FROM DEAD HANDS
At the head of the file, Captain Tony advanced through the clearing, and what with his flowing black beard, his portly form, and a certain dramatic swagger which he possessed, he looked so entirely Italian and operatic that you expected to hear him at any moment burst out in a sonorous basso. With a sweeping gesture he flung down upon the table two brown canvas bags, which opened and discharged from gaping mouths a flood of golden coins.
His histrionic instinct equal to the high demands of the moment, Captain Tony stood with folded arms and gazed upon us with a haughty and exultant smile.
Slinker and the cross-eyed man shouted aloud. They ran and clutched at the coins with a savage greed.
“Gold, gold—the real stuff! It’s the doubloons all right—where’s the rest of ’em?” These cries broke from Slinker and Horny confusedly as the gold slid jingling between their eager fingers.
“The rest of ’em is—where they is,” pronounced Tony oracularly. “Somewheres in the sand of the cave, of course. We’ll dig ’em up to-morrow morning.
“What was the point in not digging ’em all up while you was about it?” demanded Slinker, lowering. “What was the good o’ digging up jest these here couple o’ bag’s and quitting?”
“Because we didn’t dig ’em up,” responded Tony darkly. “Because these was all ready and waiting. Because all we had to do was to say ‘Thankee,’ to the feller that handed ’em out.”
“I say,” interposed one of the party nervously, “what’s the good of that kind of talk? They ain’t any sense in hunting trouble, that ever I heard of!” He glanced over his shoulder uneasily.
The rest burst out in a guffaw.
“Chris is scared. He’s been a-going along looking behind him ever since. Chris will have bad dreams to-night—he’ll yell if a owl hoots.” But I thought there was a false note in the laughter of more than one.
“Oh, of course,” remarked Slinker with indignant irony, “me and Horny ain’t interested in this at all. We jest stayed bumming round camp here ’cause we was tired. When you’re through with this sort of bunk and feel like getting down to business, why jest mention it, and maybe if we ain’t got nothing better to do we’ll listen to you.”
“I was jest telling you, wasn’t I?” demanded Tony. “Only that fool Chris had to butt in. We got these here bags of doubloons, as I says, without havin’ to dig for ’em—oncet we had found the cave, which it’s no thanks to old Washtubs we ain’t looking for it yet. We got these here bags right out of the fists of a skeleton. Most of him was under a rock, which had fell from the roof and pinned him down amidships. Must of squashed him like a beetle, I guess. But he’d still kep’ his hold on the bags.” I turned aside, for fear that any one should see how white I was. Much too white to be accounted