I penetrated finally into a small locker or cubby-hole, set in the angle under the roof of the cabin, and, as subsequent investigation showed, so placed as to attract no notice from the casual eye. I ascertained this by lying down and wriggling my head and shoulders into the cabin. In other words, I had happened on a little private depository, in which the owner of the sloop might stow away certain small matters that concerned him intimately. Yet the contents of the locker at first seemed trifling. They were an old-fashioned chased silver shoe-buckle, and a brown-covered manuscript book.
The book had suffered much from dampness, whether of rains or the wash of the sea. The imitation leather cover was flaking off, and the leaves were stuck together. I seated myself on the cabin roof, extracted a hairpin, and began carefully separating the close-written pages. The first three or four were quite illegible, the ink having run. Then the writing became clearer. I made out a word here and there:
. . . . directions vague . . . . my grandfather . . . . man a ruffian but . . . . no motive . . . . police of Havana . . . . frightful den . . . . grandfather made sure . . . . registry . . . . Bonny Lass . . . .
And at that I gave a small excited shriek which brought Crusoe to me in a hurry. What had he to do, the writer of this journal, what had he to do with the Bonny Lass?
Breathlessly I read on:
. . . . thought captain still living but
sure . . . . lost . . . . Benito Bon . . . .
I closed the book. Now, while the coast was clear, I must get back to camp. It would take hours, perhaps days, to decipher the journal which had suddenly become of such supreme importance. I must smuggle it unobserved into my own quarters, where I could read at my leisure. As I set out I dropped the silver shoe-buckle into my pocket, smiling to think that it was I who had discovered the first bit of precious metal on the island. Yet the book in my hand, I felt instinctively, was of more value than many shoe-buckles.
Safely in my hammock, with a pillow under which I could slip the book in case of interruption, I resumed the reading. From this point on, although the writing was somewhat faded, it was all, with a little effort, legible.
If Sampson did live to tell his secret, then any day there may be a sail in the offing. And still I can not find it! Oh, if my grandfather had been more worldly wise! If he hadn’t been too intent on the eternal welfare of the man he rescued from the Havana tavern brawl to question him about his story. A cave on Leeward Island—near by a stone marked with the letters B. H. and a cross-bones—I told the captain, said the poor dying wretch, we wouldn’t have no luck after playing it that low down on Bill! So I presume Bill lies under the stone.