The Treasure-hunt--The Voice Among the
PARTLY from the damping influence of this alarm,
partly to rest Silver and the sick folk, the whole party
as soon as they had gained the brow of the ascent.
The plateau being somewhat tilted towards the west,
this spot on which we had paused commanded a wide prospect
on either hand. Before us, over the tree-tops, we beheld
the Cape of the Woods fringed with surf; behind, we not
looked down upon the anchorage and Skeleton Island,
but saw--clear across the spit and the eastern lowlands--
a great field of open sea upon the east. Sheer above us
rose the Spy-glass, here dotted with single pines,
there black with precipices. There was no sound
but that of the distant breakers, mounting from all round,
and the chirp of countless insects in the brush.
Not a man, not a sail, upon the sea; the very largeness
of the view
increased the sense of solitude.
Silver, as he sat, took certain bearings with his compass.
"There are three 'tall trees'" said he, "about
in the right line
from Skeleton Island. 'Spy-glass shoulder,' I take it,
lower p'int there. It's child's play to find the stuff
I've half a mind to dine first."
"I don't feel sharp," growled Morgan. "Thinkin'
I think it were--as done me."
"Ah, well, my son, you praise your stars he's dead,"
"He were an ugly devil," cried a third pirate
with a shudder;
"that blue in the face too!"
"That was how the rum took him," added Merry.
"Blue! Well, I reckon he was blue. That's a true word."
Ever since they had found the skeleton and got upon
this train of thought, they had spoken lower and lower,
and they had almost got to whispering by now,
so that the sound of their talk hardly interrupted the
of the wood. All of a sudden, out of the middle of the
in front of us, a thin, high, trembling voice struck up
the well-known air and words:
"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest--
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
I never have seen men more dreadfully affected than the
The colour went from their six faces like enchantment;
some leaped to their feet, some clawed hold of others;
Morgan grovelled on the ground.
"It's Flint, by ----!" cried Merry.
The song had stopped as suddenly as it began--broken off,
you would have said, in the middle of a note, as though
someone had laid his hand upon the singer's mouth. Coming
through the clear, sunny atmosphere among the green tree-tops,
I thought it had sounded airily and sweetly; and the effect
on my companions was the stranger.
"Come," said Silver, struggling with his ashen
lips to get the word
out; "this won't do. Stand by to go about. This is
a rum start,
and I can't name the voice, but it's someone skylarking--
someone that's flesh and blood, and you may lay to that."
His courage had come back as he spoke, and some of the
to his face along with it. Already the others had begun
to lend an
ear to this encouragement and were coming a little to themselves,
when the same voice broke out again--not this time singing,
but in a faint distant hail that echoed yet fainter among
of the Spy-glass.
"Darby M'Graw," it wailed--for that is the word
describes the sound--"Darby M'Graw! Darby M'Graw!"
again and again and again; and then rising a little higher,
and with an oath that I leave out: "Fetch aft the
The buccaneers remained rooted to the ground, their eyes
from their heads. Long after the voice had died away
they still stared in silence, dreadfully, before them.
"That fixes it!" gasped one. "Let's go."
"They was his last words," moaned Morgan, "his
Dick had his Bible out and was praying volubly.
He had been well brought up, had Dick, before he came to
and fell among bad companions.
Still Silver was unconquered. I could hear his teeth
rattle in his head, but he had not yet surrendered.
"Nobody in this here island ever heard of Darby,"
"not one but us that's here." And then, making
a great effort:
"Shipmates," he cried, "I'm here to get
that stuff, and I'll not
be beat by man or devil. I never was feared of Flint in
and, by the powers, I'll face him dead. There's seven hundred
thousand pound not a quarter of a mile from here.
When did ever a gentleman o' fortune show his stern
to that much dollars for a boozy old seaman with a blue
and him dead too?"
But there was no sign of reawakening courage in his followers,
rather, indeed, of growing terror at the irreverence of
"Belay there, John!" said Merry. "Don't
you cross a sperrit."
And the rest were all too terrified to reply. They would
run away severally had they dared; but fear kept them together,
and kept them close by John, as if his daring helped them.
He, on his part, had pretty well fought his weakness down.
"Sperrit? Well, maybe," he said. "But there's
one thing not clear
to me. There was an echo. Now, no man ever seen a sperrit
with a shadow; well then, what's he doing with an echo
I should like to know? That ain't in natur', surely?"
This argument seemed weak enough to me. But you can never
what will affect the superstitious, and to my wonder,
George Merry was greatly relieved.
"Well, that's so," he said. "You've a head
upon your shoulders,
John, and no mistake. 'Bout ship, mates! This here crew
on a wrong tack, I do believe. And come to think on it,
it was like Flint's voice, I grant you, but not just so
like it, after all. It was liker somebody else's voice
it was liker--"
"By the powers, Ben Gunn!" roared Silver.
"Aye, and so it were," cried Morgan, springing
on his knees.
"Ben Gunn it were!"
"It don't make much odds, do it, now?" asked
"Ben Gunn's not here in the body any more'n Flint."
But the older hands greeted this remark with scorn.
"Why, nobody minds Ben Gunn," cried Merry; "dead
nobody minds him."
It was extraordinary how their spirits had returned and
how the natural colour had revived in their faces.
Soon they were chatting together, with intervals of listening;
and not long after, hearing no further sound, they shouldered
the tools and set forth again, Merry walking first with
compass to keep them on the right line with Skeleton Island.
He had said the truth: dead or alive, nobody minded Ben
Dick alone still held his Bible, and looked around him
as he went,
with fearful glances; but he found no sympathy, and Silver
joked him on his precautions.
"I told you," said he--"I told you you had
sp'iled your Bible.
If it ain't no good to swear by, what do you suppose a
would give for it? Not that!" and he snapped his big
halting a moment on his crutch.
But Dick was not to be comforted; indeed, it was soon plain
that the lad was falling sick; hastened by heat, exhaustion,
and the shock of his alarm, the fever, predicted by Dr.
was evidently growing swiftly higher.
It was fine open walking here, upon the summit;
our way lay a little downhill, for, as I have said,
the plateau tilted towards the west. The pines, great and
grew wide apart; and even between the clumps of nutmeg
and azalea, wide open spaces baked in the hot sunshine.
Striking, as we did, pretty near north-west across the
we drew, on the one hand, ever nearer under the shoulders
of the Spy-glass, and on the other, looked ever wider
over that western bay where I had once tossed and trembled
in the oracle.
The first of the tall trees was reached, and by the bearings
proved the wrong one. So with the second. The third rose
two hundred feet into the air above a clump of underwood--
a giant of a vegetable, with a red column as big as a cottage,
and a wide shadow around in which a company could have
manoeuvred. It was conspicuous far to sea both on the east
west and might have been entered as a sailing mark upon
But it was not its size that now impressed my companions;
it was the knowledge that seven hundred thousand pounds
lay somewhere buried below its spreading shadow. The thought
of the money, as they drew nearer, swallowed up their previous
terrors. Their eyes burned in their heads; their feet grew
and lighter; their whole soul was found up in that fortune,
that whole lifetime of extravagance and pleasure, that
waiting there for each of them.
Silver hobbled, grunting, on his crutch; his nostrils stood
and quivered; he cursed like a madman when the flies
settled on his hot and shiny countenance; he plucked furiously
the line that held me to him and from time to time turned
upon me with a deadly look. Certainly he took no pains
to hide his thoughts, and certainly I read them like print.
In the immediate nearness of the gold, all else had been
his promise and the doctor's warning were both things of
and I could not doubt that he hoped to seize upon the treasure,
find and board the HISPANIOLA under cover of night,
cut every honest throat about that island, and sail away
as he had at first intended, laden with crimes and riches.
Shaken as I was with these alarms, it was hard for me to
with the rapid pace of the treasure-hunters. Now and again
I stumbled, and it was then that Silver plucked so roughly
at the rope and launched at me his murderous glances.
Dick, who had dropped behind us and now brought up the
was babbling to himself both prayers and curses as his
kept rising. This also added to my wretchedness, and to
I was haunted by the thought of the tragedy that had once
acted on that plateau, when that ungodly buccaneer with
face--he who died at Savannah, singing and shouting for
had there, with his own hand, cut down his six accomplices.
This grove that was now so peaceful must then have rung
with cries, I thought; and even with the thought I could
I heard it ringing still.
We were now at the margin of the thicket.
"Huzza, mates, all together!" shouted Merry;
and the foremost broke into a run.
And suddenly, not ten yards further, we beheld them stop.
A low cry arose. Silver doubled his pace, digging away
with the foot of his crutch like one possessed; and next
he and I had come also to a dead halt.
Before us was a great excavation, not very recent, for
the sides had
fallen in and grass had sprouted on the bottom. In this
were the shaft
of a pick broken in two and the boards of several packing-cases
strewn around. On one of these boards I saw, branded with
iron, the name WALRUS--the name of Flint's ship.
All was clear to probation. The CACHE had been found and
the seven hundred thousand pounds were gone!
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