"By Heavens, Pearse, I had forgotten these chests," said Venner uneasily. Pearse regarded him closely, fearing that Dolores's spell was yet powerful. He gripped Venner tightly by the arm, leaned nearer, and said:
"Venner, so long as that blood-polluted treasure is on your deck, so long will you be unable to settle your mind. Bid the hands pitch it into the sea, for God's sake!"
A lull in the wind slowed the schooner down, and Dolores gained a fathom. Her fair face was set toward them in a bewitching smile, and she waved a gleaming arm at them. Venner fought with himself in silence for a brief while, then with a shudder stepped to the wheel.
"Get the hands, Peters," he told the sailing-master, "and heave those chests overboard. Quickly! You shall lose nothing by this, but don't delay a moment!"
STUMPY FIRES THE MAGAZINE.
Milo and his slaves worked frenziedly at their task, his suddenly bitter spirit flogging them to unremitting haste. In the giant's troubled face the smoldering spark of resentment had grown to an incipient blaze that required but a breath to burst into angry flame.
One great chest was filled with the choicest of the gems in the powder store; it was set aside in the entrance beside the tapestry, and another box was opened before the powder-kegs. Little Pascherette had ceased moaning, but from time to time a choking sob sounded from her alcove that increased the hard brilliancy of the light in Milo's eyes. The great chamber was silent as a mausoleum in the intervals between the clashing and tinkling of gold and stones in the chest; from the outside, by way of the rock tunnel, came only the sigh and murmur of the crooning breeze, the softened plash of the tide on the shore, the scream of wheeling seabirds. All sound of the schooner had departed; there was no human note in the whole region.
Then, as the second chest was almost full, and Milo pulled the third and last along in readiness, from the secret gallery behind the Grove came the shouts and oaths of men, weary, footsore men, but men with animal appetites whetted by the day of bloody conflict. They could be heard at the great door in the painting of the "Sleeping Venus"; not knowing its secret their way was barred. But Stumpy's hoarse roar could be heard calling them back to the ledge, and there was a note of menace in his tired tones. And mingling with his voice was the voice of a woman of the camp, raised in shrill complaint. Milo stepped to the picture and listened.
"I tell ye the fiend has tricked ye, Stumpy!" the woman cried.
"Tricked me? Have a care how ye talk that way, woman!" Stumpy's voice replied warningly.
"Aye, tricked ye and me and all of us! Even now—come to the cliff, and I'll show ye."
The scrambling of heavy feet could be heard in the gallery as men rushed out in answer. How many men Milo could not determine; but fewer than had followed Stumpy into the forest in chase of their broken foes. The slaves at the treasure-chests paused in their work, alarm on their shining faces, looking ever toward Milo for instructions.
Milo ran back through the great chamber and out by the tunnel to the cliff, peering around for Stumpy and hoping to see the schooner putting back.
Without Dolores he was at a loss; yet he was not ready to leave his charge to be gazed upon by untried eyes. His breast swelled nigh to bursting at sight of the schooner. The Feu Follette was but half a mile away in a straight line from the cliff; she had been tacking against a light breeze and flood tide around the Point, and while she had sailed several miles through the water, she had but just gained past the face of the cliff. And far from returning, she sailed farther and farther away as he watched, nursed with such skill of sheet and helm as proved to Milo's seamanly eye that her people would never return of their free will. And what of Dolores? His condor's vision picked her out as soon as the schooner. Her gleaming arms and shoulders swept rhythmically over and over, cleaving the sea easily and smoothly, her lustrous hair streaming behind her, and the sun glinting brightly from the gold circlet around her head. She was gaining foot by foot, and Milo keenly scrutinized the schooner for signs of surrender. There were none. At the schooner's rail three heads were visible; but Milo knew neither belonged to Venner nor Pearse. That persuaded him that the schooner was unlikely to come back. And the even, tireless manner in which Dolores swam convinced him that she would follow to the end. Yet he would not utterly believe she had deserted him. He glared around for the men whose voices he heard now, raised in anger in chorus with the voices of the woman and her companions. Stumpy stepped out from the grove path with but four men behind him; and they were in sore plight. Stumpy himself dangled an idly swinging sleeve that was stained dark-red to the shoulder. A red sear across his nose and cheek rendered him a demoniacal figure through the powder, smoke and sweat. And his mates were tattered and cut, their shirts bore red splashes to a man; their grimed faces and fiery eyes held the passions of blooded men who see their reward flying from them.
"I tell ye she's gone for good!" cried the woman who had brought the news to Stumpy. "See, she's almost there, and three chests of treasure have gone in that vessel! Her swimming after it is but a part of her cuteness. Now d'ye believe, fools!"
The crippled, battle-scarred pirate glared to seaward with red-rimmed eyes in which flames of revenge started into life. His twisted, warped life had been spent in fighting and trickery; to-day his work had culminated in a brave stand for what he thought to be straight and right; reward he expected, but he had earned it with blood and sweat, hoping at the last that some of his earlier transgressions might be atoned for in his loyalty to his mistress.
He hurled aside the persistent women, who sought some reassuring word from him, and mouthing rather than speaking a call to his men to follow, he plunged again into the grove path and stumbled toward the ledge entrance. Here he clambered painfully to the gallery, cursing to himself bitterly, never looking back to see if his men followed, intent only upon one absorbing thing. Revenge was beyond him, since there were left no subjects for his revenge. He had never seen the great stone at the chamber portals left rolled aside; could not even now imagine such a situation. No, if Dolores were gone in truth, and with her the strangers and the treasure, then it was certain, he thought, that the great chamber was sealed forever. And he would see into its mysteries, even though they proved barren now. He knew the way; Dolores had shown him.
Feverishly hunting for a flint, he tore some threads from his shirt and frayed them into tow. Then with his cutlas he struck a spark and ignited his threads, carefully nursing the tiny flame until he could find a dry stick. This lasted him until a pine torch was found, and then he crawled along the gallery in search of the powder train. That, he knew, for she had told him, would burst the rock asunder anyhow; and that would be enough, for he had guessed shrewdly that the gallery was connected with the great chamber by some secret egress.
And who knew? Might not Dolores have taken in her haste but part of her vast store? Stumpy knew as well as Red Jabez the tremendous wealth that had been deposited in that chamber of mysteries; for he had been with the red chief from the beginning; he had seen with his own eyes the riches of a hundred ships taken in there, and never a thing come out.
"She can't have bagged the lot," he muttered, fanning his torch into a red flare. "But she'll pay for deserting Stumpy, or Stumpy's a liar!"
He found the powder train, and the moisture had dried from it, leaving only a little line of dry, quick-igniting powder. He was not sure just where the magazine was; not sure how long the train would burn before the explosion. So down he clambered again, searching at the great altar for the water-vessels he knew should be there. Then, with a jar of water, he returned to his train, and swiftly swept up the dry powder and moistened it a little, making a rough slow match of it.
"Now we'll see the sights!" he growled, and went to the end of the gallery and flung his torch into the train.
He watched it for a moment, to be sure that it would burn, then stepped down from the ledge and drew back a safe distance to watch the upheaval. To what extent the mine was intended to destroy he had no idea. He simply knew that Dolores had pointed it out to him as a means of defense should the gallery be carried in the attack. He supposed, therefore, that it would shatter the gallery. Doing that, it must surely dislodge or loosen rock enough for him to break into the great chamber with aid.
The thought recalled his men to his mind, and he saw for the first time that they had not followed him. He started down the path toward the camp, shouting to them by name, eager to give them an inkling of the treat in store. But his hail was answered by another, and down the path a woman appeared running, her hair flying, and tremendous excitement in every line of her face.
"Stumpy! Stumpy!" she sobbed and cried in hysterical intoxication. "Oh, Stumpy, the great chamber is open, and it's full of gold and treasure!"
MILO CROSSES THE BAR.
Milo watched Stumpy disappear down the grove path, and heard him call to his men to follow. Then he regarded the receding yacht intently for a moment, and the last vestige of noble devotion went from his face and gave place to a great and absorbing bitterness. In that instant, the foundations, pillars, and capitals of his soul shook and tottered; his universe changed from a thing of golden beauty and heavenly splendor to a shameful mockery of truth and faith.
In that moment his thoughts flew back to little Pascherette, and his great heart yearned toward her. False she had proved, but to what? To whom? He asked himself these things as he slowly walked back along the tunnel, not yet knowing what he would do. He answered his own question. Pascherette had proven false to falsity; she had schemed against the schemer; and, in the other tray of the balance she had done these things for love of him, out of a deep and all-powerful ambition to place him, Milo the slave, in the high place of the wanton ingrate who had deserted her people. And the thought hurt him now; he had not yet yielded her the kiss she craved. Even now the little gold-tinted one might be cold in death, denied that small consolation because of his obstinate heart.
He ran along the tunnel and burst through the great chamber, cursing the idle slaves into silence when they cried their helpless queries at him. And straight to Pascherette he sped, to fling himself down by her side and seize her tiny, moist hand in frantic appeal.
"Pascherette!" he whispered with a dry sob. "Little golden one, speak to thy Milo. Speak, and forgive!"
The octoroon gave no sign of life, and the giant dropped her hand and gently raised her pallid face. His lips sought hers in a passionate kiss, long and yearning; and slowly her eyelids fluttered and opened. The dark eyes were misty, yet that longed-for kiss had brought back her fleeting spirit to recognize her man. She closed her tired eyes again, with a little sign, and the small, pale lips formed the words: "I am content, Milo, my god."
The giant bowed his head over her silent face, and his black eyes searched for a returning flicker of vitality. It was gone forever. Pascherette was dead; and Milo laid her head down gently, and drew back to stare at her with growing rebellion and horror. What gods could there be to use him thus? He leaped to his feet with arms flung upward.
"Hah, gods of earth and sea, witness Milo's penitence!" he said hoarsely. "To Dolores I have given the worship that belonged to ye and ye have taken terrible atonement. Pity me!"
He paced the small alcove nervously, seeking light where no light was. Then the harsh shouts of Stumpy's men resounded through the chamber, and he stepped outside in alarm. For it was not yet possible for him to discard the usage of years which forbade intrusion in that secret place. He saw Stumpy's four men standing open-mouthed in the doorway beneath the yellow lantern, gazing ludicrously at the magnificence of the furnishings. The slaves at the powder store stood where he had left them, idle and aimless, but with an open chest at their feet. This now attracted the pirates' attention, and with a stamp and a shout they roared through the great chamber, their faces awork with newly aroused avarice.
Just for one second Milo pondered staying them. But his soul had soured; he uttered a grunt of scornful disgust, and waved a hand at them, muttering:
"Revel, ye dogs! Plunge thy hands deep. 'Tis all thine, and the fiend's blessing go with it!"
He returned to his dead Pascherette and knelt beside her, patting her cold hands and speaking to her softly and tenderly. Out in the chamber the pirates had hurled aside the slaves, and, flinging open the chests, were glaring with wolfish eyes and dripping jaws at the bewildering mass of treasure revealed.
Their noise irritated Milo. He went out again to stop them. And he saw a pirate snatch up a glittering tiara and place it on his head with a roaring oath. He saw another snatch the bauble off; and in a breath the pirates were at each other's throats; cutlases flashed and a savage fight began at the moment the women stole in to see the mysterious place, and one of their number ran to bring Stumpy.
The giant glowered at the snarling men as at some repulsive beasts, horrified that they should thus desecrate the quiet of his Pascherette's death-bed. He was not the Milo of old now. His memory had flown back through the years to the time when he was a youth of position and great promise in his own land; when, instead of being the cast-off servant of a beautiful ingrate, he numbered his own servants by hundreds. And a great dignity stole into his ennobled face. He softly picked up the dead girl, and advanced toward the rock tunnel.
Stumpy met him at the door, and the crippled pirate's eyes burned with the newborn lust of loot. Stumpy made as if to stay the giant with questions; but he saw the snarling fight at the end of the chamber and caught the glitter of jewels. With the stumbling speed of a charging, wounded bull, he rushed in to join battle.
Running women brushed against Milo in the passage; all the camp's living people had caught the fever. The giant strode on, until he stood in the rugged rock portals and gazed once more over the sea. The schooner had moved but slightly since he last looked at her; he could see Dolores's head still advancing, and very near to the vessel now. The breeze had lulled, perhaps preceding a shift of wind; and the visible people on the deck of the Feu Follette appeared to be running back and forth in indecision.
At Milo's right hand the great rock sat on its ledge, ready to fall at a touch, and his brooding eyes flashed to it with terrible meaning. Inside, the great chamber resounded with the clash of steel, the shouts of furious human beasts, and the shrill cries of women urging them on; for there must be victors, even to such a sordid fight, and to the victors, spoils. Where victors and spoils are, there harpy women await them.
Milo gazed long and passionately into the face of his dead; then he laid her softly down outside the rock and arose with a fierce light irradiating his face.
"Dogs, who would thus break the sleep of my beloved, I give ye good for evil!" he muttered. "Treasure ye crave: treasure I give ye, and none may take it from ye!"
He turned, put his hand upon the great rock and started it from its bed. And as he moved the mass, the mountain rocked and crashed with the thunder of the bursting powder-magazine.
Down came the great rock, pinning Milo beneath it, threatening in its final fall to crush him and the body of his love. His great arms shot out and up, every muscle on his colossal frame stood out like ropes, his back cracked with the tremendous strain. He stiffened his knees, bit into his lip until the blood gushed; and a groan burst from his breast as he felt his stout knees stagger.
His bulging eyes glared ahead over the sea; into the air flew a thousand fragments of shattered rock; they fell and thrashed the sea into foam a mile from shore. Rocks fell upon his already overwhelming burden; his knees bent, and the blood trickled from his nostrils. And with his fast ebbing breath he breathed his valedictory, fixing his stony eyes upon Pascherette as upon his deity.
"Gods of my fathers, receive my spirit into thy halls. Let thy swift justice overtake the cause of this upheaval; and receive with my spirit the spirit of the one who loved me." He fell to one knee, and a great sob shook him. The rock was falling in a shower about him; it rang and crashed on the gigantic stone that was crushing him. He bent his gaze in anguish afresh on the dead girl, now almost buried under stone and earth, and murmured: "Pascherette, I come! I see beyond the blue ocean and the golden horizon the throne of my gods. Come, golden one, let us go. There will our faithfulness meet just reward!"
He pitched forward upon the dead girl, and the great rock crashed down, building them a tomb grand as the eternal hills.
THE TOLL OF THE GODS.
Venner's order to heave the treasure-chests overboard was not given without a pang of regret. It was scarcely obeyed without threats; for the sailing master had been bitten by the treasure fever before his owner and guest came on board. Had they not appeared when they did, the schooner had gone without them, and Peters had already seen a golden vista ahead of him. He hesitated now, and Venner left the wheel vacant to urge him.
"Over with it, I say! At once! Here, Pearse, lend a hand here, man, before that witch's great eyes mesmerize us again. See, she smiles yet, and comes nearer."
Reluctantly the seamen raised one iron-bound chest to the rail and poised it there. From the water astern rang Dolores's throaty laugh, even and full breathing, as if she had not swam a fraction of the half-mile she had covered.
"Foolish Rupert!" she cried, never relaxing her stroke. "Why waste the fruits of thy pains? Hast looked inside then? Nay, take me on board, and let us look together. Thou wilt not see Dolores drown, I swear. Then look once more into my eyes, my Rupert!"
She laughed again mockingly, alluringly, and Pearse turned away with a shudder, not daring to cast a glance in the direction of Venner.
"Throw the stuff over, I say!" cried Venner hoarsely, and gave the chest a push that sent it into the rippling sea with a thunderous splash. And again that mocking laugh rang out astern; it was nearer, and Dolores's beautiful face was turned up to them with triumph in every feature. She had seen the struggle going on in her two intended victims; if she could but gain to within whispering distance of either of them, surely she would never let them escape her.
"Come, take me on board, my Rupert. I have a secret to tell thee, but thee alone!" she cried, and spurted swiftly, gaining abreast of the main-chains.
But the eyes of Venner and Pearse were fixed in astonishment upon the tall cliff they had left; their eyes stared amazedly, and they stood like statues, hearing none of her seductive words.
"What do ye see?" she demanded, frowning up at them.
A score of sharp splashes in the water around the schooner startled her. She suspected they were hurling missiles at her, and one struck her arm. She turned swiftly and her face darkened with fury. Then more small objects fell about her, and one struck her arm. She turned swiftly on her side to seek the source, and in her ears boomed the tremendous crash of Stumpy's explosion, rolling far over the sea, reverberating from the shores and making the air quiver like a solid thing.
A great mass of rock hurtled overhead, missed the schooner by scant feet, and Venner shouted in horror:
"Throw her a line, Pearse! Here, quickly, before she is crushed by such a rock as that one!"
The sea was shattered into foam for fathoms around, and every face on the Feu Follette stared over the rail in helpless astonishment. But on the face of Dolores glowed a smile of triumph. She feared nothing of earth or heaven; among the flying rocks she swam on toward the schooner, smiling up at them, waiting for the rope that meant victory to her.
And in the brief space before the rope hurtled out, down from the heavens plunged a high-flung piece of granite fair upon Dolores. She seemed to sense its shadow, and in the moment it struck her she half sank, breaking its force. But it followed her down. The mass struck between her gleaming shoulders, and she flung up her arms in despair, turning over and over with the impact, then floating unconscious close by the side of the white schooner that had been her goal.
"God! Get her aboard!" gasped Pearse. "She's done for. Yet we cannot leave her there for the sharks, like a beast!"
Venner and Peters were already trying with boat-hooks to catch Dolores's tunic. Pearse threw a line over the girl and drew her nearer and the hooks took hold. They drew her up the side with a care that amounted to reverence, for in her unconsciousness she was more beautiful than ever, her fine features molded in dead white, traced with fine blue veins; the grace of her form was that of a lovely sculpture now, lacking vitality, but possessing every line of perfection. The blow that had overtaken her had failed in its terrible threat to crush her.
"Lay her in the companionway on the lounge," said Venner. He ran to the saloon and brought up wine. He bathed her temples and wrists with the liquor, and forced some between her blue lips. And Pearse chafed her hands and patted them, gazing down at her in silent awe.
"Venner," he whispered, when her eyes refused to open, "we must let this settle the score against her. It's a terrible end for such a creature."
"For my part, Pearse, I would give all I have just to see those great violet eyes laugh at me again; to hear that mocking laugh from her maddening lips. God, will she never awake?"
Astern of the schooner the sun was slowly descending to the western sea-rim, and as the course was resumed after picking up Dolores, the Point and the cliff gradually drew out across the path of the sun, until the outlines of the rock and trees stood out black and sharp. On the cliff-top a heavy pall of greasy smoke hung low about the shattered pirates' camp; from fissures high up the frowning side spirals of smoke testified to the wide-spread destruction that followed the blast.
They looked at the terrific devastation, and again at its nearer victim. And as they gazed down at her, Dolores's lips trembled in a faint smile, her great eyes opened wide, looking directly and fearlessly back at them.
"I thank ye, my friends; I knew you would take me," she whispered, and the two men turned away with a shudder. As she had lived, Dolores was now meeting her inevitable end, bold and indomitable.
"Where are you hurt?" inquired Venner lamely. "Let me do something to ease you."
"Ease?" she laughed as of old, but her teeth clenched upon her lower lip immediately, with the pain it caused. "I shall ask ye to ease me presently, good friends. Grim Death has me by the throat already. But carry me outside. I am stifling in here. Let me see the ocean and the sky at least in my passage. And I have something to tell ye also."
On the gratings around the stern, abaft the wheel, they laid her on soft cushions. She drank greedily of the wine and water they offered her; she quivered with eagerness to unburden her mind before her thirst was quenched forever. She motioned them, to bend over her, and began to speak in, husky whispers.
"That chest, thou cast it overboard. Dost know what was in it?"
Both shook their heads. None had seen inside the chests after they came from the great chamber.
"I'll tell ye, then, for the peace of your souls and the tranquillity of your voyage. Lest thy men be seized with a desire for treasure that shall work ye mischief, have them open the other two chests. Quickly, for I am faint."
Venner went to the chests himself and flung back the lids, which were bolted on the outside and not locked. He stared for a moment, unbelievingly, then nodded to Pearse. Pearse stared, too, in amazement, and one after the other the sailors were called to see. They saw two great strong-boxes filled to the brim with iron chains, broken cutlases, rusty bilboes, and rock; a fool's treasure in truth.
"'Twas a trick to set my rascals at odds," Dolores told them when they returned to her. "To thee, Pearse, I showed my treasure, and I fear that blast has buried it beneath a mountain. Milo was to take it out. I cannot believe it can have been taken away ere that powder blew it to fragments. It was still in the powder store."
"Yes, I know," said Pearse quietly. "It was that which precipitated the fight between us three that killed poor Tomlin."
"Well, if thou still art hungry for treasure, my friends, there is my store buried where thou knowest, and I shrewdly fear but few of my people are left. But I am slipping. Stand aside, that I may close my eyes on the place I called home."
Dolores ceased speaking and lay, scarcely stirred by her faint respiration, gazing over the schooner's stern at the sinking sun. The golden disk was turning to red and across its darkened face the cliff and Point stood out in sharp silhouette, which grew larger as the great glowing sun was distorted and enlarged by the refraction near the horizon. The breeze had changed, and now blew with gentle strength out of the west, a fair wind for their homeward course, and the strands of Dolores's glorious hair blew about her face like tendrils about an orchid of unearthly beauty.
Presently she stirred again, and now she summoned all her remaining vitality to raise herself on an elbow. Pearse and Venner leaned closer, sensing the end in the tremendous brilliancy of her wide, dry eyes.
She spoke softly, yet with a thrilling note of yearning that choked her hearers with harsh sobs.
"Father, I come," she whispered. "If I have failed in obeying thy commands, I ask forgiveness, for I am but a woman. A woman with instincts and yearnings, born of the mother I never knew. Thy very treasures that were to appease me put the yearning more strongly in my brain. Thy teachings showed me a world of beasts and savagery; thy treasures gave me dreams of a world peopled by such as I would be. My mother's blood forced me to seek this other, better world; thy blood forced me to seek it wrongfully."
She paused, and gathered her fleeting breath.
Then, sitting suddenly upright, she flung both arms out to the setting sun now lipping the sea, and cried:
"Gods I know not. Yet must there be such, else had I never known the devotion of a Milo! Wherever ye be, brave Milo, living or dead, commend me to thy own gods and forgive me for my ingratitude." She seized Venner and Pearse by the arms as she fell back, and whispered: "In pity, friends, set my feet toward the west, and launch my poor body down the sun path as it sinks into the blue Caribbean that was my only home."
She relaxed with a little shivering sigh, the glorious eyes closed with a tired tremor, and the spirit of Dolores the beautiful, the wicked, the tempestuous, winged its way down the mysterious paths of the dark unknown.
"Come," said Venner, suddenly shaking off his abstraction, "time is all too short if we are to render her this last small service."
"How shall we do it?" asked Pearse doubtfully.
"We shall send her down her chosen path in a boat. Peters will load the dingey with ballast, while you and I will lay Dolores out as well as we may. Bring me that grating, Pearse. We will speed her in the dress she loved. Her soul would sicken at a suffocating winding sheet. Hurry, for the sun is half gone!"
Swiftly they worked, these men who had cause to remember the departed siren without great love, and they placed her, secured to a grating, across the thwarts of the dingey, to which the grating was in turn secured. Then, all prepared, Peters sprang into the boat, bored a score of auger-holes in the bottom, and as the great red sun set fierce and blazing behind the black profile of the cliff, the filling boat was set adrift, straight down the path of the luminary, bound ever westward, until the sea gods claimed it and its passenger for their own.
"Farewell, place of ill-luck!" cried Pearce, as the schooner bore away before the rising evening breeze. "May I never set my eyes on such evil shores again."
"Then you will not come back to seek the treasure?" asked Venner, with a shadowy flicker of a smile.
"Not for a thousand times the treasure that lies there!" cried Pearse vehemently. "And I have seen it! The horror of this will haunt me until my dying day. I only hope God will look kindly upon that poor woman, that's all."
"I hope so, too," rejoined Venner thoughtfully. "With a white woman's opportunities, what a woman she could have been."
But the gods are inscrutable. Only the warm mantle of the setting sun gave a hint that Dolores might be even now entering into a place of eternal rest, where her sins of ignorance and untutored instincts would not count too heavily against her. The sea is very benign to its elect; a calm sea in the setting sun received Dolores in arms of infinite benignity.
[Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors present in the original edition have been corrected. In Chapter V, "inscrutaable" was changed to "inscrutable"; in Chapter X, "Let me show thee they master" was changed to "Let me show thee thy master"; in Chapter XVII, "could not enchance your worth" was changed to "could not enhance your worth"; in Chapter XVIII, "shaking his first at Milo" was changed to "shaking his fist at Milo"; and in Chapter XXI, "protruding a foot for Tomlin's back" was changed to "protruding a foot from Tomlin's back".]
[Transcriber's Note: The following summary originally appeared at the beginning of the serial's second installment.]
PRECEDING CHAPTERS BRIEFLY RETOLD
Within his mysterious stronghold, "The Cave of Terrible Things," on the Maroon coast of Jamaica, washed by the waters of the Caribbean Sea, Red Jabez, Sultan of Pirates, had just died.
Dolores, his daughter, "a splendidly lithe, glowing creature of beauty and passion," "a royal woman conscious of mental and physical perfection," succeeded her father as tyrant over the motley crew of Spaniard and Briton, Creole and mulatto, Carib and octoroon, and coal-black negroes.
Milo, the giant Abyssinian, who knew no fear and no law save the will of this capricious creature, served Dolores as body-guard and chief.
Pascherette, "a gleaming, gold-tinted creature, a miniature model of Aphrodite," beloved of Milo, was her maid and attendant.
Moved to mutiny by Rufe, the Spaniard, the pirates had risen in revolt to loot the rich treasure of the dead Sultan's cave; but supported by Milo, Dolores had cowed them, no less by her dagger than her threats.
But discontent rode the soul of the Sultana. She longed for other lands, other people. With Milo's aid she determined to capture the first sail that passed her shore, and escape.
When Rupert Venner and his guests, Craik Tomlin and John Pearce, aboard the Venner yacht, Feu Follette, passed that way, they were easily induced to go ashore.
In the midst of a reception accorded them by Dolores, the party beheld Yellow Rufe and a band of mulattoes and blacks making for the schooner, from whose rail shots crackled.
Venner raised a cry of treachery and called, "Come, fellows!" But the woman held him as much by her eyes as by her promise: "I shall preserve thy ship, and give thee back an eye for an eye, if thy men are harmed."
Then she sprang down the cliff like a deer.
[Transcriber's Note: The following summary originally appeared at the beginning of the serial's third installment. The summary at the beginning of the serial's fourth installment, if one was present, was not available when preparing this electronic edition.]
PRECEDING CHAPTERS BRIEFLY RETOLD
On the death of Red Jabez, Dolores, "a glowing creature of beauty and passion," took over her father's rule of the pirates of the Maroon coast of Jamaica.
With the help of her faithful slave, Milo, the Abyssinian giant, she crushed a rising insurrection among her riffraff subjects, whose cupidity had been played upon by Rufe, the Spaniard.
But Dolores was herself the victim of discontent. Loathing her outlaw subjects and the island, she determined to seize the first boat that passed her way, and escape with her jewels and her gold.
When the pleasure yacht, Feu Follette, came that way, she sent Milo and her maid, Pascherette, to decoy Rupert Venner and his guests, Craik Tomlin and John Pearse, to the island.
In the midst of her reception to her captive-guests, she beheld Rufe and a band of insurgent blacks and mulattoes attacking the crew of the schooner, while Sancho, whom she had despatched to care for the vessel while in the harbor, was joining in the attack.
Then she rushed over the cliff and into the water, and boarded the boat, followed by her loyal Milo.
After a long and bloody struggle, the woman's ruse of firing the ship with a keg of powder won the day, and Rufe and Sancho fled into the wilderness, while from the schooner's topmast flew the Sultana's own flag.
Demanding that the traitors, Rufe and Sancho, be rounded up, Dolores threw her three guests into chains, while she accused Pascherette of abetting the treason of Sancho.
Then Dolores turned to Venner with the offer of her love if he would sail away with her, having first despatched his friends. When the man, whose soul was racked with passion for the beautiful black panther, recoiled from her condition, she left him in his chains.
Next she dealt with Sancho, whom Pascherette had lured back to the woman's mercy; and Sancho emerged from Dolores's presence a driveling imbecile.
When Milo beheld at this moment the fleeing form of Yellow Rufe, made distinguishable by vivid lightning, Dolores determined to complete her punishments.
The Spaniard was making good his escape when Milo took up the pursuit in the little sailboat. Dolores and her crew would follow, by the light of his flares, in the schooner.
With the untamed soul of a woman who had never known defeat, Dolores drove her crew and defied the wind and the waves, and the Feu Follette was liberated from the mud and swung to the gale as the cry rang out: "There's the flare—and she's burnin' steady!"