The Island of Gold - Fenton Ash - ebook

The Island of Gold ebook

Fenton Ash

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Fenton Ash (pseudonym for Francis Henry Atkins) also known as Fred Ashley, Frank Aubrey (1840 – 1927), wrote a number of „scientific romances” beginning with „The Devil Tree” (1896). He was involved in a scandal at the turn of the century and sentenced to nine months imprisonment for obtaining money by deception. After leaving prison he dropped the name Frank Aubrey and – in his early 60s, following a three-year hiatus – began writing as Fenton Ash. „The Island of Gold” (1918) is a fantasy adventure would suit anyone interested in old fantasy novels for children and young people. Wonderful entertainment and highly entertaining. If you haven’t discovered the joys of Fenton Ash’s adventures there is a good place to start. Highly recommended!

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Liczba stron: 355

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Contents

I. THE OLD SAILOR'S YARN—"A LAND OF GOLD!"

II. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND.

III. IN TROUBLE.

IV. MORE TROUBLE!

V. THE STONES OF GOLD.

VI. A TERRIBLE JOURNEY.

VII. A SURPRISE.

VIII. A DEMON IN HUMAN FORM.

IX. BESIEGED BY FILIBUSTERS.

X. PEDRO DIEGO'S FIRST APPEARANCE.

XI. VICTORY!

XII. IN DIRE PERIL!

XIII. TO THE RESCUE!

XIV. PEDRO DIEGO—FILIBUSTER.

XXV. GRUESOME FOES.

XVI. A DESPERATE FIGHT.

XVII. TRAPPED!

XVIII. SEALED UP!

XIX. "IN CASE OF TROUBLE."

XX. BURIED ALIVE!

XXI. AN UNDERGROUND LABYRINTH.

XXII. THE GOLD WATER AGAIN!

XXIII. THE FIGHT!

XXIV. THE END OF THE FIGHT.

XXV. A LUCKY TUMBLE.

XXVI. ON THE TRACK.

XXVII. THE GOLDEN TEMPLE.

XXVIII. GOLD-GATHERING!

XXIX. CONCLUSION.

I. THE OLD SAILOR’S YARN–“A LAND OF GOLD!”

“THIS be a funny idea, Mr. Alec, as I bin readin’ about in the paper–gettin’ gold from sea-water. It ‘minds me of a queer thing as happened t’ me once in the Southern Seas, when I rescued a pore mad chap from a lonely island.”

“Does it, Ben? I must hear that yarn. Fill up your pipe and start straightaway. I’ve got an hour to spare this morning.”

Ben Grove, retired mariner, ex-bo’sun, shook his head deprecatingly; while his companion, Alec Mackay, a bright, good-looking young fellow of eighteen or nineteen, waited patiently for what was to come.

“No, sir; theer bain’t no yarn, exactly. The pore chap thought he’d found a reg’lar folderado–”

“Eh?” queried Alec, looking puzzled. “Oh, ah! H’m! Eldorado, I suppose?”

“Yes, sir; that’s it. Means a land of gold, don’t it?”

“Yes, yes! Something of the sort. That’s near enough, anyway! Steam ahead, Ben!”

“Well, this pore chap thought he’d found a reg’lar land of gold. It came about in this way. I wur actin’ mate at the time on a small schooner as had been doin’ some tradin’ among the South Seas Islands, an’ we passed an island as nobody seemed t’ know much about ‘cept that it wur believed t’ be uninhabited, an’ theer wur a volcani in the middle of it. The volcani wur there, anyhow, ‘cos we could see the smoke. But when we seed a man on the shore, we was puzzled, ‘cos we didn’t expect t’ see anybody, an’ when we seed him makin’ frantic signs to us, we wondered what was up.

“‘Better go ashore to him an’ see what he wants,’ our skipper said. ‘He may ‘a’ bin shipwrecked, an’ be theer alone; an’, if so, we can’t go away an’ leave him to his fate.’

“‘Ay, ay, sir,’ I says; an’ they got out a boat, an’ off I goes ashore to the chap.

“Soon as I landed, he takes me aside an’ asks me if I’d like t’ be a millinairy, an’ have a kerridge an’ pair, with servants in livery, an’ all that silly nonsense. ‘Cos, he said, if I would, all I had t’ do would be to go to a place on the island he had found out, wheer theer was lots o’ gold t’ be had fur the pickin’ of it up.

“He said he’d been shipwrecked, as the cap’n had thought, an’ he’d bin theer all by hisself, a-livin’ on shellfish an’ fruits, an’ sich-like; an’ I thought as his troubles had turned his brain an’ made him fancy things. He looked so wild an’ talked so excited that I told him, at last, I’d have to go aboard an’ tell the skipper about it. And if the skipper believed it all, p’r’aps he’d come back later on.

“Then the strange johnny grew frightened o’ bein’ left on the island alone agen, so he said he’d come along, an’ I took him back t’ the schooner. But the cap’n, he said he’d got no time t’ go foolin’ around treasure-huntin’. So we sailed away, taking the stranger with us.

“At first he wur very upset at havin’ to go away an’ leave his treasure island, but after a while he settled down a bit, an’ he seemed t’ take a great fancy t’ me. He wanted me t’ join him, to promise to go back with him to the island later on. He even give me a paper with a sort o’ map on it, showin’ wheer the gold was t’ be found, an’ offered me half shares if I’d go an’ help him bring the gold away. An’, to prove his story, he showed me a bag with a lot o’ what looked like lumps o’ gold in it.”

At this point, Alec suddenly became intensely interested. At first he had listened without much concern, thinking, perhaps, that this was only one more yarn of the kind of which most sailor-men are generally supposed to have a practically inexhaustible stock. But the mention of a bagful of lumps of gold was a different matter. It began to look like business!

“Lumps of gold!” he exclaimed. “Are you serious, Ben? How is it I’ve never heard this tale before?”

“Ye’ll hear d’reckly, Mr. Alec. I looks at the lumps, an’ an idea comes into me head. I takes a hammer an’ bangs one, an’ it flew t’ pieces! Twarn’t no lump o’ gold at all! Twor only a pebble caked over wi’ some bright-lookin’ stuff. We tried other lumps, but they was all the same.

“Then the pore chap went clean off his nut wi’ the dis’pintment. He chucked his lumps o’ gold overboard–all but a few which I kep’ fur cur’osity’s sake–an’ he took to his bunk an’ died, two days after, ravin’ mad. An’ that’s all, sir. Ye see, ‘tain’t much of a yarn, after all.”

“Poor chap! One can sympathize, in a sense, with his disappointment,” commented Alec thoughtfully. “It’s a curious story, so far as it goes. But what has it to do with the extraction of gold from sea-water?”

“Not much, I s’pose,” Ben admitted, “‘cept as I reckoned them pebbles were coated over that way by water running over ‘em. The chap as found ‘em said something of the sort, too.”

“H’m! I see what you mean, Ben. And perhaps you’re not far out. I know there are what they call petrifying wells in some places. In Derbyshire they make show places of them. There you can see all kinds of articles of various materials which have become covered with a coating of lime through the water of the petrifying well being allowed to drip upon them. You may even see birds’ nests so treated.

“But what you speak of is stranger still. It reminds me of a fairy-tale my nurse used to tell me when I was a child about a ‘gold-water’ which turned everything it touched to gold. In the end, the lucky–or unlucky–finder of the wonderful water splashed it on his fingers, and turned them into gold!

“But you said that you kept some of those curious pebbles. What became of them? I suppose you have not got them now, by any chance?”

“Why, yes, sir. I have got ‘em right enough! They be locked away in a old sea-chest o’ mine. You bide here a bit. I dessay I can hunt ‘em out.”

Ben went off, and presently returned, bringing with him three or four pebbles and some small shells and other articles of different shapes. They were all covered with a metallic coating which, though somewhat dulled by time, still looked curiously like gold.

Alec examined them with great attention, and finally asked permission to take them to show to his guardian, Dr. Campbell.

Ben raised no objection, and Alec started at once for the doctor’s house, which was not a great distance from the old sailor’s cottage.

During his absence, Ben puffed away at his pipe and, as he gazed dreamily out over the sea, his thoughts went back to the unhappy madman whom he had taken off the deserted island and his final, miserable fate.

“Shows what comes o’ bein’ greedy, an’ bein’ smitten wi’ the gold-huntin’ fever!” he soliloquized, wagging his head with an air of supreme wisdom. “Ben, me boy, ye should thank yer stars as ye wur never smitten wi’ the thirst fur gold, an’ never went a-huntin’ fur treasure!”

These and other philosophic reflections upon the foolishness of desiring to be rich occupied his mind all the time till Alec reappeared, and afforded him, apparently, much mental satisfaction.

He was surprised when Alec came bursting in on his cogitations, with sparkling eyes and face all aglow.

“Ben!” cried the young fellow. “Ben, what do you think? The doctor has tested those things, and he declares that they are coated with gold–real gold! Even for the gold on them, he says, they are worth several pounds, while, as scientific curiosities, he says, any museum would give you a good price for them!

“But that’s nothing to what we have been talking of. The doctor was wondering only this morning where he could go to for his next exploring expedition. Now he’s got an idea–a grand idea! Why not go in search of this island you were yarning to me of, and see if we can find the treasure that poor fellow told you about?

“Could you take us to the island, do you think? Have you got the latitude and longitude? Would you come with us as guide if the doctor paid you well, and gave you a liberal share of whatever gold we might find?”

Up sprang Ben.

“Just wouldn’t I!” he exclaimed, waving his cap in the air, and suddenly oblivious of all his sage reflections of a few minutes previously.

“Hoorooh! I’ll be a millinairy yet afore I dies, as that pore chap said I could be, an’ ride in me own kerridge-an’-pair. I’ll ‘ave a coachman an’ footman, too, in leveries! D’ye think, sir, as I could have silver-an’-blue leveries, like the grand people up at the Hall have?”

Alec laughed good-humouredly.

“Can’t say as to that, Ben,” he said, “but we can postpone a decision on the point till we get back. And now I’m off to find my chum, Clive Lowther–for, of course, he’ll have to come, too.”

II. THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND

THUS it came about that, a month or so later, Dr. Campbell’s new yacht, the Valda set out from England in search of the supposed South Seas treasure island.

She was a large, well-found steam vessel, with a picked crew, and fitted with almost every improvement known to modern science. She was well armed, too, and had even, packed away in her hold, two aeroplanes of a new type specially designed by the doctor himself.

Alec Mackay, to his great delight, had his chum, Clive Lowther, as fellow-traveller, and with them went, of course, the indispensable Ben Grove.

The ostensible aim of the expedition was the study of the natural history of certain islands in the vicinity of the mysterious Easter Island, of which curious accounts have been given by the two or three travellers who have visited it. And as Dr. Campbell was known as a zealous and experienced scientist and explorer, the statement created neither surprise nor particular curiosity.

*     *

*

“So that is the island at last! The place we’ve been thinking of, talking of, dreaming of for so long! It seems hardly possible to realise that we are at last actually in sight of it, and that all our expectations will soon now be put to the test! How do you like the look of it, Clive?”

“Not much, Alec, if I must confess what is in my mind. Compared with some of the beautiful islands we have passed, it seems to be a contrast indeed–if what we can see of it is a fair sample!”

This talk took place on the deck of the large steam yacht Valda, as that vessel, after two or three minor adventures, approached a huge, dark-looking and forbidding mass rising out of the depths of the ocean, and towering high up towards the heavens.

“This, according to the data furnished by Ben Grove, was the island upon which the explorers were to search for the wonderful gold cave.”

Clive Lowther lowered his telescope with a disappointed look; and his face, usually good tempered in expression, was clouded with dissatisfaction.

“It gives me the shivers to look at it,” he went on. “You speak of dreaming about it, Alec. If it turns out as disappointing in other ways as it is in appearance, then all our hopes have been dreams indeed!”

Just then Dr. Campbell came up beside the two, and gazed attentively at the uninviting-looking place they were approaching.

Seen now, in his white dress and sun-helmet, he seemed a different man from the man people at home knew as the absorbed, studious-minded scientist, giving to poring over abstruse experiments in the laboratory.

He was tall and robust, with an upright, alert figure, which denoted masculine activity, and a face expressive of a somewhat stern, determined character. But with it all, there was a breezy manner, and a light in the eyes which hinted at the kindly nature which lay beneath.

Alec Mackay was his ward. Alec’s father, the captain of a Scottish merchant ship, had disappeared many years before while on a trading expedition in those very latitudes they were then visiting, and had never been heard of since.

By a will made by Captain Mackay before he had last left England, the doctor had been appointed Alec’s guardian in case anything happened to his father, and as the lad had no mother, the worthy doctor had taken him to live with him, and, in due time, had made him one of his own assistants.

Dr. Campbell now took the telescope from Clive, and looked long and searchingly at the land they had come to visit, and he, too, was impressed by its gloomy appearance. This was made the more noticeable by a column of black smoke which rose from a high peak, and, speaking broadly, cast deep shadows over the rocks and valleys below.

The doctor called Ben Grove to him. The latter had been standing forward staring at the island, with a face in which there was even more disappointment than in Clive’s.

Ben came aft to the doctor with a look in which surprise and perplexity struggled with dismay.

“What’s the matter, Ben?” Dr Campbell asked.

“Strike my flag, sir, but this doesn’t look like the place at all,” the old sailor declared.

“Why, Ben, what’s wrong with it?”

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