[Transcriber's Note: The author refers to George Fleming's brother as both "Harry" and "Henry" in this story. The original naming has been retained.]
THE PIRATE OF PANAMA
A Tale of the Fight for Buried Treasure
By WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE
Author of "Wyoming," "A Texas Ranger," "Bucky O'Connor," "Brand Blotters," "Mavericks," Etc.
G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY PUBLISHERS—NEW YORK
Copyright, 1914, by G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY
The Pirate of Panama
Press of J. J. Little & Ives Co. New York
TO CAPTAIN FORRESTER
FIRST MATE ROBERT, QUARTERMASTER WILLIAM AND BO'SUN KENNETH
THIS VOYAGE OF THE ARGOS IS DEDICATED
Ho, gallant tars and true, fall to! Up anchor, lads, and sheets unfurl. Let engines throb a low tattoo; It's "All aboard for Panama."
The snell wind whistles shrill o'erhead, The bullets spatter thick below, By candle light we count our dead, While we are bound for Panama.
For all true men waits hidden gold, 'Gainst all true hearts fight pirate foes, Who bears him with a courage bold Will land with us at Panama.
Into the deep drive strong and sure, Straight as an arrow for the goal, From off the course let nothing lure, The breeze is fair for Panama.
I. A Scrap of Paper 7 II. Captain Bothwell Interrupts 22 III. Concerning Doubloon Spit 39 IV. The Man With the Secret 51 V. We Find a Ship 61 VI. The Missing Corner 72 VII. In the Fog 84 VIII. Aboard the Argos 91 IX. Bothwell Makes a Move 101 X. Another Stowaway 110 XI. Taking Stock 123 XII. My Unexpected Guest 137 XIII. Mutiny 147 XIV. The Battle 161 XV. The Morning After 168 XVI. The Night Attack 178 XVII. A Taste of the Inquisition 189 XVIII. Anchored Hearts 207 XIX. Sense and Nonsense 214 XX. The Big Ditch 225 XXI. A Message from Bucks 237 XXII. Treasure-trove 250 XXIII. Aboard the Schooner 266 XXIV. A Rat in a Trap 280 XXV. A Rescue 292 XXVI. The Last Brush 299 XXVII. In Harbor 312
"Perhaps I could dress the hurt," suggested Miss Wallace a little shyly Frontispiece 109
"Crikey! I didn't know that was there," Jimmie cried 240
THE PIRATE OF PANAMA
A SCRAP OF PAPER
It was a dismal, sodden morning, with heavy clouds banked in the western sky. Rain had sloshed down since midnight so that the gutter in front of me was a turbid little river.
A chill wind swept across the city and penetrated to the marrow. From the summit of the hill, three blocks above me, my car was sliding down, but I clung to the curb to postpone until the last moment a plunge into the flowing street.
Since I was five-and-twenty, in tip-top health, and Irish by descent, I whistled while the windswept drops splashed the shine from my shoes. Rain or sun, 'twas a good little old world, though, faith! I could have wished it a less humdrum one.
For every morning I waited at that same time and place for the same car to take me to my desk in the offices of Kester & Wilcox, and every day I did the same sort of routine grubbing in preparation of cases for more experienced lawyers to handle.
Sometimes it flashed across me that I was a misfit. Nature had cast me for the part of a soldier of fortune, and instead I was giving my services to help a big corporation escape the payment of damages for accidents caused by its cars. I had turned my back on the romance of life. Well, it was the penalty one must pay to win success.
And while I stood on the curb there fluttered down to me from the dun heavens an invitation to the great adventure my soul longed for. It came on a gust of wind and lay on the sidewalk at my feet, a torn sheet of paper yellowed with age.
I had no premonition of what that faded bit of parchment meant, no picture of men in deadly battle, of the flash of knives or the gleam of revolvers, of lusty seamen lying curled on the deck where they had fallen at the call of sudden death. The only feeling that stirred in me was a faint curiosity at the odd markings on the sheet.
My foot moved forward and pinned the paper to the cement walk. Should I pick it up? Of what use? It would turn out to be only some Chinese laundry bill. Already the gong of the street-car was not more than a block away as it swept down the hill.
Was it some faint sound that drew my eyes up? Or was I answering the call of my destiny when my lifted gaze met the figure of a young woman framed in a second-story window? She was leaning far out, with arm stretched down and fingers opened wide.
Behind her stood a man, also out of the window to his waist. One of his hands clutched her wrist, the other reached toward hers. That he had been trying to take from her the paper she had flung away was an easy guess.
I had but the fraction of a second before my car was slowing for the crossing, but it was long enough to read in his dark face a malignant rage, in her fair, flushed one a defiant triumph. Stooping, I gathered the document that lay under my foot, then ran forward and swung to the platform of the car.
If there had been time for second thought I might have stayed to see the drama out, or I might have left the cause of quarrel where it lay. As it was I had done neither one thing nor the other. Having yielded to impulse so far as to pick up the paper, I had then done the conventional thing and ignored the little scene above.
But when I glanced back up the hill I glimpsed a man flying bareheaded from a doorway and pursuing the car with gestures of impotent fury.
All the way down to the business quarter the odd affair challenged my interest. What did it mean? The picture in the window was no laughing romp meant to end in kisses. So much I was willing to swear. There was passion in both the faces.
Out of those two lives I had snatched a vivid moment, perhaps one of many common to them, perhaps the first their intersecting life-lines had developed.
Was the man her husband? I was not willing to think so. More likely a brother, I persuaded myself. For it was already being borne in upon me that freakish chance had swept me into the orbit of the thing we spell Romance.
A petty domestic quarrel suggested itself as the obvious solution, but the buoyant youth in me refused any such tame explanation. For the girl was amazingly pretty.
After a glance at it I put the crumpled paper in my pocketbook. In that crowded car, hanging to a strap, I could make nothing of it. At the office my time belonged to Kester & Wilcox until noon, for I was still in that preliminary stage of my legal career during which I found it convenient to exchange my inexperience for fifteen dollars a week. A clouded real-estate title was presumably engaging my attention, but between my mind and the abstract kept jumping a map with the legend "Doubloon Spit" above it.
Faith, the blood sang in my veins. The scent of adventure was in my nostrils. A fool you may think me, but I was already on the hunt for buried treasure. Half a dozen times I had the paper out furtively, and as soon as my hour of release came I cleared the desk and spread the yellow, tattered document upon it.
The ink had been originally red, but in places it was faded almost to illegibility. The worn edges at the folds showed how often it had been opened and scanned. One lower corner had been torn away, leaving perhaps seven-eighths of the original manuscript. Yet in spite of its imperfect state of preservation I found this relic of a dead and forgotten past pulse-stirring.
Before me lay the map of a peninsula, the upper part sketched in vaguely but the toe marked apparently with the greatest care. The first detail that caught my eye was a sketch of a brig in the bay, beneath which was written:
"Here Santa Theresa went to Hell."
It was plain that the coast line was charted accurately so as to show the precise location of the inlets. It was a contour map, giving the hills, sand reaches, and groves. At the nearest one of these last was jotted down the words: "Umbrela Tree."
A little cross had been drawn near the foot of a hill. From this a long line ran into the bay with a loop at the end in which had been printed neatly: "Where Lobardi croked. Good riddance."
Not far from this were three little circles, beneath which was one word in capitals, "ITTE."
My heart leaped like an unleashed foxhound taking the trail. What could it mean but treasure? What had happened to the Santa Theresa? Had some one helped Lobardi to "croke" by cracking his skull? Could that dim, red ink once have been, the life blood in a man's veins?
Here was food enough to fire the blood of a cool-headed Yankee, let alone that of a mad Irishman. I caught a vision of a boatload of red-turbaned buccaneers swarming up the side of a brig; saw the swish of cutlases and the bellying smoke of pistols; beheld the strangely garbed seadogs gathered around an open chest of yellow gold bars shining in the sun.
For an eyebeat it was all clear to me as day. Then I laughed aloud at myself in returning sanity. I was in the twentieth century, not the eighteenth. An imagination so vivid that it read all this from a scrap of paper picked from the gutter needed curbing. I repocketed the chart and went to lunch.
But I found I could not laugh myself out of my interest. The mystery of it drew me, despite myself. While I waited for my chop I had the map out again, studying it as a schoolboy does a paper-backed novel behind his geography.
Beneath the map were some closely written lines of directions for finding "itte," whatever that might be. As to that my guess never wavered.
Whoever had drawn the map had called the peninsula "Doubloon Spit." Why? Clearly because he and his fellow buccaneers had buried there the ill-gotten treasure they had gained from piracy. No doubt the Santa Theresa was a gold ship they had waylaid and sunk.
At my entrance I had taken a little side table, but the restaurant was filling rapidly. A man stopped beside my table and took off a frogged overcoat with astrakhan trimmings. He hung this and his hat on a rack and sat down in the chair opposite me.
Instinctively I had covered the map with a newspaper. With amazement I now discovered that my vis-a-vis was the villain of the Adventure of the Young Lady and the Chart, as the author of the "New Arabian Nights" would have phrased it.
The man was in a vile humor, so much could be seen at a glance. Without doing me the honor of a single glance he stared moodily in front of him, his heavy black brows knit to a grim frown.
He was a splendid specimen of physical manhood, big and well-muscled, with a broad, flat back and soldierly carriage. That he was a leader of men was an easy deduction, though the thin, straight mouth and the hard glitter in the black eyes made the claim that he would never lead toward altruism.
In quick, short puffs he smoked a cigarette, and as soon as he had finished it he lit a second. Men all around us were waiting their turn, but I observed that the first lift of his finger brought an attendant.
"Tenderloin with mushrooms—asparagus tips—strong black coffee—cognac," he ordered with the curtness of an army officer snapping commands at a trooper. His voice was rich and cultivated, but had a very distinctly foreign quality in spite of the fact that his English was faultless.
I took advantage of the distraction of the waiter's presence to slip the map from the table into my pocket. After this I breathed freer, for it is scarcely necessary to say that in the struggle for the map—and by this time I had quite made up my mind that there would be fought out a campaign for its possession—I was wholly on the side of the young woman.
But as yet I knew none of the facts, and so was not in a position to engage with him to advantage. I called for the check and took my coat and hat from the rack.
Then I made my first mistake. I should have carried my raincoat to the door before putting it on. As I buttoned it recognition began to struggle faintly into his eyes. I waited for no further developments.
But as I went out of the door I could see him hurrying forward. Instantly I turned to the right, dodged into a tobacco shop, ran swiftly through it to the surprise of the proprietor, and found myself in an alley. I took this in double-quick time and presently had lost myself in the hurrying crowds on Kearney Street. Five minutes later I was in the elevator on the way to our office.
I set to work resolutely, but my drifting thoughts went back to the military man with the frogged coat, to the distractingly pretty girl who did not want him to have the map, and to that spit of land lapped by Pacific waves in a latitude and longitude that shall be nameless for reasons that will hereafter appear.
It must have been fifteen minutes after my return that our office boy, Jimmie, came in to tell me that a lady wanted to see me.
"She's a peach, too," he volunteered with the genial impudence that characterized him.
This brought me back to earth, a lawyer instead of a treasure seeker, and when my first client crossed the threshold she found me deep in a volume on contracts, eight other large and bulky reference books piled on the table.
The name on the card Jimmie had handed me was Miss Evelyn Wallace. I rose at once to meet her.
"You are Mr. John Sedgwick?" asked a soft, Southern voice that fell on my ears like music.
My bow stopped abruptly. I stifled an exclamation. The young woman was the one I had seen framed in a second-story window some hours earlier.
"I think you know me by sight," she said, not smiling exactly, but little dimples lurking in her cheeks ready to pounce out at the first opportunity. "That is, unless you have forgotten?"
Forgotten! I might have told her it would be hard to forget that piquant, oval face of exquisite coloring, and those blue eyes in which the sunshine danced like gold. I might have, but I did not. Instead, I murmured that my memory served me well enough.
"I have come for the paper you were good enough to take care of for me, Mr. Sedgwick. It belongs to me—the paper you picked up this morning."
From my pocket I took the document and handed it to her.
"May I ask how you found out who I was, Miss Wallace?"
You might have thought that roses had brushed her cheeks and left their color there.
"I asked a policeman," she confessed, just a little embarrassed.
"To find you a man in a gray ulster, medium height, weight, and complexion," I laughed.
"I had seen you come from the Graymount once or twice, and by describing you to the landlady he discovered who you were and where you worked," she explained.
Her touch of shyness had infected me, too. It was as if unwittingly I had intruded on her private affairs, had seen that morning an incident not meant for the eyes of a stranger. We avoided the common interest between us, though both of us were thinking of it.
Later I was to learn that she had been as eager to approach the subject as I. But she could not very well invite a stranger into her difficulty any more than I could push myself into her confidence.
"I hope you find the paper exactly as you left it, or rather as it left you," I stammered at last.
She had put the map in her hand-bag, but at my words she took it out, not to verify my suggestion but to prolong for a moment her stay in order to find courage to broach the difficulty. For she had come to the office in desperation, determined to confide in me if she liked my face and felt I was to be trusted.
"Yes. It was torn at the moment I threw it away. My cousin has the other part. It is a map."
"So I noticed. My impression was that the paper was yours. I examined it to see whether it held your name and address."
Her blue eyes met mine shyly.
"Did it—interest you at all?"
"Indeed, and it did. Nothing in a long time has interested me more."
I might have made an exception in favor of the owner of the document, but once more I decided to move with discretion.
"You understood it?" Her soft voice trailed upward so that her declaration was in essence a question.
"I am thinking it was only a wild guess I made."
"I'd like right well to hear it."
My eyes met hers.
With eager little nods she assented.
"Right, sir; treasure buried by pirates early in the nineteenth century. We have reason to think it has never been lifted."
"The best. Except the copy I have, this map is the only one in existence. Only four men saw the gold hidden. Two of them were killed by the others within the hour. The third was murdered by his companion some weeks later. The fourth—but it is a long story. I must not weary you with it."
"Weary me," I cried, and I dare swear my eyes were shining. But there I pulled myself up. "You're right. I had forgotten. You don't know me. There is no reason why you should tell me the story."
"That is true," she asserted. "It is of no concern to you."
That she was a little rebuffed by my words was plain. I made haste to explain them.
"I am meaning that there is no reason why you should trust me."
"Except your face," she answered impulsively. "Sir, you are an honest gentleman. Chance, or fate, has thrown you in my way. I must go to somebody for advice. I have no friends in San Francisco that can help me—none nearer than Tennessee. You are a lawyer. Isn't it your business to advise?"
"If you put it that way. But it is only fair to say that I am a very inexperienced one. To be frank, I've never had a client of my own."
Faith, her smile was warm as summer sunshine.
"Then I'll be your first, unless you refuse the case. But it may turn out dangerous. I have no right to ask you to take a risk for me"—she blushed divinely—"especially since I am able to pay so small a fee."
"My fee shall be commensurate with my inexperience," I smiled. "And are you thinking for a moment that I would let my first case get away from me at all? As for the danger—well, I'm an Irishman."
"But it isn't really a law case at all."
"So much the better. I'll have a chance of winning it then."
"It will be only a chance."
"We'll turn the chance into a certainty."
"You seem very sure, sir."
"I must, for confidence is all the stock in trade I have," was my gay answer.
From her bag Miss Wallace took the map and handed it to me.
"First, then, you must have this put in a safety-deposit vault until we need it. I'm sure attempts will be made to get it."
"By my cousin. He'll stick at nothing. If you had met him you would understand. He is a wonder. I'm afraid of him. His name is Boris Bothwell—Captain Bothwell, lately cashiered from the British army for conduct unbecoming a gentleman. In one of his rages he nearly killed a servant."
"But you are not English, are you?"
"He is my second cousin. He isn't English, either. His father was a Scotchman, his mother a Russian."
"That explains the name—Boris Bothwell."
Like an echo the words came back to me from over my shoulder.
"Capt. Boris Bothwell to see you, Mr. Sedgwick."
In surprise I swung around. The office boy had come in quietly, and hard on his heels was a man in a frogged overcoat with astrakhan trimmings. Not half an hour earlier I had sat opposite him at luncheon.
CAPTAIN BOTHWELL INTERRUPTS
As he moved into the room with his easy, vigorous stride, one could not miss the impression, of his extraordinary physical power.
I am an outdoor man myself, but I have never seen the day when I was a match for Boris Bothwell at feats of strength. Unusually deep in the chest and wide of shoulder, with long, well-packed arms that gave his big, sinewy hands a tremendous grip, he was not in the least muscle-bound.
In my junior year I was the champion intercollegiate sprinter of the Pacific coast, but I have done a fifty with Bothwell for no less a stake than my life, and not gained two feet on the man.
At sight of his cousin he bowed ironically, with the most genial of mocking smiles. To that smile I despair of doing justice. It was not from the lips merely, nor yet was it from the good will in him, but had its birth apparently of some whimsical thought that for the moment lent his face a rare charm. A second bow was for me.
"Mr. John Sedgwick, I presume?"
"At your service, sir."
He removed his coat leisurely and hung it on the back of a chair.
"Just so. I've had the devil of a time running you down, but here we are at last. And all's well that ends well."
"You have business with me?" I asked curtly.
"Even at the risk of interrupting a tete-a-tete with the most charming young lady under heaven." His head dipped again with derisive courtesy toward Miss Wallace. "But I need detain you scarce a moment. You found this morning a paper I had the misfortune to lose. You will allow me to offer a thousand thanks for the very good care you have doubtless taken of it and will permit me to relieve you of it."
He was the very letter of urbanity, but beneath the velvet of his voice I felt the steel. It lay, too, in the glitter of the cold eyes that gimleted mine sharply.
Be sure I gave him back his smile and his insolent aplomb.
"Surely you are mistaken, Captain Bothwell. I recollect finding nothing that belongs to you."
"We'll waive that point. You found a paper," he answered quietly, drawing up a chair and seating himself astride it with his face to the back.
"I picked up a paper that fell from the hand of Miss Wallace."
"Exactly. I speak, of course, in the interest of my cousin. If you have returned it to her my purpose is served."
Impatient at our fencing, or afraid, perhaps, that I might be deceived by his suavity, the girl cut in tartly:
"You think you could rob me more successfully next time, Boris?"
His kindly toleration was a lesson in diplomacy.
"Fie, fie, Evie! A family difference of opinion. I think we must not trouble Mr. Sedgwick with our little diversions entre nous."
"Unfortunately, you are a day after the fair, Captain Bothwell. Miss Wallace has already done me the honor to consult me in an advisory capacity."
I let him have my declaration of war with the airiest manner in the world. My spirits were rising with the nearness of the battle, and I thought it would do our cause not the least harm in the world to let him see I was not a whit afraid to cross blades.
"Indeed! Then for the matter in hand I may consider you one of the family. I congratulate you, Evie. Shall we say a brother—or a cousin—or——"
"It isn't necessary to be a cad, Boris," she flung back hotly.
"Pardon me. You are right—neither necessary nor desirable. I offer regrets." Then of a sudden the apology went out of his face like the flame from a blown candle. He swung curtly around upon me. "Mr. Sedgwick, I must trouble you for the map."
I will be the last to deny that there was something compelling about the man. He sat there stroking his imperial, while the black eyes of the man held mine with a grip of steel. Masterful he looked, and masterful I found him to the last day of that deadly duel we fought out to a finish.
In that long moment of suspended animation when only our eyes lived—crossed and felt the temper of each other as with the edge of grinding rapiers—we took each the measure of his foe pretty accurately. If I held my own it was but barely. The best I could claim was a drawn battle.
"Regretfully I am compelled to decline your request."
"It is not a request but a demand. Come, sir, the map!" he repeated more harshly.
That he would somehow back his demand I did not for an instant doubt, though as to how I was still in the dark.
"Let me set you right, Captain Bothwell. This is a law office, in the city of San Francisco, United States of America. I am neither Tommy Atkins nor a Russian serf. Therefore, I again decline."
Coals of fire lay in his eyes.
"So I gather, and as a child you often wanted the moon. But did you get it?" I inquired pleasantly.
"The map—the map!" He had not raised his voice a note, but I give you my word his eyes were devilish. He was a dangerous man in an ugly frame of mind.
"Certainly you are a man of one idea, captain. Show proof of ownership and I shall be glad to comply with your request."
So quick was his motion that the revolver seemed to have leaped to his hand of its own accord.
"I give you my word, Mr. John Sedgwick of San Francisco, United States of America, that in the event you do not at once hand me that map I shall blow the top of your head off!"
In a measure I was prepared for this. I told myself that we were in the heart of a great city, in daylight, with the twentieth century setting of a fifteen-story office building. Were I to put my head out of the window a thousand hurrying people on Market Street would hear my call.
Yet I knew that I might as well be alone with him on a desert island for all the help that could reach me. I knew, too, that he was not bluffing. What he said he would do, that he would do.
My face can on occasion be wooden.
"Interesting, if true," I retorted coolly.
"And absolutely true. Make no mistake about that, Mr. Sedgwick."
His hand rested on the back of the chair for a support. My eyes looked straight into the blue barrel of his weapon. It was a ticklish moment. I congratulate myself that my nerves were in good condition. My fingers played a tattoo upon a sheet of paper on my desk. Beneath that page of office stationery lay the map he wanted.
"One moment, captain. This is not Russia. Have you considered that the freedom of my country carries with it disadvantages? You would probably be hanged by the neck till you were dead."
His mood had changed, but I knew he was not a whit less dangerous because the veneer of suave mockery masked the savagery of the Slav.
"Not at all. The unwritten law, my friend. I find you insulting my cousin and the hot blood in me boils. I avenge her. Regrettable, of course. Too hasty, perhaps. But—oh well, let bygones be bygones."
In one breath he had tried and acquitted himself.
"And do you think that I would agree to your accursed lies?" his cousin asked, white as new-fallen snow.
"Let us hope so. Otherwise I should have to base my action upon a construction less creditable to you. The point is that I shall not hesitate to carry out my promise. We can arrange the details later, my dear. Come, Mr. Sedgwick! Choose!"
"You coward!" flashed his cousin in a blaze of scorn.
"Not at all, dear Evie. All point of view, I assure you. Mr. Sedgwick has told you that I take a sporting chance of being scragged. I haven't the slightest ill feeling, but—I want what I want. Have you decided, sir?"
He was scarcely two yards from me, but neither his keen gaze nor the point of the automatic revolver wandered for a fraction of a second from me. There was not a single chance to close with him. I was considering ignominious surrender when Miss Wallace saved my face.
"Can he give you what he hasn't got?" she cried out, her natural courage and her contempt struggling with her fear for me.
"So he hasn't it, eh?" There was a silence before he went on: "But it is in this room somewhere. You have it or he has it. Now, I wonder which?" He spoke softly, as if to himself, without the least trace of nervousness or passion. "Yes, that's the riddle. Which of you?"
His eyes released me long enough to shoot a questioning glance at her, for from my face he could read nothing.
"If you have it, Evie, my cousin, you will perhaps desire to turn it over to me for safe keeping. It will be better, I think."
"For you or for me?"
He laughed noiselessly, with the manner peculiar to him of having some private source of amusement within.
"Would you shoot me if I didn't agree with you?" she continued.
"My dear cousin," he reproved. From his air one might have judged him a pained and loving father.
"Then what will you do?"
"Yes, I really think it will be better," he murmured with his strange smile.
"And I ask again, better for whom?"
"For Mr. Sedgwick, my dear," he cut back.
She was plainly taken aback.
"But—since he hasn't the paper——"
"We'll assume he has it. At least he knows where it is."
His manner dismissed her definitely from the business in hand. "I must apologize for my brusqueness, Mr. Sedgwick, but I'm sure you'll understand that with a busy man time is money. Believe me, it is with great regret I am forced to cut short so promising a career. You're a man after my own heart. I see quite unusual qualities in you that I would have found pleasure in cultivating. But I mustn't let my selfish regret interfere with what is for the good of the greatest number. At best it's an unsatisfactory world. You're well rid of it. Any last messages, by the way?"
He purred out his atrocious mockery as a great cat gifted with speech might have done while playing with the mouse it meant to destroy.
"I'd like to make it clear to you what a villain you are—but I despair of finding words to do justice to the subject. As for your threat, it is absurd. You'd hang, to a certainty, on the testimony of Miss Wallace."
He shrugged his broad shoulders.
"Life is full of risks. We all have to take them, and for my part it lends a zest. Unfortunately, if you take this risk you will not be in a position later to realize that your judgment was at fault. That, however, is your business and not mine," he concluded cheerfully, lifting his weapon slightly and taking aim.
"For the last time—— Do you give me the map, or do I give you a pass to kingdom come?"
The girl moved forward so that she stood directly between me and the weapon. She was taking a paper from her hand-bag, but she did not lower her eyes to direct her hands in their search.
"I reckon I couldn't make you understand how I despise you—and hate you! I'd rather be kin to the poorest beggar who sweeps the streets down there than to you," she flamed, flinging before him a paper.
Warily he picked it up and glanced at it, still covering me carefully.
"This is the map, is it?"
"You may see for yourself," she blazed.
"It is really very good of you to ask me to keep it for you, Evie. I'll take good care of it—not a doubt of that. It's far better in my hands than yours, for of course you might be robbed."
His impudent smile derided her contempt. For me—I wouldn't have faced that look of hers for twenty maps.
"We're not through with you yet," I told him.
In gay reproof he shook a finger at me.
"Ah! There speaks the lawyer. You'll bring an action, will you?"
It annoyed me to be playing so poor a part before Miss Wallace.
"You're an infernal scoundrel!"
"I could argue you out of that uncharitable opinion if I had time, Mr. Sedgwick. But I'm devilishly de trop—the superfluous third, you know. My dear cousin frowns at me. 'Pon my word, I don't blame her. But you'll excuse me for intruding, won't you? I plead the importance of my business. And I'm very glad of an excuse for meeting you formally, Mr. Sedgwick. The occasion has been enjoyable and will, I trust, prove profitable. I'll not say good-bye—hang me if I do. We'll make it au revoir. Eh?"
An imp of malicious deviltry danced in his eyes. It was not necessary to tell me that he was having a pleasant time.
"Au revoir be it," I nodded, swallowing my bad temper.
Once more he gave us his bland smile, a bow of audacious effrontery, then whipped open the door and was gone.
It may be guessed he left me in no exultant mood. From the first the fellow had taken and held the upper hand. I had come through with no distinction at all and had let him walk off with the booty. But if there be those who think my spirit small I ask them to remember that a revolver staring one in the eye is a potent persuader.
Miss Wallace was the first to speak.
"You know now why I think him a dreadful man," she said, taking a deep breath of relief.
"Just a moment," I excused myself, and ran into the outer office.
Our office Cerberus was sitting at the gate of entry reading the enthralling story of "Hal Hiccup, the Boy Demon." From my pocket I fished one of the few dollars it held.
"Jimmie, follow that man who has just gone out. Find out where he goes and whom he meets. If he stops anywhere keep a note of the place."
The eyes of Young America grew big and round with astonishment, then lit with ecstatic delight. He was going to be a real detective.
"The boss?" He jerked a dirty thumb in the direction of the chief clerk.
"I'll make it right with him. Hurry!"
"You bet I'll keep a peeper on him," he bragged, reaching for his hat.
He was gone.
I returned to my client.
"Excuse me. I wanted to put a spy on your cousin. If he takes the map to a safe-deposit vault we ought to know where. And that reminds me—— What was it you gave him? I thought the map was on my table here?"
"I gave him a copy of it, one my father took years ago."
"But had it a corner torn off just like this one?"
From her hand-bag she drew a scrap of paper. "I was tearing it off just before I took it out."
My admiration was genuine enough.
"You're a cool hand, Miss Wallace. My hat is off to you."
The color deepened slightly in her cheeks. "That was nothing. I just happened to think of it."
"You saved the day, anyhow. He stands only an equal chance with us."
"But he doesn't. My father purposely made an error in the details in case the map happened to fall into the wrong hands. And the latitude and longitude aren't marked."
I could have shouted my delight.
"But he has heard the diary read," she added. "In that the right latitude was given. If he happens to remember——"
"A hundred to one he doesn't, and even at the worst he's no better off than we are."
"Except that he has money and can finance an expedition in search of the treasure."
I came to earth as promptly as Darius Green.
"By Jove! that's true."
For the humiliating fact was that I had not a hundred dollars with which to bless myself, having just lost my small inheritance in a wildcat mining venture.
"I suppose it would take a lot of money?" she said timidly.
"Where is the treasure hidden?"
"On the coast of Panama."
"Near the canal zone?"
"I don't know. The latitude and the longitude are exactly marked, but I haven't looked them up."
"We'll have to outfit a ship here, or make our start from Panama. Yes, it's going to take money."
"Then we can't go any farther with it. I have no means," she said quietly.
The lawyer in me came reluctantly to the fore.
"I suppose I ought to advise you to compromise with Captain Bothwell."
Resolution flashed in the eyes that looked straight into mine.
"I'd rather lose it all! He wouldn't stick to any bargain he made because—well, he would use the treasure as a lever to—get something else he wants."
The flush in her cheeks told me what else it was he wanted, and my heart was lifted within me. Bothwell intended to marry her, and she did not intend that he should. My wishes ran pat with hers.
"That is final, is it?"
"Quite. If you don't want to go on with it you can drop out, Mr. Sedgwick. I thank you for your kindness——"
"And who's talking of dropping out? I suggested compromise because I thought I ought, but I'm the pleased man that you won't listen to my good advice. No, no! I'm in to stay, and here's my hand on it."
"You're just spoiling for the fight," she smiled, her little hand in mine.
"Indeed, and that's a guess which rings the bell. I'll not be satisfied till I try another fall with Mr. Bothwell."
"You're a right funny lawyer."
"I'll tell you a secret. My father was an Irish filibuster in Cuba. He died with his back to a wall when I was five."
"Then it's in the blood."
"He had a chance to slip away by leaving his men, but Barry Sedgwick wasn't the man to take that kind of an opportunity."
"The dear hero! How proud you must be of him," she said in the softest of voices.
"He's the best reference I can give you. Now, Miss Wallace, I'll have to tell this story—or part of it—before I can interest capital in the venture. You are willing that I should?"
"Do whatever you must. It's in your hands."
"First, we'll make sure of the map, then; and after that you can tell me the story of Doubloon Spit."
Together we went to the International Safe Deposit vaults, rented a box, and put in it the map. Afterward we took a car for Golden Gate Park. There she told me the story, in substance if not in the same words, to be found in the next two chapters.
Those who find interest only in the conventional had better read no farther. For this true tale runs red with the primal emotions of the old buccaneers. It is a story of love and hate, of heroism and cowardice, of treasure-trove and piracy on the high seas, of gaping wounds and foul murder. If this is not to your taste, fall out. My story is not for you.
CONCERNING DOUBLOON SPIT
Robert Wallace, the father of Evelyn, was not one of the forty-niners, but he had come to California by way of the Isthmus not very many years later. Always of an adventurous turn, it was on his fourteenth birthday that he ran away from his home in Baltimore to become a stowaway on board a south-bound vessel.
It was a day of privations, and the boy endured more than his share of them without complaint. Somehow he got along, knocking about from one point to another, now at the gold diggings, now on the San Francisco wharfs, and again as a deck hand on the coasters that plied from port to port.
When he was eighteen, but well grown for his age, he fell in with an old salt named Nat Quinn. Quinn was an old man, close to seventy, a survival of a type of sailor which even then had all but passed away.
The sea and the wind had given Quinn a face of wrinkled leather. It was his custom to wear rings in his ears, to carry a murderous dirk, and to wrap around his bald head a red bandanna after the fashion of the buccaneers of old.
He was a surly old ruffian, quick to take offense, and absolutely fearless. When the old fellow was in drink it was as much as one's life was worth to cross his whim.
Nat Quinn was second mate of the Porto Rico when young Wallace shipped before the mast at San Francisco for a cruise to Lima. The crew were probably rough specimens, but there can be no doubt that Quinn hazed them mercilessly.
Soon the whole forecastle was simmering with talk about revenge. Off Guayaquil one night three of the crew found him alone on the deck and rushed him overboard. The old man was no swimmer. No doubt this would have been the end of him if young Wallace, hearing his cry for help, had not dived from the rail and kept him afloat until a boat reached them.
From that night Nat Quinn took a great fancy to the young man and often hinted that he was going to make his fortune. He told of hidden treasure, but never definitely; spoke of a great fortune to be had for the lifting, and promised Wallace that he should go halves.
No doubt he trusted the boy, but the habit of secrecy had grown too strong easily to be broken. Several times he approached the subject, but usually sheered off before he had gone far. Of shrugs and winks he offered plenty, enough to keep the youngster tantalized almost beyond endurance. Nor was it possible to force his confidence, for he was of a surly, taciturn disposition, given to brooding suspicions.
But at last the story came out. Quinn had been in his early days a seaman on board the ship Mary Ann of Bristol, which in the year 1817 was wrecked off the coast of Peru and cast upon the rocks. Most of the crew were saved, including the captain, one Thomas Rogers, the first mate, "Bully" Evans, and the boatswain, Pablo Lobardi, a quarrelsome fellow with whom Quinn had had a difficulty.
The rescued seamen were treated with the greatest kindness by the simple-hearted natives. To Cerro Blanco, the nearest town, they were taken and given work. Most of them found employment in the rich mines of the neighborhood, pending the arrival of some ship to take them back to Europe.
Lobardi was the only one of the crew who could talk Spanish, so that in his capacity of interpreter he acquired much influence with the men. It was he that hatched the vile plot to rob the mines, loot the rich churches and the banks of Cerro Blanco, and make their escape on the ship which put in twice a year to carry the gold to Lima.
It looked a desperate enough adventure, this plan to seize an armed transport and escape with a great treasure, but these ruffians were the very men to carry through such an attempt. In its apparent hopelessness lay one prime factor of success, for none could expect a score of unarmed men to try so forlorn a hope. The transport carried twice as many soldiers, and these could call upon the town for aid in case of need.
Everything went as well for the rascally buccaneers as they could desire. As the treasure wagons from the mines filed through a narrow gorge the sailors fell upon them. By means of three stolen rifles they drove away the guard. In their wild flight for safety the men who composed this body flung away their weapons in panic.
Bully Evans, captain in fact though not in name, now had eleven rifles and three pistols to distribute among his men. Leaving an escort with the gold, he pushed to Cerro Blanco with the main body of robbers. At the outskirts of the town he again divided his forces. One party hastened to the banks and another looted the cathedral. Within an hour the town had been stripped clean of its gold and jewels and the scoundrels had again joined forces at the wharves. Only the need of absolute silence saved the town from a carnival of fire and murder.
It was by this time in the small hours of a dark, moonless night. The pirates loaded the treasure into boats and pulled quietly for the Santa Theresa, a transport which lay like a black hulk in the harbor.
The first boat was challenged by a sentinel on board, but Lobardi gave the countersign which they had forced from the leader of the treasure convoy.
"Muy bien," answered the sentry, and he at once moved away to call the captain of the marines.
As that officer came sleepily to the deck a half dozen figures swarmed over the side of the ship. He gave a cry, the last he ever uttered. A knife hurtling through the dark was buried to the hilt in his throat. Simultaneously one of the men on guard let out his death shriek and the other fled down the hatchway to the quarters of the men.
The first rush of the troopers to the deck was met by a volley that mowed them down. Before they could recover, the pirates were upon them with cutlases. Taken by surprise, hemmed in by the narrow hatchway, the soldiers made a poor defense. Some were pursued and cut down, others escaped by swimming to the wharves. Those who surrendered were flung into a boat and ordered ashore.
Captain Rogers worked the brig out of the harbor and set her nose to the north. There was need of haste, for the ship's consort was expected in a day or two. That there would be a pursuit nobody doubted.
Now occurred a state of affairs to be accounted the most strange were it not the most natural in the world. While the plot had been fomenting, and during its execution, these scurvy fellows had been of one mind, amenable to discipline, and entirely loyal to each other.
The thing had been in the wind a month, yet not one of them had breathed a word in betrayal. But no sooner had they won success than dissensions broke out. They were jealous of their officers, suspicious of each other.
Men whispered together in corners, and others scowled at them in distrust. They grew unruly, were soon ripe for mutiny.
To make matters worse, the wines and liquors aboard were made too free. It was not long before the cutthroats were in a debauch that threatened to last as long as the rum. Fights grew frequent. Within a week one man was buried and another lay in his bunk cut to ribbons.
At this juncture Rogers, Evans, and Lobardi put their heads together and quietly dumped overboard the liquor supply. Captain Rogers was the ablest seaman among the officers, and he it was that worked the brig. But Bully Evans was the real leader of the pirates. He was a big man, of tremendous vitality and strength, and he ruled like a czar, hazing his men into submission by sheer brutality.
One specimen of his methods must serve to illustrate a week of battle, every hour filled with disorder. The brig Truxillo, consort of the Santa Theresa, had appeared in the offing one morning and hung on in chase with all sail set. All day and night the two ships raced, the one to escape, the other to capture the pirates.
Next morning there came up a heavy fog. Orders were given to about ship. Nothing could have amazed the crew more, and mutiny was instantly in the air. The malcontents whispered together and sent forward a committee of three to voice their refusal to comply with the order.
Before a dozen words had been spoken Evans stepped forward and flung the spokesman from the quarterdeck. While the other two hesitated he was upon them, had cracked their heads together, and hammered them down the steps to the waist.
From his belt he whipped two pistols and leveled them at the grumblers.
"Avast, you lubbers!" he bellowed. "By the powers, I'll learn you to play horse with Bully Evans! Pipe up your complaint or foot it, you flabby seacocks what call yourselves gentlemen of fortune! Stow my quid, but I'll send some of you to feed the fishes if you try to make the f'c'sle rule the quarterdeck. Come, pipe up!"
They did not say much of what was in their minds, for he took the words out of their mouths, berating them for meddlesome fools and explaining how their sole chance of escaping was to slip past the Truxillo in the fog and shake off the pursuit. All this he roared with the foulest of accompanying oaths, treating the crew like dogs so effectively that they turned tail and gave up without a blow.
On the morning of the third day after this the Santa Theresa poked her nose into San Miguel Gulf on the southern coast of Panama. The captain took her across the gulf into Darien Harbor, then followed the southern branch practically to the head of the bay, at which point he anchored.
Tired of being confined aboard the ship, the crew were eager to get ashore. This suited the plans of Evans. As soon as the long boat had gone with the shore party he packed the treasure in boxes and lowered them into a boat. Late in the afternoon the tired sailors returned to the ship.
Evans ordered the boatswain to pipe all hands on deck. To the assembled crew he made a speech, pointing out the need of getting the treasure to some safer place than aboard a ship which might any day fall into the hands of the enemy. He intended, he said, to take three men with him and bury the chests on the sand spit within sight of them all.
But at this proposal the men broke into flat rebellion. Not one of them was willing to trust the gold out of his reach. Things in fact had come to such a pass that, though there was plenty for all, each was plotting how he might increase his share by robbing his neighbor.
Evans had made his preparations. The officers, Lobardi, Quinn, and two other sailors who sided with the chief villains were grouped together, all of them heavily armed. In the struggle that followed the victory lay with the organized party. The mutineers were defeated and disarmed.
Evans selected Quinn, Lobardi, and a sailor named Wall to go with him ashore to bury the gold. Those on board watched the boat pull away with the gold that had cost so many lives. To the fury and amazement of all of them the boat rounded a point of land and disappeared from sight.
Evans had broken his agreement to bury the treasure in the sight of all. Even Captain Rogers joined in the imprecations of the men. He ordered the long boat lowered for a pursuit, but hardly had this started when a shot plumped into the water in front of it.
Unobserved in the excitement, the Truxillo had slipped into the bay. Its second shot fell short, its third wide, but the fourth caught the boat amidship and crumpled it as the tap of a spoon does an empty eggshell. Of the eight men aboard two were killed outright and the rest thrown into the sea. One of them—a man named Bucks, as we were to learn in a most surprising way—clung to the wreckage and succeeded in reaching shore. The rest were drowned or fell a prey to sharks.
The long boat disposed of, the Truxillo turned her guns upon the Santa Theresa. Those left on board made a desperate defense, but the captain, seeing that escape was impossible, chose to blow up the ship rather than be hanged as a pirate from the yardarm.
Meanwhile, the boat with the treasure, which had rounded the point before the Truxillo had appeared, had been beached on the spit and the chests dragged ashore. Evans was burying the boxes when the first shot of the Truxillo fell upon his ears. Naturally he concluded that it was from the Santa Theresa as a warning of what he might expect.
Bully Evans showed his yellow teeth in a grin.
"Compliments of the old man," he said, no whit disturbed at his double treachery.
But at the sound of the final explosion the desperadoes looked at each other.
They ran to the nearest hill and saw the destruction of their companions.
The Portuguese boatswain was the first to recover.
"There ees now fewer to share," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Evans looked at Quinn and gave a signal. The double murder was done with knives. Where there had been four, now only two remained.
Evans and Quinn finished burying the treasure and removed all trace of their work. A map was drawn by Quinn, showing the exact location of the cache. The murderers slipped back to their boat and, under cover of darkness, crept up the harbor till they came to the mouth of a large river. Up this they pulled and disappeared into the interior. Neither of them was aware that Bucks had seen the treacherous killing and the disposal of the treasure.
Six weeks later a living skeleton crawled out of the fever-laden swamps of Panama and staggered down to a little village on the Gulf of Uraba. The man was Nat Quinn. He had followed the Rio Tuyra, zigzagged across the Isthmus, and reached the northern coast.
Somewhere in the dark tangle of forest behind him, where daylight never penetrates the thick tropical growth, lay the body of Bully Evans. It was lying face down in the underbrush, a little round hole in the back of the head. Quinn's treachery had anticipated that of the mate.
As the survivor lurched down to the settlement his voice rose in a high cackle of delirious song. These were the words of his chant:
It's bully boys, ho! and a deck splashed red— The devil is paid, quo' he, quo' he, A knife in the back and a mate swift sped! Heave yo ho! and away with me.
THE MAN WITH THE SECRET
This was the terrible story old Cap Nat, as he was commonly called, told to Robert Wallace one night in a grog shop at San Francisco nearly forty years after the events had taken place. Only one point he omitted—the fact that Bucks had escaped from the long boat and witnessed the caching of the plunder—and this only because he was not aware of it.
During all those forty years Quinn had kept it as a fixed purpose to return to the scene of his crime and possess himself of the wealth he had lost his soul to gain.
But to outfit an expedition of the necessary proportions took much money. On this rock the man's purpose had always split. Periodically he was a hard drinker. He would live hard and close for a year, saving every cent he could, and then spend the whole amount in one grand debauch.
Had he been willing to confide his story to some capitalist of California it is likely he might have raised the needed funds, but the nature of the man was both suspicious and secretive and he had guarded his knowledge all these years with jealousy.
Wallace was acquainted with the owner and master of a tramp schooner which had a doubtful reputation along the water front. Jim Slack had been an opium smuggler and was watched so closely by the revenue officers that he jumped at the chance of a trip to parts where no government officials could reach him.
Cautiously Wallace broached the subject to him, hinting at treasure but leaving the details dark. He drew a map which was a facsimile of the one made by Quinn, except that the latitude and longitude were omitted, and one or two details altered.
The result was that two weeks later the three men, together with a crew of five, were beating their way along the coast of Lower California in the notorious Jennie Slack. A bargain had been struck by which the owner of the vessel was to get one-third of the gold, out of which share he was to pay all the expenses of the cruise.
Each of the three leaders of the expedition was pledged to secrecy, but before they had been a week out of the Golden Gate Wallace discovered by accident not only that the crew knew the story, but that they were implicated with the master of the boat in a plot to obtain the whole treasure for themselves.
He told what he had learned to Quinn under cover of an evening smoke on deck. The old pirate took it without winking an eyelash, for he could see Slack and one of his men watching them.
"Six to two. Long odds, boy," he said, knocking the ashes from his pipe.
To keep up appearances Bob Wallace laughed.
"I'm to be got rid of just before we land. It is to be made to look like an accident. You're safe until you have uncovered the treasure. Then it's good-by Cap Nat, too."
Quinn's laugh rang loudly, for the old man could play the game with any of them.
"We can't go back. If we suggested that the row would begin at once. No, we must choose our time instead of letting them choose theirs. And we can't wait too long, because they would see we were taking precautions against being surprised. We'll strike to-night—and hard."
No doubt Cap Nat was right in his strategy, but the scruples of the boy's conscience lost them the advantage of a sudden attack. He would fight to save his life, but he would not take advantage of his enemies.
Perhaps it would be nearer the truth to say that he could not. Something stuck in his throat at the thought of falling upon men unexpectedly and dealing murder broadcast. Nor could the arguments of the old man shake him.
Dreadfully frightened though he was, the boy stuck doggedly to his position. He would die before he would do such a thing. And indeed he counted himself as no better than dead.
The two shared the same cabin, so that they were able to see each other alone several times during the day. Neither of them went out without being armed with a brace of pistols and a dirk, though these they kept hidden under their rough coats.
During Slack's watch that evening Quinn and his friend made their final preparation for defense. The captain's cabin was larger than theirs, and offered better points of defense. Furthermore, here were kept the arms and the ammunition of the ship. Quinn volunteered to get food and water into it while Wallace held the cabin.
Three trips were made by the old salt to the cook's gallery. The first time he brought back a keg of water, the second time a large tin into which he had crammed a varied assortment of food. It was while he was away on the third journey that a scream rang out in the stillness.
The boy heard a rush of feet, followed by a shot. Bob ran out of the cabin toward the galley. Up the steps from the lower deck came Quinn, blood streaming from his head. In one hand he carried a knife, in the other a copper kettle full of beans still steaming.
"Back, lad, back! Hell's broke loose," the old man cried.
"What happened? Are you badly hurt?"
"I killed cookie. Caught me in the galley and I knifed him," panted the old man.
A bullet whistled past. Wallace turned, caught sight of Slack's head above the hatchway, and fired. The head disappeared. A few moments and they were safe in the cabin.
"You are wounded," Bob cried.
"A bullet grazed my head. Get ready for them. Never mind me."
He tied a bandanna over the wound while the young man arranged on the bunk cutlases, their spare pistol, and the musket.
Slack was the first of the enemy to appear. He carried with him a white napkin for a flag. Ostensibly he had come to find out the cause of this outbreak, really to learn how well prepared the defenders were.
Cap Nat sent him to the right about briskly. "Get out, traitor! Step lively now, or I'll pepper you!"
From his breast Slack whipped a pistol and fired at the bald head of the old buccaneer. A shot from Wallace rang-out in answer. Slack ran for cover, but at the stairs waved a derisive gesture.
For half an hour everything was quiet. Then came the sound of stealthy whispers and softly padding feet.
Quinn swung his cutlas to test it.
"Stand by for a rush. They're coming," he said.
Almost before he had finished speaking feet pattered swiftly along the deck. The night was suddenly broken with shouts and curses. The stars that had been shining through the window were blotted out with smoke.
The door crashed in and men poured pell-mell through the opening. The details of what followed were always blurred into a medley of carnage in the mind of Wallace. He knew that both he and Quinn fired, and that the cabin filled with smoke.
Fierce arms gripped him. He hacked into the smoke with his knife. Twice bodies thudded to the floor. A cutlas slashed his left arm. He was dragged from the cabin to the open deck and found himself struggling with a red-bearded giant who tossed him about as if he had been a child.
The fellow had a knife in his belt which he was trying to draw. Robert fought to the last ounce of strength in him to prevent this. But the sailor was too strong for him. Inch by inch he went down. The other's knee drove into his chest, his sinewy hand closed on the lad's throat. Wallace saw the knife flash and for the moment lost his senses.
When his eyes opened again the vise at his throat had withdrawn, the knee on his chest was relaxing. The giant was dropping like a log. Above him stood Quinn, a ghastly sight, in his hand a streaming cutlas.
Wallace rose and looked about him. Two men lay huddled in the cabin, a third was staggering away with both hands clapped to his head. The giant made four, the cook five. This left only Captain Slack against them.
"By Heaven, we've beat them," the boy cried.
"Yes, lad, we've beat them," grinned Quinn, leaning heavily against the door. "But it's Nat's last fight. I've got a bellyful—more than I can carry. The old man is bound for Davy Jones's locker."
Slowly he slid to the deck.
Robert carried him into the cabin, bleeding from a dozen wounds. He was badly hacked, and from a gunshot wound in the vitals he was bleeding to death.
His comrade forced liquor between his teeth and offered to examine his wounds. Old Nat waved him aside.
"No use. I'm for hell." He smiled and began to sing in a quavering voice the chorus of the grim old buccaneers' song.
It's bully boys, ho! and a deck splashed red— The devil is paid, quo' he, quo' he, A knife in the back and a mate swift sped! Heave yo ho! and away with me.
It must have been weird to hear the man, after so wicked and turbulent a life, troll from ashen lips the godless song of the old seadogs with whom he had broken all the commandments.
Only once after this did his mind come back to the present. A few minutes before the end the old pirate's eyes opened. He tried to whisper something, but could not. Feebly his hand tapped at something hard above his heart. Robert took from next the skin a package wrapped in oilcloth. Quinn's eyes lit.
In this was the map of Doubloon Spit.
Imagine now the situation on this ship of death. Three men only were left alive, and one of these so badly wounded that he leaped overboard in madness before morning. Of the remaining two, neither could sleep without the fear of murder in his heart.
Two days wore away, one holding the upper and the other the lower deck. Meanwhile the ship drifted, a derelict on the face of the Pacific.
At length an agreement was patched up. Slack and Wallace sailed the ship together, each with one eye on the other. It is certain that neither slept without locked and bolted doors.
On the fourth day after truce had been declared, land was sighted. While it was the boy's watch and the captain was asleep Wallace managed to lower a boat and paddle to the shore. He had scarcely reached the beach when a tropical storm swept across the waters. At daybreak the Jennie Slack was no longer in sight. Neither schooner nor owner was ever seen again.
Robert Wallace was picked up several days later by a Mexican sheepherder. In time he worked his way back to San Francisco. At the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad he left California for the South.
Here he engaged in business, forsook his vagabond habits, and in course of time married. No doubt it was always in his mind to have another try at the treasure, but time slipped away without his doing so. His happy marriage fettered him. Before he realized it, he was an old man. The most he could do was to leave the secret for his daughter.
The package was found by his executor sealed in a safety deposit box. He left instruction that it was to be opened by his daughter upon her twenty-first birthday.
A week before the events told in the first chapter she had reached her majority. In the presence of Boris Bothwell, whom she had lately met for the first time, the oilcloth package had been opened.
He had agreed to finance the expedition to Doubloon Spit and she had come to San Francisco with her aunt to make the voyage with him. Meanwhile, letters had reached her from Scotland which made clear the true character of Bothwell.
He had attempted twice to get possession of the map. His personal attention displeased her. They had quarreled, finally, on the morning of the episode of the second-story window.
WE FIND A SHIP
Partly from the diary of Robert Wallace and partly from the lips of his daughter I gathered the story set down in the two preceding chapters.
If I have given it with some detail, believe me, it is not because I care to linger over the shadow of tragedy that from the first hung about the ill-gathered treasure, but rather that you may understand clearly the issue facing us.
Some men would have turned their back upon the adventure and voted the gold well lost. I wanted to see the thing out to a finish.
I shall never deny that the personality of her who was to be my partner in the enterprise had something to do with the decision to which I came. The low, sweet voice of the Southland, the gay, friendly eyes, the piquant face, all young, all irresistibly eager and buoyant, would have won a less emotional man than Jack Sedgwick.
But why make apologies? After all, every man that lives has his great adventure, whether it come garbed in drab or radiant with the glow of the sunrise. A prosaic, money-grubbing age we call this, but by the gods! romance hammers once in a lifetime at the door of every mother's son of us. There be those too niggardly to let her in, there be those to whom the knock comes faintly; and there be a happy few who fling wide the door and embrace her like a lover.
For me, I am Irish, as I have said. I cried "Aye!" and shook hands on the bargain. We would show Captain Boris Bothwell a thing or two. It would be odds but we would beat him to those chests hidden in the sand.
This was all very well, but one cannot charter and outfit a ship for a long cruise upon day-dreams. The moneyed men that I approached smiled and shook their wise gray heads. To them the whole story was no more than a castle in Spain. For two days I tramped the streets of San Francisco and haunted the offices of capitalists without profit to our enterprise.
On the afternoon of the third I retired, temporarily defeated, to my club, the Golden Gate. On my salary I had no business belonging to so expensive a club, but I had inherited from my college days a taste for good society and I gratified it at the expense of other desires.
In the billiard-room I ran across an acquaintance I had met for the first time on the Valdez trail some years earlier. His name was Samuel Blythe. By birth he was English, by choice cosmopolitan. Possessed of more money than he knew what to do with, he spent a great deal of time exploring unknown corners of the earth. He was as well known at Hong-Kong and Simla as in Paris and Vienna. Within the week he had returned to San Francisco, from an attempt to reach the summit of Mount McKinley.
He was knocking balls about aimlessly.
"Shoot you a game of pool, Sedgwick," he proposed.
Then I had an inspiration.
"I can give you more fun for your money another way. Come into the library, Blythe."
There I told him the whole story. He heard me out without a smile. For that alone I could have thanked him. When I had finished he looked for a minute out of the window with a far-away expression in his eyes.
"It's a queer yarn," he said at last.
"And of course you don't believe a word of it?" I challenged.
"Don't I? Let me tell you this, old man. There are a number of rum things in this old world. I've bucked up against two or three of them. Let me see your map."
I had made another copy of it, with the latitude and longitude omitted. This I handed to him.
While he examined it his eyes shone.
"By Jove, this is a lark. You can have the old tub if you want it."
He was referring to his splendid steam yacht the Argos, in which he had made the trip to Alaska.
"I haven't the price to outfit her and pay your crew," I explained.
"I have. You'll have to let me be your bank. But I say, Sedgwick, you'll need a sailing master. You're not a seaman."
Our eyes met.
"Could Sam Blythe be persuaded to take the place?"
"Could I?" He got up and wrung my hand. "That's what I wanted you to say. Of course I'll go—jump at the chance."
"There's the chance of a nasty row. We're likely to meet Bothwell in that vicinity. If we do, there will be trouble."
"So I gather from your description of the gentleman."
I was delighted. Blythe was not only a good navigator; he was a tried companion, true as steel, an interesting fellow who had passed through strange experiences but never used them to impress upon others a sense of his importance.
He had served through the Boer and the Spanish-American wars with distinction. As I looked at him—a spare tall man with a bronzed face of power, well-shouldered, clear-eyed, and light-footed—I felt he was the one out of ten thousand for my purpose.
"Too bad I didn't know a week ago. I've let my crew go. But we can pick up another. My sailing master Mott is a thoroughly reliable man. He'll look after the details. My opinion is that we ought to get under way as soon as possible. That fellow Bothwell is going to crowd on all sail in his preparations. I take it as a sure thing that he means to have a try for the treasure."
"My notion too. He struck me as a man of resource and determination."
"So much the better. He'll give us a run for our money. My dear fellow, you've saved my life. I was beginning to get bored to extinction. This will be a bully picnic."
"How long will it take you to get the yacht ready?"
"Give me a week to pick a crew and get supplies aboard. I'll offer a bonus to get things pushed."
To see the enthusiasm he put into the adventure did me good after the three days of disappointment I had endured. I was eager to have him and Miss Wallace meet, and I got her at once on the telephone and made arrangements to bring him up after dinner to the private hotel where she and her aunt were stopping.
They took to each other at once. Inside of ten minutes we were all talking about our equipment for the trip.
"If we have a good run and the proper luck we'll be back to you with the treasure inside of a month, Miss Wallace," Blythe promised as he rose to leave.
"Back to me!" She looked first at him and then at me. "You don't think that I'm not going, too, do you?"
It is odd that the point had not come up before, but I had taken it for granted she would wait in 'Frisco for us.
"It's hardly a lady's job, I should say," was my smiling answer.
"Nonsense! Of course I am going." Sharp decision rang in her voice.
"It may be dangerous."
"Fiddlesticks! Panama is a tourist point of travel these days. Half of my schoolgirl chums have been there. It's as safe as—Atlantic City."
"Atlantic City isn't safe if one ventures too far out in the surf," I reminded her.
"I'll stick close to the life line," she promised.
Both Blythe and I were embarrassed. It was of course her right to go if she insisted. I appealed to her aunt, a plump, amiable lady nearer fifty than forty.
"Don't you think, Miss Berry, that it would be better to wait here for us? There would be discomforts to which you are not used."
"That is just what Boris told us," Evelyn put in mischievously.
Miss Berry gave a little shrug of her shoulders.
"Oh, I'd as soon stay here, but Evie will have her way." Her pleasant smile took from the words any sting they might otherwise have held.
"Of course I shall. This is a matter of business," Miss Wallace triumphantly insisted.
Excitement danced in her eyes. She might put it on commercial grounds if she liked, but the truth is that the romance of the quest had taken hold of her even as it had of us. One could not blame her for wanting to go.
I consulted Sam with my eyes.
"I suppose there is no absolute bar to letting the ladies go. There is room enough on the Argos."
"There's plenty of room," he admitted.
After all it was fanciful to suppose that we should run across Bothwell on the face of the broad Pacific. Why shouldn't they have the pleasure of a month's yachting? Certainly their presence would make the voyage a more pleasant one for us.
"All right. Go if you must, but don't blame me if it turns out to be no picnic."
"Thank you, Mr. Sedgwick. That's just what it is going to be—a nice long picnic," the girl beamed.
"Wish I had your beautiful confidence. Have you forgotten Captain Bothwell? Shall we take him along, too?" I asked with a laugh.
"I'm afraid he would want all the cake. No, we'll not ask him to our picnic. He may stay at home."
"Let's hope he will," Miss Berry contributed cheerfully.
I don't think she gave the least weight to our fears of Bothwell. In fact he was rather a favorite of hers.
"If he comes he'll have to take what is left. He understands he's not invited," Miss Wallace nodded gaily.
Blythe was fortunately able to secure his sailing master, Mott, and one of the crew that had sailed with him before, a man named Williams. The Englishman's valet, Morgan, went as steward. For the rest, we had to be content with such men as we could get hurriedly together.
Two brothers named Fleming were secured as engineers, a little cockney as fat as a prize pig for cook. He answered to the cognomen of 'Arry 'Iggins, though on the ship's register the letter H was the first initial of both his names. Caine, the boatswain, was a sinister-looking fellow, but he knew his business. Taken as a whole, the crew appeared to average well enough.
From long practice Blythe was an adept at outfitting a yacht for a cruise. Without going into details I'll only say that we carried very little that was superfluous and lacked nothing that would tend to increase our comfort.
I am no sailor, but it did not take a professional eye to see that the Argos was a jewel of a boat. Of her seagoing qualities I knew nothing except by repute, but her equipment throughout was of the best. She was a three-masted schooner with two funnels, fitted with turbines and Yarrow boilers. To get eighteen knots out of her was easy, and I have seen her do twenty in a brisk wind.
In addition to her main deck the Argos carried a topgallant forecastle and a bridge, the latter extended on stanchions from the main deck to the sides of the ship so as to give plenty of space for games or promenades. The bridge contained a reception and a tea room, which were connected by a carved stairway with the deck below.
The rooms of the commander, the cook, and other servants lay well forward under the bridge. Abaft of these were the kitchen and the pantry, the dining room, the saloon, and the rooms of the owner and his guests.
The conventional phrase "a floating palace" will do well enough to describe the interior of this turbine yacht. No reasonable man could have asked more of luxury than was to be found in the well-designed bath rooms, in the padded library with its shelves of books, its piano and music rack, and in the smoking room arranged to satisfy the demands of the most fastidious.
I had resigned my place with Kester & Wilcox to help push the preparation for our departure, but I was still spending a good deal of my time in the office cleaning up some matters upon which I had been working. Much of the time I was down at the docks, and when I could not be there my thoughts were full of the Argos and her voyage.
Since I was giving my time to the firm without pay I took the liberty of using the boy Jimmie to run errands for me. Journeying back and forth to the wharf with messages and packages, he naturally worked up a feverish interest in our cruise, even though he did not know the object of it. When he came out point-blank one morning with a request to go with us as cabin boy I was not surprised. I sympathized with Master Jimmie's desire, but I very promptly put the lid on his hopes.
"Nothing doing, Mr. James A. Garfield Welch."
"You've gotter have a kid to run errands for youse, Mr. Sedgwick," he pleaded.
"No use talking, Jimmie. You're not going."
"All right," he acquiesced meekly.
Too meekly, it occurred to me later.
THE MISSING CORNER
Blythe and I had agreed that Bothwell would not let us get away without first making an effort to get hold of the original map of Doubloon Spit. He was nobody's fool, and there was no doubt but he had very soon detected the trick his cousin had played upon him.
Since the chart was in a safety-deposit vault we felt pretty sure of ourselves, for he would have to secure it between the time we took it out and our arrival on the Argos, at best a spare half hour in the middle of the day. But since the captain did not know what we had done with the document, it was a good guess that he would have a try at searching for it.
On the evening of the third day before we were due to sail, Blythe and I took Miss Berry and her niece to the opera and afterward to a little supper at a cozy French restaurant just round the corner from the Chronicle Building.
It was well past midnight when we reached the hotel where the ladies had their rooms. Miss Wallace had no sooner flung open the door than she gave an exclamation of amazement.
The room had been fairly turned upside down. Drawers had been emptied, searched, and their contents dumped down in one corner. Rugs had been torn up. Even the upholstery of chairs and the lounge had been ripped. The inner room was in the same condition. A thorough, systematic examination had been made of every square inch of the apartment. It had been carried so far that the linings of gowns had been cut away and the trimming of hats plucked off.
"A burglar!" gasped Miss Berry.
"Let's give him a name. Will Captain Boris Bothwell do?" I asked of Blythe.
The Englishman nodded.
"You've rung the bell at the first shot, Sedgwick."
"Oh, I don't think it," Miss Berry protested. "Captain Bothwell is too much of a gentleman to destroy a lady's things wantonly. Just look at this hat!"
Evelyn laughed at her wail. It happened not to be her hat.
"It's dear Boris, all right. I wonder if he left his card?"
"Shall we call in the police?" her aunt asked.
Miss Wallace questioned me with her eyes.
"Might as well," I assented. "Not that it will make a bit of difference, but it will satisfy the hotel people. Probably it would be as well not to mention our suspicions."
So we had the police in. They talked and took notes and asked questions, and at last went away with the omniscient air peculiar to officers of the law the world over. They had decided it was the work of Nifty Jim, a notorious diamond thief at that time honoring San Francisco with his presence.
Over a cigar in my rooms Blythe and I talked the matter out. Bothwell had made the first move. Soon he would make another, for of course he would search my place at the Graymount. The question was whether to keep the rooms guarded or to let him have a clear field. We decided on the latter.
"How far will the man go? That's the question." My friend looked at his cigar tip speculatively. "Will he have you knocked on the head to see if you are carrying it?"
"He will if he can," I told him promptly. "But I'm taking no chances. I carry a revolver."
"Did you happen to notice that we were followed to-night?"
"That's nothing new. They've been dogging me ever since I got the map. But I play a pretty careful game."
"I would," Blythe agreed gravely. "I say. Let me stay with you here till we get off. Better be sure than sorry."
"Glad to have you, though I don't think it's necessary."
It may have been five minutes later that I suddenly sat bolt upright in my chair. An idea had popped into my head, one so bold that it might have been borrowed from Bothwell's lawless brain.
"I say. Let's play this out with Captain Boris his own way. Let's just remind him we're on earth too."
My eyes danced.
"I'm as good a burglar as he is, and so are you."
"He doesn't give a tinker's dam for the law," I continued. "Good enough! We'll take a leaf out of his book. To-morrow night you have an engagement—to ransack the captain's rooms."
"To get that corner of a map he stole from his cousin. Part of the directions for finding the treasure are on it."
"But Miss Wallace has another copy."
"An inaccurate one. Her father changed the directions on purpose in case some one found it."
Blythe smoked for a minute without answering.
"You're a devilish cool hand, Sedgwick. I'm a law-abiding citizen myself."
"And so am I—when the other fellow will let me. But if a chap hits me on the head with a bit of scantling I'll not stop to look for a policeman."
"Just so. I was about to say that since I'm a law-abiding citizen it's my duty to take from Bothwell the goods he has stolen. I'm with you to search his rooms for that paper."
Underneath his British phlegm I could see that he was as keen on the thing as Jack Sedgwick. Looking back on it from this distance, it seems odd that two reputable citizens should have adventured into housebreaking so gaily as we did.
But Bothwell had brought it on himself, and both of us were eager to show him he had some one more formidable than a young woman to deal with. Moreover, there is something about the very name of buried treasure that knocks the pins of respectability from under a man.
Up to date I had led the normal life of a super-civilized city dweller, but within a fortnight I was to shoot a man down and count it just part of the day's work. None of us knows how strong the savage is in us until we are brought up against life in the raw.
My trailers followed me about next day as usual, but I chuckled whenever I saw them. For we were doing a little sleuthing ourselves. I borrowed Jimmie from the firm and the little gamin kept tab on Bothwell.
The captain did not leave his room until nearly midday, but as soon as he had turned the corner next to his hotel, the Argonaut, on the way to his breakfast-lunch, Jimmie dodged in at the side entrance, slipped up the stairs and along a corridor, up a second and a third flight by the back way, down another passage, and stopped at a room numbered 417.
With him he had a great bunch of keys similar to those used in that hotel. One after another he tried these, stopping whenever he heard approaching footsteps to hide the keys under his coat. Several persons passed, but found nothing unusual in the sight of a boy knocking innocently on a door.
At last Jimmie found a key which turned in the socket. That was all he wanted. Relocking the door he went down the stairs to the street, his fingers tightly clenched around the key that fitted. Nor did he take the little closed fist out of his coat pocket until he and I were alone together in my office, from whence he departed two dollars richer than he had entered.
Jimmie having been retired from duty, Blythe took his place in watching Bothwell. He engaged a room on the fourth floor of the Argonaut, from which he was able to observe the coming and going of the enemy.
My work at the office finished, I took a car for the Graymount, followed as usual by one of the detectives that for days had dogged me. My attendant on this occasion was a shrimp of a man with a very wrinkled face and a shock of red hair. Some imp of deviltry in me moved me to change my seat for one beside his.
"A pleasant day," I suggested to open the conversation.
He agreed that it was.
"I suppose your kind of work is always more cheerful in good weather," I went on.
"My kind of work!" Plainly he was disconcerted at my remark.
"Yes. Must be devilish unpleasant shadowing a man in cold weather. Don't you have to wait outside houses sometimes for hours at a stretch?"
The palm of his hand rasped a stubbly chin as he looked askance at me.
"Why—er—I don't know what you mean."
"Don't you?" I laughed in his face. "Come now, let's put aside the little fiction that I'm not wise to your game. I'm not at all annoyed at the attentions you pay me. It's entirely a matter of business with you. I suppose I'm good for about five dollars a day to you. Faith, that's more than I've ever been able to earn for myself. Sorry I'm leaving these parts soon—on your account."
He did not at all know how to take me, but he earnestly assured me that I was quite mistaken. He was a carpenter by trade.
"Why not make it as easy for you as we can?" I chuckled. "Come in to the Graymount and have dinner with me. Our cafe isn't what it should be, but it will pass at a pinch. What do you say?"
He said that I was making game of him.
"Not at all," I assured him. "I'm merely trying to lighten the load of honest labor. Well, if you won't, you won't. After dinner I'm going to my rooms to smoke a cigar. About nine—or somewhere near that time—I'll be going out for an hour. Are your instructions to follow me?"
"You're all wrong about me, sir. I don't know any more than a rabbit what you are talking about."
"I was only going to say that if you care to go I'll try to arrange for another place at our little party."
He was, I judged, glad to get rid of me at my corner. It had been his instruction to leave the car there too, no doubt, but my discovery of him drove the little man one block farther. I waited till he got off and waved a hand at him before I walked to the Graymount. For me it had been a very entertaining little adventure, but I am inclined to think he found it embarrassing.
The program of my movements which I had given him was accurate enough. Dinner finished. I went to my room for a cigar, after which I called up a taxi.
I selected an ulster with a deep collar, and in the right hand pocket I dropped a revolver, but not before I had carefully examined the weapon.
As I stepped into the taxi the vest-pocket edition of Nick Carter with whom I had ridden up from the city a few hours earlier darted out from the alley where he had been lurking. Again I waved a hand derisively toward him. The chauffeur threw in the clutch and we moved swiftly down the hill. The little sleuth wheeled off in the direction of the nearest drug store.
"He's going to call up Bothwell to tell him I've gone," was my guess.
For perhaps a quarter of an hour I had the chauffeur drive me about the city, now fast, now slow, crossing and recrossing our track half a dozen times. When I was finally convinced that no other car was following mine I paid the driver and dismissed him.
Catching the nearest street car I rode down to Market Street. It was a cool night, so that I was justified in turning up my coat collar in such a way as to conceal partially my face.
Inconspicuously I stepped into the Argonaut and up the stairs to Blythe's room.
Sam met me at the door and nodded in the direction of No. 417.
"He went out half an hour ago."
"I'll bet he got a telephone message from little Nick Carter first," I grinned.
Three minutes later we were in Bothwell's room. Since it was probable that he was making himself at home in mine it seemed only fair that we should do as much in his.
We did. If there was a nook or corner within those four walls we did not examine I do not know where it could have been. Every drawer was opened and searched for secret places. Bedposts, legs of chairs and tables, all the woodwork, had to undergo a microscopic scrutiny. The walls were sounded for cavities. We probed the cushions with long fine needles and tore the spreads from the beds. The carpet and the floor underneath were gone over thoroughly. Blythe even took the frame of the mirror to pieces to make sure that the shred of paper we wanted did not lie between the glass and the boards behind.
At last I found our precious document. It was in the waste-paper basket among some old bills, a torn letter, some half smoked cigarettes, and a twisted copy of that afternoon's Call. Bothwell had thrust it down among this junk because he shrewdly guessed a waste-paper basket the last place one would likely look for a valuable chart.
To deprive him of it seemed a pity, so we merely made a copy of what we wanted and left him the original buried again in the junk where he had hidden it.
My watch showed that it was now between one and two o'clock. Since Bothwell might now be back at any time we retired to Blythe's room and learned by heart the torn fragment of directions.
This did not take us long for there was nothing on the faded corner but these letters and words:
wh 12 Take Forked till Tong of west to Big Rock
In the milkman hours we slipped from the hotel and took a car for the Graymount. My rooms were a sight. Some one—and I could put a name to him—had devastated them as a cyclone does a town in the middle West. The wreckage lay everywhere, tossed hither and thither as the searchers had flung away the articles after an examination. Blythe laughed.
"The middle name of our friend Bothwell must be thorough. He hasn't overlooked anything, by Jove."
"Oh, well, it's our inning anyhow," I grinned. "He didn't get what he wanted, and we know it. We did get what we wanted, and he doesn't know it." The Englishman flung himself down into a Morris chair and reached for my cigarettes.
"On the whole I rather fancy our new profession, Jack. I wonder if Captain Bothwell will send our photographs to the chief of police for his rogues' gallery."
IN THE FOG
The day before we sailed I spent an hour aboard the Argos arranging my things in my cabin. While returning in one of the yacht's boats I caught sight through the fog of two figures standing on the wharf.
I had a momentary impression that one of these was our chief engineer, George Fleming, but when I scrambled ashore only one of the two was in sight. The one I had taken to be our engineer had sheered off into the fog.
The outline of the other bulked large in the heavy mist, partly because of the big overcoat, no doubt. I had a feeling that I ought to know the man, but it was not until he stepped forward to me that I recognized him.
"A pleasant evening if one doesn't object to fog, Mr. Sedgwick," he said, lifting his hat and bowing.
"It's you, is it?" I answered, coolly enough.
"Thought I'd drop down and see how you are getting along. The Argos looks like a good sailor. I congratulate you."
"You sail to-morrow, I understand."
"Since you know already I'll save myself the trouble of telling you."
"Sharp work, Mr. Sedgwick. I needed only one good look at you to know you were a first-class man for this sort of thing."
"I am delighted that my work pleases Captain Bothwell."
He passed my irony with a laugh.
"Oh, I didn't say it pleased me. I'm after the treasure myself, and I'm going to get it. But I'm not a fool. I can appreciate even an enemy when I find him on the job."
"And of course your appreciation won't keep you from sticking a knife in him if you find it necessary."
"Of course not. I said I wasn't a fool," he admitted easily.
We were standing on the edge of the wharf, shut out from the world by a fog bank that left us to all intents alone. It was an uncanny place to meet one's dearest enemy. Faintly I could still hear the splashing of the oars as the boat that had brought me ashore moved back to the Argos. Otherwise no sound but the lapping of the waves at the piles broke the silence.