Part 4 out of 4
"That sounds very big, Mr. Buckrow; but where will ye go? Easy enough it
would be if this island was off the track of ships, but the minute ye
make a westing ten miles with a boat-load of gold, or empty-handed, pop!
ye go into the hands of a coast-guard cutter or a ship. Fine time ye'll
have telling ye found it, or that ye got out of the ship by yerself. Back
to Manila ye'll go, and slam into Bilibid prison, and all about ye in the
papers, and all about the gold; and then ye'll be in a nice fix.
"Ye think, because it was secret cargo, the owners of the gold won't kick
up a row when the _Kut Sang_ is a minute overdue? Ye think they'll take
yer yarns when they find ye went in the _Kut Sang_, as the whole Sailors'
Home knows? They'll stretch a rope for ye and Petrak--if ye let Petrak
along--and the two of ye'll drop together into the deepest hole ever ye
clapped eyes on."
"Of course, Mr. Thirkle could pack a ton of gold about, and it would be
different, and not a word said," sneered Buckrow. "Perhaps ye know better
than me what to do--hey, Thirkle?"
"Thirkle has his plans made for the last of it as well as he had for the
first of it, and don't ye forget that, Mr. Buckrow, and never mind what
they are. You go on now and play the string out, and I wish the two of ye
luck; but remember that Thirkle said ye'd hang, and hang ye will. When
they put the rope on yer necks and the black caps over yer heads, just
remember Thirkle said it would come out that way. They'll make a nice job
Petrak shivered and looked at Buckrow, who stood with arms folded,
staring at the ground.
"Oh, stow that gab, Thirkle!" he said. "Never ye fret about me and Reddy;
ye'll be dead, anyhow, and ye won't mind."
"Ye can thank Bucky for it," went on Thirkle, craftily turning his
conversation to Petrak, who was more easily influenced and had a hearty
dread of death or prisons.
"Thank Bucky when ye start up the thirteen steps. They'll be the hardest
thirteen steps ye ever took in yer life, Reddy--and the last. A man's in
a bad way when the shadow of the gallows falls across his bows and the
priest begins to pray. I looked for a better end for ye than that,
Petrak; but go ahead and take his advice, and see where ye come to."
"Don't mind him, Reddy," said Buckrow hoarsely. "Pass the bottle and let
the old devil croak. You stick to Bucky."
"Now, here's where I stand," went on Thirkle. "It's the last I'll say on
it, and I'll give you two chaps another chance to save yerselves. Take
the ropes off me and I'll bear no arms. You two take the pistols, and I
won't have a knife. That gives you two the upper hand, and ye can do as
ye please, and I'll take my share and orders, and see that I get ye away
"Once we make it safe ye can go about yer business, and I'll go about
mine. Come on, now, lads--how's that? I ought to be worth that just
to plan it out for ye and make sure ye get away. Better a third and a
long life than the whole and a rope afore ye spend a hundred pound of it,
if ye get as much as a drink out of it alone. How now, Bucky?"
"Real sweet of ye, old cock," said Buckrow, lighting a cigar. "A third
and yer life looks better than none and a pile of bones. Thirkle has a
bit of a way to look to his own ends; what, Reddy?"
"Ye don't stand to lose anything, do ye? I'm not the man to squeal when
I'm down; but we went into this thing together, the whole of us, with our
eyes open, to split it even. Here's the three of us, and we'll count it
out right here by the piece or the sack. Then ye leave it to me to get it
away for ye, clean and neat. I'm a gentleman, I am, and I can play a
gentleman's game, which ye two can't.
"I can buy a schooner or a yacht and look natural about it, and no
questions asked; and make a big show and live at the best hotels, and
nothing thought of me having plenty of money. But you two--why, show a
guinea, sober or drunk, and they'll grab ye on suspicion ye stole it.
Ye'd look real nice, Mr. Buckrow, buying a ship to come back here for it,
wouldn't ye--or mayhap ye'd leave that part of it to Petrak."
"How'll ye get away with it if yer so sharp about it?" demanded Buckrow.
"What can ye do outside what we can do--hey, Thirkle?"
"I've got it all planned out, ye can bank on that. I didn't get this gold
here without knowing what I was at, or how I was going to draw through.
That isn't my way, as ye know. I have in mind a sloop-rigged yacht, lying
in Shanghai, waiting for a buyer. Pretty little white thing she is, and
I can get her for a song, and take enough of this with me to turn the
"I can play Meeker again, which you chaps don't seem to know. I told the
_Times_ man on the waterfront over the telephone, five minutes before we
sailed, to make a personal item about how the Rev. Luther Meeker,
missionary, would sail next week for Hong-Kong in the _Taming_, and to
tell the shipping-office to reserve a ticket for me. Nobody knows I went
in the _Kut Sang_ for sure, and I could drop into Manila to-morrow as
Meeker, and not a man the wiser.
"We'll buy this little yacht, and I'll turn her into a missionary boat,
buying her with funds furnished by the London Evangelical Society, as
I'll tell 'em. I'll call her the _Bethlehem_ and cruise along the China
coast, putting in at ports to hold services. Then we'll sneak away some
day and drop down here, with chinks in the crew, and we'll get this gold
aboard in such way they won't suspect what it is.
"Then it's an easy matter to make away to any port we want and fill away
for London in a liner, with the gold strewn along in the banks here and
there, or packed with books or other junk and freighted. How's that,
"And when it's all done we can go to the devil and you'll take the gold.
I know the palaver, Thirkle. If ye please, I'll take my chances alone
with the gold," said Buckrow.
"Then hang! I wash my hands of the two of ye, and may the devil mend ye!"
Thirkle raised his bound hands as he said this, and there was tragedy in
his grim old face, and pity for the two on whom he had apparently
pronounced the death-sentence. But I could see in his shrewd eyes that he
was acting a part--he was laughing at them while pleading for liberty.
Petrak began to whimper, and he looked at Buckrow appealingly.
"Let him loose, Bucky," he begged. "Let Thirkle loose, or we'll hang, as
he says, and we'll split it share and share alike."
"Let him loose so he can do for us!" raged Buckrow. "Let him loose so he
can make off with it, and then knife us when it comes handy! I know his
Yet, Buckrow was in a quandary and, in spite of his fear of Thirkle,
seemed inclined to free him, evidently finding it hard to make his own
decisions, and preferring to have some one to give the orders. He tossed
his cigar away, and stood watching Thirkle chewing a blade of grass.
"Ye can deal with me, mates, but ye'll find ye can't argue with the
judge," went on Thirkle in a quiet tone, keeping his eyes on the ground.
"Ye'll find ye can't talk the turnkey into liberty, and it will be too
late the morning the hangman opens the door and says 'Come!' and--"
"Stow that gab, or I'll let a knife into yer hide!" snarled Buckrow, and
he went over to the pile of sacks and began kicking the brown canvas
Thirkle began to chuckle quietly, swaying his shoulders from side to side
in his simulated hilarity. Petrak, who was standing close to him, looked
at him in surprise.
"It will be a fine joke," said Thirkle in a low tone, as if speaking to
himself. "They do love to hang a red-headed man! Poor Petrak! They'll
have a great joke with him--Oh, ye there, Petrak, my lad! Well, I'm sorry
for ye; but ye can't blame me if Bucky gets ye in a jam. He says he can
go it alone now, and doesn't need Thirkle; but wait until the death-watch
is pacing outside the door like a Swedish skipper, and ye've only got an
hour left on earth, and then ye'll wish ye'd stuck to Thirkle.
"I'll bet all this gold here ye'll wish ye had Thirkle then, but Thirkle
won't be there to help. I say stick to Bucky if ye like, but ye'll find
he ain't Thirkle. Good-bye, Reddy. I never looked for ye to come to this;
but I can say ye'll hang if you go it with Bucky."
"I didn't do it, Thirkle; I didn't put ye where ye be," whimpered Petrak.
"I'm for cuttin' ye loose, but Bucky ain't."
"He's mad at me, and I can't argue with him, but if ye say a word or two
he'll mind ye; and remember, Petrak, if ye can't make him see it right,
ye'll hang--the two of ye--and ye know Thirkle always has it as it is."
Thirkle whispered something to Petrak which I did not catch, and then the
little rascal went over to Buckrow and began to talk with him quietly,
and finally began to plead for Thirkle.
"Ye're afraid of him," sneered Buckrow. "Ye're afraid of Thirkle with
reef-knots on his hands, and ye'll be afraid of him when he's dead, ye
"I ain't afraid of him, Bucky, but he says we'll hang; and so we will if
we don't let him have a hand gettin' this gold clear away."
"He'll do for us; and then what good will the gold be to us? Reddy, ye
know the devil as I do; jind now he's got this pile he'll settle us when
he sees his way to it."
"Let him go, Bucky; let him go. The night'll be on us in an hour or so,
and then what'll we do? Leave it to Thirkle and it'll come out all right;
and I know it and you know it, Bucky. There's the two of us to him, and
we'll make him play it fair now."
"The two of us'll play it fair without him," said Buckrow. "Come on and
stow this gold, and have done with the job."
"That's an end of it," said Thirkle. "No use to talk of it more. Do for
me now; I ain't got much longer to live, anyhow. But I'll tell you chaps
what I'll do, so ye won't have to ask no favours at the end."
"What now, Thirkle?" asked Buckrow.
"They tried to make a preacher of me in my young days, and it was no go;
and they put me in the navy, and I made a mess of that. But I'm good as a
navy chaplain at saying a prayer; and if ye'll bring me the little Bible
ye'll find in my jacket-pocket I'll say the burial service of the Church
of England over ye two, fine as a bishop would and good enough for
anybody, with all the frills. How's that for Thirkle?"
"Let him go, Bucky," whined Petrak, with quivering knees and terror in
BIG STAKES IN A BIG GAME
"I'd look a fine fish letting of him go now, after what's passed between
us!" laughed Buckrow. "Ye mind what he'd do the minute he got his paws
free. Reddy, if ye don't shut yer trap I'll drill ye, that's what."
"No arms for me," suggested Thirkle. "I bear no arms; and both of ye have
the bilge on me with all the knives and pistols in yer own hands."
"That's all very fine for ye to say now, Thirkle; but what of when ye get
in reach of a gun or a knife? What then?"
"I'll bear ye no grudge," said Thirkle. "Never a word will I say, Bucky.
That's done and gone, and we all have our little quarrels. Never a hand
will I turn against ye, Bucky, and Petrak here to witness what I say."
"No grudge ag'in' me for what I done?" demanded Buckrow doubtfully. "Ye
mean ye'll let this go and never a word ag'in' me, Thirkle?"
"Never a word. We'll slip all that and turn to at getting this gold away.
What's a little mistake against all this here? Going to let a bit of a
row stand between us and good times? I say no. Give me a chance to get ye
all off here with the gold and I won't likely forget it if ye let me go,
Bucky. I'm not the man to hold a small mistake of judgment against a mate
like you, what's fought and worked with me so long, and ye was always
ready, Bucky, when there was a hard job ahead.
"Nearly two years we've been together, mate, and it would be a pity if we
smashed things now, when we've got a ship-load of gold. It's time we
quit and took our comfort, and no more chances of getting a rope at the
end of it. We've about played the game out, and we'd better not play a
good thing too far or we'll find ourselves catching a crab one of these
fine days. I said we'd stop if we made it safe with the _Kut Sang_, and
we have and now that we've got plenty ahead, with eating and drinking and
a good bed the rest of our days, let's square away for home.
"We'll start fair and square again, mates, as we did when we first put
our heads together for this fortune, and no grudges and all equal now, as
the worst of the work is over and the next is to get away with it, easy
enough if ye let me pilot the job. In a month we'll be in London, and ye
and Reddy, with a pub all yer own, and living at ease like gentlemen."
"All equal from this on, Thirkle? Each has his say, and one as good as
"Nothing without a council and two votes to decide, so ye two'll be yer
own masters, having the two votes against me, with my advice for help.
There's fifty thousand pounds for each of us, and we'll separate in
London and go our own ways if ye like. I'll swear a black oath to that,
and my word's good, as ye both know.
"Did I ever break it to ye? Didn't I always cut the loot as I agreed? I'm
Thirkle, and when I say a thing I mean it. Now, Bucky, think it over
before it's too late. Will ye go it alone, or will ye give me a fair play
at the game, and come out with yer life and a fair share of the gold?
It's for you to decide, and see ye don't make a mistake."
"No arms for ye, split three ways, and do as we please when we're away
clear with the gold?" asked Buckrow.
"That's it, Bucky. That's what I said and what I say, and I'll stick to
"Swear to it, and nothing in yer mind."
"I swear to it and nothing in my mind. It's a square enough thing, and I
never laid to do for ye as ye think. It was all a mistake, Bucky."
Buckrow began to whisper with Petrak again, and Thirkle held his hands up
and called to them sharply: "Here! Cut this rope!"
Petrak started for Thirkle with a sheath-knife, but Buckrow pulled him
"I'll let him go," he said. "This is my job, Thirkle," continued Buckrow,
approaching his prisoner. "I'm atween two minds with ye, and one is to
slit yer neck, as I won't deny; but ye're a sharp cuss, and I guess ye
can do this work better than I can. But I want to say to ye now, if ever
ye turn on me after this ye're a dog.
"I'll take my chance with ye, but ye bear me no love, and I know it; and
ever ye reach for a knife or a gun, mind that I don't see ye. It's
play fair from now on, but show a claw and yer done for if I can do it."
He stooped down and slipped the blade of his knife through the bonds he
had put upon Thirkle, and then stepped away from him, with the knife
held in guard, as if he expected the pirate to leap at him once he had
his hands free.
But Thirkle sat still for a few minutes, rubbing his wrists, and then
called for the bottle. Petrak handed it to him, and he sipped the brandy
and bathed his wounded head with it, sending Reddy to a pool of water at
the base of the cliff to wet his handkerchief, and then bound it around
"It looks bad, but it didn't hurt much, Bucky," he said, smiling. "What
hurt me more was to have ye turn on me the way ye did; but that's all
passed and gone, and we won't mention it again."
"Mind ye, don't," growled Buckrow, who was still in an angry mood and
perhaps thought he had made a mistake in giving Thirkle freedom again.
"Oh, limber up a bit, Bucky," said Thirkle. "What's the use of us all
going to Kingdom Come over a little fight, when we've had so much
fighting to get this? The gold turned all our heads, no doubt, but we
can't be fools through it. The stuff's no good here--the job's not done
yet, but I'll get ye all clear now if ye mind me and keep sober in port.
Shake, old mate, and let's be friends again."
He held out his hand to Buckrow, who took it, but awkwardly. I could see
that he feared Thirkle, even unarmed, and knew him for his master.
"I'm cussed sorry, Thirkle, for what I done; but I felt ye wanted to do
for me, and I couldn't stand for that," he said, with his eyes on the
"All square now, Bucky, and never a word. Ye always did yer work well,
and never a slip."
"And didn't I do the same, Thirkle? Didn't I stand by?" asked Petrak,
surveying his chief with an expression of surprise that he had been
overlooked in commendation, much as a dog would seek petting.
"You, too," assented Thirkle, beaming on the little red-headed man.
"Never was a better man when there was to be a knife used quick and neat;
I'll say that for ye. Now, I want to take a little rest for a few
minutes, and if I was to have a word to say I'd suggest that you two get
the sacks stowed in the hole there. I want a little confab with Mr.
Trenholm here, and I'll give a hand presently. If ye think it's fair,
I'll rest a bit; but we ought to get that stuff snug away, and there's no
time to be lost."
Buckrow took away the belt and pistols, which had been unfastened from me
after my capture, and he and Petrak set to work carrying the sacks of
gold into the cleft in the cliff.
"It looked bad for me a while back, Mr. Trenholm," said Thirkle, sitting
beside me and offering a cigar, which I took. "I wasn't quite sure that I
could get myself out of that tangle."
"You had a pretty good argument," I commented, lighting the cigar,
although my head throbbed so painfully that I knew I would not enjoy the
smoke. "I'm afraid I won't be able to have any plan to help you get away
with the gold and so earn my own life."
"My dear Mr. Trenholm, I'm sorry you didn't go down in the _Kut Sang_.
Really I am, for you know I took quite a fancy to you in Manila. You
are of such an unsuspicious nature."
"Oh, I had my suspicions well enough, but they were on the wrong track;
in fact, I could not have done you justice--my imagination is not equal
to it. The best I could do for you was to mistake you for a spy--an
inadequate estimate, after what I have seen and heard of you."
"You flatter me, my dear Mr. Trenholm. But it is entirely your own fault
that you are where you are. I tried to warn you, but you couldn't expect
me to tell you my plans regarding the _Kut Sang_. I didn't want you in
her, and I did my best to keep you out. Really remarkable, in a way."
"What do you mean?"
"That you should happen to be a passenger--such an insistent
passenger--and as if you knew nothing about what was going in the ship.
Really, you and Trego did well."
"I think Trego made rather a mess of it," I said. "If I had been in his
boots I would have told the captain what it was all about."
"Why didn't you tell him? You could have told him about the gold as well
as Mr. Trego."
"Indeed! Then, you believe I knew about the _Kut Sang's_ cargo."
"I don't believe it, my dear Mr. Trenholm. I never accept a theory as a
fact. There was a time when I thought your connection with the affair
ended when you brought the orders from Saigon, but your persistence in
pretending to buy a ticket in the _Kut Sang_ rather puzzled me for a
time, and then I was afraid that you suspected me, and that I had gone
too far in trying to keep you out of the vessel."
"You are talking enigmas now."
"But what surprised me most," he resumed, disregarding my remark, "was
that I purchased a ticket in the _Kut Sang_ at all. I looked for a trap
there, and if the game hadn't been so big I might have quit at the last
"I am sure I don't know what you are talking about."
"My dear Mr. Trenholm! Really, your attitude offends me. I cannot see
what you expect to gain by pretending you knew nothing about the
gold in the _Kut Sang_. That is absurd. You brought the order for it from
Saigon, and helped get the thing fixed, and yet you pretend that it is
all a mystery to you. When I am willing to be so frank I cannot see why
you should assume this manner."
"Then, I knew all about the gold from the first, did I?"
"Certainly. What do you think Mr. Petrak and I kept so close at your
heels for in Manila?"
"Well, it did rather puzzle me for a while. Everywhere I turned you or
the little red-headed rascal seemed to be near."
"And never seemed to remember having seen us in Saigon?"
"In Saigon? Were you in Saigon when I was there?"
"Left before you did, when we knew you had the order for the gold from
"Never met the gentleman."
"Of course not. He got the cable-operator to have you deliver the order
in Manila for him. But I heard him and the cable-operator talk it over,
and that was all I wanted, and left. So you didn't see us in Saigon? I
told Petrak you didn't, but he thought you did. That's one reason we got
so bold in Manila."
"But the cable-operator told me the message didn't amount to much, and
that he would send duplicates by mail, anyway."
"Of course he did. It didn't amount to much, except to give a code order
about shipping this gold. And you dropped it in the bus, and I picked
it up, and you were rather rude to me, which proved that you either had
no suspicions about me, or knew it all and wanted to throw me off my
guard. I believe you were actually laughing at me the last few hours in
Manila. I couldn't understand, unless you had things rigged to trip me
the minute we sailed.
"I was looking for it at dinner the minute we cast off; and what a
scrimmage there would have been at that table if you had drawn one of
those pistols! Why, Petrak and Buckrow and Long Jim were in the passage
with pistols ready to come in, and I would have shot you first, and then
Trego, for I knew Captain Riggs had no arms on his person. If I made away
with you and Trego the next would have been Rajah, for the lad could have
given a nasty cut with that kris. And I had to keep a close eye on Mr.
Trego's malacca cane."
"Oh, you did! I never suspected for a minute that you regarded Mr. Trego
as a dangerous character."
"He never told you?"
"Never told me anything. I was introduced to him in a most casual way in
the bank, and was surprised to find him a passenger in the _Kut Sang_"
"He never told you about his cane? Most beautiful rapier you ever saw in
it. Always had it by him, but he overlooked it when he got up from the
table in the saloon last evening. Undoubtedly he was going for a pistol,
but we had to get him when the time offered; and, besides, he was getting
ready to tell Riggs all about me and my crew. There wasn't a second to
lose. I met him as he was coming back and held him for Petrak, and we did
the job quietly."
"It was something to be proud of," I remarked. "I never would have given
the Rev. Luther Meeker credit for it."
"That's what made the character so valuable," he grinned, feeling the
bandage about his head tenderly. I saw that he was weaker than he had
led us to believe, and that he was suffering from his wound.
"But you puzzled me when they found the body. I expected you to denounce
me; but you foolishly kept in front of me, and I was ready to blow your
back out if you said a word, and we were all ready for the finest kind of
a fight, although I did not want to precipitate matters so soon. Really,
you had me guessing for a time, and I couldn't understand your attitude,
knowing what you did about me and the gold. Then I saw that you had plans
of your own, and wanted it yourself."
"It is you who flatter me now," I told him, surprised at his revelations.
"But you did want it, although I couldn't see how you figured to take it
away from me, or why you didn't tell Captain Riggs what you knew."
"But I didn't know anything. I thought you were a spy, who mistook me for
one, and I was letting you have your little joke out."
"You didn't know about the gold, or Trego, or me?" he demanded.
"I regret exceedingly that I didn't. If I had I would have blocked your
game at the first opportunity. I suspected you were not a missionary,
but I had never even heard of the Devil's Admiral."
"I agree with you."
"I mean that you didn't know about the gold, when I thought you did. I
must confess that I made a tremendous mistake there. Really, it came
near being a failure--it would have been if Captain Riggs had not been
led to suspect you. I advised him to put you in irons after you were sent
to your room--it seemed to be the easiest way to get you out of the
fight. I was really afraid of you, Mr. Trenholm."
"You seem to have gotten over it. This seems to be getting more of a
tangle all the time, and a sort of mutual-admiration society. I have no
objection to keeping up the conversation, but you pique my curiosity as
to how it is all going to come out. As I have already remarked, I can't
see any argument that would lead you to let me walk away from here unless
I tell you, as you told Petrak and Buckrow, that you'll hang."
"Now, tut, tut! You can't play my game. I thought you had more
originality than that. You know too much now, and it would be premature
to tell the story of the _Kut Sang_ for several years. I'm afraid that
I'll have to write my own memoirs, but for posthumous publication, of
"I'm sure I would like to read them. You have turned murder into a fine
art--you should have been a contemporary of the Borgias."
"Do you know, Mr. Trenholm, I have thought of something like that myself.
I am quite proud of my success. I would like if my career could be
written down by a good hand at such things; but of course that is
impossible, for no man ever knew the Devil's Admiral and lived. I regret
to say that you will be no exception in that respect, Mr. Trenholm. I'm
sorry you didn't go down in the _Kut Sang_ and save me what is bound to
be a disagreeable job."
"In that case I would have missed the little drama between you and Mr.
Buckrow. I rather enjoyed it. You seem to be an artist at other things
besides slaying men."
"I am glad you liked it, but Bucky is rather hard to handle at times.
There will be another act or two, and I'll give you a chance to see the
"That's kind of you, although you upset dramatic conventions and I will
find it rather hard, I am afraid, to be a competent critic. Besides, I
might be prejudiced, having a personal interest in the outcome."
"That won't matter much," he smiled. "My critics are always short-lived.
Bucky there came nearest to getting me, though. If it hadn't been for
Petrak I never could have handled him. They can't bear the thought of a
rope. Whenever there was a hanging I took them to see it. Being a man
of the cloth, I was admitted to all sorts of places, and, while I didn't
travel openly with my men, I could mingle with them more or less in the
character of a missionary."
He looked up at Buckrow, who stood over us scowling suspiciously, and his
hand was close to his pistol.
"What's wrong, Bucky?" purred Thirkle, moistening a cigar between his
lips and giving Buckrow a searching glance.
"I don't like that place in there for the gold, Thirkle. It's too wet to
"The dampness won't do any damage, Bucky. That's the best place on the
island, to my thinking; but, of course, if you don't like it we'll
"The gold will rust in there," said Buckrow; and I knew he was in a
dangerous mood again.
"Gold don't rust, Bucky," called Petrak, standing in the crevice and
grinning at Thirkle.
"That's the best place on the island," said Thirkle soothingly. "This is
the ideal place. But if you don't like it in there, we won't put it in
there, and that's an end of it, Bucky."
"But it'll all rust up into great gobs if it's left any great while--I
don't like so much water drippin' over the place, Thirkle."
"Gold don't rust, Bucky," called Petrak, and he laughed immoderately and
slapped his knees with his hands.
"But what better place is there, Bucky? It's getting late now, lads, and
that's the best place for it."
"Then I vote to stow it and pipe down with the gabbin' with the writin'
chap," said Buckrow savagely. "It's time we got clear of here and took
to the boats by dark, Thirkle. I'm not for cruising over this blasted
island in the dark, and I don't fancy ye and the writin' chap gettin' so
thick all of a sudden. If there's to be talk, we want to know what it's
about, and I don't see no great gain in so much gossipin'."
"That's entirely my idea, Bucky. My vote is that we put it in the crack
there and slick up around here so nobody can know what's been afoot. But
I want a rest, and there are some things I want to say to Mr. Trenholm
here that will be of use to us. Clap on, lads, and I'll be there soon."
"That's my vote," assented Petrak, grinning at Thirkle. "No argument
"Then, lay on again, ye fool," growled Buckrow, turning to the sacks once
more. "Cuss ye, Reddy, yer goin' to side with Thirkle ag'in' me, I can
They picked up a sack and staggered into the canon with it, and Thirkle
grinned at me, and lit his cigar again.
"See that, Mr. Trenholm? If I had let Bucky rule then I would have been
as good as dead. I had another chap in my crew like that. After he saw
the way I worked the game he wanted to kill me and take command himself.
While he was making his plans to settle me the police got him for a
murder he didn't do, and I trumped up the evidence against him, but never
appeared at the trial.
"When he was condemned I told him I'd get him out all right. I had turned
the trick before, with saws in the binding of Bibles, for some of my men
in prison, and he had absolute faith in me, as all my men have. I went
away on a little expedition after pearls down Mindanao way, and got back
the day he was to hang. I visited him an hour before he was to swing, and
told him it was all right and he was to escape at the last minute.
"I walked up to the trap with him, and, while praying with the prison
chaplain, kept whispering it was all right, and he kept quiet until they
had the cap over his head, and then he knew I had him. He tried to yell
that I was the Devil's Admiral---but it was too late then. I felt that I
was justified---he would have killed me the next day. But it was a fine
joke, to my mind, Mr. Trenholm."
"Ain't ye goin' to quit gammin' with that chap and give us a hand here?"
demanded Buckrow. "Is that what ye call all bein' equal, Mr. Thirkle?
If ye do, I don't."
He came toward us in a threatening manner, and Thirkle, seeing that he
must submit with good grace, got up and met him with a smile.
"By all means, Bucky, we are equal, but I didn't think ye'd begrudge me a
little time after what happened. How does the gold fit in there?"
"Wet as a junk. We put the first sack in the eyes of her, but it's no
kid's play, and we ought to have help, Mr. Thirkle, if we get clear away
from this island to-night. We can't swear there won't be no moon, and,
moon or no, we want to be out of the jungle and at the boats by sundown.
And what's the game with the writin' chap here? I'm minded to have him do
a bit of this work."
"Gold don't rust, do it, Thirkle?" asked Petrak. "I told Bucky gold don't
rust but he don't like the water in there."
"Oh, dry up!" growled Buckrow. "What with yer talk we'll be at this job
"I vote--" began Petrak.
"To the devil with ye and yer votin'!" said Buckrow. "It's time we got to
work, all hands, and so we will, and the writin' chap'll turn to and do
his bit, or I'll know why. If he ain't to do his part, or we don't make
no use of him, I say we'll up and do for him now and have it done with.
Next ye know he'll make his getaway, and then a nice mess we'll be in."
"We don't intend to let Mr. Trenholm get away," said Thirkle. "I was just
thinking, lads, that there are three of us, but counting Mr. Trenholm we
make four, and we can rattle him down so he can lift and carry, but not
"Then, lash his flippers down and put a bight on his legs," said Buckrow;
and he brought rope and began to fashion it into knots.
There was a minute when I was tempted to jump and run for it; but it
would have meant certain death, for the three of them stood over me, two
of them loaded down with pistols, and I would have had a poor chance of
There was a promise of delay in the work to be done; and, not knowing
what had become of Captain Riggs, there was the bare possibility that he
might come upon the pirates' camp and attack them from ambush when he saw
that I was a captive.
If I made the slightest resistance to the hampering ropes they put on me,
with the cunning knots known to seamen, I knew they would not hesitate to
make an end of me. So I stood up and allowed Buckrow to lash my wrists to
my knees in such a way that I was bent nearly double, but with my hands
sufficiently free to grasp a burden, and my feet hobbled for short
We began the work of putting the sacks of gold into the hole in the
cliff, and I set at the task with a prayer that before it was finished
and my life was of no further value to the pirates I might find an
opportunity to escape.
"ONE MAN LESS IN THE FORECASTLE MESS"
"Ye can let him work with ye, Thirkle," said Buckrow. "As ye and the
writin' chap seem to have a lot of chin, pair off with him; and, as the
two of ye don't bear arms, he can't get his paws on a gun or knife that
way. You two work ahead of me and Petrak, and then we can keep an eye on
the both of ye.
"It strikes me you and the writin' chap is gettin' thick--too blasted
thick to suit me, Thirkle, if ye want to know. Mind ye don't come none of
yer smart tricks now, or I won't wait for ye to go explainin' of what ye
mean. Savvy that?"
"Tut, tut, man!" said Thirkle. "How can you have any doubts about what
will happen to Mr. Trenholm? I suppose you think I want to take him
along with us so he can write this all up for the newspapers? I'm
surprised at you, Bucky. Don't you know my ways yet?"
"That's all right," growled Buckrow, who was in an ill humour. "We was to
work even, and ye ain't been doin' yer part, Thirkle. A bargain's a
bargain I'd have ye know, and I'm to see ye keep to yer part of it."
"Pipe down--pipe down, Bucky," said Petrak, who seemed in glee after the
brandy he had had. "It's the drink talkin', Bucky. We're all good chaps,
and Thirkle's A No. 1, and we got the gold to stow."
"Don't come no bos'n manners to me," retorted Buckrow savagely. "I ain't
goin' to stand for none such from ye, Red. Yer sidin' with Thirkle, and I
know that, and I'm as good a man as Thirkle; and I'm boss here, even or
no even. I'm boss! Understand that? Thirkle and ye can have yer votes if
ye want; but I'm boss, and I'll drill the two of ye."
"Ye ain't goin' to fight, be ye Bucky?"
"I'll put all hands under ground--that's what, if ye don't turn to; and
there's too much gammin' and gabbin' here to suit me, I'd have ye know."
Petrak looked at Thirkle as if in doubt about Buckrow's sanity, and
Thirkle gave him a look that seemed to me to be a message, and he made a
furtive signal which I was not able to interpret.
"Steady as she goes, mates; steady as she goes," purred Thirkle. "This is
no time to quarrel. We'll have a gunboat down on us if we don't get
away soon, and there's a lot to do yet before we leave. Let Bucky alone,
"Then ye and the writin' chap lay on and move lively," snarled Buckrow,
and Thirkle had me take hold of a sack behind him, and, with him leading
the way, we carried it into the miniature canon.
The sacks were heavy, but were bound with ropes which served as handles,
and were not hard to move until we got into the narrow cleft, where I
found that my shoulders bumped along the walls as I swayed from side to
side, or missed my footing on the damp, slippery ground.
Buckrow and Petrak followed us in with another sack, and when Thirkle had
gone as far as he could he pulled our sack forward under his feet and
stowed it in the angle where the walls joined. Then I had to pass the
second sack on to him, taking it from Petrak, who was next to me, and
then we turned in our tracks and went out again.
The brush on the top of the cliff overlapped the crevice, so that it was
quite dark a few feet from the entrance. The walls were slippery with a
thick, funguslike moss, from which cool water dripped.
"That gold will rust in here sure as a nigger's black," grumbled Buckrow,
as he felt his way out. "I don't like this place at all."
"Best place on the island," whispered Thirkle. "Tell him it's the best
place on the island, Reddy."
"It's the best place on the island, Bucky. I don't see as we could do
"I don't care what ye think of it; I say it'll rust in there," said
"You had better go in backward this time," said Thirkle. "You may find it
a little harder, Mr. Trenholm; but perhaps it will be more convenient."
"What's that?" demanded Buckrow. "Who go in first?"
"It will be easier if Mr. Trenholm goes in first," said Thirkle. "He'll
have to go backward, but he'll find it easier to navigate."
"Oh, no, he won't!" said Buckrow. "I see your game, Thirkle. Ye want to
come out behind Mr. Petrak and borrow a gun. We'll let you go in first,
and the writin' chap can come out atween ye and Petrak. Don't come none
of them games on me, Thirkle. I'm too old a fish."
We went in with the second lot of sacks in the same order, but I saw
another exchange of signals between Thirkle and Petrak before we stooped
for our burdens.
Before we had gone ten feet inside the crevice Thirkle coughed, and
Petrak, close behind him said: "Gold don't rust."
"I say it do," declared Buckrow. "Six months' time in here'll have this
stuff with whiskers on it like a Singapore tramp that hasn't been docked
in a dog's age."
"I say gold don't rust," persisted Petrak. "How about it, Thirkle? Does
gold rust? I say it don't, and Bucky says it do."
"You're right, Reddy, but don't quarrel now," said Thirkle. "It won't
rust because gold doesn't rust."
"I don't give a tinker's hang what Thirkle says!" cried Buckrow, throwing
down his end of the sack. "I'm here to say gold will rust if it's kept
wet, and that's an end of it. Gold do rust, Thirkle or no Thirkle, and I
"All right," agreed Reddy. "Lay on, Bucky, and let's get this job over
and done with!"
"White-livered little fool!" I heard Thirkle mutter. "He doesn't dare do
I heard Petrak and Buckrow coming on, and we were soon at the end of the
"This is a fine place, lads," said Thirkle. "It will keep in here as well
as if buried in white, dry sand."
"Maybe it will and maybe it won't," growled Buckrow. "I don't call no wet
hole like this fine, and never did, and I'm minded to bury the rest of
"Never a bit of hurt in the water, Bucky," said Petrak cheerily. "We'll
put many of these shiners over the bar of the Flag and Anchor, Bucky, and
have many a pipe over our drink."
"Ye don't catch me in no Flag and Anchor. I'll have my drop of liquor in
the Flagship and you can go to the devil for yours, for all I mind. What
if this blasted hole closes up some day? What then? It'll be a fine place
then, no doubt. Hey, Mr. Thirkle? What then?"
"No fear of that," said Thirkle. "It's wider at the top than at the
bottom, and the tops hang away. I looked into all that when I decided to
put it in here. There isn't as much water as ye think, Bucky; and it's
under foot what there is of it, and, the way we've got it stowed here,
one atop of the other, only the bottom one'll be very wet--and gold don't
"These guineas will be thick with scale, and ye'll need a chipping hammer
to clean 'em when ye have 'em outside again. Ye talk about folks bein'
suspicious of gold, but I say they're quicker to turn up their noses and
say things about gold that's been stowed in the wet and turned black."
"But gold don't rust, Bucky. That's sure--gold don't rust," said Petrak.
"That's all very well: but I mind when I dropped half a crown in a pool
back home, and in a fortnight it was thick as my hand. Think I'm a fool?
I know what I'm talkin' about, if ye don't. Go ahead and side with
Thirkle if ye like."
"That was silver, Bucky. Gold don't rust like that. I always knew gold
don't rust, and now Thirkle says it don't, and Thirkle knows, as he
always did. Mind we always asked Thirkle?"
"I'm not asking him any more if ye want to know, vote or no vote. My vote
is as good as Thirkle's, and it's good as yours; and ye can side with him
if ye want."
"But gold don't rust," said Petrak mockingly.
"Ye think I'm a fool?" shrieked Buckrow, turning on Petrak. He was
nearest the outside, and I could see his figure silhouetted against the
light at the entrance. He stooped down and put his face close to Petrak.
"Fool or not, gold don't rust, I'm telling ye Buck--"
"Then take that from a fool!" And Buckrow struck him square in the face
with his fist, hurling him back on my shoulders, so that I fell forward
on my hands.
"That's rotten mean, Bucky," I heard Petrak whining. "That's rotten mean
in here in the dark, Bucky."
"That _is_ rotten mean, Petrak," said Thirkle indignantly. "I wouldn't
stand for that if I were you."
"Oh, ye wouldn't, hey? Well, we'll see what ye stand for soon's ye come
out into the clear--that's what we'll see, Thirkle."
"It's rotten mean," whimpered Petrak. "I wouldn't do the likes o' that to
ye, Bucky; not if ye never agreed along with me--it's rotten mean."
"Ye'll get worse as that is. Now, does gold rust, ye little runt? Say it!
Does gold rust?"
"That's hardly fair, Bucky," said Thirkle. "That's hardly fair on the
little chap after he's stood by ye so long."
"Fair enough for me, Thirkle, and fair enough for ye it'll be when ye
"What do ye mean by that, Buck?" demanded Thirkle, speaking over my
shoulder; and then he whispered to Petrak: "Give it to him, Red--now's
yer chance. Quick, lad!"
"Soon enough ye'll find out what I mean, Thirkle; that's what. If the two
of ye think yer going to side together ag'in' me, well and good; but look
out for Bad Buckrow, I say. I'll make my meanin' blasted clear, too. Mind
"My jaw's broke!" cried Petrak, struggling to his feet, breathing hard.
Then without warning he sprang on Buckrow's back with a snarl like an
animal, and the two of them went down in the narrow passage.
"Gawd a'mighty!" screamed Buckrow, with every bit of air in his lungs,
and I heard Petrak strike again.
"Red--he got me--he--"
"Good!" said Thirkle into my ear, as if speaking to me. "I never thought
the little chap had the innards for it, but he did as long as he could
strike from behind."
Petrak was holding Buckrow down, and his victim was breathing hard and
writhing under him, with his face buried in the ground. He coughed twice,
as if there was something caught in his throat, and then was still.
"Did ye get him Petrak?"
"I done for him, Thirkle. I done for him good. That's the last of Bucky.
Mind how I fooled him, Thirkle? Said my jaw was broke."
"Good work, Reddy, lad. Good work, but be sure or he'll wing ye yet. Sure
he ain't playing chink with ye?"
"Oh, he's done right enough. That leaves two of us--hey, Thirkle? Ye know
Bucky would a done for ye but for me--wouldn't he, Thirkle? Ye know
that's right--don't ye, Thirkle?"
"That's right, Reddy," said Thirkle. "It's a good job he's done for--and
now there is two of us, you and me, Reddy. I never did like Bucky; but I
like you, Red. He wanted his fight, and he got it. I knew ye wouldn't
take that from him. No man could stand for such as that in here."
"That leaves all the more for us--don't it, Thirkle?"
"All the more for us, Reddy. Drag him out, and now we'll settle this
navvy's job. It's one man less in the fo'c'sle mess, and dead men tell no
tales; and now we'll have to do the work a bit short-handed; but we can
clean it up between us now, and no more fighting going on."
Petrak pulled the body out after him, and Thirkle helped him carry it
into the brush, where they dumped it without ceremony, and Thirkle found
another bottle of brandy and offered it to Petrak.
"I'll just take a pair of these pistols, Reddy," he said, relieving him
of the belt he had taken from Buckrow. "You don't need all those pistols,
now that Bucky is done for."
"But ye was to bear no arms, Thirkle," grinned Petrak.
"That's what I told Bucky, but you and me'll get along better than we did
with Bucky; and ye don't intend to hold me to that--do ye, Red?"
"I was only joking a bit, Thirkle. We're together now on the split, ain't
we? Well, friends don't have to make such agreements. I sail with you,
and you sail with me; and no articles signed beyond that, I say. What,
"That's what. Have another drink, Red. That was a good job ye did for me
with Bucky, even if he did play you mean."
"He was a bad one, all right," agreed Petrak, wiping his mouth and giving
Thirkle the bottle. "Bad Buckrow they called him when I first knew him,
and bad he was to the end; but I never looked to give to him, leastwise
not the way I did, in a hole like that. Howsome it be, I don't stand for
no smash in the mouth like he give me--ain't that right, Thirkle?"
"Right you are, but it's time we had this stuff cleaned up now. You and
Mr. Trenholm set at it while I put Bucky under ground."
Petrak and I resumed the work of carrying the sacks into the crevice,
while Thirkle busied himself at digging a grave in the soft sand near the
place they had deposited Buckrow's body. The little red-headed man began
to whistle a music-hall tune softly, but Thirkle cautioned him against
making any unnecessary noise.
I was in an agony from my cramped position, and tugging at the sacks
served to increase my torture. The tangle of ropes which Buckrow had put
on my ankles caught in loose stones and chafed the flesh until the blood
came; and my wrists, pulled down with tight knots, which I had to strain
against to keep my balance, throbbed and pained and tingled, my arms
being numbed by the blood in the bound arteries.
Petrak kept before me, with the sacks between us, and his bloody knife
pulled to the front of his belt. After he had stowed each sack he helped
me back out, or assisted me to turn, which was always a hard task for me.
If I let my end of the sack slip out of my fingers he was ready for me
with knife or pistol, so there was no opportunity to take a pistol or
knife from him, even if I had not been helplessly hobbled.
"Mind ye don't try any monkey-business with me," he warned the second
time we went in. "If ye do, I'll give ye what Bucky got, and ye mind
that. I'm no gent to fool with, as ye ought to savvy by this; and if ye
think I be, try something."
But, for all his warning, I was ready to risk death if I saw the chance
to make a fight. I hoped that Thirkle would give him more of the brandy,
but Thirkle kept the bottle to himself. When we pressed into the crevice
I wore the ropes on my wrists against the stones as much as I could,
trying to cut the bonds on the rough points of the walls. Once I stumbled
and fell and groped for a splinter of stone, but he menaced me with his
knife and kicked me until I got to my feet again.
I had given up hope of being rescued by Captain Riggs. Even if he found
the camp, I doubted that he would attack until it would be too late for
me, as he would naturally suppose Buckrow and Long Jim to be near by.
It was coming on toward twilight, and there were still seven sacks to be
carried in. Thirkle had finished burying Buckrow, and set to dragging the
sacks close to the entrance of the crevice, so we would not have to carry
them so far.
Petrak made several attempts to talk with him; but Thirkle made short
answers, for when he took the pistols he had dropped his mask of
affability and assumed his old commanding airs.
"It'll be dark before we get back to the boats," suggested Petrak, as we
stood over the five sacks which were left.
"Mighty dark," said Thirkle gruffly, sitting cross-legged, counting a
packet of English banknotes.
"That's what ye want, aint' it?" asked Petrak, who noticed that Thirkle
was not so friendly as he had been.
"You keep to work and never mind so much talk," said Thirkle. "If ye
stand there that way, it'll be morning before we get away."
"I'm workin', ain't I? Can't a man stop to breathe, himself, I'd like to
Thirkle made no reply, but went on running his thumb over the ends of the
notes. I stood and watched them, waiting for Petrak to stoop and take
"Yer goin' to play fair with me--ain't ye, Thirkle?" whined Petrak, a
trace of fear crossing his face. "We're in together, share and share
alike now--ain't we, Thirkle? I can ask that, can't I?"
"Ye'll get yer share, Reddy," said Thirkle, smiling.
"That's half--ain't it, Thirkle? Ye mind what I done for ye with Bucky,
"Aye, half of it, of course, Red. Reef that jaw of yours now, lad, and
clap on. Don't stand there like a Jew and wrangle over the loot. Want to
stop and count it now, lad?"
"Ye told Long Jim to do for me--didn't ye, Thirkle?" Petrak grinned, and
his fingers twitched toward the butt of a pistol. I knew what was in his
"What's that?" demanded Thirkle. "Oh, run along now, Red, like a good
chap, and get the gold stowed. Didn't I tell ye to get Long Jim, and
didn't ye get him? What more's to be said? Run along now, Reddy, and pack
"That's what Long Jim said," insisted Petrak doggedly. There was murder
in his eyes, while his face was livid with fear.
"Then he lied, and ye ought to take my word against his. Don't be a fool
now, Reddy, like the others. Ye'll get your share, bank on that. Yer a
good sort, Petrak; and I need ye to help me get it away, and we'll share
and share alike, as I told ye. Do you think I'd play dirt with ye after
all we've been through together, Reddy?"
"Course not. Don't mind my lip, Thirkle, old chap. No harm done, is
"No harm done, Reddy," said Thirkle, glancing at me suspiciously, as if
he thought I had been turning Petrak against him.
"No harm in what I say, Thirkle," and Petrak took up the end of the sack.
His mistrust of Thirkle gave me an idea, which I put into play as soon as
we were well inside the crevice.
"Petrak," I whispered dropping my end of the sack, and compelling him to
let it down.
"What's up now?" he whispered.
"He'll kill you, too, Reddy. He's planning it out; and if you let him,
he'll kill both of us before he quits this island. Are you going to let
him do it, Reddy?"
He growled out something and fumbled at his belt, and it was touch and go
with him whether he would knife me and then run out and tell Thirkle to
gain credit with him.
"His mind is made up, Reddy. He may let us help him get a boat into the
water, but that's all. He'll murder both of us like dogs."
"Old Thirkle's all right," he said weakly, as if he felt the truth of
what I said, but lacked courage to attack Thirkle.
"Reddy, he'll kill you!" I went on, seeing that I was on the right track,
and that fear of death at Thirkle's hands was uppermost in his mind.
He had caught enough in Thirkle's manner since the death of Buckrow to
see that he was not going to get a just division of the loot, at the very
least, and, knowing the ruthlessness of his master, he had doubts about
escaping with his life. Besides, I believed he had been tempted by the
thought that he might kill Thirkle and then have it all to himself.
"He told Long Jim to kill you? Don't you see the way the devil had it
planned to get rid of you? He planned to kill you all, once he had this
gold on the island. You should never have come back after I shot Long
Jim. Why did you come back? You know he'll kill you."
"I wanted to see where they hide the gold, that's what. Then, when I
raised you there in the grass it come in my head to grab ye, and come in
for my share of the gold, seeing Long Jim was done for."
His friendly mood encouraged me, but, if I let him ramble on with his own
affairs, I would not be able to convince him that Thirkle was plotting to
slay him. So I began with him again.
"Thirkle will kill the both of us. You heard what he said about being a
gentleman. He has been an officer in the navy, Reddy, and he won't want
you or any other man to know he was a pirate when he goes back to London.
He wouldn't feel safe if he let you live. He cares no more for you than
he did for Buckrow or Long Jim--you ought to know that."
"Oh, Thirkle is all right," he said in a way that exasperated me.
"He wouldn't look at you twice in London or anywhere else. He'll rid
himself of you as soon as he needs you no more, which will be as soon as
the gold is stowed and he has a boat in the water. Now is your chance if
you ever had it."
"Thirkle is all right."
"He had it planned to kill Buckrow. Then he argued the two of you into
letting him go. Can't you see that he is playing the game to have it all
for himself? Are you going to be a fool all your life, man?"
"Then ye'd do for me after I done for him," he said.
"Give me a gun and cut me loose and I'll shoot him myself and I'll see
that you get your share of the gold, which you won't from him. You can
have it all if you'll let me kill him, and if he kills me you can say
I cut my hands loose and grabbed a gun. You don't stand to lose
anything--come on. Cut me loose and I'll take the chance you don't dare
"Thirkle's all right," he droned, picking up the sack again. "I know your
game--ye want to do for the both of us and have it all for yourself. Fine
job that would be! Nice I'd look givin' you a gun, wouldn't I! Lay on
"He's all very pleasant now," I went on as I stooped for the rope. "Wait
until he has finished with us and the gold is packed, and then see what
will happen--you'll wish you had listened to me."
"Pipe down with that," he growled, and I saw the uselessness of trying to
make the lout see reason. I now began to fear that he would tell Thirkle
what I had said to him.
When we went out for another sack, Petrak looked over at Thirkle and
hesitated as if he wanted to say something, but Thirkle was writing in a
little book, with a pistol between his feet.
"Well, what is it now?" he demanded truculently, having seen something
suspicious in Petrak's manner. "What's the lay now? What have ye got yer
hand so close to that gun for? Take a shot at me if you want--go on, take
a shot at old Thirkle, if ye're that game."
"Only a habit o' mine, keepin' my gun well for'ard, Thirkle," whimpered
Petrak, shivering. "I have to keep a close eye on the writin' chap,
Thirkle. No offence, I hope."
"Look lively now, lad," said Thirkle, turning amiable again, but only to
reassure Petrak. "Here's the last of it and get it away and we'll get
We carried another sack in and I waited until we were at the far end and
had dumped it before I began again with Petrak. I knew his natural
treachery was near the surface, and it needed but little urging to bring
him to the point when he would turn against Thirkle.
"We might as well say good-bye now," I said as mournfully as I could.
"You remember I treated you pretty well in Manila, and I'm sorry for you
now. It doesn't matter much with me how I end now, because Thirkle has
the drop on me, but I'm sorry for you--you ought to have your share of
it, and Thirkle ought to play fair with you, but he won't. That devil out
there will kill us both in the next ten minutes unless you give me a gun
and let me kill him. I'm not afraid of him--give me a gun!"
"Thirkle ain't bad," he said, as if trying to convince himself that he
was not afraid of Thirkle. "He ain't bad--he said he'd play fair with me,
and he will."
I laughed gently.
"Yes, he'll play fair--with himself. He's out there now putting down
directions for getting back here--alone. Give me a gun, and let me free,
and I'll kill him for you. When I've settled him I'll call you, and if he
gets me it's all the same--except that you'll lose in the end.
"But with me you have a chance to win--can't you see that? You haven't a
chance with Thirkle. If he gets me, don't trust him--shoot him the
minute you can get the muzzle of your pistol on him. If you let me
try you have two chances at him, and you can kill me if you choose
afterward--or give me a knife if you don't dare to let me have a gun."
"He'll do for ye. Not a chance for ye with Thirkle in gun-play."
"But give me a chance to fight for my life," I pleaded. "If I can put him
out of the way, so much the better for you; but it's death for both of us
if we go on this way. Give me a gun, and I swear I'll let you go free if
we ever get off this island."
"He'll kill you and then come and get me," he whined. "There ain't a
chance to get Thirkle as easy as that. He'll do for me if you take a shot
"Of course he will if we stand here and argue about it until it is too
late!" I stormed at him. "Pass me a gun--don't be a fool, Reddy. Quick!
Cut these ropes from my hands and give me a pistol and let me show you
how to draw your Mr. Thirkle's teeth!"
"What's all this social chatter between you two?" demanded Thirkle from
the entrance to the crevice. I did not know how much he had overheard,
but I determined to make one more effort to get the pistol.
"Quick," I whispered to Petrak. "Hand me the gun and free my hands!"
"It ain't me," whined Petrak. "It's the writin' chap here. Get along
out," and he struck me over the head and I knew I had lost, although
there was a doubt that Petrak would ever have given me the pistol.
"What's he up to now, Reddy? What's the nice young man trying to do?"
"Wanted to do for ye, that's what, Thirkle. Wanted a gun, but he got no
gun from me. Said you wouldn't play fair with me, Thirkle, but I said
"So ye want to take a hand in things here, do you, Mr. Trenholm?" said
Thirkle as I came out. "Still got an idea you can beat old Thirkle at his
own game. Learning new tricks, I see. Before long ye'd be ready to boss
the job. Didn't take ye long to forget what I told ye of the other smart
chap who wanted to settle me and take command himself, did it?"
"You stick to your pen and typewriter, Mr. Trenholm, and let me run my
own crew--nice pirate ye'd make, with silk underwear and a typewriter,"
and he and Petrak laughed loudly at the joke,
"I told him you would kill him, and so you will," I said, mustering as
much defiance as I could under the circumstances.
"Kill Mr. Petrak here! Ha, ha, ha! Why, he's my partner, Mr. Petrak is,
and we're going to share this gold together, share and share alike, as
"He wanted to do for ye, Thirkle," said Petrak, flattered by his master
and unable to see the sly sarcasm of Thirkle in his joy at being assured
of his position, and of getting his share of the gold. "I never give him
the chance, Thirkle. Now if it was some--say Buckrow or Long Jim, they
might give him a gun, but not Petrak. Ye know I ain't the kind to turn on
a pal, Thirkle, and I say you stick to me and I'll stick to you, come
what do. Ain't that right, Thirkle?"
"Reddy, yer true blue," and he took Petrak's hand and shook it
vigorously, and patted the little rat on the back. "Stick to Thirkle and
Thirkle will stick to you like a Dutch uncle, and never mind what Mr.
Trenholm has to say. He's not in this, or won't be long, and it won't be
many days before we are counting out the gold between us.
"I've got enough five-pound notes here to buy the little yacht, and I'll
take some of the gold, but not much. We'll be back here before the month
is out, all slick and snug, and then away for London."
"I'll stick like paint, Thirkle; lay to that," said Petrak, grinning at
me. "I knew he was on the wrong course when he come that gun talk to me,
and I told him Thirkle was all right, and that I knowed ye better than
him, and so I do--hey, Thirkle?"
"You had better give me your pistols until you are done, Reddy. Ye can't
trust these gentlemen who write--they have too much imagination, and
they are too foxy for men like you and me, Reddy. There's no telling what
he might do in there if you have guns and knives on ye. Pass 'em over,
Reddy, or he'll do for us yet."
Petrak gave up his weapons joyfully, not realizing that he was being
disarmed for the very purpose I had warned him about--Thirkle was getting
ready to finish his job in earnest.
"Now get along and dump the last of it in there, and move navy style or
we'll be here at dark. No more soldiering, Petrak: and see that ye keep
yer jaw battened down, Mr. Trenholm, or I'll take a hand in this that ye
won't relish and attend to ye in a way ye won't fancy."
"Ye'll play fair with me, won't ye, Thirkle?" asked Petrak.
"Fair as ye deserve. Move along with that cargo."
Petrak began to whine to himself, and I said nothing more until we went
in with the last sack.
"You fool, he'll kill you as I told you he would, but you are too late
"Oh, Thirkle's all right," he grumbled; but he seemed worried since he
had given up the pistols, and he saw plainly enough that Thirkle's manner
had changed in no undecided way since Petrak had surrendered his weapons.
"All clear," said Thirkle, as we came out. He was measuring rope, and had
his jacket on and a bundle rolled up, and all the camp litter was removed
and dead leaves scattered over our tracks.
"Can I have my guns now, Thirkle? I don't like to go down the trail
without a gun--no knowin' what might happen."
"Never would do yet, Reddy. Take this knife and cut the lines away from
Mr. Trenholm's feet, and we'll fix him so he can navigate back to the
boats. You take the lead back, Reddy, because you know the way better
than I do, and I'll make Mr. Trenholm fast to ye, and follow on. We'll
need to look sharp to make the beach before dark."
"But I want my guns, Thirkle. Fair play's fair play, and I want my guns."
"Never mind the guns, I say. Mr. Trenholm will be right at your back all
the way down, and we can't take any chances now, Reddy. I'll settle him
when the boats are off, and then you won't have anything to worry about.
Cut his feet loose."
"What style of a funeral would suit him?" asked Petrak, busy with the
cords at my feet.
"We'll have to select something special for Mr. Trenholm. How about the
same go-off we gave Caldish? Remember Caldish? Wanted to say his prayers.
Quick and neat it was, and no mess."
"If he helps with the boats, how about a tow out at the end of a painter,
Thirkle? He'll make good shark bait, only some skinny."
"That would do for him nicely, Reddy. We'll let him push the boat well
out, and, when he has her clear, pull away and give him plenty of line.
That's a capital idea, Reddy, and we'll use it."
They bound my arms to my sides, and put the end of the rope round
Petrak's waist, so that I was about five feet behind him when it was
taut. In this way we set out for the beach, with Petrak in the lead and
Thirkle, carrying his bundle and smoking a cigar, treading on my heels,
to make me keep close up.
The sun was not quite down, but the jungle was filling with shadows, and,
once the sun got below the horizon, night would close down on us with the
tropical swiftness that knows no twilight, and the day would go out like
a candle under a snuffer.
Thirkle had been drinking of the brandy, and was in a jolly mood, and he
had given Petrak a good swig of it to lighten the little rascal's feet,
but I refused the bottle when it was offered to me, for, low as my
spirits were, and racked as my body was, I could not come to accept their
If I let the rope tighten between me and Petrak, Thirkle prodded me with
the point of a knife, and, as I was faint with hunger and thirst, and
utterly worn out, I frequently stumbled and fell, when they both set upon
me and beat me to my feet. Petrak pulling me up with the rope, while
Thirkle scourged me with a leather thong.
We had been on the road about half an hour when I recognized the spot
where Captain Riggs had crawled into the brush to rest, and I began to
complain loudly and made as much noise as possible, hoping that the
captain and Rajah might still be concealed near by.
"Keep close!" yelled Petrak, as I let the rope tighten and hung back.
"Get along or I'll flay ye alive!" thundered Thirkle, which was what I
wanted him to do.
"Then don't let those low limbs fly back on me," I cried as loudly as I
dared without exciting their suspicion of my purpose. "They knock me off
my feet, and that's why I can't keep close up."
"Shut yer jaw," said Thirkle, and I stumbled along again, wondering what
had become of Captain Riggs, and wondering if he had been lured into the
jungle by the shots I had exchanged with Long Jim, and was lost.
I kept straining at the cords about me, but although I hurt the wounds on
my wrists until I was weak from pain, I could not free myself. If nothing
better offered, I was determined to make a dash at Thirkle if he freed my
hands to work at the boat. If I could not surprise him in the dark and
get hold of a knife or pistol, I could at least give him a fight even if
I died in a last attempt to save myself. I much preferred to die fighting
than at the end of a rope in the water, as Petrak had suggested.
I knew they would have to find the oars before they could get a boat
away, and the missing plugs might cause them a deal of trouble if they
launched the boats without noticing their loss. I hoped that I might find
a chance of escape in the darkness if the boat filled with them after
they got it into the water.
Finally we came to level ground, and I knew we were close to the beach,
for we could hear the rollers. The brush was thicker in the marsh, and we
got off the trail, but we could see patches of the moonlight on the water
ahead, and caught the white flash of the waves tumbling on the shingle.
Petrak left the bed of the brook and pushed his way straight ahead
through the dense foliage which shut us off from the beach. I fell and
made a great racket, setting up a wail about my leg and swearing that I
had broken it, and begging Thirkle to help me.
He struck at me with his thong, and, although he missed, I screamed at
the top of my voice, as a warning to Captain Riggs, in case he should be
lurking about. Besides, I hoped my play that I had been badly crippled
would give me a better opportunity to escape or to attack them, as they
would be more careless if they thought I was perfectly helpless.
"I'll give ye something to yell about soon," said Thirkle. "Just wait a
while and I'll give ye something to make a real fuss about. Maybe ye
think there's a ship near--maybe there is; but it won't do ye much good,
so let's not have any more of this bawling. I thought ye was gamer than
that, my fine Mr. Trenholm."
"Here we are, Thirkle!" cried Petrak, pushing the wall and bushes aside
and showing us the moonlit sea and the loom of the mainland shouldering
up into the stars. "It can't be far to the boats, Thirkle."
We went out into the still warm sand. The moon, lean in its first
quarter, hung over the top of the island, silvering the sand and playing
with the gaunt shadows of the palm-trees, distorting them into queer
shapes and making grotesque patterns under our feet. The breeze, the
snoring of the waves, the sense of freedom after the hot, reeking jungle,
refreshed me, and I almost forgot the doom that threatened. Thirkle stood
a minute and scanned the channel, muttering to himself.
"Looks all clear, sir," said Petrak.
"All clear, Reddy. Push on, lad; the boats are right ahead."
"Here we are, sir, all snug," called Petrak, and I saw the indistinct
pile in the shadow of the brush which marked the cache of boats.
"No matches, Reddy. Mind ye don't make a flash or we'll have some craft
on the prowl along here. We can't take any chances."
"Cut me loose from this cussed line, Thirkle. We can take a turn on a
tree and hold the writin' chap until we have need for him."
Thirkle cut him free from me, and they bound me to a broken palm-stump. I
pleaded to be put on the ground, complaining about my leg, and Petrak
finally wrapped the rope about my legs and threw me to the ground, more
to keep me quiet than to ease my supposed suffering. They left me laying
helpless in a thicket of young bamboo shoots, with my head and shoulders
in the sand. I managed to wriggle on my side so that I had view of the
boats, and, what was better, I got my teeth into the rope on my hands and
began gnawing it desperately.
"Which boat has the stores, Reddy? I'm twisted all around."
"The nighest, Thirkle. The nighest has the stores, and the other the
"You go round the other side for the block, Reddy. We better take the
spare boat with us and set it adrift after we clear the channel, or load
it with stones and let it go down after we are clear of the island. Then
we'll get the wind and slip down the coast to the first native town.
That's better than waiting to be picked up and having to answer questions
that wouldn't carry by. No Manila-bound boat for us, to land about the
time the _Kut Sang_ was reported overdue."
"Right ye are, Thirkle," said Petrak, stumbling about in the dark. "It's
black as a Kroo boy in here," and presently he began to drag the block
through the dead leaves and brambles.
"'No need for the tackle, sir, once we get clear of the sand, in my mind.
We can skid 'em with oars, and lighten the stowed one--hey, Thirkle? I
ain't for leavin' no marks hereabouts, and we can drag some bushes over
the wake we leave in the sand, so--"
"We'll see about that when we get clear," said Thirkle gruffly. "Hold yer
Thirkle was busy pulling the palm-leaves from the boats and clearing the
litter with which they had covered their cache. I could hear him tugging
at the sail which they had spread over the outer boat. The moonlight was
getting brighter, and more stars were coming out, and the jungle was
beginning to awaken. A lizard set up a monotonous croak in the branches
overhead, and insects and unseen things began to stir in the foliage.
"Blast this mess of halyards and gear Bucky strewed alongside--"
I heard Thirkle draw his breath sharply as he left the sentence
unfinished. He drew away from the boat in a quick, involuntary movement,
and I managed to twist my neck so that I could observe him. He stood
motionless for a minute, his figure a queer fretwork of light and shadow
from the creepers and palms.
"Reddy!" he called cautiously. "Oh, Petrak!" Something in his tones--a
suggestion of suspicion that everything was not right--thrilled me.
Petrak did not hear him as he was fumbling with the block in the sand and
muttered about a jammed rope.
"Aye," said Petrak. "I'll give ye a hand next minute, sir."
"Come here," commanded Thirkle with a hand on a pistol.
"What's up?" demanded Petrak, getting to his feet. "Can't ye start
it--what's wrong, Thirkle?"
"Come up here and haul out some of the gear in this boat--move navy
style, lad--we can't be wasting the whole night! Reach in there and
clear that mess of halyard."
But Petrak did not move. He knew something was wrong; but whether it was
Thirkle he feared, or what Thirkle seemed afraid of, I did not know. I
thought he suspected treachery.
"What's wrong, Thirkle?" he demanded.
"Come on up here, can't ye?"
"What ye want, Thirkle? No funny business for me. Speak out what ye want.
Ye ain't goin' to do me dirt, be ye, Thirkle--not Reddy?"
He was whining now, and he was in terror of Thirkle.
"Oh, shut up!" growled Thirkle. "It's nothing, but it give me a turn."
"What was it, Thirkle? What frightened ye?"
"I thought I put my hand into a mess of hair and--"
"Oh, ho!" laughed Petrak. "That's a ball of spun yarn Bucky left. It's
naught but spun yarn, Thirkle. I minded it myself," and Petrak turned
to the block again.
Thirkle moved toward the boat, saying something about how he was getting
old and nervous, and I saw him bend over the gunwale. I watched him
closely, for a hope had sprung up in my withered heart--a hope which I
hardly dared tell myself might possibly be true, after the train of
disasters which had overtaken me since I went aboard the _Kut Sang_.
I saw a form spurt up out of the boat, and, as it arose, like the
fountain that pops out of the sea after a shell strikes, there came a
heavy blow and a deep-throated grunt, followed by a hiss that was
merged with a shrill death-cry.
"Black devil! Black devil!" said Thirkle in a quiet, matter-of-fact way,
and then he began to sob and squirm; but the figure that had come up like
a jack-in-the-box held him pinned across the gunwale, with his shoulders
and arms inside the boat, and his legs writhing and thrashing in the dead
"What's wrong, Thirkle? What's wrong?" wailed Petrak.
He stood a second waiting for an answer, and then he started for the
boat, but stopped at the edge of the shadows.
"What's wrong, Thirkle? Sing out, can't ye? What's gone amiss?"
Thirkle's legs were quiet now, but I could hear his heavy breathing, and
it reminded me of the steam exhaust from an ice-factory.
In spite of the mystery about me, I set my brain to work trying to
remember what particular ice-factory sounded just like Thirkle's
"I'll hold him, Rajah," said Captain Riggs. "Go get the other," and the
figure of the Malay boy sprang from the boat and leaped toward Petrak.
The little red-headed man gave an incoherent gurgle, and he took to his
heels down the beach. Rajah let him go, and ran to me, where I was
tossing about like a dying fish. He hissed to me and swiftly cut me free,
and I rushed to the boats, with a tangle of rope still clinging to my
"Captain Riggs," I cried, "it is I, Trenholm!" and he lifted his hand
from the shoulder of the dying Thirkle and took mine.
"All's well," he said calmly. "Glad to see ye alive, Mr. Trenholm. I gave
ye up, and we came back here and went to sleep in the boat, but Rajah was
on watch when he heard ye coming back, and I guess he's made an end of
this beauty. Here, strike a match and let's look at him."
I held the flame down to Thirkle's face, and his clenched teeth grinned
at me through snarling, open lips, but his eyes were glazed with death.
We stripped him of his arms and lay him down in the palm-leaves, quite
"Did that other rascal get away?" asked Riggs. "We'll have to wait a bit
and see if we can't find him. But probably we better get to sea. Ye know
where ye left the plugs and oars? That little red-headed chap can't do
much harm, and if he gets away we'll find him some day. We'll be back
here in the shake of a lamb's tail, anyhow."
We rigged the tackle and hauled the boat into the sand with little
trouble, and, while Rajah held her on an even keel, we tugged at the
painter and soon had the water lapping at her bows. The stock of
provisions and water was restowed, and then we smashed the extra boat and
took the oars. We covered Thirkle with sand, but Riggs said he would
carry him back to Manila with the gold.
Rajah was in the boat, and we were prying it off the shingle and waiting
for a favouring wave when we were startled with a hail from the jungle.
"Cap'n Riggs! Oh, Cap'n Riggs!"
"Who's there?" I shouted, although I knew.
"Petrak--don't leave me here, cap'n! Take me away from this cussed
place--please, sir, please. I'll be good, only don't leave me on the
beach--I'll die afore mornin', sir."
We took him. He came creeping out of the jungle, sniffling and wailing,
and begging not to be hanged, and saying Thirkle and the others had done
it all. We bundled him into the bows, telling him he was a dead man if he
made a suspicious move; but the little cur never had enough courage to
fight unless he could stab a man in the back.
Once in the channel we filled away to the south, scooting past the black
upper-works of the _Kut Sang_, as we caught a stiff breeze from the
north. Then Captain Riggs made me sleep.
It was long after daylight when the captain shook me, and right over us
was a square-rigged ship. She was hanging in stays, and a boat was coming
to us from her when I looked over the gunwale. She was an oil-carrier
from Kobe to Manila.
"Four men out of the _Kut Sang_, ashore on a reef," said Captain Riggs,
as we went over her side. "You may put the red-headed gentleman in irons,
if you please, sir. Thank you."
And so we went back to Manila, where Petrak was hanged, and the only men
who ever sailed with the Devil's Admiral and lived to tell of it were
Captain Riggs, and Rajah, and myself, and the story was not written until
after Captain Riggs had fallen asleep under the poplars of his Maine home
and forgot to awaken. As I write the last of the tale, the wind howls in
the chimney, and the fleecy fog is coming over Russian Hill from the
Pacific, and hiding the ships in San Francisco Bay, and the last sheets
from my pen are gathered up by Rajah, wearing in his girdle the kris that