“Nothing remained but to search for his body. I was sure they had killed him and taken the chest. I had little expectation of finding him, dead or alive. None after I saw the stream of lava pouring into the sea. One saves his own life by instinct, I suppose. There I was. I had to live. It did not matter much, but I continued to do it by various shifts. That last day on the headland the fumes nearly got me. You may have noted the rather excited scrawl in the back of the ledger? Yes, I thought I was gone that time. But I got to the cave. It was low tide. Then the earthquake, and I was walled in.... Mr. Barnett’s very accurate explosives—Slade’s insistence—your risking your lives as you did, mites on the crust of a red-hot cheese—I hope you know how I feel about it all. One can’t thank a man properly for the life....
“Oh, the pirates. Necessarily it must be a matter of theory, but I think we have it right. Slade and I built it up. For what it’s worth, here it is. Let me see: you sighted the glow on the night of the 2d. Next day came the deserted ship. It must have puzzled you outrageously.”
“It did,” said Captain Parkinson, drily.
“Not an easy problem, even with all the data at hand. You, of course, had none. On Slade’s showing, Handy Solomon and his worthy associates thought they had a chest full of riches when they got the doctor’s treasure; believed they owned the machinery for making diamonds or gold or what-not of ready-to-hand wealth. It’s fair to assume a certain eagerness on their part. Disturbed weather keeps them busy until they’re well out from the island. Then to the chest. Opening it isn’t so easy: I had the key, you know.” He brought a curious and delicately wrought skeleton from his pocket. “Tipped with platinum,” he observed. “Rather a gem of a key, I think. You see, there must have been some action, even through the keyhole, or he wouldn’t have used a metal of this kind. But the crew was rich in certain qualities, it seems, which I failed, stupidly, to recognise in my acquaintance with them. Both Pulz and Perdosa appear to have been handy men where locks were concerned. First Pulz sneaks down and has his turn at the chest. He gets it open. Small profit for him in that: the next we know of him he is scandalising Handy Solomon by having a fit on the deck.”
“That is what I couldn’t figure out to save my life,” said Slade eagerly.
“If you recollect, I told you of the Professor’s plunge in the cold spring, in a sort of paroxysm, one day,” said Darrow. “That was the physiological action of the celestium. At other times, I have seen him come out and deliberately roll in the creek, head under. Once he explained that the medium he worked in caused a kind of uncontrollable longing for water; something having none of the qualities of burning or thirst, but an irresistible temporary