Read CHAPTER III of Our Pirate Hoard 1891 , free online book, by Thomas A. Janvier, on

The day after I had this talk with Old Jacob I was rather surprised by getting a telegram from my cousin Gregory Wilkinson, telling me that he was coming down to pay us a visit, and would be there that afternoon. I was not as much astonished as I would have been if the telegram had come from anybody else, because Gregory Wilkinson had a way of telegraphing that he was going to do things which nobody expected him to do, and I was used to it. Moreover, I had every reason for desiring to maintain very friendly relations with him. He had told me several times that he had made a will by which his large fortune was to be divided between me and a certain Asylum for the Relief and Education of Destitute Red Indian Children that he was very much interested in; and he had more than hinted that the asylum was not the legatee that was the more to be envied. This made me feel quite comfortable about the remote future, but it did not simplify the problem of living comfortably in the immediate present. My cousin was a very tough, wiry little man, barely turned of fifty. There was any quantity of life left in him his father, who had been just such another, had lived till he was eighty-nine. There was not much of a chance, therefore, that either the asylum or I would receive anything from his estate for ever so long and I may add I was very glad, for my part, that things were that way. Gregory Wilkinson was a first-rate fellow, for all his queerness and sudden ways, and I should have been sorry enough to have been his chief heir. One reason why I liked him so much was because he was so fond of Susan. When we were married although he had not seen her then he sent her forks, and he had lived up to those forks ever since.

Susan was rather flustered when I showed her the telegram; but she went to work with a will, and got the little spare room in order, and stewed some peaches and made some biscuits for supper. Susan’s biscuits were something extraordinary. Gregory Wilkinson came all right, and after supper he said that it was the nicest supper he had eaten in a long while she did the honors of the Swallow’s Nest in the pretty way that is her especial peculiarity. She showed him the cow-stable, with the cow in it, and the colored girl milking away in her usual vigorous fashion, the chickens, the garden, the peach-trees, and the nest under the eaves where the swallows had lived when we first came there. Then, as it grew dark, we sat on the little veranda while we smoked our cigars that is, Gregory Wilkinson and I smoked: all that Susan did was to try to poke her finger through the rings which I blew towards her and I told why we had come down there, and what a good start we had made towards finding my great-great-great-uncle’s buried money. And when I had got through, Susan told how, as soon as I had found it, we were going to Europe.

We neither of us thought that Gregory Wilkinson manifested as much enthusiasm in the matter as the circumstances of the case demanded; but then, as Susan pointed out to me, in her usual clear-headed way, it was not reasonable to expect a man with a fortune to be as eager to get one as a man without one would be.

“Very likely he’ll give us his share for finding it,” said Susan; “he don’t want it himself, and it would be dreadful to turn the heads of all those destitute red Indian children by leaving it to them.”

I should have mentioned earlier that, so far as we knew, my cousin and I were my great-great-great-uncle’s only surviving heirs. The family luck had not held out any especially strong temptations in the way of pleasant things to live for, and so the family gradually had died off. Whatever my search should bring to light, therefore, would be divided between us two.

By the time that Old Jacob got through with his boat-painting, Gregory Wilkinson had gathered a sufficient interest in our money-digging to volunteer to go along with us to the bay. We had a two-seated wagon, and I took with me several things which I thought might be useful in an expedition of this nature two spades, a pickaxe, a crow-bar, a measuring tape that belonged to Susan, an axe, and a lantern (for, as Susan very truly said, we might have to do some of our digging after dark). I took also a pulley and a coil of rope, in case the box of treasure should prove so heavy that we could not otherwise pull it out from the hole. Old Jacob knew all about rigging tackle, and said that we could cut a pair of sheer-poles in the woods. We were very much encouraged by the confident way in which Old Jacob talked about cutting sheer-poles; it sounded wonderfully business-like. Susan, of course, was very desirous of going along, and I very much wanted to take her. But as we intended to stay all night, in case we did not find the treasure during our first day’s search, and as the only place where we could sleep was an oysterman’s shanty that Old Jacob knew about, she saw herself that it would not do. So she made the best of staying at home, in her usual cheery fashion, and promised, as we drove off, to have a famous supper ready for us the next night when we would come home with our wagon-load of silver and gold.

It was a long, hot, dusty drive, and the mosquitoes were pretty bad as we drew near the coast. But we were cheered by the thought of the fortune that was so nearly ours, and we smoked our pipes at the mosquitoes in a way that astonished them. After we had taken out the horses and had eaten our dinner (Susan had put us up a great basket of provisions, with two of her own delicious peach pies on top) we walked down to the bay-side, with Old Jacob leading, to look for the place where the Martha Ann used to anchor. I took the tape-measure along, both because it might be useful, and because it made me think of Susan.

I was sorry to find that the clearer the lay of the land and water became, the more indistinct grew Old Jacob’s remembrance of where his father had told him that the schooner used to lie.

“It mought hev ben about here,” he said, pointing across to a little bay some way off on our left; “an’ agin it mought hev ben about thar,” with a wave of his hand towards a low point of land nearly half a mile off on our right; “an’ agin it mought hev ben sorter atwixt an’ at ween ’em. Here or hereabouts, thet’s w’at I say; here or hereabouts, sure.”

Now this was perplexing. My plan, based upon Old Jacob’s assurance that he could locate the anchorage precisely, was to hunt near the shore for likely-looking places and dig them up, one after another, until we found the treasure. But to dig up all the places where treasure might be buried along a whole mile of coast was not to be thought of. We implored Old Jacob to brush up his memory, to look attentively at the shape of the coast, and to try to fix definitely the spot off which the schooner had lain. But the more that he tried, the more confusing did his statements become. Just as he would settle positively after much thinking and much looking at the sun and the coast line on a particular spot, doubts would arise in his mind as to the correctness of his location; and these doubts presently would resolve themselves into the certainty that he was all wrong. Then the process of thinking and looking would begin all over again, only again to come to the same disheartening end. The short and long of the matter was that we spent all that day and a good part of the next in wandering along the bay-side in Old Jacob’s wake, while he made and unmade his locations at the rate of about three an hour. At last I looked at Gregory Wilkinson and Gregory Wilkinson looked at me, and we both nodded. Then we told Old Jacob that we guessed we’d better hitch up the horses and drive home. It made us pretty dismal, after all our hopes, to hitch up the horses and drive home that way.

My heart ached when I saw Susan leaning over the front gate watching for us as we drove up the road. The wind was setting down towards us, and I could smell the coffee that she had put on the fire to boil as soon as she caught sight of us Susan made coffee splendidly and I knew that she had kept her promise, and had ready the feast that was to celebrate our success; and that made it all the dismaller that we hadn’t any success to celebrate.

When I told her how badly the expedition had turned out she came very near crying; but she gave a sort of gulp, and then laughed instead, and did what she could to make things pleasant for us. We had our feast, but notwithstanding Susan’s effort to be cheerful, it was about as dreary a feast as I ever had anything to do with. We brought Old Jacob in and let him feast with us; and he, to do him justice, was not dreary at all. He seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Indeed, the most trying part of that sorrowful supper-party was the way in which Old Jacob recovered his spirits and declared at short intervals that his memory now was all right again. He even went so far as to say that with his eyes blindfolded and in the dark he could lead us to the precise spot off which the schooner used to lie.

Susan was disposed to regard these assertions hopefully; but we, who had been fumbling about with him for two days, well understood their baselessness. It was not Old Jacob’s fault, of course, but his defective memory certainly was dreadfully provoking. Here was an enormous fortune slipping through our lingers just because this old man could not remember a little matter about where a schooner had been anchored.

After he had eaten all the supper that he could hold which was a good deal and had gone home, we told Susan the whole dismal story of how our expedition had proved to be a total failure. It was best, we thought, not to mince matters with her; and we stated minutely how time after time the anchorage of the schooner had been precisely located, and then in a little while had been unlocated again. She saw, as we did, that as a clew Old Jacob was not much of a success, and also that he was about the only thing in the least like a clew that we possessed. Realizing this latter fact, and knowing that his great age made his death probable at any moment, Susan strongly advised me, in her clear-sighted way, to have him photographed.