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Black Bartlemy's Treasure(Chapter28)

2006-08-28 22:29

  Chapter XXVIII. I Become a Jack-of-All-Trades

  Early next morning, having bathed me in the pool and breakfasted with my companion on what remained of our goat's-flesh, I set to work to build me a fireplace in a fissure of the rock over against the little valley and close beside a great stone, smooth and flat-topped, that should make me an anvil, what time my companion collected a pile of kindling-wood. Soon we had the fire going merrily, and whilst my iron was heating, I chose a likely piece of wood, and splitting it with the hatchet, fell to carving it with my knife.

  "What do you make now, Martin?"

  "Here shall be a spoon for you, 'twill help you in your cooking."

  "Indeed it will, Martin! But you are very skilful!"

  "Nay, 'tis simple matter!" says I, whittling away but very conscious of her watchful eyes: "I have outworn many a weary hour carving things with my knife. Given time and patience a man may make anything."

  "Some men!" says she, whereat I grew foolishly pleased with myself. The wood being soft and dry and my knife sharp the spoon grew apace and her interest in it; and because it was for her (and she so full of pleased wonder) I elaborated upon it here and there until, having shaped it to my fancy, I drew my iron from the fire and with the glowing end, burned out the bowl, scraping away the charred wood until I had hollowed it sufficiently, and the spoon was finished. And because she took such pleasure in it, now and hereafter, I append here a rough drawing of it.

  (Drawing of a spoon.)

  "'Tis wonderful!" cries she, turning it this way and that. "'Tis admirable!"

  "It might be better!" says I, wishing I had given more labour to it.

  "I want no better, Martin!" And now she would have me make another for myself.

  "Nay, mine can wait. But there is your comb to make."

  "How shall you do that, Martin?"

  "Of wood, like the Indians, but 'twill take time!"

  "Why then, it shall wait with your spoon, first should come necessities."

  "As what?"

  "Dear Heaven, they be so many!" says she with rueful laugh. "For one thing, a cooking-pot, Martin."

  "There is our turtle-shell!" says I.

  "Why, 'tis very well, Martin, for a turtle-shell, but clumsy——a little. I would have a pan——with handles if you could contrive. And then plates would be a good thing."

  "Handles?" says I, rubbing my chin. "Handles——aye, by all means, a pan with handles, but for this we must have clay."

  "And then, Martin, platters would be useful things!"

  "So they will!" I nodded. "These I can fashion of wood."

  "And then chairs, and a table, Martin."

  "True!" says I, growing gloomy. "Table and chairs would be easy had I but a saw! I could make you shelves and a cupboard had I but fortuned to find a saw instead of this hatchet."

  "Nay, Martin," says she, smiling at my doleful visage. "Why this despond? If you can make me so wondrous a spoon with nought but your knife and a piece of driftwood, I know you will make me chairs and table of sorts, saw or no, aye, if our table be but a board laid across stones, and our chairs the same."

  "What more do we need?" says I, sighing and scowling at my hatchet that it was not a saw.

  "Well, Martin, if there be many goats in the island, and if you could take two or three alive, I have been thinking we might use their milk in many ways if we had pans to put the milk in, as butter and cheese if you could make me a press. Here be a-plenty of ifs, Martin, and I should not waste breath with so many if you were not the man you are!"

  "As how?" I questioned, beginning to grind the hatchet on a stone.

  "A man strong to overcome difficulty! And with such clever hands!"

  Here I ground my hatchet harder than before, but scowled at it no longer.

  "And what more would you have?" I questioned.

  "If you could make our front door to open and shut?"

  "That is easily done! And what else beside?"

  "Nay, here is enough for the present. We are like to be very busy people, Martin."

  "Why, 'twill pass the time!" says I.

  "And work is a very good thing!" quoth she thoughtfully.

  "It is!" says I, grinding away at my hatchet again.

  "O Martin!" sighs she after awhile, "I grow impatient to explore our island!"

  "And so you shall so soon as you are strong enough."

  "And that will be very soon!" says she. "The sea-water is life to me, and what with this sweet air, I grow stronger every day."

  "Meantime there is much to be done and here sit I in idleness."

  "Nay, you are sharpening your axe and I am talking to you and wondering what you will make next?"

  "A lamp!" says I.

  "How, Martin?"

  "With a shell, the fat of our goat rendered down, and cotton from my shirt."

  "Nay, if you so yearn for a lamp I can do this much."

  "Good!" says I, rising. "Meantime I'll turn carpenter and to begin with, try my hand at a stool for you."

  "But if you have no saw, Martin——?"

  "I will make me a chisel instead." Crossing to the fire I found my iron red-hot, and taking it betwixt two flat pieces of wood that served me for tongs I laid it upon my stone anvil, and fell forthwith to beating and shaping it with the hammer-back of my hatchet until I had beaten out a blade some two inches wide. Having cooled my chisel in the brook I betook me to sharpening it on a stone moistened with water, and soon had wrought it to a good edge. I now selected from my timber a board sufficiently wide, and laying this on my anvil-stone began to cut a piece from the plank with hammer and chisel, the which I found a work requiring great care, lest I split my wood, and patience, since my chisel, being of iron, needed much and repeated grinding. Howbeit it was done at last, and the result of my labour a piece of wood about two feet square, and behold the seat of my stool!

  Now was my companion idle for, while all this is a-doing, she sets the turtle-shell on the fire with water and collops of meat cut with my knife, and, soon as it simmers, breaks into it divers herbs she had dried in the sun; and so comes to watch and question me at my work, yet turning, ever and anon, to stir at the stew with her new spoon, whereby I soon began to snuff a savour methought right appetising. As time passed, this savour grew ever more inviting and my hunger with it, my mouth a- watering so that I might scarce endure, as I told her to her no small pleasure.

  "Had I but a handful of salt, Martin!" sighs she.

  "Why, comrade," says I, pausing 'twixt two hammer-strokes, "Wherefore this despond? If you can make stew so savoury and with nought but flesh of an old goat and a few dried herbs, what matter for salt?" At this she laughed and bent to stir at her stew again.

  "There's plenty of salt in the sea yonder," says she presently.

  "True, but how to come at it?"

  "How if we boiled sea-water, Martin?"

  "'Tis method unknown to me," says I, whittling at a leg of my stool, "but we can try."

  And now in the seat of my stool I burned three good-sized holes or sockets, and having trimmed three lengths of wood, I fitted these into my socket-holes, and there was my stool complete. This done, I must needs call her from her cooking to behold it; and though it was no more than a square of roughish wood set upon three pegs, she praised and viewed it as it had been a great elbow chair and cushioned at that! Hereupon, puffed up with my success, I must immediately begin to think upon building us a table and chairs, but being summoned to dinner I obeyed her gladly enough. And she seated on her stool with me on the ground beside her and our turtle-shell dish before us, we ate with hearty good-will until, our hunger appeased, we fell to talk:

  She: 'Tis marvellous how well I eat.

  Myself: 'Tis the open air.

  She: And the work, Martin. I have swept and dusted our cottage every hole and corner.

  Myself: And found nothing left by its last tenant?

  She: Nothing.

  Myself: Had he but thought to leave us a saw our chairs and table would have been the better.

  She: Then you will make them, Martin?

  Myself: Aye——with time.

  She: O 'tis bravely determined.

  And here, for a moment, I felt the light touch of her hand on my shoulder.

  Myself: They will be very unlovely things——very rough——

  She: And very wonderful, Martin.

  Myself: As to these goats now, 'tis an excellent thought to catch some alive and rear them.

  She: I could make you excellent cheese and butter.

  Myself: If I cannot run them down, I must contrive to wound one or two with arrows.

  She: Why then, Martin, why not head your arrows with pebbles in place of iron points?

  Myself: Good again! Or I might make a couple of gins, running nooses cut from the goat-skin. Howbeit, I'll try!

  Herewith I arose and she also; then while she busied herself to scald out our turtle-shell, I set off to get my goat-skin. And finding it where I had left it hanging on a rock to dry, I fell a-cursing to myself for very chagrin; for what with the heat of the rock and the fierce glare of the sun, here was my goat-skin all shrivelled and hard as any board. So stood I scowling at the thing, chin in hand, and mightily cast down, and so she presently found me; and beholding my disconsolate look falls a-laughing.

  "O Martin," says she, "'tis well there are some things you cannot do!" Saying which, she takes up the skin (albeit it smelt none too sweet) and away she goes with it into the cave. So I got me back to my carpentry, and selecting as many boards as I required for the width of my table, fell to cutting them to their proper lengths with hammer and chisel. And despite the shade of the mighty trees that girt us round and the soft wind that stirred, plaguy hot work I found it; but ever and anon she would bring me water, in one of our shells, cool from the spring, or would sit beside me as I laboured, aiding me in a thousand ways and showing herself vastly capable and quick-witted; thus as the sun sank westwards I had all my boards cut to an even size and two of the legs, though these, being square, I must needs chop asunder with the hatchet; yet I persevered, being minded to complete the work ere nightfall if possible.

  "But where are your nails?" says she, where she sat watching.

  "Our nails be too few and precious," quoth I, pausing to re- sharpen my hatchet. "I shall burn holes and pin our table together with pegs."

  "Why then," says she readily, "let me split and shape you some pegs."

  "Spoke like a true comrade!" says I impulsively. "Sometimes I do forget you are——"

  "A woman?" she questioned as I paused; and I wondered to see her eyes so bright and shining. "Here is twice you have named me your comrade, Martin, and so will I be so long as I may. You sometimes would call me your comrade when we played together years ago, and 'tis a good name, Martin. Come now, teach me how I must make these pegs for our table." So I showed her how to split divers lengths of wood and shape these as round and smooth as might be, the while I bored holes for them with a heated iron; and thus we sat side by side at our labour, seldom speaking, yet I (for one) very well content.

  At length, with her assistance, I began setting the framework of our table together, joining and pinning it with my wooden pegs driven mighty secure; last of all I laid the boards across and, pinning these in place, there was our table; and though it was rude and primitive so far as looks went, yet very serviceable we were to find it.

  "Well, Martin," says she, when I had borne it into our cave, "methinks my shelves and cupboard are none so far to seek!" Here she falls to patting this unlovely thing and viewing it as it were the wonder of the world; and I must needs leap upon it to prove its strength.

  "'Tis over-heavy," says I, giving it a final shake, "but 'twill serve!"

  "To admiration!" says she, smoothing its rough surface with gentle hand. "To-night we will sup from it. Which reminds me that supper is to cook and our meat nearly all gone, Martin, though we have plenty of plantains left." So I told her I would go fetch what remained of the carcass after supper, so soon as the moon rose. And now whiles she bustled to and fro, I chose me a little piece of wood, and sitting where I might watch her at her labours, began to carve her the hair pin I had promised.

  "Our third cave should make us a very good larder!" says she busy at her new table preparing supper.

  "Aye."

  "'Tis so marvellous cool!"

  "Aye."

  "I think, because the pool lieth above it."

  "Mayhap!"

  "Indeed, these are wonderful caves, Martin."

  "They are."

  "Who lived here before us, I wonder?"

  "Penfeather, like as not."

  "Why should you think this?"

  "Well, that door yonder was never a carpenter's work, yet 'tis well made and furnished with a loop-hole, narrow and horizontal to give a lateral fire, the which I have seen but once ere this. Then again the timbers of this door do carry many marks of shot, and Adam Penfeather is no stranger to such, violence and danger, steel and bullet seem to follow him."

  "Why so, Martin? He hath ever seemed a man very quiet and gentle, most unlike such rough sailor-men as I have seen hitherto."

  "True," says I, "but 'neath this attitude of mind is a wily cunning and desperate, bloodthirsty courage and determination worthy any pirate or buccaneer of them all."

  "Why, courage and determination are good things, Martin. And as for Master Penfeather, he is as I do know a skilful navigator and very well read, more especially in the Scriptures, and methought your friend?"

  "For his own purposes!" quoth I.

  "And what are these, Martin?"

  At this I merely scowled at the wood I was carving, whereupon she questions me further:

  "Master Adam is such a grave and sober man!"

  "True!" says I.

  "And so wise in counsel——"

  "Say, rather, cunning!"

  "Though to be sure he once had a poor man beaten cruelly."

  "Wherein he was exactly right!" says I, grinding my teeth at memory of Red Andy. "Aye, there Penfeather was very right, this fellow was a vile and beastly rogue!"

  "What dreadful thing had he done, Martin?"

  "Stared at you!" says I, and stopped; and glancing up, found her regarding me with look mighty strange.

  "Did you mind so much?" she questioned.

  "No whit, madam. Why should I?"

  "Aye, why indeed!" says she and turns to her cooking again and I to my carving, yet in a little, hearing her gasp, I glanced up to find her nigh stifled with her laughter.

  "Ha, why must ye laugh, madam?" I demanded.

  "O Martin!" says she, "And must this poor man be whipped——and for a mere look? And you so fierce withal! I fear there be many men do merit whipping if this be sin so great."

  "I see no reason in your laughter, my lady!" quoth I, scowling up at her.

  "Because you have no gift of laughter, my lord!" says she, and turns her back on me.

  Here I came nigh to tossing her half-finished hairpin into the fire; but seeing her turn her head, carved on for very shame.

  "And are you so very angry, Martin?" I bent to sharpen my knife. I would that you might laugh yourself——once in a while, Martin." I tested my knife on my thumb. "You are always so grave, Martin, so very solemn and young!" Finding my knife still blunt, I went on sharpening it. Here and all suddenly she was beside me on her knees and clasps my knife-hand in hers. "Indeed I had no thought to anger you. Are you truly angered or is it only that you are so very——hungry?" Now here I glanced at her and beholding all the roguish mischief in her eyes, try how I might, I could not but smile too.

  "A little of both, comrade!" says I. "Though verily I am a surly animal by nature."

  "Indeed yes, Martin," she sighs, "yet a very comfortable animal, and though strong and fierce and woefully trying at times, a very gentle animal to such as know you."

  "And do you know me so well?"

  "Better than you think, O a great deal better! Because I am a woman. And now are we friends again?"

  "Yes!" says I heartily, "Yes!" And away she goes to her cooking and I mighty glad I had not destroyed her hairpin, the which (my knife being sharp) I began to ornament with all sorts of elaborations. Presently back she comes, spoon in one hand, stool in the other, and sits to watch me at work.

  "What do you make now, Martin?"

  "A pin for your hair."

  "Why, 'tis beautiful!"

  "'Tis scarce begun yet!"

  Here she must needs lavish all manner of praises on my skill until I came nigh cutting myself.

  "How many will you make me, Martin?"

  "As many as you will."

  "Three should suffice."

  "Why, you have a prodigious lot of hair."

  "Do you think so, Martin?" says she, glancing down at the two great braids that fell over her bosom well-nigh to her waist. "'Twas well enough in England, but here 'tis greatly in my way and hampers me in my work. I had thought of cutting it off."

  "Then don't!"

  "Why not, Martin?"

  "Well," says I, glancing at the nearest braid that showed coppery lights where the setting sun caught it. "Well, because——" and finding nought else to say I fell to my carving again and away she goes to her cooking.

  "Martin," says she at last, "what do you know of Master Penfeather? Where did you fall in with him, and why is his life so threatened?"

  "All by reason of Black Bartlemy's treasure!"

  "Treasure!" says she; and back she comes and onto her stool, all in a moment. "Tell me of it, Martin!"

  "'Tis a great treasure of gold and jewels in such."

  "And who is Black Bartlemy?"

  "A foul rogue of a pirate that was killed by a poor Spanish lady, and lieth buried with her under the great pimento tree on the beach yonder."

  "O Martin!" says she, getting up that she might behold the tree, "O Martin, I knew, I knew 'twas an evil place! And the poor lady died too?"

  "He killed her after she had stabbed him!"

  "How do you know of this?"

  "Adam Penfeather told me, he saw it done!" Hereupon she sits down and is silent awhile.

  "And where is this great treasure?"

  "On this island!"

  "Here?" says she, starting to her feet again, "Here, Martin?"

  "Aye, 'twas this I was despatched to secure, after I had been rapped over the head with a pistol-butt!"

  "And how must you find it?"

  "I never shall, the secret of it was in the packet I tossed overboard. Adam may find it himself an he will."

  "And you have no desire for this treasure?"

  "None in the world." And now (at her earnest solicitation) I told her all my association with Adam, of my haunted days and nights aboard ship and my suspicions of Tressady; only I spoke nothing of Adam's avowed intent to steal the "Faithful Friend" to his own purposes.

  "O wonderful!" says she, when I had done, and then again, "O wonderful! So this was why we were cut adrift. Truly Master Penfeather hath quick and subtle wits."

  "A guileful rogue——and very wily!" says I, clenching my fist.

  But wherein is he rogue, Martin?"

  "How!" quoth I, "was it not a wicked, vile and most roguish act to set you adrift thus, to run the peril of sea and a desolate island——"

  "What other could he do, Martin, and the ship good as taken by the mutineers? I heard them shouting——for me!" and here she shivered. "True, we have faced perils, have lost all our stores, but at least here am I——safe with you, Martin!" Saying which she rose and presently summoned me to our evening meal.

  Having supped, I took beneath my arm my rusty sword (the which I had sharpened and burnished as well as I might) being minded to fetch what remained of our goat: but now she comes very earnest to go with me, and I agreeing readily enough, we set out together forthwith.

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