Chapter XXXIV

THE next morning we fell early to work, for the transportation of this great mass of gold near a mile by land to the beach, and thence three miles by boat to the Hispaniola, was a considerable task for so small a number of workmen. The three fellows still abroad upon the island did not greatly trouble us; a single sentry on the shoulder of the hill was sufficient to insure us against any sudden onslaught, and we thought, besides, they had had more than enough of fighting.

Therefore the work was pushed on briskly. Gray and Ben Gunn came and went with the boat, while the rest during their absences, piled treasure on the beach. Two of the bars, slung in a rope's-end, made a good load for a grown man - one that he was glad to walk slowly with. For my part, as I was not much use at carrying, I was kept busy all day in the cave, packing the minted money into bread-bags.

It was a strange collection, like Billy Bones hoard for the diversity of coinage, but so much larger and so much more varied that I think I never had more pleasure than in sorting them. English, French, Spanish, Portugese, Georges, and Louises, doubloons and double guineas and moindores and sequins, the pictures of all the kings of Europe for the last hundred years, strange Oriental pieces stamped with what looked like wisps of string or bits of spider's web, round pieces and square pieces, and pieces bored through the middle, as if to wear them round your neck - nearly every variety of money in the world must, I thin, have found a place in that collection; and for number, I am sure they were like autumn leaves, so that my back ached with stooping and my fingers with sorting them out.

Day after day this work went on; by every evening a fortune had been stowed aboard, but there was another fortune waiting for the morrow; and all this time we heard nothing of the three surviving mutineers.

At last - I think it was on the third night - the doctor and I were strolling on the shoulder of the hill where it overlooks the lowlands of the isle, when, from out the thick darkness below, the wind brought us a noise between shrieking and singing. It was only a snatch that reached our ears, followed by the former silence.

`Heaven forgive them,' said the doctor; `'tis the mutineers!'

`All drunk, sir,' struck in the voice of Silver from behind us. Silver, I should say, was allowed his entire liberty, and, in spite of daily rebuffs, seemed to regard himself once more as quite a privileged and friendly dependant. Indeed, it was remarkable how well he bore these slights, and with what unwearying politeness he kept on trying to ingratiate himself with all. Yet, I think, none treated him better than a dog; unless it was Ben Gunn, who was still terribly afraid of his old quartermaster, or myself, who had really something to thank him for; although for that matter, I suppose, I had reason to think even worse of him than anybody else, for I had seen him meditating a fresh treachery upon the plateau. Accordingly, it was pretty gruffly that the doctor answered him.

`Drunk or raving,' said he.

`Right you were, sir,' replied Silver; `and precious little odds which, to you and me.'

`I suppose you would hardly ask me to call you a humane man,' returned the doctor, with a sneer, `and so my feelings may surprise you, Master Silver. But if I were sure they were raving - as I am morally certain one, at least, of them is down with fever - I should leave this camp, and, at whatever risk to my own carcase, take them the assistance of my skill.'

`Ask your pardon, sir, you would be very wrong,' quoth Silver. `You would lose your precious life, and you may lay to that. I'm on your side now, hand and glove; and I shouldn't wish for to see the party weakened, let alone yourself, seeing as I know what I owes you. But these men down there, they couldn't keep their word - no, not supposing they wished to; and what's more, they couldn't believe as you could.'

`No,' said the doctor. `You're the man to keep your word, we know that.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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