Sea Scamps/The Treasure Box
THE TREASURE BOX
WE had just got back to Manila after a three-weeks' cruise to the southward, and for the first time since we had been trading around the islands had made a "broken trip"; that is, the net receipts had not covered the running expenses.
Knapp and Boles, who owned the schooner, ware fairly disgusted, but, as far as I was concerned, the trip had been a great success. This was due to the fact that one evening while becalmed off Dumaguete I had caught on my canvas a certain effect of the short-lived tropic afterglow for which I had been striving in vain for months. There is, near the equator, a certain indescribable effect of clear, starry night creeping over the earth even while it is still daylight, and almost before one has come to realise that the sun has set: not the usual pale-starred, indigo effect of the sky, but a sense of deep, brooding night that is most subtle and peculiarly hard to catch owing to its shortness of duration. On this trip I felt that I had caught it absolutely, and that I had amongst my studies the component parts of a great canvas; a supposition, by the way, that time has substantiated, for it was from these studies that my Academy picture, "Moonrise in the Tropics," was developed.
The morning after we got back Knapp and I had gone ashore on our usual tour of inspection, which included a visit to "The Senate," a drive around Malate, tiffin at the Oriente, and the usual Luneta promenade late in the afternoon. We had worked our way along the line as far as the hotel, and were just entering when Knapp gave a sharp tug to my sleeve.
I looked around, and there was a sight to be lingered on by one just down from deep waters. An equipage such as one seldom sees in the Philippines was drawing up to the curb. Harnessed to a stylish but diminutive cabriolet were two wicked, spirited, little jet-black stallions, snapping and pawing, and switching their tails. On the box were a coachman and a groom, both Tagals, and resplendent in liveries of white duck, with scarlet facings and silver buttons. Their trousers ended halfway down the bare leg in a broad, scarlet cuff, and they wore white top-hats, with a scarlet cockade. The harness was brass-mounted, and the reins were white.
Notwithstanding the brilliance of the setting, our eyes were quickly drawn to the jewel within. Reclining upon cushions of pongee silk was a woman of such audacious beauty that merely to glance at her was like a rebuke. She was of the conspicuous Irish type: the combination of blue-grey eyes, black lashes, and a wavy mass of blue-black hair, with high natural colouring, and one of those superbly conspicuous figures which are a menace to society in any part of the world. To describe her gown would be beyond an artist; it would require a woman, or a society reporter. My tropic sunsets were not a circumstance to it for colour and chromatic variation. It left an impression of Oriental richness and splendour combined with European pattern and design, but no couturière of East or West was equal to the task of holding the eye of the observer to the gown when there was such a pair of eyes above it. The last artistic touch was in the form of a clay-faced little Chinese maid that sat beside her.
I was the first to recover, and managed to rouse Knapp.
"God-all-sufficiency!" said he, "ain't she a pippin?"
The carriage drew up and the lady descended and brushed past us without a glance. We followed her dazedly into the hotel, breathing an atmosphere of ambrosia. Judging such propinquity to be unsettling to Knapp, I drew him into the billiard room.
We had been playing but a few minutes when I heard a rustle behind me, and, looking around, I saw to my surprise that the woman was standing by the door, talking to the Spanish manager. As I glanced up I caught her eye, and felt in some way that they were talking about Knapp and me.
When she saw that I had noticed her, she turned away and a few minutes later the Spaniard, whom we knew, came in and began to talk to us, telling the latest news, and asking us about our last cruise. As we were about to leave he asked in Spanish:
"Where are you lying now?"
"Same old place," said I, "over behind the break-water near the Diamante moorings."
"Going to be there long?" he asked.
"Couple of days," I answered.
As we went out we saw him putting the "pippin" into her carriage. She drove off, and the manager came over to where we stood.
"Mrs. Hunter asks if you will be so kind as to give this note to Captain Boles when you go aboard," said he.
"Certainly," I answered, in surprise—"but who is Mrs. Hunter?"
"The lady who just drove away, señor."
Knapp looked at me and whistled. "The darn old fox!" he said, then turning to the Spaniard, "Won't one of his partners do, Gomez?"
The man shrugged his shoulders. "The señor can see that it is sealed and addressed to el capitan."
For all of his force of character, Knapp was as curious as a cat—curious in a silly way, too, about trifling things that were none of his business.
"Come on, Brownie," said he, grabbing me by the arm, "let's get out aboard."
"You go—if you're in such a hurry to play messenger boy for Boles. I am out for a time of my own!" That straightened him out.
When we got aboard that night, I gave Boles the note, and Knapp gave him the particulars, which were more interesting, as the note simply requested him to call on the sender at the hotel the following afternoon. Boles looked puzzled; then so annoyed that Knapp kindly volunteered to take his place. Knowing something of Boles' past, I could understand his reluctance. After a few minutes' thought, however, he thanked Knapp somewhat sarcastically, and said that he would keep the engagement himself.
When he returned, two hours later, he wore a peculiar smile which broadened when he caught sight of Knapp's expression of polite and sympathetic interest. Motioning to us to follow him, he walked aft.
"Well, boys," he said, "I won't keep you in suspense. Strange as it may seem it was something more potent than old acquaintance or fatal charm which led to this appointment. It's a business proposition, and you can have it just as I got it.
"Several months ago there was a certain Volunteer regiment stationed at Mataborong in Mindanao. When they took the place, a lieutenant-man named Durand, in kicking out some loose masonry from the edge of a loophole which had been knocked in the wall of the cathedral, came upon a brass-bound box. He got rid of his men on some pretext, and stowed the box away for the time being. That night he got hold of a canoe and paddled his loot over to an island about a mile off shore, where he buried it, making a careful chart of the surroundings.
"Two days later the padre came to him, and, after some preamble, politely accused him of having looted the treasure, which had been hidden in the masonry of the cathedral. Durand, with equal courtesy, politely denied the charge, but asked for a description of the treasure that he might make every effort to recover it. A lengthy discussion brought out the facts that the box contained pearls and gold to the value of many thousand pesos. The pearls, it seems, had come by a series of thefts from our English friends in Sulu, passing in turn through the hands of first the divers, next that Malayan-Chino-Visayan mestizo crook, in Jolo, from whom they were stolen by a trader, who was swindled out of them by the presidente of Mataborong, who is a very superior and enlightened man. The padre, learning of the transaction, relieved the presidente of this dangerous wealth for his soul's health, but without his knowledge. The gold is the result of a joint thievery of even more ancient and venerable dignity, carried on by the padre and the presidente, and ultimately acquired by the former without his partner's knowledge and consent.
"The irony of fate sent Durand on a hike with his company the very next day, and before he got back his leg was broken by a Remington, and he was sent up to Manila, where he was in hospital three months. During his convalescence he got a month's furlough, and went up to Yokohama, where he met Mrs. Hunter, to whom, in a moment of folly, he told the story of his loot of the box. They came back to Manila together on the Esmeralda from Hong-Kong, and must have had some little unpleasantness on the way, to judge from her manner in speaking of him. As soon as Durand reported, he was ordered immediately to Calamba, leaving the same day.
"Mrs. Hunter, it seems, has in some way got a copy of Durand's chart. She justly claims that the game is a crooked one all the way through; that Durand was the last one to steal the loot, and she in turn proposes to steal it from Durand. She claims, with some ingenuity, that her ethical point is the strongest yet, as all is fair in love and war, which gives her a double claim. However, since Durand is apt to go after the chest at almost any time, she has got to do her part of the stealing pretty quickly, if she is going to do it at all, and as she seems to have heard of us in some way or other, she wants to charter the schooner to go after the loot. I told her that I'd give her an answer this afternoon. Now what d'ye say?"
We were silent for fully five minutes, then suddenly Knapp hit the heavy skylight a blow with his fist that made it rattle. The dull look went out of his eyes, and the dark lines at the corners of his mouth deepened.
"I don't like it!" he growled; "we've been mixed up in some fairly crooked deals, but so far we haven't done anyone dirt that didn't deserve it. This poor cuss of a lieutenant has stumbled on a pretty little piece of loot; then he had the hard luck to get winged before he could pack it off. This black-eyed lady works the Delilah racket on him, and learns the combination of the safe. She had a nerve, anyway!" He turned to Boles: "What right had she to think that we mightn't get in line and hold her up for the loot?"
"She was frank enough about that," said Boles. "She had to take a chance anyway, and I fancy she's no fool. She just sized me up, and then gambled on my not being quite low enough for that. Also she intends to go with us."
There came a sudden flash in Knapp's cold grey eyes, and a quick flush glowed under his yellow tan.
"She does, hey—she knows her business all right-O! We'd have about thirty cents of that money when she lit the beach again. What did she offer, anyway?"
"An even half. Pretty clever—what? And I greatly misdoubt the entire truth of her statements in regard to locality and so forth."
"Look here," I suggested, "that lieutenant-man will never get a chance to go down there after his loot, and even if he did it would probably cost him as much as it was worth. Let's make the lady agree to a division into thirds: one to her, one to the boat, and one to the 'luff.' After we get the treasure, if we decide that he is getting too much or too little out of it, we can arrange it accordingly. He'll be in no position to kick!"
They thought this proposition over for a few minutes, and finally decided that it was fair enough, and as good as any other. As the lady had said, the thing was crooked all the way through at best.
Boles went ashore the following morning, and arranged it with Mrs. Hunter, and about one o'clock they came off aboard. I saw at a glance that she would make a jolly shipmate, and I really believe that the lark of the whole adventure appealed to her far more than the treasure itself. Everything about our little packet seemed to interest and please her, and when she saw the efforts that Knapp and I had made to make her stateroom bright and attractive, she seemed very appreciative.
We weighed anchor that night as soon as it grew dark, and morning found us well out in the China Sea, as we were going around into the Sulu Sea through the Apo West Passage. The weather was good, but the breezes light and fickle, and the third day out found us still beating back and forth off the Sultana Bank.
Early in the afternoon of the fourth day we sighted Mataborong, and by eight o'clock had dropped anchor off the east end of the island, where, according to the chart, the treasure was hid. Our object was to get the box and get away undisturbed, so Boles, Mrs. Hunter, and I went ashore at once, leaving Knapp in charge of the schooner. We had no difficulty whatever in following the directions of the chart, as it was very simple, consisting only of a rough sketch of the island, which showed three little promontories on the eastern end. On one of these there was a circle marked "tree," on the south side of which there ran a dotted line marked "50—due S."; at the end of the line there was an "X," which we took to indicate the location of the box.
Emilio rowed us in, and on landing we started for the end of the island, where there was the only palm tree in the immediate neighbourhood. The chart made the island to be about three miles long by about one mile in width, but it seemed considerably larger than that. It was just a big sandbar covered by a tangle of vegetation, and in shape rather like the back of an animal. Along the higher ground in the middle there ran a scattering palm grove which gradually thinned out at the end, leaving the tree designated in the chart standing like a lonely sentinel.
The tide was dropping, and our impatience had reached such a fever by the time that we struck the beach that we simply hauled the dinghy high and dry on the beach and left her.
We all knew the map by heart, and, the moment we set foot on shore, started almost on a run for the solitary palm. It was a good deal farther back than it looked to be from the sea, but by making a détour along the edge of the beach we finally reached it without having to cut through the brush.
Boles whipped out his pocket compass and got a range due south from the tree, while I got out a tape and laid off fifty feet. Rather to my surprise it took me right into the middle of a little patch of thick bushes that looked like rhododendron.
"This isn't right!" I called to Boles. "These bushes have never been disturbed in the last three months!"
"Oh, you can't tell," answered Boles; "these tropical plants grow fast, and he might have sunk his loot in there on purpose. Let's try it anyway."
We probed the sandy soil here and there with a long iron rod which we had brought for the purpose, and wherever it struck a firm resistance for a couple of feet we dug. After about an hour's vain effort, in which we had probed and rooted all over an area of about ten feet square, we paused, and I for one had a cold, leaden weight of disappointment under my ribs. Our hands, tough as they were from handling ropes and spars, were sore, and in places blistered, and the sweat was running from us in little streams. Disconsolately we sat down for a moment's breathing space.
Mrs. Hunter had worked as hard and as silently as we, and now sat on the sand with her arms clasped about her knees and her great dark eyes brooding out over the sea. Suddenly she sprang to her feet.
"Oh, sillies!—sillies!" she called to us mockingly, and flew back to the palm tree. The next moment she was pacing toward us in long rhythmic strides, her eyes sparkling, and a derisive smile on her silently moving lips.
For a moment we looked at her amazed, with the vague idea that she had an attack of the sun. Then, together, we caught the reason of it all, and with a wild whoop sprang to our feet.
"We're a gallus team of treasure hunters!" said Boles. "I wonder how jolly long it would take us to find a lump of loot that was really hidden. Any ass might have known that the chart meant paces, not feet—as if a man alone in the dead of night was going to get out his yardstick and lay it off——"
A clear and triumphant call from the lady interrupted our count, and we broke into a run. She was executing a Spanish dance around a small washed-out heap of sand and shells. We bawled at Emilio to bring the tools, and In the meantime attacked the hummock with hand and foot.
Two minutes' hard digging, and we had unearthed a brass-bound camphor-wood chest, about two feet by one by one. A sudden silence fell upon us all.
"Let's open it!" whispered our Pandora.
"No!" said Boles, "let's get it aboard and get out as quick as we can."
Staggering under the weight of the little chest, which was delightfully heavy, we hurried back to the beach—then paused in consternation.
"Why, where's the boat?" cried Mrs. Hunter.
In silence we made our way to where we had left the dinghy. Not a trace of her was visible. The tide had receded several feet down the gradual slope, but not even so much, of our boat was to be seen as the furrow that her keel must have made when we hauled her up. On hands and knees we went over the beach inch by inch, but absolutely unrewarded by the slightest hint or clue.
Jordan Knapp can tell the rest of the yarn better than I can.
After the rest of the people had shoved off to go ashore and look for the treasure box, I got out the glass and watched them until they had landed and disappeared around the point. Then I went up to the maintop and looked the whole island over, but there was nothing in sight, so after a bit I got tired and came down. I was all alone aboard except for a little Tagal that we'd shipped as cook, but all that he could cook was rice and fish, and he couldn't cook that without burning it, so we'd just put him at odd jobs, scraping and painting and cleaning, and the like. I judged that someone ought to be on lookout, so I called him aft.
"Take this glass, you scrub," said I, "and shin up topside and keep your lamps glued on that beach, and if you see anything but sand and water, sing out. If you drop that glass," said I, as I stood in the companionway, "I'll hang ye by your feet from the cross-trees, and leave ye there till they drop off!" It's always a good plan to be firm with these natives.
It was mighty tiresome for me, so I went down below and read a book called "Lured Away," but it didn't interest me much, and pretty soon I closed my eyes, and just rested a bit. The next thing I heard was the Filipino kid squalling out from the top. I got up and went on deck.
"What is it?" said I, sort of put out at being disturbed.
He jabbered away and pointed to the shore. I looked over there and saw that the people had got in the boat and were pulling down the beach. A ways down they landed, and began to haul the boat up into the bushes. I could just make out three of them, so I judged that Emilio was on lookout.
That brought me up all standing, for I guessed they'd run up against something they hadn't counted on, but I reckoned they were in no danger, as otherwise they'd have pulled right off aboard; still, I didn't like it for a cent. Thinks I, they've seen some natives paddling along and are waiting for them to clear out.
I waited and waited, but nothing came in sight, so after about an hour I went below again, telling the kid up aloft to keep his eyes peeled or I'd peel them for him with my jack-knife. In a little while he sings out again, and going on deck I saw that all four of them had come back to where they had landed first off. They walked around a bit, and then went up and sat down in the shade of the bushes.
That puzzled me some, but I reckoned that they were waiting for dark for some reason before they came off. The sun was setting then, and as I judged they'd be hungry when they came aboard I started to get supper.
While I was messing around the galley I began to get dissatisfied. There was something sort of mysterious about it all that I didn't like, and their waiting on the beach about a mile above where they had hid the boat puzzled me. I called up the little Filipino cuss and tried to question him, but his monkey talk was more than I could savvy, so I gave him a cuff alongside the head, and told him to swing the riding light.
The night came down dark and gloomy, and still they didn't come aboard. Here and there on the mainland a little light would sparkle out, and then disappear. I got right nervous and depressed. I hated to leave the schooner unprotected, so pretty soon I called the cub aft and told him to get. in the gig and pull in and see what was up. We could see the island shining in the starlight, and I had no fear of his clearing out, as he was too homesick for the Pasig.
After he'd gone I got the blues so bad that I began to set the supper table in the cabin, and while I was doing it I heard the boat come up alongside. Although I was naturally dying to know if they had got the loot all right, by that time I was too put out with them to let on, so I just kept on what I was doing in a dignified sort of way. I heard them walking around on deck, and wondered why in thunder they didn't come below. Finally I couldn't stand it any longer, and started up to tell them what I thought of the whole business.
I came up on the jump, and then as I struck the deck stopped short. In the glimmer of the riding light three rifles were covering me; two shoved almost in my face, and one pointed at my stomach.
"Throw up your hands!" said a sharp voice.
There wasn't anything else much to do, so up went my paws, and for a minute I stood paralysed with surprise.
"Who in hell are you?" said I, when I got my breath back.
"Never you mind, my man," said the same voices which I made out to come from a tall chap dressed in khakis, "you just keep your hands up and your mouth shut, and you'll save us both trouble!"
Somehow I suspicioned who the fellow was, although where he came from beat me, so I chirped out:
"If you're Lieutenant Durand there's no call to get so peevish about it all—we're calculating to give you your share——"
He interrupted me with a short, snappy laugh.
"Ho!" said he, "my share! That's damn good—why, you bloomin' pirate, what's the matter with it all being my share? What business have you got prowlin' around my loot, anyway?"
"Oh, I don't know," said I, "it's pretty much the same business that you and the padre and the presidente and the rest of the crowd have been promoting. But look here, Mr. Durand, suppose you make up your mind what you're going to do with me—my arms are getting right tired!"
He spoke to one of the other fellows, who stepped up and pawed me over a bit. Then he told me to put my arms behind me, which I did, although for a minute I was half minded to swing around and make a fight for it. It would have done no good, as the other two had the drop on me, and they didn't look like the kind who would take any chances.
The little fellow who corded me up knew his business all right, and when he got through with me I could hardly wiggle my shoulders. They whispered together a bit, and I leaned back against the after end of the house and tried to make out their faces in the dim light. Pretty soon the little stout chap dropped over the side and handed a big bundle up to one of the others. As they dropped it on the deck I saw that it was my Filipino brat, gagged and bound.
The little man stayed in the boat, and in a moment shoved off and started to pull in toward the shore, and as he got clear of the side I noticed that he was towing a boat. That startled me, and I turned to Durand.
"Look here, mister," said I, "do you mind telling a fellow whether his mates are all right?"
"Oh, no," said he, careless; "now that we've got all the trumps, I don't know as it does any harm for you to see our hand—got anything to smoke?"
"A-plenty," said I; "just take a look below and you'll find all the comforts of a home—table set and supper waiting, pancakes getting cold. I'll thank ye to bring me up a cigar when you come if you'll be so kind!"
He laughed and went below, and in a minute came up with a bowl of rice and some canned things. From the way he and his mate sailed into the chow I judged that they must have been on short rations for a while.
"Look here, captain," said he, when finally he'd got filled up chock-a-block, "you've entertained us so handsomely that I don't mind telling you a few things. You seem to know all about the loot, but you probably didn't know that I started after it myself from Zamboanga three days ago. I took this gentleman here into partnership, and we got a little schooner and sailed around here, and would have got the box and cleared the day before yesterday, but we were foolish enough to leave the boat with no one aboard but the crew, and they had quietly vamoosed."
"That was a fool trick on your part," said I, mighty interested. "So you've put in the last two days on that island!"
"Yes—eating cocoanuts and fish."
"But how about the loot?" I asked.
"Oh, that's coming. I had the pleasure of watching your people kindly digging up 'my share' for me this afternoon. We didn't take the trouble, as there seemed no way of getting it off."
Things began to clear up, although that didn't make me feel any happier.
"Then it was you fellows that swiped the boat and hid it down the beach?" said I.
"Just so—taking care to wipe out our tracks."
I thought it over a bit. "Well," said I at last, "I may be thick, but I'll be darned if I can see just where you hold all the cards; it seems to me that the box is the boss trump, and from what I know of my crowd there'll be quite some playing before they throw it down. Look here," said I, turning to him, "do you think this darn box is worth our murdering each other about? You can't get it away without our schooner, and you won't get it without a fight to start with. Why can't we come to a divvy on it? We've admitted your right to a third of it——"
He cut in with that sarcastic laugh of his.
"You're right, captain—the box isn't worth killing anyone over, but I'm counting on getting it without any scrap. My Spanish friend here," he nodded at the man beside him, "was for shooting your people down from the bushes this afternoon, but I wouldn't hear of it. I've sent their boat in, and they'll find it in the morning and come off aboard. Then there'll be another little surprise party. I don't think they'll be so foolish as to fight when they get alongside and find three rifles looking at 'em."
I saw his plan then, and I must say it made me respect him a lot.
"What's the matter with our peaching when we get back?" said I.
"It wouldn't do you any good,—just get you in trouble,—besides, I don't mind paying you what's fair for the use of your schooner. But I just want to warn you that if you try to sing out when they came off aboard it will be mighty unhealthy for you!" There was such an ugly snap in, his voice as he said this that I sort of calculated that he was right.
We changed the subject then, and he told me some mighty interesting things about his experiences, and I spun a yam or two myself. Pretty soon the other fellow came back in the dinghy, and Durand introduced him to me. Somehow I couldn't help liking Durand, but at the same time I was scheming about some way to get on top again.
About midnight we went below, the little fellow staying on lookout. I lay down on a locker, and Durand sat at the table and had a drink with the Spaniard, who, it seems, was the captain of the little schooner they had come to the island in, and seemed right ugly at losing his vessel. He had no idea of what would become of her, but seemed to think that the Filipino crew would strip her and leave her somewhere.
The night wore along, and by-and-bye I woke up from a little nap and saw a faint glimmer of light in the skylight. A few minutes later Durand, who was on deck, stuck his head down through the hatch.
"I think I hear them coming!" said he.
The little fellow came over to me, and examined my fastenings. They were taut enough, the Lord knows, and even if they had come loose I was so stiff that I don't think I could have moved my arms.
"Now, captain," said he, "just you keep quiet—and remember that while we don't want to hurt you, business is business"—and I saw that he meant it too.
It was mighty disagreeable for me, waiting there and seeing everything working right into their hands, but there was no help for it, and I couldn't help grinning a little to myself when I thought of Boles' surprise. I agreed with Durand that they would never be so foolish as to try to put up a fight when they found that the people on the schooner had the drop.
The glimmer in the skylight grew brighter, and then suddenly I heard a hail from close alongside. I recognised Brown's voice.
"Schooner aho-o-oy!—Oh, Jordan!—Aho-o-oy!"
Something scraped along the deck over my head, and I heard Durand say: "Lie down—flat behind the bullarks!" The squat little fellow stuck his head down through the hatch, gave me a look as I lay on the locker, and softly slapped the butt of his rifle in a way that I understood.
Brown hollered a few times more, and then I caught the chunk of rowlocks. They must have been very close, for presently I heard Boles say, "The addle-headed ass has finally decided to go in and look for us and taken the boy with him,"—then I lost what he said, but presently I heard him growling away again—"or else he's caulked off down below waiting for us to wake him up with the pleasing news that he's a man of independent means——"
Funny how a little thing like that will sometimes irritate a man, especially when it's so unjust. That bit of lip almost reconciled me to the surprise they were going to get.
There was a moment's silence, and I heard the boat jar up alongside—then came a piercing scream and a roar of voices all together.
"Hell!" roared Boles; then—bang!—bang! Two reports came almost together.
There was another scream, and I heard Boles roar out:
"Drop that gun!—drop it, woman!"
There was another report, and I felt the cold sweat break out all over me.
"Stop firing!" yelled Durand's voice. "Stop it, you damn greaser!"
"O Lord!" I groaned to myself. "That's rotten murder! Oh, if I was only loose!"
I put out every ounce of strength that was in me, but the coir rope was too strong. The squat little cuss looked down into the cabin.
"Lie still!" he bawled; "no one's hurt. That cat tried to shoot Durand, and the greaser took a shot at her, but Durand knocked his rifle up. It's all right—lie still, d'ye hear?"
"Oh, you cursed devils!" I blubbered, for I thought that he was lying.
"Oh, shut up, you blithering idiot!" he snarled. "No one's hurt, I tell ye!"
Durand stuck his head into the hatchway.
"Come up, captain!" he ordered, and as well as I was able I wriggled onto my feet and went up.
Standing close together by the bullarks was Durand and his two partners, rifles in hand. Just the heads of the people in the boat were in sight, and I don't think I ever saw an uglier look than was on Boles' face.
"Get in the boat!" said Durand sharply to me. He was a tall, handsome man as I saw him in broad daylight, but I wasn't admiring his beauty much just then.
"Almighty!" said I; "you aint a-going to leave us on that island are you, lieutenant?" What I wanted was to gain time.
"Yes, I am!" says he; "and a damn good place for three cursed pirates and a ——"
I think that it was the word he called the lady that settled it. Quick as a flash I leaped behind him and planted my heel in the small of his back. At the same time I drove my head against the shoulder of the little man and butted him over the side as clean as a whistle.
What followed happened too quick for words. Durand landed across the gunnle of the boat and tore away the whole strip, and the little fellow, when he found himself going, leaped clear of the boat and swashed overboard. The greaser whipped around at me with his rifle and I ducked just in time, for his bullet creased my scalp from front to rear. Before he could shoot again Boles was up over the side and jammed him in the jaw with his fist, knocking him clean across the deck. His rifle went spinning out of his hands, and quick as a flash Boles had whipped it up and sent a bullet through his head.
In the boat, little Brown had jumped Durand and shoved his head back over the splintered gunnle until it was in the water, and Emilio was on his feet and stabbing at the swimming man with the boat hook, but fortunately couldn't reach him.
"Cut me loose—damn ye, cut me loose!" I yelled, for a man with his hands tied behind his back is in poor shape for a general knock-down and drag-out.
"Humph, you're so handy with your feet, as the Irishman says, that there doesn't seem to be much need!" says Boles, in that aggravating way of his, but before I could think up any curse strong enough for him that wouldn't shock the lady, she had yanked out a little knife and cut me loose.
"Brown," said Boles, "let that poor devil up. Do you think that's a nice way to treat an officer and a gentleman?"
"He's trying to pull a gun!" said Brown in a hurt tone.
"Well, pull it for him, and if he gets frisky, clip him over the head with it," said Boles.
I called out to Emilio to come aboard and look after his mate, and, picking up a heavy line, chucked it to the man who was overboard. He grabbed it and I hauled him in and yanked him up over the side.
"Now, young man," said I, "if you think that you can keep quiet and behave yourself, why, all right-O, but if you're still looking for trouble,"—I rubbed my arms where his miserable rope had cut into them,—"I'll just try and make you as comfortable on that locker down below as you did me!"
He lay panting and dripping on the deck, too winded to get on his feet and without as much fight in him as a pollywog. Pretty soon he hauled himself up. He wasn't a bad-looking young fellow, and I misdoubted that he might be a junior deck officer off some transport and misled by Durand.
"I'm through," says he; "but if there's no hard feeling, matey, I'd like a sup o' that liquor below—if ye can trust me," he added, sort of shamefaced.
"I've no fear," said I. "If I can't look after you and your lieutenant-man, now that I've cast off my warps, it's time I quit. Go on down and get your drink—but just chuck that misguided greaser overboard before you go," said I.
Boles and Brown had got Durand up out of the boat, and he was sitting on the deck with his back against the bullarks mighty white and weak-looking. I reckon the crack he got from my foot and the gunnle of the boat had jarred up his inside some. I looked around for the lady, being curious to see what she'd have to say to him, but she was down in her berth and didn't show up again as long as Durand was aboard.
We made sail and got up our hook, and by nine o'clock were heading for the westward with a fair fresh wind. Not until then did we crack open the treasure box. It was pretty well lined, although the pearls didn't quite come up to my idea of what they might have been, but altogether we valued the thing at about five thousand dollars American; not much, of course, but worth the trouble we'd been put to.
We opened it up on the quarter-deck, and Boles divided it off into three equal parts; that is, as equal as he could reckon it. Brown and I were mighty interested, but Durand sat right where he was with a sort of pale, contemptuous grin on his face. He was a mighty good-looking fellow, and I felt sort of sorry for him, but when I said I hoped he wasn't badly hurt he just lifted his eyebrows and stuck up his chin in a way that kind of embarrassed me. The little fellow, who had a drink or two more than he needed, just sat on his hunkers and made fun of the treasure until I told him to shut his face.
Boles tore up three little pieces of paper and held them out to me.
"Knapp, you can draw for the lady—it's for choice," says he. I drew the middle size.
"Second choice," says Boles. He held his fist out to the lieutenant.
"What's this damn foolishness?" says Durand in an ugly voice. Boles' eyebrows came together and he gave Durand a look that brought the blood into his face.
"It's for your share of the loot, Mr. Officer-man," said he, in that cold voice of his; "of course, if you don't want it you're at perfect liberty to leave it."
Durand's face got redder and redder and he tried to stare Boles out of countenance, but he might just as well have tried it on the Diabutsu Buddha at Kamakura.
"Ho!" said he; "do you mean to say that I come in on this?"
"Of course you do!" said Boles in an impatient voice. "Go ahead and draw and let's get through with it!"
Durand stared at him for a minute and his jaw dropped; then slowly he reached out and took one of the slips.
"First choice," says Boles—"third goes to the ship—not that it makes any difference that I can see."
Durand sort of hesitated, then suddenly he reached out his hand to Boles.
"I've made a mistake—and I want to apologise," says he. "Will you shake hands?"
"With pleasure," says Boles.
We shook hands all around then, and Durand told the little cuss that he'd see that he didn't lose anything by the trip. Then we all went down and had a drink.
We got off Zamboanga about sundown, and there we put the lieutenant and his mate ashore. His company was there and not in Calamba and I expect he manufactured some sort of a yarn about his absence. On the way back to Manila the lady didn't have much to say. She left us as soon as we got back, and that's the last I've ever seen of her. She really had nothing to complain of, but I've always had a sneaking notion that she would rather have had one of those shots of hers at Durand find a bull's eye than to collar a baker's dozen treasure boxes.