“The Digging at Pistol Key”, a Horror Story by Carl Jacobi

Weird Tales Magazne, July 1947. Cover Art by Lee Brown Coye. Header Art for “The Digging at Pistol Key” byJohn GIunta.

The Digging at Pistol Key

Carl Jacobi

Originally published in Weird Tales, July 1947.

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Although he had lived in Trinidad for more than fifteen years, Jason Cunard might as well have remained in Devonshire, his original home, for all the local background he had absorbed. He read only British newspapers, the Times and the Daily Mail, which he received by weekly post, and he even had his tea sent him from a shop in Southampton, unmindful of the fact that he could have obtained the same brand, minus the heavy tax, at the local importer in Port-of-Spain.

Of course, Cunard got into town only once a month, and then his time was pretty well occupied with business matters concerning his sugar plantation. He had a house on a rather barren promontory midway between Port-of-Spain and San Fernando which was known as Pistol Key. But his plantation sprawled over a large tract in the center of the island.

Cunard frankly admitted there was nothing about Trinidad he liked. He thought the climate insufferable, the people—the Britishers, that is—provincial, and the rest of the population, a polyglot of races that could be grouped collectively as “natives and foreigners.” He dreamed constantly of Devonshire, though he knew of course he would never go back.

Whether it was due to this brooding or his savage temper, the fact remained that he had the greatest difficulty in keeping house-servants. Since his wife had died two years ago, he had had no less than seven; Caribs, quadroons, and Creoles of one sort or another. His latest, a lean, gangly black boy, went by the name of Christopher, and was undoubtedly the worst of the lot.

As Cunard entered the house now, he was in a distinctly bad frame of mind. Coming down the coast highway, he had had the misfortune to have a flat tire and had damaged his clothes considerably in changing it. He rang the antiquated bell-pull savagely.

Presently Christopher shambled through the connecting doorway.

“Put the car in the garage,” Cunard said tersely. “And after dinner repair the spare tire. Some fool left a broken bottle on the road.”

The Negro remained standing where he was, and Cunard saw then that he was trembling with fear.

“Well, what the devil’s the matter?”

Christopher ran his tongue over his upper lip. “Can’t go out dere, sar,” he said.

“Can’t…why not?”

“De holes in de yard. Der dere again.” For the first time in more than an hour Cunard permitted himself to smile. While he was totally without sympathy for the superstitions of these blacks, he found the intermittent reoccurrence of these holes in his property amusing. For he knew quite well that superstition had nothing to do with them.

It all went back to that most diabolical of buccaneers, Francis L’Ollonais and his voyage to the Gulf of Venezuela in the middle of the seventeenth century. After sacking Maracaibo, L’Ollonais sailed with his murderous crew for Tortuga. He ran into heavy storms and was forced to put back in here at Trinidad.

Three or four years ago some idiot by the idiotic name of Arlanpeel had written and published, a pamphlet entitled Fifty Thousand-Pieces of Eight in which he sought to prove by various references that L’Ollonais had buried a portion of his pirate booty on Pistol Key. The pamphlet had sold out its small edition, and Cunard was aware that copies had now become a collector’s item. As a result, Pistol Key had come into considerable fame. Tourists stopping off at Port-of-Spain frequently telephoned Cunard, asking permission to visit his property, a request which of course he always refused.

And the holes! From time to time during the night Cunard would be awakened by the sound of a spade grating against gravel, and looking out his bedroom window, he would see a carefully shielded lantern down among the cabbage palms. In the morning there would be a shallow excavation-several feet across with the dirt heaped hastily on all four sides.

The thought of persons less fortunate than himself-making clandestine efforts to capture a mythical fortune dating to the seventeenth century touched Cunard’s sense of humor.

“You heard me, Christopher,” he snapped to the houseboy, “put the car in the garage.”

But the black remained cowering by the door until Cunard, his patience exhausted, dealt him a sharp slap across the face with the flat of his hand. The boy’s eyes kindled, and he went out silently.

Cunard went up to his bathroom and washed the road grime from his hands. Then he proceeded to dress for his solitary dinner, a custom which he never neglected. Downstairs, he got to thinking again about those holes in his yard and decided to have a look at them. He took a flashlight and went out the rear entrance and under the cabbage palms. Fireflies flashed in the darkness and a belated Qu’-est-ce-qu’il-dit bird asked its eternal question.

Forty yards from the house he came upon the diggings Christopher had reported. That they were the work of some ambitious fortune hunter was made doubly apparent by the discarded tape-measure and the cheap compass which lay beside the newly turned earth.

Again Cunard smiled. It would be “forty paces from this point to the north end of a shadow cast by a man fifteen hands high,” or some such fiddle-faddle. Even if L’Ollonais had ever buried money here—and there was no direct evidence that he had—it had probably been carted away long years ago.

He saw Christopher returning from the garage then. The houseboy was walking swiftly, mumbling a low litany to himself. In his right hand he held a small cross fashioned of two bent twigs.

Back in the house, Cunard told himself irritably that Christopher was a fool. After all, he had seen his mother come into plenty of trouble because of her insistence on practicing obeah. She had professed to be an obeah-woman and was forever speaking incantations over broken eggshells, bones, tufts, of hair and other disagreeable objects. Employed as a laundress by Cunard, he had discovered her one day dropping a white powder into his tea cup, and, unmindful of her plea that it was merely a good-health charm designed to cure his recurrent spells of malaria, he had turned her over to the Constabulary. He had pressed charges too, testifying that the woman had attempted to poison him. Largely because of his influence, she had been convicted and sent to the Convict Depot at Tobago. Christopher had stayed on because he had no other place to go.

The meal over, Cunard went into the library with the intention of reading for several hours. Although the Times and the Daily Mail reached him in bundles of six copies a fortnight or so after they were published, he made it a practice to read only Monday’s copy on Monday and so on through the week, thus preserving the impression that he was still in England.

But this night as he strode across to his favorite chair, he drew up short with a gasp. The complete week’s bundle of newspapers had been torn open and their contents scattered about in a wild disorganized pile. To add to this sacrilege, one of the sheets had a ragged hole in it where an entire column had been torn out. For an instant Cunard was speechless. Then he wheeled on Christopher.

“Come here, you black devil,” he roared. “Did you do this?”

The houseboy looked puzzled.

“No, sar,” he said.

“Don’t lie to me. How dare you open my papers?”

But Christopher insisted he knew nothing of the matter. He had placed the papers on their arrival in the library and had not touched them, since.

Cunard’s rage was mounting steadily. A mistake he might have excused, but an out-and-out lie…

“Come with me,” he said in a cold voice.

Deliberately he led the way into the kitchen, looked about him carefully. Nothing there. He went back across the little corridor of the houseboy’s small room under the stairway. While Christopher stood protesting in the doorway, Cunard marched across to the table and silently picked up a torn section of a newspaper.

“So you did lie!” he snarled.

The sight of the houseboy with his perpetual grin there in the doorway was too much for the planter. His rage beyond control, he seized the first object within reach—a heavy length of wood resting on a little bracket mounted on the wall—and threw it with all his strength.

The missile struck Christopher squarely on the temple. He uttered no cry, but remained motionless a moment, the grin frozen on his face. Then his legs buckled and he slumped slowly to the floor.

Cunard’s fists clenched. “That’ll teach you to respect other people’s property,” he said. His anger, swift to come, was receding as quickly, and noting that the houseboy lay utterly still, he stepped forward and stirred him with his foot.
Christopher’s head rolled horribly.

Quickly Cunard stooped and felt for a pulse. None was discernible. With trembling fingers he drew out a pocket mirror and placed it by the boy’s lips. For a long, moment he held it there, but there was no resultant cloud of moisture. Christopher was dead!

Cunard staggered across to a chair and sat down. Christopher’s death was one thing and one thing only—murder! The fact that he was a man of color and Cunard an influential planter would mean nothing in a Crown court of law. He could see the be-wigged magistrate now; he could hear the evidence of island witnesses, testifying as to his uncontrollable temper, his savage treatment of servants.

Even if there were not actual danger of incarceration—and he knew there was—it would mean the loss of his social position and prestige.

And then Cunard happened to think of the holes in his yard. A new one—a grave for the dead houseboy—would never be noticed, and he could always improvise some sort of story that the boy had run off. As far as Cunard knew, other than the old crone who was his mother, Christopher had no other kin, having come originally from Jamaica.

The planter was quite calm now. He went to his room, changed to a suit of old clothes and a pair of rubber-soled shoes. Then, returning to the little room under the stairs, he rolled the body of the houseboy into a piece of sailcloth and carried it out into the yard.

He chose a spot near the far corner of his property where a clump of bamboo grew wild and would effectually shield him from any prying eyes. But there were no prying eyes, and half an hour later Cunard returned to the house: There he carefully cleaned the clinging loam from the garden spade, washed his shoes and brushed his trousers.

It was when he went again to the room under the stairs to gather together Christopher’s few possessions that he saw the piece of wood that had served as the death missile. Cunard picked it up and frowned. The thing was an obeah fetish apparently, an ugly little carving with a crude likeness of an animal head and a squat human body. The lower half of the image ended in a flat panel, the surface of which was covered with wavy lines, so that the prostrate figure looked as if it were partially immersed in water. Out of that carved water two arms extended upward, as in supplication, and they were arms that were strangely reminiscent for Cunard. Christopher’s mother had had arms like that, smooth and strangely youthful for a person of her age. There was even a chip of white coral on one of the fingers like the coral-ring the old woman always wore.

Cunard threw the thing onto the pile of other objects he had gathered: spare clothes, several bright colored scarves, a sack of cheap tobacco, made a bundle of them and burned them in the old-fashioned cook stove with which the kitchen was equipped.

The last object to go into the fire was the newspaper clipping, and the planter saw then with a kind of grim horror that Christopher had not lied at all, that the top of the paper in fact bore a date-line several months old and was one of a lot he had given to the houseboy “to look at de pictures.”

* * * *

For several days after that Cunard did not leave his house. He felt nervous and ill-at-ease, and he caught himself looking out the window toward the bamboo thicket on more than one occasion. Curiously too, there was an odd murmuring in his ears like the sound of distant water flowing.

On the third day, however, he was sufficiently himself, to make a trip to town. He drove the car at a fast clip to Port-of-Spain, parked on Marine Square and went about his business. He was walking down Frederick Street half an hour later when he suddenly became aware that an aged Negro woman with head tied in a red kerchief was following him.

Cunard didn’t have a direct view of her until just as he turned a corner, and then only a glance, but his heart stopped dead still for an instant. Surely that black woman was Christopher’s mother whom he had sent to prison? True, her face was almost hidden by the folds of the loosely-draped kerchief, but he had seen her hand, and there was the coral ring on it. Wild thoughts rushed to Cunard’s head. Had the woman been released then? Had she missed her son, and did she suspect what had happened?

Cunard drew up in a doorway, but the old crone did not pass him, and when he looked back down the street, she was nowhere in sight.

Nevertheless the incident unnerved him. When, later in the day, he met Inspector Bainley of the Constabulary, he seized the opportunity to ask several questions that would ease his mind.

“Where have you been keeping, yourself?” Bainley asked. “I haven’t seen much of you lately.”

Cunard lit a cigar with what he hoped was a certain amount of casualness.

“I’ve been pretty busy,” he replied. “My houseboy skipped, you know. The blighter packed off without warning.”

“So?” said Bainley. “I thought Christopher was a pretty steady chap.”

“In a way,” said Cunard. “And in a way he wasn’t.” And then: “By the way, do you remember his mother? I was wondering whether she had been released. I thought I saw her a moment ago on the street.”

The Inspector smiled a thin smile. “Then you were seeing things,” he said. “She committed suicide over at the Convict Depot at Tobago two months ago.”
Cunard stared.

“At least we called it suicide,” Inspector Bainley went on. “She took some sort of an obeah potion when she found we weren’t going to let her go, and simply lay back and died. It was rather odd that the medico couldn’t find any trace of poison though.”

Cunard was rather vague about the rest of the day’s events. He recalled making some trifling purchases, but his mind was wandering, and twice he had to be reminded to pick up his change. At four o’clock he abruptly found himself thinking of his old friend, Hugh Donay, and the fact that Donay had employed Christopher’s mother a year or so before she had entered Cunard’s services. Donay had a villa just outside of town, and it would take only a few moments to see him. Of course there was no reason to see him. If Bainley said the old woman had committed suicide, that settled it. Yet Cunard told himself the Inspector might have been mistaken or perhaps joking. He himself was a strong believer in the powers of observation, and it bothered him to have doubts cast upon them.

The planter drove through the St. Clair district and turned into a driveway before a sprawling house with a roof of red tile. Donay, a thin waspish man, was lounging in a hammock and greeted Cunard effusively.

“Tried to get you by phone the other day,” he said, “but you weren’t at home. Had something to tell you. About that L’Ollonais treasure that’s supposed to be buried on your property.”

Cunard frowned. “Have you started believing that too?”

“This was an article in the Daily Mail, and it had some new angles that were rather interesting. I get my paper here in town before you do out there on Pistol Key, you know.”

Cunard attempted to swing the conversation into other channels, but Donay was persistent.

“Funny thing about that article,” he said. “I read it the same day the burglar was here.”

“Burglar?” Cunard lifted his eyes.

“Well,” Donay said, “Jim Barrett was over here, and I showed him the paper. Barrett said it was the first description he had read that sounded logical and that the directions given for locating the treasure were very clear and concise. Just at that moment there was a sound in the corridor, and Barrett leaped up and made a dash for the kitchen.

“I might tell you that for several days I thought prowlers were about. The lock on the cellar door was found broken, and several times I’d heard footsteps in the laundry-room. Several things were out of place in the laundry-room too, though what anyone would want there is more than I can see.

“Anyway, Barrett shouted that someone was in the house. We followed the sounds down into the cellar, and just as we entered the door into the laundry-room, there was a crash and the sound of glass breaking.”

Donay smiled sheepishly as if to excuse all these details.

“It was only a bottle of bluing,” he went on, “but what I can’t figure out is how the prowler got in and out of that room without our seeing anyone pass. There’s only one door, you know, and the windows are all high up.”

“Was anything stolen?” Cunard asked.

“Nothing that I’m aware of. That bluing though was running across the floor toward a hamper of clean linen, and without thinking I used the first thing handy to wipe it up. It happened to be the newspaper with that treasure article in it. So I’m afraid…

“It doesn’t matter. I can read it in my copy,” Cunard said. But even as he spoke, a vision of his own torn paper flashed to him.

“That isn’t quite all,” Donay said. “The next day I found every blessed wastebasket in the house turned upside down and their contents scattered about. Queer, isn’t it?”

The conversation changed after that, and they talked of idle things. But just before he left Cunard said casually: “By the way, my houseboy Christopher’s run off. Didn’t his mother work for you as a laundress or something?”

“That’s right,” Donay said, “I turned her over to you when I took a trip up to the States. Don’t you remember?”

* * * *

Cunard drove through town again, heading for the highway to Pistol Key. He had just turned off Marine Square when he suddenly slammed down hard on the brakes. The woman darted from the curb directly into his path, and with the lowering sun in his eyes, he did not see her until it was too late. Cunard got out of the car, shaking like a leaf, fully expecting to find a crumpled body on the bumper.

But there was no one there, and a group of Portuguese street laborers eyed him curiously as he peered around and under the car. He was almost overcome with relief, but at the same time he was disturbed. For in that flash he had seen of the woman against the sun, he was almost sure he had seen the youthful dark-skinned arms of Christopher’s mother.

Back at Pistol Key Cunard spent an uneasy night. The sensation of distant running water was stronger in his ears now. “Too much quinine,” he told himself. “I’ll have to cut down on the stuff.”

He lay awake for some time, thinking of the day’s events. But as he went over the major details in retrospection, he found himself supplying the missing minor details and so fell into a haze of peaceful drowsiness.

At two o’clock by the radium clock on the chiffonier, he awoke abruptly. The house was utterly still, but through the open window came an intermittent metallic sound. It died away, returned after an interval of several minutes. Cunard got out of bed, put on his brocaded dressing robe and strode to the window. A full moon illumined the grounds save where the palmistes cast their darker shadow, and there was no living person in evidence.

Below him and slightly to the left there was a freshly dug hole. But it was not that that caused Cunard to pass his hands before his eyes as if he had been dreaming. It was the sight of a spade alternately disappearing in the hole and reappearing to pile the loosened soil on the growing mound. A spade that moved slowly, controlled by aged yet youthful-appearing arms and hands—but arms unattached to any human body!

In the morning Cunard called the Port-of-Spain Journal, instructing them to run an advertisement for a houseboy, a task which he had neglected the day before. Then he went out to his post box to get the mail.

The morning mist had not yet cleared. It hung over the hibiscus hedges like an endless line of white shrouds. As he reached the end of the lane, Cunard thought he saw a figure turn from the post box and move quickly toward a grove of ceiba trees. He thought nothing of it at first, for those trees flanked the main road which was traveled by residents of the little native settlement at the far end of Pistol Key. But then he realized that the figure had moved away from the road, in a direction leading obliquely toward his own house.

Still the matter did not concern him particularly until he opened the post box. There was a single letter there, and it had not come by regular mail; the dirty brown envelope bore neither stamp nor cancellation mark. Inside was a torn piece of newspaper, Cunard realized at once that it was the missing piece from his Daily Mail. But who besides Christopher could have had access to the house and who would steal a newspaper column and return it in the post box?

The first part was a commonplace enough account of the opening of new auction parlors in Southwick Street, London, and a description of some of the more unusual articles that had been placed for sale there. Cunard, reading swiftly, found his eye attracted to the following:

Among the afternoon offerings was the library of the late Sir Adrian Fell of Queen Anne’s Court, which included an authentic first edition of McNair’s Bottle of Heliotrope and a rare quarto volume of Lucri Causa. There was also a curious volume which purported to be the diary of the Caribbean buccaneer, Francis L’Ollonais, written while under the protection of the French West India Company at Tortuga.

This correspondent had opportunity to examine the latter book and found some interesting passages. According to the executors of the estate, it had been obtained by Sir Adrian on his trip to Kingston in 1904, and so far as is known, is the only copy in existence.

Under the heading, “The Maracaibo voyage,” L’Ollonais describes his destruction of that town, of his escape with an enormous booty, and of the storms which beset him on his return trip to Tortuga. It is here that the diary ceases to be a chronological datebook and becomes instead a romantic narrative.

L’Ollonais, driven southward, managed to land on Trinidad, on a promontory known as Pistol Key. There “By a greate pile of stone whiche looked fair like two horses running,” he buried the equivalent of fifty thousand pieces of eight. His directions for locating the treasure are worth quoting:

“Sixty paces from the south forward angle of the horse rock to the crossing of a line west by south west by the compass from a black painted stone shaped like a broken needle near the shore. At this point if a man will stand in the light of a full moon at the eleventh hour, the shadow of his head will fall upon the place.”

How many persons, he wondered, had seen that newspaper story. There was Hugh Donay and Jim Barrett, of course, but they didn’t count. Few others here subscribed to the Daily Mail. Of those that did, the odds were against any of them wading through such a dull account. The fact remained, however, that someone had read it in his own copy and had been sufficiently interested to tear it from the sheet. Who was that person? And why had they seen fit to return it by way of his post box?

The landmarks he knew only too well. He had often remarked that that stone near the end of his property resembled two galloping horses. And the black stone “like a broken needle” was still there, a rod or two from the shore.

Suddenly fear struck Cunard—fear that he might already be too late. He leaped from his chair and ran out into the grounds.

There were four holes and the beginning, of a fifth in evidence. But, moving from one to another, the planter saw with relief that all were shallow and showed no traces of any object having been taken from them.

Cunard hastened back to the house where he procured a small but accurate compass and a ball of twine. Then he went into the tool-house and brought out a pair of oars for the dory that was moored at the water’s edge on a little spit of sand.

An hour later his work was finished. He had rowed the dory out to the needle point of rock and fastened one end of the twine to it. The other end he stretched across to the horse rock in the corner of his property. Then he counted off the required sixty paces and planted a stick in the ground to mark the spot. After that there was nothing he could do until night. He hoped there would be no clouds to obstruct the moon.

During the war Cunard had made a superficial study of electricity and wireless as part of what he considered his patriotic duties, and he now proceeded to wire a crude but efficient alarm system around the general area where he conceived the treasure to be.

Back in the house, he settled himself to wait until the moon-rise. In the quiet of inactivity he was conscious again of that sound of distant water flowing. He made a round of all taps in the house, but none was leaking.

During his solitary dinner he caught himself glancing out the window into the ground’s, and once he thought he saw a shadow move across the lawn and into the trees. But it must have been a passing cloud, for he didn’t see it again.

At two p.m. a knock sounded on the door. Cunard was surprised and somewhat disconcerted to see Inspector Bainley standing on the veranda.

“Just passing by,” Bainley said, smiling genially. “Had a sudden call from the native village out on the Key. Seems a black boy got into some trouble out there. Thought it might be your Christopher.”

“But that’s imposs—” Cunard checked himself. “I hardly think it likely,” he amended.

“Christopher would probably go as far as he could, once he started.”

They drank rum. The Inspector seemed in no hurry to leave, and Cunard was torn between two desires, not to be alone and to be free from Bainley’s gimlet eyes which always seemed to be moving about restlessly.

Finally he did go, however. The throb of his car was just dying off down the road when Cunard heard a new sound which electrified him to attention. The alarm bell!

Yet there was no one in the grounds. The wires were undisturbed, and the makeshift switch he had fashioned was still open. The bell was silent when he reached it.

With the moon high over his shoulder Cunard wielded his spade rapidly. The spot where the shadow of his head fell was disagreeably close to the bamboo thicket where he had buried Christopher, but as a matter of fact, he wasn’t quite sure where that grave was, so cleverly had he hidden all traces of his work.

The hole had now been dug to a depth or four feet, but there was no indication anything had been buried there. Cunard toiled strenuously another half hour. And then quite suddenly his spade struck something hard and metallic. A wave of excitement swept over him. He switched on his flashlight and turned it in the hole. Yes, there it was, the rusted top of a large iron chest—the treasure of L’Ollonais.

He resumed digging, but as he dug he became aware that the sand, at first dry and hard, had grown moist and soggy. The spade became increasingly heavy with each scoop, and presently water was running off it, glistening in the moonlight. Water began to fill the bottom of the hole too, making it difficult for Cunard to work.

But it was not until ten minutes later he saw something protruding from the water. In the moonlight two slender dark objects were reaching outward, a pair of Negro feminine arms gently weaving to and fro.

Cunard stiffened while a wave of horror swept over him. They were dark-skinned arms of an aged Negress, yet somehow they were smooth and youthful. The middle finger of the left hand bore a ring of white coral. Cunard screamed and lunged backward. Too late, one of those grasping hands encircled his ankle and jerked him forward. And as he fell across the hole, those hands wrapped themselves about his throat and drew his head slowly but deliberately downward…

* * * *

“Yes, it’s a queer case,” Bainley said, tamping tobacco into his pipe. “But then, of course, no more queer than a lot of things that happen here in the islands.”

“You say this fellow, Cunard, murdered his houseboy, Christopher?” the Warrant Officer said.

Bainley nodded, “I knew his savage temper would get the better of him some day. He buried the body in the yard and apparently rigged up that alarm arrangement to warn him of any trespassers. Then he contrived that story which he told me, that Christopher had run off.

“Of course we know now that Cunard was trying to find that buried treasure by following the directions given in that newspaper clipping. But that doesn’t explain why he disregarded those directions and attempted to dig open the houseboy’s grave again.

The hole had now been dug to a depth or four feet, but there was no indication anything had been buried there. Cunard toiled strenuously another half hour. And then quite suddenly his spade struck something hard and metallic. A wave of excitement swept over him. He switched on his flashlight and turned it in the hole. Yes, there it was, the rusted top of a large iron chest—the treasure of L’Ollonais.

He resumed digging, but as he dug he became aware that the sand, at first dry and hard, had grown moist and soggy. The spade became increasingly heavy with each scoop, and presently water was running off it, glistening in the moonlight. Water began to fill the bottom of the hole too, making it difficult for Cunard to work.

But it was not until ten minutes later he saw something protruding from the water. In the moonlight two slender dark objects were reaching outward, a pair of Negro feminine arms gently weaving to and fro.

Cunard stiffened while a wave of horror swept over him. They were dark-skinned arms of an aged Negress, yet somehow they were smooth and youthful. The middle finger of the left hand bore a ring of white coral. Cunard screamed and lunged backward. Too late, one of those grasping hands encircled his ankle and jerked him forward. And as he fell across the hole, those hands wrapped themselves about his throat and drew his head slowly but deliberately downward…

* * * *

“Yes, it’s a queer case,” Bainley said, tamping tobacco into his pipe. “But then, of course, no more queer than a lot of things that happen here in the islands.”

“You say this fellow, Cunard, murdered his houseboy, Christopher?” the Warrant Officer said.

Bainley nodded, “I knew his savage temper would get the better of him some day. He buried the body in the yard and apparently rigged up that alarm arrangement to warn him of any trespassers. Then he contrived that story which he told me, that Christopher had run off.

“Of course we know now that Cunard was trying to find that buried treasure by following the directions given in that newspaper clipping. But that doesn’t explain why he disregarded those directions and attempted to dig open the houseboy’s grave again. The hole had now been dug to a depth or four feet, but there was no indication anything had been buried there. Cunard toiled strenuously another half hour. And then quite suddenly his spade struck something hard and metallic. A wave of excitement swept over him. He switched on his flashlight and turned it in the hole. Yes, there it was, the rusted top of a large iron chest—the treasure of L’Ollonais.

He resumed digging, but as he dug he became aware that the sand, at first dry and hard, had grown moist and soggy. The spade became increasingly heavy with each scoop, and presently water was running off it, glistening in the moonlight. Water began to fill the bottom of the hole too, making it difficult for Cunard to work.

But it was not until ten minutes later he saw something protruding from the water. In the moonlight two slender dark objects were reaching outward, a pair of Negro feminine arms gently weaving to and fro.

Cunard stiffened while a wave of horror swept over him. They were dark-skinned arms of an aged Negress, yet somehow they were smooth and youthful. The middle finger of the left hand bore a ring of white coral. Cunard screamed and lunged backward. Too late, one of those grasping hands encircled his ankle and jerked him forward. And as he fell across the hole, those hands wrapped themselves about his throat and drew his head slowly but deliberately downward…

* * * *

“Yes, it’s a queer case,” Bainley said, tamping tobacco into his pipe. “But then, of course, no more queer than a lot of things that happen here in the islands.”

“You say this fellow, Cunard, murdered his houseboy, Christopher?” the Warrant Officer said.

Bainley nodded, “I knew his savage temper would get the better of him some day. He buried the body in the yard and apparently rigged up that alarm arrangement to warn him of any trespassers. Then he contrived that story which he told me, that Christopher had run off.

“Of course we know now that Cunard was trying to find that buried treasure by following the directions given in that newspaper clipping. But that doesn’t explain why he disregarded those directions and attempted to dig open the houseboy’s grave again. Or why, before he had finished, he thrust his head into the shallow hole and lay in the pool of seepage water until he drowned.

-End-

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