Black Bartlemys Treasure (Chapter 7, page 2 of 3)

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Chapter 7

"Aha!" quoth he softly. "So you've heard tell of it then, along the Spanish Main?"

"I heard tell of it last night in a cave from a sailor-man."

"How?" says he starting and with keen eyes glancing hither and thither. "A sailor-man--hereabouts?"

"Damme!" says I, "the country seems thick o' sailor-men."

"Ha! D'ye say so? And what like was this one?"

"A comely rogue that sang strange song."

"Ah!" said Penfeather, his eyes narrowing. "A song, says you--and strange--how strange?"

"'Twas all of dead men and murder!"

"D'ye mind any line o't, shipmate?"

"Aye, the words of it went somewhat like this: "'Some on a knife did part wi' life And some a bullet took O! But--'"

Now here, as I stopped at a loss, my companion took up the rhyme almost unconsciously and below his breath: "'But three times three died plaguily A wriggling on a hook O!'

"Comrade!" says he in the same low voice, "Did ye see ever among these mariners a one-handed man, a tall man wi' a hook in place of his left hand--a very bright, sharp hook?" And now as Penfeather questioned me, he seized my wrist and I was amazed at the iron grip of him.

"No!" I answered.

"Nay," says he, loosing his hold, "how should you--he's dead, along o' so many on 'em! He's done for--him and his hook, devil burn him!"

"'A hook both long and stout and strong, They died by gash o' hook O!'"

"Ah!" I cried. "So that was the kind of hook!"

"Aye!" nodded Penfeather, "That was the kind. A bullet's bad, a knife's worse, but a steel hook, shipmate, very sharp d'ye see, is a death no man should die. Shipmate, I've seen divers men dead by that same hook--torn and ripped d'ye see--like a dog's fangs! I'd seen many die ere then, but that way--'twas an ill sight for queasy stomachs!"

"And he--this man with the hook is dead, you say?"

"And burning in hell-fire!"

"Are you sure?"

"I killed him, shipmate!"

"You!" says I.

"I, shipmate. We fought on a shelf o' rock high above the sea, my knife agin his knife and hook--'twas that same hook gave me this scar athwart my jaw--but as he struck, I struck and saw him go spinning over and over, down and down and splash into the sea. And for three days I watched that bit o' shore, living on shell-fish and watching for him, to make sure I had finished him at last."

"And these other rogues?" says I.

"What like were they, shipmate?" Hereupon I described (as fully as I might) the three sailor-men I had fought with in the hedge-tavern (albeit I made no mention of the maid), while Penfeather listened, nodding now and then and pinching at his long chin. "And this other fellow," says he, when I had done, "this fellow that sang--d'ye know if his name chanced to be Mings--Abnegation Mings, comrade?"

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