The Isle of Pirate’s Doom - Robert E. Howard - ebook

The Isle of Pirate’s Doom ebook

Robert E. Howard

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Opis

The long low craft which rode off-shore had an unsavory look, and lying close in my covert, I was glad that I had not hailed her. Caution had prompted me to conceal myself and observe her crew before making my presence known, and now I thanked my guardian spirit; for these were troublous times and strange craft haunted the Caribees.

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Contents

THE FIRST DAY

THE SECOND DAY

AND LAST

THE FIRST DAY

THE long low craft which rode off-shore had an unsavory look, and lying close in my covert, I was glad that I had not hailed her. Caution had prompted me to conceal myself and observe her crew before making my presence known, and now I thanked my guardian spirit; for these were troublous times and strange craft haunted the Caribees.

True, the scene was fair and peaceful enough. I crouched among green and fragrant bushes on the crest of a slope which ran down before me to the broad beach. Tall trees rose about me, their ranks sweeping away on either hand. Below on the shore, green waves broke on the white sand and overhead the blue sky hung like a dream. But as a viper in a verdant garden lay that sullen black ship, anchored just outside the shallow water.

She had an unkempt look, a slouchy, devil-may-care rigging which speaks not of an honest crew or a careful master. Anon rough voices floated across the intervening space of water and beach, and once I saw a great hulking fellow slouching along the rail lift something to his lips and then hurl it overboard.

Now the crew was lowering a longboat, heavily loaded with men, and as they laid hand to oar and drew away from the ship, their coarse shouts and the replies of those who remained on deck came to me though the words were vague and indistinct.

Crouching lower, I yearned for a telescope that I might learn the name of the ship, and presently the longboat swept in close to the beach. There were eight men in her: seven great rough fellows and the other a slim foppishly-clad varlet wearing a cocked hat who did no rowing. Now as they approached, I perceived that there was an argument among them. Seven of them roared and bellowed at the dandy, who, if he answered at all, spoke in a tone so low that I could not hear.

The boat shot through the light surf, and as she beached, a huge hairy rogue in the bow heaved up and plunged at the fop, who sprang up to meet him. I saw steel flash and heard the larger man bellow. Instantly, the other leapt nimbly out, splashed through the wet sand and legged it inland as fast as he might, while the other rogues streamed out in pursuit, yelling and brandishing weapons. He who had begun the brawl halted a moment to make the longboat fast, then took up the chase, cursing at the top of his bull’s voice, the blood trickling down his face.

The dandy in the cocked hat led by several paces as they reached the first fringe of trees. Abruptly, he vanished into the foliage while the rest raced after him, and for a while, I could hear the alarums and bellowings of the chase, till the sounds faded in the distance.

Now I looked again at the ship. Her sails were filling and I could see men in the rigging. As I watched, the anchor came aboard and she stood off–and from her peak broke out the Jolly Roger. Truth, ‘twas no more than I had expected.

Cautiously, I worked my way further back among the bushes on hands and knees and then stood up. A gloominess of spirit fell upon me, for when the sails had first come in sight, I had looked for rescue. But instead of proving a blessing, the ship had disgorged eight ruffians on the island for me to cope with.

Puzzled, I slowly picked a way between the trees. Doubtless these buccaneers had been marooned by their comrades, a common affair with the bloody Brothers of the Main.

Nor did I know what I might do, since I was unarmed and these rogues would certainly regard me as an enemy, as in truth I was to all their ilk. My gorge rose against running and hiding from them, but I saw naught else to do. Nay, ‘twould be rare fortune were I able to escape them at all.

Meditating thus, I had travelled inland a considerable distance yet had heard naught of the pirates, when I came to a small glade. Tall trees, crowned with lustrous green vines and gemmed with small exotic-hued birds flitting through their branches, rose about me. The musk of tropic growths filled the air and the stench of blood as well. A man lay dead in the glade.

Flat on his back he lay, his seaman’s shirt drenched with the gore which had ebbed from the wound below his heart. He was one of the Brethren of the Red Account, no doubt of that. He’d never shoes to his feet, but a great ruby glimmered on his finger, and a costly silk sash girdled the waist of his tarry pantaloons. Through this sash were thrust a pair of flintlock pistols and a cutlass lay near his hand.

Here were weapons, at least. So I drew the pistols from his sash, noting they were charged, and having thrust them in my waistband, I took his cutlass, too. He would never need weapons again and I had good thought that I might very soon.

Then as I turned from despoiling the dead, a soft mocking laugh brought me round like a shot. The dandy of the longboat stood before me. Faith, he was smaller than I had thought, though supple and lithe. Boots of fine Spanish leather he wore on his trim legs, and above them tight britches of doeskin. A fine crimson sash with tassels and rings to the ends was round his slim waist, and from it jutted the silver butts of two pistols. A blue coat with flaring tails and gold buttons gaped open to disclose the frilled and laced shirt beneath. Again, I noted that the cocked hat still rode the owner’s brow at a jaunty angle, golden hair showing underneath.

“Satan’s throne!” said the wearer of this finery. “There is a great ruby ring you’ve overlooked!”

Now I looked for the first time at the face. It was a delicate oval with red lips that curled in mockery, large grey eyes that danced, and only then did I realize that I was looking at a woman and not a man. One hand rested saucily on her hip, the other held a long ornately-hilted rapier–and with a twitch of repulsion I saw a trace of blood on the blade.

“Speak, man!” cried she impatiently. “Are you not ashamed to be caught at your work?”

Now I doubt that I was a sight to inspire respect, what with my bare feet and my single garment, sailor’s pantaloons, and they stained and discolored with salt water. But at her mocking tone, my anger stirred.

“At least,” said I, finding my voice, “if I must answer for robbing a corpse, someone else must answer for making it.”

“Ha, I struck a spark then?” she laughed in a hard way. “Satan’s Fiends, if I’m to answer for all the corpses I’ve made, ‘twill be a wearisome reckoning.”

My gorge rose at that.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.