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   Chapter 15 TWO THIEVES AND A FIGHT

The Devil's Admiral By Frederick Ferdinand Moore Characters: 12651

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


There was a metallic thud as they let down a burden, which I knew must be a sack of gold. I lay quiet for a minute, and then began to wriggle through the brush to get a glimpse of them, and, in case it proved to be the camp, learn what might be the most advantageous method for our attack.

"My back is broke," I heard Petrak whine. "What with packin' the whole blasted cargo into the hills and this jaunt now. Why couldn't he leave it close to the beach, I want to know? Who wants to be packin' it out again some day like a coolie? Snug enough, I say, close down to the water, and who's to know? Think we was buryin' of it for Kingdom Come! Fine job he's makin' of it!"

"'E's no bloody monkey, Thirkle ain't," said Long Jim. "It's us that's the bloomink idiots! 'My last 'aul,' says 'e. 'Your last haul, 'ell!' says me to him. I tells him to mind the rest of us 'as a 'and in the gold as well as in the gittin' of it. Ye think 'e's goin' to let us in on this? Not Thirkle, Reddy.

"It's every bloody man for 'imself now, and the devil take the 'indmost, which he will, I say. Thought 'e'd 'ave the whole of it all to himself, did he? I knowed 'e'd give us dirt when it come to some big cut like this, and that's why I'm for gittin' mine and goin' on with it this wise. 'Eave up, Reddy, and skip for it."

I crawled up and peered through the bushes just as they were shouldering a bamboo pole from which was slung the sack of gold. They went on, and I followed them, confident that they would lead me to Thirkle's camp, although the direction of their march puzzled me; and I could make no sense of their complaints other than that they disliked the labour of transporting the gold.

As I fell in behind them, following almost in their tracks, I discovered that they were following no trail, but were making a new way to the beach. And when they came to where the going was easy they rushed ahead in such a panic that I suspected they were in flight from Thirkle, and when they began to argue over the direction they should take I realized that they were running away from Thirkle. They were stealing a sack of the gold and making for the boats to escape with it.

"Bear to port, I say!" said Long Jim. "Keep off the old road, or ye'll have the beggar after us. Keep to port if ye know what's good for us."

They let down their burden again, and I saw Long Jim stoop to peer back; but I was off on their flank again, and kept well concealed.

I was in a quandary now as to what to do. It might be better for us to let them escape, for then we would have only Thirkle and Buckrow to fight, and a sack of gold mattered but little. Yet I knew that they might take both boats; and then Captain Riggs and I and Rajah would be marooned on the island, except for the raft, which was not a fit craft to put to sea in.

We would be but little better off on the mainland, and it would be weeks, probably months, before we could be rescued by a vessel, or could reach a native town on the coast. I had a mind to fire on them; but I did not know where Thirkle was, and I was afraid of Captain Riggs getting lost if he set out in search of me on hearing the shots.

"Told ye that, did he?" asked Long Jim. "Told ye to do for me, hey?"

"That was the lay," said Petrak. "Told me he'd send ye down the trail with me, and to keep drawed up close to ye; and when I see my chance to hook a knife into ye, and be sure and make a clean job of it.

"But I'm no man for that, Jim. Mind when ye split a bob with me in Riccolo's boardin'-house in St. Paul's Square? I don't do for no man what split a bob with me, and we was shipmates before we ever knowed Thirkle; and we'll be shipmates again, Jim."

"With this 'ere?" asked Long Jim. "Ye think I'd look at a bloody ship short of bein' owner myself, when we get away with this sack of guineas? It's a pub for the two of us in Liverpool, down near the Regent Docks, like gentlemen, or I'm a beggar."

"Blow me if I didn't forget about the gold!" said Petrak, laughing. "But I meant it the way of shipmates, Jim: and that's why I couldn't do for no such as he said. 'Hook yer knife in him, quick and sharp, under the kidneys,' says Thirkle to me. He says he'll make a gent of me, being as there would be only himself and Bucky and me left. There'd be upwards of ten thousand pounds, man and man, share and share alike, and all the same.

"That's Thirkle for ye, Jim-that's Thirkle. It was all fine long as we didn't make no great hauls, just enough for a bit of a good time ashore; but now we're rich, and he wants to shut us honest chaps that helped get it out of the cup, up.

"I'll take this sack for mine and split fair with ye, Jim; and it's better than Thirkle would give the two of us, and I ain't savin' as how he wouldn't slit our throats in the bargain to get back again what little he give. We best give him a wide berth, and he'll do for Bucky, too; mind what I say."

"That 'e will," said Long Jim. "'E's thick with Bucky now, but mind yer eye when 'e gits Bucky close hauled goin' 'ome. Think Bucky'll ever find 'is way back to this place? Thirkle'll do for 'im-right ye are, Red-just as 'e'd done for the two of us, Red."

"Bucky was a good sort, too."

"We was all good sorts," said Jim. "We was all good sorts and fine men,

Reddy, when the bloomink loot was coming and there was windpipes to slit,

and 'e had to 'ave 'ands to do the work for 'im. Ye mind what he told me,

Reddy?"

"What was it Thirkle told ye, Jim? I'd give a bob to know. Was it about me, Jim?"

"Tells me the same bloody thing 'e told ye," said Jim, shutting one eye and making a grimace to impress Petrak.

"What's that, Jim? I don't remember of what ye mean."

"Tells me to do for ye down the trail."

"The beggar!" said Petrak.

"Gawd strike me blind if 'e didn't! 'Take a walk for yerself down the trail with Petrak,' he says. 'Mind when ye get a chance and 'ook a knife in his kidneys, and do it neat and clean; and then there'll be only three of us to cut this pile 'ere three ways-me, Bucky, and yer own self, Jim.'

"That's what 'e said, Reddy; strike me blind! Like you did, I says I'll do it. Ye see his gyme? We'd do for each other in a fight, and so take the job off 's 'ands. Buckrow and 'im think it's done now; but 'e'll get Bucky at the

last, too, or I'm a beggar.

"That's 'is gyme, Red-do for all of us and 'ave the gold all to 'imself-and no sailormen what know what 'e's been up to out 'ere coming around to tap on 'is window of a night when 'e's asleep and ask for the price of a drink, or 'e'll have the police down on 'im and tell Scotland Yard' e's the Devil's Hadmiral. He wants the pile to 'imself, and never a bit more does 'e care for the likes of us than for the throats we've cut for 'im for the gettin' of it all."

"Sure," said Reddy. "He wants it all for himself, to be a fine gentleman and a church member and have his tipple and fine eatin'. We better move on a bit now, Jim, or they'll be after us."

They shouldered the pole again and went on, and I followed them for a time, trying to estimate the position of Captain Riggs on the trail from where I was; but in the excitement of following Petrak and Long Jim I had lost my bearings.

Their course through the jungle had been devious and without much clearness as to a general direction, for first one would advise one way, and then the other another; and there were times when they had been compelled by the brush and gullies to go out of their way.

But I had a general idea that by turning sharply to the right I might come across the trail, and, even if it happened to be below where the captain and Rajah had stopped, I could soon come up with them.

There was nothing to gain by keeping after Reddy and Long Jim, now that I was sure they were running away from Thirkle's camp rather than toward it. I thought it would be much better to let them go than to fire upon them, and so either alarm Captain Riggs or warn Thirkle and Buckrow that there were others they had not counted upon on the island.

Even Petrak and Long Jim might not get away very easily when they found the oars and boat-plugs gone. I reasoned that if we could come upon Thirkle and Buckrow, and make short work of them, we might even overtake the pair of thieves and capture or kill them.

As we went along the jungle thinned, and we came into a forest where the trees were sparse and there was little underbrush; and, as there was an open space ahead, I concluded not to cross it, but to wait and see them go out of sight, and then try to pick up the trail. When they entered the clearing they dumped the sack and fell upon the ground, and as they lay looking in my direction there was nothing for me to do but drop behind a convenient shrub and wait for them to go on before I moved.

They lit cigars and fell to gossiping, evidently in some argument, for their gestures betrayed their vehemence, although I could not make out what they were saying. They continued the conversation until I lost my patience, and began to begrudge the time I was wasting to no advantage, while Captain Riggs was probably fretting about me, and might go away to search for me. I waited another ten minutes; but they showed no disposition to go on, and I stealthily began to draw out of the bushes.

We had come through a grove of wild hemp-trees, and, keeping the bush that had concealed me between me and the pirates, I crawled to one of these wide-spreading bunches of gigantic leaves drooping to the ground, and managed to get behind it. But as I rolled under the stalks a bird rose near me and screamed shrilly in long-drawn cries of alarm, and several of its young, hunting for cover, set up a racket in the dead leaves on the ground.

I lay still for a minute, hoping that the two pirates would not think anything amiss; but the mother bird wheeled above me, screaming and darting down, and I heard Petrak and Long Jim cursing and running toward me. I jumped up behind the tree, and, looking through the big leaves, saw them coming with drawn pistols.

"Blow me if it ain't the bally pressman!" said Long Jim, stopping within a hundred feet and peering through the tree. "That's Trenholm there, or I'm a Dutchman!"

"That's who it is," I called to them, cocking my pistol. "Come on and see what you get!"

"You're in the Kut Sang" said Petrak queerly, his knees shaking as if he had seen a ghost. "You're dead in the Kut Sang!"

"Have it your own way," I told him. "Maybe I am dead in the Kut Sang, along with Captain Riggs and the rest of them. For that very reason you had better not bother with me."

I kept my pistol resting in the hollow of a hemp-stalk, thinking it would be better not to let them know I had a weapon, for I knew they had no more relish for using their firearms than I did. If I showed the gun to them they would then keep in cover, and could attack me from two sides.

If I could keep it a short-range fight, I had the advantage as long as I held the tree against them, and they would not hesitate to expose themselves to my fire.

"What ye doin' of 'ere?" demanded Long Jim. "Where's the skipper and all the rest we left aboard?"

"That's for you to find out," I said. "You wouldn't shoot a helpless man, would you?"

"Not a bit of it," he grinned. "Come on out and 'ave a bit of a parley."

He let his pistol drop, and he and Petrak exchanged glances which betrayed their glee at having me in their power, as they thought.

"Go away and let me alone," I said, simulating fear of them. "I don't want to have anything to do with you. Leave me alone."

"Ye was a follerin' of us," said Long Jim. "Where the bloomink 'ell ye been? Ye seen Thirkle?"

"Where is Thirkle?"

"Where ye'll never clap eyes on 'im, ye can be bloody well sure of that.

Cut round t'other side of 'im, Red, and we'll settle 'is 'ash!"

Petrak started off to the left of him to circle and get behind me, and Long Jim began to draw near, cocking his pistol again and raising it and leering at me.

"Don't ye turn about or move!" he said. "Turn yer 'ead and yer a dead 'un!"

He was within five yards of me, and I saw him making a signal to Petrak, who was approaching me from behind. I glanced back quickly and saw the little red-headed man stealing up on me with his knife on his hand.

I lifted the pistol, and saw Long Jim stop and open his mouth in surprise. I fired at the triangle of his naked breast where the shirt was unbuttoned from the neck. He curled over backward, as if broken in the middle, and fired his pistol straight up into the sky and then lay still.

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