Later that night, McNeal called several men to his side on the deck. He spoke quickly and quietly. “Our prisoners have escaped. We must find them as fast as we are able. If we do not, we shall never find the treasure that is said to be hidden on shore. One fiftieth part of that treasure would make a man wealthy for the rest of his days. But I won’t stop there. The man who brings back the prisoner Duvall alive has a claim to a twentieth part of the whole hoard. You may do what you like with the other, Maturin.”
At the conclusion of this speech, McNeal turned back toward his cabin, calling back “Arm yourselves as you like, but don’t come back without Duvall, or Maturin, or both of them, dead or alive! If you return without them, Davy Jones’ll have to build himself an extra locker.”
As he listened with satisfaction to the sound of as many as twenty crewmen leaping overboard to wade ashore, McNeal allowed the faintest hint of a smile to flit across his face. “The fools! They never learn! Never learn that without McNeal, they are as hopeless as fish in a net. Yet they still persist in their belief that if they try harder, they will succeed... Davy Jones drives a hard bargain, but he always holds up his end of the deal, at least.” With this less than charitable thought in his mind, McNeal retired to his cabin to await the results of the expedition.
After a few moments of silence, Duvall began to move deeper into the cave. Maturin, utterly perplexed, followed a short distance behind him, calling “Where are you off to? Would it not be simpler to return to the surface?”
“Do you want the treasure, or should we go back above ground and turn ourselves into that fiend we escaped from? Follow me. I know where I’m going!”
Without wasting an instant more in speech, Maturin began to run after Duvall until he had come alongside him once more. The two men walked side by side in silence until Duvall stopped abruptly, holding the torch high above his head. The raised torchlight now illuminated the bottom part of a large rock, which had been set in a hole which had been dug very precisely, with the intent that it should remain supported by the earth, yet still be possible to remove from underneath, if one had the size and strength to do so. Drawing Maturin’s attention to it, Duvall said “Lift that, if you still have the strength. It is our only way out of this place.”
Preferring to let his actions speak for him, Maturin, who was at least six inches taller than Duvall, stepped into position directly underneath the rock and extended his arms. The hole was shallower than it seemed, which was the main reason why no one who found it would have guessed that it was the exit to a tunnel. It was but the work of a moment for Maturin to lift the rock from it’s resting place. Stopping for a moment to shade his eyes from the sunlight which was now streaming in, he turned to Duvall and asked “What’s our next move? We’re still stuck.”
Let me climb out over your back, then I will help you.”
“No you don’t. If you do that, you’ll just push the rock back over the hole and shove off.”
“Are you saying you don’t want the treasure after all?” Duvall paused as both men became aware of the sound of gunshots, faint as it was. “McNeal has already sent men after us, it seems. Soon, he will be coming himself. He was always famous for overmanning his ships. So, shall we get the treasure, or will McNeal?”
“We will.” Maturin replied sharply, moving into the center of the light shaft and bracing himself as Duvall climbed out over his back. A moment later, Duvall dropped a ladder down into the shaft.
Maturin climbed out quickly. As soon as he had reached the surface, Duvall turned and ran off, calling over his shoulder “Follow me! It’s on the coast!”
Maturin did not waste his breath in reply. In a moment, he was running alongside Duvall. They ran side by side, crashing through the underbrush of the densely forested island, until they reached the edge of the beach which fringed the island on all sides.
Duvall paused for a moment, looking for a landmark. Suddenly, he found it, a spire of rock sticking up out of then water fifteen yards off the coast. Lying down on the beach, Duvall announced “Now we wait for low tide. We will not be able to reach the treasure until then.”
In a flash, Maturin understood what Duvall meant and knew that there was nothing left for them to do but sleep to regain the strength they would need to uncover the treasure. But before closing his eyes, he turned to Duvall and and asked “Would it not be better to leave the treasure undisturbed until John Horner arrives?”
“Of course we shall leave it there. Do you think two men would be able to hide all that treasure successfully from one such as McNeal unless it was underwater?”
Several hours later, when the two men woke from their nap, they discovered that they had missed their chance. The rock that served as their landmark was uncovered, yes, but they could now see the Centaur, the most feared ship in the ocean, standing fifty yards offshore. Duvall, who had risen first, shook Maturin roughly, shouting “Quick! We must run! McNeal’s onto us!”
Getting to their feet in seconds, the two fugitives dashed off back into the forest they had struggled through only hours ago. McNeal, his glass to his eye, watched them run, laughing harder than he had in may a year. “Hahahahaha! No one escapes from McNeal! Especially here! That treasure’s as good as mine now! There are only two reasons why they would have stopped there, and then run off like scared rabbits when they caught sight of me! That treasure is either underwater or under the sand! Let us look underwater first! Every man overboard! If you can’t swim, you’ll learn today!”
Goaded on by their sadistic captain, a large part of McNeal’s crew leapt overboard into the swirling waves which had spent their force against the side of the ship. With as many as a hundred men searching, there was barely room to move. Nevertheless, it was not long before someone had spotted what they were looking for. Scarcely ten minutes had passed before a muscular crewman wearing a red bandanna around his long hair broke water close by the ship and called out “It’s there, Captain! All caulked tight and sealed in its cave! We’ll have to move in closer to shore to bring it aboard, though!”
When the man had finished, McNeal called out “Every man who hasn’t been eaten by a shark back aboard on the double! We’ll bring her into shore!”
From the underbrush at the edge of the forest, Maturin and Duvall watched the Centaur move closer to the beach. Duvall spoke, his voice bitter. “The treasure is his, unless...” He trailed off, hoping Maturin would ask what he meant.
Maturin obliged in a moment. “Unless what?”
“Unless his draught is high enough to cross the reef safely.”
“The reef? There’s a reef out there?”
“Did you think you that rock was out there by itself?! There’s a reef! Now we must hope that either his crew didn’t warn him, or that McNeal tries it anyway. I’m sure he will. He’s too big for his boots.”
The two fugitives watched with bated breath as the Centaur inched closer to the rock. Noticing a distinct change in the tide, Duvall cried “No better! They are crossing at low tide! Grounded! And breached!” Just as Duvall cried ‘And breached!’, both fugitives heard a sound like a cannon firing, which, from their vantage point, they could see was caused by a newly uncovered rock ripping a hole in the bottom of McNeal’s ship.
Maturin and Duvall watched happily as McNeal grew steadily angrier with his crew for the blunder which had, in fact, been caused by the mutual spite felt by McNeal against his crew and his crew against him. When all the men had come back aboard, the one who had found the treasure had added “I wouldn’t take the ship any farther if I were you, captain. We don’t want anything costly happening now, so close to the treasure.”
Sensing another meaning behind the crewman’s words, McNeal had ordered that the ship move forward. Straight onto the reef which the crew knew perfectly well was there. The moment the ship was torn open, McNeal ordered that half the guns be lowered out of the ship onto the rocks in order that the ship might tip on it’s side and leave the hole open to repair.
Suddenly, Duvall said “We’ve been here long enough. It will not be long before McNeal’s men are blundering through, missing the trees for the forest.”
Several minutes later, Duvall spoke again. “Now we wait for John Horner to arrive. He’s due tonight.”
“He had better arrive for his appointment, or someone will be dead soon.”
“Are you threatening me?” Duvall exclaimed in indignation.
“I am not. It is a fact that several men will be dead soon if Horner doesn’t arrive.”
“We shall see.”