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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMystery - Part Three. The Maroon - Chapter 5. The Pinwheel Volcano
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Mystery - Part Three. The Maroon - Chapter 5. The Pinwheel Volcano Post by :huberth Category :Long Stories Author :Samuel Hopkins Adams Date :May 2012 Read :1385

Click below to download : Mystery - Part Three. The Maroon - Chapter 5. The Pinwheel Volcano (Format : PDF)

Mystery - Part Three. The Maroon - Chapter 5. The Pinwheel Volcano

PART THREE. THE MAROON CHAPTER V. THE PINWHEEL VOLCANO

The surgeon spoke first.

"Another point," said he. "Darrow was alive within a few days."

Captain Parkinson turned slowly away from the grave. "You are right," he said, with an effort. "Our business is with the living now. The dead must wait."

"Hide and seek," growled Trendon. "If he's here why don't he show himself?"

The other shook his head.

"Place is all trampled up with his footprints," said Trendon. "He's plodded back and forth like a prisoner in a cell."

"The ledger," said the captain. "I'd forgotten it. That grave drove everything else out of my mind."

"Bring the book here," called Trendon.

Congdon unwrapped it from his jacket and handed it to him. The sailors cast curious glances at the two headstones.

"Mount guard over Mr. Edwards's grave," commanded the captain.

The coxswain saluted and gave an order. One of the sailors stepped forward to the first mound.

"Not that one," rasped the officer. "The other."

The man saluted and moved on.

"With your permission, sir," said Trendon.

On a nod from his superior officer he opened the ledger and took up Darrow's record.

"Here it is. Entry of June 3d."

"_Everything lovely. Schooner lost to sight. Query--to memory dear? Not exactly. Though I shouldn't mind having her under orders for a few days. Queer glow in the sky last night: if they've been investigating they may have got what's coming to them. Volcano exhibiting fits of temper. Spouted out considerable fire about nine o'clock. Quite spectacular, but no harm done. Can foresee short rations of tobacco. Lava in valley still too hot for comfort. No sign of Dr. Schermerhorn. Still sleep on beach_.

"Not much there," sniffed Trendon. "Go on," said the captain.

"_June 3. Evening. Thick and squally weather again. Local atmospheric conditions seem upset. Volcano still leading strenuous life. Climbed the headland this afternoon. Wind very shifty. Got an occasional whiff of volcanic output. One in particular would have sent a skunk to the camphor bottle. No living on the headland. Will explore cave to-morrow with a view to domicile. Have come down to an allowance of seven cigarettes per diem.

"June 4. Explored cave to-day. Full of dead seals. Not only dead, but all bitten and cut to pieces. Must have been lively doings in Seal-Town. Not much choice between air in the cave and vapours from the volcano. Barring seals, everything suitable for light housekeeping, such as mine. Undertook to clean house. Dragged late lamented out into the water. Some sank and were swept away by the sea-puss. Others, I regret to say, floated. Found trickle of fresh water in depth of cave, and little sand-ledge to sleep on. So far, so good: we may be 'appy yet. If only I had my cigarette supply. Once heard a botanist say that leaves of the white shore-willow made fair substitute for tobacco. Fair substitute for nux vomica! Would like to interview said botanist_.

"The fellow is a tobacco maniac," growled Trendon, feeling in his breast pocket. "The devil," he cried, bringing forth an empty hand.

Silently the captain handed him a cigar. "Thank you, sir," he said, lighted it, and continued reading.

"_June 5. Had a caller to-day. Climbed the headland this morning. Found volcano taking a day off. Looking for sign of _Laughing Lass_, noticed something heliographing to me from the waves beyond the reef. Seemed to be metal. I guessed a tin can. Caught in the swirl, it rounded the cape, and I came down to the shore to meet it. Halfway down the cliff I had a better view. I saw it was not a tin can. There was a dark body under it, which the waves were tossing about, and as the metal moved with the body, it glinted in the sun. Suddenly it was borne in upon me that an arm was doing the signalling, waving to me with a sprightly, even a jocular friendliness. Then I saw what it really was. It was Handy Solomon and his steel hook. He was riding quite high. Every now and again he would bow and wave. He grounded gently on the sand beach. I planted him promptly. First, however, I removed a bag of tobacco from his pocket. Poor stuff, and water soaked, but still tobacco. Spent a quiet afternoon carving a headstone for the dear departed. Pity it were that virtues so shining should be uncommemorated. Idle as the speculation is, I wonder who my next visitor will be. Thrackles, I hope. Evidently some of them have been playing the part of Pandora. Spent last night in the cave. Air quite fresh.

"June 6. Saw the glow again last night."

The surgeon paused in his reading. "That would be the night of the 5th: the night before we picked her up empty."

"Yes," agreed Captain Parkinson. "That was the night Billy Edwards--Go on."

"_Saw the glow again last night. Don't understand it. Once should have been enough for them. This matter of hoarding tobacco may be a sad error. If Old Spitfire keeps on the way she has to-day I shan't need much more. It would be a raw jest to be burned or swallowed up with a month's supply of unsmoked cigarettes on one. Cave getting shaky. Still, I think I'll stick there. As between being burned alive and buried alive, I'm for the respectable and time honoured fashion of interment. Bombardment was mostly to the east to-day, but no telling when it may shift.

"June 7. This morning I found a body rolling in the surf. It was the body of a young man, large and strongly built, dressed in the uniform of an ensign of our navy. Surely a strange visitor to these shores! There was no mark of identification upon him except a cigarette case graven with an undecipherable monogram in Tiffany's most illegible style of arrow-headed inscription. This I buried with him, and staked the grave with a headboard. An officer and a gentleman, a youth of friendly ways and kindly living, if one may judge by the face of the dead; and he comes by the same end to the same goal as Handy Solomon. Why not? And why should one philosophise in a book that will never be read? Hold on! Perhaps--just perhaps--it may be read. The officer was not long dead. Ensigns of the U. S. navy do not wander about untraversed waters alone. There must be a warship somewhere in the vicinity. But why, then, an unburied officer floating on the ocean? I will smoke upon this, luxuriously and plentifully. (Later.) No use. I can't solve it. But one thing I do. I put up a signal pole on the headland and cache this record under it this afternoon. From day to day, with the kindly permission of the volcano, I will add to it.... Bad doings by Old Spitfire. The cloud is coming down on me. Also seems to be moving along the cliff. I will retire hastily to my private estate in the cave_.

"That's all, except the scrawl on the last page," said Trendon. "Some action of the volcano scared him off. He just had time to scrawl that last message and drop the book into the cache. The question is, did he get back alive?"

"I doubt it," said the captain. "We will search the headland for his body."

"But the cave," insisted the surgeon. "We ought to have found some sign of him there."

"Slade is the solution," said the captain. "We must ask him."

They put back to the ship. Barnett was anxiously awaiting them.

"Your patient has been in a bad way, Dr. Trendon," he said.

"What's wrong?" asked Trendon, frowning.

"He came up on deck, wild-eyed and staggering. There was a sheet of paper in his hand which seemed to have some bearing on his trouble. When he found you had gone to the island without him he began to rage like a maniac. I had to have him carried down by force. In the rumpus the paper disappeared. I assumed the responsibility of giving him an opiate."

"Quite right," approved Trendon. "I'll go down. Will you come with me, sir?" he said to the captain.

They found Slade in profound slumber.

"Won't do to wake him now," growled Trendon. "Hello, what's here?"

Lying in the hollow of the sick man's right hand, where it had been crushed to a ball, was a crumpled mass of tracing paper. Trendon smoothed it out, peered at it and passed it to the captain.

"It's a sketch of an Indian arrow-head," he exclaimed in surprise, at the first glance. "What are all these marks?"

"Map of the island," barked Trendon. "Look here."

The drawing was a fairly careful one, showing such geographical points as had been of concern to the two-year inhabitants. There was the large cavern, indicated as they had found it, and at a point between it and the headland the legend, "Seal Cave."

"But it's wrong," cried Captain Parkinson, setting finger to the spot. "We passed there twice. There's no opening."

"No guarantee that there may not have been," returned the other. "This island has been considerably shaken up lately. Entrance may have been closed by a landslide down the cliff. Noticed signs myself, but didn't think of it in connection with the cave."

"That's work for Barnett, then," said the captain, brightening. "We'll blow up the whole face of the cliff, if necessary, but we'll get at that cave."

He hurried out. Order followed order, and soon the gig, with the captain, Trendon, and the torpedo expert, was driving for the point marked "Seal Cave" on the map over which they were bent.

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