As we advanced into the forest we were surrounded with the sound of animals and birds, no doubt disturbed by our presence. Enough light filtered down through the treetops to see our way forward but it was otherwise dark and moist and soon we were all feeling somewhat oppressed by our surroundings.
We had progressed no more than a few hundred feet when Isaac stopped. We looked around to see what had caused him to do so when I spotted a huge totem dead ahead. It was carved with strange faces with cowry shell eyes the figures interspersed with what appeared to be crocodiles and strange birds.
Isaac was staring intently at the totem and peering into the bush on either side. I moved up next to him and asked about the meaning of the structure. He frowned and then told me it was a boundary marker. I asked what boundary it was marking but he ignored me and signalled for us to continue forward.
I fell back with unease. It now seemed that this island was more inhabited than Isaac had let on. The natives would not have bothered placing a large totem here unless this island was important to them. The presence of the carving did not bode well.
We had brought no means of transporting the treasure back to the ship with us so we assumed this first foray into the forest was more about locating the gold for later removal. Isaac continued to consult his map and before long we came to an enormous tree in a small clearing.
Isaac halted us and then went to the tree, took out a compass and paced off several steps from the trunk. He crouched down and examined the ground then called for one of the shovels we had brought. He began digging and after several minutes we heard the shovel hit metal.
Isaac cleared the area around his find and then turned to us and smiled. He had found the gold. He paced off several more steps and dug again. Another find and more clearing and soon it became clear he had found what we had come for. In total there were six sites close together all containing large metal chests.
We worked for more than an hour digging them all up and placing them under the tree. The locks on the chests were archaic and rusted. Isaac began trying to open them and one of the men offered a pistol to shoot them off with. Isaac scowled and waved him away.
If he would not take the easy option there had to be a good reason. It didn’t take me a minute to figure out what it was. He did not want to bring attention to our presence in this place. I looked around us and had a feeling we were being watched. I approached Isaac as the men sat resting and had a word with him.
“Isaac, I sense we’re not alone here.”
“Your imagination is playing tricks on you. We are in no danger.”
“Is that why we’re carrying weapons but not using them to open the chests?”
He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me farther from the group. “You’re too observant for you own good. All we have to do is get these chests back to the boat and we’re home free. You’re going to be a wealthy man. Keep that in mind.”
With that he instructed us to cut some sturdy branches. The plan was to make crude sleds and drag the chests back to the beach. We did as we were told and soon had three ready to go. Isaac had decided that three would be all we could manage and that we move the first lot and then return for the rest.
He selected three men to stay with the remaining chests until we got back. They were given the best of our weapons and told to remain alert. I could see the worry in their eyes but they made no protest. As the rest of us began dragging our burdens back the way we had come I looked over my shoulder at my mates. I hoped I would see them hale and hearty when we returned.
Part 8 Tomorrow