When I opened my eyes it was broad daylight, and at first I could not
remember where I was. But as I sat up I saw before me Nux and Bryonia,
seated calmly side by side, with the wilderness all around me and the
distant voices of the robbers echoing faintly in my ears. The sun was
up, for I could see it glinting through the trees; so, as a recollection
of my surroundings came back to me, I asked Bry what was going on.
He said the men were breaking camp, having slept late, and that
presently they were going to travel still further into the interior. I
could not imagine what they had in view, or where they expected to hide
from the vengeance of the men they had plundered; but Bry declared we
could follow them without ourselves being seen, so I decided not to give
up until we had tracked them to their hiding place—if, indeed, they had
Presently we could see them tramping away to the southward, carrying the
gold and provisions they had tied up in the blankets. There must have
been two or three hundredweight of the gold, so the packages were heavy,
and they had to take turns carrying them. But men seldom feel
overburdened by the weight of gold, so we heard no complaints from the
Bry went on alone, hiding behind rocks and trees but keeping the men
well in sight. After him trailed Nux, keeping Bry in sight; and then, as
far away as I dared, I followed Nux, trying to imitate the example of
the blacks and to hide myself as well as possible.
Before noon I grew hungry, for we had brought no provisions of any sort
with us. The robbers paused to lunch, and then went on; but although I
searched carefully, I could not find a morsel of food that they had cast
aside. Of water there was plenty, for we crossed several small streams;
but food began to be more precious than gold to me, and I vaguely
wondered if I should die of starvation before I got back to camp.
At evening the men made camp again, this time in a little clearing
strewn with fallen logs; and when Bry rejoined me in a clump of trees
where Nux and I had halted, I told him frankly that I was faint with
hunger, and that unless I could find something to eat I could not go on.
I have no doubt the blacks were hungry, too; but they were more inured
to hardship, and could bear it better.
But Bry volunteered to try to secure some food, and as soon as darkness
had fallen he crept toward the camp, managing to approach to within five
yards of the camp fire, around which the robbers sat smoking and
talking. He was concealed by a huge log, behind which he hid, listening
carefully to the conversation, which he afterward retailed to me.
“So far,” Larkin was saying, “we couldn’t have done better. By this time
I guess we’re pretty safe from pursuit.”
“No one could find their way here in a year,” boasted Daggett, his lean
face grinning with delight. “I’m the only man on the island as knows the
“Are you sure you can lead us to that queer rock you tell of?” asked
Judson, a little uneasily.
“Sure. And once there, we could defy an army,” returned Daggett. “Then
we can make our raft, row out to where the ship is, and sail away home.”
Larkin gave a rude laugh, ending it with an oath.
“There’ll be some tall cussin’ in the camp,” he said.
“Major’ll be crazy,” assented Daggett.
“I swiped every grain o’ gold he had, while he lay a-snorin’,” chuckled
Hayes, a big ruffian who was called “Dandy Pete,” in derision, because
he was so rough and unkempt. “Pity we couldn’t ’a’ got all there was in
“There’s enough to make us all rich, my boys, anyhow,” remarked Larkin.
“It’s nearly broke my back, luggin’ of it, an’ there’s only four of us
At this they seemed to grow thoughtful, and all sat silently smoking for
“What bothers me,” said Judson, breaking the silence, “is how we’re to
get that blasted ship into some civilized port. There ain’t a man here
as knows anything about sailin’.”
“That’s all right,” said Larkin, confidently. “The sun rises in the
east, don’t it? Well, all we’ve got to do is h’ist the sails and let the
wind blow us towards the east. Some time or other we’ll get to the
American continent, and then we can run down the coast to ’Frisco. It’s
no trouble to sail a ship.”
“We’ve got to get away, somehow,” grumbled Judson, “or our gold won’t be
of any use to us. When are we going to divide?”
“When we get on the ship,” said Daggett, promptly.
“When we’re at sea will be better,” added Larkin.
They looked at one another suspiciously.
“It’s got to be a fair divvy,” said Dandy Pete, with an oath, “or else
there won’t be so many to divide up with.”
“What do you mean by that?” demanded Larkin, angrily.
“I mean I’ll stick a knife in your ribs, if you try any trickery with
me,” replied Pete, scowling. “You made the terms yourself, and you’ve
got to live up to ’em. It’s a quarter each, all around.”
“That’s wrong!” yelled Daggett, springing to his feet. “I’m to have a
third, for guiding you. If it hadn’t been for me, you couldn’t get away
with the gold at all.”
“Who promised you a third?” asked Hayes.
“Well, let Larkin make it up to you, out of his own share. I’m going to
have a quarter.”
“And so am I,” said Judson, fingering his revolver.
Larkin glared at them with a white face.
“We won’t quarrel about it, boys,” he said, after a time. “There’s
plenty for all, and we must hang together till we’re out of danger. I’ll
take what you think is right, for my share.”
“I’ll take my third, an’ no less,” growled Daggett.
No one looked at him. Each seemed to be busy with his own thoughts.
Bryonia had chosen this especial log to hide behind, because the robbers
had placed their sack of provisions upon it. While listening to the
conversation I have recorded, the black had stealthily reached up his
hand and managed to extract from the bundle a tin of corned beef and a
handful of ship’s biscuits. Then he wriggled carefully away, and in a
few minutes had rejoined Nux and me, where we hid among the trees.
I think no food has ever tasted quite so delicious to me as did that
tinned beef and stale biscuit. When divided amongst three there was
little enough in each share, but it sufficed to allay our hunger and
give us fresh strength and courage.
After we had eaten, Bry decided to go back again for more, since another
opportunity to purloin from the bundle of provisions might not be
As it was very dark by this time, Nux and I crept nearer, to where a big
rock lay; and here, hidden by the deep shadows, we were able to
distinguish clearly all that transpired around the camp fire.
Bry being between us and the light, we could follow his creeping form
with our eyes until we saw him lying safely hidden behind the log, with
the bundle of food just over him. By this time all the robbers had lain
down to sleep except Larkin, who had taken the watch and sat moodily
smoking beside the fire, on which he tossed now and then a handful of
Suddenly, as he looked toward the sack that rested upon the log, he saw
it move. In an instant a pistol shot rang out, and the robbers sprang to
their feet with cries of alarm.
“Somebody’s behind that log!” shouted Larkin, who was himself trembling
At once Bryonia arose to his feet, stepped over the log, and calmly
advanced into the light of the fire, holding out his hand in greeting
and smiling broadly into the angry faces confronting him.
“Don’ shoot poor Bry,” he said, pleadingly. “I’se run ’way to j’ine
“Run away!” exclaimed Larkin, while the others looked at the black
suspiciously. “Why did you do that?”
“So’s I won’ haf to work any mo’,” answered Bry. “Dey’s jest killin’ me
in dat camp, luggin’ bags o’ sand an’ washin’ gold all day.”
“Who came with you?” asked Daggett.
“Nobody ’t all,” declared Bry. “I seen yo’ all leave de camp, an’ so I
crep’ along after yo’. Wouldn’t have let yo’ know I was here, sure
’nough, but I got so hungry. I couldn’t stand it no longer, so I tried
to steal somefin’ to eat, an’ Mars Larkin he shot de gun at me.”
“How did you know we had quit the camp for good?” enquired Pete, in a
“Saw you take de gold, suh. So I ’pects you ain’t comin’ back agin’, an’
thought I’d j’ine yo’. If you’ll take me ’long an’ feed me, Mars Hayes,
I’ll help tote de gold.”
Bryonia’s statement was so simple that the miners were inclined to
believe him. Nux and I, who had crawled nearer to the fire when the
pistol shot rang out, could hear distinctly every word, and for a moment
I was horrified that Bry should prove false and desert to the enemy. But
Nux was chuckling gleefully, and whispered: “Dat Bry, he mighty clever
boy, Mars Sam!” So I began to comprehend that Bry was acting a part,
with the idea of saving Nux and me from discovery and ultimately
recovering the gold. Therefore I kept silent and listened eagerly.
Evidently the miners were not of one opinion concerning the new arrival.
“Let’s kill the nigger,” said Daggett. “Then we won’t run any chances.”
“Don’t be a fool,” retorted Larkin. “Bry can be useful to us. He’s the
cook of the ‘Flipper’, I’m told, and besides helping to carry the gold,
he can cook our meals when we get to sea, and help sail the ship.”
“If he’s run away from camp, why, he’s one of us,” said Judson, yawning
and sitting down again. “And if it comes to a fight, he counts for one
more on our side.”
“But he don’t get any gold,” added Dandy Pete.
“Not an ounce!” declared Daggett.
“Don’t want any gold,” said Bry, composedly. “Only want to get away.”
“All right,” decided Larkin. “You can come along. But you’ve got to obey
orders, and the first time I catch you at any tricks, I’ll put a bullet
Bry grinned from ear to ear, as if he considered this a good joke, and
then he warmed his hands over the fire while Judson brought him
something to eat from the bundle.
Afterward all lay down to sleep again except Larkin, who resumed his
watch. It was too soon to put any trust in Bry, so the black, having
eaten his fill, lay down beside the others.
Nux and I cautiously retreated to the rock, and consulted as to what we
should do under these circumstances. The black man had perfect
confidence in his comrade, and proposed that we should still follow the
band of robbers and wait for Bry to find a way to communicate with us
and assist us. This seemed reasonable to me, also.
As we were chilled to the bones in the cold night air, Nux suggested
that we go into camp until morning, and led me a long distance back into
the woods, where we finally came to a deep hollow. Here there would be
little danger that a fire could be seen by the robbers; so we gathered
together some twigs, and as I had matches in my pocket a fire was soon
started that proved very grateful to us both. We then agreed to take
turns watching until daylight, and while Nux lay down to sleep I took
the first watch. But in some way—perhaps because the fire was so cosy
and agreeable,—I gradually lost consciousness, and when morning came
both Nux and I awoke with a start to find the fire out and the sun
glinting brightly through the trees.
We made all haste toward the camp of the robbers, but when we arrived at
the place we found it deserted. They could not have been gone long,
however, for the embers of the fire were still aglow; and Nux, who was
keen as a bloodhound on a trail, declared he would have no trouble in
following the band.
Before we left, however, we made a search for food, and to our joy
discovered behind the log a can of beans and some more biscuits, which
Bry had evidently found an opportunity to hide there for our benefit. We
began the chase even while we ate, for Nux picked out the trail with
ease and threaded his way between the trees with absolute confidence.
It was nearly noon when he halted suddenly.
We had come to the edge of the forest. Before us lay a broad table-land,
barren of any trees or brush whatever, and beyond this strip of rock the
blue sea stretched away to the horizon.
“Why, we’ve crossed the island!” I exclaimed.
“Only one end of de island,” corrected Nux. “De bay where our ship lays
ain’t half a mile away.”
It surprised me that the shrewd black should know this, but I did not
question his statement. Just now my attention was drawn to the robbers,
who had halted upon the further edge of the table-land, which even from
where we stood, could be seen to form a high bluff above the ocean. At
this place it ran out into a little point, and just beyond this point,
but separated from the mainland by a wide gulf, stood an island-like
peak of rock, its flat surface on a level with the bluff. It must at one
time have formed a part of the mainland, but some convulsion of nature
had broken it away, and now a deep fissure isolated it from the bluff.
Nature was responsible for two other curious freaks. One was a group of
tall pines, three in number, which grew on the separate peak where there
seemed scarcely enough soil covering the rock to hold the roots of the
trees. Yet on the main bluff there were no trees at all.
The other phenomenon was a great rock, that must have weighed thousands
of tons, which lay upon the edge of the bluff so nicely balanced that it
almost seemed as if a good push would precipitate it into the gulf
below. It was triangular in shape, and the base rested on the bluff
while its outer point projected far over the gulf till it towered almost
above the isolated point of rock I have described.
The robbers, when we first saw them, were engaged in earnest
consultation. It appeared that Daggett was explaining something about
the great rock, for he pointed toward it several times, and then at the
islet. The others leaned over the edge of the gulf, looked into the
chasm below, at the triangular rock, at the barren islet, and then drew
back and shook their heads.
Then Daggett, whom I had always considered a coward, did what struck me
as being a very brave act. He climbed upon the sloping rock, and
gradually crept upward on his hands and knees. When he reached a point
above the center the huge rock began to tremble. Daggett crept a little
further along, and now the entire mass of rock, which was poised to a
nicety, raised its vast bulk and tipped slowly outward. Daggett slid
forward; the point of rock under him touched the islet and came to rest,
and then he leaped off and stood safely upon the peak, while the
rocking-stone, relieved of his weight, slowly returned to its former
A cheer went up from the men, and they hesitated no longer. Bry crept up
the stone next, and was tipped gracefully upon the islet. One after
another Hayes, Judson and Larkin mounted the rocking-stone and were
deposited upon the rocky point, together with their bundles of gold and
We could not see very well what became of them, after this, for the big
rock hid them from our view; but as it was evident they could not get
back again—at least by the same means they had employed to reach the
islet,—Nux and I made bold to creep out of our shelter and approach the
point that jutted outward into the sea.
Then, to our surprise, we saw that the flat top of the rock was
deserted. The robbers, together with Bry and the treasure, seemed to
have vanished into thin air!