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Black Bartlemy's Treasure(Chapter26)

2006-08-28 22:28

  Chapter XXVI. We Come Upon Grim Evidences of Adam Penfeather

  Waking to a glory of sun, I found my companion looking down on me all anxious-eyed where she knelt, her hand upon my shoulder.

  "Why, Joan," says I drowsily, "my lady——"

  "You are groaning, Martin, so I came to you."

  "Groaning?" says I, flinching from her touch. "'Twas nought! An ill fancy——a dream, no more. But here is the sun well up and I a-snoring——"

  "Nay, you groaned and cried out, Martin. And 'tis yet full early."

  "And you'll be mighty hungry and for that matter so am I!" So saying I rose and, without more ado, strode away across the sands towards the reef. Now as I went, I chanced upon a great turtle- shell (to my joy!) and divers others marvellously shaped and tinted, and chose such as might serve us for cups and the like. With these beneath my arm I clambered out upon the reef and (the tide being out) saw many rocks, amongst which I had soon collected good store of shell-fish as limpets, oysters, and others much like to a periwinkle though larger. Filling my turtle-shell with these I took it 'neath my arm again and went on, following the curve of the reef, clambering over these slimy rocks, and found it no small labour what with my burden and the heat of the sun; but I persevered, seeking some fragment of our boat or the stores wherewith she had been so well laden. Yet, and search how I might, found nought to reward me. Having thus traversed the whole reef and explored the rocks beyond very thoroughly, I cast me down beside the lagoon to bathe my hands and face and rest myself awhile. Presently, chancing to turn my head, I saw a place of trees hard by, and started up, my weariness clean forgotten. For divers of these trees bore great clusters of yellowish fruit, the which I knew for a sort of plantain, very wholesome and of delicate savour. So, casting out my limpets and periwinkles, I hasted to pluck good store of this fruit, and with my turtle-shell thus well laden, hastened back to our refuge very well content.

  My companion being absent I seated myself in the shade and began opening the oysters with my knife as well as I might; in the which occupation she presently found me, and grew very merry at my clumsy efforts. And now I noticed that she had wrought her long hair into two braids very thick and glossy, also she had somehow contrived to mend the rents in her gown and her torn sleeve.

  "Why, you have combed your hair!" says I wondering and speaking my thought aloud.

  "With my fingers, they must be my comb until you can make me a better——alack, my poor hair!"

  "Why then, you must have a comb so soon as I can contrive one. But now see the breakfast nature hath provided us withal!"

  And who so full of pleased wonderment as she, particularly as regarded the fruit which she pronounced delicious, but my shell- fish she showed small liking for, though I found them eatable enough. Seeing her so pleased I told her I hoped to provide better fare very soon, and recounted my adventure with the goat.

  "But," says she, "how shall you go a-hunting and no firearms?"

  "With a bow and arrows."

  "Have you found these also?"

  "No, I must make them. I shall look out a sapling shaped to my purpose and trim it with my knife. For the cord of my bow I will have leather strips cut from my jerkin."

  "Aye, but your arrows, Martin, how shall you barb them without iron?"

  "True!" says I, somewhat hipped. But in that moment my eye lighted on a piece of driftwood I had gathered for fuel and, reaching it, I laid it at her feet. "There," says I, pointing to the heads of divers rusty bolts that pierced it, "here is iron enough to arm a score of arrows."

  "But how shall you make them, Martin?"

  "Heat the iron soft and hammer it into shape."

  "But you have neither hammer nor anvil."

  "Stones shall do."

  "O wonderful!" she cried.

  "Nay, it is not done yet!" says I, a little shamefaced.

  "And how may I help you?"

  "Watch me work."

  "Indeed and I will keep your fire going. So come let us begin."

  Our meal done, I gathered twigs for kindling and a great pile of driftwood of which was no lack, and with small boulders I builded a fireplace against the cliff where we soon had a fire drawing merrily, wherein I set my precious piece of timber. Having charred it sufficiently I found it an easy matter to break out the iron bolts and nails; five of them there were of from four to eight inches in length, and though the ends were much corroded by the sea, there yet remained enough sound iron for my purpose. And now, my bolts ready for the fire, I began to look for some stone that might serve me for hammer, and my companion likewise. Suddenly, as I sought and mighty diligent, I heard her cry out to me, and beholding her leaning in the cave mouth, all pale and trembling, came running:

  "What is't?" cries I, struck by the horror of her look.

  "O Martin!" she gasped. "O Martin——'tis in there——all huddled—— in the darkest corner! And I——I slept with it——beside me all night!" Coming within the cave I looked whither her shaking hand pointed and saw what I took at first for a monstrous egg and beyond this the staves of a small barrel; then, bending nearer, I saw these were the skull and ribs of a man. And this man had died very suddenly, for the skeleton lay face down one bony arm folded under him, the other wide-tossed, and the skull, shattered behind, showed a small, round hole just above and betwixt the cavernous eye-sockets; about the ribs were the mouldering remains of a leathern jerkin girt by a broad belt wherein was a knife and a rusty sword; but that which pleased me mightily was a thing still fast-clenched in these bony fingers, and this no other than a heavy hatchet. So, disturbing these poor bones as little as need be, I took the hatchet and thereafter sword and knife; and then, turning to go, stopped all at once, for tied about the bony neck by a leathern thong I espied a shrivelled parchment. Wondering, I took this also, and coming without the cave, found my companion leaning as I had left her and very shaky.

  "O Martin!" says she, shivering, "and I slept within touch of it!"

  "But you slept very well and he, poor soul, is long past harming you or any." So saying I smoothed out the crackling parchment and holding it in her view, saw this writ very bold and clear:

  "Benjamin Galbally Slain of necessity June 20, 1642 This for a sign to like Rogues.

  "Adam Penfeather."

  "Will this be our Adam Penfeather, Martin?"

  "Indeed," says I, "there is methinks but one Adam Penfeather in this world, the which is just as well, mayhap."

  "Then he murdered this poor man?"

  "Why the fellow had this hatchet in his fist, it hath lain rusting in his grasp all these years, methinks his blow came something too late! Though he must be mighty quick who'd outmatch Penfeather, I guess. No, this man I take it died in fight. Though why Adam must set this placard about the poor rogue's neck is beyond me."

  "Let us go away, Martin. This is an evil place."

  "It is!" says I, glancing at the great pimento tree that marked the grave of the poor Spanish lady and Black Bartlemy. "Truly we will seek out another habitation and that at once. Howbeit, I have gotten me my hammer." And I showed her the hatchet, the which, unlike the ordinary boarding-axe, was furnished with a flat behind the blade, thus:

  (Line drawing of the hatchet.)

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