"Sounds reasonable enough. The chief point is that you've found the gold. I'll order a force ashore to help you."
There is something in the very thought of treasure-trove that unsettles the most sane. Not a word was said to anybody except Tom about what I had found, but everybody on board was sure the bullion had been found.
Before the eyes of each man danced shining yellow ingots and pieces of eight. We could tell it by the eagerness with which they volunteered for shore duty.
I chose Yeager, the chief engineer—he was a lank Yankee named Stubbs—and Jamaica Ginger, as we called our second fireman. With us we took ashore a stout box, in which to pack the loose gold.
Those left on board cheered us as we pulled toward the beach, and we answered lustily their cheer. Every man jack of us was in the best of spirits.
By this time it was late in the afternoon, but the sun was still very hot. I was careful not to let anybody work long at a stretch. As the bars of gold were uncovered we packed them in the box brought for the purpose. Every time a shovel disclosed a new find there was fresh jubilation.
While Alderson and I were resting under the shade of a mangrove the sailor made a suggestion.
"You don't expect to get all the treasure out to-night, do you, sir?"
"No. Perhaps not by to-morrow night. It is hard digging among so many roots. And Mr. Bucks does not seem to have put it all together."
"Will you keep a guard here, Mr. Sedgwick?"
"Yes. It looks like a deserted neck of the woods, but we'll take no chances."
"That is what I was thinking, sir. Last night I couldn't sleep for the heat and I strung a hammock on deck. About three o'clock this morning a boat passed on its way to the mouth of the river."
"Cholo Indians, likely."
"No, sir. This was a schooner. It was some distance away, but I could make that out."
"Well, we'll keep this place under our eye till the treasure is lifted."
About sunset I sent Gallagher, Stubbs, and Jamaica Ginger aboard with the box of treasure, the Arizonian being in charge of the boat. While I waited for its return I took a turn up the beach to catch the light breeze that was beginning to stir.
I walked toward the head of the harbor, strolling farther in that direction than any of us had yet gone. I went possibly an eighth of a mile above the spit, carrying my hat in my hand and moving in a leisurely way.
In truth I was at peace with the world. We had succeeded in our quest and found the treasure. In a few days at most I should be back at Panama with my slim sweetheart in my arms. What more could rational man ask?
Then I stopped in my stride, snatched into a sudden amazement. For there before me in the sand was the imprint of a boot made since the tide went out a few hours earlier in the day.
No flat-footed Indian had left the track. It was too sharp, too decisive, had been left plainly by a shoe of superior make.
No guess of the truth came to me, but instinctively I eased the revolver in the scabbard by my side. Of this much I was sure, that whereas I had supposed no white man except those of our party to be within many miles, there was at least one in the immediate vicinity.
What, then, was he doing here? How had he come? Had he any intimation that there was treasure to be found? It was altogether likely that whoever this man was he had not come to this desolate spot without companions and without a very definite purpose.
Where were they, then? And how did it happen we had not seen them? The very secrecy of their presence seemed to suggest a sinister purpose.
Should I go on and follow the tracks. Or should I go back and notify Blythe at once? The latter no doubt would be the wiser course, but my impulse was to push forward and discover something more definite. As luck would have it, the decision was taken out of my hands.
Out of the jungle a man came straight toward me. The very sight of that strong, erect figure moving swiftly with easy stride tied, as it were, a stone to my heart. The man was Boris Bothwell. I was sure of it long before his face was distinguishable.
He waved a hand at me with debonair insouciance.
I waited for him without moving, my fingers on the butt of the revolver at my side.
"So happy to meet you again, dear friend," he jeered as soon as he was within hail.
"What are you doing here? How did you get out?" I demanded.
"My simple-minded youth, money goes a long way among the natives. I bought my way out, since you are curious to know."
"And you've followed us down here to make more trouble?"
"To renew our little private war. How did you guess it?"
"So you haven't had enough yet. You have come back to take another licking."
"It's a long lane that has no turning," he assured me gaily. "I give you my word that I've reached the bend, Mr. Sedgwick."
His confident audacity got on my nerves. On the surface we had all the best of the game. The trouble was that he knew the cards I held, whereas I could only guess at his.
"You are the most unmitigated villain not yet hanged!" I cried in rage.
He bowed, rakish and smiling, with all the airs of a dancing master.
"I fear you flatter me, sir."
"I warn you to keep your hands off. We're ready for you."
"I thought it only fair to warn you. That is why I am here and have the pleasure of talking with you."
"More lies. You showed yourself only because you knew I had seen your footprints."
He gave up the point with an easy laugh.
"But really I did want to talk with you. We have many interests in common. Our taste in women, for instance. By the way, did you leave Evie well?"
Triumph swam in the eyes, narrowed to slits, through which he watched me. I could not understand his derisive confidence.
"We'll not discuss that," I told him bluntly.
"As you say. I come to another common interest—the treasure. Is it running up to our hopes?"
So he knew that we had found it. No doubt he had been watching us all day through the telescope that hung at his side.
"We don't recognize any hopes you may have."
"But why not face facts? I intend to own the treasure when you have dug it up for me."
"You're of a sanguine temperament."
"Poof! Life is a game of cards. First you hold trumps, then they fall to me. It chances that now I hold the whip and ride on the crest of fortune's wave. Hope you don't mind mixed figures."
"You'll ride at the end of the hangman's rope," I prophesied.
"Let us look on the bright side."
"I'm trying to do that."
The man knew something that I did not. I was not bandying repartee with him for pleasure, but because I knew that if he talked long enough he would drop the card hidden up his sleeve.
What was his ace of trumps? How could he afford to sit back and let us dig up the gold? He could not be merely bluffing, for the man had been laughing at me from that first wave of the hand.
"It is unfortunate that you and I don't pull together, Mr. Sedgwick. We'd make an invincible team. You're the best enemy I ever met."
"And you're the worst I've met."
"Same thing, I assure you. We both mean compliments. But what I want to say is that it is against the law of conservation of energy for us to be opposing each other. I propose combination instead of competition."
"Be a little more definite, please."
"Chuck your friends overboard and go into partnership with me."
"Are you speaking literally, or in metaphor, captain?"
"That's a mere detail. If you have compunctions we'll maroon them."
"Just what you promised the crew last time," I scored.
"Wharf rats!" He waved the point aside magnificently. "I'm proposing now a gentleman's agreement."
"Which you'll keep as long as it suits you."
"I thought you knew me better."
"What have you to offer? My friends and I can keep the treasure. Why should I ditch them for you? What's the quid pro quo?"
"You and Evie and I will go shares, third and third alike. The better man of us two will marry her. If it should be you, that will give you two-thirds."
"You're very generous."
"Oh, I intend to marry her if I can. But I'll play fair. If she has the bad taste to prefer you——"
"In the event that I should happen to be alive still," I amended. "You know how dangerous yellow fever is in the Isthmus, captain. I am afraid that it would get me before we reached the canal zone again."
"If you have a fault, my friend, it lies on the side of suspicion. When I give my word I keep it—that is, when I give it to a gentleman."
"I don't want to lead you into the temptation of revising your opinion of me and deciding that I am no gentleman."
"Come, Mr. Sedgwick. We're not two fishwives to split hairs over a trifle. I offer a compromise. Do you accept it?"
"You offer me nothing I haven't got already. A share of the treasure—that will be mine, anyhow, as soon as we have it assayed and weighed."
"You forget Evie."
"Who is safe at Panama, beyond your reach, you scoundrel. Why should I fear you as a rival since your life is forfeit as soon as you show your head?"
He could not have spoken more insolently himself. It was hot shot, but I poured it in for a purpose. The mask fell from his face. One could see the devil in his eyes now.
"You reject my offer," he said, breathing hard to repress his rising passion.
A second man had come out of the jungle and was moving toward us. It was time to be going. I moved back a step or two, my fingers caressing the butt of a revolver.
"Yes, since I don't want to commit suicide, captain."
He suddenly lost his temper completely and hopelessly. He glared at me in a speechless rage, half of a mind to fight our quarrel out on the spot. But the advantage lay with me. All I had to do to blaze away was to tilt the point of my revolver at him without drawing it from the scabbard. Then words came, poured out of him in a torrent. He cursed me in Russian, in French, in English.
I backed from him, step by step, till I was out of range. Then, swiftly as his rage had swept upon him it died away, leaving him white and shaken. He leaned heavily upon the man who had now joined him.
Unless I was much mistaken the man was George Fleming.
ABOARD THE SCHOONER
Dignity be hanged! I scudded down the beach as fast as my legs would carry me. Alderson had been left alone at the cache and my heart was in my throat.
When I saw him strolling about with his hands in his pockets I could have shouted for joy if I had had the breath. For I had half expected to find him dead.
He came forward quickly to meet me.
"A tug rounded the bend five minutes since and stopped at the yacht, Mr. Sedgwick," he told me.
I looked out into the bay. A boat was just leaving the Argos for the shore. At the point where the sailors presently beached it I was waiting. Blythe jumped out and splashed through the shallow water to meet me. From the look on his face it was clear that something had gone wrong.
Taking me by the arm he led me a few yards along the sand.
"Bad news, Jack."
"What is it?"
"Miss Wallace was waylaid and kidnaped four days ago while she and her aunt were driving."
"How do you know?"
"Miss Berry sent Philips down in a tug to let us know. But that is not the worst. The day before the kidnaping Bothwell escaped from prison. It is thought that his guards were bribed."
I saw in a flash the cause of the Slav's gloating triumph. Evelyn was his prisoner. He had her safely hidden somewhere in the mangrove swamps.
We might dig the treasure up, but we would have to give him every cent of it in ransom for her. That was his plan, and in it lay the elements of success. For Blythe and Yeager, no more than I, would weigh gold against her safety.
We knew Bothwell. His civilization was a veneer. Disappointed of the wealth he had come seeking, the man would revenge himself on the girl who had stood in his way. I dared not think of the shame and degradation he would make her suffer.
I told Blythe of my meeting with Bothwell.
My face must have been ashen, for Sam put a hand on my shoulder.
"Keep a stiff upper lip, old chap. Bothwell won't hurt her until he is pushed to it. Before that time comes we'll take care of her."
"That's easy saying. But how? That prince of devils has her back there in the swamps guarded by his ruffians. We don't know where they are. This very minute she may be—— My God, think of the danger she runs!"
Blythe shook his head.
"She's safe till Bothwell gives the word. Not one of his fellows would dare lift a hand against her. The captain would shoot him like a dog."
"And Bothwell himself?"
"She's safe yet, Jack. He's playing for the treasure and to marry her, too. The man is not such a fool as to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The hour of danger for her would be the one when he found out that he had lost the treasure."
"Let's give it to him. I'll go tell him he may have it all."
"Easy, lad, easy. We must play our cards and not throw the hand down. We must get hold of the treasure before we can make terms."
"And let Evelyn stay in his hands without making an effort to free her?" I demanded.
"Did I say that, Jack?"
"What are you going to do, then?"
"As soon as night falls we'll send a boat up the river to find out where his camp is. We'll make a reconnaissance."
"Don't you think somebody less impetuous would be better, Jack? We don't want to spoil things by any premature attack."
"I'm going, Sam. That's all there is to say about that."
"All right. If you are, you are. But you'd better let me."
"You may come along if you like."
"No, if you go I'll have to stay by the ship against a possible attack. Tom will have charge of the party that watches the treasure. The deuce of it is that our force will be divided into three. I hope Bothwell does not take the occasion to make mischief."
Within the hour the tug that had brought Philips steamed back down the harbor on the return trip to Panama. With it we sent Jimmie and the steward. Dugan flatly declined to go, and since his wound was almost healed the captain let him stay.
This left us fourteen men, counting the former mutineers and the native stokers. To go with me on my night expedition I chose Alderson and Smith. The guard for the treasure cache consisted of Yeager, Gallagher, Barbados and Stubbs. The rest were to remain with the ship.
The tide was coming in when we pulled from the Argos toward the mouth of the Tuyra. The wash of the waves made it unnecessary for us to take any precautions to muffle the sound of our oars and the darkness of the night made detection at any distance improbable.
One difficulty we did encounter. For the first few hundred yards of our journey up the river we disturbed some of the numberless birds which had settled for the night on the trees close to the banks. The flapping of their wings gave notice of our approach as plainly as if a herald had shouted it.
We carried no light. The heavy tropical jungle growth on the mud flats which extended on both sides of the river helped to increase the darkness. Our progress was slow, for we had to make sure that we did not slip past without noticing the schooner that had brought the pirates down from Panama.
The sound of voices on the water warned us that we were approaching the boat of which we were in search. Very cautiously, keeping close to the bushes along the shore, we drew near the schooner which began to take dim shape in the darkness.
The tide was still strong, and it carried our boat across the bow of the schooner. The anchor chain was hanging and served to hold us in place, though with each lift of the tide I was afraid those on board would hear us grind against her side. Intermittently the voices came to us, though we could make out no words.
We were in a good deal of danger, for any minute one of the crew might saunter to the side of the vessel and look over. It was plain to me that we could not stay here. Either we must go forward or back.
Now back I would not go without finding whether Evelyn was here, and to try to board the schooner in attack would be sheer madness. My mind caught at a compromise.
I whispered to Alderson directions, and when the jibboom of the schooner came down with the next recession of a wave I swung myself to it by means of the chain, using the stays to brace my foot.
Here I lay for a minute getting my bearings, while the sailors in the boat below backed quietly out of sight among the shore bushes that overhung the banks.
So far as I could see the deck was deserted. Carefully I edged on to the bowsprit, crept along it, and let myself down gently to the deck. I could see now that men were lying asleep at the other end of the vessel.
One was standing with his back toward me beside the mizzen-mast. From his clothes I guessed the watch to be a native.
The voices that had come to us across the water still sounded, but more faintly than before I had come on board. Evidently they were from below.
Probably the speakers were in a cabin with the porthole open. I could not be sure, but it struck me that one of them was a woman. My impression was that she pleaded and that he threatened, for occasionally the heavier voice was raised impatiently.
From its scabbard I drew my revolver and crept forward in the shadow of the bulwarks. My life hung on a hair; so too did that of the watchman drowsing by the mast. If he looked up and turned I was lost, and so was he.
Foot by foot I stole toward the forecastle ladder, reached it, and noiselessly passed down the stairs.
I say noiselessly, yet I could hear my heart beat against my ribs as I descended. For I knew now that the voices which came from behind the closed door of the cabin to my right belonged to my sweetheart and to Boris Bothwell.
"Not I, but you," he was saying. "I'm hanged if I take the responsibility. If you had trusted me we might have lifted the gold without the loss of a drop of blood."
"You are so worthy of trust!" Evelyn's voice answered with bitterness.
"Have you ever known me to break my word? But let that pass. You chose to reject my love and invite that meddler Sedgwick into our affairs. What is the result? What have you gained?"
"A knowledge of the difference between the love of a true man and that of a false one," she answered quietly.
"A true man! Oh, call him a fool and be done with it."
"Perhaps, but I could love such folly."
He seemed to strangle his irritation in his throat.
"A lot of good it will do! You belong to me. That is written in the book of your life, and what is to be will be. And I'll get the treasure, too."
"Never! You call them fools, but they have outwitted you from start to finish."
"They've pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for me, if that is what you mean."
"And as for me, I'm only a girl, but I swear before Heaven I'd rather sink a knife into my heart than give myself to you."
He clapped his hands ironically with a deep laugh like the bay of a wolf.
"Bravo! Well done! You'd make a fortune in tragedy, Evie. But dramatics apart, you may make up your mind to it. I'm your master, and before twenty-four hours shall be your mate. Why else have I brought this broken wretch of a priest along, but to tie the knot in legal fashion? I'm a reasonable man. Since you have a taste for the conventional and decorum you shall have them. But priest or no priest, willy nilly, mine you are and shall be."
"You think everybody is a fool but yourself. Can't I see why you want the marriage? It's not to please me, but through me to give you a legal claim on the treasure."
"Why do you always stir up the devil in me? I love you. I want to please you. I'll treat you right if you'll let me."
"Then send me back to the yacht, Boris. I'll give my word to divide the treasure with you. My friends will do as I say. You don't want to break my heart, do you? Think of all the dreadful murder that has been done by you."
"Not by me, but by you and your friends. I offered to compromise and you would not. Now it is too late. No, by God! I'll play the game out to a fighting finish."
She gave a sobbing little cry.
"Have you no heart?"
His voice fell a note. He moved close to her.
"Cherie, you have stolen it and hold it fast in this little palm I kiss!"
By the sounds from within she must have struggled in vain. I told myself:
"Not yet, not yet!"
"In such fashion my ancestor Bothwell wooed Mary Queen of Scots. Fain she would, but dare not. She knew he was a man and a lover out of ten thousand, and though her heart beat fast for him she was afraid. She fled, and he followed. For he was a lover not to be denied, though a king must die to clear the road. So it is with Boris, my queen."
The catch in her voice told me she breathed fast.
He laughed, with that soft boisterousness that marked his merriment.
"Your mad Irishman is no king, but he has crossed my path enough. Next time he dies."
"Because he has tried to serve me!"
"Because he is in my way. Reason enough for me."
The door knob was in my hand. All I had to do was to open it and shoot the man dead. But what after that? His men would swarm down and murder me before the eyes of my love. And she would be left alone with a pack of wolves which had already tasted blood.
It was the hardest ordeal of my life to keep quiet while the fellow pressed his hateful suit, pushed it with the passionate ardor of the Slav, regardless of her tears, her despair, and her helplessness.
For an hour—to make a guess at the time—she fought with all the weapons a woman has at command, fending him off as best she could with tears and sighs and entreaties.
Then I heard a man stumbling down the ladder and moved aside. If he should turn my way I was a dead man, for he must come plump against me. He knocked on the door of the cabin.
Bothwell opened and whispered with him a moment, then excused himself to his cousin, locked the door, and followed the sailor up to the deck.
I unlocked the door softly and walked into the cabin. By the dim light of a hanging lantern I made out a rough room furnished only with two bunks, one above the other, a deal table, and two cheap chairs.
Evelyn had not heard me enter. She was standing with her back to me, leaning against the woodwork of the bed, her face buried in one arm. Despair and weariness showed in every line of the slight, drooping figure.
She must have heard me as I moved. She turned, the deep shadowy eyes gleaming with fear. Never have I seen the soul's terror more vividly flung to the surface.
I suppose that for a moment she could not believe that it was I, and not Bothwell. Perhaps she thought the ghost of me had come to say farewell to her.
She stared at me out of a face from which the color was gone, the great eyes dilating as the truth came home to her. From her throat broke a startled, stifled little cry.
I took her in my arms and her tired body came to me. The sensitive mouth trembled, the eyes closed, a shiver of relief passed through her. She clung to me as a frightened child does to its mother, burying her soft cheeks on my shoulder.
Then came sobs. The figure of my love rocked. The horror of what she had been through engulfed her as she told me her story in broken words, in convulsive shivers, in silence so poignant that they stabbed my heart like a needle.
It was such a tale as no girl should have to tell, least of all to the man she loves. But I had come in time—I had come in time. The knowledge of that warmed me like champagne.
I whispered love to her as I kissed in a passion of tenderness the golden hair, the convolutions of the pink ears, the shadows beneath the sad, tired eyes.
"Tell me, how did you come?" she begged.
I told her, in the fewest possible words, for it might be that our time was brief. Briefly I outlined a plan for her rescue.
I would send Alderson and Smith back for aid and would hide somewhere in the vessel during their absence, to be ready in case she needed help.
When Blythe arrived I would join her and barricade the cabin to protect her until our friends had won the ship.
"But if he should find you before——"
I said then what any man with the red blood of youth still running strong in his veins would say to the woman he loves when she is in peril. Let it cost me what it would I was going to free her from these wolves.
Her deep eyes, soft with love, aglow with an adorable trust, met mine for a long instant.
"Do as you will, dear. But go now—before any one comes. And—God with us, Jack!"
Her arm slid round my neck, she drew my face down to hers, and kissed me with a passion that I had not known was in her.
"Remember, Jack—if I never see you again—no matter what happens—I love you, dearest, for ever and ever."
She whispered it brokenly, then pushed me from her toward the door.
The last glimpse I had of her she was standing there in the shadows, like a divine incarnation of love, her eyes raining upon me the soft light that is the sweetest glimpse of heaven given to a man in this storm-battered world.
A RAT IN A TRAP
I groped my way forward in the darkness till I came to a room used for storing purposes. Well up near the beams was a porthole. Too high for me to reach, I presently found a large box which I upended cautiously until it lay beneath the port. Standing on this I could look through into the heavy foliage of the bushes projecting from the shore.
Except for the lapping of the waves the night was very still. The moon rode low in the sky. A fan-shaped wedge of light silvered the inky river.
I gave the signal agreed upon between me and my men, but no answering flash of white replied to the wave of my handkerchief. Again I shook the piece of linen from the porthole, and at intervals for fully five minutes.
Did Alderson see me? Or was there a reason why he could not answer? It was impossible they could have been captured without some sound having reached me. Nor was it more likely that they had deserted their post.
The bushes stirred at last and the bow of a boat pushed through. Smith stood up so that his face was just below mine. His finger was on his lips.
"Couldn't come any sooner, sir. Captain Bothwell was leaning over the rail smoking a cigarette. I wonder he didn't see your handkerchief," he whispered.
I gave him orders concisely and the men backed the boat till the bushes hid them. For me there was nothing left to do but wait. How long it might be before Blythe would get back with a rescue party I could not tell. The men in the boat would not dare to stir from their hiding-place until the moon went under a cloud.
The tide must now be at the full, so that it would be running out strong before they got started. This would carry them swiftly back to the bay.
I found myself giving my friends two hours as a minimum before they could return to me. At the worst they should be here within four, unless my messenger met with bad luck.
But what about Bothwell? Would he force my hand before Blythe arrived? I thought it very likely. There is something in the tropical air that calls to the passion of a man, and reduces his sense of law till restraint ebbs away.
In Bothwell's case desire and interest went together. He was a criminal on more than one count, but the charges against him would in a measure fall to the ground if he could drive Evie to marry him.
Once she was his wife the kidnaping charge would not stick, and even his black record on the Argos could be made to appear the chivalry of a high-minded man saving the woman he loved from her enemies.
Moreover, his claim to the treasure would then be a valid one. The man was no fool. What he did must be done quickly. There lay before him one safe road. Since that was the path he desired above all things to follow, it was sure he would set out on it without delay.
Her scruples had hitherto held him back, because it would be better she should come of her own accord to him. But these could not hold him many hours longer.
The masterful insistence of the man had told me that, but no more plainly than his mounting passion.
I sat down on the box and waited. In that dark, stuffy hole the heat was intense. The odor of food decomposing in the moisture of the tropics did not add to my comfort.
Sitting in cushioned chairs in club rooms with a surfeit of comfort within reach, men have argued in my presence that there is no such thing as luck. Men win because of merit; they fail only if there is some lack in themselves.
This is a pleasant gospel for those who have found success, but it does not happen to be true. Take my own case here. How could I foresee that a barefooted, half-naked black cook would come into the storeroom to get a pan of rice for next day's dinner?
Or, as I lay crouched beside a box in the shadows beyond the dim circle illumined by his candle, how could I know whether it were best to announce myself or lie still?
I submit that the part of wisdom was to let the fellow go in peace, and this I did.
But as he turned the light for an instant swept across me. He gave a shriek and flung away both the candle and the pan of rice, bolting for the door. I called to him to stop. For answer he slammed the door—and locked it. Nor did my calls stay the slap of his retreating feet. I was caught fast as a rat in a trap.
I certainly had spilt the fat into the fire this time. Inside of five minutes the passage outside was full of men. But during that time I had been an active Irishman. In front of me and around me I had piled a barrier of boxes and barrels.
"Who's in there?" Bothwell called.
I fired through the door. Some one groaned. There was a sudden scurry of retreating footsteps, followed by whisperings at the end of the passage. These became imperative, rose and fell abruptly, so that I judged there was a division of counsel.
Presently Bothwell raised his voice and spoke again.
"We've got you, whoever you are. My friend, you'll have a sick time of it if you don't surrender without any more trouble. Do you hear me?"
He waited for an answer, and got none. I had him guessing, for it was impossible to know how many of us might be there. Moreover, there was a chance of working upon the superstition of the natives among the crew. The cook had very likely reported that he had seen a ghost.
Except a shot out of the darkness no sound had come from me since. So long as I kept silent the terror of the mystery would remain. Was I man or devil? What was it spitting death at them from the black room?
"We're going to batter that door down," went on Bothwell, "and then we're going to make you wish you'd never been born."
The voices fell again to a whispered murmur. Soon there would be a rush and the door would be torn from its hinges. I made up my mind to get Bothwell if I could before the end.
Above the mutterings came clearly a frightened soprano.
"What is it, Boris? What are you going to do?"
Evelyn had come out of her room to try to save me.
"Just getting ready to massacre your friend," her cousin answered promptly.
Terror shook in the voice that died in her throat.
Bothwell bayed deep laughter.
"O-ho! My friend from Erin once more—for the last time. Come out and meet your welcome, Sedgwick."
"Suppose you come and take me," I suggested.
"By God, I will! Back with you into that room, girl."
A door slammed and a key turned.
Still the rush did not come. I waited, nerves strung to the highest pitch. One could have counted sixty in the dead silence.
I knew that some devilish plan had come to the man and that he was working out the details of it in his mind.
"Say the word, Cap," Fleming called to him impatiently.
"Not just yet, my worthy George. We'll give the meddler an hour to say his prayers. But I'm all for action. Since it isn't to be a funeral just yet, what do you say to a marriage?"
"I don't take you."
"H-m! Hold this passage for a few minutes, George. You'll see what you'll see."
A key turned in a lock. When I heard his voice again the man had stepped inside the cabin used by Evelyn. It lay just back of the storeroom and the portholes of the two rooms were not six feet apart. Every word that was said came clearly to me.
"So you thought you'd trick me, my dear—thought you'd play a smooth trick on your trusting cousin. Fie, Evie!"
"What are you going to do to Mr. Sedgwick?" she demanded.
"There's been some smooth work somewhere. I grant you that. How the devil did he get aboard here? He didn't come alone. If he did, what has become of the boat? Speak up, m'amie."
"Do you think I'd tell you even if I knew?" she asked scornfully.
He laughed softly, with diabolical enjoyment.
"I think you would—and will. I have ways to force open closed mouths, beloved."
"You would—torture me?"
"If it were necessary," he admitted coolly.
She answered in a blaze of defiance.
"Get out your iron cubes for my fingers, you black-hearted villain!"
"Not for your soft fingers, ma cherie. I kiss them one by one as a lover should. Shall we say for your friend's fingers? If you won't talk, perhaps he will."
"Are you all tiger, Boris? Isn't there somewhere in your heart a spark of manhood?" she sobbed, her spirit melted at my danger.
"Rhetorical questions, Evie. Shall we come to business? How did your soon-to-be-deceased lover come on board? Who brought him? What were his plans?"
"If I tell you, will you spare him?" she begged.
"I'll promise this," he assured her maliciously. "If you don't tell I'll not spare him."
She told all she knew except my plan of rescue. As soon as she mentioned the boat in which I had come the fellow hurried up on deck to intercept it.
I could hear a boat scraping against the side of the schooner as it was being lowered. Fleming and two others got in and paddled back and forth among the bushes. They found nothing.
My friends had managed to slip away unseen and were headed for the Argos. You may believe that I wished them a safe and speedy voyage.
Bothwell came down the forecastle ladder swearing. He went straight to Evelyn. Before he opened the door he was all suavity once more.
"They've got away this time. Just as well perhaps. We'll be able to concentrate our attention on the wedding festivities. Can you be ready in half an hour, dear heart?"
"Ready for what?" The words choked in her throat.
"To make your lover a happy man. This is our wedding night, my dear."
"Never! I'd rather lie at the bottom of the bay. I wouldn't marry you to save my life."
"H-m! You exaggerate, as is the manner of your charming sex. Now I'll wager that you'd marry me to save—why, to save even that meddling Irishman who is listening to our talk."
She strangled a little cry of despair.
"Why do you hate him so? Is it because he is so much better and braver than you?"
"I don't hate him. He annoys me. So I step on him, just as I do on this spider."
"Don't, Boris. I'll give you all my share of the treasure. I'll forgive you everything you've done. I'll see that you're not prosecuted. Be merciful for once."
"Don't get hysterical, Evie. Sedgwick understands he has got to pay. He took a fighting chance and he has lost. It's all in the game." The villain must have looked at his watch, and then yawned. "Past 10:30. Excuse me for a half hour while I settle your friend's hash. Afterward I'll be back with the priest."
"No—no! I won't have it. Boris, if you ever loved me—Oh, God in heaven, help me now!"
I think that in her wild despair she had flung herself on her knees in front of him. Her voice shook, broke almost into a scream.
"Are these—dramatics—for yourself or for him?" Bothwell asked with a sneer.
"Don't kill him! Don't! I'll do whatever you say."
"Will you marry me—at once—to-night?"
I spoke up from the porthole where I was listening.
"No, she won't, you scoundrel! As for me, I'd advise you to catch your hare before you cook it."
"I'm on my way to catch it now, dear Sedgwick, just as soon as I break away from the lady," he called back insolently.
"I'll—marry you." The words came from a parched throat.
"To-night," he demanded.
"Not to-night," she begged. "When we get back to Panama."
"No. I'm not going to give you a chance to welch. Now—here—on this schooner."
"Not to-night. I'm so—weary and—unstrung. I'll do whatever you say, but—give me time to—to—Oh, I'm afraid!"
"Bothwell, you cur, come in here and you and I will see this out to a finish!" I cried in helpless fury.
"Presently, my dear Sedgwick. I'll be there soon enough, and that's a promise. But ladies first. You wouldn't have me delay my wedding, would you?"
I flung myself against the door repeatedly and tried to beat it down, but my rage was useless. The lock and the hinges held. Back I went to my porthole.
"Evelyn, are you there?"
"Yes," came the answer in a choked voice.
"Don't do it. What are you thinking of? I'd rather die a hundred deaths than have you marry him."
"I must, Jack. If you should be killed—and I could have prevented it—— Oh, don't you see I must?"
The words were wrung from her in a cry, as if she had been a tortured child.
"Of course she must. But why make a tragedy of it? By Heaven, you wound my vanity between the pair of you. Am I not straight—as good a man as my neighbor—still young? Come, let us make an end of the heavy-villain-and-hero business. You, my dear Sedgwick, shall stand up and give the bride away. That is to say, you shall stand at your porthole. You'll find rice in a sack to scatter if you will. We want you to enjoy yourself. Don't we, Evie?" Bothwell jeered blithely.
"You devil from hell!"
"Pooh! Be reasonable, man. We can't both marry the maid, and by your leave I think the best man wins. Abrupt I may be, but every Katherine is the better for her Petruchio." He turned to her, dropping his irony for tones of curt command. "I'll be back in twenty minutes with the parson. Be ready then."
With that he turned on his heel and left, locking the door behind him.
Even now when it is only a memory I do not like to look back upon that twenty minutes. My poor girl was hysterical, but decided. Neither argument nor entreaty could move her from her resolution to save my life, no matter what the cost. I pleaded in vain.
"I can't let you die, Jack—I can't—I can't." So she answered all my appeals, with a kind of hopeless despair that went straight to my heart.
Through my remonstrances there broke a high-pitched voice jabbering something in Spanish of a sort. The sound of running footsteps on the deck above came to us. Some one called a warning.
"Keep back there or we'll fire!"
Then my heart leaped, for across the water came the cool, steady voice of Blythe.
"My man, I want to talk with Bothwell."
More feet pattered back and forth on the deck, and among the hurrying steps was one sharp and strong.
"Good evening, Captain Blythe. You're rather late for a call, aren't you? Mr. Sedgwick was in better time. We have to thank him for an hour's pleasant entertainment."
I recognized the voice as belonging to Bothwell.
"If you've hurt a hair of his head I'll hold you personally to account. Unless you want me to board your schooner you will at once release Mr. Sedgwick and Miss Wallace."
"Miss Wallace has practically ceased to exist," the Russian drawled.
"What do you mean?"
"I shall have the honor to send you cards, captain. Miss Wallace has become my wife."
I stuck my head out of the porthole and shouted. "That's a lie, Sam. You're just in time to save her."
"Are you a prisoner, Jack?"
"Yes. So is she. In the next cabin." Some one stepped quickly across the deck and leaned over the rail above me. Bothwell's dark face looked down into mine. He leveled a revolver at my head and fired just as I drew back.
That shot served as a signal for the attack. Bullets sang back and forth, some from the schooner, others from the boats of my friends.
As for the battle, I saw from my porthole only the edge of it, and that but for a few moments as a boat full of men swept forward. Someone was firing with a rifle, while the others put their backs to the oars.
Presently the boat swept round the bow of the schooner and was lost to my view. But I could hear the firing of guns, the trampling of men above, and from their words could tell that the attackers were keeping their distance, even though they were firing pretty steadily from the cover of the shore bushes.
I must confess that Blythe's method of attack surprised me. How many men Bothwell had I did not know, but it was plain to me that the only way to take the ship was to rush it. We might fire at long distance for a week without doing more than keep them busy.
That I was wild to be free and in the thick of it may be guessed. Knowing as I did how matters stood between Evelyn and her cousin, I saw that she must be rescued at once to prevent the unholy marriage the Slav planned.
Strange that Sam could not see this and that he had not led a more dashing attempt at succoring the girl.
Three taps on the door of my prison jerked me round as if I had been pulled by a string. My revolver was in my hand. The door opened slowly and let in a man.
"That's far enough. What do you want?" I asked brusquely.
"S-sh! It's me, Mr. Sedgwick. Are you in irons?"
It was Gallagher. If I had been a Frenchman I would have kissed his ugly old mug for the sheer pleasure of seeing it. I knew now that Blythe had kept up the long distance fusillade in order to distract the attention of the defenders while Gallagher had crept close from the shore side.
I ran forward.
"Where is your boat?"
"Hidden in the bushes. Alderson is with it. Where is the lady, sir?"
In another minute Evelyn was free and standing with us in the passage. I noticed that the fire of the attackers had grown more rapid. The sound seemed closer. The demonstration was taking on the appearance of a real boarding expedition.
We climbed the forecastle ladder. I led the way, revolver in hand. From where I stood, a few steps from the top of the ladder, my eyes could sweep the forward deck.
Bothwell, the Flemings, and perhaps half a dozen dark-skinned sailors were crouching behind the bulwarks, raising their heads above the rail only to shoot.
A constant crackling of small arms filled the air. The boats had crept nearer and were pouring a very steady fire upon the defenders.
The forward movement was only a diversion under cover of which we might have a chance to escape, but it was being executed with so much briskness and spirit that Bothwell could not guess its harmless nature.
At my signal the sailor led Evelyn quickly toward the poop. With my eyes over my left shoulder I followed at their heels. We had all but reached the stern when I heard the smack of a fist and turned in time to see a Panama peon hit the deck full length.
He had been hurrying forward and had caught sight of us. His mouth was open to shout an alarm at the time the Irishman's fist had landed against the double row of shining teeth.
The fellow rolled over and was up like an acrobat. But my revolver, pointing straight at his stomach, steadied him in an instant.
"Don't move or shout," I warned.
From the bushes Alderson had been waiting for us and his boat was in place. He flung up a rope ladder with grappling hooks on the end. Gallagher fixed them to the rail and helped Evelyn down.
"You next," I ordered.
"Your turn now, Sambo," I told the peon after the sailor had gone.
The fellow rolled his eyes wildly toward the stem of the vessel but found no hope from that quarter. He clambered over the rail like a monkey and went down hand after hand. I followed him.
We were huddled promiscuously in the little boat so that it rocked to the very lip. For a half a minute I was afraid we were going down, but a shift in position by Gallagher steadied the shell.
Meanwhile Alderson had thrown his muscles into the oars and we drew away steadily; fifty strokes, and the shadows had swallowed us.
Alderson pulled across the river and let the boat drift down the opposite bank. The outgoing tide carried us swiftly. We slipped past the schooner unobserved. Gallagher blew twice on a whistle and the two boats commanded by Blythe and Yeager at once drew back into safety.
Some three hundred yards farther down stream they caught up with us.
"All right, Jack?" Blythe called across to me.
"All right, Sam."
"Miss Wallace is with you, of course?"
"Yes, and one other passenger who nearly swamped us. Can you take our prisoner?"
His boat pulled up beside us and relieved us of one very frightened Panama peon. We were very glad to be rid of him, for a dozen times the waves had nearly swamped our overloaded skiff and I had been bailing every second.
A few minutes later we reached the Argos.
From Blythe I learned that Gallagher had been responsible for the plan by means of which he had rescued us. Moreover, he had insisted on taking the stellar role in carrying it out, dangerous as the part had been. It was his way of wiping out his share in the mutiny.
THE LAST BRUSH
We resumed next morning the digging for the treasure. The shore party was made up of Blythe, Yeager, Smith, Higgins and Barbados.
Those of us left on board had a lazy time of it. I arranged watches of two to guard against any surprise on the part of the enemy either by an attack upon the yacht or by a sally along the shore upon the treasure diggers.
Having divided my men into watches, I discharged my mind of responsibility. Evelyn and I had a thousand things to tell each other. We sat on the upper deck under the tarpaulin and forgot everything except that we were lovers reunited after dreadful peril.
Youth is resilient. One would scarce have believed that this girl bubbling over with life and spirits was the same one who had been in such hopeless despair a few hours earlier.
A night's good sleep had set her up wonderfully.
Last night I had looked into tired eyes that had not yet fully escaped from the shadows of tragedy, into the sharp oval of a colorless face from which waves of storm had washed the life.
This morning the sun shone for her.
Courage had flowed back into her heart. Swift love ran now and again through her cheeks and tinted them.
She was herself, golden and delicate, elastic and vivid as a captured nymph.
"When I left the old Argos I thought I never wanted to see the yacht again, but now I think I could be happy here all my life," she confided.
"Wouldn't you prefer to have your cousin just a few miles farther away?"
She fell grave for a moment.
"Do you think he'll try to do more mischief?"
"He'll try. That's a safe bet. But I think we have him checkmated. By night we ought to have the bulk of the treasure on board. Once we get it the Argos will show him her heels."
Four bells sounded, six, eight. Dugan came down from the bridge to report to me.
"Captain Blythe's party coming down to the beach, sir."
Two of the men were carrying a large chest. It was so heavy that every forty or fifty yards relays relieved each other. The box was brought down to the edge of the water and loaded into a boat. Smith and Higgins took their places at the oars and Blythe stepped into the bow.
The cargo seemed to call for tackle and ropes. I had them ready before the boat reached us. Blythe superintended the hoisting of the chest, arranging the ropes so as to make a slip impossible. We hauled it safely aboard.
"Have it taken to the strong room, Sam. There's another waiting for us ashore," Blythe explained.
"Want me to go back for it?"
"No. Keep a sharp lookout for our friend up the river."
He was pulled ashore again and returned two hours later with a second chest, this time leaving Yeager and Barbados on guard at the cache. Gallagher and Alderson were sent ashore later to join Tom's party for the night watch.
A few more hours' work would be enough to lift the rest of the treasure. Already we had on board a fortune in doubloons and bars of gold, but there was still one more chest to be unearthed. We felt that we were near the end of our adventure and our spirits were high.
Blythe got out his violin and Evie sang some of her plantation songs, her soft voice falling easily into the indolent negro dialect.
My stunt was Irish stories. We dragooned the staid Morgan into playing the piano while we ragged.
It must have been close to midnight before we spoke of breaking up.
Evelyn and I took a turn on the deck. Our excuse was to get a breath of fresh air, but the truth is that we were always drifting together.
Even in the company of others our eyes had a way of sending wireless messages of which we two only understood the code.
We leaned against the rail and looked across the bay. It was a night of ragged clouds behind which the moon was screened.
"Isn't that a boat over there?" Evie asked, pointing in the direction of the river mouth.
The moon had peeped out and was flinging a slant of light over the water. I looked for a long minute.
"Yes. I believe it's Bothwell's schooner. He has slipped out unnoticed. The fellow must mean mischief."
"Oh, I hope not," said Evie, and she gave a little shiver.
A sound came faintly over the water to us from the shore.
"Did you hear that?" Evelyn turned to me, her face white in the shining moonbeam.
A second pistol shot followed the first.
"Trouble at the cache!"
I turned toward the pavilion and met Blythe. Already he was flinging a crisp order to the watch.
"Lower a boat, Neidlinger. Smith will help you. That you, Higgins? Rouse all hands from sleep. We've work afoot."
Again came a faint echo across the still waters, followed by two sharper explosions. Some one had brought a rifle into action.
Blythe turned to me. "It's my place to stand by the ship, Jack. This may be a ruse to draw us off. I can spare you one man to go ashore and see what the trouble is. Take your pick."
I chose Smith.
"Keep a sharp lookout, Jack. He's wily as the devil, Bothwell is. Better not land at the usual place. He may have an ambush planted."
"All right, Sam."
The Englishman turned to give Stubbs orders for arming the crew.
In the darkness a groping little hand found mine.
"Must you go, Jack? I—wish you would stay here."
My arm slid around the shoulders of my girl.
"It's up to me to go, honey."
We were alone under the awning. Her soft arms went round my neck and her fingers laced themselves.
"You'll be careful, won't you? It's all so horrible. I thought it was all over, and now—— Oh, boy, I'm afraid!"
"Don't worry. Blythe will hold the ship."
"Of course. It isn't that. It's you. I don't want you to go. Let Mr. Stubbs."
I shook my head.
"No, dear. That won't do. It's my place to go. But you needn't worry. The gods take care of lovers. I'll come back all right."
Her interlaced fingers tightened behind my neck.
"Don't be reckless, then. You're so foolhardy. I couldn't bear it if—if anything happened to you."
"Nothing will happen except that I shall come back to brag of our victory," I smiled.
"If I could be sure!" she cried softly.
The sinister sound of shots had drifted to us as we talked. The boat was by this time lowered and I knew I must be gone. Gently I unclasped the knotted fingers.
"Must you go already?" She made no other protest, but slipped a plain band ring from her finger to my hand. "I want you to have something of mine with you, so that——"
Her voice broke, but I knew she meant so that the gods of war might know she claimed ownership and send me back safe. For another instant she lay on my heart, then offered me her lips and surrendered me to my duty.
"Ready, Jack!" called Blythe cheerfully.
I ran across the deck and joined the man in the skiff. We pushed off and bent to the stroke. As our oars gripped the water the sound of another far, faint explosion drifted to us.
We landed a couple of hundred yards to the right of the spit and dragged our little boat into some bushes close to the shore.
I gave Smith instructions to stay where he was unless he heard the hooting of an owl. If the call came once he was to advance very quietly; if twice, as fast as he could cover the ground.
The mosquitoes were a veritable plague. As I moved forward they swarmed around me in a cloud. Unfortunately I had not taken the time to bring the face netting with which we all equipped ourselves when going ashore.
Before I had covered fifty yards I heard voices raised as in anger. Presently I made out the sharp, imperious tones of Bothwell and the dogged persistent ones of Henry Fleming.
"I'll do as I please. Understand that, my man!" The words were snapped out with a steel edge to them.
"No, by thunder, you won't! I don't care about the cattleman, but Gallagher and Alderson were my shipmates. I'm no murderous pirate."
"You'll hang for one, you fool, if you're not careful. Didn't Gallagher desert to the enemy? Wasn't Alderson against us from start to finish? Didn't one of them give me this hole in my arm just now? They'll either join us or go to the sharks," Bothwell announced curtly.
From where I stood, perhaps forty yards north of the cache, I could make out that my friends were prisoners. No doubt the pirate had taken them at advantage and forced a surrender. Of Barbados I could see no sign. Later I learned that he had taken to his heels at the first shot.
Twice I gave the hoot of an owl. Falling clearly on the still night, the effect of my signal was startling.
"What was that, boss?" asked a Panamanian faintly.
"An owl, you fool," retorted Bothwell impatiently. "Come, I give you one more chance, Gallagher. Will you join us and share the booty? Or shall I blow out your brains?"
Gallagher, from where he lay on the ground, spoke out firmly:
"I'll sail no more with murderous mutineers."
"Bully for you, partner!" boomed the undaunted voice of the cattleman.
"And you, Alderson?"
"I stand with my friends, Captain Bothwell."
"The more fool you, for you'll be a long time dead. Stand back, Fleming."
As I ran forward I let out a shout.
Simultaneously a revolver cracked.
Bothwell cursed furiously, for Henry Fleming had struck up the arm of the murderer.
The Russian turned furiously on the engineer and fired point-blank at him.
The bullet must have struck him somewhere, for the man gave a cry.
Bothwell whirled upon me and fired twice as I raced across the moonlit sand.
A flash of lightning seared my shoulder but did not stop me.
"Ha! The meddler again! Stung you that time, my friend," he shouted, and fired at me a third time.
They were the last words he was ever to utter. One moment his dark, venomous face craned toward me above the smoke of his revolver, the next it was slowly sinking to the ground in a contorted spasm of pain and rage.
For George Fleming had avenged the attempt upon his brother's life with a shot in the back.
Bothwell was dead almost before he reached the ground.
For a moment we all stood in a dead silence, adjusting our minds to the changed conditions.
Then one of the natives gave a squeal of terror and turned to run. Quick as a flash the rest of them—I counted nine and may have missed one or two—were scuttling off at his heels.
George Fleming stared at the body of his chief which lay so still on the ground with the shining moon pouring its cold light on the white face.
Then slowly his eyes came up to meet mine.
In another moment he and his brother were crashing through the lush underbrush to the beach. I judged from the rapidity with which Henry moved that he could not be much hurt. From the opposite direction Smith came running up.
I dropped to my knees beside Yeager and cut the thongs that tied his hands.
"Hurt?" I asked.
"No," he answered in deep disgust at himself. "I stumbled over a root and hit my head against this tree right after the game opened. Gallagher and Alderson had to play it out alone. But Bothwell must have had fourteen men with him. He got Gallagher in the leg and rushed Alderson. You dropped in right handy, Jack."
"And not a minute too soon. By Jove! we ran it pretty fine this trip. Badly hurt, Gallagher?"
"No, sir. Hit in the thigh."
I examined the wound as well as I could and found it not as bad as it might have been.
"A good clean flesh wound. You're in luck, Gallagher. The last two days have more than wiped out your week of mutiny. We're all deep in your debt."
"Thank you, sir," he said, flushing with pleasure.
Here I may put it down that this was the last word Gallagher heard about his lapse from duty. He and the other reconstructed mutineers were forgiven, their fault wiped completely off the slate.
I sent Alderson down to the spit to signal the Argos for a boat. One presently arrived with Stubbs and Higgins at the oars. The little cockney was struck with awe at sight of the dead man.
"My heye, Mr. Sedgwick, 'e's got 'is at larst and none too soon. 'Ow did you do it?"
"I didn't do it. One of his friends did."
"Well, 'e 'ad it comin' to 'im, sir. But I'll sye for him that 'e was a man as well as a devil."
We helped Gallagher down to the boat and he and I were taken aboard.
The wound in my shoulder was but a scratch.
It was enough, however, to let me in for a share of the honors with Gallagher.
In truth I had done nothing but precipitate by my arrival the final tragedy; but love, they say, is blind.
It was impossible for me to persuade Evelyn that I had not been the hero of the occasion.
She could appreciate the courage of the three men who had chosen death rather than to join Bothwell in his nefarious plans, but she was caught by the melodramatic entry I had made upon the stage.
"You were one against fourteen, but that didn't stop you at all. Of course the others were brave, but——"
"Sheer nonsense, my dear. Any one can shout 'Villain, avaunt!' and prance across the sand, but there wasn't any pleasant excitement about looking Boris Bothwell in the eye and telling him to shoot and be hanged. That took sheer, cold, unadulterated nerve, and my hat's off to the three of them."
She leaned toward me out of the shadow, and the light in her eyes was wonderful.
With all the innocence of a Grecian nymph they held, too, the haunting, wistful pathos of eternal motherhood.
She yearned over me, almost as if I had been the son of her dreams.
"Boy, Jack, I'm glad it's over—so glad—so glad. I love you—and I've been afraid for you."
Desire of her, of the sweet brave spirit in its beautiful sheath of young flesh, surged up in my blood irresistibly.
I caught her to my heart and kissed the soft corn-silk hair, the deep melting eyes, the ripe red lips.
By Heaven, I had fought for her and had won her! She was the gift of love, won in stark battle from the best fighter I had ever met.
The mad Irish blood in me sang.
After all I am not the son of a filibuster for nothing.
The morning found me as good as new except for a dull ache in my shoulder. I was up betimes for breakfast and ready for shore duty.
Yet I was glad to accept Blythe's orders to stay on board as long as we remained in Darien Harbor.
It was good to avoid the sun and the mosquitoes and the moist heat of the jungle, though I felt a little guilty at lying in a hammock on the shady side of the deck with Evelyn at my side, while my friends were perspiring in the burning sand pits with shovel and pick.
Fortunately, it was only a few hours before the last of the boxes buried by Bucks was uncovered. Jamaica Ginger's hatchet found it a good fifty yards from the others. Within an hour it had been dragged out of the dirt and brought aboard.
We sailed the same afternoon about twelve hours later than the schooner, which had quietly slipped past us on its way to the sea in the faint light of early dawn.
That Fleming had given up the attempt to win the treasure was plain. I doubt whether his men would have followed him even if he had wished it, for he had not the dominant temper of his chief.
We dropped anchor under the lee of a little island in the Boco Chico, but our engines were throbbing again by break of day. As we puffed across the North Bay we passed the schooner almost within a stone's throw.
Henry Fleming was on deck, and half a dozen of the blacks and browns who made up the crew swarmed to the side of the vessel to see us. Blythe had made quiet preparations in case any attempt at stopping us should be made, but apparently nothing was farther from the thoughts of the enemy.
In fact several of the dusky deck hands waved us a friendly greeting as we drove swiftly past. From that day to this I have never seen any member of that crew, though a letter received last week from Gallagher—who is doing well in the cattle business in the Argentine—mentioned that he had run across Henry Fleming at Buenos Ayres.
Out of the Gulf of San Miguel we pushed past Brava Point as fast as Stubbs could send the Argos. The lights of Panama called to us. They stood for law and civilization and the blessed dominance of the old stars and stripes.
We were in a hurry to get back to the broad piazzas of its hotels, where women at their ease did fancy work and played bridge while laughing children romped without fear.
Adventure is all very well, but I have discovered that one can get a surfeit of it.
Before the division of the treasure there arose a point of morality that, oddly enough, had not been considered before. It was born of my legal conscience and for a few minutes was disturbing.
Tom and I were in Blythe's cabin with him discussing an equitable division of the spoils. Into my mind popped the consideration that we were not the owners of it all but certain remote parties in Peru.
After having fought for it and won it the treasure was not ours. The thing hit me like a blow in the face. I spoke my thought aloud. Sam looked blankly at me.
Yeager laughed grimly. There was a good deal of the primitive man still in the Arizonian.
"If they want it let them come and take it. I reckon finding is keeping."
But I knew the matter could not be settled so easily as that. A moral question had arisen and it had to be faced. Evelyn was called into counsel.
She had an instant solution of the difficulty.
"We can't return it even if we want to. The town of Cerro Blanco and the neighboring mines were destroyed by an earthquake in 1819. Not a soul at the mines escaped and only a few peasants from the town. You will find the whole story in Vanbrough's 'Great Earthquakes.'"
"Then, after all, we are the rightful owners."
"I'm afraid we are," she smiled.
Blythe, already as wealthy as he cared to be, declined to accept any share of our spoils beyond the expenses of the cruise. Each of the sailors received a good-sized lump sum, as did also Philips and Morgan.
Rather against the wishes of our captain the three former mutineers shared with the rest of the crew. We did not of course forget the relatives of the men who had fallen in our defense.
The boatswain Caine left a widow and two children. We put her upon a pension until she married a grocer two years later.
We were never able to hear that she thought the loss of husband number one anything but a good riddance.
Jimmie's share went into a fund, which is being managed by Yeager and me as trustees. It is enough to keep him and his mother while the boy is being educated and to leave a small nest-egg in addition.
Yeager, of course, put his profits into cattle. Since Evelyn and I moved to Los Angeles we see a good deal of Tom and his wife. At least once during the winter we run across to his Arizona ranch for a week or two. His boy is just old enough to give his name proudly with a lisp as "Tham Blythe Yeager."
Ours is a girl. She has the golden hair and the sparkling spirit of her mother.
* * * * *
N. B.—The autocrat of the household has just read the last line as she leans over my shoulder. She will give me no peace till I add that the baby has the blue, Irish eyes of her dad.
NEW AND POPULAR BOOKS
GODDESS OF THE DAWN
By MARGARET DAVIES SULLIVAN. The spirit of youth and lightsome joy permeates this story of pure, exulting womanhood. The dominant love episode of Doris with a high-minded sculptor, struggling to retrieve his father's sin; her revolt against marriage to Chapman and her brief union with weak, handsome Arthur make a love story par excellence. It depicts love as it really comes and molds and mars. Its happy ending tells how it rewards. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.25.
FLYING U RANCH
By B. M. BOWER. The best Bower story since "Chip of the Flying U." Here we have the well known characters of Chip; Pink; Andy Green; Irish; Weary; Big Medicine; the Countess; the Little Doctor; the Kid and a newcomer—Miguel Rapponi. How the Flying U was harassed by the sheep herders and how "the bunch" wins out, completes a story without a peer in the realm of Western fiction. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.25.
By GEORGE SCARBOROUGH. Founded upon his great play that aroused such wide-spread controversy, the book tells of a secret service officer's investigations into the White Slave traffic; of his discovery of the girl he loved in a disreputable employment agency and of her dramatic rescue. A true situation, depicted boldly and frankly but without pruriency. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated from scenes in the play. Net $1.25.
By THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS. A picturesque tale of an English pirate whose depredations on the high seas were so ferocious that he was called The Wasp because of the keenness of his sting. Glutted with looting, he enlists in the navy and gives up his life defending his country's flag. A love story with the winsome Kitty Trimmer for its heroine lends a fascinating charm to the narrative. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.25
By GEORGE BROADHURST and ARTHUR HORNBLOW, authors of "Bought and Paid For." Founded upon the play, this is a powerful story of a woman's desperate struggle to save her reputation and her happiness. How she tries to sink the memory of a foolish entanglement with another woman's husband in her own marriage with the man she really loved and how she paid the subsequent bitter price of her folly forms a dramatic theme of deep human interest. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated with scenes from play. Net $1.25.
By MARGARET BLAKE, author of "The Greater Joy;" "The Voice of the Heart." How the hero, by virtue of a self-evolved, infallible system, speedily climbs to the top of his profession in New York; how he saves the woman he loves from a fate worse than death, and then, to save his honor, discards the system that made his success, forms a vividly realistic and powerful story. 12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.25.
NINE SPLENDID NOVELS BY WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE
THE PIRATE OF PANAMA
A tale of old-time pirates and of modern love, hate and adventure. The scene is laid in San Francisco on board The Argos and in Panama. A romantic search for the lost pirate gold. An absorbing love-story runs through the book.
12mo, Cloth, Jacket in Colors. Net $1.25.
THE VISION SPLENDID
A powerful story in which a man of big ideas and fine ideals wars against graft and corruption. A most satisfactory love affair terminates the story.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Net $1.25.
CROOKED TRAILS AND STRAIGHT
A story of Arizona; of swift-riding men and daring outlaws; of a bitter feud between cattle-men and sheep-herders. The heroine is a most unusual woman and her love-story reaches a culmination that is fittingly characteristic of the great free West.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition 50 cents.
A story of the Cattle Range. This story brings out the turbid life of the frontier with all its engaging dash and vigor with a charming love interest running through its 320 pages.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Jacket in Colors. Popular Edition 50 cents.
A tale of the western frontier, where the "rustler," whose depredations are so keenly resented by the early settlers of the range, abounds. One of the sweetest love stories ever told.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition, 50 cents.
A TEXAS RANGER
How a member of the most dauntless border police force carried law into the mesquit, saved the life of an innocent man after a series of thrilling adventures, followed a fugitive to Wyoming, and then passed through deadly peril to ultimate happiness.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition, 50 cents.
In this vivid story of the outdoor West the author has captured the breezy charm of "cattleland," and brings out the turbid life of the frontier with all its engaging dash and vigor.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition, 50 cents.
RIDGWAY OF MONTANA
The scene is laid in the mining centers of Montana, where politics and mining industries are the religion of the country. The political contest, the love scene, and the fine character drawing give this story great strength and charm.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition, 50 cents.
Every chapter teems with wholesome, stirring adventures, replete with the dashing spirit of the border, told with dramatic dash and absorbing fascination of style and plot.
12mo, Cloth, Illustrated. Popular Edition, 50 cents.
BOOKS BY EDWARD MARSHALL
BAT—An Idyl of New York
"The heroine has all the charm of Thackeray's Marchioness in New York surroundings."—New York Sun. "It would be hard to find a more charming, cheerful story."—New York Times. "Altogether delightful."—Buffalo Express. "The comedy is delicious."—Sacramento Union. "It is as wholesome and fresh as the breath of springtime."—New Orleans Picayune. 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. $1.00 net.
THE MIDDLE WALL
The Albany Times-Union says of this story of the South African diamond mines and adventures in London, on the sea and in America: "As a story teller Mr. Marshall cannot be improved upon, and whether one is looking for humor, philosophy, pathos, wit, excitement, adventure or love, he will find what he seeks, a-plenty, in this capital tale." 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents.
* * * * *
BOOKS NOVELIZED FROM GREAT PLAYS
THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE
From the successful play of EDGAR JAMES. Embodying a wonderful message to both husbands and wives, it tells how a determined man, of dominating personality and iron will, leaves a faithful wife for another woman. 12mo, cloth. Illustrated from scenes in the play. Net $1.25.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
The Rocky Mountain News: "This novelization of OLGA NETHERSOLE'S play tells of Trinity Church and its tenements. It is a powerful, vital novel." 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents.
THE OLD FLUTE PLAYER
Based on CHARLES T. DAZEY'S play, this story won the friendship of the country very quickly. The Albany Times-Union: "Charming enough to become a classic." 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents.
Of this book (founded on the play by ROBERT HOBART DAVIS), The Portland (Oregon) Journal said: "Nothing more powerful has recently been put between the covers of a book." 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents.
The Logansport (Ind.) Journal: "A tense story, founded on PORTER EMERSON BROWNE'S play, is full of tremendous situations, and preaches a great sermon." 12mo, cloth bound, with six illustrations from scenes in the play. 50 cents.
IN OLD KENTUCKY
Based upon CHARLES T. DAZEY'S well-known play, which has been listened to with thrilling interest by over seven million people. "A new and powerful novel, fascinating in its rapid action. Its touching story is told more elaborately and even more absorbingly than it was upon the stage."—Nashville American. 12mo, cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents.
By ARTHUR HORNBLOW
THE TALKER Just Issued
An impeachment of the attitude of many women with regard to the sacredness of the marriage tie—From the play of MARION FAIRFAX.
A poignantly affecting story, deeply arresting in its significance.
KINDLING 4th Large Edition
A story of mother-love in the tenements—From the Play of CHARLES KENYON.
"A dramatic and interesting story from the powerful and unusual play."—Buffalo Express.
BOUGHT AND PAID FOR 5th Large Edition
A tremendous arraignment of the mercenary marriage—From the play of GEORGE BROADHURST.
"The story is intensely human in its serious side and delightfully amusing in its lighter phases."—Boston Globe.
THE GAMBLERS 85th Thousand
A dramatic story of American life, from the wonderful play of Charles Klein.
"A powerful indictment of the methods of modern finance."—Philadelphia Press.
THE EASIEST WAY 6th Large Edition
A vivid story of metropolitan life from Eugene Walter's thrilling play.
"The easiest way is in reality the hardest way."—Boston Times.
JOHN MARSH'S MILLIONS 6th Large Edition,
The struggle of a young girl, heiress to millions.
"Has many thrilling dramatic situations."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
THE THIRD DEGREE 70th Thousand
A brilliant novelization of Charles Klein's great play.
"A strongly-painted picture of certain conditions in the administration of law and justice."—Philadelphia Record.
BY RIGHT OF CONQUEST 100th Thousand
A thrilling story of shipwreck upon a deserted island.
"A sensational situation handled with delicacy and rigor."—Boston Transcript.
THE END OF THE GAME 75th Thousand
A love story dealing with the perils of great wealth.
"A thoroughly wholesome book, with action in the drama and real human interest."—Literary Digest.
THE PROFLIGATE 60th Thousand
A thrilling story of love, mystery and adventure.
"The moral tone of the story is excellent."—Baltimore Sun.
THE LION AND THE MOUSE 200th Thousand
A brilliant novelization of Charles Klein's wonderful play.
"As fascinating as Mr. Klein's play."—Boston Transcript.