At the Sign of the Spyglass

“When I leave Marsh Harbour I’m thinking I might head over to Treasure Cay.  Do you know it?”, I asked my companion.

He had been busy filling his small pipe with tobacco, leaning forward into the candle’s glow and fixing me with an odd look before settling back into the gloom.  Captain Flint, the parrot on his shoulder, was only a silhouette and kept in constant motion, bobbing and shuffling back and forth, stopping only to tease some of the old salt’s whiskers with his beak.  Before my new friend could answer, Captain Flint screamed out “Pieces of Eight!”

This tickled the old guy and he offered the stem of his pipe to the parrot who regarded it quizzically.  “Aye, I knowed the place to be sure.”, he replied slowly.  “A power of young men been killed offen that place!  I first clapped eyes on it with England, and later with Flint, who I named this here bird for you understand.  Captain England was a success.  He always steered a pint more off the wind ya understand, and in the end he retired a gentleman to Madagascar when many a brisk lad were dancing a hornpipe at a rope’s end and drying in the sun at Execution Dock.  Or dyin’ with the smoke of gunpowder about the ears like Blackbeard.  Blackbeard, he were smart as paint.  He never wasted his men nor his powder.  Scare ’em half to death he did with his black flag and let that do the talkin’ for him.  It were smart.  But in the end it did him no good.

“Blackbeard himself were a child compared to Flint.  I seen Walrus, Flint’s old ship, amuck with the red blood and fit to sink with gold.  Aye, he were the flower of the flock, was Flint!  I were in Flint’s ship when he buried the treasure; he and six along—six strong seamen. Seven hundred thousand pound it were!  Seven hundred thousand pound!  Doubloons, and louis d’ors, and guineas, and pieces of eight, and silver bar.  They was ashore nigh on a week, and us standing off and on in the old Walrus.  One fine day up went the signal, and here come Flint by himself in a little boat, and his head done up in a blue scarf. The sun was getting up, and mortal white he looked about the cutwater. But, there he was, you mind, and the six all dead—dead and buried. How he done it, not a man aboard us could make out.

At this the door of the old tavern blew open and let in a gust that scattered the pipe ash from the little pewter bowl on the table.

“Wear ship!”, screamed the parrot.

“Ah!  You was always one to know the lay of the wind, weren’t you, Cap’n?  Dooty is dooty and no mistake.” he added with a smile of affection to the bird.  “They say he made a map when he lay a-dyin’ at Savannah.”, said the old man returning to his story, ” and when he was dead and below hatches as it were you can be sure they overhauled his old chest.  But it were gone.  And so too were his old mate Billy Bones.  Where is the map now?  I dunno.”

“And this happened at Treasure Cay?” I asked, dumbfounded.

The old salt leaned again into the light and studied my face.  “Treasure Cay you say?  Beggin’ your pardon.  I’m mistook.”


  • with apologies to RLS!

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