Maturin returned to the main deck a great deal happier than he had been when he had left it, and remained so throughout the long weeks that followed his speech with Duvall. For he was now armed with the knowledge which would allow him to survive the forbidden sands and claim half the treasure, sharing it with Duvall. He was now just as eager as McNeal to reach the isle of Richontor as fast as the ship could carry them. Oh, that fool, McNeal! Making enemies at every turn, as he had, it was a wonder that he remained alive! But attacking and holding Duvall as a prisoner, and holding Maturin himself as a ‘guest’ on board his ship were the greatest mistakes McNeal ever made.
One day nearly three months after Duvall had revealed the secret to him, Maturin was leaning against the starboard rail, stretching his legs on the nearest cannon, his hands behind his head, when the cry that he and McNeal had been awaiting eagerly for the past week came down from the maintop. “Land ho! Two points off the port bow!”
Ah, yes. Land. Exactly where Duvall’s mark placed the isle of Richontor. Richontor. The treasure isle, which was death to any who did not hold the key. But as it happened, whatever McNeal might think, it was Maturin who now held the key to surviving the island. Yes, McNeal held the key, or had, for some time already, but to Maturin’s knowledge, had only shot it and never tried to use it for his own gain. Instead, Maturin had found Duvall and gotten the key to the island. For this reason he found it hard to restrain himself from leaping up in excitement at imminent landfall on the approaching isle.
At the same moment, McNeal was sitting at his desk in his cabin, plotting how he would foil the plans of his foes, Maturin and Duvall. Oh, yes… he knew. He had spies everywhere on board the ship. A man could not say one word against him before he knew exactly what was being said below the deck. He chuckled at the thought that Maturin and Duvall still believed their plan to be between them two alone. McNeal knew exactly what the plan was, and had his own reasons for keeping them alive. He had his own reasons for being Captain William McNeal, most wanted man on the high seas.
Calling his first mate into the cabin, he said “Maturin is planning to break Duvall out of his cell tonight, as soon as we drop anchor, is he not?”
“He is, Captain.”
“Very well then. He shall do so.”
“He will, sir? Are we not to stop him?”
“No. If I wanted you to stop him, I would have said so. My plan requires that my prisoners remain unaware that I know their plan.”
“Their plan? To do what?”
“Could you be any duller?! Their plan to kill me and take all the treasure! Get out!” McNeal shouted this last statement loudly enough that it could be heard on the maintop, where Maturin was now positioned in an attempt to spot the landmarks Duvall had told him of. “Excellent” he thought “As soon as that fool leaves, McNeal will remember that he just revealed his secret loudly enough for the whole ship to hear, and it will drive him mad. He will also know that if I was yet unaware that he knew of the plan, I would surely know now. Therefore, he will decide that I will not jump ship with Duvall tonight after all. As that is the case, I will do so anyway simply because he is no longer expecting me to.”
Following McNeal’s outburst, nothing of any consequence occurred until after dark had fallen, when the Centaur was safely moored off the coast of the fabled treasure isle of Richontor. It was then, about an hour after sundown, that Maturin decided that he had no business waiting any longer when a half share of an enormous hoard of treasure was waiting for him on the land not one hundred yards away. Therefore, he rose from his bunk, and with his unsheathed knife in his hand, stepped silently through the length of the ship until he reached Duvall’s cell. When he had reached the door, he put out his empty hand and ran it along the surface of the door until he found the keyhole. Using his left arm as a guide, he moved the blade in his other hand forward slowly until he reached the end of his arm. Sticking the knife in the hole, he gave it a swift jerk, unlocking the cell in an instant. Once inside, he whispered “I’ve come. It’s time we made our landfall.”
A dim figure limped out of the shadows toward him. “If this is our time, then this is when we make our escape and begin our revenge upon that fool McNeal. Well? What are you waiting for? Someone to find you in here?”
Without answering, Maturin strode out the door ahead of Duvall, climbed the nearest hatchway ladder, and stopped on deck to wait for him. Looking around, Maturin saw that no crewmen were within fifty feet of the opening; they could make a clean run to the side.
As soon as Duvall had emerged from the hatch, the two started the next part of their journey, which was to cross the deck to the rail without exciting the notice of the night watch. They had to move slowly, because Duvall’s long inactivity rendered his legs nearly useless in the first moments of motion. But with Maturin supporting him, Duvall reached the rail after twenty minutes of strenuous effort. Just before he leaped overboard, Maturin inquired of his companion “Can you swim?” When he saw Duvall give the negative response, Maturin replied “I will carry you, as long as you come after me.” With that, he leapt over the side into the clear water below.
Duvall mastered himself well enough to follow Maturin only an instant later. As soon as Duvall had hit the water, Maturin pulled him onto his own back and struck out for the shore. Nearly half an hour later, the two men washed up on that shore, the one exhausted by his fear of drowning, and the other exhausted twice as much by the effort of staying afloat with the added weight on his back, besides his companion’s iron grip of terror digging into his shoulders.
When they had lain on the beach for nearly twenty minutes, Maturin rose and said to the other “McNeal knows we are here. We have to find the den quickly, before morning.” Maturin pulled Duvall up onto his feet, and the two limped off toward the densely wooded center of the island.