the log with promptness.
“Captain,” he said earnestly, “from long experience in the financial centres of the country, I have got to be a man what understands human nature. The minute I looked at you, I seen it in your eye that there wasn’t no use in tryin’ to bluff you. What’s more, I don’t want to. Once he gets with a congenial crowd, there aint a feller anywheres that will do more in the cause o’ friendship than old Hamilton H. Tubbs. And you are a congenial crowd, you boys—gosh, but you do look good to me after the bunch o’ stiffs I been playin’ up to here! All I ask is, to let me in on it with you, and I’ll be glad to put you wise to the best tricks of a sly old fox who aint ever been caught yet without two holes to his burrow. I won’t ask no half, nor no quarter, either, though I jest signed up for that amount with the old girl here. But give me freedom, and a bunch o’ live wires like you boys! I’ve near froze into a plaster figure o’ Virtue, what with talkin’ like a Sunday-school class, and sparkin’ one old maid, and makin’ out like I wouldn’t melt butter with the other. So H. H. will ship along of you, mates, and we’ll off to the China coast some-wheres where the spendln’ is good and the police not too noisy, and try how far a trunkful of doubloons will go!”
With a choky little gurgle in her throat Aunt Jane fell limply against me. It was too much. All day long she had been tossed back and forth like a shuttlecock by the battledore of emotion. She had borne the shock of Mr. Tubbs’s sordid greed for gold, his disloyalty to the expedition, his coldness to herself; she had been shaken by the tender stress of the reconciliation, had been captured by pirates, and now suffered the supreme blow of this final revelation of the treachery of Tubbs. To hear her romance described as the sparking of an old maid—and by the sparker! From Miss Higglesby-Browne had come a snort of fury, but she said nothing, having apparently no confidence in the effect of oratory on pirates. She did not even exhort Aunt Jane, but left it to me to sustain my drooping aunt as best I could.
AS Mr. Tubbs made his whole-hearted and magnanimous proposal Captain Tony opened his small black eyes and contemplated him with attention. At the conclusion he appeared to meditate. Then he glanced round upon his fellows.
“What say, boys? Shall we ship old Washtubs on the schooner and let him have his fling along with us? Eh?” And as Captain Tony uttered these words the lid of his left eye eclipsed for an instant that intelligent optic.
From the pirates came a scattering volley of assents.
“All right—hooray for old Washtubs—sure, close the deal."
“All right, Washtubs, the boys are willing. So I guess, though this island is the very lid of the hot place, and when I come again it’s going to be with an iceberg in tow to keep the air cooled off, I guess we better be moving toward that chest of doubloons.”
It was arranged that Slinker and a cross-eyed man named Horny should remain at the camp on guard. As a measure of precaution Cookie, too, was bound, and Aunt Jane, Miss Browne and I ordered into the cabin. The three remaining pirates, armed with our spades and picks and dispensing a great deal of jocular profanity, set out for the cave under the guidance of Mr. Tubbs.
Thankful as I was for the departure of Captain Magnus. I underwent torments in the stifling interior of the cabin. Aunt Jane wept piteously. I had almost a fellow-feeling with Miss Higglesby-Browne when she relapsed from her rigidity for a moment and turning on Aunt Jane fiercely ordered her to be still. This completed the wreck of Aunt Jane’s universe. Its two main props had now fallen, and she was left sitting solitary amid the ruins. She subsided into a lachrymose heap in the corner of the cabin, where I let her remain for the time, it was really such a comfort to have her out of the way. At last I heard a faint moan:
I went to her. “Yes, auntie?”
“Virginia,” she murmured weakly, ‘‘I think I shall not live to leave the island, even if I am not—not executed In fact, I have a feeling now as though the end were approaching. I have always known that my heart was not strong, even if your Aunt Susan did call it indigestion. But oh, my dear child, it is not my digestion, it is my heart that has been wounded! To have reposed such confidence in a serpent! To realize that I might have been impaled upon its fangs! Oh, my dear, faithful child, what would I have done if you had not clung to me although I permitted serpents to turn me from you! But I am cruelly punished. All I ask is that some day—when you are married and happy, dear—you will remove from this desolate spot the poor remains of her who—of her who—” Sobs choked Aunt Jane’s utterance.
“Jane—” began Miss Higglesby-Browne.
“I was speaking to my niece,” replied Aunt Jane with unutterable dignity from her corner. Her small features had all but disappeared in her swollen face, and her hair had slipped down at a rakish angle over one eye. But, of course, being Aunt Jane, she must choose this moment to be queenly.
“There, there, auntie,” I said soothingly, “of course you are not going to leave your bones on this island. If you did, you know, you and Bill Halliwell might ha’nt around together—think how cozy! (Here Aunt Jane gave a convulsive shudder.) As to my being married, if you were betting just now on anybody’s chances they would have to be Captain Magnus’s, wouldn’t they?”
“Good gracious, Virginia!” shrieked Aunt Jane faintly. But I went on relentlessly, determined to distract her mind from thoughts of her approaching end.
“All thing's considered, I suppose I really ought to ask you to put my affairs in order when you get back. If I am carried off by the pirates, naturally I shall have to jump overboard at once, though I dislike the idea of drowning, and especially of being eaten by sharks. Would you mind putting up a little headstone—it needn’t cost much—in the family plot, with just ‘Virginia’ on it? And anything of mine that you don’t want yourself I’d like Bess to have for the baby, please. Ask her when the little duck Is old enough to tell her my sad story—”
By this time Aunt Jane was sobbing loudly and waving her little hands about in wild beseeching.
“Oh, my precious girl, a headstone! My love, would I grudge you a monument—all white marble—little angels— ‘From her heart-broken aunt’? Oh, why, why are we not safe at home together? Why was I lured away to wander about the world with perfect strangers? Why—”
“Jane!” broke in Miss Browne again in awful tones. But at that moment the door of the cabin opened and the face of Slinker peered in.
“Say,” he remarked, “there aint no sense in you girls stayin’ cooped up here that I see. I guess me and Horny can stand you off if you try to rush us. Come out and cool off a little.”
THE great heat of the day was over and the sun already dropping behind the peak of the island. Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert had been allowed to sit in the shade, and I thought their wrists were not too tightly bound for comfort. Cookie had been released, and under the eye of Horny was getting supper. Crusoe had earlier in the day received a kick in the ribs from Captain Magnus, fortunately too much occupied with the prisoners to pursue his vengeance further, and had fled precipitately, to my enormous relief. The dog was quite wise enough to know that he would help me best by keeping out of the clutches of our common foe. I hoped he had gone back to his solitary pig-chasing, though I thought I had caught a glimpse of him once at the edge of the wood. But at least he knew better than to venture into the clearing.
I tried to pass in a casual manner close to Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert—who looked more of a crusading Norman than ever—in hopes of a whispered word, but was impeded by Aunt Jane, who clung to me tottering. So I led her to a seat and deposited her, with the sympathetic assistance of Slinker.
“Now, now, old girl, cheer up!” he admonished her. “Between you and me, old Washtubs aint worth crying over. Sooner or later he’d of give you the slip, no matter how tight a rein you kep’ on him.”
As Slinker turned away after this effort at consolation he came face to face with Miss Higglesby-Browne. I suppose in the stress of surprising and capturing the camp he had not been struck with her peculiarities. Just now, between the indignity of her captive state and the insubordination of Aunt Jane, Miss Browne’s aspect was considerably grimmer than usual. Slinker favored her with a stare followed by a prolonged whistle.
“Say,” he remarked to me in a confidential undertone, though pitched quite loud enough for Miss Browne’s ears, “is it real? Would it have bendable j’ints, now, same as you and me?”
Miss Browne whirled upon him.
“’Old your tongue, you ’orrid brute!” she shrieked.
So, in the twinkling of an eye, Miss Higglesby-Browne, fallen forever from her high estate, was strewn in metaphorical fragments at our feet. I turned away, feeling it time to draw the veil of charity upon the scene. Not so Slinker. He looked about him carefully on the ground.
“Lady drop anything?” he inquired solicitously.
What might have transpired, had Miss Higglesby-Browne had time to gather breath, I dare not think, but just then there came from the woods the sound of footsteps and voices, and the three pirates and Mr. Tubbs entered the clearing. A thrill ran through the camp. Captors and captives forgot all else but the great, the burning question—had the treasure been discovered? And I am sure that no one was so thrilled as I, although in my mind the question took another form.
For now I was going to know what had been waiting for me there in the cave, when I stood yesterday at its black entrance, afraid to go in.
AT the head of the file, Captain Tony advanced through the clearing, and what with his flowing black beard, his portly form, and a certain dramatic swagger which he possessed, he looked so entirely Italian and operatic that you expected to hear him at any moment burst out in a sonorous basso. With a sweeping gesture he flung down upon the table two brown canvas bags, which opened and discharged from gaping mouths a flood of golden coins.
His histrionic instinct equal to the high demands of the moment, Captain Tony stood with folded arms and gazed upon us with a haughty and exultant smile.
Slinker and the cross-eyed man shouted aloud. They ran and clutched at the coins with a savage greed.
“Gold, gold—the real stuff! It’s the doubloons all right—where’s the rest of ’em?” These cries broke from Slinker and Horny confusedly as the gold slid jingling between their eager fingers.
“The rest of ’em is—where they is,” pronounced Tony oracularly. “Somewheres in the sand of the cave, of course. We’ll dig ’em up to-morrow morning.”
“What was the point in not digging ’em all up while you was about it?” demanded Slinker, lowering. “What was the good o’ digging up jest these here couple o’ bags and quitting?”
“Because we didn’t dig ’em up,” responded Tony darkly. “Because these were all ready and waiting. Because all we had to do was to say ‘Thankee,’ to the feller that handed ’em out.”
“I say,” interposed one of the party nervously, “what’s the good of that kind of talk? They aint any sense in hunting trouble, that ever I heard of!” He glanced over his shoulder uneasily.
The rest burst out in a guffaw.
“Chris is scared. He’s been a-going along looking behind him ever since. Chris will have bad dreams to-night—he’ll yell if a owl hoots.” But I thought there was a false note in the laughter of more than one.
“Oh, of course,” remarked Slinker with indignant irony, “me and Horny aint interested in this at all. We jest stayed bumming round camp here ’cause we was tired. When you’re through with this sort of bunk and feel like getting down to business, why jest mention it, and maybe if we aint got nothing better to do we’ll listen to you.”
“I was jest telling you, wasn’t I?” demanded Tony. “Only that fool Chris had to butt in. We got these here bags of doubloons, as I says, without havin’ to dig for ’em—once we had found the cave, which it’s no thanks to old Washtubs we aint looking for it yet. We got these here bags right out of the fists of a skeleton. Most of him was under a rock, which had fell from the roof and pinned him down amidships. Must of squashed him like a beetle, I guess. But he’d stiff kep’ his hold on the bags.” I turned aside, for fear that anyone should see how white I was. Much too white to be accounted for even by this grisly story. To the rest these poor bones might indeed bear mute witness to a tragedy, but a tragedy lacking outlines, vague, impersonal, without poignancy. To me, they told with dreadful clearness the last sad chapter of the tale of Peter, Peter who had made me so intimately his confidant, whose love and hopes and solitary strivings I knew all about. Struck down in the moment of his triumph by a great stupid lump of soulless stone, by a blind relentless mechanism which had been at work from the beginning, timing that rock to fall—just then. Not the moment before, not the moment after, out of an eternity of moments, but at that one instant when Peter stooped for the last of his brown bags—and then I rejected this, and knew that there was nothing stupid or blind about it—and wondered whether it were instead malicious, and whether all might have been well with Peter if he had obeyed the voice that bade him leave the crucifix for Bill—
Vaguely I heard around me a babble of exclamations and conjectures. Murmurs of interest rose even from our captive band. Then came Slinker’s voice, loud with sudden fear:
“Say, you don’t suppose the—the Bones would of got away with the rest of the coin somehow, do you?” he demanded.
“Got away with it?” Tony contemptuously thrust aside the possibility. “Got away with it, how? He sure didn’t leave the island with it, did he? Would he of dug it up from one place jest to bury it in another? Huh! Must of wanted to work if he did! Now my notion is that this happened to one of the guys that was burying the gold, and that the rest jest left him there for a sort of scarecrow to keep other people out of the cave.”
“But the gold?” protested Slinker. “They wouldn’t leave that for a scarecrow, would they?”
“Maybe not,” admitted Tony, “but suppose that feller died awful slow, and went on hollering and clutching at the bags? And they couldn’t of got that rock off’n him without a block and tackle, or done much to make things easy for him if they had, him being jest a smear, as you may say. Well, that cave wouldn’t be a pleasant place to stay in, would it? And no one would have the nerve to snatch them bags away to bury ’em, ’cause a dying man, especially when he dies hard, can have an awful grip. So what they done was just to shovel the sand in on the gold they’d stowed away and light out quick. And what we got to do to-morrow is to go there and dig it up.”
IF the ingenuity of this reasoning was more remarkable than its logic, the pirates were not the men to find fault with it. Indeed, how many human hopes have been bolstered up with arguments no sounder? Desire is the most eloquent of advocates, and the five ruffians had only to listen to its voice to enjoy in anticipation all the fruits of their iniquitous schemes. The sight of the golden coins intoxicated them. They played with the doubloons like children, jingling them in their calloused palms, guessing at weight and value, calculating their equivalent in the joy of living. Laughter and oaths resounded. Mr. Tubbs, with a somewhat anxious air, endeavored to keep himself well to the fore, claiming a share in the triumph with the rest. There was only the thinnest veil of concealment over the pirates’ mockery. “Old Washtubs” was ironically encouraged in his role of boon companion. His air of swaggering recklessness, of elderly dare-deviltry, provoked uproarious amusement. When they sat down to supper Mr. Tubbs was installed at the head of the table. They hailed him as the discoverer who had made their fortunes. From their talk it was clear that there had been much difficulty about finding the cave, and that for a time Mr. Tubbs’s position had been precarious. Finally Captain Magnus had stumbled upon the entrance.
“Jest in time,” as he grimly reminded Mr. Tubbs, “to save you a header over the cliff.”
“Ha, ha!” cackled Mr. Tubbs hysterically, “you boys will have your little joke, eh? Knew well enough you couldn’t get along without the old man, didn’t you? Knew you was goin’ to need an old financial head to square things in certain quarters—a head what understands how to slip a little coin into the scales o’ Justice to make ’em tilt the right way. Oh, you can’t fool the old man, he, he!”
While the marauders enjoyed their supper, the women prisoners were bidden to “set down and stay sot,” within sweep of Captain Tony’s eye. Mr. Shaw and Cuthbert Vane still held the position they had occupied all afternoon, with their backs propped against a palm tree. Occasionally they exchanged a whisper, but for the most part were silent, their cork helmets jammed low over their watchful eyes. I was deeply curious to know what Mr. Shaw had made of the strange story of the skeleton in the cave. He could hardly have accepted Captain Tony’s explanation of it, which displayed, indeed, an imperfect knowledge of the legend of the Bonny Lass. Might not the Scotchman, by linking this extraordinary discovery with my unexplained request of him this morning, have arrived already at some glimmering of the truth? I hoped so, and longed to impart to him my own sure knowledge that the confident expectations of the freebooters for the morrow were doomed to disappointment. There seemed a measure of comfort in this assurance, for our moment of greatest peril well might be that in which the pirates, with the gold in their possession and on the point of fleeing from the island, recalled the respectable because so truthful maxim that dead men tell no tales. Therefore in the postponement of the crucial moment lay our best hope of rescue or escape—
On the other hand, I fancied them returning from the cave surly and disappointed, ready to vent their wrath on us. All, except the unspeakable Magnus, had shown so far a rough good nature, even amusement at our plight, but you felt the snarl at the corner of the grinning lips. You knew they would be undependable as savages or vicious children, who find pleasure in inflicting pain. And then there Was always my own hideous danger as the favored of the wolfish captain—
And I wondered, desperately, if I might buy safety for us all at the price of the secret of the Island Queen, if a promise from the five scoundrels around the table would have more meaning than their wild boasts and shoutings now?
And now the night that I unutterably dreaded was upon us. But the pirates still thought of nothing but the gold. They had exhausted their own portable supplies of liquor, and were loud in their denunciations of our bone-dry camp, as they termed it. Mr. Tubbs enlarged upon the annoyance which Mr. Shaw’s restrictions in this matter had been to him, and regretted that he had long ago exhausted the small amount of spirituous refreshment which he had been able to smuggle in. Tony, however, was of another mind. “And a good thing, too,” he declared, “that you guys can’t booze yourselves blind before morning, or there wouldn’t be much gold took out of that there cave to-morrow. Once we make port some-wheres with that chest of treasure aboard you can pour down enough to irrigate the Mojave desert if you like.”
It was Tony, too, who intercepted a tentative movement of Captain Magnus in my direction, and ordered me into the cabin with my aunt and Miss Browne. Through the walls of the hut we heard loud and eager talk of the morrow and its certain golden harvest as the pirates made their dispositions for the night. Then the voices trailed off sleepily and silence succeeded, broken only by the ceaseless murmur of the waves around the island.
To Be Continued