Chapter XXXVI

It was Jeremy who, five minutes later, held Job's head on his knees, while the weary, bleeding sailors stood silently by with their hats off.

The bo's'n, a grizzled veteran of many sea-fights, was kneeling beside his Captain with an ear to his side. There was hope in the man's face when at length he looked up.

"He's breathin' yet," was his verdict, "breathin', but not much more. There's half a score of cuts in him, different places. Here, lads, rig a stretcher, an' let's get him back to the ship."

When the unconscious body of their big friend had been placed gently in the boat, Bob and Jeremy turned to each other with sober faces.

"It was a costly sort of victory," said Bob. "This deck's not a pretty sight, and there's nothing much we can do to help. Let's have a look at the cabin."

They went below and forced open the door of the after compartment, which had once housed the great Stede Bonnet. Instead of its old immaculate and almost scholarly appearance, the place now had an air of desolation. It reeked of filth, stale tobacco-smoke, and the spilled lees of liquor. In the clutter on the cabin table lay two bulging sacks and a small box.

"Well," said Bob, as he felt the weight of one of the bags, "here's the rest of Brig's gold!"

But Jeremy's attention was occupied. He had picked up the box from the table and was examining it curiously.

"See here, Bob," he cried, "this is the little chest I was carrying the night we ran through the woods. I dropped it when that pirate tackled me. What do you suppose is in it?"

The box was leather-covered and heavily studded with nails. Jeremy tried the small padlock and found it rusty and weak. A hard pull on the staple and it came away in his hand. He threw open the cover and the two boys stood back, gasping with astonishment.

There on the lining of soft buckskin lay twelve great emeralds, gleaming with a clear green light even in that dark place. They were perfectly matched and as large as the end of a man's thumb, each cut in a square pattern after the oldtime fashion. Such stones they were as could have come only from the coffers of an oriental king--the ransom, perhaps, of a prince of the blood, or of the favorite wife of some Maharajah, seized in one of Solomon Brig's daredevil raids.

Bob found breath at last.

"It's a fortune!" he cried. "They're worth more than all the gold together! And they're yours, Jeremy--yours by right of discovery twice over. You're rich--you and your father and Tom! Think of it! You can buy a whole fleet of big ships like the Indian Queen, and become a great merchant. You and I'll be partners when we're grown up!" Jubilant, he picked up one of the sacks of gold and made his way to the deck, followed by the half-dazed Jeremy, who carried the rest of the treasure.

The sun was close to setting when the Tiger's boat made its last trip to the pirate sloop. This time its errand was a sad one. Silently the crew passed long, limp bundles across the rail, rowed with them to the beach, and clambered up the desolate dunes with picks and shovels in their hands. There, where the wind moaned in the beach-plum thickets and the white gulls wheeled and screamed, they dug a long grave and laid the dead to rest, pirates and honest men together under the wintry sky.

The boat returned and was hoisted aboard. Just as the mainsail had been run up and the schooner was filling away for her northward beat, a single shout from the crosstrees caused every man to turn his gaze shoreward into the gathering dark. A faint glow seemed to hang in the air above the pirate sloop. A little snaky flame wriggled its way along a piece of sagging cordage, licked at the edges of a torn sail, and flared outward in a burst of red fire. A moment later, and the whole schooner was ablaze, from waterline to masthead. Jeremy, watching, fascinated, from the Tiger's rail, thought of the night when he had first seen that black hull, and of the burning brig that had lit up the sky as the pirate sloop now illumined it. Her fate was the same that she had meted out to many a good ship.

They were rapidly drawing away, now. The great glare of the burning schooner faded out as the flame devoured her fabric. The foremast toppled and fell in a shower of sparks. The mainmast followed. Only a feeble light flickered along the edges of the low-lying hulk. The faint gleam of it was visible, astern, for some time before it was swallowed by the dark sea.

The Revenge was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is the end of my story.

Of the voyage to Boston town; of how Job was nursed back to health by Phineas Whipple, the best surgeon in all the colonies; of the glorious reunion when Amos Swan and Clarke Curtis rejoined their sons; of the many pleasant things that Bob and Jeremy found to do together, after the Swans had come to live in Philadelphia--of all these things there is not space enough in this book for me to tell.

Jeremy Swan grew up to be one of the great Americans of his day: a man strong, wise and independent. And although he became rich and highly honored, he never lost the simplicity of his ways.

Sometimes when he was a hale old man of seventy, he would take his grandson, who was named Job Cantwell Swan, on his knee, and tell him stories. But the story that young Job loved best to hear and that old Jeremy loved best to tell was about a boy in deerskin breeches, and the wild days and nights he saw aboard the Black Buccaneer.