He paused—for Calypso had involuntarily made a gesture, as though pleading to be spared the whole revelation—and then with a smile, continued:
"We determined to hide away our little hoard where it would be safe from our neighbours, and dispose of it according to our needs with a certain tradesman in the town whom we thought we could trust—a tradesman, who, by the way, quite naturally levies a little tax upon us for his security. No blame to him! I have lived far too long to be hard on human nature."
"John Sweeney?" I asked, looking over at Calypso, with eyes that dared at last to smile.
"The very same, my Lord Ulysses," answered my friend.
And so I came to understand that Mr. Sweeney's reluctance in selling me that doubloon was not so sinister as it had, at the moment, appeared; that it had in fact come of a loyalty which was already for me the most precious of all loyalties.
"Then," said I, "as a fitting conclusion to the confidence you have reposed in me, my Lord Alcinoues; if Miss Calypso would have the kindness to let us have a sight of that chest of beaten copper of which you spoke, I would like to restore this, that was once a part of its contents, wherever the rest of them" (and I confess that I paused a moment) "may be in hiding."
And I took from my pocket the sacred doubloon that I had bought from John Sweeney—may Heaven have mercy upon his soul!—for sixteen dollars and seventy-five cents, on that immortal evening.
In Which the "King" Dreams a Dream—and Tells Us About It.
The afternoon, under the spell of its various magic, had been passing all too swiftly, and at length I grew reluctantly aware that it was time for me to be returning once more to the solid, not to say squalid, earth; but, as I made a beginning of my farewell address, King Alcinoues raised his hand with a gesture that could not be denied. It was not to be heard of, he said. I must be their guest till to-morrow, sans argument. To begin with, for all the golden light still in the garden, with that silver wand of the fountain laid upon the stillness like a charm, it was already night among the palms, he said, and blacker than our friend Erebus in the woods—and there was no moon.
"No moon?" I said, and, though the remark was meaningless, one might have thought, from Calypso's face—in which rose colour fought with a suggestion of submerged laughter—that it had a meaning.
If I had found it difficult going at high noon, he continued, with an immense sunlight overhead, how was I going to find it with the sun gone head-long into the sea, as was about to happen in a few moments. When the light that is in thee has become darkness, how great is that darkness! Si ergo lumen quod in te est tenebrae sunt, ipsae tenebrae quantae erunt! And he settled it, as he settled everything, with a whimsical quotation.
He had not yet, he said, shown me that haunt of the wild bees, where the golden honey now took the place of that treasure of golden money; and there were also other curiosities of the place he desired to show me. And that led me—his invitation being accepted without further parley—to mention the idea I had conceived as I came along, of exploring those curious old ruined buildings. Need I say that the mere suggestion was enough to set him aflame? I might have known that here, of all men, was my man for such an enterprise. He had meant to do it himself for how many years—but age, with stealing step, et cetera.
However, with youth—so he was pleased to flatter me—to lend him the sap of energy, why who knows? And in a moment he had us both akindle with his imaginations of what might—"might"! what a word to use!—no! what, without question, must lie unsunned in those dark underground vaults, barricaded with all that deviltry of vegetation, and guarded by the coils of a three-headed dragon with carbuncles for eyes—eyes that never slept—for the advantage of three heads to treasure-guarding dragons, he explained, was that they divided the twenty-four hours into watches of eight hours each as the ugly beast kept ward over that heap of gold—bars of it, drifts of it, banks of it minted into gleaming coins—doubloons, doubloons, doubloons—so that the darkness was bright as day with the shine of it, or as the bottom of the sea, where a Spanish galleon lies sunk among the corals and the gliding water snakes.
"O King!" I laughed, "but indeed you have the heart of a child!"
"To-morrow," he announced, "to-morrow we shall begin—there is not a moment to lose. We will send Samson with a message to your captain—there is no need for you to go yourself; time is too precious—and in a week, who knows but that Monte Cristo shall seem like a pauper and a penny gaff in comparison with the fantasies of our fearful wealth. Even Calypso's secret hoard will pale before the romance of our subterranean millions—I mean billions—and poor Henry Tobias will need neither hangman's rope nor your friend Webster's cartridges for his quietus. At the mere rumour of our fortune, he will suddenly turn a green so violent that death will be instantaneous."
So, for that evening, all was laughingly decided. In a week's time, it was agreed, we should have difficulty in recognising each other. We should be so disguised in cloth of gold, and so blinding to look upon with rings and ropes of pearls. As our dear "King" got off something like this for our good-night, my eyes involuntarily fell upon his present garments—far from being cloth of gold. Why? I wondered. There was no real financial reason, it was evident, for these penitential rags. But I remembered that I had known two other millionaires—millionaires not merely of the imagination—whom it had been impossible to separate from a certain beloved old coat that had been their familiar for more than twenty years. It was some odd kink somewhere in the make-up of the "King," one more trait of his engaging humanity.
When we met at breakfast next morning, glad to see one another again as few people are at breakfast, it was evident that, so far as the "King" was concerned, our dream had lost nothing in the night watches. On the contrary, its wings had grown to an amazing span and iridescence. It was so impatient for flight, that its feet had to be chained to the ground—the wise Calypso's doing—with a little plain prose, a detail or two of preliminary arrangement, and then....
Calypso, it transpired, had certain household matters—of which the "King" of course, was ever divinely oblivious—that would take her on an errand into the town. Those disposed of, we two eternal children were at liberty to be as foolish as we pleased. The "King" bowed his uncrowned head, as kings, from time immemorial have bowed their diadems before the quiet command of the domesticities; and it was arranged that I should be Calypso's escort on her errand.
So we set forth in the freshness of the morning, and the woods that had been so black and bewildering at my coming opened before us in easy paths, and all that tropical squalor that had been foul with sweat and insects seemed strangely vernal to me, so that I could hardly believe that I had trodden that way before. And for our companion all the way along—or, at least, for my other companion—was the Wonder of the World, the beautiful strangeness of living, and that marvel of a man's days upon the earth which lies in not knowing what a day shall bring forth, if only we have a little patience with Time—Time, with those gold keys at his girdle, ready, at any turn of the way, to unlock the hidden treasure that is to be the meaning of our lives.
How should I try to express what it was to walk by her side, knowing all that we both knew?—knowing, or giddily believing that I knew, how her heart, with every breath she took, vibrated like a living flower, with waves of colour, changing from moment to moment like a happy trembling dawn. To know—yet not to say! Yes! we were both at that divine moment which hangs like a dew-drop in the morning sun—ah! all too ready to fall. O! keep it poised, in that miraculous balance, 'twixt Time and Eternity—for this crystal made of light and dew is the meaning of the life of man and woman upon the earth.
As we came to the borders of the wood, near the edge of the little town, we called a counsel of two. As the outcome of it, we concluded that, having in mind the "King's" ambitious plans for our cloth-of-gold future, and for other obvious reasons, it was better that she went into the town alone—I to await her in the shadow of the mahogany tree.
As she turned to leave me, she drew up from her bosom a little bag that hung by a silver chain, and, opening it, drew out, with a laugh—a golden doubloon!
I sprang toward her; but she was too quick for me, and laughingly vanished through an opening in the trees. I was not to kiss her that day.
Calypso was so long coming back that I began to grow anxious—was, indeed, on the point of going into the town in search of her; when she suddenly appeared, rather out of breath, and evidently a little excited—as though, in fact, she had been running away from something. She caught me by the arm, with a laugh:
"Do you want to see your friend Tobias?" she said.
"Come here," and she led me a yard or two back the way she had come, and then cautiously looked through the trees.
"Gone!" she said, "but he was there a minute or two ago—or at least some one that is his photograph—and, of course, he's there yet, hidden in the brush, and probably got his eyes on us all the time. Did you see that seven-year apple tree move?"
"His favourite tree," I laughed.
"Hardly strong enough to hang him on though." And I realised that she was King Alcinoues's daughter.
We crouched lower for a moment or two, but the seven-year apple tree didn't move again, and we agreed that there was no use in waiting for Tobias to show his hand.
"He is too good a poker-player," I said.
"Like his skeletons, eh?" she said.
"But what made you think it was Tobias?" I asked, "and how did it all happen?"
"I could hardly fail to recognise him from your flattering description," she answered, "and indeed it all happened rather like another experience of mine. I had gone into Sweeney's store—you remember?—and was just paying my bill."
"In the usual coinage?" I ventured. She gave me a long, whimsical smile—once more her father's daughter.
"That, I'm afraid, was the trouble," she answered; "for, as I laid my money down on the counter, I suddenly noticed that there was a person at the back of the store ..."
"A person?" I interrupted.
"Yes! suppose we say 'a pock-marked person'; was it you?"
"What a memory you have for details," I parried, "and then?"
"Well! I took my change and managed to whisper a word to Sweeney—a good friend, remember—and came out. I took a short cut back, but the 'person' that had stood in the back of the store seemed to know the way almost better than I—so well that he had got ahead of me. He was walking quietly this way, and so slowly that I had at last to overtake him. He said nothing, just watched me, as if interested in the way I was going—but, I'm ashamed to say, he rather frightened me! And here I am."
"Do you really think he saw the—doubloon—like that other 'person'?" I asked.
"There's no doubt of it."
"Well, then," I said, "let's hurry home, and talk it over with the 'King.'"
The "King," as I had realised, was a practical "romantic" and at once took the matter seriously, leaving—as might have surprised some of those who had only heard him talk—his conversational fantasies on the theme to come later.
Calypso, however, had the first word.
"I always told you, Dad," she said;—and the word "Dad" on the lips of that big statuesque girl—who always seemed ready to take that inspired framework of rags and bones and talking music into her protecting arms—seemed the quaintest of paradoxes—, "I always told you, Dad, what would happen, with your fairy-tales of the doubloons."
"Quite true, my dear," he answered, "but isn't a fairy-tale worth paying for?—worth a little trouble? And remember, if you will allow me, two things about fairy-tales: there must always be some evil fairy in them, some dragon or such like; and there is always—a happy ending. Now the dragon enters at last—in the form of Tobias; and we should be happy on that very account. It shows that the race of dragons is not, as I feared, extinct. And as for the happy ending, we will arrange it, after lunch—for which, by the way, you are somewhat late."
After lunch, the "King" resumed, but in a brief and entirely practical vein:
"We are about to be besieged," he said. "The woods, probably, are already thick with spies. For the moment, we must suspend operations on our Golconda"—his name for the ruins that we were to excavate—"and, as our present purpose—yours no less than ours, friend Ulysses—is to confuse Tobias, my suggestion is this: That you walk with me a mile or two to the nor'ard. There is an entertaining mangrove swamp I should like to show you, and also, you can give me your opinion of an idea of mine that you will understand all the better when I have taken you over the ground."
So we walked beyond the pines, down onto a long interminable flat land of marl marshes and mangrove trees—so like that in which Charlie Webster had shot the snake and the wild duck—that only Charlie could have seen any difference.
"Now," said the "King," "do you see a sort of river there, overgrown with mangroves and palmettos?"
"Yes," I answered, "almost—though it's so choked up it's almost impossible to say."
"Well," said the "King," "that's the idea; you haven't forgotten those old ruins we are going to explore. You remember how choked up they are. Well, this was the covered water-way, the secret creek, by which the pirates—John Teach, or whoever it was, perhaps John P. Tobias himself—used to land their loot. It's so overgrown nowadays that no one can find the entrance but myself and a friend or two; do you understand?"
We walked a little farther, and then at length came to the bank of the creek the "King" had indicated. This we followed for half a mile or so, till we met the fresh murmur of the sea.
"We needn't go any farther," said the "King." "It's the same all the way along to the mouth—all over-grown as you see, all the way, right out to the 'white water' as they call it—which is four miles of shoal sand that is seldom deeper than two fathoms, and which a nor'easter is liable to blow dry for a week on end. Naturally it's a hard place to find, and a hard place to get off!—and only two or three persons besides Sweeney—all of them our friends—know the way in. Tobias may know of it; but to know it is one thing, to find it is another matter. I could hardly be sure of it myself—if I were standing in from the sea, with nothing but the long palmetto-fringed coast-line to go by.
"Now, you see it? I brought you here, because words—"
"Even yours, dear 'King,'" I laughed.
"—could not explain what I suggest for us to do. You are interested in Tobias. Tobias is interested in you. I am interested in you both. And Calypso and I have a treasure to guard."
"I have still a treasure to seek," I said, half to myself.
"Good enough," said the "King." "Now, to be practical. We can assume that Tobias is on the watch. I don't mean that he's around here just now, for, before we left, I spoke to Samson and Erebus and they will pass the word to four men blacker than themselves; therefore we can assume that this square mile or so is for the moment 'to ourselves.' But beyond our fence you may rely that Tobias and his myrmidons—is that the word?" he asked with a concession to his natural foolishness—"are there."
"So," he went on, "I want you to go down to your boat to-morrow morning to say good-bye to the commandant, the parson, and the postmaster; to haul up your sail and head for Nassau. Call in on Sweeney on the way, buy an extra box of cartridges, and say 'Dieu et mon Droit'—it is our password; he will understand, but, if he shouldn't, explain, in your own way, that you come from me, and that we rely upon him to look out for our interest. Then head straight for Nassau; but, about eight o'clock, or anywhere around twilight, turn about and head—well, we'll map it out on the chart at home—anywhere up to eight miles along the coast, till you come to a light, low down right on the edge of the water. As soon as you see it, drop anchor; then wait till morning—the very beginning of dawn. As soon as you can see land, look out for Samson—within a hundred yards of you—all the land will look alike to you. Only make the Captain head straight for Samson, and just as you think you are going to run ashore—Well, you will see!"
Next morning I did as the "King" had told me to do. The whole programme was carried out just as he had planned it. I made my good-byes in the settlement, as we had arranged, not forgetting to say "Dieu et mon Droit" to Sweeney, and watching with some humorous intent how he would take it. He took it quietly, as a man in a signal box takes a signal, with about as much emotion, and with just the same necessary seriousness. But I suppose he felt that the circumstances justified a slight heightening of his usual indifference to all mortal things.
"Tell the boss," he said—of course he meant the "King"—"that we are looking after him. Nothing'll slip through here, if we can help it. Good luck!"
So I went down to the boat—to old Tom once more, and the rest of our little crew, who had long since exhausted the attractions of their life ashore, and were glad, as I was, to "H'ist up the John B. Sail." We sang that classic chanty, as we went out with all our canvas spread to a lively northeast breeze—and I realised once more how good the sea was for all manner of men, whatever their colour, for we all livened up and shook off our land-laziness again, spry and laughing, and as keen as the jib stretching out like a gull's wing into the rush and spray of the sea.
Down in my cabin, I looked over some mail that had been waiting for me at the post-office. Amongst it was a crisp, characteristic word from Charlie Webster—for whom the gun will ever be mightier than the pen:
"Tobias escaped—just heard he is on your island—watch out. Will follow in a day or two."
I came out on deck about sunset. We were running along with all our sails drawing like a dream. I looked back at the captain, proud and quiet and happy there at the helm, and nodded a smile to him, which he returned with a flash of his teeth. He loved his boat; he asked nothing better than to watch her behaving just as she was doing. And the other boys seemed quiet and happy too, lying along the sides of the house, ready for the captain's order, but meanwhile content to look up at the great sails, and down again at the sea.
We were a ship and a ship's crew all at peace with one another, and contented with ourselves—rushing and singing and spraying through the water. We were all friends—sea, and sails, and crew together. I couldn't help thinking that a mutiny would be hard to arrange under such a combination of influences.
Tom was sitting forward, plaiting a rope. For all our experiences together, he never implied that he was anything more than the ship's cook, with the privilege of waiting upon me in the cabin at my meals. But, of course, he knew that I had quite another valuation of him, and, as our eyes met, I beckoned to him to draw closer to me.
"Tom," I said, "I have found my treasure."
"You don't say so, sar."
"Yes! Tom, and I rely upon you to help me to guard it. There are no ghosts, this time, Tom," I added—as he said nothing, but waited for me to go on—"and no need of our sucking fish...."
"Are you sure, sar?" he asked, adding: "You can never be sure about ghosts—they are always around somewhere. And a sucking fish is liable at any moment to be useful."
I opened my shirt in answer.
"There it is still, Tom; I agree with you. We won't take any unnecessary chances."
This comforted the old man more than any one could have imagined.
"It's all right then, sar?" he said. "It will come out all right now, I'm sure—though, as I wanted to say"—and he hesitated—"I had hoped that you had forgotten those treasures that—"
"Go on, Tom."
"That moth and rust do corrupt."
"I know, dear old Tom, but neither moth nor rust can ever corrupt the treasure I meant—the treasure I have already found."
"You have found the treasure, sar?" asked Tom, in natural bewilderment.
"Yes, Tom, and I am going to show it to you—to-morrow."
The old man waited, as a mortal might wait till it pleased his god to speak a little more clearly.
"Quite true, Tom," I continued; "you shall see my treasure to-morrow; meanwhile, read this note." Tom was so much to me that I wanted him to know all about the details of the enterprise we shared together, and in which he risked his life no less than I risked mine.
Tom took out his spectacles from some recess of his trousers, and applied himself to Charlie Webster's note, as though it had been the Bible. He read it as slowly indeed as if it had been Sanscrit, and then folded it and handed it back to me without a word. But there was quite a young smile in his old eyes.
"'The wonderful works of God,'" he said presently. "I guess, sar, we shall soon be able to ask him what he meant by that expression."
Then, as sunlight had almost gone, and the stars were trying to come out overhead, and the boys were stringing out our lanterns, I surprised our captain by telling him that I had changed my mind, and that I didn't want to make Nassau that night, but wanted to head back again, but a point or so to the south'ard. He demurred a little, because, as he said, he was not quite sure of his course. We ought to have had a pilot, and the shoals—so much he knew—were bad that way, all "white water," particularly in a northeast wind. This only confirmed what the "King" had said. So, admitting that I knew all the captain said, I ordered him to do as I told him.
So we ruffled it along, making two or three "legs"—I sitting abaft the jib boom, with my back against the mainmast, watching out for Samson and his light.
Soon the long dark shore loomed ahead of us. I had reckoned it out about right. But the Captain announced that we were in shoal water.
"How many feet?" I asked, and a boy threw out the lead.
"Sixteen and a half," he said.
"Go ahead," I called out.
"Do you want to go aground?" asked the Captain.
For answer, I pushed him aside and took the wheel. I had caught the smallest glimmer, like a night-light, floating on the water.
"Drop the anchor," I called.
The light in shore was clear and near at hand, about one hundred yards away, and there was the big murmur and commotion of the long breakers over the dancing shoals. We rolled a good deal, and the Captain moodily took my suggestion of throwing out three anchors and cradling them; though, as he said, with the way the northeast was blowing, we should soon be on dry land. It was true enough. The tide was running out very fast, and the white sand coming ever nearer to our eyes in the moonlight; and Samson's light, there, was keeping white and steady. With the thought of my treasure and the "King" so near by, it was hard to resist the temptation to plunge in and follow my heart ashore. But I managed to control the boyish impulse, and presently we were all snug, and some of us snoring, below decks, rocked in the long swells of the shoal water that gleamed milkily like an animated moonstone under the stars—old Sailor curled up at my feet, just like old times.
The Hidden Creek.
I woke just as dawn was waking too, very still and windless; for the threatening nor'easter had changed its mind, and the world was as quiet as though there weren't a human being in it. Near by, stretched the long low coast-line, nothing but level brush, with an occasional thatch-palm lifting up a shock-head against the quickening sky. Out to sea, the level plains of lucent water spread like a vast floor, immensely vacant—not a sail or even a wing to mar the perfect void.
As the light grew, I scanned the shore to see whether I could detect the entrance of the hidden creek; but, though I swept it up and down again and again, it continued to justify the "King's" boast. There was no sign of an opening anywhere. Nothing but a straight line of brush, with mangroves here and there stepping down in their fantastic way into the water. And yet we were but a hundred yards from the shore. Certainly "Blackbeard"—if the haunt had really been his—had known his business; for an enemy could have sought him all day along this coast and found no clue to his hiding-place.
But, presently, as my eyes kept on seeking, a figure rose, tall and black near the water's edge, a little to our left, and shot up a long arm by way of signal. It was Samson; and evidently the mouth of the creek was right there in front of us—under our very noses, so to say—and yet it was impossible to make it out. However, at this signal, I stirred up the still-sleeping crew, and presently we had the anchors up, and the engine started at the slowest possible speed.
The tide was beginning to run in, so we needed very little way on us. I pointed out Samson to the captain, and, following the "King's" instructions, told him to steer straight for the negro. He grumbled not a little. Of course, if I wanted to run aground, it was none of his affair—etc., etc. Then I stationed the sturdiest of the two deck-hands on the port bow with a long oar, while I took the starboard with another. Very slowly and cautiously we made in, pointing straight for a thick growth of mangrove bushes. Samson stood there and called:
"All right, sar. Keep straight on. You'll see your way in a minute."
And, sure enough, when we were barely fifty feet away from the shore, and there seemed nothing for it but to run dead aground, low down through the floating mangrove branches we caught sight of a narrow gleam starting inland, and in another moment or two our decks were swept with foliage as the Flamingo rustled in, like a bird to cover, through an opening in the bushes barely twice her beam; and there before us, snaking through the brush, was a lane of water which immediately began to broaden between palmetto-fringed banks, and was evidently deep enough for a much larger vessel.
"Plenty of water, sar," hallooed Samson from the bank, grinning a huge welcome. "Keep a-going after me," and he started trotting along the creek-side.
As we pushed into the glassy channel, I standing at the bow, my eyes were arrested by a tremendous flashing commotion in the water to the right and left of us—like the fierce zigzagging of steel blades, or the ferocious play of submerged lightning. It was a select company of houndfish and sharks that we had disturbed, lying hellishly in wait there for the prey of the incoming tide. It was a curiously sinister sight, as though one had come upon a nest of water-devils in council, and the fancy jumped into my mind that here were the spirits of Teach and his crew once more evilly embodied and condemned to haunt for ever this gloomy scene of their crimes.
Samson went trotting along the twisting banks, we cautiously feeling our way after him, for something like a quarter of a mile; and then, coming round a sudden bend, the creek opened out into a sort of basin. On the left bank stood two large palmetto shanties. Samson indicated that there was our anchorage; and then, as we were almost alongside of them, the cheery halloos of a well-known voice hailed us. It was the "King"; and, as I answered his welcome, the morning suddenly sang for me—for there too was Calypso, at his side.
The water ran so deep at the creek's side that we were able to moor the Flamingo right up against the bank, and, when I had jumped ashore and greeted my friends, and the "King" had executed a brief characteristic fantasia on the manifest advantages of having a hidden pirate's creek in the family, he unfolded his plans, or rather that portion of them that was necessary at the moment.
The crew of the Flamingo, he said, had better stay where they were for the present. If they were tired of sleeping aboard, there were his two palmetto palaces, with couches of down on which to stretch their limbs—and, for amusement—poor devils!—he swept his eyes whimsically around that dreariest of landscapes—they might exercise their imaginations by pretending, after the manner of John Teach, that they were on an excursion to Hades—this was the famous River Acheron—and so on. But, seriously, he ended, we would find some way of keeping them from committing hari-kari and, meanwhile, we would leave them in peace, and stroll along toward breakfast.
At that moment, Sailor rubbed his head against my knee.
"Ah!" said the "King," "the heroic canine! He, of course, must not be left behind. We may very well need you in our counsels, eh, old fellow?" and he made friends with Sailor in a moment, as only a man who loves dogs can.
I believe I was second in Sailor's affection from that moment of his meeting the "King." But then, who wouldn't have been?
So then, after a reassuring word or two with Tom and the Captain, we went our ways toward breakfast—the "King's" tongue and Sailor's wagging happily in concert every inch of the way.
An Old Enemy.
Charlie Webster's laconic note was naturally our chief topic over breakfast. "Tobias escaped—just heard he is on your island. Watch out. Will follow in a day or two." The "King" read it out, when I handed him the note across the table.
"Your friend writes like a true man of action," he added, "like Caesar—and also the electric telegraph. We must send word to Sweeney to be on the look-out for him. I will send Samson the Redoubtable with a message to him this morning. Meanwhile, we will smoke and think."
Then for the next hour the "King" thought—aloud; while Calypso and I sat and listened, occasionally throwing in a parenthesis of comment or suggestion. It was evident, we all agreed, that Calypso had been right. It had been Tobias and none other whose evil eye had sent her so breathless back to me, waiting in the shadow of the woods; and it was the same evil eye that had fallen vulture-like on her golden doubloon exposed on Sweeney's counter.
Now what were we to think of Tobias?—what really were his notions about this supposititious treasure?—and what was likely to be his plan of action? Had he really any private knowledge of the whereabouts of his alleged ancestral treasure?—or was his first authentic hint of its whereabouts derived from the manuscript—first overheard while eavesdropping at John Saunders's office, and afterward purloined from John Saunders's verandah?
There seemed little doubt that this second surmise was correct; for, if he had had any previous knowledge, he would have had no need of the manuscript and long ago he would have gone after the treasure for himself, and found it or not, as the case might be. Probably there was a tradition in his family of the existence somewhere of his grandfather's treasure; but that tradition was very likely the sum of his inheritance; and doubtless it was the mere accident of his dropping into Saunders's office that morning which had set him on the track.
It was also likely, indeed practically certain, that he had been able to make no more out of the manuscript than I had; that he had concluded that I had somehow or other unearthed more about it than he; and that, therefore, his most promising clue to its discovery would be my actions. To keep me in sight was the first step. So far so good.
But thus far, it would appear to him, I had had no very positive success. Otherwise, I would not still be on the quest. He had probably been aware of my movements, and may have been lying hidden on the island longer than we suspected. From some of his spies he had heard of my presence in the settlement, and, chance having directed him to Sweeney's store at the moment of Calypso's ringing down that Spanish gold on the counter, he had somehow connected Calypso's doubloon with me.
At all events, it was clear that there were such coins on the island in somebody's possession. Then, when he had watched Calypso on her way home—and, without any doubt, been the spectator of our meeting at the edge of the wood though we had been unable to catch sight of him—there would, of course, be a suspicion in his mind that my quest might at last be approaching success, and that his ancestral millions might be almost in my hands. That there might be some other treasure on the island with which neither he nor his grandfather had any concern would not occur to him, nor would it be likely to trouble him if it did. My presence was enough to prove that the treasure was his—for was it not his treasure that I was after? Logic irrefutable! How was he to know that all the treasure so far discovered was that modest hoard—unearthed, as I had heard, in the garden—the present whereabouts of which was known only to Calypso. The "King" had interrupted himself at this point of argument.
"By the way, Calypso, where is it?" he asked unexpectedly, to the sudden confusion of both of us. "Isn't it time you revealed your mysterious Aladdin's cave?"
At the word "cave" the submerged rose in Calypso's cheeks almost came to the surface of their beautiful olive.
"Cave!" she countered manfully, "who said it was a cave?"
"It was merely a figure of speech, which—if I may say so, my dear—might apply with equal fitness, say—to a silk stocking."
And Calypso laughed through another tide of rose-colour.
"No, Dad, not that either. Never mind where it is. It is perfectly safe, I assure you."
"But are you sure, my dear? Wouldn't it be safer, after all, here in the house? How can you be certain that no one but yourself will accidentally discover it?"
"I am absolutely certain that no one will," she answered, with an emphasis on the last three words which sent a thrill through me, for I knew that it was meant for me. Indeed, as she spoke, she furtively gave me one of those glances of soft fire which had burnt straight through to my heart in Sweeney's store—a sort of blended challenge and appeal.
"Of course, Dad," she added, "if you insist—you shall have it. But seriously I think it is safer where it is, and if I were to fetch it, how can I be sure that no one"—she paused, with a meaning which I, of course, understood—"Tobias, for instance, would see me going—and follow me."
"To be sure—to be sure," said the "King." "What do you think, friend Ulysses?"
"I think it more than likely that she might be followed," I answered, "and I quite agree with Miss Calypso. I certainly wouldn't advise her to visit her treasure just now—with the woods probably full of eyes. In fact," I added, smiling frankly at her, "I could scarcely answer for myself even—for I confess that she has filled me with an overpowering curiosity."
And in my heart I stood once more amid the watery gleams and echoes of that moonlit cavern, struck dumb before that shining princess from whose mouth and hands had fallen those strange streams of gold.
"So be it then," said the "King"; "and now to consider what our friend here graphically speaks of as those eyes in the woods. 'The woods were full of eyes.' Ah! friend Ulysses, you evidently share my taste for the romantic phrase. Who cares how often it has been used? It is all the better for that. Like old wine, it has gained with age. One's whole boyhood seems to be in a phrase like that—Dumas, Scott, Fenimore Cooper. How often, I wonder, has that divine phrase been written—'the woods were full of eyes.' And now to think that we are actually living it—an old boy like myself even. 'The woods were full of eyes.' Bravo! Ulysses, for it is still a brave and gallant world!"
The "King" then made a determined descent into the practical. The woods, most probably, were full of eyes. In plain prose, we were almost certainly being watched. Unless—unless, indeed, my bogus departure for Nassau had fooled Tobias as we had hoped. But, even so, with that lure of Calypso's doubloon ever before him, it was too probable that he would not leave the neighbourhood without some further investigation—"an investigation," the "King" explained, "which might well take the form of a midnight raid; murdered in our beds, and so forth."
That being so, being in fact almost a certainty—the "King" spoke as though he would be a much disappointed man otherwise—we must look to our garrison. After all, besides ourselves, we had but Samson and Erebus, and their dark brethren of doubtful courage, while Tobias probably had command of a round dozen of doughty desperadoes. On the whole, perhaps, he said, it might be best to avail ourselves of the crew of the Flamingo—"under cover of the dark," he repeated with a smile.
Yes! that must be the first step. We must get them up there that night, under cover of the dark; keep them well hidden, and—well! await developments. Charlie Webster might be expected any moment with his reinforcements, and then!—"Lay on, Macduff!"
While we had been talking, Samson had long since been on his way with the word to Sweeney to look out for Webster, and, as he had been admonished to hurry back, it was scarcely noon when he returned, bringing in exchange a verbal message from Sweeney.
"The pock-marked party," ran the message as delivered by Samson, "had left the harbour in his sloop that morning. Yes, sar!"
"Ha! ha!" laughed the "King," turning to me. "So two can play at that game, says Henry P. Tobias, Jr. But if we haven't fooled him, let's make sure that he hasn't fooled us. We'll bring up your crew all the same—what do you think?"
"Under cover of the dark," I assented.
In Which the "King" Imprisons Me with Some Old Books and Pictures.
Nothing further transpired that day, and, at nightfall, we brought the crew of the Flamingo up to the house—all but two of them, whom we left on guard. Two out of six was rather more than we had bargained for, but we found that none of them had the courage to face the night there in that dismal swamp alone—and we couldn't blame them, for a more devil-haunted desolation could not be imagined even in the daylight, and the mere thought of what might go on there after dark was enough to uncurl the wool on the head of the bravest negro. And we agreed, too, that the watch should be changed nightly, a fresh pair going on duty each evening.
Then there was nothing to do but sit down and await events—amongst them, the coming of Charlie Webster.
In regard to this, we had decided that it would be as well that, instead of disembarking at the settlement, he should come and join the Flamingo in the hidden creek; so Samson was once more despatched down to Sweeney with a letter for him to hand to Charlie on his arrival, giving him direction how to find us. Meanwhile, our two men on the Flamingo could keep watch for him by day, and have a light burning for him at the entrance of the creek by night.
The "King's" instructions to me were that I was not to show my nose outside the house. Possibly I might expose the tip of it once in a while, for a little exercise in the garden—where all this time the little silver fountain went on playing amid the golden hush of the orange trees, filling the lotus flowers with big pearls of spray. But, most of the day, I must regard myself as a prisoner, with the entire freedom of his study—a large airy room on the second floor, well furnished with all manner of books, old prints, strange fishes in glass cases, rods, guns, pipe-racks, curiosities of every kind from various parts of the world—India, the South Seas, Australia, not forgetting London and Paris—and all the flotsam and jetsam of a far-wandered man, who—as the "King" remarked, introducing their autobiographic display with a comprehensive wave of his hand—had, like that other wanderer unbeloved of all schoolboys, the pious AEneas, been so much tossed about on land and sea—vi superum, saevae memorem Junonis ob iram—that he might found his city and bring safe his household gods from Latium. Touching his hand lightly on a row of old quartos, in the stout calfskin and tarnished gold dear to bookmen, he said:
"These I recommend to you in your enforced leisure."
They were a collection of old French voyages—Dampier and others—embellished with copper-plate maps and quaint engravings of the fauna and flora of the world, still in all the romantic virginity of its first discovery.
"This," he said, pointing to a stout old jar of Devonshire ware, "is some excellent English tobacco—my one extravagance; and here," pointing to a pipe-rack, "are some well-tried friends from that same 'dear, dear land,' 'sceptred isle of kings,' and so forth. And now I am going to leave you, while I go with Samson and Erebus on a little reconnoitring tour around our domains."
So he left me, and I settled down to a pipe and a volume of Dampier; but, interesting as I found the sturdy old pages, my thoughts, and perhaps particularly my heart, were too much in the present for my attention long to be held by even so adventurous a past; so, laying the book down, I rose from my chair, and made a tour of inspection of the various eloquent objects about the room—objects which made a sort of chronicle in bric-a-brac of my fantastic friend's earthly pilgrimage, and here and there seemed to hint at the story of his strange soul.
Among the books, for example, was a fine copy of Homer, with the arms of a well-known English college stamped on the binding, and near by was the faded photograph of a beautiful old Elizabethan house, with mouldering garden walls, and a moat brimming with water-lilies surrounding it. Hanging close by it, was another faded photograph, of a tall stately old lady, who, at a glance, I surmised must be the "King's" mother. As I looked at it, my eyes involuntarily sought the garden with its palms and its orange trees. Far indeed had the son of her heart wandered, like so many sons of stately English mothers, from that lilied moat and those old gables, and the proud old eyes that would look on her son no more forever.
And then in my privileged inspection of these sacred symbols, carried across so many storm-tossed seas from that far-away Latium, I came upon another photograph, hanging over the writing-desk—a tall, Spanish-looking young woman of remarkable beauty. It needed but one glance to realise that here was Calypso's mother; and, as was natural, I stood a long time scanning the countenance that was so like the face which, from my first sight of it, had seemed the loveliest in the world. This was a flower that had been the mother of a flower. It was a face more primitive in its beauty, a little less touched with race, than the one I loved, but the same fearless natural nobility was in it, and the figure had the same wild grace of pose, the same lithe strength of carriage.
As I stood looking at it, lost in thought, I heard the "King's" voice behind me. His step was so light that I had not heard him enter the room.
"You are looking at Calypso's mother!" he said. "She was a beautiful creature. I will tell you of her some day, Ulysses."
And indeed, that very night, as we sat over our pipes, he told me; and without a word of his, I knew that the loneliness of his heart had singled me out for his friend, since, for all his love of speech, he was not the man to speak easily of the deep things of his heart.
"Beauty is a very mysterious thing, friend Ulysses," he began, his eyes musing on the face above his desk, "as our old friends of the Siege of Troy knew all too well. The eternal Helen! And in nothing is the divinity of youth so clearly shown as in its worship of beauty, its faith that there is nothing the world holds—the power and the glory, the riches and the honours—nothing so well worth fighting for as a beautiful face. When the world was young, the whole world thought that too. Now we make ignoble war for markets, but the Greeks made nobler warfare—for a beautiful face—
"The face that launched a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of Ilium.
"So is it still with every young man. 'Fair Helen! make me immortal with a kiss' is still his cry. Titles and broad lands, and all such earthly gear—what are these to a youth, with his eyes on the face of the eternal Helen?—that face we meet once and once only, and either win—to lose all the rest, or lose—and win what? What is there to win if that be lost? So, at all events, it was with me, who, after winging away from those old gables yonder on all the adventurous winds of the seven seas, and having in truth looked into many a fair face in every corner of the globe, suddenly, in a certain little island of the French West Indies, came upon the face I had been unconsciously seeking.
"So, long years before my coming, had it befallen also with a certain young French nobleman, out there on military service, who had set eyes on Calypso's grandmother in the streets of that quaint little town, where the French soul seems almost more at home than in France itself. All had seemed nothing to him—his ancestral ties, his brilliant future—compared with that glory of a woman. He married her and settled down for good, the world well lost, in that dream island. And the dream he had been faithful to remained faithful to him. He seems to have been a singularly happy man. I never saw him, for he was dead when I set foot on his island—destined, though I knew it not, to live his life again in the love of his daughter.
"She and her mother were living quietly on the small fortune he had left them, in an old palm-shaded house backed by purple mountains, and sung to by the sea. The soul of old France seemed to haunt that old house like a perfume, taking on a richer colour and drawing a more ardent life from the passionate tropic soul that enfolded it. Both had mysteriously met and become visibly embodied in the lovely girl, in whose veins the best blood of France blended with the molten gold of tropic suns. So, as had happened with her mother, again it happened with her—she took the wandering man to her heart"—he paused—"held him there for some happy years"—he paused again—"and the rest is—Calypso."
We did not speak for a long time after he had ended, but his confidence had touched me so nearly that I felt I owed him my heart in exchange, and it was hard not to cry out: "And now I love Calypso. Once more the far-wandered man has found the great light on a lonely shore."
But I felt that to speak yet—believer in the miracle of love though he had declared himself to be—would seem as though I set too slight a value on the miracle itself.
There should be a long hush before we speak, when a star has fallen out of heaven into our hearts.
We Begin to Dig.
Two or three days went by, but as yet there was no news of either Charlie Webster or Tobias. Nothing further had been heard of the latter in the settlement, and a careful patrolling of the neighbourhood revealed no signs of him. Either his sailing away was a bona-fide performance, or he was lying low in some other part of the island—which, of course, would not be a difficult thing for him to do, as most of it was wilderness—and as, also, there were one or two coves on the deserted northern side where he could easily bide his time. Between that coast and us, however, lay some ten miles of scrub and mangrove swamps, and it was manifestly out of the question to patrol them too. There was nothing to do but watch and wait.
"Vigile et ora," said the "King."
But in spite of that counsel, watching and praying was not much in the "King's" temperament. Besides, as I could see, he was anxious to begin operations on John Teach's ruined mansion, and was impatient of the delay.
"With Golconda and Potosi beneath our very feet," he exclaimed at last, "to be held up by this scurvy pock-marked ruffian, I swear 'I like it not.' No news from your duck-shooting friend either. It is a slow-moving world, and the Bird of Time has either lost his wings, or been captured as a specimen on behalf of the Smithsonian Institute."
At last there came a message from Charlie Webster, another of his Caesarian notes: "Sorry delayed a few days longer. Any news?"
That seemed to decide the "King."
"What do you say, Ulysses," he said, "if we begin digging to-morrow? There are ten of us—with as many guns, four revolvers and plenty of machetes—not counting Calypso, who is an excellent shot herself."
I agreed that nothing would please me better—so, an early hour of the following morning found us with the whole garrison—excepting Samson, whom it had been thought wise to leave at home as a bodyguard for Calypso—lined up at the old ruined mansion, with picks and shovels and machetes, ready to commence operations.
The first thing was to get rid of the immense web, which, as I have already described, the forest had woven with diabolic ingenuity all around, and in and out the skeleton of the sturdy old masonry. Till that was done, it was impossible to get any notion of the ground plan of the several connected buildings. So the first day was taken up with the chopping and slashing of vegetable serpents, the tearing out of roots that writhed as if with conscious life, the shearing away of all manner of haunted leafage, all those dense fierce growths with which Nature loves to proclaim her luxuriant victory over the work of man's hands—as soon, so to say, as his back is turned for a moment—like a stealthy savage foe ever on the watch in the surrounding darkness and only waiting for the hushing of human voices, for the cessation of human footsteps, to rush in and overwhelm.
"'I passed by the walls of Balclutha and they were desolate'" quoted the "King," touched, as a less reflective mind must have been, by this sinister triumph of those tireless natural forces that neither slumber nor sleep.
"Here," said he, "is the future of London and Paris—in miniature. The flora and fauna will be different. There will be none of these nasty centipedes" (he had just crushed one with his foot), "and oaks, beeches, and other such friendly trees will take the place of these outlandish monstrosities. That pretty creature, the wild rose, will fill the desolation with her sweet breath, but the incredible desolation will be there; and as we here to-day watch this gum-elemi tree, flourishing where the good Teach 'gloried and drank deep,' so the men of future days will hear the bittern booming in the Rue de la Paix and their children will go a-blackberrying in Trafalgar Square. Selah!"
Two days we were at it with axe and machete—wearisome work which gave Tom and me occasion to exchange memories of the month we had put in together on the Dead Men's Shoes. We smiled at each other, as the other fellows groaned and sweated. It seemed child's play to us, after what we had gone through.
"They should have been with us, Tom, shouldn't they? They'd have known what work is;" and I added, for the fun of watching his face: "I wonder whether we'll find any gentlemen playing poker downstairs, Tom."
"God forbid, sar! God forbid!" he exclaimed, with a look of terror.
The next step was the clearing away of the mounds of fallen masonry and various rubbish, which still lay between us and our fortune—tedious preliminaries which chafed the boyish heart of the "King." To tell the truth, I believe we had both expected to uncover a glittering hoard with the first stroke of the pick.
"'And metals cry to me to be delivered!'" quoted the "King," whimsically, fuming as he took his long strides, hither and thither amid the rubbish-heaps, so slow to disappear and reveal those underground passages and hidden vaults, by which the fancies of both of us were obsessed.
We had worked for a week before we made a clearance of the ground floor. Then at last we came upon a solidly built stone staircase, winding downward. After clearing away the debris with which it was choked to a depth of some twenty or thirty steps, we came to a stout wooden door studded with nails.
"The dungeon at last," said the "King."
"The kitchens, I bet," said I.
After some battering, the door gave way with a crash, a mouldering breath as of the grave met our nostrils, and a cloud of bats flew in our faces, and set the negroes screaming. A huge cavernous blackness was before us. The "King" called for lanterns.
As we raised these above our heads, and peered into the darkness, we both gave a laugh.
"'Yo—ho—ho—and a bottle of rum,'" sang the "King."
For all along the walls stood, or lay prone on trestles, a silent company of hogsheads, festooned with cobwebs, like huge black wings. It was the pirate's wine cellar!
* * * * *
Such was our discovery for that day, but there is another matter which I must mention—the fact that, somehow, the news of our excavation seemed to have got down to the settlement. It is a curious fact, as the "King" observed, that if a man should start to dig for gold in the centre of Sahara, with no possible means of communicating with his fellows, on the third day, there would not fail to be some one to drop in and remark on the fineness of the weather. So it was with us. As a general thing, not once in a month did a human being wander into that wilderness where the "King" had made his home. There was nothing to bring them there, and, as I have made clear, the way was not easy. Yet we had hardly begun work when one and another idle nigger strolled in from the settlement, and stood grinning his curiosity at our labours.
"I believe it's them black parrots has told them," said old Tom, pointing to a bird common in the islands—something like a small crow with a parrot's beak. "They're very knowing birds."
I saw that Tom was serious. So I tried to draw him out.
"What language do they speak, Tom?" I asked.
"Them, sar? They speak Egyptian," he answered, with perfect solemnity.
"Yes, sar," said Tom.
"Egyptian?—but who's going to understand them?"
"There's always some old wise man or woman in every village, sar, who understands them. You remember old King Coffee in Grant's Town?"
"Does he know Egyptian?"
"O yaas, sar! He knows 'gyptian right enough. And he could tell you every word them birds says—if he's a mind to."
"I wonder if Tobias knows Egyptian, Tom?"
"I wouldn't be at all surprised, sar," he answered; "he looks like that kind of man," and he added something about the Prince of the Powers of the Air, and suggested that Tobias had probably sold his soul to the devil, and had, therefore, the advantage of us in superior sources of information.
"He's not unlike one of those black parrots himself, is he, Tom?" I added, for Tom's words had conjured up a picture for me of Tobias, with his great beak, and his close-set evil eyes, and a familiar in the form of a black parrot perched on his shoulders, whispering into one of his ugly ears.
However, we continued with our digging, and Tobias continued to make no sign.
But, at the close of the third day from our discovery of John Teach's wine cellar, something happened which set at rest the question of Tobias's knowledge of Egyptian, and proved that he was all too well served by his aerial messengers. The three days had been uneventful. We had made no more discoveries, beyond the opening up of various prosaic offices and cellars that may once have harboured loot but were now empty of everything but bats and centipedes. But, toward evening of the third day, we came upon a passage leading out of one of these cellars; it had such a promising appearance that we kept at work later than usual, and the sun had set and night was rapidly falling as we turned homeward.
As we came in sight of the house, we were struck by the peculiar hush about it, and there were no lights in the windows.
"No lights!" the "King" and I exclaimed together, involuntarily hurrying our steps, with a foreboding of we knew not what in our hearts. As we crossed the lawn, the house loomed up dark and still, and the door opening on to the loggia was a square of blackness, in a gloom of shadows hardly less profound. Not a sound, not a sign of life!
"Calypso!" we both cried out, as we rushed across the loggia. "Calypso! where are you?—but there was no answer; and then, I, being ahead of the "King," stumbled over something dark lying across the doorway.
"Good God! what is this?" I cried, and, bending down, I saw that it was Samson.
The "King" struck a match. Yes! it was Samson, poor fellow, with a dagger firmly planted in his heart.
Near by, something white caught my eye attached to the lintel of the doorway. It was a piece of paper held there with a sailor's knife. I tore it off in a frenzy, and—the "King" striking another match—we read it together. It bore but a few words, written all in capital letters with a coarse pencil:
"WILL RETURN THE LADY IN EXCHANGE FOR THE TREASURE," and it was signed "H.P.T."
In Which I Lose My Way.
I stood a full minute with the astonishing paper in my hand, too stunned to speak or move. It seemed too incredible an outrage to realise. Then a torrent of feelings swept over me—wild fear for her I loved, and impotent fury against the miscreant who had dared even to conceive so foul a sacrilege. To think of her beauty subject to such coarse ruffianism! I pictured her bound and gagged and carried along through the brush in the bestial grasp of filthy negroes, and it seemed as though my brain would burst at the thought.
"The audacity of the fellow!" exclaimed the "King," who was the first to recover.
"But Calypso!" I cried.
The "King" laid his hand on my shoulder, reassuringly.
"Don't be afraid for her," he said. "I know my daughter."
"But I love her!" I cried, thus blurting out in my anguish what I had designed to reveal in some tranquil chosen hour.
"I have loved her for twenty years," said the "King," exasperatingly calm. "'Jack Harkaway' can take care of himself."
I was not even astonished at the time.
"But something must be done," I cried. "I will go to the commandant at once and rouse the settlement. Give me a lantern," I called to one of the negroes, who by this had come up to us, and were standing around in a terrified group. I waited only for it to be lit, and then, without a word, dashed wildly into the forest.
"Hadn't you better take some one with you?" I heard the "King" call after me, but I was too distraught to reply, plunging headforemost through the tangled darkness—my brain boiling like a cauldron with anger and a thousand fears, and my heart stung too with wild unreasoning remorse. After all, it was my doing.
"To think! to think! to think!" I cried aloud—leaving the rest unspoken.
I meant that it had all come of my insensate pursuit of that filthy treasure, when all the time the only treasure I coveted was Calypso herself. Poor old ignorant Tom had been right, after all. Nothing good came of such enterprises. There was a curse upon them from the beginning. And then, as I thought of Tobias, my body shook so that I could hardly keep on walking, and, next minute, my hatred of him so nerved me up again that I ran on through the brush, like a madman, my clothes clutched at by the devilish vines and torn at every yard.
I fled past the scene of our excavations, looking more haunted than ever in the flashing gleam of the lantern. With an oath, I left them behind, as the accursed cause of all this evil; but I cannot have gone by them many yards when suddenly I felt the ground giving way beneath me with a violent jerk. My arms went up in a wild effort to save myself, and then, in a panic of fright, I felt myself shooting downward, as one might fall down the shaft of a mine. Vainly I clutched at rocky walls as I sped down in the earth-smelling darkness. I seemed to be falling forever, and for a moment my head cleared and I had time to think of the crash that was coming, at the end of my fall—a crash which, I said to myself, must mean death. It came with sudden crunching pain, a swift tightening round my heart, as though black ropes were being lashed tightly about it, squeezing out my breath; then entire blackness engulfed me, and I knew no more.
* * * * *
How long I lay there in the darkness I cannot tell. All I remember is my suddenly opening my eyes on intense blackness, and vaguely wondering where I was. My head felt strangely clear and alive, but for a moment I could remember nothing. I was conscious only of a strong earthy smell, and my eyes felt so keen that, as the phrase goes, they seemed to make darkness visible. They seemed, too, to see themselves, as rings of light in the blackness. My head, too, seemed entirely detached from my body, of which, so far, I was unconscious. But, presently, the realisation of it returned, and involuntarily I tried to move—to find, with a sort of indifferent mild surprise, that it was impossible.
So there I lay, oddly content, in the dark—the pungent smell of the earth my only sensation, and my head uselessly clear.
Then, bit by bit, it all came back to me, like returning circulation in a numbed limb; but as yet dreamily, as something long ago and far away. Then I found myself partly risen, leaning on my elbow, and looking about—into nothingness. Then feeling seemed slowly to be coming back to the rest of me. My head was no longer isolated. It was part of a heavy something that lay inert on the ground, and was beginning to feel numbly—to ache dully. Then I found that I could move one of my legs, then the other, and eventually, with a mighty effort, I could almost raise myself. But, for the moment, I had to fall back.
The remembrance of what had happened began to grow in force and keenness and, of a sudden, the thought of Calypso smote me like a sword! Spurred to desperate effort, I stood up on the instant and leaned against a rocky wall. Miracle of miracles! I could stand. I was not dead, after all. I was not, indeed, so far as I could tell, seriously hurt. Badly bruised, of course—but no bones broken. It seemed incredible, but it was so. The realisation made me feel weak again, and I sat down with my back propped up against the rock, and waited for more strength.
Slowly my thoughts fumbled around the situation. Then, as by force of habit, my hand went to my pocket. God be praised! I had matches, and I cried with thankfulness, out of very weakness. But I still sat on in the dark for a while. I felt very tired. After thinking about it for a long time, I took out my precious match-box, which unconsciously I had been hugging with my hand, and struck a light, looking about me in a dazed fashion. The match burnt down to my fingers, and I threw it away, as the flame stung me. I had seen something of my surroundings, enough to last my tired brain for a minute or two. I was at the bottom of a sort of crevasse, a narrow cleft in the rocks which continued on in a slanting downward chasm into the darkness. It was a natural corridor, with a floor of white sand. The sand had accounted for my coming off without any broken bones.
After another minute or two, I struck another match, and lo! another miracle. There was my lantern lying beside me. The glass of it was broken, but that was no matter. As I lit the wick, my hopes leapt up with the flame. At the worst, I had light.
"Lux in tenebris!" I seemed to hear the voice of the "King"—inextinguishably gay; and, at the thought of him, my inertia passed. What could he be thinking? His daughter spirited away, and now I too mysteriously vanished. What was happening up there, all this time? Up there! How far was it to "up there"? How far had I fallen? All about me was so terribly still and shut away. I could believe myself at the very centre of the earth, and it seemed ages ago, aeons of time, since I had last seen the "King." What time was it? I felt for my watch. I found but the wreck of it. It was the only thing that had suffered. It was smashed to smithereens.
Then I moved myself again, and, taking up the lantern, raised it aloft, but the chasm down which I had fallen went up and up in a slanting direction, and lost itself in darkness. Bringing the lantern down to the level again, I examined the rock corridor. Behind me, as before me, it continued—a long, deep fissure, splitting its way through the earth. I limped my way along some yards of the section that lay before me, but it seemed to me that it was growing narrower as it went on, as though it were coming to an end; and indeed, after a while, I came to a place too narrow for me to pass.
I swung my lantern aloft, seeking the possibilities of a climb, but everywhere it was sheer, without a ledge or protuberance of any kind to take advantage of, and it was utterly devoid of vegetation—not a sign of a friendly shrub or root to hold by.
So I turned back to try my luck in the other direction. But first I shouted and shouted with all my might. I could not be far away from the ruins, and there was a chance of some one hearing me. However, I had little faith in my effort, and was too tired to keep it up; so I turned with my lantern toward the other end of the corridor. And here it was easy going, along a gently-graded descent, covered, as I have said, with white sand, in which shells were here and there embedded. My heart beat wildly. Perhaps I had only to walk on a little farther to come out on the sea—for here certainly the sea had been once, whether or not it came up there any more. Vain hope!—for when I had followed the corridor some fifty yards or so, it suddenly widened out for a few yards into something of a cavern, and then as suddenly narrowed into a mere slit, and so came to an end.
The deadening of my spark of hope weakened me. I slid down, with my back against the rock, and gave way to despair. As I looked up at the smooth implacable walls that imprisoned me, I felt like some poor insect clinging to the side of a bowl partly filled with water. How frantically the poor creature claws and claws the polished sides, at each effort slipping nearer and nearer to the fatal flood.
I had sense enough to know that I was too tired to think profitably, and drowsiness coming over me told me that an hour or two's sleep would give me the strength I needed to renew with a will, and more chance of success, my efforts to escape.
Light was too precious to waste, so I blew out my lantern, and, curling up on the sand, almost instantly fell asleep. But, before I lapsed into unconsciousness, I had clutched hold of one sustaining thought in the darkness—the assurance of Calypso's safety, so confidently announced by her father: "Don't be afraid for her. I know my daughter." Whatever happened to me, she would come out all right. As her brave shape flashed before my mind's eye, down there under the earth, I could have no doubt of that.
In Which I Pursue My Studies as a Troglodyte.
My instinct had been right in giving way to my drowsiness, for I woke up from my sleep a new man. How long I had been there, of course, I had no means of knowing; but I fancy I must have slept a good while, for I felt so refreshed and full of determination to tackle my escape in good earnest.
It is remarkable how rest sharpens one's perceptions. When we are weary, we only half see what we look at, and the very thing we are desperately seeking may be right under our nose and we quite unaware.
So I had hardly relit my lantern, when its rays revealed something which it seemed impossible for any one with eyes, however weary, to have overlooked.
In the right-hand corner of the little cavern, five or six feet above my head, was a dark hole, like the entrance to a tunnel, or, more properly speaking, a good-sized burrow—for it was scarcely more than a yard in diameter. It seemed to be something more than a mere cavity in the rock, for, when I flashed my lantern up to it, I could see no end. To climb up to it, at first, seemed difficult; but providentially, I had a stout claspknife in my pocket, and with this I cut a step or two in the porous rock, and so managed it. Lying flat on my stomach, I looked in.
It was, as I had thought, a narrow natural tunnel, snaking through the rocks—as often happens in those curious fantastic coral formations—for all the world, indeed, as if it had been made ages ago by some monstrous primeval serpent, a giant worm-hole no less, leading—Heaven alone knew where.
There was just room to crawl along it on all fours, so I started cautiously, making sure I had my precious matches, and my jackknife all safe.
After all, I said to myself, I was no worse off than thousands of poor devils in mines. I had myself snaked through just such passages in coal-mines. Still, I confess that the choking sense of being shut in this earth-smelling tube, like a fox in a drain, and the sudden realisation of the appalling tonnage of superincumbent earth above me—liable at any moment to loosen, and, as with a giant thumb, press out my poor little insect existence—made the sweat pour from me and my heart stand still. I had to shut my eyes for a moment and command myself back to calmness and courage, before I could go on. Above all things I had to blindfold my imagination, the last companion for such a situation.
After this first flurry of fear, I went on crawling in a methodical way, allowing no thought to enter my mind that did not concern the yard or two of earth immediately ahead of me. So I progressed, I should say, for some twenty or thirty yards when, to my inexpressible relief, I came out, still on all fours, onto a spreading floor; then, standing up, I perceived that I was in a cave of considerable loftiness, and some forty feet or so across. It was good to breathe again such comparatively free air; yet, as I looked about and made the circuit of the walls, I saw that I had but exchanged one prison for another. There was this difference, however: whereas there had only been one passageway from the cave I had just left, there were several similar outlets from that in which I now stood. Two or three of them proved to be nothing but alcoves that ran a few yards and then stopped.
But there were two close by each other which seemed to continue on. There was not much choice between them, but, as both made in the same direction, as far as I could judge the direction in which I had so far progressed, I decided to take the larger one. It proved to be a passage much like the tunnel I had already traversed, only a little roomier, and therefore it was easier going, and it, too, brought me out, as had the other, on another cavern—but one considerably larger in extent.
Here, however, I speedily perceived that it was not a case of one cavern, but several—opening out, by natural archways one into another. I walked eagerly through them, scanning their ceilings for sign of some outlet into the upper air; but in vain. Still, after the strangling embrace of those tunnels, it was good to have so much space to breathe and walk about in. In fact, I had stumbled on something like a Monte Cristo suite of underground apartments. And here for a moment I released my imagination from her blinders, and allowed her to play around these strange halls. And in one of her suggestions there was some comfort. It was hardly likely that caverns of such extent had waited for me to discover them. They must surely have been known to Teach, or whatever buccaneer it was who had occupied the ruined mansion not so very far above-ground. What better place could be conceived for his business? It was even likely—more than likely, almost certain—that there was some secret passageway connecting this series of caves with the old house—if one could only find it. And so the dear creature prattled on to me, till I thought it was time to blindfold her again—and return to business.
Still, there was something in what she had said, and I set about the more carefully to examine every nook and corner. And, if I didn't find anything so splendid as she had dreamed, I did presently find evidence that, as she had said, I was not the first human being to stand where now I stood. Two iron staples imbedded in one of the walls, with rusting chains and manacles attached, were melancholy proof of one of the uses to which the place had once been put. Melancholy for certain unhappy souls long since free of all mortal chains, but for me—need I say it?—exceedingly joyous. For if there had been a way to bring prisoners here, it was none the less evident that there had been a way to take them out. But how and where? Again I searched every nook and cranny. There was no sign of entrance anywhere.
Then a thought occurred to me. What if the entrance were after the manner of a mediaeval oubliette—through the ceiling! There was a thought indeed to send one's hopes soaring. I ran in my eagerness through one cavern after another, holding my lantern aloft. That must be the solution. There could be no other way. I sought and sought, but alas! it was a false hope, and I threw myself down in a corner in despair, deciding that the prisoners must have been forced to crawl in as I had—though it was hardly like jailers to put themselves to such inconvenience.
I leaned back against the wall and gazed listlessly upward. Next moment I had bounded to my feet again. Surely I had seen some short regular lines running up the face of the rock, like a ladder. I raised my lantern. Sure enough, they were iron rounds set in the face of the rock, and they mounted up till I lost them in the obscurity, for the cave here must have been forty feet high. Blessed heaven! I was saved!
But alas! they did not begin till some six feet above my head, and the wall was sheer. How was I to reach the lowest rung? The rock was too sheer for me to cut steps in, as I had done farther back. I looked about me. Again the luck was with me. In one of the caves I had noticed some broken pieces of fallen rock. They were terribly heavy, but despair lent me strength, and after an hour or two's work, I had managed to roll several of them to the foot of the ladder, and—with an effort of which I would not have believed myself capable—had been able to build them one on top of another against the wall. So, I found myself able to grasp the lowest rung with my hands. Then, fastening the lantern round my neck with my necktie, I prepared to mount.
The climb was not difficult, once I had managed to get my feet on the first rung of the ladder, but there was always the chance that one of the rungs might have rusted loose with time, in which case, of course, it would have given way in my grasp, and I should have been precipitated backward to certain death below.
However, the man who had mortised them had done an honest piece of work, and they proved as firm as on the day they were placed there. Up and up I went, till I must have been forty feet above the floor, and, then, as I neared the roof, instead of coming to a trap door, as I had conjectured, I found that the ladder came to an end at the edge of a narrow ledge, running along the ceiling much as a clerestory runs near the roof of some old churches. On to this I managed to climb. It was barely a yard wide, and the impending roof did not permit of one's standing erect. It was a dizzy situation, and it seemed safest to crawl along on all fours, holding the lantern in front of me. Presently it brought me up sharp in a narrow recess. It had come to an end.
Yes! but imagine my joy! it had come to an end at a low archway rudely cut in the rock. Deep set in the archway was a stout wooden door. My first thought was that I was trapped again, but, to my infinite surprise and gratitude, it proved to be slightly ajar, and a vigorous push sent it grinding back on its hinges. What next! I wondered. At all events, I was no longer lost in the bowels of the earth; step by step, I was coming nearer to the frontiers of humanity.
But I was certainly not prepared for what next met my eyes, as I pushed through the low doorway with my lantern, and looked around. Yes! indeed, man had certainly been here, man, too, very purposeful and businesslike. I was in a sort of low narrow gallery, some forty feet long, to which the arching rock made a crypt-like ceiling. At my first glance, I saw that there was another door at the far end similar to the one I had entered by; and on the left side of the gallery, built of rough stones from the low ceiling to the floor, was a series of compartments, each with locked wooden door. They were strong and grim looking, and might have been taken for prison cells, or family vaults, or possibly wine-bins. The massive locks were red with rust, and there was plainly no possibility of my opening them.
On the other side of the gallery there was a litter of old chains, and some boards, probably left over from the doors. Yes! and there were two old flintlock guns, and several cutlasses, all eaten away with rust, also a rough seaman's chest open and falling to pieces. At the sight of that, a wild thought flashed through my brain. What if—Good God!—What if this was John Teach's treasury!—behind those grim doors. I threw myself with all my force against one and then the other. For the moment I forgot that my paramount business was to escape. But I might as well have hurled myself against the solid rock. And, at that moment, I noticed that the place was darker than it had been. My lantern was going out. In a moment or two, I should be in the pitch dark, and I had discovered that the door at the end of the gallery was as solid as the others.
I was to be trapped, after all; and I pictured myself slowly dying there of hunger—the pangs of which I was already beginning to feel—and some one, years hence, finding me there, a mouldering skeleton—some one who would break open those doors, uncover those gleaming hoards, and moralise on the irony of my end; condemned to die there of starvation, with the treasure I had so long sought on the other side of those unyielding doors. Old Tom's words suddenly flashed over me, and I could feel my hair literally beginning to rise. "There never was a buried treasure yet that didn't claim its victim." Great God!—and I was to be the ghost, and keep guard in this terrible tomb till the next dead man came along to relieve me of my sentry duty!
Frantically I turned up the wick of my lantern at the thought—but it was no use; it was plainly going out. I examined my match-box; I had still a dozen or so matches left. And then my eye fell on that shattered chest. There were those boards, too. At all events I could build a fire and make torches of slivers of wood, so long as the wood lasted.
And then I had an idea. Why not make the fire against the door at the end of the gallery, and so burn my way through. Bravo! My spirits rose at the thought, and I set to at once—splitting some small kindling with my knife. In a few minutes I had quite a sprightly little fire going at the bottom of the door; but I saw that I should have to be extravagant with my wood if the fire was to be effective. However, it was neck or nothing; so I piled on beams and boards till my fire roared like a furnace, and presently I had the joy of seeing it begin to take hold of the door—which, after a short time, began to crackle and splutter in a very cheering fashion.
Whatever lay beyond, it was evident that I should soon be able to break my way through the obstacle, and, indeed, so it proved; for, presently, I used one of the boards as a battering ram, and, to my inexpressible joy, it went crashing through, with a shower of sparks, and it was but the work of a few more minutes before the whole door fell flaming down, and I was able to leap through the doorway into the darkness on the other side.
As I stood there, peering ahead, and holding aloft a burning stick—which proved, however, a poor substitute for my lantern—a wonderful sound smote my ears. I could not believe it, and my knees shook beneath me. It was the sound of the sea.
Yes! it was no illusion. It was the sound that the sea makes singing and echoing through hollow caves—the sound I heard that night as I stood at the moonlit door of Calypso's cavern, and saw that vision which my heart nearly broke to remember. Calypso! O Calypso! where was she at this moment? Pray God that she was indeed safe, as her father had said. But I had to will her from my mind, to keep from going mad.
And my poor torch had gone out, having, however, given me light enough to see that the door which I had just burnt through let out on to a narrow platform on the side of a rock that went slanting down into a chasm of blackness, through which, as in a great shell, boomed that murmuring of the sea. It had a perilous ugly look, and it was plain that it would be foolhardy to attempt it at the moment without a light; and my fire was dying down. Besides, I was beginning to feel lightheaded and worn out, partly from lack of food, no doubt.
As there was no food to be had, I recalled the old French proverb, "He eats who sleeps"—or something to that effect—and I determined to husband my strength once more with a brief rest. However, as I turned to throw some more wood on my fire—preparing to indulge myself with a little camp-fire cheerfulness as I dozed off—my eyes fell once more on that grim line of locked doors; and my curiosity, and an idea, made me wakeful again. I had burned down one door—why not another? Why not, indeed?
So I raked over my fire to the family vault nearest to me, and presently had it roaring and licking against the stout door. It was, apparently, not so solid as the gallery door had been. At all events, it kindled more easily, and it was not long before I had the satisfaction of battering that down too.
As I did so, I caught sight of something in the interior that made me laugh aloud and behave generally like a madman. Of course, I didn't believe my eyes—but they persisted in declaring, nevertheless, that there in front of me was a great iron-bound oaken chest, to begin with. It might not, of course, contain anything but bones—but it might—! The thing was too absurd. I must have fallen asleep—must be already dreaming! But no! I was labouring with all my strength to open it with one of those rusty cutlasses. It was a tough job, but my strength was as the strength of ten, for the old treasure-hunting lust was upon me, and I had forgotten everything else in the world.
At last, with a great wooden groan, as though its heart were breaking at having to give up its secret at last, it crashed open. I fell on my knees as though I had been struck by lightning, for it was literally brimming over with silver and gold pieces—doubloons and pieces of eight; English and French coins, too—guineas and louis d'or: "all"—as Tobias's manuscript had said—"all good money."
For a while I knelt over it, dazed and blinded, lost; then I slowly plunged my hands into it, and let the pieces pour and pour through them, literally bathing them in gold and silver, as I had read of misers doing.
Meanwhile, I talked insanely to myself, made all sorts of inarticulate noises, sang shreds of old songs. Rising at length, I capered up and down the gallery, talking aloud to the "King" as though he had been there, and anon breaking out again into absurd song, roaring it out at the top of my voice, laughing and war-whooping between:
"There was chest on chest of Spanish gold, With a ton of plate in the middle hold, And the cabin's riot of loot untold."
Then suddenly I broke out into an Irish jig—never having had any notion of doing such a thing before.
In fact I behaved as I have read of men doing, whom a sudden fortune has bereft of reason. For the time, at all events, I was a gibbering madman. Certainly, there was to be no sleep for me that night! But, in the full tide of my frenzy, I suddenly noticed something that brought me up sharp. Out beyond the doorway it was growing light. It was only a dim tremulous suffusion of it, indeed, but it was real daylight—oozing in from somewhere or other—the blessed, blessed, daylight! God be praised!
In Which I Understand the Feelings of a Ghost!
So, I surmised, I had been underground a whole day and two nights, and this was the morning of the second day after Calypso's disappearance. What had been happening to her all this time! My flesh crept at the thought, and, with that daylight stealing in like a living presence, and the sound and breath of the sea, my anguish returned a hundredfold. It was like coming to, after an anaesthetic, for I realised that, actively as I had been occupied in trying to escape, I had been, all the time, under a curious numbing spell. Just as my ears had seemed muffled with a silence that was more than the stillest silence above ground; silence that was itself a captive, airless and gasping, so to say, with the awful pressure of all that oblivious earth above and around; a silence that made me realise with a dreadful reality what had been a mere phrase before, "the silence of the grave"; silence literally buried alive, with eyes fixed in a trance of horror; just in the same way, all my feelings of mind and heart, memory and emotion, had likewise been deadened, as with some heavy narcotic of indifference, so that I felt and yet did not feel—remembered and yet did not remember.
The events of a few hours before, and the dearly loved friends taking part in them, seemed infinitely remote, for all their clearness, as when we see a figure waving to us from a distance, and know that it is calling to us, but yet we cannot hear a word. Even so one lies back in the grip of a deadly sickness, and all that formerly had been so important and moving seems like a picture, definite yet remote, in which one has no part any more.
I think one would die soon and easily underground, as creatures in a vacuum, for the will to live has so little to nourish itself on. One's whole nature falls into a catalepsy; all one's faculties seem asleep, save the animal impulse to escape—an impulse that would soon grow weary too. So, it seemed to me, as I saw a little light and drew the breath of the living world once more, that even my love for Calypso had, so to say, been in a state of suspended animation during an entombment which was heavy with the poppy of the grave, and made me understand why the dead forget us so soon.
But now, as I stood on the little rocky platform outside the door through which I had burned my way, and looked down into the glimmering chasm beneath, and heard the fresh voice of the sea huskily rumbling and reverberating about hidden grottoes and channels, all that Calypso was to me came back with the keenness of a sword through my heart. Ah! there was my treasure—as I had known when my eyes first beheld her—compared with which that gold and silver in there, whose gleam had made me momentarily distraught, was but so much dust and ashes. Ardently as I had sought it, what was it compared to one glance of her eyes? What if, in the same hour, I had lost my true treasure, and found the false? At the thought, that glittering heap became abhorrent to me, and, without looking back, I sought for some way by which I could descend.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I saw that there were some shallow steps cut diagonally in the rock, and down these I had soon made my way, to find myself in a roomy corridor, so much like that in which I had seen Calypso standing in the moonlight, that, for a moment, I dreamed it was the same, and started to run down it, thinking, indeed, that my troubles were over—that in another moment I would emerge through that enchanted door and face the sea. The more so, as the sand was wet under my feet, showing that the tide had but recently left it.
But alas! instead of a broad shining doorway, and open arms of freedom widespread for me to leap into, I came at last to a mere long narrow slit—through which I could gaze as a man gazes through a prison window at the sky.
The entrance had once been wide and free, but a mass of rock had fallen from above and blocked it up, leaving only a long crack through which the tides passed to and fro.
I was still in my trap; it seemed more terrible than ever, now that I could see freedom so close and shining, her very robe rustling within a few feet of me, her very voice calling to me, singing the morning song of the sea. But in the caverns behind me, I heard another mocking song, and I felt a cold breath on my cheek, for Death stood by my side a-grin.
"The treasure!" he whispered, "I need you to guard that. The treasure you have risked all to win—the treasure for which you have lost—your treasure! You cannot escape. Go back and count your gold. 'It is all good money'! Ha! ha! 'it is all good money'!"
The illusion seemed so real to me that I cried aloud: "I will not die! I will not die!"—cried it so loud, that any one in a passing boat might have heard me, and shuddered, wondering what poor ghost it was wailing among the rocks.
But the fright had done me good, and I nerved myself for another effort. I examined the long crevice through which the sea was glittering so near. It was not so narrow as at first it had seemed, and I reckoned that it was some twenty feet through. On my side, it was a little over a foot across. Wouldn't it be possible to wedge myself through? I tried it at the opening, and found, that, with my arms extended sidewise, it was comparatively easy to enter it, though it was something of a tight fit. If it only kept the same width all through, I ought to be able to manage it, inch by inch, if it took all day. But, did it? On the contrary, it seemed to me that it narrowed slightly toward the middle, and—judging by the way the light fell on the other side—that it widened out again farther on.
If only I could wriggle past that contraction in the middle, I should be safe. And if I stuck fast midway! But the more I measured the width with my eye, the less the narrowing seemed to be. To be so slightly perceptible, it could hardly be enough to make much difference. Caution whispered that it might be enough to make the difference between life and death. But already my choice of those two august alternatives was so limited as hardly to be called a choice. On the one hand, I could worm my way back through the caves and tunnels through which I had passed, and try my luck again at the other end.
"With half-a-dozen matches!" sneered a voice that sounded like Tobias's—"Precisely" ... and the horror of it was more than I dared face again any way. So there was nothing for it but this aperture, hardly wider than one of those deep stone slits that stood for windows in a Norman castle. It was my last chance, and I meant to take it like a man.
I stood for a moment nerving myself and taking deep breaths, as though I expected to take but few more. Then, my left arm extended, I entered sidewise, and began to edge myself along. It was easy enough for a yard or two, after which it was plain that it was beginning to narrow. Very slightly indeed, but still a little. However, I could still go on, and—I could still go back. I went on—more slowly it is true, yet still I progressed. But the rock was perceptibly closer to me. I had to struggle harder. It was beginning to hug me—very gently—but it was beginning.
I paused to take breath. I could not turn my head to look back, but I judged that I had come over a third of the way. I was coming up to the waist that I had feared, but I could still go on—very slowly, scarce more than an inch at every effort; yet every inch counted, and I had lots of time. My feet and head were free—which was the main thing. Another good push or two, and I should be at the waist—should know my fate.
I gave the good push or two, and suddenly the arms of the rock were around me. Tight and close, this time, they hugged me. They held me fast, like a rude lover, and would not let me go. My knees and feet were fast, and the walls on each side pressed my cheeks. My head too was fast. I could not move an inch forward—and it was too late to go back!
Panic swept over me. I felt that my hair must be turning white. Presently I ceased to struggle. But the rocks held me in their giant embrace. There was no need for me to do anything. I could go on resting there—it was very comfortable—till—
And then I felt something touching my feet, running away and then touching them again. O God! It was the incoming tide! It would—And then I prepared myself to die. I suppose I was lightheaded, with the strain and the lack of food, for, after the first panic, I found myself dreamily, almost luxuriously, making pictures of how brave men had died in the past—brave women too. I fancied myself in one and another situation. But the picture that persisted was that of the Conciergerie during the French Revolution. I was a noble, talking gaily to beautiful ladies also under the shadow of death, and, right in the middle of a jest, a gloomy fellow had just come in—to lead me to the guillotine. The door was opening, and I kissed my hand in farewell—
Then the picture vanished, as I felt the swish of the tide round my ankles. It would soon be up to my knees—
It was up to my knees—it was creeping past them—and it was making that hollow song in the caves behind me that had seemed so kind to me that very morning, the song it had made to Calypso ... that far-off night under the moon.
I turned my eyes over the sea—I could move them, at all events; how gloriously it was shining out there! And here was I, helpless, with arms extended, as one crucified. I closed my eyes in anguish, and let my body relax; perhaps I dozed, or perhaps I fainted—but, suddenly, what was that that had aroused me, summoned me back to life? It seemed a short, sharp sound—then another, and then another—surely it was the sound of firing! I opened my eyes and looked out to sea, and then I gave a great cry: