THE LADY AND THE PIRATE
Being the Plain Tale of a Diligent Pirate and a Fair Captive
Author of THE MISSISSIPPI BUBBLE, 54-40 OR FIGHT THE PURCHASE PRICE, JOHN RAWN, ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY HARRY A. MATHES
INDIANAPOLIS THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT 1913 EMERSON HOUGH
PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH & CO. BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS BROOKLYN, N. Y.
I IN WHICH I AM A CAITIFF 1
II IN WHICH I HOLD A PARLEY 6
III IN WHICH I AM A CAPTIVE 14
IV IN WHICH I AM A PIRATE 23
V IN WHICH WE SAIL FOR THE SPANISH MAIN 34
VI IN WHICH I ACQUIRE A FRIEND 44
VII IN WHICH I ACHIEVE A NAME 52
VIII IN WHICH WE HAVE AN ADVENTURE 60
IX IN WHICH WE TAKE MUCH TREASURE 75
X IN WHICH I SHOW MY TRUE COLORS 90
XI IN WHICH MY PLOT THICKENS 97
XII IN WHICH WE CLOSE WITH THE ENEMY 102
XIII IN WHICH WE BOARD THE ENEMY 110
XIV IN WHICH IS ABOUNDING TROUBLE 122
XV IN WHICH IS CONVERSATION WITH THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN 131
XVI IN WHICH IS FURTHER PARLEY WITH THE CAPTIVE MAIDEN 143
XVII IN WHICH IS HUE AND CRY 154
XVIII IN WHICH IS DISCUSSION OF TWO AUNTIES 158
XIX IN WHICH I ESTABLISH A MODUS VIVENDI 166
XX IN WHICH I HAVE POLITE CONVERSATION, BUT LITTLE ELSE 175
XXI IN WHICH WE MAKE A RUN FOR IT 184
XXII IN WHICH I WALK AND TALK WITH HELENA 192
XXIII IN WHICH IS A PRETTY KETTLE OF FISH 205
XXIV IN WHICH WE HAVE A SENSATION 213
XXV IN WHICH WE MEET THE OTHER MAN, ALSO ANOTHER WOMAN 224
XXVI IN WHICH WE BURN ALL BRIDGES 244
XXVII IN WHICH WE REACH THE SPANISH MAIN 258
XXVIII IN WHICH IS CERTAIN POLITE CONVERSATION 267
XXIX IN WHICH IS SHIPWRECK 285
XXX IN WHICH IS SHIPWRECK OF OTHER SORT 299
XXXI IN WHICH WE TAKE TO THE BOATS 312
XXXII IN WHICH I RESCUE THE COOK 324
XXXIII IN WHICH WE ARE CASTAWAYS 333
XXXIV IN WHICH IS NO RAPPROCHEMENT WITH THE FAIR CAPTIVE 349
XXXV IN WHICH I FIND TWO ESTIMABLE FRIENDS, BUT LOSE ONE BELOVED 357
XXXVI IN WHICH WE FOLD OUR TENTS 375
XXXVII IN WHICH IS PHILOSOPHY; WHICH, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT BE SKIPPED 384
XXXVIII IN WHICH IS AN ARMISTICE WITH FATE 395
XXXIX IN WHICH ARE SEALED ORDERS 400
XL IN WHICH LAND SHOWS IN THE OFFING 414
XLI IN WHICH IS MUCH ROMANCE, AND SOME TREASURE, ALSO VERY MUCH HAPPINESS 426
THE LADY AND THE PIRATE
IN WHICH I AM A CAITIFF
I was sitting at one of my favorite spots engaged in looking through my fly-book for some lure that might, perhaps, mend my luck in the afternoon's fishing. At least, I had within the moment been so engaged; although the truth is that the evening was so exceptionally fine, and the spot always so extraordinarily attractive to me—this particular angle of the stream, where the tall birches stand, being to my mind the most beautiful bit on my whole estate—that I had forgotten all about angling and was sitting with rod laid by upon the bank, the fly-book scarce noted in my hand. Moreover, a peculiarly fine specimen of Anopheles, (as I took it to be) was at that very moment hovering over my hand, and I was anxious to confirm my judgment as well as to enlarge my collection of mosquitoes. I had my other hand in a pocket feeling for the little phial in which I purposed to enclose Anopheles, if I could coax him to alight. Indeed, I say, I was at that very moment as happy as a man need be; or, at least, as happy as I ever expected to be. Imagine my surprise, therefore, at that moment to hear a voice, apparently intended for me, exclaim, "Halt! Caitiff!"
I looked up, more annoyed than displeased or startled. It is not often one sees so fine a specimen of Anopheles; and one could have sworn that, but for my slight involuntary movement of the hand, he must have settled; after which—crede experto!—he would have been the same as in my phial, and doomed to the chloroform within the next hour. Besides, no matter who one may be or how engaged, it is not wholly seemly to be accosted as a caitiff, when one is on one's own land, offending no man on earth, owing no debt and paying no tribute, feudal, commercial, military or personal, to any man on earth.
The situation seemed to me singular. Had the time been some centuries earlier, the place somewhere in the old world, such speech might have had better fitting. But the time was less than a year ago, the place was in America. I was on my own lands, in this one of our middle states. This was my own river; or at least, I owned the broad acres on both sides of it for some miles. And I was a man of no slinking habit, no repulsive mien, of that I was assured, but a successful American of means; lately a professional man and now a man of leisure, and not so far past thirty years of age. My fly-rod was the best that money can buy, and the pages of the adjacent book were handsomely stocked by the best makers of this country and each of the three divisions of Great Britain; in each of which—as well as in Norway, Germany, or for the matter of that, India, New Zealand, Alaska, Japan or other lands—I had more than once wet a line. My garb was not of leather jerkin, my buskins not of thonged straw, but on the contrary I was turned out in good tweeds, well cut by my London tailor. To be called offhand, and with no more reason than there was provocation, a "caitiff," even by a voice somewhat treble and a trifle trembling, left me every reason in the world to be surprised, annoyed and grieved. For now Anopheles had flown away; and had I not been thus startled, I should certainly have had him. Yet more, no fish would rise in that pool the rest of that evening, for no trout in my little stream thereabout ever had seen a boat or been frightened by the plash of an oar since the time, three years back, when I had bought the place.
I looked up. Just at the bend, arrested now by hand anchorage to the overhanging alders, lay a small boat, occupied by two boys, neither of more than fourteen years, the younger seemingly not more than twelve. It was the latter who was clinging with one hand to the drooping bushes. His companion, apparently the leader in their present enterprise, was half crouching in the bow of the boat and he, evidently, was the one who had accosted me.
A second glance gave me even more surprise, for it showed that the boat, though not precisely long, low and rakish of build, evidently was of piratical intent. At least she was piratical in decoration. On each side of her bow there was painted—and the evening sun, shining through my larches, showed the paint still fresh—in more or less accurate design in black, the emblem of a skull and cross-bones. Above her, supported by a short staff, perhaps cut from my own willows, flew a black flag, and whatever may have been her stern-chaser equipment, her broadside batteries, or her deck carronades—none of which I could well make out, as her hull lay half concealed among the alders—her bow-chaser was certainly in commission and manned for action. The pirate captain, himself, was at the lanyard; and I perceived that he now rested an extraordinarily large six-shooter in the fork of a short staff, which was fixed in the bow. Along this, with a three-cornered gray eye, he now sighted at the lower button of my waistcoat, and in a fashion that gave me goose-flesh underneath the button, in spite of all my mingled emotions. Had I not "halted," as ordered, to the extent of sitting on quietly as I was, he no doubt would have pulled the lanyard, with consequences such as I do not care to contemplate, and mayhap to the effect that this somewhat singular story would never have been written.
"Halt, Sirrah!" began the pirate leader again, "or I will blow you out of the water!"
I sat for a moment regarding him, my chin in my hand.
"No," said I at last; "I already am out of the water, my friend. But, prithee, have a care of yonder lanyard, else, gadzooks! you may belike blow me off the bank and into the water."
This speech of mine seemed as much to disconcert the pirate chieftain as had his me. He stood erect, shifting his Long Tom, to the great ease of my waistcoat button.
"Won't you heave to, and put off a small boat for a parley?" I inquired.
IN WHICH I HOLD A PARLEY
The two pirates turned to each other for consultation, irresolute, but evidently impressed by the fact that their prize did not purpose to hoist sail and make a run for it.
"What ho! mates?" demanded the captain, in as gruff a voice as he could compass: "Ye've heard his speech, and he has struck his flag."
"Suppose the villain plays us false," rejoined the "mates" or rather, the mate, in a voice so high or quavering that for a moment it was difficult for me to repress a smile; although these three years past I rarely had smiled at all.
The captain turned to one side, so that now I could see both him and his crew. The leader was as fine a specimen of boy as you could have asked, sturdy of bare legs, brown of face, red of hair, ragged and tumbled of garb. His crew was active though slightly less robust, a fair-haired, light-skinned chap, blue-eyed, and somewhat better clad than his companion. There was something winning about his face. At a glance I knew his soul. He was a dreamer, an idealist, an artist, in the bud. My heart leaped out to him instinctively in a great impulse of sympathy and understanding. Indeed, suddenly, I felt the blood tingle through my hair. I looked upon life as I had not these three years. The imagination of Youth, the glamour of Adventure, lay here before me; things I cruelly had missed these last few years, it seemed to me.
"How, now, shipmates?" I remarked mildly. "Wouldst doubt the faith of one who himself hath flown the Jolly Rover? Cease your fears and come aboard—that is to say, come ashore."
"Git out, Jimmy," I heard the captain say in a low voice, after a moment of indecision. "Keep him covered till I tie her up."
Jimmy, the fair-haired pirate, hauled in on the alders and flung a grappling iron aboard my bank, which presently he ascended. As he stood free from the screening fringe of bushes, I saw that he was slender, and not very tall, one not wholly suited by nature to his stern calling. His once white jacket now was soiled, and one leg of his knickers was loose, from his scramble up the bank. He was belted beyond all earl-like need; wore indeed two belts, which supported two long hunting knives and a Malay kris, such as we now get from the Philippines; as well as a revolver large beyond all proportion to his own size. A second revolver of like dimensions now trembled in his hand, and even though its direction toward me was no more than general, I resumed the goose-flesh underneath my waistcoat, for no man could tell what might happen. In none of my works with dangerous big game have I felt a similar uneasiness; no, nor even in the little affair in China where the Boxers held us up, did I ever really consider the issue more in doubt. It pleased me, however, to make no movement of offense or defense; and luckily the revolver was not discharged.
When the two had topped the bank, and had approached me—taking cover behind trees in a way which made me suspect Boy Scout training, mingled with bandit literature—to a point where we could see each other's features plainly, I moved over to one side of my bank, and motioned them to approach.
"Come alongside, brothers," said I, pushing my fly-rod to one side; "make fast and come aboard. And tell me, what cheer?"
They drew up to me, stern of mien, bold of bearing, dauntless of purpose. At least, so I was convinced, each wished and imagined himself to seem; and since they wished so to be seen thus, seized by some sudden whim, I resolved to see them. How I envied them! Theirs all the splendor of youth, of daring, of adventure, of romance; things gone by from me, or for the most part, never known.
Frowning sternly, they seated themselves reluctantly on the grassy bank beside me, and gazed out in the dignity of an imagined manhood across my river, which now was lighted bravely by the retiring sun. Had I not felt with them, longed with them, they could never so splendidly have maintained their pretense. But between us, there in the evening on my stream with only the birds and the sun to see, it was not pretense. Upon the contrary, all cloaks were off, all masks removed, and we were face to face in the strong light of reality. As clearly as though I always had known them, I saw into the hearts of these; and what I saw made my own heart ache and yearn for something it had ever missed.
"What cheer, comrades?" I repeated at length. "Whither away, and upon what errand?"
Now a strange thing happened, which I do not explain, for that I can not. In plain fact, these two were obviously runaway boys, not the first, nor perhaps the last of runaway boys; and I was a man of means, a retired man, supposedly somewhat of a hermit, although really nothing of the sort; lately a lawyer, hard-headed and disillusioned, always a man of calm reason, as I prided myself; subject to no fancies, a student and a lover of science, a mocker at all superstition and all weak-mindedness. (Pardon me, that I must say all these things of myself.) Yet, let me be believed who say it, some spell, whether of this presence of Youth, whether of the evening and the sun, or whether of the inner and struggling soul of Man, so fell upon us all then and there, that we were not man and boys, but bold adventurers, all three of like kidney! This was not a modern land that lay about us. Yonder was not the copse beyond the birches, where my woodcock sometimes found cover. This was not my trout-stream. Those yonder were not my elms and larches moving in the evening air. No, before us lay the picture of the rolling deep, its long green swells breaking high in white spindrift. The keen wind of other days sounded in our ears, and yonder pressed the galleons of Spain! Youth, Youth and Adventure, were ours.
We smiled not at all, therefore, as, with some thoughtful effort, it is true, we held to fitting manner of speech. "We seek for treasure," piped the thin voice of him I had heard called Jimmy. "Let none dare lift hand against us!"
"And whither away, my hearties?"
"Spang! to the Spanish Main." This also from the blue-eyed boy; who, now, with some difficulty, managed to let down the hammer of his six-shooter without damage to himself or others.
"We didn't know but youse would try to stop us," exclaimed the red-haired leader. "We come around the bend and seen you settin' there; an' we was resolved—to—to——"
"To sell our lives dearly!" supplemented Jimmy. "He who would seek to stop us does so at his peril." And Jimmy made so fell a movement toward his side-arms that I hastened to restrain him.
"Yes," said I; "you are quite right, my hearties."
"But, gee!" ventured the red-haired pirate, "what was you thinkin' about?"
"You ask me to tell truth, good Sire," I made reply, "and I shall do no less. At the very moment you trained your bow-chaser on me, I was thinking of two things."
"Speak on, caitiff!" demanded Jimmy fiercely.
"Nay, call me not so, good Sir," I rejoined, "for such, in good-sooth, I am not, but honest faithful man. Ye have but now asked what I pondered, and I fain would speak truth, an' it please ye, my hearties."
"What's he givin' us, Jimmy?" whispered the pirate captain dubiously, aside.
"Speak on!" again commanded he of the blue eyes. "But your life blood dyes the deck if you seek to deceive Jean Lafitte, or Henry L'Olonnois!"
(So then, thought I, at last I knew their names.)
In reply I reached to my belt and drew out quickly—so quickly that they both flinched away—the long handled knife which, usually, I carried with me for cutting down alders or other growth which sometimes entangled my flies as I fished along the stream. "Listen," said I, "I swear the pirates' oath. On the point of my blade," and I touched it with my right forefinger, "I swear that I pondered on two things when you surprised me."
"Name them!" demanded Jimmy L'Olonnois fiercely.
"First, then," I answered, "I was wondering what I could use as a cork to my phial, when once I had yonder Anopheles in it——"
"Who's he?" demanded Jean Lafitte.
"Anopheles? A friend of mine," I replied; "a mosquito, in short."
"Jimmy, he's crazy!" ejaculated Jean Lafitte uneasily.
"Say on, caitiff!" commanded L'Olonnois, ignoring him; "what else?"
"In the second place," said I—and again I placed my right forefinger on the point of my blade, "I was thinking of Helena."
"Is she your little girl," hesitatingly inquired Jimmy L'Olonnois, for the instant forgetting his part.
"No," said I sadly, "she is not my little girl."
"Where is she?" vaguely.
"Regarding the whereabouts of either Anopheles or Helena, at this moment," said I still sadly, "I am indeed all at sea, as any good pirate should be."
I tried to jest, but fared ill at it. I felt my face flush at hearing her name spoken aloud. And sadly true was it that, on that afternoon and many another, I had found myself, time and again, adream with Helena's face before me. I saw it now—a face I had not seen these three years, since the time when first I had come hither with the purpose of forgetting.
Jimmy was back in his part again, and doing nobly. "Ha!" said he. "So, fellow, pondering on a fair one, didst not hear the approach of our good ship, the Sea Rover?"
"In good sooth, I did not," I answered; "and as for these other matters, I swear on my blade's point I have spoken the truth."
Our conversation languished for the moment. Illusion lay in the balance. The old melancholy impended above me ominously.
IN WHICH I AM A CAPTIVE
"What ho! Jean Lafitte," said I at length, rousing myself from the old habit of reverie, of which I had chiefest dread; "and you, Henri L'Olonnois, scourges of the main, both of you, listen! I have a plan to put before you, my hearties."
"Say on, Sirrah!" rejoined the younger pirate, so promptly and so gravely that again I had much to do to refrain from sudden mirth.
"Why then, look ye," I continued. "The sun is sinking beneath the wave, and the good ship rides steady at her anchor. Meantime men must eat! and yonder castle amid the forest offers booty. What say ye if we pass within the wood, and see what we may find of worth to souls bold as ours?"
"'Tis well!" answered L'Olonnois; and I could see assent in Lafitte's eyes. In truth I could discover no great preparations for a long voyage in the open hold of the Sea Rover, and doubted not that both captain and crew by this time were hungry. Odd crumbs of crackers and an empty sardine can might be all very well at the edge of the village of Pausaukee (I judged they could have come no greater distance, some twelve or fifteen miles); but they do not serve for so long a journey as lies between Pausaukee and the Spanish Main.
They rose as I did, and we passed beyond the clump of tall birches, along the edge of my mowing meadow, and through the gate which closes my woodland path—to me the loveliest of all wood-trails, so gentle and so silent is it always, and so fringed, seasonably, with ferns and flowers. Thus, presently, we saw the blue smoke rising above my lodge, betokening to me that my Japanese factotum, Hiroshimi, now had my dinner under way.
To me, it was my customary abode, my home these three years; but they beside me saw not the rambling expanse of my leisurely log mansion. They noted not the overhanging gables, the lattices of native wood. To them, yonder lay a castle in a foreign land. Here was moat and wall, then a portcullis, and gratings warded these narrow portals against fire of musketoon. My pet swallows' nest, demure above my door, to them offered the aspect of a culverin's mouth; and, as now, I made my customary approach-call, by which I heralded my return from any excursion on the stream of an evening, I could swear these invaders looked for naught less than a swarm of archers springing to the walls, and the hoarse answer of my men-at-arms back of each guarded portal. Such is the power of youthful dreaming, such the residuary heritage of days of high emprise, when life was full of blood and wine and love, and savored not so wholly of dull commonplace!
But indeed, (or so I presume; for at the moment my own imagination swept on with theirs) none manned the walls or rattled the chains of gate and bridge. The saffron Hiroshimi opened the screen door before us, showing no surprise or interest in my strange companions. Thus we made easy conquest of our castle. As we entered, there lay before us, lighted softly by the subdued twilight which filtered through the surrounding grove, the interior of that home which in three years I had learned much to love, lonely as it was. Here I now dwelt most of the time, leaving behind me, as though shut off by a closed door, the busy scenes of an active and successful life. (I presume I may fairly speak thus of myself, since there is no one else to speak.)
My pirate companions, suddenly grown shy, stood silent for a moment, for the time rather at a loss to carry on the play which had been easier in the open. I heard Jimmy draw a long breath. He was first to remove his hat. But his companion was quicker to regain his poise, although for a moment he forgot his pirate speech. "Gee!" said he. "Ain't this great!"
I doubt if any praise I ever heard in my life pleased me more than this frank comment; no, not even the kind word and hand-clasp of old Judge Henderson, what time I won my first cause at law. For this that lay about me was what I had chosen for my life to-day. I had preferred this to the career into which my father's restless ambition had plunged me almost as soon as I had emerged from my college and my law-school—a career which my own restless ambition had found sufficient until that final break with Helena Emory, which occurred soon after the time when my father died; when the news went out that I, his heir, was left with but a shrunken fortune, and with many debts to pay; news which I, myself, had promulgated for reasons of my own. After that, called foolish by all my friends, lamented by members of my family, forgotten, as I fancy, by most who knew me, I had retired to this lodge in the wilderness. Here, grown suddenly resentful of a life hitherto wasted in money-getting alone, I had resolved to spend the remainder of my days, as beseemed a student and a philosopher. Having read Weininger and other philosophers, I was convinced that woman was the lowest and most unworthy thing in the scale of created things, a thing quite beneath the attention of a thinking man.
I have said that I was scarce beyond thirty years of age. Even so, I found myself already old; and like any true philosopher, I resolved to make myself young. As hitherto I had had no boyhood, I determined to achieve a boyhood for myself. Studying myself, I discovered that I had rarely smiled; so I resolved to find somewhat to make me smile. The great realm of knowledge, widest and sweetest of all empires for a man, lay before me alluringly when I entered upon my business career; and so interested was I in my business and my books that only by chance had I met the woman who drove me out of both. A boy I had never been; nay, nor even a youth. I had always been old. True, like others of my station, I had owned my auto cars, my matched teams—owned them now, indeed—but I had never owned a dog. So, when I came hither with ample leisure, perhaps my chief ambition was a deliberate purpose to encompass my deferred boyhood. Thus I had built this house of logs which now—with a surprised and gratifying throb of my heart I learned it—appealed to the souls of real boys. It was the castle where I dreamed; and now it was the palace of their dreams also. I felt, at least, that I had succeeded. My heart throbbed in a new way, very foolish, yet for some reason suddenly enjoyable.
My house was all of logs and had no decorations of paint or tapestry within. Its only arras was of the skins of wild beasts—of the African lion and leopard, the zebra, many antelopes. The walls were hung with mounted heads—those of the moose, the elk, the bighorn, most of the main trophies of my own land and to these, through my foreign hunting, I had added heads of all the great trophies of Africa and Asia as well. A splendid pair of elephant tusks stood in a corner. A fine head of the sheep of Tibet, ovus poli—and I prize none of my trophies more, unless it be the fine robe of the Chinese mountain tiger—looked full front at us from above the fireplace. My rod racks, and those which supported my guns and rifles, were here and there about the room. The whole gave a jaunty atmosphere to my home. I had gone soberly about the business of sport; and in these days, that can be practised most successfully by a man with much leisure and unstinted means.
My books lay about everywhere, also, books which perhaps would not have appealed to all. My copies of the Vedas, many works on the Buddhist faith, and translations from Confucius, lay side by side with that Bible which we Christians have almost forgot. Here, too, stood my desk with its cases of preserved mosquitoes—for this year I was studying mosquitoes as an amusement. I had collected all the mosquito literature of the world, and my books, in French, German and English, lay near my great microscope. I had passed many happy hours here in the oblivion of mental concentration, always a delight with me, now grown almost a necessity if I were to escape the worst of all habits, that of introspection and self-pity.
My piano and my violins also were in full sight; for the world of music, as well as the world of sport and youth, I was deliberately opening for myself, also in exchange for that closed world of affairs which I had abandoned. Indeed, all manners of the impedimenta of a well-to-do Japanese-cared-for bachelor were in evidence. To me, each object was familiar and was cherished. I had never felt need to apologize to any gentleman for my quarters or their contents—or to any woman, for no woman had ever seen my home. I may admit that, contrary to the belief of some, I was a rich man, far richer that I had need or care to be; and since it was not due to my own ability altogether nor in response to any real ambition of my own, I know I will be pardoned for simply stating the truth. My one great ambition in life was to forget; but if that might be best obtained in sport, in study, or amid the gentle evidences of good living, so much the better. Many men had called my father, stern and masterful man that he was, a robber, a thief, a pirate—in great part, I suspect, in envy that they themselves had not attained a like stature in similar achievement. But no one had ever called his son a pirate—until now! It made me oddly happy.
I ought to have been happy here all these years, able to do precisely what I liked; but sometimes I felt myself strangely alone in the world. I was always silent and apparently cold—though really, let me whisper—only shy. Sometimes, even here, I found myself a trifle sad. It is difficult to be a boy when one starts at thirty; especially difficult if one has always been rather old and staid.
I tell all these things to explain that keen pleasure, that swift exultation, that rush of the blood to my cheeks, which I felt when I saw that my house and my way of life met the approval of real boys. Pirates, too!
Swift, therefore, fell once more the magic curtain of romance. I heard a strange voice, my own voice, saying: "Enter then, my bold mates, and let us explore this castle which we have conquered." Yes, illusion floated in through the windows on the pale light of the evening. This was a castle we had taken; and the detail that I chanced to own it was neither here nor there.
"Prisoner," began L'Olonnois sternly—he was usually spokesman, if not always leader—"Prisoner, your life is spared for the time. Lead on! Attempt to play us false, and your blood shall be spilled upon the deck!"
"It shall be so," I answered. "And if I do not give you the best meal you have had to-day, then indeed let my life's blood stain the deck."
So saying, I nodded to Hiroshimi to serve the dinner.
IN WHICH I AM A PIRATE
With my own hands I have trained that prize, Hiroshimi, to cook and to serve; but only Providence could give Hiroshimi his super-humanly disinterested calm. He fitted perfectly into the picture of our dream. 'Twas no ordinary log house in which we sat, indeed no house at all. Beneath us rose and fell a stanch vessel, responsive to the long lift of the southern seas. It was not a rustle of the leaves we heard through the open windows, but the low ripple of waves along our strakes came to our ears through the open ports. Hiroshimi did not depart to the kitchen; but high aloft our lookout swept the sea for sail that might offer us a prize.
If any say that this manner of illusion may not exist between two boys and a man, I answer that we did not thus classify it. By the new pleasure in my soul, by the new blood in my cheek, I swear we were three boys together, and all in quest of adventure.
True, at times our speech smacked less of nautical and piratical phrase, at times, indeed, halted. It is difficult for a twelve-year-old pirate, exceeding hungry, to ask for a third helping of grilled chicken in a voice at once stern and ingratiating. Moreover, it is difficult for a discreet and law-abiding citizen, with a full sense of duty, deliberately to aid and abet two youthful runaways. But whenever illusion wavered, L'Olonnois saved the day by resuming his stern scowl, even above a chicken-bone. His facility in rolling speech I discovered to be, in part, attributable to a volume which I saw protruding from his pocket. At my request he passed it to me, and I saw its title; The Pirate's Own Book. I knew it well. Indeed, I now arose, and passing to my bookshelves, drew down a duplicate copy of that rare volume, recounting the deeds of the old buccaneers. The eyes of L'Olonnois widened as I laid the two side by side.
"You've got it, too!" he exclaimed.
"That explains it," said Jean Lafitte.
"Why, how you—why now—how you could be a pirate, too, just as natural as us."
"I have read it many a time," said I.
"Wasn't you never a pirate?" asked Jean Lafitte.
"No," said I, smiling, "although many have said my father was. He was very rich."
"Well, you can talk just like us," said Jean Lafitte admiringly, "even if you have lost all."
"Of course," said I exultingly. "Why not? I think as you do. As much as you I am disgusted with the dulness of life. I, too, wish to seek my fortune. Well then, why not, John Saunders? Why not, James Henderson?"
Ah, now indeed illusion halted! Both boys, abashed, fell back in their chairs. "How did you know our names?" asked the older of the two at length.
"Nay, fear not," said I. "I do but seek to prove my fitness to join the jolly brotherhood, good mates."
"Aw, honest!" rejoined Jimmy; "you got to tell us how you knew."
"Well, then, let me go on. In your book, here, I saw your father's name, Jimmy. I know your father. He is Judge Willard Henderson of the Appellate Court in the city. I was admitted to the bar under him. He has a summer place at the lake above here, as I know, although I have never visited him there. I know your mother, too, Jimmy,—so well I should not like to cause her even a moment's uneasiness about you."
"Do you know my auntie, Helena Emory?" demanded Jimmy suddenly. I felt the blood surge into my face.
"Don't misunderstand me," I rejoined, "I only have some gift of the second sight, as I shall now prove to you. For instance, Jean Lafitte, I know your earlier name was John Saunders, although I never saw or heard of you before."
"Well, now, how'd you know that?" demanded the elder boy.
"I did not promise to tell the secrets of my art," I smiled. I did not tell him that I had seen the name of Saunders on the tag of a shirt somewhat soiled.
"Your father's name was John before you," I added at a venture. He assented, half-frightened, although I had only guessed at this, supposing John Saunders to be a somewhat continuous family name in a family of auburn Highlanders.
"He sells farm stuff at the hotel above," I ventured. And again my guess was truth.
"You take the wagon there, sometimes, with vegetables and milk and eggs; and so you met Jimmy, here, and you went fishing together; and he told you stories out of his book. I fear, John, that your father licks you because you go fishing on Sunday. That was why you resolved to run away. You led Jimmy into that with you. Yesterday you took a boat from the lake near the hotel, and you painted her up and rigged her for a pirate ship. You rowed across the lake to the marsh where the little stream makes out—my trout-stream here. You followed that stream down, with no more trouble than ducking under a wire fence once in a while, until you came to my land, and until you saw me. You were afraid I might tell on you; and besides, you were pirates now; and so you took me prisoner. Marry, good Sirs, 'tis not the first time a prisoner has joined a pirate band!"
"That's wonderful!" gasped Jean T. Lafitte Saunders. "And you say you have never been up to our lake!"
"No," said I, "but I have a map, and I know my river heads in your lake, and that very probably it runs out of the low marshy side. Besides, being a boy myself, I know precisely what boys would do. Tell me, do you think I would betray two of the brotherhood?"
"You won't give us away?" The elder pirate's face was eager.
"On the contrary, I'll see that you don't get into any trouble."
"That's a good scout!" ejaculated he fervently, his freckled face flushing.
"We wasn't—that is, we hadn't—well, you see?" began Jimmy. "Maybe we'd just have camped down here and gone back to-morrow. I was afraid about taking the boat. Besides, I've only got about six dollars, anyhow." He spread his wealth out upon the table before me frankly.
"Have no fear," said I. "To-night I shall write a few letters that will clear up every trouble back home, and allow us to continue our journey to the Spanish Main."
"Oh, will you?" cried Jimmy, much relieved. "That'll be a good scout," he added.
Suddenly I found myself smiling at him, I who had smiled so rarely these years, whether in the Selkirks or the Himalayas, in Uganda or here in my own little wilderness—because Helena had left me so sad.
"But if I promise, you, also, must promise in turn."
Used as I was, already, to the astounding changes in Jimmy from boy to buccaneer and back again, I was now interested at the fell scowl which he summoned to his features, as soon as he felt relieved as to the domestic situation. "Speak, fellow!" he demanded; and folding his arms, presented so threatening a front that I saw my man Hiroshimi covertly lay hold upon a carving knife.
"Why, then, my hearties," said I, "'tis thus. I'll sign on as sea-lawyer and scrivener, as well as purser for the ship. Yes, I'll sign articles and voyage with you for a week or a month, or two months, or three. I'll provender the ship and pay all bills of libel or demurrage in any port of call; and by my fateful gift of second sight, which ye have seen well proven here to-night, not only will I see ye safe for what ye already have done, but will keep ye safe against any enemy we may meet, be he whom he may!"
"'Tis well," said L'Olonnois. "Say on!"
"And in return I ask a boon."
"Name it, fellow!"
"Already I have named it—that I, too, shall be accepted as one of the brotherhood. Oh, listen"—I broke out impulsively—"I have never been a pirate, and I have never been a boy. I have had everything in the world I wanted and it made me awfully lonesome, because when you have everything you have nothing. I have nothing to do but eat and sleep, and hunt and fish, and read and write, and study and think, and play my music, here. I do not want to do these things any more. Especially I do not want to think. Boys do not think, and I want to be a boy. I want to be a pirate with you. I want to seek my fortune with you."
We sat silent, almost solemn for a moment, so sincere was my speech and so startling to them. But thanks to L'Olonnois and his saving book, illusion came to us once more in time.
"Will ye be good brother and true pirate?" demanded L'Olonnois. "And will ye take the oath of blood?"
"That I will!" said I.
"Brothers and good shipmates all"—broke in Jean Lafitte in a deep voice—"what say ye? Shall we put him to the oath?"
"Aye, aye, Sir!" responded the deep chorus of scores of full-chested voices. Or, at least, so it seemed to us, though, mayhap, 'twas no more than Jimmy who spoke.
"Swear him, then!" commanded Jean Lafitte. "Swear him by the oath of blood."
"We—we haven't any blood!" whispered L'Olonnois, aside, somewhat troubled.
"That have we, mates," said I, "and the ceremony shall have full solemnity."
I took up my keen hunting knife and deliberately and slowly opened the side of my thumb, more to the pain of Jimmy, I fancy, than to myself, as I could see by the twitch of his features.
"By this blood I swear!" said I: "and on the point of my blade I swear to be a true pirate; to fight the fight of all; to divulge no plans of the company; and to share with my brothers share and share alike of all booty we may take."
"'Tis well!" said L'Olonnois, much impressed and delighted, as also was his mate, very evidently.
"And now, my brothers," said I, "you, also, must swear to divulge no secret of mine that you may learn, to tell nothing of my plans, or my name, or the name of the port where I signed on the rolls."
"We don't know your name," said Jimmy, "but neither of us will give you away."
Jean Lafitte was all for opening up his own thumb for blood, but I stopped him. "This will do," said I, and stained his fingers and those of L'Olonnois—who grew pale at sight of it to his evident disgust.
So, thus, I became a pirate, and we three were brother rovers of the deep. I fancied my associates would be loyal. I was thinking of a certain cousin of the younger pirate. Not for worlds would I seek to pursue her now; but there had arisen in my soul, already, a sort of strange wonder whether some intent of fate had sent this youngster here to remind me once more of her, whom I would forget.
"Now," said I at last, "let us seek what fare the castle offers for the night." I could see they were tired and sleepy, and so found for them bath and clean pajamas—somewhat too large to be sure—and good beds in the wing of my log house. And never, as I be a true pirate, never have I seen so many and so various single-fire and revolving short arms, in my life, as these two buccaneers disclosed when they unbelted and laid aside their jackets! Even thus equipped, I found them looking enviously at my walls, where hung weapons of many lands. I sent them to bed happier by telling them that, in the morning, they should select such as they chose for the equipment of our vessel. "Gee!" said Jean Lafitte again. "Gee! Gee!" He was so happy that I, too, was happy. It was L'Olonnois who changed that.
"Methinks," said he, regarding me sternly, "that in yonder ivy-clad halls might dwell some lady fair! Tell me, is it not so?"
He stretched a thin arm out, in the sleeve of my smallest pajamas, and pointed a slender finger at the interior of my castle of dreams. Alas, after all it was empty! My old melancholy came back to me.
"No, my brothers," said I, "no maid has ever passed yon door. No, nor ever will."
L'Olonnois bent his flaxen head in dignified and manly sympathy. "I see," said he, "our brother in his youth has, perhaps, been deceived by some fair one!"
Upon which I left them for my own room.
If two buccaneers in my castle slept well that night, a third did not. Anopheles might go hang. I did not fancy my new microscope. I doubted if my last violin were a real Strad. I did not like the last music my dealers had sent out to me. My studies of Confucius and Buddha might go hang, and my new book as well. For now, before me, came the face of a certain pirate's aunt, and she was indeed a lady fair. And I knew full well—as I had known all these years, although I had tried to deceive myself into believing otherwise—that gladly as I had exchanged the city for the wilderness, with equal gladness would I exchange my leisure, all my wealth, all my belongings, for a moment's touch of her hand, a half-hour of talk heart-to-heart with her, so that, indeed, I might know the truth; so that, at least, I might have it direct from her, bitter though the truth might be.
IN WHICH WE SAIL FOR THE SPANISH MAIN
When, in the morning, I passed from my quarters toward the main room which served me both as living-room and dining hall, I found that my pirate guests were also early risers. I could hear them arguing over some matter, which proved to be no more serious than the question of a cold bath of mornings, Jimmy maintaining that everybody had a cold bath every morning, whereas John insisted with equal heat that nobody ever bathed ("washed," I think he called it), oftener than once a week, to wit, on Saturdays only. They engaged in a pillow fight to settle it, and as Jimmy had John fairly well smothered by his rapid fire, I voted that the ayes appeared to have it when they referred the point to me.
As we are very remote and never visited in my wilderness home, it is not infrequent that I take my morning meal very much indeed in mufti, although Hiroshimi is always most exact himself. On this morning it occurred to us all that pajamas made a garb more piratical and more nautical than anything else obtainable, so we took breakfast—and I think Hiroshimi never served me a breakfast more delicate and tempting—clad as perhaps the Romans were, if they had pajamas in those times. All went well until the keen eyes of Jimmy, wandering about my place, noted a certain photograph which rested on the top of my piano—where I was much comforted always to have it, especially of an evening, when sometimes I played Mendelssohn's Spring Song, or other music of the like. It was the picture of the woman who did not know and very likely did not care where, or how, I lived—Helena Emory, to my mind one of the most beautiful women of her day; and I have seen the world's portraits of the world's beauties of all recorded days in beauty. Toward this Jimmy ran excitedly—I, with equal speed, endeavoring to divert him from his purpose.
"But it's my Auntie Helen!" he protested, when I recovered it and placed it in my pocket.
"It is your Auntie fiddlesticks, Jimmy," said I hastily, hoping my color was not heightened. "It is your grandmother! Finish your breakfast."
"I guess I ought to know—" he began.
"What!" I rejoined. "Wouldst pit your wisdom against one who has the second sight; have a care, shipmate."
"It was!" he reiterated. "I know ain't anybody pretty as she is, so it was."
"Jimmy L'Olonnois," said I, "let us reason about this. I——"
"Lemme see it, then. I can tell in a minute. Why don't you lemme see it, then?" He was eager.
"Shipmate," I replied to him, "the hand is sometimes quicker than the eye, and the mind slower than the heart. For that reason I can not agree to your request."
"But what'd he be doing with Miss Emory's picture, Jimmy?" argued Lafitte.
"That's what I'd like to know," I added. "It may be that, in your haste, you have confused in your mind, Jimmy, some portrait with that of the Princess Amelie Louise, of Furstenburg." (I had indeed sometimes commented on the likeness of Helena Emory to that light-hearted old-world beauty.) Jimmy did not know that a photograph of the princess herself, also, stood upon the piano top, nor did he fully grasp the truth of that old saying that the hand is quicker than the eye. At least, he gazed somewhat confused at the portrait which I now produced before his eyes.
"Who was she?" he inquired.
"A very charming young lady of rank, who eloped with a young man not of rank. In short, although she did not marry a chauffeur, she did marry an automobile agent. And surely, Jimmy, your Auntie Helen—whoever she may be—would do no such thing as that and still claim to be a cousin of a L'Olonnois?"
"I don't know. You can't always tell what a girl's going to do," said Jimmy sagely. "But I don't think Auntie Helen's going to marry a auto man."
"Why, Jimmy?" (I found pleasure and dread alike in this conversation.)
"Because everybody says she's going to get married to Mr. Davidson, and he's a commission man."
Now, I am sure, my face did not flush. It may have paled. I tried to be composed. I reached for the melon dish and remarked, "Yes? And who is he? And really, who is your Auntie Helena, Jimmy, and what does she look like?" I spoke with a fine air of carelessness.
"She looks like the princess, you said," replied Jimmy. "And Mr. Davidson's rich. He's got a house on our lake, this summer, and he lives in New York and has offices in Chicago, and travels a good deal. He has some sort of factory, too, and he's awful rich. I like him pretty well. He knows how all the ball clubs stand, both leagues, every day in the year. You ought to know him, because then you might get to know my Auntie Helena. If they got married, like as not, I could take you up to their house. I thought everybody knew Mr. Davidson, and my Auntie Helena, too."
Everybody did. Why should I not know Cal Davidson, one of the decentest chaps in the world? Why not, since we belonged to half a dozen of the same clubs in New York and other cities? Why not, since this very summer I had put my private yacht (named oddly enough, the Belle Helene) in commission for the first season in three years, and chartered her for the summer around Mackinaw, and a cruise down the Mississippi to the Gulf that fall? Why not, since I had still unbanked the handsome check Davidson had insisted on my taking as charter money for the last quarter?
Davidson! Of all men I had counted him my friend. And now here was he, reputed to be about to marry the girl who, as he knew, must have known, ought to have known, was all the world to me! Even if she would have none of me, and even though I had no shadow of claim on her—even though we had parted not once but a dozen times, and at last in a final parting—Davidson ought to have known, must have known! And my own yacht! Why, no man may know what may go forward in a yachting party. And, if perchance that fall he could persuade to accompany him Helena and her chaperon (I made no doubt that would be her Aunt Lucinda; for Helena's mother died when she was a child, and she was somewhat alone, although in rather comfortable circumstances) what could not so clever a man as Davidson, I repeat, one with so much of a way with women, accomplish in a journey so long as that, with no other man as his rival? It would be just like Cal Davidson to go ashore at St. Louis long enough to find a chaplain, and then go on ahead for a honeymoon around the world—on my boat, with my.... No, she was not mine ... but then....
All my life I have tried to be fair, even with my own interests at stake. I tried now to be fair; and I failed! I could see but one side to this case. Davidson must be found at once, must be halted in mid-career.
It was about this time that Hiroshimi came in with the morning's mail and telegrams, all of which at my place come in from the railway, ten miles or so, by rural free delivery. I paid small attention to him, most of my mail, these days, having to do with gasoline pumps or patent hay rakes and lists from my gun and tackle dealers and such like.
Hiroshimi coughed. "Supposing Honorable like to see these yellow wire envelopings."
I glanced down and idly opened the telegram. It was from Cal Davidson himself, and read:
"Name best price outright sale bill Helen to me answer Chicago."
So then, the scoundrel actually was on his way down the lakes, headed for the South, even thus early in the season! I knew, of course, that Bill Helen meant Belle Helene. As though I would sell my boat to him, of all men! It might almost as well have been a sale of Helena herself outright, as this cursed telegram stated. I crumpled the sheet in my hand.
"If Honorable contemplates some answering of mail this morning, it will be one ow-wore till the miserable pony mail carry all man comes," ventured Hiroshimi.
"Nothing this morning, Hiro," I managed to choke out, "and, Hiro, make ready my bag, the small one, for a journey."
"S-s-s-s!" hissed Hiroshimi, which was his way of saying, "Yes, sir, very well, sir." Surprise he neither showed now nor at any time; and since he never could tell at what hour I might conclude to start for his country or Europe or Africa or some other land for a stay of weeks or months, there was perhaps some warrant for his calm. He had less to do when I was away; although I always suspected him of poaching my trout with his infernal Japanese methods of angling.
At this moment L'Olonnois saw, through the open door, a red squirrel which scampered up a tree. At once he forgot all about his Auntie Helen and scampered off in pursuit, followed presently by Lafitte. This gave me time to decide upon a plan.... At last, I lifted my head again.... Why not, then?
When L'Olonnois returned from the chase of the squirrel, he was all L'Olonnois and none Jimmy Henderson. The spell of his drama was upon him once more.
"What ho, mate," he began, scowling most vilely at me, "the sun is high in the heavens, yet we linger here. Let us up anchor, hoist the top-gallant mast and set sail for the enemy."
Jimmy's nautical terms might have been open to criticism, but there was no denying the bold and manly import of his speech. My own heart jumped well enough with it now.
"'Tis well, shipmate," said I. "Come, get ready your togs and your weapons, and let us away. As you say, the good ship tugs at her anchor chains this morning."
I managed to better the wardrobe of both boys by certain ducks and linens from my own store, albeit a world too large. Lafitte, none too happy at being thus uncongenially clean, was delight itself when set to selecting an armament from my collection. He chose three bright and clean Japanese swords, special blades of the Samurai armorers, forged long before Mutsuhito's grandfather was a boy—I had paid a rare price for them in Japan. To these he added three basket-handled cutlasses, which I had obtained in London, each almost old enough to have belonged to the crew of Drake himself. A short-barreled magazine pistol for each of us was his concession to the present unromantic age. As for Jimmy, he insisted on a small bore rifle as well as a shotgun. "We might see something," he remarked laconically.
Thus equipped, I persuaded my associates to lay aside most of their somewhat archaic artillery. Neither had taken any thought of other supplies. Hiroshimi, however, now appeared, bearing, in addition to my hand luggage, two hampers, a roll of blankets and a silk tent in its canvas wrapper.
"Honorable is embarked in those small-going boat that is made tied to the bank?" inquired Hiroshimi. He had said nothing to me about my guests, or asked how they came; but as I knew he would find out all about it, anyhow, after his own fashion, I had not mentioned anything to him, or told him what to do. I only nodded now, relying on his efficiency. He now approached my young pirates, and rather against their will, removed from them some of their burden of weapons, slinging about himself bundles, baskets, bags and cutlery, until he almost disappeared from view. He cast on me a reproachful gaze, however, as he took from Lafitte's hand the bared blade of the old Samurai sword, and noted the ancient inscription on blade and scabbard as he sheathed it reverently.
"What does it say, Hiro?" I asked of him.
"Very old talk, Honorable," answered Hiroshimi. "It say, 'Oh, Honorable Gentleman who carry me, I invite you to make high and noble adventurings.'"
"Let me carry it, Hiro," said I; and I tucked it under my own arm.
"Good!" exclaimed L'Olonnois. "Then you are going with us? And did you write the letters that you promised us?"
"I always keep my word."
"And it'll be all right back home about mother and the boat? I'll give you my six dollars!"
"There is no need. I told you, if you would make me one of the crew of the Sea Rover and let me seek my fortune with you, I would gladly pay all the reckoning of our journey."
"And how long will we be gone?"
"Till after your school begins, I fear."
"And how far are you going with us?"
"Spang! to the Spanish Main!" I answered.
So then we set forth down my woodland path.
IN WHICH I ACQUIRE A FRIEND
We proceeded, therefore, through the wood, sweet in the dew of morning, among many twittering birds, and so came, presently, to the end of my path, where the little gate shuts it off from my mowing meadow; at the upper end of which, it may be remembered, the good ship Sea Rover lay anchored. The grass stood waist-high and wet in the dew as we turned along the meadow side, and L'Olonnois flinched a bit, although Lafitte waded along carelessly.
I observed that each boy had now thrust into his hat band a turkey feather, picked up, en route, along my field's edge. Jimmy was not sure of the correctness of this; and admitted that, sometimes, he had read literature having to do with Indian fighting, as well as piratical enterprises. I suggested that, to my mind, nothing quite took the place of the regulation red kerchief bound about the head; whereat, gravely, both L'Olonnois and Lafitte discarded their hats and feathers, for the bandannas which I proffered them. Having bound these about their foreheads, a great courage and confidence came to them.
L'Olonnois drew his sword, and with some care placed the blade between his teeth. "Hist!" exclaimed Lafitte, himself swept by his friend's imagination, and preparing to place his cutlass in his mouth also. "Let us approach the vessel with care, lest the enemy be about." So saying, each pirate with a mouthful of cold steel, and a hand shading his red-kerchiefed brow, stole through my clump of birches toward the bend, where the boat had first surprised me; myself following, somewhat put to it to refrain from laughter, although one rarely laughs in the young hours of the day, and myself rarely, at all.
We were greeted by no hostile shot, and found our vessel quite as we had left her, as I could see at a glance when we neared the bank; but, none the less, something stirred in the bushes. A growl and a sudden barking, greeted Hiroshimi as he approached the boat in advance.
"You, Tige!" called out Lafitte. The dog—a dog none too beautiful, and now just a bit forlorn—approached us, alternately wagging in friendship and retreating in alarm.
"Well, what do you think of that!" said Jimmy. "We left him back at the lake—sent him home half a dozen times. How'd he get here, and how'd he know where we was?"
"He couldn't a-swum the lake," assented John. "And it was more'n ten miles around; and how could he smell where we went, on the water? Come here, Tige, you blame fool!"
"Nay," said I, "he is no fool, this dog, but a creature of great reason, else he never could have found you. And I'll be bound he is as keen for adventure as any of us."
"He is coming here last night two ow-wore after dinner," said the omniscient Hiroshimi. "Also he bite me on leg. He, also, is malefactor."
"He has allotted to himself the duty of caring for the property of his masters, Hiro," I said, "and hence is not really a malefactor. Besides, since he would not leave the boat and follow our trail, he is by this time hungry. Feed him, Hiro."
But Hiroshimi was not eager to approach the piratical canine again; so I, myself, fished something from a hamper and called the dog to me. He ate gladly and most gratefully.
Now, it is a strange thing to say, but it is the truth, I had never before in my life fed a dog! I had won many knotty suits at law, had solved many hard problems dealing with human nature—and had found human nature for the most part rarely glad or grateful—but I have never owned or even fed a dog. A strange new feeling came in my throat now. Suddenly I swallowed some invisible intangible thing.
"John," said I, "what breed of dog is this?" Indeed, it was hard to tell offhand, although he had the keen head of a collie.
"I guess he's just one o' them partial dogs," answered John, "mostly shepherd, maybe; I dunno."
"Very well, Partial shall be his name. And is he yours?"
"He runs round on the farm. He goes with Jimmy an' me."
"John, will you sell me Partial?" I asked this suddenly, realizing that my voice might sound odd.
"What'd ye want him fer?" he replied. "He'd be a nuisance."
"I think not. See how faithful he has been, see how grateful he is; and how wise. He reasoned where you were as well as I reasoned who you were. He knows now that we are talking about him, and knows that I am his friend—see him look at me; see him come over and stand by me. John, do you think—do you believe a dog, this dog, would learn to like me, ever? Would he understand me?"
"Well," said John judicially, standing sword in hand, "I dunno. Someways, maybe dogs and boys understands quicker. But you understand us. Maybe he'd understand you."
"Well reasoned, Jean Lafitte," said I, "perhaps your logic is better than you know, at least, I hope so. And now I offer you yonder magazine pistol as your own in fee, if you will sign over to me all your right, title and interest, in Partial, here. Evidently he belongs with us. He seems to care for us. And I experience some odd sort of feeling, which I can not quite describe. Perhaps it is only that I feel like a boy, and one that is going to own a dog. Is it a bargain?"
"Sure! You c'n have him for nuthin'," said Lafitte. "He ain't worth nothin'. Besides, I can't charge a brother of the flag anything; anyhow, not you." I inferred that Jean Lafitte, also, was going to grow up into one of those men like myself, cursed with a reticence and shyness in some matters, and so winning a reputation of oddness or coldness, against all the real and passionate protest of his own soul.
"No, brother," I said to him: "I'll not offer you trade, but gift. Let it be that if I can win the dog, and if he will take me as his master and friend, he shall be mine. And you take the pistol, and have a care of it."
"That's all right!" said Lafitte shyly, yet delightedly, as I could see.
"Here, Partial!" I called to the dog; and being young and friendly, and attached to neither in particular, and only in general worshiping the creature Boy, he came to me! I fed him, stroked him, looked into his eyes. And in a few moments he put his feet on my shoulders, and licked at my ear, and began to talk to me in low eager whines, and rubbed his muzzle against my cheek, and said all that a dog could say in oath of feudal service, pledging loyalty of life and limb. At which I felt very odd indeed; and began to see the world had many things in it of which I had never known; but which, now, I was resolved to know.
"Honorable is embarking those malefactor canine thing with so much impediments in this small-going boat?" inquired Hiroshimi.
"Yes," I answered. "At once. All four of us. Put the stuff aboard, Hiro."
So, somewhat crowded as the Sea Rover was, with three boys and a dog, not to mention our supplies and our armament, at last we were afloat with crew and cargo aboard. Hiro was not surprised, and asked no questions. With the salaam with which he announced dinner, he now announced his own departure for his duties at my deserted house; and as he walked he never turned around for curious gaze. Often, often have I, in my readings in the Eastern philosophy, endeavored to analyze and to emulate this Oriental calm, this dismissal from the soul of things small, things unessential and things unavoidable. An enviable character, my boy Hiroshimi.
Now all was bustle and confusion aboard the good ship Sea Rover. "Stand by the main braces!" roared Lafitte.
"Aye, aye, Sir!" replied the crew, that is to say, Jimmy L'Olonnois.
"Hard a lee!"
"Hard a lee it is, Sir!"
"Hoist the top-gallant mainsail an' clew all alow an' aloft!"
"Aye, aye, Sir!"
"Man the capstan! All hands to the starboard mizzen chains! Heave away!"
"Heave away!" rejoined our gallant crew, never for a moment in doubt as to the captain's meaning. And, indeed, he gave a push with an oar at the bank, which thrust us into the smart current of my little river.
We were afloat! We were off to seek our fortune!
Ah, what a fine new world was this which lay before us! But for one thing, this had no doubt been the happiest moment in my life. For, always, the attaining of knowledge, the growth of a man's mind and soul, had to me seemed the one ambition worth a man's while; and now, as I might well be assured, I had learned more and grown more, these last twelve hours or so, than I had in any twelve years of my life before. Before me, indeed, had opened a vast and wonderful world. That morning, as we swept around curve after curve of the swift trout-stream that I loved so well, among my alders, through my bits of wood, along my hills—with Lafitte and L'Olonnois standing, each alert, silent, peering ahead under his flat hand to see what might lie ahead (I astern with Partial's head on my knee), I felt rise in my soul the same sweet grateful feeling that I had when the new world of music opened to me, what time I first caught the real meaning of the Fruehlingslied. My heart leaped anew in my bosom, for the time forgetting its sadness. I saw that the world after all does hold faith and loyalty and friendship and perpetual, self-renewing Youth.... I also rose, cast my hat aside, and with one hand reaching down to touch my friend's head, I, too, stood, shading my eyes with my edged hand, peering ahead into this strange new world that lay ahead of me.
IN WHICH I ACHIEVE A NAME
So winding is my trout river, and so extensive are my lands along it, that it was not until nearly noon that our progress, sometimes halted by shallows, again swift in the deeper reaches, brought the Sea Rover to the lower edge of my estate. Here, the river was deeper and more silent, the waters were not quite so cold, but as we passed a high hardwood bridge from which issued a cool spring of water, I suggested a halt in our voyage, to which my companions, readily enough, agreed. We, therefore, disembarked and prepared to have our luncheon.
It was obvious to me that Jean Lafitte and Henri L'Olonnois were not on their first expedition out-of-doors, for they set about gathering wood and water in workmanlike fashion. They did not yet fully classify me, so, in boyish shyness, left me largely ignored, or waited till I should demonstrate myself to them. It was, therefore, with delicacy that I ventured any suggestions from the place where Partial and I sat in the shade watching them.
I have mentioned the fact that I had been a hunter and traveler, and had met success in the field; yet the truth is, I began all that late in life, and deliberately. To me, used to exact habit of thought in all things, and accustomed to be governed by trained reason alone, it was never enough to say that a thing was partly done, or well enough done to pass: only the best possible way had any appeal to me. I brought my reason to bear on every situation in life. Thus, I studied an investment carefully, and before going into it, I knew what the result would be. My investments, therefore, always have prospered, because they were not based on guess or chance, as nine-tenths of all the public's business ventures are. In the same way, I had gone deliberately about the matter of winning the regard of the only woman I ever saw who seemed to me much worth while. I argued and reasoned with Helena Emory that she should marry me, proving to her by every rule of logic that, not only was she the most lovable woman in all the records of the world, but, also, that love such as mine never had before been known in the world. Sometimes, as I logically proved the fitness of our union, and grew warm at my own accuracy, she wavered, relented, warmed: and then again, forgetting my argument, she would relapse into womanlike frivolity once more.... I did not like to think of this, as I sat in the shade with Partial. It cost me much in self-respect, irritated me.
But, having studied sport and outdoor living deliberately as I had studied the law and business and Helena, I had rather a thorough grounding, on life in the open, for I had read every authority obtainable; whereas my young associates had read none. So cautiously, now and then, I suggested little things to them, as that the fire need not be so large, and would do better if confined between two green side logs. I taught them how to boil the kettle quickly, how to make tea, and also, more difficult, how to make coffee; how to cook bacon just enough, and how to cook fish—for I had taken a few trout earlier in the day—and how to make toast without charring it to cinders. Again, I delighted them by telling them of little camping devices, and quite won their hearts when I found among Hiroshimi's packages, a small camp griddle with folding legs, of my own devising. It was quite clean and new, but it performed as I felt quite sure it would. In fact, reason will govern all things—except a woman.
We ate al fresco, as true buccaneers of the main, and grew better and better acquainted. It occurred to me that mayhap the nautical education of my associates was, after all, somewhat superficial, so I set about mending it by explaining something of the rigging of the ship; and I gave them, by means of the Sea Rover's bowline, some lessons in sailorman splices and knots. The bow-line-in-a-bight, the sheet-bend, the clinch-knot, the jam-knot, the fisherman's water-knot, the stevedore's slip-knot, the dock-hand's round-turns and half-hitches for cable makefast, the magnus-hitch, the fool's-knot, the cat's-cradle, the sheep-shank, the dog-shank, and many others—all of which I had learned in books and in practise—I did for them over and over again; just as I could have done for them a half-dozen different ways of throwing the diamond-hitch in a pack-train, or the stirrup-hitch in a cow camp, or many other of the devices of men who live in the open; for beginning late in life in these things, I had studied them hard and faithfully.
I could see—and I noted it with much gratification—that I was rising in the estimation of my pirates. It pleased me not at all to show that I knew more than they of these things, for I was older and my mind was long my trained servant; but I had monstrous delight in seeing myself accepted as one fit to associate with them. Once or twice, I saw the two draw apart in some debate which I knew had to do with me. "Well, now," Lafitte would begin; and L'Olonnois would demur. "No, I don't just like that one," he would say. By nightfall—and I presume I do not need to recall all the incidents of our afternoon, or of our pitching camp by the riverside an hour before sundown—I learned what was the subject of their argument. I had been admitted to the pirates' band, but the question was over my name.
We sat by our fireside, before our little tent, after a pleasant meal which I know was well cooked because I cooked it myself—trout, a young squirrel, and toast, and real coffee—and Partial was close at my knee, having obviously adopted me. We were fifteen or twenty miles from my house, nearly twice that from their homes, but the world, itself, seemed very remote from us. We reveled in a new luxurious world of rare deeds, rare dreams all our own. I was conjuring up some new argument to put before Helena should I ever see her again—as of course I never should—when Lafitte rolled over on the grass and looked up at us.
"We was just saying," he remarked, "that you didn't have no name."
"That is true. I have not told you my name, nor have you asked it. Had you been impolite, you might have learned it by prying about my place." I spoke gravely and with approval.
"No, we didn't know who you was."
"Let it be so. Let me be a man of no name. A name is of no consequence, and neither am I."
"Sho, now, that ain't so. I never seen a better—now, I never seen—" Jean Lafitte's reticence in friendship, again, was getting the better of him.
"So we said we'd call you Black Bart," added L'Olonnois.
"That is a most excellent name," said I after some thought. "At present, I can find no objection to it, except that I wear no beard at all and would have a red or brown one if I did; and that Black Bart was rather a pirate of the land than of the sea."
"Was he?" queried L'Olonnois. "Wasn't he a pirate, too, never?"
"There was a famous pirate chief known as Bluebeard or Blackbeard, and it may be, sometimes, they called him Black Bart."
"Wasn't he a awful desper't sort of pirate?"
"He is said to have been."
"It sounds like a awful desper't name," said Jimmy: "like as though he'd fill up his ship with captured maidens, an' put all rivals to the sword."
"Such, indeed, shipmate," said I, "was his reputation."
"Well," concluded L'Olonnois, "we couldn't think o' any better name'n that, because we know that is just what you would do."
(So, then, my reputation was advancing!)
"Wasn't you never a pirate before, honest?" queried Lafitte at this juncture. "Because, you seem like a real pirate to us. We been, lots of times, over on the lake."
"It may be because my father was always called a pirate," I replied. "You see, in these days, there are not so many pirates who really scuttle ships and cut throats."
"But you would?"
"Certainly. 'Tis in my blood, my bold shipmate."
"We knew it," concluded L'Olonnois calmly. "So, after now, we'll call you Black Bart. You can let your whiskers grow, you know."
"True," said I. "Well, we will at least take the whiskers under advisement, as the court would say."
"We must be an awful long ways from home," ventured L'Olonnois, after a time.
"Hundreds of miles our good ship has ploughed the deep, and as yet has raised no sail above the horizon," I admitted.
"Do you—now—do you—well, anyhow, do you have any idea of where we are going?" demanded Lafitte, shamefacedly.
"Not in the slightest."
"But now—well—now then——"
In answer I drew from my pocket a map and a compass; the latter mostly for effect, since I knew very well the bed of our river must shape our course for many a mile. On the map I pointed out how, presently, our river would run into a lake, into which, also, ran another river; and would emerge on the other side much larger. I showed them that down that other river, as, indeed, down mine, logs used to float from the pine forests—many of my father's logs, of ownership said to have been piratical—and I showed how, presently, this stream would carry us into one of the ancient waterways down which millions of wealth in timber have come; and explained about the wild crews of river runners who once ran the rafts down that great highway, and into the greater highway of the Mississippi; whence men might in due time arrive upon the Spanish Main.
"Is there any way a fellow can get across from Lake Michigan into the Mississippi River?" demanded Lafitte, who was of a practical turn of mind: and on the map I showed him all the old trails of the fur traders, explorers and adventurers, French and English, who had discovered our America long ago; whereat their eyes kindled and their tongues went dumb.
At last, I told them we must to our hammocks; and soon our bloody band was deep in sleep. At least, so much might have been said for Lafitte and L'Olonnois. Alone of the band of sea rovers myself, Black Bart, sat musing by the fire, the head of my friend, Partial, in my lap.
IN WHICH WE HAVE AN ADVENTURE
Our band of hardy adventurers arose with the sun on the morning following our first night in bivouac, and by noon of that day, thanks, perhaps, in some measure to my own work at the oars, and a sail which we rigged from a corner of the tent, we had passed into and through the lake which our map had showed us. Now we were below the edge of the pine woods, and our stream ran more sluggishly, between banks of cattails or of waving marsh grasses. We put out a trolling line, and took a bass or so; and once Lafitte, firing chance-medley into a passing flock of plover, knocked down a half-dozen, so that we bade fair to have enough for dinner that night. It was all a new world for us. No one might tell what lay around the next bend of our widening waterway. We were explorers. A virgin world lay before us. The nature of the country along the stream kept the settlements back a distance; so that to us, now, in reality, retracing one of the ancient fur-trading routes, we might almost have been the first to break these silences.
Toward nightfall we came into a more rolling and more park-like region; our prow was now heading to the westward, for the general course of the great river beyond. I had no notion to visit the city of Chicago, and our route lay far above that which must be taken by any large craft bound for the Mississippi route to the Gulf.
Farms now came down to the water's edge in places, villages offered mill-pond dams—around which, in scowling reticence, we portaged the Sea Rover, unmindful alike of queries and of jeers. I found time to post additional letters now. Indeed, I was preparing for a long and determined enterprise. It was the Sea Rover against the Belle Helene; and, did the skipper of the latter loll along in flanneled ease and luxury, not so with the hardy band of cutthroats who manned our smaller and more mobile craft, men used to hardships, content to drink spring water instead of sparkling wines, and to eat the product of their own weapons.
We were I do not know how far from our first encampment, perhaps thirty miles or more, when toward five o'clock of the evening we concluded to land at a wooded grassy bank which offered a good camping place. We made all fast, and in a few moments had our tent up and a little fire going, Lafitte and L'Olonnois, at this, happy as any two pirates I ever have seen; and were on the point of spreading our canvas table cover upon the grass, when we heard a gruff voice hail us.
"Heh! What're you doin' there?"
We turned, expecting to meet some irate farmer on whose land perhaps we innocently were trespassing; but the figure which now emerged from the screening bushes was rougher, bolder, and in some indescribable way wilder, than that of a farmer. I could not, at first, assign the fellow a place, for I knew this was an old and well settled country, and not supposed to be overrun with tramps or campers. He was a stout man nearly of middle age, dirty and ill clad, his coarse shirt open at the neck, his legs clad in old overalls, his hat and shoes very much the worse for wear. His face was covered with a rough beard, and so brown and so begrimed that, at once, I guessed this must be some dweller in the open. Yet he seemed no tramp; and even if he were, he had no right to hail us in this fashion.
I only looked at him, and made no answer, feeling none due. He came out into the open, followed by a nondescript dog, which had the lack of decency—and also of discretion—to attack my dog Partial with no parley or preliminary. I wot not of what stock Partial came, but somewhere in his ancestry must have been stark fighting strain. Mutely and sternly, as became a gentleman, he joined issue; and so well had he learned the art of war that in the space of a few moments, in spite of the loud outcry of the owner of the invading cur, he had him on his back in a throat grip which was the end of the battle and bade fair soon to be the end of the enemy.
The man who had accosted us caught up a club and made toward Partial with intent to kill him. Then, indeed, we all sprang into action. In two strides I was before him.
"Drop that!" I said to him quickly, but I hope not angrily. "Call him off, Jack!" I cried to Lafitte at the same time.
The sound of conflict ceased as Partial was persuaded to release his fallen foe, and the latter disappeared, with more wisdom as to attacking a band of pirates. His owner, however, was not so easily daunted. He still advanced toward Partial, and as I still intervened, he made a vicious side blow at me with his club.
It all happened, almost, in the twinkling of an eye. Here, then, was an adventure, and before the end of our second day!
There was not time to learn or to ask the reason for this man's animosity toward us, and, indeed, no thought of that came to my mind. A man may lay tongue to one—within certain bounds—and one will only walk away from him; but the touch of another man's hand or weapon is quite another matter. That arouses the unthinking blood, and follows then, no matter the issue, the gaudium certaminis, with no care as to odds or evens. Wherefore, even as the club whizzed by to my side step, I came back from the other foot and smote the hostile stranger on the side of the neck so stiffly that he faltered and almost dropped. Then seeing that I was so much lighter than himself and perhaps valuing himself against me purely on a basis of avoirdupois, pound for pound, he gathered and came at me, roaring out blasphemy and obscenity which I had rather Lafitte and L'Olonnois had not heard.
I had not often fought in fact, but knew that, sometimes, a gentleman must fight. What astonished me now was the fact that fighting contained no manner of repugnance to me. With a certain joy I met my foe, circled with him, exchanged blows with him—unequally it is true, for I was cool as though trying a cause at law, and he was very angry: so that he got most of my leads, and I but few of his, albeit jarring me enough to make my ears sing and my eyes blur somewhat, although of pain I was no more conscious than a fighting dog. The turf was soft underfoot, and the space wide, so that we fought very happily and comfortably over perhaps a hundred feet of country, first one and then the other coming in; until at last I had him so well blown that he stood, and I knew we must now end it toe to toe. I bethought me of a trick of my old boxing teacher, and stood before him with arms curved wide apart, inviting him to come into what seemed an opening. He rushed, and my left fist caught him on the neck. He straightened to finish me, but I stooped and brought my right in a round-arm blow, full and hard into the small of his back and at one side. It sickened him, and before he could rally, I stepped behind him, and having no ethics save the necessity of subduing him, I caught up his arm by the wrist, and slipping under it with my shoulder, pulled it down till he howled: a trick, only one of very many, which Hiroshimi patiently had taught me.
That very naturally ended our contest, and it was near to ending our war-like neighbor as well. During this warfare, which was short or long, I knew not, my associates, stunned and perhaps fearful, had sat silent; at least, I neither heard nor saw them. But now, all at once, over my shoulder I saw both Lafitte and L'Olonnois running in to my assistance. Each held in hand a bared blade of the samurai, and had I not shouted out to them to refrain, I have small doubt that in the most piratical and unsamuraic fashion they mayhap would have disemboweled my captive; for the old swords were keen as razors, and my friends were as red of eyesight as myself.
"No! No!" I called to them, even as our victim writhed and roared in terror. "Drop your weapons—that isn't fair." They obeyed, shamefacedly and with regret, as I am convinced: for illusion with them, at times, indeed overleaped the centuries, and they were back in a time of blood: even as I was in a stone-age wrath for my own part.
"Come here, Jack," I ordered, "and you, too, Jimmy. Do you see how I have him?"
They agreed. "It's a peach," said Lafitte. "Make him holler!"
"No," I replied, easing off the strain on the wrenched arm, "he has already 'hollered.'"
"Yes, sure, 'nuff, 'nuff!——ye!" cried our captive, who, now, was in mortal terror and much contrition, seeing both flesh and blood and cold steel had all the best of him. "Lemme go!"
"Certainly," I assented; "we did not ask you to come, and do not want you to stay. But, first, I must use you in a few demonstrations to my young friends. Jack,"—and I motioned to him with my head—"get behind him."
Eagerly, his three-cornered gray eyes narrowed, Lafitte skipped back of my man, and with no word from me he fastened on the other wrist so suddenly the man had no warning, and with a strong heave of all his body he doubled that arm up also. Much roaring now, and many protestations, for when our prisoner began with abuse, we could change it into supplication by raising his bent arms no more than one inch or two.
"Now, Jimmy," said I, "go in front of him, and put a thumb in the corner of his jaw, on each side. Press up until he begs our pardon." And, faith, my blue-eyed pirate, so far from shuddering at the task, at last managed to find those certain nerve centers known to all efficient policemen; and very promptly, the man made signs he would like to beg the boy's pardon and did so.
"Now, give me that arm, Jack," I resumed calmly, since our subject had no more fight left in him than a sack of meal. "So. Now go around and put your thumbs in his eyes—no, not really in his eyes, but in the middle of the bone above his eyes. So. Now, ask this boy's pardon, or I'll twist your arms off." And he asked it.
"You couldn't do it if you'd fight fair!" he bellowed.
"Could I not?" I asked. And cast him free. "Come on again, then."
"I'm afraid of them kids," said he. "They'd stick me."
"No, they would not," said I; but still he would not come on. Then I made a quick catch at his wrist, edgewise, and rolled my thumb along it at a certain place where the nerves lie close to the edge of the bone, as any policeman knows; and he would follow me, then. So I led him to our little camp-fire.
"Now," said I to him, "be seated," and he sat. I asked him if he would shake hands with me and my boys and make up. He was very sullen, but, at last, did so, not cheerfully, I fear, for he was not of good blood.
"Tell me," I demanded then, seeing that the triumph of calm reason had been sufficient in his case, "why did you come here, and why do you try to drive us off, who are only on a peaceful journey as pirates, seeking our fortune?"
"Pirates!" he exclaimed. "Just what I thought. What's the use my leasin' the pearl fer a mile along here if anybody can come and camp, and go to work, right alongside o' me? If old farmer Snider, that owns this land, hadn't gone to town I'd have the law on ye. Me payin' my money in and gettin' no protection. Fishin's rotten, too!"
I now perceived that we had encountered one of those half-nomad characters, a fresh-water pearl fisherman, such as those who, for some years, with varying fortune, have combed the sand-bars of our inland river for the fresh-water mussels which sometimes, like oysters, secrete valuable pearls or nacreous bits known as slugs. This explained much to me.
"I know the law," said I. "Farmer Snider can not lease the highway of yonder river where the Sea Rover passes. But I know also the law of the wilderness. One trapper does not intrude on another who has first located his country. We will pass on to-morrow. Meantime, if you don't mind, we will go with you to your camp and see how you do your work. Please forget that we have had any trouble. Had you but spoken thus at first, and not borne war against these bold pirates, all would have been well."
He looked at me oddly, evidently thinking my mind touched.
"Come!" I said, wiping the blood from my face, and passing him also a basin of water, "you fought well and the wonder is you did not kill me with one of those swings or swipes of yours. They were crooked and awkward, but they came hard."
He grinned and saved his face further by saying: "Well, you was three to one ag'in me." I smiled and let it stand so: and after a while, he arose stiffly and we all passed back into the wood.
We found that we were upon a little island, between two shallow arms of the stream. The camp of the pearl fisher lay at the lower end; and never have I seen or smelled so foul a place for human habitation. The one large tent served as shelter, and a rude awning sheltered the ruder table in the open air. But directly about the tent, and all around it in every direction, lay heaps of clam shells, most of them opened, some not yet ready for opening. I had smelled the same odor—and had not learned to like it—in far-off Ceylon, at the great pearl fisheries of the Orient. The "clammer" seemed immune.
Presently, he introduced to us a woman, very old, extraordinarily forbidding of visage, and unspeakably profane of speech, who emerged from the tent; his mother, he said. It seemed that they made their living in this way, clamming, as they called it, all the way from Arkansas to the upper waters of the Mississippi. They had made this side expedition up a tributary, in search of country not so thoroughly exploited; without much success in their venture, it seemed. The old lady, her head wrapped in a dirty shawl, sat down on an empty box, and stroked a large and dirty Angora cat, another member of the family, the while she bitterly and profanely complained. It was now dusk, and she did not notice anything out of the way in her son's rather swollen nose and lips.
I explained to Lafitte and L'Olonnois that we were now come into the neighborhood of possible treasure, and the sight of a few pearls, none of very great worth, which the old crone produced from a cracker box, was enough to set off Jimmy L'Olonnois, who was all for raiding the place.
"What!" he hissed to me in an aside. "Did we not spare his life? Then the treasure should be ours!"
"Wait, brother," said I. "We shall see what we shall see." And I quieted Lafitte also, who was war-like at the very sound of the word pearl. "Them's what they take from the Spanish ships," said he. "Pearls is fitten for ladies fair. An' here is pearls."
"Wait, brother," I demanded of him. For I was revolving something in my mind. I presently accosted the clammers.
"Listen," said I, "you say business is bad."
"It certainly and shorely is," assented the old dame, fishing a black pipe out of her pocket, and proceeding to feed it from another pocket, to the discomfort of the soiled Angora cat.
"Well, now, let me make you a proposition," said I, taking a glance at the heap of fresh shell which lay beyond the racks of trolling lines and their twisted wire hooks, by means of which dragging apparatus the mussels are taken—shutting hard on the wire when it touches them as they lie feeding with open mouths—"you've quite a lot of shell there, now."
"Yes, but what's in it? Button factories all shut down with a strike, and no market: and as for pearls, they ain't none. Blame me for carryin' a grouch?"
"Not in the least. But what will you take for your shells, and agree to open them for us, at wages of five dollars a day?"
"Both of us?" he demanded shrewdly. I smiled and nodded. "It's more than you average, twice over," said I, "and you say the stream is no good. Now I, too, am a student of the great law of averages, because I am or was a director in a great life insurance company. You say the luck is bad. Like other adventurers, I say that under the law of averages, it is time for the luck to change."
"The luck's with you," growled the clammer, "it's ag'in me." Unconsciously, he put a finger to his swollen nose. "What'll you gimme?" he demanded.
"One hundred dollars bonus and ten dollars a day," said I promptly; and he seemed to know I would not better that.
"Who are ye?" he queried: "a buyer?"
"No, a pirate."
"I believe ye. I never saw such a outfit."
"Will you trade?" I asked; "and how long will it take to open the lot?"
"Nigh all day, even if we set up all night and roasted." He nodded to a wide grating; and the ashes underneath showed that in this way the poor clams, like the Incas of old, were sometimes forced to give up their treasures by the persuasion of a fire under them.
"Very well," I said. "We'll call it a day. That's a hundred and ten dollars for you by this time to-morrow. I invoke the aid of capital and of chance, both, against you. You will very likely lose: but if so, it would not be the first time the producer of wealth has lost it. But I make the wager fair, as my reason tells me I should."
"Ye're a crazy bunch, and I think ye're out of the state asylum over yonder," broke in the old woman, "but what the hell do we care whether ye're crazy or not? Ye look like ye had the money. Jake, we'll take him up."
"All right," said Jake. "We'll go ye."
"To-morrow morning, then," said I; and our party rose to return to our camp, where Partial greeted us with warmth; he having assigned to himself the duty of guard. And so, as Pepys would say, to bed; although Lafitte and L'Olonnois scarce could sleep.
"Let him attempt to make a run for it, after we have hove him to, and we will board him and give no quarter!" This was almost the last of the direful speech I heard from L'Olonnois, as at last I turned myself to a night of deep and peaceful slumber.
IN WHICH WE TAKE MUCH TREASURE
"You must be awful rich, Black Bart," said L'Olonnois to me as we sat on the grass, at breakfast, the following morning.
"No, Jimmy," I replied, putting down my coffee cup, "on the contrary, I am very poor."
"But you have all sorts of things, back there where you live; and last night you said you would pay that man a hundred dollars, just to open a lot of clam shells. Now, a hundred dollars is a awful sight of money."