Isaac left it to the captain to tell us what to expect in the following days. We listened and then had supper. A buzz rose all around me but I paid it no mind. Questions danced in my mind about the story we had been told. It didn’t add up but I kept my doubts to myself.
It wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe the story; it was more what might have been left out that worried me. Three men had buried the treasure, yet Isaac would have us believe that it was still buried to this day. Why? The man who had come into possession of the true copy of the journal also did not seek to retrieve it. Why?
The next day we arrived at the island where the treasure was. We were assembled on deck and Isaac came out from this cabin to address us once again.
“Men, we’re going ashore today to find the gold. There’s one more thing you need to know about the mission we’re about to embark upon. As you know we’re not far off the coast of northeast New Guinea. I don’t know what you’ve heard about the people on the mainland but I must tell you now that the Wantoat tribe are regular visitors to this island.”
He studied our faces for signs of recognition. Seeing none he continued.
“The Wantoat are a fierce mountain tribe. They are hostile to strangers. Especially white ones. For this reason each man going ashore will be armed.”
A murmur arose from the crew and men were looking at each other. It became clear there was general unhappiness with the fact that this information had been withheld from us until now. Me, I got a shiver up my spine. I recalled stories I had heard about Papua from men I had sailed with. I had heard that not only were the natives skilled warriors but that they didn’t simply kill anyone they considered and enemy, they ate them. The Wantoat were cannibals. The final pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. I could hold my tongue no more.
“Isaac, might I ask a question?”
He thought for a moment and nodded.
“Is it true that this tribe you speak of are not only warriors but cannibals?”
A collective gasp arose from the crew. The cat was out of the bag. A melee ensured that had the captain shouting for order. Isaac waited for order to be restored.
“It is true. I never said this mission would be without hazard. You will all be well rewarded for your efforts.”
There was further grumbling but no further protest and the captain seemed satisfied that it was time to move forward.
“Men, we have work to do. We cannot afford to let imaginings get the better of us. You will arm yourselves before going ashore and you will follow Isaac’s orders at all times. I will brook no disobedience. Do I make myself clear?”
Some nodded ascent, the rest stood mute. It was enough for the captain. We set about lowering the boats and preparing to go ashore. Weapons were brought up from the hold and distributed. At last we made for shore and upon landing waded to the beach scanning the dark foreboding forest in front of us.
We headed into the woods single file, Isaac in the lead. It escaped no one’s attention that he carried a hunting rifle as he led us into dense vegetation. A hundred yards in he stopped and took a map out his shirt pocket. We were now in search of buried gold and I hoped to God nothing would come between the treasure and us.
Part 7 Tomorrow