List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"Thirty and nine, Captain."

"Then do you take ten and scale the starboard cliff and you,
Abner, with other ten take the cliff to larboard.  I'll bide here
wi' the rest and so we'll have 'em--"

"Them cliffs be perilous high, Cap'n!"

"My hook is more perilous, Tom Day!  Off wi' you, ye dogs, or
I'll show ye a liver yet and be--"

He stopped all at once as, faint at first yet most dreadful to
hear, there rose a man's cry, chilling the flesh with horror, a
cry that waxed and swelled louder and louder to a hideous
screaming that shrilled upon the night and, sinking to an awful
bubbling murmur, was gone.

Up sprang Tressady to stare away across Deliverance whence this
dreadful cry had come, and I saw his hook tap-tapping at his
great chin; then beyond these shining sands was the thunderous
roar of a great gun, a furious rattle of small-arms that echoed
and re-echoed near and far, and thereafter single shots in rapid
succession.  Hereupon rose shouts and cries of dismay:

"Lord love us we'm beset!  O Cap'n, we be took fore and aft. 
What shall us do, Cap'n?  Yon was a gun.  What o' the ship,
Cap'n--what o' the ship?"

"Yonder--look yonder!  Who comes?" cried Tressady, pointing
towards Deliverance Beach with his glittering hook.

Twisting my head as I lay, I looked whither he pointed, and saw
one that ran towards us, yet in mighty strange fashion, reeling
in wide zig-zags like a drunken man; and sometimes he checked,
only to come on again, and sometimes he fell, only to struggle

"By God--it's Abnegation!" cries Tressady.  "'Tis my comrade
Mings!  Look to the prisoner, ye dogs--you Tom Purdy!  I'm for
Abnegation!"  And off he went at a run.  At his going was mighty
talk and discussion what they should do, some men being for
stealing away in the boats, others for taking to the woods, and
all clean forgetting me where I lay.  But suddenly they fell
silent all for Abnegation was hailing feebly, and was come so
nigh that we might see him, his face all bloody, his knees
bending under him with weakness as he stumbled on.  Suddenly,
beholding Tressady, he stopped and hailed him in wild, gasping

"Roger--O Roger!  The devil's aboard us, Roger--Penfeather's on
us--Penfeather's took the ship--I'm all that's left alive!  They
killed Sol first--did ye--hear him die, Roger?  O did ye hear--"

I saw him fall and Tressady run to lift him, and watched these
pirate rogues as, with oaths and cries of dismay, they hasted
hither to throng about the two; then, rolling into the nearest
shadow I struggled to my feet and found myself beneath the
spreading branches of Bartlemy's tree.  And now, as I strove
desperately against the rope that bit into the flesh of me, I
felt the rope fall away, felt two soft arms close about me and a
soft breath on my cheek:

"Martin--O thank God!"  Turning, I caught my dear, brave lady to
my heart.  Heedless of aught else in the world beside I clasped
her in my aching arms, and kissed her until she stayed me and
showing me where stood our enemies, a wild disordered company,
took my hand and began to run.  Reaching the cliff we climbed
together nor stayed until she had brought me to a little cave
where lay an arquebus together with bandoliers.  "I tried to
reload it, dear Martin, but 'twas vain--my poor, silly hands
shook so.  For, O my dear, I--heard them--saw them and--thought I
should run mad--O Martin my love!"

So now whiles I loaded the arquebus I told her as well as I might
something of what I thought concerning her brave spirit, of my
undying love for her, though in fashion very lame and halting. 
Thereafter, the weapon being ready I placed it near and, sitting
within the gloom of this little cave, I took my love into my
arms, her dear head pillowed on my breast, and kissed the tremors
from her sweet mouth and the horror from her eyes.  And thus with
her arms about my neck and her soft, smooth cheek against mine,
we waited for what was to be.



In the shadow of the cliff below our hiding-place crept divers of
these pirate rogues, and, crouching there cheek by jowl fell to a
hoarse mutter of talk yet all too low for us to catch; but
presently there brake out a voice high-pitched, the which I knew
for that of Smiling Sam.

"We'm done, lads, I tell ye.  O love my lights--we'm done!  'Tis
the end o' we since Penfeather hath took the ship--and here's us
shall lie marooned to perish o' plagues, or Indian-savages, or
hunger unless, lads, unless--"

"Unless what, Smiler?" questioned one, eagerly.

"Unless we'm up and doing.  Penfeather do lack for men--Mings
says he counted but ten at most when they boarded him!  Well,
mates--what d'ye say?"

"Ha, d'ye mean fight, Smiler?  Fall on 'em by surprise and
recapture the ship--ha?"

"O bless my guts--no!  Penfeather aren't to be caught so--not
him!  He'll ha' warped out from the anchorage by this!  But he be
shorthanded to work the vessel overseas, 'tis a-seekin' o' likely
lads and prime sailor-men is Penfeather, and we sits on these
yere sands.  Well, mates, on these yere sands we be but what's
took up us on these yere sands?  The boats lie yonder!  Well?"

"Where be you heading of now, Smiler?  Where's the wind?  Talk

"Why look'ee all, if Penfeather wants men, as wants 'em he doth,
what's to stay or let us from rowing out to Penfeather soft and
quiet and 'listing ourselves along of Penfeather, and watch our
chance t' heave Penfeather overboard and go a-roving on our own
account?  Well?"

At this was sudden silence and thereafter a fierce mutter of
whispering lost all at once in the clatter of arms and breathless
scuffling as they scrambled to their feet; for there, within a
yard of them, stood Tressady, hand grasping the dagger in his
belt, his glittering hook tapping softly at his great chin as he
stared from one to other of them.

"Ha, my pretty lambs!" says he, coming a pace nearer.  "Will ye
skulk then, will ye skulk with your fools' heads together?  What
now, mutiny is it, mutiny?  And what's come o' my prisoner
Martin, I don't spy him hereabouts?"

Now at this they shuffled, staring about and upon each other and
(as I think) missed me for the first time.

"You, Tom Purdy, step forward--so!  Now where's the prisoner as I
set i' your charge, where, my merry bird, where?"

The fellow shrank away, muttering some sullen rejoinder that
ended in a choking scream as Tressady sprang.  Then I (knowing
what was toward) clasped my lady to me, covering her ears that
she might not hear those ghastly bubbling groans, yet felt her
sweet body shaking with the horror that shook me.

"So--there's an end--o' Tom Purdy, my bullies!" gasped Tressady,
stooping to clean his hook in the sand.  "And I did it--look'ee,
because he failed me once, d'ye see!  Who'll be next?  Who's for
mutiny--you, Sammy, you--ha?"

"No--no, Cap'n!" piped Smiling Sam, "Us do be but contriving o'
ways and means seeing' as Penfeather do ha' took our ship, curse

"And what though he has?  'Tis we have the island and 'tis on
this island lieth Black Bartlemy's Treasure, and 'tis the
treasure we're after!  As to ways and means, here we be thirty
and eight to Penfeather's fourteen, and in a little 'twill be
dark and the guns shan't serve 'em and then--aha, look yonder! 
The fools be coming into our very clutches!  To cover, lads, and
look to your primings and wait my word."

Now glancing whither he pointed, I saw, above the adjacent
headland, the tapering spars of a ship.  Slowly she hove into
view, boltsprit, forecastle, waist and poop, until she was plain
to view, and I knew her for that same black ship that fouled us
in Deptford Pool.  She was standing in for the island under her
lower courses only, although the wind was very light, but on she
came, and very slowly, until she was so near that I might see the
very muzzles of her guns.  Suddenly with a cheery yo-ho-ing her
yards were braced round, her anchor was let go and she brought to
opposite Skeleton Cove and within fair pistol-shot.

Now glancing below I saw Tressady stand alone and with Abnegation
Mings huddled at his feet, but in the gloom of the cave and to
right and left, in every patch of shadow and behind every bush
and rock, was the glimmer of pistol or musket-barrel, and all
levelled in the one direction.

Presently up to the lofty poop of the ship clambered a short,
squat man in marvellous wide breeches and a great cutlass on hip,
who clapping speaking-trumpet to mouth, roared amain:

"Ahoy the shore!  We be shorthanded.  Now what rogues o' ye will
turn honest mariners and 'list aboard us for England?  Who's for
a free pardon and Old England?"

Hereupon, from bush and shadow and rock, I heard a whisper, a
murmur, and the word "England" oft repeated.

Tressady heard it also, and stepping forward he drew a long
furrow in the sand with the toe of his shoe.

"Look'ee my hearty boys," says he, pointing to this furrow with
his hook, "the first man as setteth foot athwart this line I send
to hell-fire along o' Tom Purdy yonder!"

"Ahoy the shore!" roared Godby louder than ever, "who's for an
honest life, a free pardon and a share in Black Bartlemy's
Treasure--or shall it be a broadside?  Here be every gun full
charged wi' musket-balls--and 'tis point-blank range!  Which
shall it be?"

Once again rose a murmur that swelled to an angry muttering, and
I saw Smiling Sam come creeping from the shadow of the cave.

"O Cap'n," he piped, "'Tis plaguy desperate business, here's some
on us like to be bloody corpses--but I'm wi' you, Cap'n Roger,
whether or no, 'tis me to your back!"

"To my back, Sammy?  Why so you shall, lad, so you shall, but
I'll ha' your pistols first, Smiler--so!"  And whipping the
weapons from the great fellow's belt, Tressady gave them to
Abnegation Mings where he lay in the shelter of a rock, and
sitting down, crossed long legs and cocked an eye at the heavens.

"Hearties all," quoth he, "the moon sinketh apace and 'twill be
ill shooting for 'em in the dark, so with dark 'tis us for the
boats--muffled oars--we clap 'em aboard by the forechains
larboard and starboard, and the ship is ours, bullies--ours!"

"Well and good, Cap'n!" piped Smiling Sam.  "But how if she slip
her cable and stand from us--"

"And how shall she, my fool lad, and the wind dropped?  The
wind's failed 'em and they lie helpless--"

"And that's gospel true, Cap'n.  Aye, aye, we'm wi' you!  Gi'e us
the word, Cap'n!" quoth divers voices in fierce answer.

"O sink me!" groaned Mings, "here lies poor Abnegation shattered
alow and aloft--O burn me, here's luck!  But you'll take me
along, Roger?  If Death boards me to-night I'd rayther go in
honest fight than lying here like a sick dog--so you'll have me
along, Roger?"

"Aye that will I, lad, that will I and--"

"Ahoy the shore!" roared Godby's great voice again, "Let them
rogue-dogs as'll turn honest mariners, them as is for England and
a free pardon, stand by to come aboard and lively!  In ten
minutes we open fire wi' every gun as bears!"

Now here there brake forth a clamour of oaths, cries and dismayed

"Lord love us, what now, Cap'n?  Is us to be murdered, look'ee? 
Doomed men we be, lads!  Shall us wait to be shot, mates?  What
shall us do, Cap'n, what shall us do?"

"Lie low!" quoth Tressady, rising, "Bide still all and let no man
stir till I give word.  In half an hour or less 'twill be black
dark--very well, for half an hour I'll hold 'em in parley, I'll
speak 'em smooth and mighty friendly, here shall be no shooting. 
I'll hold 'em till the moon be down--and Smiler shall come wi'
me--come, Sammy lad--come!"

So saying he turned and I watched him stride out upon that spit
of sand hard by Bartlemy's tree and this great fat fellow
trotting at his heels.  Upon the edge of the tide Tressady paused
and hailed loud and cheerily:

"Penfeather ahoy!  O Adam Penfeather here come I Roger Tressady
for word wi' you.  Look'ee Adam, we've fought and run foul of
each other this many a year--aye, half round the world and all
for sake o' Black Bartlemy's Treasure as is mine by rights, Adam,
mine by rights.  Well now to-night let's, you and me, make an end
once and for all one way or t'other.  There's you wi' my ship--
true, Adam, true!  But here's me wi' the island and the treasure,
Adam, and the treasure.  And what then?  Why then, says I, let's
you and me, either come to some composition or fight it out man
to man, Adam, man to man.  So come ashore, Captain Penfeather--
you as do be blacker pirate than ever was Bartlemy--come out
yonder on the reef alone wi' me and end it one way or t'other. 
Come ashore, Adam, come ashore if ye dare adventure!"

"Ahoy you, Tressady!" roared Godby in reply, "Cap'n Adam is
ashore wi' ye this moment--look astarn o' you, ye rogue!"

Round sprang Tressady as out from the dense shadow of Bartlemy's
tree stepped Adam Penfeather himself.  He stood there in the
moonlight very still and viewing Tressady with head grimly out-
thrust, his arms crossed upon his breast, a pistol in the fist
and deadly menace in every line of his small, spare figure.

"I'm here, Tressady!" says he, his voice ringing loud and clear.
"And I am come to make an end o' you this night.  It hath been
long a-doing--but I have ye at last, Roger."

"Be ye sure, Adam, so sure?"

"As death, Tressady, for I have ye secure at last."

"Bleed me but you're out there, Adam, you're out there!  The
boot's on t'other leg, for hereabouts do lie thirty and eight o'
my lads watching of ye this moment and wi' finger on trigger."

"I know it!" says Adam nodding.  "But there's never a one dare
shoot me, for the first shot fired ashore shall bring a whole
broadside in answer, d'ye see.  But as for you, Tressady, pray if
you can, for this hour you hang."

"Hang is it, Adam?" says Tressady, and with swift glance towards
the sinking moon, "And who's to do it--who?"

"There be thirty and eight shall swing ye aloft so soon as I give
'em the word, Tressady."

"You do talk rank folly, Adam, folly, and ye know it!" says he
smiling and stealing furtive hand to the dagger in his girdle. 
"But and I should die this night I take you along wi' me and you
can lay to--"  But he got no further, for Smiling Sam (and
marvellous nimble) whipped up a stone, and leaping on him from
behind smote him two murderous blows and, staggering helplessly,
Tressady pitched forward upon his face and lay upon the verge of
the incoming tide.

Beholding his handiwork, Smiling Sam uttered a thin, high-
shrilling laugh, and spitting upon that still form kicked it

"Oho, Cap'n Penfeather," cries he, "'tis the Smiler hath saved ye
the labour, look'ee!  'Tis Sam hath finished Tressady at last and
be damned t' him!  And now 'tis the Smiler as do be first to
'list wi' ye!" and he began to shamble across the sands; but
passing that rock where crouched Abnegation Mings he tripped and
fell, and I saw the flash of Abnegation's knife as they rolled
and twisted in the shadow of this rock, whiles, from this shadow,
rose a shrill crying like the wail of a hurt child, and into the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: