Again I promised.
“Mind you, if you do, I’ll haunt you. I’ll curse you dying, and that’s an awful thing to happen to a man. Look over again. He mayn’t be coming—perhaps he’ll go through to the next beach, and then we’ll run for it.”
Again I peered over, but drew back as if shot; for just below me was a black head with glittering earrings, and its owner was steadily coming up the path towards us.
TELLS HOW A SONG WAS SUNG AND A KNIFE DRAWN UPON DEAD MAN’S ROCK.
There was no escape. I have said that the ascent of Dead Man’s Rock was possible, but that was upon the northern side, from which we were now utterly cut off. Hemmed in as we were between the sheer cliff and the precipice, we could only sit still and await the man’s coming. Utter fear had apparently robbed my companion of all his faculties, for he sat, a stony image of despair, looking with staring, vacant eyes at the spot where his enemy would appear; while as for me, dreading I knew not what, I clung to the rock and listened breathlessly to the sound of the footsteps as they came nearer and nearer. Presently, within about fifteen feet, as I guess, of our hiding-place, they suddenly ceased, and a full, rich voice broke out in song—
“Sing hey! for the dead
man’s eyes, my lads;
Sing ho! for the dead man’s hand;
For his glittering eyes are the salt sea’s prize,
And his fingers clutch the sand, my lads—
Sing ho! how they grip the land!
“Sing hey! for the dead
man’s lips, my lads;
Sing ho! for the dead man’s soul.
At his red, red lips the merrymaid sips
For the kiss that his sweetheart stole, my lads—
Sing ho! for the bell shall toll!”
The words were full and clear upon the morning air—so clear that their weird horror, together with the strangeness of the tune (which had a curious catch in the last line but one) and, above all, the sweetness of the voice, held me spellbound. I glanced again at my companion. He had not changed his position, but still sat motionless, save that his dry lips were again working and twitching as though they tried to follow the words of the song. Presently the footsteps again began to advance, and again the voice broke out—
“So it’s hey!
for the homeward bound, my lads,
And ho! for the drunken crew.
For his messmates round lie dead and drowned,
And the devil has got his due, my Lads—
Sing ho! but he—”
He saw us. He had turned the corner, and stood facing us; and as he faced us, I understood my companion’s horror. The new-comer wore a shirt of the same red colour as my comrade, and trousers of the same stuff, but less cut and torn with the rocks. At his side hung an empty sheath, that must once have held a short knife, and the handle of another knife glittered above his waistband. But it was his face that fascinated all my gaze. Even had I no other cause to remember it, I could never forget the lines of that wicked mouth, or the glitter in those cruel eyes as their first sharp flash of surprise faded into a mocking and evil smile.