The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Quest of the 'Golden Hope': A Seventeenth Century Story of Adventure

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: The Quest of the 'Golden Hope': A Seventeenth Century Story of Adventure

Author: Percy F. Westerman

Illustrator: Frank Wiles

Release date: December 4, 2011 [eBook #38222]
Most recently updated: January 8, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by R.G.P.M. van Giesen



[Illustration: cover art]

The Quest of the

"Golden Hope"

50 Old Bailey, LONDON
17 Stanhope Street, GLASGOW

Warwick House, Fort Street, BOMBAY
1118 Bay Street, TORONTO

[Illustration: CAPTAIN JEREMY IS WOUNDED (missing from book)]

The Quest of the "Golden Hope"

A Seventeenth Century Story of Adventure



Author of "East in the Golden Gain" "The Third Officer"
"Sea Scouts All" &c.




By Percy F. Westerman
Rivals of the Reef.
A Shanghai Adventure.
Pat Stobart in the "Golden Dawn".
The Junior Cadet.
Captain Starlight.
The Sea-Girt Fortress.
On the Wings of the Wind.
Captured at Tripoli.
Captain Blundell's Treasure.
The Third Officer.
Unconquered Wings.
The Buccaneers of Boya.
The Riddle of the Air.
Chums of the "Golden Vanity".
The Luck of the "Golden Dawn".
Clipped Wings.
The Salving of the "Fusi Yama".
Winning his Wings.
A Lively Bit of the Front.
A Cadet of the Mercantile Marine.
The Good Ship "Golden Effort".
East in the "Golden Gain".
The Quest of the "Golden Hope".
Sea Scouts Abroad.
Sea Scouts Up-Channel.
The Wireless Officer.
A Lad of Grit.
The Submarine Hunters.
Sea Scouts All.
The Thick of the Fray.
A Sub and a Submarine.
Under the White Ensign.
The Fight for Constantinople.
With Beatty off Jutland.

Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow







[Illustration: MAP OF THE ISLAND]

AThe Golden Hope in harbour.
BThe stockade.
CPath taken by first expedition in search of the treasure.
CCPath taken by successful expedition.
DWreck of the Madre de Dios.
ECave where Clifford was held prisoner.
FShoal where Clifford was attacked by octopus.
GSite of the master gunner's ambuscade.
HBuccaneers' harbour and settlement.
KWreck of the Black Arrow.
LFalse landmark erected by Captain Jeremy's orders.
MWreck of Neptune owing to false bearings.
NWhere the treasure was found.
OCove where Cherry and the long-boat's crew landed.
PDeep water channel inside shoals, unknown to Captain Jeremy.
QExisting path between buccaneers' harbour and south side of island.
RBearing for navigating channel.
The track of the Golden Hope into the harbour is shown by the black line.
The shaded portion of the shoals were uncovered at low water.



Of the Fugitive from Sedgemoor

Well do I, Clifford Hammond, remember the 10th day of July in the year of grace 1685. Rebellion, though some would have it 'twas justifiable invasion, had appeared in the land. Monmouth had landed in Dorset, and had raised an army. How he fared, the men of Hampshire knew not as yet, though there were many who prayed for the successful issue of his venture.

Little did I think, living on the borders of the New Forest, that the outbreak in the West would affect the welfare of our house. Yet it did, though, I must confess, indirectly; for had it not been for the routing of the rebels at Sedgemoor, the voyage of the Golden Hope would not have been undertaken, nor would I be able to relate the desperate adventures of her crew in gaining the object of the expedition. But I am forestalling my story.

Our family, the Hammonds of Brockenhurst, had lived within the bounds of the Forest for centuries, as witness the name of Geoffroi Hammond, who served with distinction at the taking of the Great Christopher in the sea-fight of Sluys; or of Thomas Hammond, who fought at Agincourt: but I would make it plain that the Hammonds of Brockenhurst have no connection with the rebel Colonel Hammond--though, to his credit be it said, he treated His Majesty King Charles the Martyr, during his captivity in the Isle of Wight, with far more courtesy than did his brother officers.

My father, Captain Richard Hammond--"Foul-weather Dick", as he was affectionately dubbed in the fleet--had had an adventurous career both ashore and afloat. Beginning with the fatal fight at Naseby when he was but a young cornet of horse of barely twenty years of age, he had fought Dutch, Algerines, and, sad to relate, his fellow-countrymen; but for the last ten years he had retired from the King's service, and had settled down to a quiet country life in his native Hampshire.

Thanks to his father's devotion to his sovereign, the exchequer of the Hammond family had been sadly depleted. During the ever-to-be-abhorred Rebellion, plate, jewels, money, all went, and 'twas fortunate that our lands had not been confiscated by the Commonwealth. My father had to rely upon the unkept promises of His Majesty King Charles II as a reward for the sacrifices of our house towards the royal cause; nevertheless, the meagre pay of a sea captain in the King's fleet, together with the income from the shore estate, sufficed to keep us in comparative ease.

My father married late in life. His spouse, the daughter of Sir Digby Tall (a baronet as impecunious as the majority of his class at this time), died within three years of their union, leaving two children.

At the time my story opens I, Clifford Hammond, was sixteen years of age, my sister Constance being eighteen months my junior. She was a tall, sprightly girl, with fresh complexion, blue eyes, and rich golden hair, being, 'twas said, the image of her mother in her youth.

No one would readily have taken Constance and me for sister and brother, for I was olive-featured, with straight, dark-brown hair and grey eyes; tall in stature, yet inclined to slenderness.

On the particular morning to which I have referred, Constance and I had gone into Lyndhurst to give orders to a carrier respecting the purchase of a certain article at Southampton. What the nature of the purchase was we did not at the time know, although every month, summer and winter, year in and year out, my father had a similar package brought in by the regular carrier. Here I may mention that my sire, in spite of his sixty odd years, was a wonderfully well-preserved man, his dark-brown locks (for he scorned to wear a peruke) being innocent of any trace of grey hairs. Yet I call to mind the occasion, when I was yet a child of tender years, upon which my father had perforce to attend the Verderers' Court at Lyndhurst with his hair of a rusty, iron-grey hue. That was about the time that Giles Shearing's wain was upset at Redbridge, and many a housewife in Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst who relied on the Southampton carrier had to go short-handed. I no longer wonder at the coincidence.

As we left Lyndhurst town on our return journey, I leading a shaggy Forest pony on which my sister, holding the required purchase, was perched, a troop of horse came riding with loose rein and hot spur through the quiet High Street.

They were fierce-looking fellows, with bronzed features, begrimed with sweat and dust; upturned moustachios, and flowing locks. They wore red frock-coats trimmed with white facings, the skirts buttoned back to enable them to sit the better in the saddle; dark-green breeches, long riding-boots of buff leather, and broad-brimmed beaver hats, looped up on one side. All were armed with a broadsword and a pair of pistols, while not a few carried snaphances in a bucket at the right side of the saddle, or slung across their backs.

This much I noticed as they tore onwards with undiminished pace through the narrow street, till they were lost to view in a cloud of dust on the Southampton Road.

"There's some news for Cap'n Hammond, Master Clifford!" shouted Chambers the blacksmith from across the way. "They say as how Duke Monmouth's been beaten, and half his army cut to pieces. Those redcoats are Cornbury's Dragoons, and they are hot on the track of the Hampshire rebels. Heaven help the Mayor of Lymington and the score of men he sent to the West!"

Young as I was, I realized that it was a case of woe to the vanquished. Although our county had not taken up the cause of the rebel Duke to any thing like the extent of Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire, several of the towns in the western division of Hampshire had sent small contingents to aid Monmouth's cause, and Lymington had been the chief offender in this respect. Fortunately for us, Brockenhurst had held aloof, though the villagers were none too kindly disposed towards King James's measures.

We hastened on our homeward journey, eager to convey the momentous news to my father. For the first half of the way the road ran between dense masses of trees, intersected by shady glades, in which the leaves of last year still littered the ground. Ever and anon a herd of fallow deer would dash across the highway, or a troop of Forest ponies would scamper betwixt the trees, fearing in every human being a possible master. Pigs also roamed in great numbers, for though it was the time of fence month[1] within the Forest, so lax had the jurisdiction of the Verderers' Court become that the commoners paid less heed to the regulations than they had for years past.

At length we emerged from the forest and gained the rolling expanse of heath, where, to right and left, as far as the eye could reach, the heather and the gorse gleamed in the bright sunshine like a sea of purple and gold.

"See, there's a man riding as fast as his horse can carry him!" exclaimed Constance, pointing down the bridle path that, running between Ring wood and Beaulieu, crosses the highway near the place where we were.

"Aye, he seems in a mighty hurry," I replied, shading my eyes from the glare.

"Perchance 'tis another of those horse soldiers?"

"Nay, he wears no red coat," I answered, reassuring her; but though I did not mention it, I perceived two men riding a long distance behind the first horseman as if in pursuit, and, unless my eyes deceived me, they were dragoons.

"Let us hasten," urged Constance, as if filled with some forebodings, though she was usually a strong-minded girl.

"He'll not molest us," said I. "He is too intent on his errand, I trow."

Nearer and nearer came the fugitive--for fugitive he was--till I could distinguish his features. Then my heart gave a sudden bound, for I recognized the man: it was Jeremy Miles, a master mariner of Lymington, and one of the townsfolk who had gone west to join the rebel standard.

Constance knew him also, for she exclaimed, "'Tis Captain Miles! And see, Clifford, there are soldiers after him!"

Something compelled me to stop and await the arrival of the fugitive, and, holding the pony's bridle by one hand, I assisted Constance to dismount.

As we stood we were hidden from the bridle path by a gorse-covered bank that, being but breast high, was sufficiently low to enable us to command the track on which the horsemen were riding without being seen by them until they gained the highway.

Not for one moment did I expect to be in danger, for Miles was riding strongly and evidently holding his own, while 'twas unlikely that the troopers, keen on his pursuit, would draw rein to molest a boy and a girl.

The fugitive was now crossing the white dusty road within twenty paces of us, when suddenly his horse sank under him, throwing its rider headlong to the ground. But before the expiring animal gave a last convulsive shudder, Miles had sprung to his feet and was looking dazedly towards his pursuers, now but a mile behind.

"Captain Miles!" I shouted, urging my pony forward. "Captain Miles! Take Trotter and ride him across the heath."

"Why, 'tis Master Hammond!" he exclaimed. "Nay, lad, that beast would not ship a crew like me: But they'll have their work cut out to take me. Come, young sir, I'll trouble you to give a hand with my mare, if you will."

Together, with Constance helping us, we dragged the body of the animal off the road, and hid it in a slight depression behind some furze bushes. Then hurriedly we strove to conceal the tell-tale tracks on the dusty road.

The dragoons were now only a bare quarter-mile away.

[1] The period between the 20th June and the 20th July, during which time the ancient right of "Pannage", i.e. turning out pigs to feed on acorns and beech-mast, within the New Forest was withheld.


The Two Dragoons on the Brockenhurst Road

"Leave me and shape your own course, Master Hammond!" exclaimed the Captain composedly, for he had regained both his breath and his wits. "You can do no more, and I'll warrant I can shift for myself."

So saying, he wriggled along the ground over the bank that screened us from the soldiers, and lay hidden in the bracken on the same side of the highway as the troopers.

Meanwhile, filled with anxiety on the behalf of Jeremy Miles--for he was always a general favourite amongst the youths in and around Lymington--Constance and I resumed our way, endeavouring to appear as unconcerned as possible.

Less than a minute must have passed since we saw Captain Miles's great frame disappear beneath the bracken, when we heard the clatter of the troopers' horses as their hoofs struck the road. Knowing that it would ill play our part to refrain from curiosity, we stopped and looked back at the pursuing soldiers.

They were of the same troop that we had seen in Lyndhurst a short half-hour ago. Great, swarthy men they were, hardened to cruelty by reason of their service at Tangiers, and, though I knew it not at the time, ready to practise the barbarities acquired from the Moors upon their own countrymen, as many a poor peasant of the marshes of Somerset had learned to his cost.

"Curse him!" exclaimed one, with an oath. "Where hath he gone? Are we to let a guinea slip through our fingers after all our trouble?"

"He's not far away," replied his comrade, pointing with an exclamation of triumph to the partially concealed tracks on the road. "See, he hath had a fall. Methinks we have him by the heels."

"'Tis like looking for a sprat in the ocean," returned the first trooper, gazing across the wilderness of gorse. "So long as he stuck to his mount we could have tracked him. 'Tis what I feared: he hath made off afoot."

"Here, sirrah," he shouted to me, urging his horse down the road to where we were, "hast seen aught of a horseman riding like Beelzebub?"

"Nay," I replied truthfully enough; "no horseman has passed this way."

"You young prevaricator!" he exclaimed, tapping his pistols significantly. "You do but dissemble. You know whither that man went."

I kept silence.

Suddenly the other trooper, who had forced his horse through the gorse by the side of the road, shouted, "Here's a find, David. The rogue hath lost his horse."

"Then you saw him fall," continued the dragoon who had overtaken us. "Back you come with me, you young rebel!"

"I am no rebel," I replied, as stoutly as I could force myself to speak.

"Back, I say!" he repeated, ignoring my protest, and producing a pistol from his holster. There was no help for it. I had to go with him. "Run off home, Constance," I said in a low voice; "I shall be all right."

"No, you don't, you little wench!" exclaimed the villain. "You'll come in useful to make this young rebel open his mouth. Come on, both of you, I say!"

I looked at Constance. She was deathly white, yet she spoke not a word, although by the expression of her eyes she said, as plainly as if she had spoken, "Do not tell where he is."

"Mum's the word, eh?" was the greeting of the second trooper, as we were told to stand still near the scene of our meeting with the fugitive, Captain Miles. "Shall I tell 'em about that stubborn young rebel at Dulverton--it was Dulverton, wasn't it, David?--who thought to deceive one of Cornbury's Dragoons? A little tow tied to his thumbs did the trick, and I'll swear he's nursing his burns now. There's no tow to be had hereabouts, but I'll warrant a little dry heather will suffice. Now, sirrah, which way did the rebel go?"

"What! you won't answer?" he continued, as he dismounted from his horse, his comrade following his example. Whipping out his broadsword, he struck me a heavy blow on the ankle with the flat of the weapon. The pain was intense, yet, though an involuntary cry escaped me, I kept my lips tightly closed.

I gave a hasty look right and left along the straight white road. Not a creature was in sight. Even if there had been, 'twas difficult to imagine that a solitary wayfarer would dare to interfere with two armed and powerful ruffians.

"Pluck me a wisp of dry grass," said my tormentor.

"Nay, Jim," replied the other, "we've no time to waste in that fashion. If the rebel is making off afoot, every moment is precious. I know of a way." And, thrusting his huge fingers through my sister's golden locks, he shouted, "Now, sirrah, answer, or I'll pull out a handful of hair, to remember this pleasant meeting."

Constance cried with pain as the villain slowly tightened his grip. Knowing he was quite capable of carrying out his threat, I was torn with conflicting thoughts, till my brave sister exclaimed, "Not a word, Clifford!"

Possibly the rogue answering to the name of Jim realized my desperate intention, for at the risk of my life I was on the point of dashing my clenched fist in the face of Constance's assailant. With his right hand the dragoon gripped me by the nape of the neck, so that in his powerful grasp I was as helpless as a kitten; while with his left he caught and slowly twisted my wrist.

Suddenly a huge, dark form sprang from the concealing heather, and like an arrow from a bow Jeremy Miles flung himself upon the dragoon whose fingers were still grasping Constance's tresses.

I saw it all as clearly as if 'twere the work of minutes rather than of one instant. A swinging blow of the Captain's ponderous fist, and the ruffian's arm fell nerveless to his side; and a second blow stretched him lifeless on the ground. The other dragoon, with a furious oath, flung me headlong. As I fell I heard the crashing explosion of his pistol.

Slowly I raised myself on my arm, and watched the struggle betwixt our preserver and his antagonist. Powerful though the trooper was, the Captain, thanks to his strenuous life afloat, was his master. For a while they swayed to and fro in a desperate struggle, Jeremy's arms clasping the soldier like bands of steel, till the villain's resistance grew weaker and weaker.

Then, with a superhuman effort, Captain Miles wrenched his bulky foe clean off the ground, and hurled him, like a sack of flour, over his shoulder.

"Bear a hand with your sister, lad," he then exclaimed, in a matter-of-fact tone, although he was breathing heavily. "She has swooned."

This was a work of some difficulty, for water was not at hand, but at length Constance opened her eyes. Poor girl! Although not much hurt, for the rogue had not had time to carry out his threat to the fullest extent, she was terribly frightened, and the sight of the two dragoons lying motionless on the road did not help matters.

"Take her down the road a little way, and make her sit down," said Captain Jeremy kindly. "Then hasten back, for I'll warrant we've a fine job to make all shipshape and Bristol fashion."

"Have you seen any more of these lubbers?" he asked, after I had returned from carrying out his instructions.

"There was a troop of them in Lyndhurst this morning. They went Southampton-wards."

"I'll pray that they'll not return in a hurry," he exclaimed. "We've enough to do to cover up our tracks."

"Are they dead?" I asked shudderingly.

"As a marline-spike," he replied. "For the time we are safe; they were the only ones that battened themselves to me. The Duke is taken. I saw him seized by some of Portman's Militia near Ringwood but yesterday. Faith! I was disappointed in King Monmouth, for he fled from the field long before his men began to give way."

"And how did you escape?"

"'Twas touch and go. Monmouth, in a peasant's dress, lay hidden in some ferns, I but ten yards away. Little did I think 'twas the Duke till I heard Portman say as 'twas. I suppose that find satisfied them, for they searched no more. Farmer Shearing of Ringwood lent me his mare, and I rode off early this morning, intending to shape a course for Pitt's Deep, for 'twould have been madness to return to Lymington. Master Hammond, I was a fool even to set out for the West. What I've seen in forty years afloat is naught to what I've seen these last few days. But let's to work!"

We thereupon dragged the bodies of the troopers into the bracken, and carefully obliterated all signs of the struggle. The troopers' horses were contentedly nibbling the coarse grass by the roadside, our pony Trotter having followed Constance.

They were fine animals, these dragoons' mounts, and I wondered what would become of them. The same question evidently troubled Captain Miles, for if they came within hearing of a trumpet call they would most likely trot off to rejoin their fellows. Yet, as there were no troopers within several miles of us, the horses might be taken by some of the peasants who lived on the outskirts of the heath, especially if we removed the saddlery.

"Nay, 'tis too much of a risk," muttered Jeremy to himself, though I heard the words; and, lifting the fore-foot of one of the animals, he examined its hoof. There, in a manner that could not be effaced, were the royal monogram and regimental number; while a further search revealed the government mark branded on the creature's flank.

"Those marks are their death warrant," he exclaimed.

"How so?"

"No man cares for a dumb animal more than I do," he replied. "Yet, when human life and liberty are at stake, it behoves us to take stern measures. Now, I pray you, take your sister home, and return speedily with a pair of serviceable spades."

So saying, he led the two animals aside into the gorse, while I hastened to rejoin Constance. We had barely gone a hundred paces when a pistol shot rang out, quickly followed by another.

"What sound is that?" asked my sister.

"'Tis but naught," I replied, not daring to tell her the plain truth. "Captain Miles has unloaded the troopers' pistols."


Captain Jeremy's Surprise.

"What hath befallen you?" asked my father anxiously, as we crossed the threshold of the house. "Ye are both as pale as ghosts, and your clothes, Clifford, are smothered in dust. Hath Trotter thrown you?"

For answer, Constance sat down upon a settle and sobbed hysterically, while my father, stopping abruptly his task of questioning us, bestirred himself to comfort her.

"Two dragoons have molested us," I announced. "They were in pursuit of Captain Miles."

"Have they hurt you?" he asked.

"Nay, but little--thanks to the Captain." In a few words I related the incidents that had terminated in the death of the two villains. My father looked grave.

"And Jeremy?" he asked. "Hath he gone to Lymington?"

"Nay, he awaits me by the Beaulieu bridle path."

"'Tis well for him, though I am loath to risk His Majesty's displeasure in succouring rebels. Yet, especially as he did befriend you, I'll do my best to repay Jeremy's kindness. He must not go to Lymington, Clifford."

"He doth not intend to do so," said I. "He is making for Pitt's Deep."

"Equally as rash as if he journeyed to Lymington. I, too, heard the news this morning soon after you left. The dragoons watch every mile of this part of the coast, and at every little port a watch is set, so that no strangers dare set foot on shipboard without being closely questioned. My son, I take the risk even of harbouring a rebel. I'll go with thee and speak my mind with friend Jeremy."

Bidding Martha, our housekeeper, stay with Constance, and impressing upon her the necessity for silence as to what had occurred, my father, taking a mattock in his hand, set out to the scene of the encounter, I accompanying him, and carrying the spades over my shoulder.

"Where is the package I bade you bring from Lyndhurst?" he asked, as we left the outskirts of the village.

I searched the pockets of my doublet without success, though I was certain that the article had been safely placed in one of them.

"It must have fallen out on the road," I replied.

"'Tis a grave matter," he said, with a look of anxiety and a gesture of impatience. "How can I--but there! if 't comes to the worst, I must journey into Southampton myself. 'Tis the fortune of war."

No more was said, for we were already in sight of the cross-roads, and Captain Miles was sitting on the bracken-covered bank awaiting us.

"Good day to you, Cap'n Hammond!" he exclaimed as we approached. "'Tis a sad business dragging you and yours into this bickering."

"Yet, thanks to Heaven and your aid, my children were saved from the clutches of those rogues."

"Had it not been for me the rascals would not have been here," replied Captain Miles apologetically. "Yet I thank you, sir, for coming to my assistance, though 'tis to the advantage of this part of the countryside that we hide this carrion," and he pointed with his finger to the bodies of the two dragoons.

We set to work with a will, and in less than a quarter of an hour a shallow trench was dug sufficiently deep to receive the corpses of the ruffianly soldiers.

"Egad! 'tis warm work," exclaimed my father, leaning on his mattock as the first part of the task was completed.

"I'm right sorry I've no rum to offer you," said Captain Miles, wiping his heated brow. "You see, we're not aboard the old Venture, otherwise 'twould be different."

"I, too, regret that I brought not my flask of cordials," replied my father.

"There is a bottle of strong waters that I found close to the body of one of these villains," remarked Jeremy; "but though I did make three good attempts at it, 'twas more than I could stomach. It smells aright, but the taste--faugh! I have it in my mouth yet. Try it, Captain Hammond, and see if it suit thy palate."

So saying, he produced a bottle and handed it to my father, who gave an exclamation of surprise, quickly followed by a hearty laugh.

"Why, what's amiss?" asked the astonished Captain, as my father thrust the bottle into his pocket.

"Hist! I'll tell thee anon," said my sire mysteriously. "Now, let's resume our task."

The carcasses of the troopers' horses, the victims of Captain Miles's self-preservation, were next interred; while, to make doubly sure, the mount that Jeremy had borrowed from the Ringwood farmer was also buried.

This done, I happened to cross the highway, where, to my surprise, I found the wrappings of the package for which we had journeyed into Lyndhurst on that eventful morning.

"See! here is the covering of your packet," I exclaimed, holding it up to my father's view.

"Aye, Clifford, I know it. Say no more on this matter."

Inwardly wondering, I obeyed. Whatever the package contained, I now felt certain that 'twas the same stuff as Jeremy Miles had attempted to swallow.

"Now, look you, Captain Miles," said my father, as we prepared to return homewards, "neither Lymington nor Pitt's Deep offers an asylum for you. To go to either place is to set your head in a trap. I have made up my mind that you must tarry with us at Brockenhurst till this storm has blown over."

"Nay, 'tis unfair to saddle you with the presence of a proclaimed rebel," objected Captain Jeremy stoutly. "The service I rendered your children does not warrant such a generous payment. I'll accept your hospitality for this night, and at sunrise to-morrow I'll make my way into Sussex. I know of an old shipmate at Shoreham who'll gladly set me across to France."

"You'll never get out of Hampshire, my friend," interrupted my father; "at least, not yet awhile. Perchance the tide of monarchy will change again, though, mark you, I'd far rather have James Stuart as my lawful sovereign than James Walters. No, no, I say; further flight is out of the question. At Brockenhurst you will stay till I give you leave to go farther afield."

'Twas no light matter to smuggle the fugitive into our home; but we did it, and for the next week or more Captain Miles remained within doors, my father having pointed out to him the secret panel in case of an emergency. This surprised me not a little, for he was usually very reticent about this matter. True, I had been told of the existence of the hiding-place, but even Constance was kept in ignorance of it. The person who contrived the sliding panel must have done his work well, for no one unacquainted with its mechanism could cause it to move. But I've said enough concerning this matter, for although 'tis well known that our home does possess such a contrivance, its position and the method of working it still remain a secret locked in the breast of a trusted few, and 'twould not be doing my duty towards the Hammonds that are to come were I to say more.

Yet there was no reason for alarm. Though troops of horse often passed through Brockenhurst on their way to and from Lymington, none stopped to search for rebels. Neither did the disappearance of two of Cornbury's Dragoons cause any trouble, for we learnt that they were set down as deserters, while, as good fortune would have it, a report came in that two men answering their description had been seen riding northwards out of Salisbury.

One morning I was seated with Captain Jeremy in the little room where he was wont to spend most of his time. Often I would go thither to be regaled with stories of his voyage to the Indies and his adventures in foreign parts, till my young blood coursed madly through my veins; and so strange were some of the tales he told that I'm afraid his share of imagination must have been a double one.

In the midst of his narrative on this particular day, my father entered, having just returned from Lymington Town.

"I have bad news for you," he announced.

"'Tis not the first time, Captain Hammond," replied Jeremy composedly. "What is it this time?"

"The sheriff hath taken possession of your house, and it and all its contents are to be sold by candle auction."[1]

"'Tis the fortune of war," said Captain Miles, removing his long clay pipe from his lips and puffing out a thick cloud of smoke. "I expected it, and provided for it ere I left for Monmouth's camp. What money I possess, beyond what I require for my present disbursements, I have stowed away in the hold of the good ship 'Never-Sink'--to wit, Mother Earth. But there is one thing I'd be glad to lay my hands on. Wouldst be willing to buy a certain article out of my house?"

"Would I could buy the lot!"

"Nay, 'tis but a picture--a painting of my good barque the Venture, done in oils by a rascally Neapolitan, for which he charged me five ducats, though he did place the chain plates too far aft, and the spritsail yard above the bowsprit."

"'Tis a common fault with a landlubber," said my parent. "Nevertheless, I'll see to it."

"I prize the painting but lightly," continued Jeremy; "but there's more in it than meets the eye."

"I do not understand."

"Captain Hammond, you've treated me right nobly, and 'twould ill become me were I not to repay you to the utmost of my power. I'll be straightforward in this matter. Listen!"

My father motioned to me to leave them, but, perceiving the gesture, Captain Jeremy exclaimed:

"No, no, let the lad remain, for 'tis also to his advantage to hear. That picture contains the true and only clue to the lost treasure ship Madre de Dios."

[1] This custom appears to be fairly common in south-coast ports. In September, 1628, the Mayor of Portsmouth reported to the Admiralty that "The The Gift of God", prize, was sold on the last day of August by the burning of a candle.


The Madre de Dios

My father opened his eyes wide, and his mouth also, so that his pipe clattered on the oaken floor and was broken into a score of fragments.

"The Madre de Dios!" he exclaimed at length. "You speak truly--the same Madre de Dios concerning which Fergusson adventured himself in the last reign?"

"The same, Captain Hammond. I have the secret under my thumb."

"You know where the wreck lies hidden?"

"Aye, but that matters little. The treasure is not in her, but lies in a safe place."

Even I had heard the wonderful story of the Spanish treasure ship. 'Twas well known that in the last century Sir John Berkeley, during his attack upon Porto Rico, had captured a Spanish caravel, the Madre de Dios. On her he found pearls worth ten thousand ducats, gold dust, ingots, and other treasure to the value of 400,000 pounds. Of this vast spoil Sir John shipped about one-half aboard his own ship, sending the Madre under convoy for England. The caravel, overtaken by a furious north-easterly gale, was lost with all hands amongst the islands of the Lesser Antilles, and although expeditions innumerable had been sent out to discover the wreck, none had met with success. If Captain Jeremy Miles was not deceiving himself and us also, a king's ransom was almost within his grasp.

"Pardon me if I put it bluntly," said my father, "but if you know where the treasure lies, why have you not recovered it ere now?"

"That I'll explain, methinks, to your satisfaction, though 'tis a long story. Yet, to put it briefly, I was cast away on the island where the treasure lieth in the year 1674. For two years I was cut off from my fellow-men, till a Spanish barque took me off. It goes without saying that I told the Dons naught concerning the treasure; but on setting foot in England once more, I took steps to obtain command of a vessel trading with the Indies. Yet ill fortune thwarted my purpose."

"How so?"

"Head winds and pestilence. Then, though I was averse to sharing my secret, I applied to my Lord Rochester to intercede with the King; but, since I was only a plain merchant captain, and no King's officer, my lord must needs flout me and deride my statement."

"My Lord Rochester had his own views on this matter, I take it," remarked my father. "There were no less than forty applications to his late Majesty from would-be treasure seekers. Fergusson went and failed; Captain Calcott did likewise, and now Phipps has been gone these two years, spending the King's money and using his ships of war, which might be more profitably employed elsewhere. Nay, I cannot blame my Lord Rochester."

"But I do!" exclaimed Captain Miles vehemently. "Not for his refusal, mark you, for he's the loser on't, but for his churlish manner. 'Twas mainly for this reason that I set out to join Monmouth's standard, for, had all been well, I am certain he would, as a man of spirit and enterprise, have been willing to grant me aid in the search."

"The Duke will need all his spirit and enterprise to save his neck from the headsman's axe," replied my father. "But concerning this matter?"

"I have a proposal to make, Captain Hammond. But ere we go farther, 'tis worth while laying hands on the chart."

"Aye," replied my father. "The sale is fixed for to-morrow, so I'll to Lymington and secure the picture at all costs."

The subject was then dropped for the time, yet I did not fail to notice that my sire was by no means in his usual spirits, but seemed preoccupied, and inclined to irritability. Constance, too, noticed the change.

"What doth he ponder over?" she asked. "Is there fresh trouble coming upon us? Have they discovered aught of that affair on the Lyndhurst Road?" and she gave a little shudder at the remembrance of it.

"Nay," I replied. "That affair has, I hope, blown over. Something is in the wind, nevertheless, for I doubt not that our father and Captain Miles are engaging upon some profitable enterprise; it may happen that a voyage to the West Indies will restore the fortunes of our house."

"But will father have to go to sea again?" she asked anxiously.

"It may so happen," I replied.

"And you----?"

"I would I could," I rejoined earnestly, for 'twas my cherished ambition to go to sea; yet I feared my father would withhold his consent.

The next day my father and I rode into Lymington, and having left our horses at the "Hart", we repaired to Jeremy's house.

It was a long, low-built, thatched-roofed building, standing at the bottom of the steep High Street, and overlooking the muddy harbour where the Lym stream joins the sea. The door and the frames of the diamond-paned windows were painted a vivid green--possibly the work of the energetic seaman; while above the porch was nailed an effigy of a woman holding an arrow in her hand--the figurehead of one of his former vessels.

Crowds of eager and curious townsfolk were gathered without the door on which the sheriff's notice of the sale was affixed, while two tip-staves, escorting a lean, pale-faced man, were trying to force their way through the press of onlookers.

"'Tis the attorney for the Crown," whispered my father, pointing to the white-faced man, who was evidently ill at ease. "'Tis fortunate for him that he has a troop of horse within ear-shot, or I'll warrant he would have a warm reception."

But even the presence of the soldiers, who were drawn up in an alley leading to the quay, did not prevent volleys of rotten eggs and street garbage being directed against the sheriff's representative, till, the door being opened, he disappeared within, followed by the incensed townsfolk. Jeremy was, as I have mentioned, a general favourite in and around Lymington; and, besides, his rash participation in the revolt was not unfavourably regarded by his fellow-townsmen, who took this opportunity of expressing their practical sympathy with the absent Captain.

By dint of much elbowing we succeeded in gaining admission to the house, and, to my inexperienced eyes, the scene within was strange and pathetically interesting, as preparations were made to dispose of our friend's goods and chattels.

By threats, entreaties, and commands the sheriff's officer obtained comparative quiet, and amidst the groans of his audience he read the proclamation setting forth that the house and goods of Captain Jeremy Miles, he having been declared a traitor to His Majesty King James, were to be sold forthwith.

Thereupon one of the tip-staves produced a long wax candle having a number of metal pegs stuck into it at regular intervals. This he proceeded to light; the first lot was announced, and the highest bid, ere the uppermost peg fell from the melted wax, secured the submitted article.

In the excitement, as bidder after bidder was outbidden, even the voices of the malcontents were hushed; while as peg after peg dropped out and rebounded from the oaken table, the clang of the hammer could scarce drown the angry remonstrances of the disappointed would-be purchasers.

Thus the auction proceeded, and from room to room we went, watching the disposal of the Captain's goods. One or two instruments of navigation my father secured, though, as I knew he already possessed similar ones, I guessed that they were for Jeremy's future use.

At length the parlour was reached, and between the heads of the crowd and the low, raftered ceiling I caught a glimpse of the fateful painting--a ship under all plain sail, set with a vivid blue sea and a cloudless sky of an almost similar colour.

My father marked it likewise, for he straightened himself, and coughed slightly once or twice to clear his throat.

"Lot Seventy-two. A painting by a worthy Neapolitan artist, Messer Tito Cozzini, of--of--I cannot decipher the place--methinks it looks like Foggia."

The taper was again applied to the candle, the feeble light flickering dimly in the dusty, crowded room. No one seemed anxious to possess the work of art, for my father, concealing his impatience, had purposely withheld his bid. The metal peg began to droop in its support of melting wax.

"A crown," said my father.


The Chart

"And sixpence."

A voice like the bellowing of a bull burst from the corner of the room, while its owner began to force his way vigorously through the crowd towards the rostrum.

"Six shillings."

The peg gave a decided jerk, but still remained in the wax.

"Six shillings and sixpence."

"Seven shillings."

Ping! The metal pin tinkled on the table, the hammer descended, and the picture was ours.

A muttered oath caused me to turn my head and look behind. The unsuccessful bidder was a short, bull-necked man, with clean-shaven, red complexioned features, closely cropped hair, save for a bob hanging over his neck; and powerfully-built shoulders and arms.

With a violent effort to conceal his disappointment, the stranger backed his way through the crowd, and was lost to view.

To disarm suspicion, we remained for nearly another hour; then, having paid the sheriff's clerk the amount of the purchase money, my father took possession of the painting and the nautical instruments, and handed them over to the care of a lad, with instructions to follow us.

Having mounted our horses, we rode them at a walking pace, the youth panting at our heels, for the day was excessively warm.

As we were passing Buckland Rings I chanced to glance over my shoulder at our follower, and in so doing I caught sight of a man stealing cautiously along in the shadow of the trees at about two hundred paces off. It was the unsuccessful bidder for Captain Miles's picture.

"How say you?" asked my father. "The rascal means no good;" and abruptly wheeling his steed, he trotted back to the edge of the clump of pines that stand betwixt the highway and those relics of paganism commonly known in the district as "The Rings".

Yet though we searched the clump and the far side of the hillock as well, our efforts were in vain.

"Your eyes have deceived you, Clifford," said my sire, as we cantered along the road to overtake the lad with his precious burden. Though I felt certain on the point, I refrained from insisting that I was right, and without further happening we reached our house, though I was continually turning in the saddle to see if we were followed by the discomfited rogue.

Having to attend the Verderers' Court that afternoon, my father could devote no time to his purchase until the evening, though I was burning with impatience to see the chart revealed, and felt certain my parent was in a like state.

"'Tis well done," exclaimed Captain Jeremy with undisguised delight, when he saw the painting. "Now, Captain Hammond, we'll cut the canvas and get the chart."

"Nay," remonstrated my father, laughing; "the picture cost me seven shillings, and 'tis a pity to spoil it for the sake of being overhasty. Bring a mallet and chisel, Clifford, and we'll prise open the back."

This was accordingly done, and as the heavy boards were removed from the frame a musty piece of parchment, creased in several places, was disclosed to view.

"Here 'tis," declared Captain Jeremy, pointing with his yellow finger. "There lies the Madre treasure."

The chart was a good yard in length, and about three spans in breadth. It had evidently been drawn with a considerable amount of care, the names being neatly inserted. In the top right corner, spanned by a compass, was a scale of leagues, while in the left was a representation of the mariner's compass. Three strange-looking vessels, with towering forecastles and poops, and a veritable network of rhumb-lines, covered all the portion of the chart that was supposed to represent the ocean. In the bottom left-hand corner, which had been greatly thumb-marked, were the letters "...go Ribero", and the date "1529"; and marked by a rough circle, drawn, it seemed, at a later date, was the position of an island, against which appeared the words: "Much golde here--Madre de Dios, 1599".

"This is an old Spanish chart," said Captain Miles, "yet 'tis accurate enough for our purpose. Even Generals Penn and Venables, when they took Jamaica, freely acknowledged that none of our making could equal it."

"'Tis a sovereign piece of work," assented my father. "But methinks you said the position was known only to you? How comes it, therefore, that this chart has the spot marked fair and legibly?"

"Therein have many men been deceived," replied Captain Jeremy. "That was placed thereon for the purpose. Mark you a small cross on the island?--'tis a good two leagues from the wrongly marked spot. On my word of honour, I can testify that there lieth the treasure. Now, what say you, Captain Hammond? Will you join with me in prosecuting a search? for freely in my gratitude will I share the gains with you. Yet 'tis but fair to give you full warning, though I heed it not. 'Tis said that the treasure of the Madre de Dios is under a curse, and only through bloodshed and fire can it be regained. This was the curse of the Friar Pedro Lopez, whom, 'tis avowed, Sir John Berkeley threw overboard with his own hands."

"The matter is a weighty one," replied my father, as he proceeded to replace the back of the frame. "I Even should the treasure be yet undiscovered, there arises the question of the cost of fitting out a ship. Were I a man of wealth I'd not be averse from adventuring a round sum. As for the friar's curse, I heed it not."

"Neither have I much wealth, seeing that my house and goods were in the sheriff's hands this day," observed Captain Jeremy, with a grim smile. "Yet, as I have said heretofore, I have hidden a certain sum. This, though 'tis my all, I would gladly devote to the enterprise; and, forsooth, a man could not give better pledge of his sincerity."

"'Tis not that I doubt your sincerity, and I crave your pardon should I have touched upon a tender spot. Now, I pray you, explain the chart, inasmuch as it concerns the treasure island."

Thus encouraged, Captain Jeremy carefully filled his long clay pipe, and resting the glowing bowl on the edge of the table (somewhat, I fear, to my father's displeasure, though he made no sign on 't), he proceeded to point out the characteristics of the island, the shoals and currents in its vicinity, the secure anchorage, and where a boat could make a landing without hazard to itself or its crew.

To all this I listened intently, my eyes glistening with excitement; but, greatly to my disappointment, just as Captain Miles was about to explain how and where the Madre treasure lay hidden, my father exclaimed:

"The hour is late, Clifford, therefore bid us good night and go to bed."

There was no help for it; I retired from the room reluctantly, pausing for one instant to gaze upon the scene, as the two bronzed-faced seamen bent eagerly over the musty parchment, the key to the undertaking that was, we hoped, to restore the house of Hammond to its former affluence.


A Midnight Intruder

Although the day had opened fine and bright, the evening had brought with it an unwelcome change in the weather. A south-westerly gale, blowing straight from the English Channel, swept across the land, accompanied by heavy downpours of rain and hail; while ever and anon vivid flashes of lightning, followed by deafening peals of thunder that shook the house to its foundations, would pierce the darkness of the night.

For more than an hour I remained at my window, watching the flashes play upon the distant trees of the forest, or light up the rolling expanse of gorse-clad heath. So fierce was the wind that the branches of a tree close to my casement were lashed violently against the thatch, while a tall elm at the edge of the lawn had been uprooted, and lay athwart the sodden road.

At length the storm receded, and, tired out, I sought repose.

It must have been some time betwixt midnight and dawn, for 'twas still dark, when I awoke with a start and a vague feeling that something was amiss.

I had, according to custom, left the casement slightly ajar, the frame being secured by an iron quadrant. This contrivance fitted tightly, and 'twould be impossible for it to move of itself; yet I heard the creaking of the metalwork as the casement was slowly and cautiously opened, for the wind had now died utterly away, and all else was still save for the pattering of the water from the eaves.

Overcome by a nameless terror, I lay motionless in my bed, thinking 'twas the Evil One coming in person to bear me bodily away.[1]

Slowly a dark, sinister figure, barely distinguishable against the gloom without, crept silently through the now open window, past the foot of my bed, and out by the unlatched door of the room, smothering as it did so a sneeze.

That sneeze aroused my courage, for never in all the worthy Doctor Colling's discourses had I heard of the Evil One sneezing. The intruder was a robber!

However, I remained silent and motionless till the unwelcome stranger had time to get clear of the room; then, boldly springing out of bed, I crept softly to my father's room.

At the first touch of my hand he was wide-awake, thanks once more to his active life afloat, but had the good sense to refrain from speaking aloud.

In a few words I explained the situation, and without hesitation he sprang from his bed, armed himself with a petronel, and hastened downstairs to surprise and, if possible, capture the intruder, I following closely and silently at his heels.

But in the few minutes of undisturbed action the robber had not been idle, for ere my father gained the lowermost stair he tripped suddenly over a broom handle cunningly placed there for that purpose, and falling headlong, the petronel exploded with a vivid flash and a stunning report, the bullets crashing through the wainscot.

In a moment he was on his feet again, only to meet the robber as he dashed for freedom. In the darkness I heard the sounds of a furious struggle, but, being unable to distinguish friend from foe, I was compelled to stand inactive and useless:

Suddenly there was an exclamation of pain, followed by a heavy thud, and the next instant I was thrust violently against the wall as a powerful, agile figure tore past me and up the staircase.

A terrific crash of broken glass was followed by the shrieks of old Martha and groans in the darkness, while I heard Captain Jeremy rushing from his room, shouting for lights to be brought.

When at length we found tinder and steel and a light was provided, my father was seen lying on his face, bleeding profusely from a wound in the right side.

"Water!" he gasped feebly. "I am done for!" and before we could raise him from the floor he had swooned.

Jeremy, cursing loudly, was at first for pursuing the murderous villain who had dealt the fell blow, but pursuit was not to be thought of when we saw my father's desperate condition. Fearing to carry him upstairs to his own chamber, we lifted him into the dining-room, where we placed his senseless form on a roughly-constructed couch.

Constance had now joined us, and though trembling with fear and anxiety, she alone suggested the wisest course.

"Run, Clifford, for a chirurgeon!" she exclaimed, and, hatless and shoeless, though I had found time to don my clothing, I tore over the sodden fields to the house of Master Blackwood, who lived well on the outskirts of the village.

Seeing the case was urgent, though I could but babble an incoherent summons, the surgeon came quickly; and having made a hasty examination, the grave look on his clear-cut features showed that my sire was in dire peril of death.

Having dressed the wound, Master Blackwood applied himself to restoring his patient to consciousness, and while this was being done my glance fell upon the picture--or, rather, the frame--that my father had bought but a few short hours ago.

The painting was missing, cut from the frame by a sharp knife. Almost at the same time Captain Miles noticed the empty frame, and, in spite of his accustomed coolness, his jaw dropped.

"Alack-a-day! A sorry pass! 'Tis the friar's curse come home," he muttered huskily.

Slowly the pale dawn struggled for the mastery with the feeble flicker of the rushlight till, in a mantle of vivid crimson hue, the sun rose red and angry in the eastern sky.

Then, and only then, could we see the full extent of the mischief that the robber had wrought. That the precious chart had been the object of his entry there could be no doubt, for in the short space of time ere he was disturbed he had made straight for the painting that formerly concealed the parchment.

The shattered broomstick, a dark pool of blood at the foot of the stairs, and the shot-marked wainscot were silent evidences of the tragedy; while I found the hilt of a knife wedged firmly in the wall, close to where I was hurled by the escaping miscreant.

Then I remembered the incident, and to my surprise I found that I had a clean cut in the right shoulder. Though it had bled somewhat, in my excitement I had been unaware of it; yet 'twas a narrow escape.

"There's more behind this affair than we wot of," remarked Captain Jeremy. "The rogue had doubtless watched us through the window whilst your father and I were talking of the matter of the treasure, for I bear to mind the shutters were not drawn. Then, finding that the iron bars across the lower windows prevented him from entering save by much labour and trouble, he scaled the tree without your casement and entered your room. But, Clifford, sorry though I be for your father's plight and sore hurt, 'tis a fortunate thing that the robber was foiled, for, see you, I had the chart with me, placed under my pillow for safety. As for the picture of the old Venture, 'tis of little account, though I did set some store on it for the sake of bygone times."

"But concerning the robber?" I asked. "If we are to inform the watch there will be danger of your discovery, yet I am loath to let the villain go unhindered."

"'Tis a matter that requires much consideration," he replied gravely. "I call to mind when I was on board the barque Furie within sight of Port Royal. A fire broke out for'ard and threatened to consume us; our longboat and shallop were damaged, while alongside were swarms of sharks. As we could not save ourselves by flight, we fought the flames so determinedly that we put out the fire, though it seemed a well-nigh impossible task."

"And what of it?" I asked perplexedly, for I failed to grasp the Captain's meaning.

"You see, Master Clifford, this house, in a manner of speaking, is the burning craft, the King's officers are the sharks; so, until we know your father's pleasure in this business, I would that nothing be said concerning the affair. Master Blackwood I know to be a stanch and upright man who detests the unlawful practices of King James; he will keep silence. Your sister, also, I know to be circumspect; but I have my doubts about Martha, for the tongues of serving women, especially old ones, are apt to wag."

"I am content to let the matter rest for the present," I replied; and crossing the hall, I laid hold of the knife that was still fixed in the wainscot. It took much strength to wrench it free, and no little care, for the broken blade was as sharp as a razor. The steel was about a span in length, and wet for about half that distance with my father's blood. As I cleaned it, my eyes fell upon some letters engraved upon the blade. Worn though the steel was, I deciphered the letters "...emento mori".

"'Tis perchance the name of the cutler," said Captain Miles, taking the steel out of my hand and examining it carefully.

"Nay; 'tis certain you have not noticed similar words in Lymington Church," I replied. "The first letter is on the other portion of the broken blade, and the completed sentence is the Latin for 'Remember you must die'. I'll have a hilt fitted to this portion, Captain Jeremy, and should ill befall my father, the motto will guide me in the tracing of the villain."

"Strange it may be," remarked the Captain reflectively, "but now I recall an old shipmate of mine who bought a dagger in Lisbon with these words. He was, I remember, an ill-favoured creature."

"Was he short in stature, and bull-necked?" I asked eagerly.

"Nay," replied my companion, shaking his head; "you are on the wrong tack. Your father hath told me of the man you have in mind--the one who would have bought the picture, though, sink me! I cannot imagine why he should set such store on it. Nay; the man, though short in stature, was as thin as a handspike. But, my lad," he said kindly, "you look as white as a sheet. Here, take a turn in the garden, for the place smells like a charnel-house. Keep within ear-shot, lest you are wanted."

With a heavy heart I obeyed, having first obtained Constance's aid in applying a bandage to my wounded shoulder.

The damage done by yesternight's gale was enormous, though I paid little heed to the scene of desolation, but, stepping over the broken branches that everywhere littered the ground, walked round to the back of the house, whence the robber had made his escape.

He had left by the same means as he had entered--through the casement of my room and down the tree that unfortunately provided a ready means of descent. Curiosity prompted me to examine the trunk, and on so doing I found traces of blood on the bark. I noticed that, if viewed from the window, the marks of blood were on the right-hand side of the trunk, and, as the fugitive must have descended with his face towards the bark, 'twas evident that he had been wounded on the right side of his person; and by the quantity of the blood it was further evident that the wound was of a severe nature.

Then the thought flashed across my mind: the villain was sore hurt, his track lay fresh upon the grass; why should I not follow him?

Running back to the house, I loaded my fowling-piece, and calling Bruno, my lurcher, I started in pursuit.

[1] Lest Clifford be thought a weak-minded coward, it is well to explain that previous to and during the seventeenth century there was a strong popular belief in the corporal presence of the Evil One. The study of any contemporary writer will confirm this. A notable example is afforded by the panic of Robinson Crusoe on discovering a dying goat in the darkness of a cave: "I saw two broad shining eyes of some creature, whether devil or man I knew not".


The Cave in the Lonely Heath

The track was clearly defined, the sinister dark patches showing boldly upon the bright green grass with the utmost regularity. The man had certainly fled in a north-easterly direction, towards Black Down, the densest part of the forest. He had a start of at least six hours, but, even had he not already swooned from loss of blood, this advantage was slight. In my enthusiasm I imagined that the rogue was already my prisoner, marching, with my piece at his head, towards the common jail at Lymington.

The tell-tale line of spots crossed the highway and led on to the gorse-clad heath, but though there were evidences that the fugitive had blundered into many bushes in his flight in the dark, the general direction remained the same. At this I wondered not a little, for from my forest experience I knew that a man crossing an open space in the dark would, without a light or other means to guide him, inevitably make a wide circle, unless he had the sense to keep his course by observing the direction of the wind. Yet I knew that after the storm the wind had died utterly away, so that the circumstance seemed stranger still.

I suppose I had not gone half a mile when, thrown behind some bushes, I espied the picture that the rogue had cut from its frame. There were signs that he had made a lengthy halt, one being a large dark stain upon the damp soil, showing that much blood had been spilled. Another thing I conjectured: he had discovered that the chart was not, as evidently he had imagined, part of the picture, and in his rage he had thrown it aside. That being so, it showed that day had dawned ere he could have become acquainted with the failure of his fell designs.

Making the canvas into a roll, I slipped it into my belt, and continued my way.

On and on I went, sometimes breaking into a run, keeping both a sharp lookout in case of a surprise and a careful watch on the dull brown track, which now began to show at greater intervals than heretofore.

At length my progress was stopped by a narrow, gurgling stream that flowed southwards between gravelly banks lined with bushes and dwarfed trees. This stream I knew to be the Lym, the same that joins the sea at Lymington.

Here I was thwarted, for though I took off my hose and shoes and waded over the clayey bottom, not the slightest track could I find on the farther bank. I walked both up and down stream for nearly a quarter of a mile, carefully examining the soft clay, which would assuredly reveal any trace of footprints after the heavy rain of the previous night; but the bank was innocent of any traces of human agency, though I encountered well-defined marks of ponies, deer, and otters.

Sick at heart, I now bethought me of Captain Jeremy's warning, so, uncocking my piece, I shouldered the weapon and set my face homewards. Bruno, who had followed the trail as keenly as I had done, seemed to share my dejection, for, instead of keeping a few paces ahead as he had done on the outward journey, he stuck close to my heels.

I was not returning by the same path, but rather, I should think, about two hundred yards to the right of it; yet with the smoke of the chimneys of Brockenhurst village to guide me I kept steadily onwards.

Suddenly, almost before I could utter a sound of alarm, the ground gave way beneath me; the bracken and the gorse seemed to shoot up past me, and the daylight gave place to semi-darkness.

Instinctively I clutched at the ledge of the pit, but without avail; then a thousand lights seemed to flash across my eyes, and I lost consciousness.

When I recovered my senses I found myself lying on the sandy floor of a natural cave or hollow, into which the light filtered through an aperture almost above my head--the hole through which I had fallen.

My head throbbed painfully, and, putting my hands to my forehead, I found that it was bound with a wet rag. As I moved my arm Bruno thrust his muzzle against my hand with a low bark of joy; the faithful dog had evidently followed his master in his fall.

I tried to raise myself into a sitting posture, but the exertion was too great, and with a stifled exclamation of pain I fell back.

"Lie still, young maäster," exclaimed a gruff though kindly voice. "You'll be safe enow wi' us."

"Give him a drink o' water," said another. "He'll do better sittin' up."

With that I felt myself raised and propped against the wall of the cave, so that I could look about.

Eight or ten men, dressed in rough clothing, some with peajackets, others in tarpaulins, were either seated on the ground or standing with folded arms regarding me intently. Two or three had pistols stuck in their belts, while a pair of heavy cutlasses and a bundle of stout staves, some with iron spikes, were placed in one corner of the cave, which was roughly three-sided, and formed by hands, as far as I could make out in the subdued light.

In the centre of the cavern was the trunk of a young tree, its upper portion leaning against the aperture overhead, while the branches had been lopped off sufficiently close to the stem to allow of the stumps being used as a rough ladder. Two small casks, an earthenware vessel containing water, a heap of clothing, and a coil of rope completed the utensils of this subterranean retreat.

"You'll be the son of Cap'n Foul-weather Dick?" asked the man who had first spoken.

"Yes," I replied, for my questioner had used the name by which my father was frequently called by the seafaring population of Lymington.

"'Twas well for you I knew it, for when you came tumbling down that hole we thought 'twas the sogers, and Bill 'ere got ready to knock you over th' head. D'ye know me?"

I looked at the man as intently as my throbbing head would allow, then at his companions. Like an inspiration a thought flashed across my mind.

"Yes," I answered. "Ye are the men who went with Captain Miles to the West."

"Aye," said the man referred to as Bill, "an' well we know it. Look 'ee, young maäster, can we trust ye to keep your mouth shut on this business?"

"I have as weighty a matter on my mind now," I replied. "You can count upon my silence."

"The youngster's true enow, 'Enery," said Bill. "Maybe he'll lend us a hand afore long. Look you," he continued, addressing me, "there are but eleven left of the score of Lymington men who marched to help the Duke o' Monmouth. Kitt Binns, Carrol Tanner, Cripps, Fred Dadge--they went down in the fight; young Garge Pitman the red-coated devils took near Bridgwater. They strung him up on a gallows at the roadside. Poor fellow, he didn't half give 'em a rough time afore they did the dirty job, an' I was up to my neck in a ditch an' saw it all, yet couldn't bear a hand to help him. That makes five. What happened to the rest of us we don't know--taken, doubtless, after the fight. Anyways, Cap'n Miles, Joe Scott, Sammy Cross, an' Long Bristowe won't see Lymington again, I fear, though we aren't much better off on that score."

"Captain Miles!" I exclaimed. "Why!----" I broke off, though reasoning that as these men had confided in me, there was little harm in telling them of Captain Jeremy's hiding-place in our house.

"What of him?" asked several of the men.

"He is alive and well; I saw him scarce two hours ago."

"Hurrah!" exclaimed the men, but softly, for they durst not shout lest the noise should betray them.

"Alive and well, say you?" repeated 'Enery, a burly, bearded seaman who, it seemed, had no other name. "'Enery" he answered to, and 'Enery he remains till the close of my story. "But, young maäster, 'tis a good six hours you've been lying 'ere."

"Six hours!" I exclaimed amazedly; then, remembering my father's condition, I attempted to rise.

"Nay, young sir," said Bill, noticing my effort, "you cannot go home without aid, and none can we give till Black Lewis comes. But concerning Captain Jeremy?"

In a few words I told them all I knew of the Captain's adventures, the men eagerly following every word.

"Tell him," said 'Enery, as I finished my story, "that ten stanch men await him here. Cooped up like rats in a hold, we durst not show our faces in Lymington, much less try for a ship; but with Cap'n Jeremy to lead us, we'll shape a true course yet. Tell him also----"

A low cry like the call of a forest stag for its mate broke upon our ears. Twice 'twas repeated.

"'Tis Black Lewis," said one of the men, for my information, and the next instant the bushes overhead were thrust back, and a man began to descend the rough ladder.

Black Lewis gave no sign of surprise at seeing a lad in the cave. I knew him by sight, and also by repute--a short, shrivelled-up little man, with a head that seemed too large and heavy for his body, wrinkled face, massive and protruding cheek bones, and sandy-coloured hair. He lived mainly by his wits, killing adders that infested the forest glades, hawking the skins of animals he caught, and, no doubt, poaching, though he had as yet managed to escape being branded as a felon. Some would have it that he was dullwitted, yet those who thus avowed had often cause to fear his tongue, which was as sharp as a rapier. He was dressed in loose, home-made garments of moleskin, and carried a long forked stick in his hand, not even relinquishing it when he descended the tree trunk. Over his back was strung a canvas bag, from which he produced a hare, some eggs, and a flagon of ale.

He readily consented to assist me to my home, and having bade farewell to the refugee seamen (who had persuaded me to lend them my fowling-piece), I was slung up the shaft by means of the rope, Bruno being carried up on the shoulders of one of the men. Once in the open air I walked strongly, though twice or thrice I reeled, and would have fallen but for my companion's assistance.

At the entrance to our grounds Black Lewis left me, and just as I gained the door Captain Jeremy met me. By the look on his face I knew that some thing was amiss.

"They have searched for you high and low, Master Clifford," said he; "but thanks be you are safe! Come at once and see your father, for----"

"He is not dead?" I asked anxiously.

"Nay, lad, but be prepared for the worst. Master Blackwood says he'll not last the night. If so, he'll pass away before the young flood sets in."


Concerning the Events that Prompted Me to a Desperate Resolve

My father had been removed to his room, and was now lying on his bed, his head and shoulders raised and supported by pillows, for the nature of his wound had caused him to fight hard for breath.

He was now quite conscious, though very weak. Captain Jeremy afterwards said that what with cupping and applying leeches Master Blackwood had kept down the fever, but had also done his patient more harm than good.

My father knew full well that the end was at hand, yet he faced it manfully, like the stanch old seaman he was. I fancy his voice faltered when he spoke to me of Constance, but beyond that he was calm and collected, giving me advice as to my future, and preparing himself for the end.

'Tis unnecessary to dwell upon the events of the next few hours, for the remembrance of that mournful time is an affair for the minds of our own family; but just before midnight, at dead low water by the shore, as Captain Jeremy had predicted, my father passed peacefully away.

Neither do I care to relate too minutely the happenings of the following week. There was, according to custom, an inquest, but by mutual consent Captain Jeremy's name was left out of the case, although we were considerably ill at ease lest old Martha should babble on't.

Two days after my father had been laid to rest under the great yew tree in Brockenhurst Churchyard I received a letter from my uncle, John Hammond, stating that, in accordance with arrangements made with my father many years ago, he would take up his abode in our house, and look after the estate.

Captain Jeremy took his departure before my uncle arrived, and joined the party of Lymington seamen in the cave. He gave me his assurance that his understanding with my late parent would remain as before, and that he would, to use his own expression, "keep his weather eye lifting", and endeavour to find a means of procuring a stout craft, in order to prosecute his search for the Madre de Dios treasure.

Shortly after the arrival of my uncle I had an attack of smallpox, which, Heaven be praised! left me unmarked. Master Blackwood, the chirurgeon, tended me with the utmost care, though at the time I feared his remedies more than I did the disorder.

August had run its course, and September was well advanced ere I could get abroad once more, and during that time much had happened relating to the ill-fortuned rising in the West.

Monmouth's head had rolled on the scaffold on Tower Hill, and Jeffreys had completed his circuit of the West, leaving behind him a never-to-be-forgotten record of cruelty, infamy, and shame, while his brutal actions in condemning Lady Alice Lisle to the stake sickened even the most loyal supporters of King James.

Then, and only then, did I realize the risk we had run in harbouring Captain Jeremy; yet I had learnt to look upon him as the one stanch friend in my solitude, and as such I would right willingly take all chances could I but render him further aid.

At the first opportunity, directly I felt strong enough, I crossed the heath and stealthily approached his place of concealment. In vain I gave the call of the red deer, for no welcome reply came from the yawning pit; and when at length I descended by the rude ladder I found the place dank and deserted. Captain Miles and his men had gone--whither?--to bondage, or to freedom?

Neither did I from that day set eyes on Black Lewis; he, too, had vanished, and thus all chance of communicating with the honest Captain seemed to be hopelessly lost.

One afternoon towards the close of September I was sent by my uncle into Lymington to procure some books that an acquaintance had promised him.

It was a blustering day, cold for the time of year, and on the journey I encountered several heavy showers that, for want of shelter, soaked me to the skin. However, I accomplished my errand, and laden with a heavy burden I trudged homewards, having also taken the opportunity of obtaining from a cutler's the blade of the dagger with which my father had been slain, I having left it some weeks before for the purpose of having a hilt fitted to it.

At the outskirts of the village I almost ran into the arms of Captain Jeremy, who was leading a heavy cob by the bridle.

For a few moments I could scarce believe my eyes; yet 'twas he, bold, jovial, and beaming with kindliness as of yore, before that fateful journey to the West.

"What cheer, ho!" he shouted. "I've sought you high and low."

"Oh, Captain Miles!" I exclaimed apprehensively, "is it safe for you to be seen, sir?"

"Safe?" he roared. "Why, safe as a parson's barn. Thanks to my patron Sir William Soams, of whom I have oft spoken beforetimes, and in no small measure to a heavy drain upon my hidden hoard, I've gained a pardon from His Majesty, and now I can flaunt my Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys, or any of his satellites, come what may. I've got a ship, lad! A. goodly vessel--as sweet a little craft as ever you'd clap eyes on betwixt Yarmouth and Bristol. Thanks once again to Sir William Soams, who threw himself into my plans, the Golden Hope has been chartered to seek the Madre treasure--and I'll warrant Sir William will receive a good per centum on his outlay. She lies at Poole, lad. We sailed her round from Deptford two days agone, I and the ten lads you saw in the hole on Brockenhurst Heath, they having made their way safely one by one to a rendezvous at Wapping; and I've ridden over from Poole to tell you the news, though I am but a sorry horseman."

"You rode well enough when you fled before the dragoons, sir."

"Aye," he replied, with a hearty laugh; "e'en though I rode the farmer's mare to death. It beats me to think how I kept in the saddle that day, and I've fallen thrice on my way hither; yet 'tis strange what a man will do when he's put to it. But can you persuade your uncle to let you ride over to Poole and see the Golden Hope ere we sail? We weigh on Saturday morn, for 'tis, as you know, ill luck to leave port on a Friday."

I shook my head sorrowfully.

"I fear he'll not think of it," I replied. "But, Captain Jeremy, how I wish I were off with you!"

"'Tis not to be thought of, lad. Adventuring in the Indies is no fit business for you. I've spun you yarns times without number, but you've not heard of the dark side of a seaman's life. No, no, Clifford; make the best of things and bide at home, and I'll do my best for you and me."

"But, Captain----"

"No buts, lad; your duty lies at home. Now, say no more on 't, though I would you could see the Golden Hope ere she leaves Poole Harbour. Well, well, the best of friends must say farewell, and so 'tis with us. Please Heaven another couple o' years will see us home once more with the treasure; so good-bye, Clifford."

"Farewell, Captain Jeremy, and God be with you!"

Awkwardly the seaman scrambled into the saddle, urged his nag into a trot, and set off along the Christchurch Road, not daring to look round for fear of losing his seat. I watched him till his burly figure disappeared from view, then slowly I made my way homewards.

"Why have you tarried on your errand, sirrah?" demanded my uncle, as I placed the pile of heavy books on the table. "Hast entered into worldly and unbecoming conversation with that seafaring man who, with many strange oaths on his lips, hath troubled me with his presence? To your room, sir! Supperless you shall go; but before retiring, read, mark, and learn the beautiful discourse on procrastination as set forth in this book of godly sermons. To-morrow I'll speak further on this matter."

On the morrow he did more than speak, being a too zealous exponent of King Solomon for my peace of mind; and, smarting under the treatment I had endured, I determined to run away and join, by hook or by crook, the good ship Golden Hope.



I had no sooner made up my mind than I immediately began to take steps to put my plan into execution, for the Golden Hope was to sail at early morn on the following day, and twenty good miles had to be covered betwixt sunset and sunrise, were I to be in time.

My great regret was that I was unable to let Constance know of my departure; but beyond that I cared little.

I managed to secrete the best part of a loaf, some cheese, and a small flask of milk; and unobserved I secured a lengthy rope, which I hid under my bed.

Longer and more tedious than ever seemed the evening prayers, but at last my uncle bade me retire for the night. I lay abed till I heard him fastening my door on the outside, as was his wont, and go to his room. Then, when all was quiet, I hurriedly dressed, packed my food in a wallet, and prepared to escape by the window. As 'twas a calm moonlight night, the tree that served my father's murderer so timely did not sway sufficiently for me to descend by it, and for that reason I had provided myself with the rope.

This I passed round a leg of the massive bedstead, throwing the two ends out of the casement on to the ground. Noiselessly I slipped out, and grasping both parts of the rope, I descended hand over hand. Then it was an easy matter to pull the rope down after me, so as to remove all traces of my escape, which, I hoped, would prevent my flight being discovered for some hours later than otherwise.

Having hidden the rope, I set out with a rapid stride and beating heart on my long walk to Poole Town.

For the first few miles my route lay over well-known ground, but soon I plunged into the thickest portion of the forest, where the tall branches, meeting overhead, shut out the moonlight. 'Twas a weird journey in the dead of night, with not a sound save my own footsteps and the occasional hooting of an owl in the tree tops.

At length I left the confines of the New Forest, the road continuing hilly yet fair-going; and having gotten well into the swing, I footed it strongly.

Just as I reached the meeting of two fork roads I heard the distant thud of a horse's hoofs, which came rapidly nearer and nearer.

Could my flight have been discovered already?

Plunging through a gap in the bushes I stood, my heart throbbing violently, expecting every moment to see my uncle's manservant on my track; but in a cloud of dust that rose slowly in the bright moonlight a horseman galloped madly past, his hair flying out behind him by reason of his speed through the still night air.

Hardly had he gone past when I again heard the thud of horses' hoofs, and riding apparently in close pursuit came four men, with set faces and loose rein. They, too, disappeared, but I could not summon up courage to resume my way until the last sounds of the pursuers had died away in the dim distance.

Then I came in sight of a town of considerable size, dominated by a lofty square tower. This I guessed rightly to be Christchurch.

On reaching a long stone bridge I halted at one of the recesses to rest awhile, making a meal of the food I had brought, for the walk had made me ravenous.

'Twas a glorious view. Standing out clearly in the moonlight was the long, regular outline of the priory church, the graceful tower of which I had seen a long way down the road. The moonbeams danced on the placid waters of an inland sea, while from farther still, beyond a lofty, flat-topped hill, came the sound of the swell of the English Channel roaring on the sandy shore.

Beneath the bridge flowed the river, swiftly and silently, though oft the stillness was broken by the splash of a lordly salmon. "The stream and I have both the same purpose," thought I. "Each would gain the sea, though by different means."

My reverie was broken by the clatter of horsemen, and fearing to be stopped and questioned, I ran down the approach to the bridge and, vaulting over the low parapet, stood ankle deep in the dewy grass, scarce daring to raise my eyes above the coping.

'Twas the same troop of horsemen I had seen a short while ago, and in their midst, his legs bound beneath his horse's belly, rode the man they had pursued, entreating and reviling his captors almost in the same breath.

Once again I proceeded on my way, keeping close to the side of the main street, where the moon threw deep shadows athwart the cobbles; and once again I was brought to a standstill.

Hobbling down the street was a decrepit old man, muffled in a long cloak. In his left hand he carried a lantern, while his right grasped a halberd--though why thus armed I am at pains to suggest, for so tottering were his footsteps that I could have knocked him down with ease. Neither could he have had good sight, for he passed me, as I stood flattened against a door, within three paces, and, halting in the middle of the road, croaked:

"One o' the clock, and a fine morning, and all's well."

Three hours more and day would be breaking. If I were to be on Poole Quay by sunrise no time must be lost, so directly the way was clear I set off at a steady trot, never stopping till I had gained a second bridge and had reached the foot of a steep hill, from the summit of which I saw I had completely shaken off the dust of Christchurch.

For the next five or six miles 'twas up and down, with occasional glimpses of the sea away on my left; and just as the pale dawn began to glimmer in the east, I saw from the brow of a lofty hill the whole extent of Poole Harbour spread out like a map, the undulating downs that I knew afterwards to be Purbeck Heights being barely visible against the dark grey sky.

Half an hour later I was threading my way down the narrow High Street, guided by the tall masts of the shipping in the harbour.

At length I reached the quay, and stood bewildered by the maze of vessels of all sorts, sizes, and rigs. Although 'twas yet early, there was much bustling about--fishermen returning from their night's work, and men, heavy-eyed as the result of their previous night's carouse, stumbling back to their ships; while already the creaking of tackle and the hoarse shouts of seamen proclaimed that more than one vessel was getting under way.

I had two immediate objects in view. I must avoid Captain Jeremy, for I was very doubtful whether he would take me aboard the Golden Hope. I must also find the ship, and manage to stow myself away till she set sail.

Once more luck was in my favour, for as I made my way along the slippery wharf I espied a large, wall-sided brig, with tall masts, from which the sails hung loosely, awaiting but to be sheeted home. Beneath her small, square stern ports were the words Golden Hope.

Even as I looked at her from a safe distance a heavy footstep caused me to turn round, and to my surprise I saw no other than 'Enery.

He recognized me in an instant, and gripping me by the shoulder he exclaimed:

"Avast there, Master Hammond, what brings you here?"

"I've run away from home. Don't betray me, Henry," I replied; "I want to go with Captain Miles, and I'm afraid he'll not take me."

"Say 'Enery an' I'll answer to my name," said the seaman reprovingly. "Why, if so be you wants to go to sea, why shouldn't you? Why shouldn't you, I wants to know?"

"Perchance Captain Jeremy will not see eye to eye with me in that matter; though, once we are fairly out at sea----"

"'Nough said, young maäster. Sink me if I don't do my best, for you were as true as steel to us when we were shut up in that hole in Brockenhurst Heath. Come on, and look sharp about it."

So saying, he led the way to a dirty, disreputable inn situated in a narrow street leading off the quay. Here he spoke a few words to a ferrety, blear-eyed man, handing tankards of spirits to the crowd of seafaring men who thronged there in spite of the time of day.

"Up aloft," said the man, jerking his thumb in the direction of a rough ladder that led to a room above.



Here 'Enery provided me with a pair of heavy sea boots which, when I had slipped my legs into them, reached almost to my thighs. Next I donned a long oilskin coat, cracked all over by the heat of the sun and smelling most vilely; while on my head 'Enery clapped a tarpaulin, the back of which rested betwixt my shoulder-blades.

Stepping back, he examined me critically; then, not satisfied with his handiwork, he crossed over to the hearth, and covering his hand with soot, he smothered my face till I was as dusky as a blackamoor.

"It's all plain sailing now," he remarked approvingly; and sallying out into the street, we regained the quay.

"'Ere, clap hold o' that," exclaimed 'Enery, pointing to a heavy sack, and, hoisting it on to my shoulders, he also seized a similar article, and told me to follow him.

There was a constant stream of men engaged in the same task, some of them seamen belonging to the ship, others longshoremen hired to assist in the loading.

As I crossed the quay I saw Captain Jeremy, looking very smart in a maroon-coloured coat, dark blue breeches, and long boots, while on his head he sported a full-bottomed peruke, surmounted by a three-cornered hat.

Bending low with my burden, I passed him in great dread lest he should penetrate my disguise, but, to my great relief, he went by unsuspectingly, and the next moment I staggered up the narrow, creaking gangway and gained the deck of the Golden Hope.

Large as she appeared when viewed from the quay, the size of the brig astonished me. She was about 200 tons burthen, and carried nine seven-pounder pieces abroadside, with two small swivelled guns on her poop.

Betwixt the masts a yawning hatchway and a stout longboat occupied nearly all the space amidships; and down the hatch descended the stream of laden men, jostling against those who, having got rid of their burdens, were returning to the shore for more.

Passing out of the dazzling light, for the sun was now well up in the heavens, the sudden change to the gloom of the hold made it hard for me to distinguish my surroundings until my eyes grew accustomed to the semi-darkness.

The floor of the hold was composed of rough planks, with a narrow hatch to gain access to the ballast. On either side I could discern the stout curved frames, while overhead, save where the hatch gaped to the light of day, huge timbers crossed athwart ship barely five feet from the floor. The whole place smelt strongly of tar; mingled with a dozen different odours, all more or less obnoxious to my nostrils.

Having relieved myself of the sack, I followed 'Enery towards the fore end of the hold, where a low bulkhead, barely three feet in height, separated the cargo and stores from the cable tier. There two neatly coiled ropes, thicker than my leg above the knee, occupied the greater part of the limited space, their ends vanishing through two small apertures in the deck above.

This I saw by the feeble glimmer of a horn lantern.

"Here's your mess for awhile, till I gives you the word," said 'Enery. "I'll pass you down a pannikin of water and some hard tack as soon as I can. No one will see you here, but take care of yon cable, for if we've got to let go in a hurry you'll find yourself capsized in a brace of shakes."

"Let go what?" I asked, bewildered by his warning.

"The anchor, Maäster Hammond. We never know when we've got to let go, 'specially if she misses stays as we beat down the harbour."

Fearing to betray my ignorance, I refrained from asking him what missing stays meant; and, promising to look me up as soon as his duties would permit, the old seaman hastened away, and I was left in solitude, though the men were still at work stowing the stores in the after part of the hold.

At length the stream of hold trimmers gradually slackened and died away; the hatches were replaced, and the hold was in darkness, save for the dull yellow glimmer of the lantern that 'Enery had thoughtfully left for my benefit.

It seemed several hours before the old seaman reappeared, bringing the promised biscuit and water.

"Cap'n's come aboard," he announced. "We're just going to warp out, for the wind's dead in our teeth. 'Twill be a long job, I'll allow, afore we clear the bar. Never mind, Maäster Hammond; keep your heart up, and watch the cable."

With this repeated warning he again left me, and soon afterwards I heard the tramp of many feet on deck, mingled with hoarse orders that were faintly borne to my ears.

The Golden Hope was under way.


In the Hold

Mindful of 'Enery's warning, I gave the two massive hempen ropes a wide berth, and, leaning against a stout rib, resumed my vigil, till the heat of the confined space caused me to doff the oilskins and sea boots.

Presently the brig gave a distinct heel, which gradually increased till my position was turned into a standing one. Sail had been made, and the vessel was lying over to the breeze, though, owing to being still within a landlocked expanse of water, she scarce lifted as she cut through the waves. I could distinctly hear the lapping of the water against her sides as she moved with increasing pace in response to the pressure on the additional canvas.

Presently, in apparent obedience to a hoarse order, the Golden Hope recovered her upright position, then gradually settled down in the other direction, till, unable to keep my feet, I found myself flung bodily against the opposite side, the lantern being overset and extinguished at the same time.

Frantic with the fall, I struggled violently to regain my feet, my head coming into contact with one of the coils of cable. For a moment I imagined that the vessel had capsized, till, finding that she rolled no farther, I came to the conclusion that she had turned on her course.

Such, in truth, was the case. The brig had tacked, or, to use a nautical expression, had "gone about", the direction of the wind and the narrowness of the channel making the operation necessary. But I knew nothing of this at the time.

Groping with my hand, I managed to find the lantern, but being without flint and steel I was unable to relight it; so in the almost pitch darkness I remained, my eyes fixed longingly on a faint white light that filtered through a badly-fitting hatch cover.

Fearing another flight across the hold when the vessel again tacked, I lay almost at full length on the rough floor, my shoeless feet wedged firmly against a stout ringbolt in the fore side of the bulkhead.

The effects of the excitement of the last twelve hours, combined with the want of a good meal and the close, unwholesome atmosphere of the hold, caused me to feel greatly distressed, and at length I fell into a kind of stupor.

I had a rude awakening. A sniffing sensation round my fingers was followed by a sharp bite. With a shriek I withdrew my hand, and immediately a loathsome, active creature fled across my prostrate body. It was a rat, and a huge one, judging by its weight.

Regardless of my instructions, I sprang to my feet, leaped over the bulkhead, and crawled across the neatly stowed cargo, bumping my crown more than once against the low deck beams. I was on the point of hammering against the hatch, when the thought occurred to me that it was yet too early to announce my presence.

My new position was also more bearable, for the light that came through the ill-fitting hatch was sufficient for me to see within a yard of where I crouched.

Meanwhile, the brig had tacked several times, so that by now the manoeuvre did not cause me any misgivings; but what did trouble me was the appearance of a regular swarm of rodents--not of the brown variety such as one meets in the country, but long, skinny, black rats, ferocious and daring in the extreme.

I looked about for a weapon, for although I carried about me the knife I had had fashioned from the fatal dagger, it did not seem sufficiently handy to tackle these loathsome creatures. To my great joy I espied a stout crowbar, left, no doubt, by the men who had stowed the cargo. With this I killed several of the brutes, though not before I was bitten more than once, for as I struck one another would fly straight at my throat, and only by warding it off with my arm was I able to finish it off with the iron rod.

At length the rodents drew away and left me in comparative peace, although I could hear them scuffling and squealing as the disturbed bilge-water drove them from their accustomed haunts.

Compared with the rats, the cockroaches could be endured without much effort. These verminous creatures swarmed everywhere--on the deck beams, over the cargo, and even on my person--so that I could scarce change my posture without feeling and hearing the sickening crunch as they were crushed beneath my body.

All at once a violent commotion, accompanied by a medley of sounds, came from the fore part of the hold. The hempen cable was rushing through the hawse pipe.

Then the brig trembled slightly and ceased to list, and when the clamour died away I heard a man shout:

"'Tis no use, Cap'n. I couldn't get another foot out of her."

"How long does the flood make?" asked a voice which I recognized as Captain Jeremy's.

"First high water is about five hours from now," replied the first speaker. "If the wind doesn't change we'll have to wait till then. That'll give you an hour and a half to clear the bar afore the second flood makes."

I heard Captain Miles rattle out a round oath, but further conversation was inaudible through the sounds on deck. Nevertheless, I had heard enough to fill my cup of misery to the brim: unless the wind changed sufficiently to enable her to stem the tide, the Golden Hope would be compelled to remain at anchor for five hours--five hours more of bodily and mental torture for me.

Yet I had to bear it, or own myself beaten, for I felt convinced that so long as the brig remained within the limits of Poole Harbour, Captain Jeremy would put me ashore in a longboat, or else send me back with the pilot.

Another hour or so passed, yet there were no signs of 'Enery. The heat began to be intense, for the sun was now as high in the heavens as it could possibly be, and its rays, pouring down upon the decks, caused the atmosphere of the hold to become stifling.

The wind, too, had dropped, for the ropes and sails no longer rattled and flapped. But Captain Jeremy was not the kind of man to allow his crew to remain idle, for I could hear water being poured on the deck to clean away the dirt brought aboard from the quay. This, to a certain extent, cooled the hold, and I felt all the better for it.

"A breeze! A breeze from the nor'east!" I heard a voice exclaim, and almost immediately after came the sounds of men rushing hither and thither, and the creaking of blocks and tackle. Then, with the measured tramp of feet as the capstan revolved, the cable descended slowly into its tier, adding to the odours of the hold the pungent smells of seaweed and mud.

The regular heel of the brig gave place to a confused pitching and tossing, signs that I hailed with delight, in spite of a qualmish sensation which the motion seemed to encourage.

The Golden Hope had crossed the bar, and was curtsying to the waves of the English Channel.

I waited a little longer, then began pounding on the hatch with the butt of the iron rod.

At first no notice was taken of my efforts; then, without apparent warning, the hatch was whipped off. A flash of dazzling sunshine temporarily blinded me, and before I could realize my surroundings rough hands seized me by the shoulders and dragged me on deck, while a man shouted:

"Cap'n, here's a blessed stowaway!"


My First Day at Sea

Captain Jeremy Miles was standing under the break of the poop, his sunburnt face darkened to a brick-red colour with anger.

"What d'ye mean, you rascal, stowing yourself aboard my ship?"

I must have looked a pitiable object, for, in addition to my soot-blackened face, my clothes were covered with dust and tar, the former from the roads, the latter from the timbers of the hold, though, until I came on deck, I was unaware of it.

My garments were also rent in several places, my hands were bleeding from the result of the rats' bites, and my left eye was becoming rapidly closed, by reason of the blow I had received when flung across the cable tier.

Receiving no answer, the Captain repeated the question with increased emphasis, stamping his foot violently on the deck.

I gave a rapid glance to windward. About a mile away I saw a line of chalk cliffs, ending off in two remarkable pinnacles, and backed by a lofty down, regular in outline and destitute of trees; while astern lay the sand dunes that marked the entrance to Poole Harbour. No other craft was in sight, so I concluded that, whatever else might happen, I should not be put ashore.

"Captain Jeremy," I exclaimed, "don't you know who I am?"

"I don't know, and, what is more, I don't care."

"But you do, sir; I am Clifford Hammond."

Had a musket exploded under his very nose, the Captain would not have jumped back more than he did. Then his eyes opened to their fullest extent, and his jaw dropped till almost every tooth in his head was revealed. Those of the crew who had formed the forlorn group in the cave in Brockenhurst Heath gave a mingled shout and cheer of welcome.

"Good heavens, lad!" exclaimed the Captain, when he had partly recovered himself, "you here? Sink me! Come to my cabin."

He led the way to a low yet snug apartment in the stern of the vessel, well lighted by the square ports I had before noticed, and plainly but service ably furnished. A thick red carpet covered the floor, and curtains of similar colour partially concealed a recess that served as a sleeping bunk. A table, secured to the floor by two light chains, occupied most of the available space, its polished top being littered with charts and papers. Two muskets, a hanger, and a brace of pistols were fixed in a rack, above which was a small bookshelf. Against the side of the bulkhead stood a small portable stove, but, the day being warm, it was unlighted. On either side of the stove-pipe hung several nautical instruments, including a quadrant, a telescope, and other gear; while below these, and in fact in every angle of the cabin, were neatly contrived lockers.

This much I saw in a rapid glance, for Captain Jeremy seemed anxious to speak his mind.

"You are a young rascal," said he, though in the same kindly manner as of yore. "You've outwitted me, my lad, though I must confess I am not altogether sorry. But now, look at the other side of the business. Here you are, inexperienced in the hardships of a sailor's life, about to engage in a hazardous enterprise that may last for years. I am saddled with the responsibility of looking after you, and this, in a measure, ties my hands."

"I'll try not to give you any trouble," I exclaimed.

"That I can quite understand; but trouble or no trouble, the responsibility remains, d'ye see? However, least said, soonest mended. Do your duty, my lad, for I'll warrant you'll not be kept idle, and trust to One above to keep you when in danger and adversity."

He opened the cabin door and called to a man, desiring him to tell the cook to bring in some food.

"Meanwhile," he continued, "I'll look you out some suitable apparel, and do you go for'ard, where you'll find a bucket of water. My faith! You'll be all the better for a good wash."

I did as he ordered, and walking along the heaving deck between groups of men, who stood respectfully aside for me to pass ('Enery having explained that I was the son of one of the owners--not knowing of my father's death), I gained the shelter of a canvas screen underneath the fo'c'sle ladder.

Here I removed the thick deposit of soot and dirt, and having been rinsed down by several buckets of water thrown over me by the seaman who brought the promised garments, I proceeded to dress.

The clothes fitted me fairly well as far as my height went, for I was almost full-grown in stature, but they were somewhat loose about the body, yet comfortable withal; and on returning to Captain Jeremy's cabin I found myself arrayed in serviceable breeches--baggy at the knees, 'tis true--a grey flannel doublet, and a short coat with slashed sleeves. Hat and stockings I was not as yet provided with, neither did I require them; but on my feet I wore a pair of pumps, or heelless shoes.

"Stow that away as fast as you can," said Captain Jeremy, pointing to a tempting display of food placed at one end of the table. "And don't forget to make the best of it, for the fresh stuff won't last long, and you'll have to fall back on real seaman's fare--hard tack and salt pork--before many days are over."

While I was ravenously devouring my food (for I was completely famished), a seaman was busily engaged in fixing some planks round the sides of one of the lockers I had previously noticed.

"He's knocking up a bunk for you," explained the kindly Captain. "I think you'll be able to stretch out on it."

"But you don't mean me to sleep in your cabin, sir?" I exclaimed. "I'm quite ready to sleep in a hammock, like the rest of the crew."

"That's part of my responsibility," he replied, shaking his finger at me; "so there's an end on 't. Jeremy Miles has always prided himself on being a man of his word, and sink me if I fail to carry out this matter to the satisfaction of my principles."

Thus I found myself installed in the Captain's cabin of the brig Golden Hope, which was more than I expected and more than I deserved.

"Sixty men we carry," remarked the Captain. "None too many, but the most we can reasonably afford. Most of them have been shipmates with me in times past, and I'll warrant they'll be a tough nut for any man to crack, be he Turk, Algerine, or buccaneer. It does my heart good to see them do the cutlass drill, or man the ordnance. Our master gunner, Master Silas Touchstone, has seen much service 'gainst the Dutch, and, forsooth, he's a tower of strength to the brig. Would you could have seen them when we beat to quarters on our way down channel."

"Were you attacked?" I asked eagerly.

"Nay, 'twas but practice, yet 'tis what we must accustom ourselves to, for I doubt not that we shall smell powder in real earnest ere we see Poole once again."

Just then 'Enery, who, I discovered, was the bos'n, knocked at the cabin door and reported that the wind was freshening considerably, whereat Captain Jeremy hastened on deck.

Having finished my meal, I bethought me that I ought to go on deck also, and tying a scarf round my head in place of a hat, I ran up the ladder and gained the poop.

The wind was howling through the rigging and driving the spray in white showers across our weather bow, while ahead and as far to larboard as the eye could reach regular combers, with crested tops, showed how the surface of the sea had changed during the last hour.

On our starboard hand a wide expanse of milk-white foam betokened the presence of the dreaded Race of Portland, the bluff headland that gives it its name being plainly visible over our lee bow.

Beyond the heights of Portland the sun was setting in a pale, watery sky, which was fast becoming obscured by rapidly drifting grey patches of ragged clouds--a sure sign of bad weather.

Captain Jeremy neglected no precautions to ensure the safety of his vessel. The fore and main topsails were close-reefed, the storm stay-sails and jib set, and the guns, boats, and hatches properly secured.

"You had best turn in," he shouted, his lusty voice barely audible above the shrieking of the wind. "We'll be in the thick of it before long."

Tired out with my exertions and lack of sleep during my night's journey, I retired to the cabin, and, in spite of the incessant rolling and pitching of the vessel, and the thunder of the waves as they poured over her bows, I fell into a deep slumber.

How long I slept I had no idea till I was roughly wakened by 'Enery shaking my shoulder and exclaiming: "'Tis three bells [9.30 a.m.], Master Hammond. You'd best come on deck, for there's a strange sail bearing down on us."

"What is it?" I asked. "Is it a pirate?"

"That I know not; 'tis, I fear, no law-abiding craft, and if we come to close action every man jack'll have his work to do."

By this time I had sprung out of my bunk, and was making for the deck.


A Brush with Algerines

The wind, which had veered in the night and was now nearly dead astern, had moderated in force considerably, and although 'twas raining I could just distinguish a range of cliffs on our starboard hand, ending in a lofty headland with a sheer fall into the sea.

But the cause of the commotion on board was the presence of a long, narrow craft that was bowling along barely two miles off our larboard quarter. She had a lofty fo'c'sle and poop, with a low waist, her rig consisting of two raking masts, from the slanting yards of which bellied closely reefed, loose-footed triangular sails. She flew no colours, but from the foremast head a long streamer stood out as rigid as a spar.

"They mean mischief," said Captain Jeremy to the master gunner, who, having called the guns' crews to their stations, had come off to confer with him.

"'Tis strange enow," replied Master Touchstone, "seeing that we are at peace with the French, the Hollanders, and the Spaniards. What think you she is?"

"An Algerine,[1] judging from the cut of her rig," replied Captain Jeremy, "though I scarce thought to meet one of those rascally rovers so close to the English shores. It seems as if Admiral Robert Blake--who upheld the honour of England on the high seas, even though he were a stout rebel--has taught them but half a lesson."

"Report says that last October two of their galleys captured the Sea Dog, of Padstow, within sight of the Lizard," observed the master gunner. "Seven stout Cornish fishermen are even now slaving in their pirate dens, for aught I know to the contrary."

"They'll not carry the Golden Hope, Master Touchstone," replied Captain Jeremy resolutely. "Your preparations are complete, I take it."

"Aye, aye. Four guns abroadside are loaded to the muzzle with musket bullets, four of the others with iron balls, and one with bar shot. 'Twill make a fine present for yon craft, if she be in a mind to take it."

From where I stood at the head of the poop ladder I could command a clear view of the brig's deck. The guns, with powder and ball ready to hand, were as yet still run in, for with the heavy sea that was raging 'twas unwise to trice up the ports until the actual time to open fire, and we were thus also able to deceive the stranger, who doubtless took us for a merchantman. Had our ports been open and our line of gunning ordnance showing, the Algerine--for such she proved to be--might have shirked a conflict; but Captain Jeremy's blood was up, and he swore that he'd give the rascally sea-rovers a lesson that they would not be likely to forget.

Our crew--for most of them had smelt powder before, having served in the Dutch wars--maintained perfect discipline, keeping well out of sight; yet they stood grasping tackles and handspikes, ready at the signal to run out their guns and deliver a crashing broadside.

"They do not fear to press her," observed the master gunner, "though they do not seek to gain the weather gauge. Think you that they'll dare to board, sir?"

"With this sea running? Aye, they'll try to run under our lee and throw a score of their ruffianly crew aboard us. And were we a peaceful trading craft they'd do it, though the sea were twice as high. Smart helmsmen most of those rascals are. I call to mind a Spanish captain I met in Cadiz nine years agone, who told me how his vessel, a xebec, was carried by an Algerine ship in this fashion, and in a heavy Levanter, to boot. But now, Master Touchstone, to your station!"

The Algerine was now but a few hundred yards astern, the foam flying from her sharp bows as they cleft the water. She had put up her helm and was bearing down on our lee quarter, doubtless to board in the manner that Captain Jeremy had predicted.

Observing that those of the crew who were not at the guns had armed themselves with musket or pistol, I took hold of a musket. Thanks to my forest training, I was well accustomed to handle a gun, being reckoned a tolerable shot, though on board the Golden Hope the motion of the ship put me at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, lying down on the poop, where a score of musketeers had already taken up a like position, I awaited the opening of the engagement, though I must confess the prospect of being under fire did not seem so welcome as it had in the security of my own home, where I used to hear the tales of glorious sea fights.

The sight of Captain Jeremy helped to reassure me. He was standing a short distance from the helmsman, his feet set widely apart and his shoulders braced up, with the air of a man who knows how to keep calm and resolute in the time of danger. Alternately glancing at the tightly drawing sails and the hostile ship astern, he directed the brig's course by a gentle motion of his hand, a signal that the quick-witted quartermaster knew how to obey.

"Stand by the weather after braces," the Captain shouted, and in response to the order the men rushed to man the ropes that served to trim the sails.

"Are you ready, master gunner?"

"Aye, aye, sir."

The Algerine was now barely one hundred yards astern, having achieved her object of getting to lee'ard of us. I could see her lofty fo'c'sle crowded with men--brown, black, aye, and even white faces, for renegades were to be found in the service of the infidels. Some of the crew wore turbans and flowing robes, others a kind-of hooded garment that reached to the knees; but the majority were naked from the waist upwards. With scimitar, spear, pistol, and musket they crowded ready for a spring upon our decks, while they rent the air with shouts of defiance and rage, which were borne to our ears by the wind.

"Ready all! Ease the helm down!"

The Golden Hope gave a swift, and graceful turn, so that she exposed the whole of her larboard broadside to her enemy. Then, as the Algerine likewise put her helm down to avoid a collision that would doubtless have proved fatal to both craft, nine of our vessel's guns were run out, and a crashing volley was poured into our entrapped foe.

When the smoke had cleared away I saw a sight that I shall never forget. The fo'c'sle, swept by a hail of bullets, was covered by a writhing mass of dead and wounded men; her bows were beaten in by the solid shot; while her foremast, cut off about six feet from the deck, had fallen to lee'ard, bringing with it the heavy lateen yard and sail, and crushing in its descent several of the crew who were in the waist.

Owing to the high seas that were running, the Algerine had been unable to use her oars; but the luckless slaves, chained to their benches, did not escape the hail of shot, much as we should have wished otherwise.

Amidst the clamour of shrieks, groans, and maledictions, for the havoc our broadside had caused was immense, two white men sprang over the side of the Algerine and began to swim in our direction.

"There are some slaves escaping," shouted one of our seamen from the fo'c'sle.

"Where away?" asked Captain Jeremy.

"Dead astern, sir."

"Then 'bout ship. I'll do my best to pick them up. Yon rascals will give us no more trouble."

'Twas no easy task, for by the time the Golden Hope's bow was pointed towards the spot where two heads could be discerned as they rose upon the crest of a wave, we were nearly a quarter of a mile away, while the disabled Algerine, drifting bodily with the wind and falling broadside on to the breakers, was doomed to a terrible fate on the rock-bound coast.

To get the two poor fugitives on board seemed impossible, for no boat could live in such a sea. Even our guns' crews were at times working up to the knees in water as they strove to secure their guns, now that they were no longer required. But by means of a line attached to a barrico and veered out to lee'ard, one of the men was hauled up over the brig's side. The second slave was not so fortunate. He must have been wounded, for he was seen to be swimming very feebly; and ere the line came within his grasp he sank, in spite of a gallant effort on the part of his companion to save him.

Meanwhile the Golden Hope was put on her former course, or nearly so, for in the pursuit and action--though the latter lasted but a minute at the outside--we had drifted to within a dangerous distance of the shore, where the surf was licking the face of the frowning cliff towards which the Algerine was rapidly being carried.

We could clearly discern the last of the villainous but unfortunate vessel. With her foremast shot away she was helpless, in spite of frantic efforts to row her seaward. As fast as the heavy sweeps were shipped they were shattered by the irresistible force of the waves, till, midst a turmoil of foam, the doomed ship struck the cliff.

"The Deadman[2] has claimed another toll," shouted Captain Jeremy in my ear. "Yon's one of the worst parts of the Cornish coast, and should a single man of her crew reach the land, he'll meet with short shrift at the hands of the wreckers and smugglers."

I had escaped my first experience of being under fire, somewhat to my regret, now that the affair was over, for I had a presentiment that 'twas but putting off the evil day. Yet I had gained some knowledge of how Englishmen behave in times of danger, and that knowledge was of no mean value.

Four hours later the Golden Hope rounded the Lizard, and in a now rapidly subsiding sea entered the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

Well before sunset I saw the lofty cliffs disappear beneath the horizon, and that was my last sight of Old England for many a long day.

[1] During the seventeenth and even well into the eighteenth century occasional raids by Algerine corsairs upon the shipping in the Channel were reported. In the Naval Chronicle for 1807 a letter from one naval officer to another is given, under date of 1743. He describes the wreck of a disabled Algerine off Land's End, pouring out a whole torrent of abusive sarcasm upon the authorities of Falmouth for sending "pork to feed the Mussulmans, being contrary to their religion".

[2] The Dodman, a precipitous headland on the South Cornish coast, between Fowey and Falmouth, is even now familiarly named "The Deadman" by seamen. The most notable wrecks there in recent years were those of the Thresher and the Lynx in 1897.


Of the Mysterious Ship in the Midst of the Ocean

Next morning when I came on deck I saw the man we had rescued from the Algerine vessel. He was lying on a rough couch under the lee of a cannonade, being too weak to stand. He had received a pistol shot in the left arm, so that his escape was all the more to be wondered at, although he asserted that while swimming for his life he knew nothing of the matter.

He was a man of gigantic stature, broad in frame, and with muscles that stood out beneath his tanned skin like knots on the trunk of a forest oak. All this I saw in spite of his distressed condition, and should he recover, which seemed likely enough, he promised to make a welcome addition to our crew.

His name was Joe Clemens, and he hailed from East Looe, a small fishing village in Cornwall somewhere betwixt Plymouth and Fowey, so that when we picked him up he was almost within sight of his native place. He had been the mate of the Surprise, armed trader, which had been cast ashore on the Barbary coast, all her crew being carried into captivity.

He was the only Englishman on board the Algerine galley; and had laboured at the oar for nearly three years, sleeping and working at the rowers' bench, to which he was shackled by a chain passed round his middle.

Our broadside severed the chain, and seizing the opportunity he sprang overboard, followed by a fellow-slave, a Sardinian. As he leapt over an Algerine discharged a pistol at him, wounding him in the arm; but such was his strength and determination that, although wearing part of the heavy chain and bleeding profusely, he managed to swim strongly till picked up. His companion had sunk, as I have already related.

For the next few days nothing happened beyond the ordinary routine on board; but on the morning of the fifth day at sea I happened to notice a man who must have previously kept out of my way. His face was partially hidden by a short, stubbly beard, in spite of which I felt certain 'twas the same man that had vied with my father in bidding for Captain Jeremy's picture.

Concealing my agitation, I sought the Captain and communicated my suspicions.

"Wrong again, lad," he replied. "'Tis Ned Slater, an old shipmate of mine who has fallen on evil times. Out of charity I shipped him aboard the Golden Hope."

"The same old shipmate who bought a dagger in Lisbon?"

"Aye, Master Clifford----"

"But, sir, you described him as being as thin as a handspike."

"So I did, lad; but he has filled out since then. 'Twas a score of years ago at least. But rest easy in your mind concerning him, for he has been to the Indies for the last four years, and only landed in Chatham a month ago, the sole survivor of the barque Enterprise. I know that, for I saw his papers."

With that there was no more to be said; yet, though I might be mistaken, I resolved to keep a close watch on the movements of Master Ned Slater.

Favourable winds bore the Golden Hope to the Azores, where I had my first impression of foreign parts. Then, after a three days' stay, we shaped a course for the Bermudas; but, owing to constant head winds, Captain Jeremy decided to run south, so as to pick up the north-east Trades.

For several days we sailed over a vast expanse of ocean, with never a sail to break the regular skyline. The days, too, were rapidly becoming hotter, while the hours of daylight appreciably diminished, though the nights were warm and balmy, so that keeping a watch on deck was robbed of all discomfort.

At length one morning the sun rose red and fiery, betokening a change in the weather; and barely was it clear of the horizon when the cry was heard, "Sail, ho!"

"Whither away?" asked Captain Jeremy, as he ascended the poop, glass in hand.

"A point off our starboard bow, sir," replied the seaman who had picked up this craft.

With the naked eye we could distinguish the topsails and t'gallants of a brig, the hull being still below the horizon. Captain Jeremy clapped the glass to his eye and examined her intently.

"What's amiss with her?" he exclaimed. "She's hove-to."

"Perhaps she has sighted us, and wishes to communicate," suggested Touchstone.

"Or else she's a buccaneer," added 'Enery, as he swung himself into the main shrouds in order to get a better view from the topmast head.

"We are out of the regular cruising ground of those gentlemen," remarked Captain Jeremy. "But 'tis no saying what she may prove to be. Master Touchstone, will you see that the arms are served out?"

Two hours later, for the wind was still light, we were within a mile of the strange brig. She was a vessel very similar to the Golden Hope in design, but with what a difference in appearance!

She was still hove-to, moving very slowly through the water. Her yards were badly squared, while her running gear seemed to be in a state of neglect, several of the sheets and braces trailing over the side. She carried four guns abroadside, and these were run out in apparent preparation to ward off an attack; while her decks were crowded with men.

"What do they think to do?" asked the master gunner. "'Tis certain they have no stomach for a fight, or else they would keep way on her."

"If they do not pay heed to their t'gallants they are lost men," said Captain Miles. "See, already the sky is overcast to windward. Yet it may be but a trick, so stand to your guns, men."

In obedience to a further order, the red cross of St. George was shown from our foremast truck, for the course our vessel was taking prevented the ensign at the peak being seen by the stranger.

No ensign was hoisted in reply, and in perfect silence the others awaited our approach.

"What ship is that?" hailed Captain Jeremy through his speaking trumpet. There was still no answer, although the Golden Hope was passing within fifty yards of the stranger's bows. The hail was repeated, and to our surprise a lusty voice shouted:

"Can yew give we a hand wi' this boat ov ourn, zurr?"

"If that isn't a Zummerset or Devon yokel, sink me for a landlubber!" remarked Captain Jeremy; and almost at the same moment 'Enery, who had descended to the main top, shouted, "Bless me, Cap'n, if it ain't Garge Oddicombe."

"Aye, aye, we'll send a boat," replied Captain Jeremy to the other's request; and in a very short space of time twenty men, with 'Enery in charge, were making-towards the forlorn brig, I having obtained permission to accompany them.

"Look sharp!" shouted our Captain as the boat shoved off. "Make all snug alow and aloft, and keep us in company."

A strange sight met our eyes as we gained the deck of the brig, which, by the name painted on her stern, we now knew to be the Neptune of Topsham.

The confusion on deck was in accordance with the disorder aloft. Ropes, gun tackles, broken casks and planks, and torn canvas were lying about in the utmost disorder; while some hundred men, grotesquely dressed in motley costumes, gazed at us with mingled expressions of relief, curiosity, and fear. Many still wore the smocks of their native Somerset and Devon, but gone was the healthy hue of a country life. Haggard faces, unkempt hair, and beards showed that these sons of the soil had had a trying time on shipboard.

Without waiting to question this mixed crew, some of whom recognized our men as comrades on the fatal field of Sedgemoor, 'Enery took steps to ensure the safety of the brig, for the wind was piping up in long-drawn moans, the forerunners of the expected gale; and by the time everything was snugged down the sea was too high to permit the boat to return to the Golden Hope for further orders.

Under easy canvas both brigs scudded before the gale, and, thanks to 'Enery's management, and the fact that the Neptune was a seaworthy craft, we had no fears as to her ability to make good weather of it.

All night we kept the Golden Hope's poop lanterns in view, both vessels being of about the same turn of speed; nor was it possible to return to our own craft until late in the afternoon of the following day.

Nevertheless, long before that time we were acquainted with the facts that led up to our meeting with the Neptune, and a ghastly story it was.

The Neptune, commanded by Captain Jonas Wright, had left the port of Topsham on the tenth of September, with a living cargo consisting of one hundred and twenty poor peasants whom the inhuman Judge Jeffreys had condemned at Exeter Assizes to a lifelong slavery in Jamaica.

This Captain Jonas Wright was a harsh, tyrannical man, who, far from alleviating the miseries of his prisoners, had added to their hard lot, keeping them on low rations of nauseating food, and only allowing them to come on deck for fresh air at very long intervals, while he took a savage delight in bestowing the dreaded "cat" whenever an opportunity occurred. Frequently, through sheer love of cruelty, he would invent some pretext for whipping the manacled prisoners, shouting in drunken glee at their appeals for mercy.

At length George Oddicombe, a man of enormous strength, but withal somewhat dull of understanding, who had fought stubbornly at Sedge moor till ridden down by the Royals, contrived to free himself from his gyves and leg irons, and by working heroically for six hours also managed to release most of his luckless comrades, who in turn devoted their energies to knocking off the fetters of the remaining rebels.

That same night, the captain being in drink, as were most of the seamen, a horde of fierce and resolute peasants poured through the hatchway and overpowered the crew. What happened to their erstwhile captors we did not ask, there being little need to imagine their fate.

Although freed from their oppressors, the ignorant yokels found themselves helpless, for the brig soon got in irons[1]. Unable to manoeuvre her, they had slowly drifted in a vessel which, but for our aid, would ere now be lying on the bed of the Atlantic.

Directly the wind moderated sufficiently, 'Enery and I returned to the Golden Hope, leaving seven of our men still on board the Neptune.

Captain Jeremy listened intently to the bos'n's report, his brow frequently puckering as if with the perplexity of the situation; but when at length 'Enery finished his story, the Captain brought his hand down on the cabin table with a tremendous crash.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I'll risk it. Bring Oddicombe on board."

[1] A vessel is said to be "in irons" when she is head to wind, and will not tall off on either tack.


"Captain 'Enery"

While the boat was away on its errand Captain Jeremy turned to me.

"You see, Master Clifford, that I am in a very awkward position. As master of this vessel I look upon mutiny and similar uprisings against authority as an offence of the blackest dye. 'Tis certain that Master Oddicombe and his following have dealt hardly with the captain of the Neptune and his crew, and for that they deserve to be delivered up to justice at the first English settlement we touch. On the other hand, they were fighting for their liberty 'gainst a tyrant, while, to go farther, they fought side by side with us under Monmouth's banner. But for the workings of Providence, I and a score of my men now on board this vessel would have been similarly dealt with. Had we been in their place, how should we have acted, had the means of regaining our freedom been opened to us?"

"Same as they, Cap'n," exclaimed 'Enery, who, with Touchstone and myself, formed a little council in the cabin.

"I did but sound your inclinations," continued Captain Jeremy. "Sink me! I cannot blame them. But now, by the laws of the sea, the Neptune is in our keeping till we bring her into a port, when the Admiralty courts shall decide our share of the salvage. But if we do that, what is to become of the yokels that are on board? Nay, that will not serve."

"We could do with another ship and a sprinkling of fighting men," observed the master gunner tentatively.

"You have spoken mine own mind," rejoined Captain Jeremy. "If we can but make yon peasants see that therein lies the best chance of safety, I'll tranship half of them, and send thirty of our men under you, bos'n, to work the leavening of the rest. I know these men. They are full of fight, and only need a stiffening of good seamen to turn them into a passable crew."

"Then you expect we shall have opposition, sir?" I asked. "From whom?"

"From the buccaneers, unless I be greatly mistaken. With the Golden Hope alone 'twould be necessary to avoid an engagement should these rogues think fit to molest us, for they swarm all over the Caribbean Sea; but with a consort like the Neptune we can hold our own. Is she a seaworthy craft?"

"As sweet a craft as I could wish for--saving our own," replied 'Enery.

"And well found?"

"Both in stores and munitions of war, though I have not made a full search. Eight twelvepounders and an eighteen on her fo'c'sle, and a goodly store of muskets, cutlasses, and pikes, to say naught of a stock of bilboes."

"And water?"

"Enough and to spare."

"Excellent!" exclaimed Captain Jeremy. "But here is the boat alongside. We'll hear what Master Oddicombe hath to say to our proposals."

Master Oddicombe needed but little persuasion to fall in with Captain Jeremy's suggestions. He realized only too well that his bold step in taking possession of the Neptune brought the greater chance of difficulties and dangers; and that, had they been overhauled by a King's ship, every man would assuredly have graced a halter.

Captain Jeremy next proceeded to explain the mission of the Golden Hope, and our expectation of securing a vast treasure.

"Although I can offer you no share in the matter," he continued, "I shall require you and your companions to pledge yourselves to serve us faithfully for the space of not more than two years. At the end of that time, or before, should we attain the object of our search, I'll warrant your safe discharge at some settlement, where you will be free men. More than that, should we be able, by the united work of both vessels, to capture any buccaneering craft who think to molest us, their cargoes will be equally divided betwixt all hands. So if you and your men are willing to serve us faithfully, and engage in an enterprise of adventure and profit, now is the chance of that and your freedom."

Nothing loath, Master Oddicombe gave the required promise on behalf of his men, and the compact having been sealed over a bottle of Madeira, we all repaired on deck, where Captain Jeremy gave orders for our crew to assemble.

"My lads," said he, "You know I'm a bluff sailor and not given to making speeches, so I come straight to the point. Yon brig is now our consort. Together we'll make a match for any buccaneer that dares to assail us. You need not fear that your shares in the expedition will be lessened by our increased numbers--if anything, you stand to gain. I hope you'll welcome your new messmates. Some of you will greet them as old companions on the battlefield. That's all I'm going to say. Now, thirty men are wanted to serve aboard the Neptune under Captain 'Enery." Here our former bos'n almost lost his balance, at the shock of hearing his new title. "Seven of our men are already aboard her," continued Captain Jeremy, with a sweep of his arm in the direction of the Neptune, which, like the Golden Hope, had been hove-to during the last hour or so. "Those willing to serve under Captain 'Enery will muster on the larboard side."

To my surprise, not a man crossed over to the larboard, but with one accord all stepped briskly and resolutely to the starboard side.

"What's this I see?" shouted Captain Jeremy.

"Do you want to cruise single-handed? Are you afraid that, against my word, your shares will go down? Do I scent mutiny aboard the Golden Hope? Bestir yourselves, my hearties!"

"'Tain't neither, Cap'n," replied one of the men, Tom Cherry by name. He had been one of the Captain's comrades in the cave, and was a stanch, honest fellow. "We'll all go if you gives the word, but we don't want you to think as 'ow we wants to leave you."

"You won't be leaving me; it's the Golden Hope you're leaving, to join a consort under my orders. I thank you all for your expression of loyalty, but as some of you must ship aboard the Neptune we'll leave it to chance. Master Touchstone, do you draw the men into two ranks."

Thereupon the crew took up their position, fifty-one all told, for Captain 'Enery and the master gunner were, with Captain Miles and me on the poop.

"Down you go, Master Clifford, and pick out a man at random," said our Captain; and, descending the poop ladder, I walked between two rows of as fine a set of men as ever served afloat.

"Fall out, you," ordered Captain Jeremy, as I touched a smart lower-yard man on the shoulder.

"Now, count out every seventh man."

"There you are, Captain 'Enery," he continued, when the counting out was completed; "a proper crew for you, and no favouritism. I trust they'll do you credit. Now, lads, there's no time to be lost, so dismiss and pack up your traps."

With this there was a wild skelter, as the men dived into the forepeak to gather together their personal property; and a quarter of an hour later the backbone of the Neptune's crew rowed off to our consort.

An hour or more elapsed ere the sixty peasants were brought on board the Golden Hope, for Captain 'Enery, with considerable tact, had allowed them to settle amongst themselves who should stay and who were to go. Thus there was no separation of relations or friends--for, poor fellows, they had had enough of that when they left England--and each band of yokels had the satisfaction of finding themselves made up of practically the manhood of their respective villages.

Our westward course was now resumed, the two vessels keeping their stations with commendable precision, the Golden Hope leading at about a cable's length from the Neptune's larboard bow.

From early morn to late afternoon, day after day, the new arrivals were trained in the use of arms, manning the guns under Master Touchstone's supervision, and going through the musketry exercises and the cuts and guards of the cutlass drill. It was not long before their smocks and other homely garments had given place to clothes of a nautical cut, while each day added to their transformation into stout-hearted British seamen.

Nor were the conditions under which the crew of the Neptune lived less strenuous. Although we were unable to go aboard her, for the Trades blew steadily during this time, and both vessels kept up a good eight knots, I could see by the aid of a glass that her men were hard at work with their ordnance and small arms; while it seemed that Captain 'Enery rarely quitted his quarter-deck. Whenever I chanced to look that way I could distinguish his tall, gaunt, bearded figure slowly pacing his domain; and I realized that, should we ever find ourselves in a tight fix, we should have reason to be thankful for the aid of Captain 'Enery.


We Arrive at Treasure Island

"Land ahead!"

Such was the welcome cry that greeted my ears as I awoke on the morning of our thirty-eighth day afloat.

Hastily throwing on my clothes, I rushed on deck to view the land of promise. We were approaching the Lesser Antilles, and ahead the lofty, wooded slopes of an extensive island were slowly coming into sight, while north and south the peaks of other islands showed their heads above the horizon, for the weather was particularly clear, the hour being just after sunrise.

Captain Jeremy was already up and about, and was holding the chart in his hand, for we were on the point of passing over shoal water, though no rocks reared their heads above the sea.

The leadsman was in the chains, his voice being heard with monotonous regularity--"By the mark five"[1]; and the anchor was already uncatted and hung ready to let go at the first sign of danger.

Astern the Neptune was wallowing slowly in our wake, under reduced canvas.

Gradually the island loomed nearer and nearer, till we could distinguish a saddle-shaped hill, covered with dense vegetation, descending steeply on its northern face, while its southern portion seemed to end in a long, flat plain. At first sight there appeared no break in the encircling ridge of white sand 'gainst which the breakers flung themselves in cascades of milk-white foam, the noise of which was borne to our ears like the distant roll of drums.

"By the deep four," shouted the leadsman.

"Carry on," said Captain Jeremy calmly, though by his manner I knew 'twould be hazardous to question him. "Another man in the chains!"

"A quarter less four." The water was shoaling rapidly.

Still our Captain gave no sign to alter the brig's course, although an ominous pale green patch ahead and several others of a dark brown hue on either side of us betokened the presence of dangerous sandbanks and rocks. His eyes were intently fixed on a rocky pinnacle which was slowly coming into line with a distant island.

"Hard a larboard!"

Round swept the Golden Hope, heeling over to the beam wind as it caught her retrimmed sails. We were now shaping a course parallel to the eastern side of the island, while the Neptune, turning in our wake, had also succeeded in negotiating the unseen channel.

"Keep her as she goes, quartermaster," ordered Captain Jeremy, who was now devoting his attention to some secret bearings on the shore.

"By the mark thirteen," sang out the leadsman, while almost directly afterwards his companion gave the cry, "And a half six."

"Starboard your helm."

Once more the Golden Hope swung round till she lay on her former course and was pointing straight for the island. Right ahead I could now see a deep bay, or rather gulf, protected by a ridge of jagged rocks running obliquely seaward from either horn of the land. Even here the rollers ran high, but they lacked the broken crest that elsewhere marked an almost continuous submerged reef.

Away aloft sprang the men to reduce still further our spread of canvas. With a succession of heavy lurches the Golden Hope crossed the bar and entered the land-locked harbour.

"Let go," shouted Captain Jeremy, laying down his glass with a sigh of relief and wiping his heated brow.

With a sullen splash the anchor plunged beneath the waves, the stout hempen cable flew through the hawse-pipe, and the Golden Hope brought up head to wind in the sheltered anchorage of Treasure Island.

The Neptune, smartly handled, also dropped anchor half a cable's length nearer inshore, and steps were immediately taken to moor both vessels, a massive chain bridle and swivel being bent on to the cables to prevent undue chafing, and also to facilitate matters should we be compelled to slip in a hurry.

The waters of this little harbour were so clear that the bed of the sea could be distinctly seen at a depth of five fathoms. The Golden Hope was lying immediately over a white sandy 'patch, though both her anchors were embedded in blue mud, which formed an excellent holding-ground.

It being too late in the day to land, for mooring and "snugging down" had taken up a considerable time, all hands were allowed to stand easy. Many of the men took advantage of this permission to bathe, and a strange sight it was to see a constant stream of seamen running along our fore-yard and diving thence into the sea.

For my part, I could not bring myself to attempt a plunge from that dizzy height, but contented myself with diving off the catheads; yet before many days had passed I conquered my fears and essayed the leap, for which I had reason to be thankful ere the cruise of the Golden Hope was over.

A sharp look-out was kept in case the swimmers were attacked by sharks, but we were not molested by these monsters. On our voyage we had frequently come across them, and they would follow the ship for days; but on our crossing the bar they deserted us. Possibly the roar of the surf had frightened them, and we were not sorry to lose their unwelcome attentions.

Next day the boats were ordered away to sound the bay and the bar without. The weather was exceedingly hot, and even when sheltered beneath canvas awnings the heat was oppressive. Yet ere nightfall the soundings were taken, with sufficient exactness to assure ourselves that no hidden danger lay within the entrance to our harbour, while the wreck of the Spanish caravel was discovered lying close to the northernmost arm of the reef in eleven fathoms of water.

I could trace her rounded sides and lofty poop and fo'c'sle, even though the timbers were covered with weeds. She was lying almost on an even keel, though with a slight list to starboard, her bows pointing obliquely to the shore. Had she been a few hundred yards to the south'ard she must assuredly have made the harbour in safety, and then there would have been no need for our presence off the island.

"It was commonly supposed," said Captain Jeremy to me, "that the whole of the crew of the caravel perished in the wreck, but I can prove that such was not the case. When she struck she remained above water some time--possibly for weeks--and the survivors removed the treasure to a safe hiding-place in the hills. How they fared you shall see. With the next heavy gale the Madre slipped off the rocks and settled in deep water, where we now see her. This accounts for the treasure not being found by anyone but myself. Now we'll return to the Golden Hope, for 'tis nearly sunset."

That night extra watches were set on both ships, for we knew not whether the island was inhabited or otherwise, while at any time some buccaneering craft might attempt to surprise us as we lay at anchor. But nothing untoward occurred to, disturb our slumbers, although the change from the constant heave of the ocean to the motionless calm within this sheltered harbour caused me to lie awake on my back for several hours.

A thousand thoughts passed through my brain. Here we were off Treasure Island, but would our quest be successful? What was my uncle doing? Had he guessed the reason of my flight? or did he think that I had come to some untimely ending? If the latter, what would he do with my home in far-off Brockenhurst? And Constance--how was she faring? Then I recalled the incidents that led to my presence on board the Golden Hope. I pictured again the struggle with the two dragoons on the Lyndhurst Road, the fatal night when my father was foully slain, the underground refuge, my midnight flight and subsequent discomforts in the hold. Once more I saw the Algerine crumple up under our broadside, and pictured the boarding of the Neptune. These and a chain of other incidents I recalled, till just before dawn I fell asleep.

Yet during the short interval while I slept occurred the first of a series of incidents that led to the direst misfortunes which befel our enterprise.

[1] This refers to the sounding in fathoms as shown by the leadline. This line is "marked" at 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 17, and 20 fathoms by distinctive strips of calico, bunting, leather, &c. The intervening depths are not "marked", and are called "deeps".


A Hasty Recall

At sunrise all hands were piped on deck, for much had to be done ere the rays of the tropical sun became too strong for us to work. The boats were hoisted out and the hatches removed, and a portion of the stores was placed on deck ready to be transported on shore.

Captain Jeremy had decided, to avoid difficulty and the loss of time caused by going ashore and returning by the boats every day, to land most of the stores and gear required for our expedition--that is, should the island prove to be uninhabited--and to erect a stockaded storehouse and quarters.

This arrangement would also benefit the health of the crews of both vessels, for in their somewhat overcrowded state the greatest care had to be exercised to ward off an epidemic of scurvy.

Accordingly, fifty men, armed to the teeth, were ordered away in the boats under the command of the master gunner, for Captain Jeremy had decided not to explore the interior of the island, where the treasure was supposed to be hidden, until a secure base of operations was in existence.

Before the landing party went over the ship's side Captain Jeremy called me into his cabin.

"Master Clifford," said he, "dost call to mind when you last saw the chart of the island? I remember having it in my hand as we worked our way into the harbour, but, strange to admit, I have no further recollection of it."

"'Twas left in yonder rack," I replied, pointing to where I had last seen the chart. "I remember that perfectly."

"Then it hath been filched," he said, "filched while we slept. Well, well, may it do the thief all the good he deserves! He, or the thieves, will not be able to find the treasure by its aid, though 'tis important should anyone but myself attempt to steer the Golden Hope between the shoals. I must, therefore, explain the leading marks to Captain 'Enery and our quartermaster, for some mishap might occur to render me helpless. Do not say a word concerning this matter to anyone, Master Clifford. 'Tis best to keep such disquieting knowledge to ourselves; but, nevertheless, I'll have my weather eye open, and at the first sign of treachery or mutiny I'll give the culprits cause to remember Captain Jeremy Miles. Now you can go ashore, but be sure to return on board ere nightfall. You had better not take up your quarters ashore till things are ordered to ensure our safety."

I embarked on board one of the long-boats, which were laden almost to the water's edge with various stores, including powder and shot, ladders, spades and mattocks, carpenters' tools, nails and spikes, barrels of biscuits and flour, and canvas for making tents.

In spite of their overladen condition, the boats reached the shore in safety, for the water was as calm as a mill pond. We landed on a flat, sandy beach, close to the mouth of a little stream that was to supply us with fresh water. The plain that extended 'twixt the sea and the hammock= shaped hill was far more extensive than one would have supposed, when viewing it from the offing. It was nearly three miles in width, and was covered by a dense and luxurious vegetation.

Between the little stream and the rocky headland that formed the northernmost horn or arm protecting the harbour the ground was comparatively barren, so that a clear view could be obtained for several hundred yards.

Moreover, the rocks on the seaward side descended abruptly to the water's edge, so that they formed a natural defence in that direction, since no boats could land thereabouts. Midway betwixt the stream and the headland the master gunner fixed the site for the stockade.

A trial hole to the depth of ten feet revealed the presence of a copious supply of water, sweet and wholesome to the taste when once the mud had settled. This was especially fortunate, as we were not compelled to rely upon the stream, which was a quarter of a mile or more from our proposed fortress.

Having transported all the stores they had brought ashore to the middle of a square that the master gunner had traced upon the ground, the landing party went up into the woods to fell and trim some trees for the purpose of making the stockade; and soon the silence of the grove was broken by the noise of the axes and the cheery voices of the men. They made enough clamour to give the alarm to every buccaneer that might be within a mile or so; but though our people worked with their muskets close at hand, and outposts were placed to give us ample warning of a surprise, the island appeared to be uninhabited save by its new masters.

It took a fortnight's hard work to construct the stockade, which was loopholed at regular intervals, and strengthened by a mound of earth on the inside. The soil thus utilized had been excavated so as to form a ditch without the barrier, thus increasing the value of our defences; while, in order to store our powder in safety, a deep hole or cave was dug in the centre of the fortress and covered over with the trunks of trees, on which earth was placed to a height of four feet. This made a magazine which was proof against any shot that might be fired into the stockade; while on the mound above it a lookout hut had been erected, being protected against musketry by a breastwork of sandbags.

Having completed this stronghold, the master gunner obtained permission to mount two of the Golden Hope's guns. The work of getting these pieces of ordnance ashore was a difficult one; but, thanks to Master Touchstone's energy and mechanical skill, they were placed in position and so arranged that both could be brought to fire from any side of the stockade by means of ingenious carriages somewhat resembling those used by troops in the field.

Thus, before we were ready to send an expedition into the interior, a month had elapsed; yet all hands felt that the time had not been wasted, since we were now in a position to repel an attack by either land or sea.

At length we set out to find the resting-place of the precious cargo of the Madre de Dios. For this expedition twenty men were drawn from each ship, Captain Jeremy being in command. During our absence Captain 'Enery was left in charge of the Golden Hope and her consort, with orders to fire three guns should danger arise, as it was supposed that the sound of the discharge would be heard at any point on our march into the interior. Touchstone, with eleven men, was to hold the stockade.

We were one and all heavily laden, for, in addition to our arms and ammunition, each man carried a week's supply of provisions and an axe, or mattock. At every half-mile three men were to be left in order to form a chain of communication with the shore, so that by the time we reached the place where the treasure was supposed to lie, only twelve would remain. These twelve would be sufficient to remove the bulk of the spoil, while the rest of the treasure could be obtained at some future time.

Soon we plunged into the dense belt of vegetation that, I have mentioned, lay betwixt the shore and the mountain. It consisted of reeds, canes, and scrub, much higher than a man's head, so that we had to guide ourselves by means of a compass. It was tedious work, for we had to cut a path nearly every foot of the way, while in places the ground was so swampy that we frequently sank in the mud nearly to our knees.

Captain Jeremy had, years before, cut a path through the thicket, and the task had occupied him more than a week; but all traces of his former route had long been obliterated.

At length we reached a small open hillock surrounded by the thicket, and here our first post was established; for though it was more than half a mile from the stockade, our Captain did not care to expose his men to the risk of fever by leaving them on the low-lying ground.

On resuming our march the reeds and bushes became thicker, till it was only by sheer hard cuts with our axes that we were able to proceed, the men working by relays. It being now high noon, the heat was terribly oppressive, a close and moist mist rising from the marshy ground adding to our discomfort, while we were tormented by swarms of flies, which hovered round our heads till we could scarce open our eyes.

Nevertheless we stuck manfully to our arduous task, for it was necessary for health's sake to avoid spending a night in that unwholesome district. We must reach the high ground ere we pitched our camp.

Suddenly a shout from one of our men caused us to stand to our arms. The column halted, but Captain Jeremy, who was in the middle, forced his way betwixt the wall of bushes and the men who were in front.

Then followed a lengthy pause, till the line of men moved forward again, this time with greater rapidity, and I found myself standing in an open clearing, surrounded by our astonished seamen. This clearing was of recent date, for many of the saplings and canes showed signs of having been cut but a short time ago, while running north and south across the direction of our route was a fairly broad and well-defined path.

We were now in a quandary. It would be unwise to resume our way and leave an unexplored path betwixt us and the shore, and it would be equally hazardous to separate our slender force into two bodies, so that the beaten track could be examined in both directions. It was also inexpedient that the inhabitants of the island (since it was inhabited) should be aware of our presence until we had assured ourselves whether they were peaceful settlers, or otherwise.

"This path has not been used for a month at least, Cap'n," said one of our men, a smart young seaman in the carpenter's crew.

"How so?" asked Captain Jeremy.

"By these footprints, sir," replied the seaman, pointing to a number of well-defined marks on the hard ground. "They are the footprints of men wearing boots and also of naked feet, and they are pointing in both directions, showing that people have walked this way and that."

"Quite so," assented Captain Jeremy. "But how say you that these are a month or more old?"

"The ground is quite hard; we cannot leave the imprint of our boots," continued the seaman. "And since we have been on this island more than a month, and no rain has fallen during all that time----"

But before he could complete his explanation the distant boom of a cannon, followed at regular intervals by two more, caused us to look at each other in alarm.' It was the signal for our recall; something of extreme importance had occurred.


Attacked by Buccaneers

"Back to the ships!" was the cry, and with the utmost haste we retraced our footsteps. Not having to cut our way back, our progress was considerably quicker than on the outward journey, most of the men casting aside their stock of provisions to enable them to lighten their loads. Yet, owing to the marshy state of the ground through which we floundered heavily, it was nearly two hours later ere we emerged from the forest--if forest I may term it.

The cause of our sudden recall then became apparent, for standing in under all plain sail were three large ships. They were still a league or more from the mouth of our harbour, but already they were in shoal water, so that 'twas plain they were no strangers to the island, since they were following the intricate channel through which we ourselves had come.

Our arrival had already been observed from our own ships, and boats were putting off to take us on board. While we were awaiting them Captain Jeremy ordered twelve men to reinforce the little garrison within the stockade, and on numbering the remainder we were astonished to find that only twenty-two remained. The outposts whom we had left on the hillock had been recalled, and on the march not a cry of alarm had been raised, so that the missing men must have disappeared without a sound.

"Who are they? What are their names?" demanded Captain Jeremy anxiously.

Several names were mentioned, although some of them, I knew, were those of the men who had been sent to the stockade; but all were agreed that Ned Slater was amongst the six missing seamen.

A stern look overspread Captain Jeremy's bronzed features. The loss of the chart, and the unaccountable disappearance of a man of whom I had expressed my distrust, had considerably shaken our Captain's faith in his former shipmate; but, controlling himself, he ordered the men to embark, for the boats had by this time gained the shore.

Although we hurried on board there was no unseemly haste or panic, and as each man came up over the side he took his place in his allotted position.

Captain 'Enery, having handed over the command to Captain Jeremy, returned to the Neptune, where, as on board the Golden Hope, the magazines had been opened, and powder and shot placed alongside the guns, ere we came off.

The wind blew steadily straight on shore, so that we hoped the strange vessels had not heard the guns fired as the return signal, though, as most merchantmen carried small guns for this purpose, the discharge, even had it been heard, would not have led the enemy to suppose that our vessels were well armed.

Meanwhile we lost no time in improving our posture of defence. Captain Jeremy sent away the long-boat with a kedge slung underneath her, to which was attached a long hawser, leading over the ship's stern. The kedge was then dropped, and by taking a strain on the cable the Golden Hope was brought to lie broadside on to the mouth of the harbour. A similar manoeuvre was also carried out on board the Neptune, so that all our available ordnance, or as many as there were gun ports for, were trained on the approaching vessels, though as yet the guns had not been run out.

In breathless silence we awaited the oncoming ships, for, by Captain Jeremy's orders, not a shot was to be discharged, nor a shout raised, from either brig till the word was given to open fire.

When just outside the inner reef the leading vessel rounded, and as she did so her ensign became visible. It was the skull and crossbones.

"She means to leave us no longer in doubt," exclaimed Captain Jeremy. "I am right glad that she has shown yonder flag, for it seems they take us for harmless traders, and would terrify us into surrender."

Even as he spoke a cloud of smoke burst from the pirate's side amidships, and a twelve-pound ball whizzed betwixt our masts, striking our lee bulwarks and knocking up a shower of splinters; then, rebounding, it plunged into the sea within a few yards of the shore.

Another and another followed, while the remaining ships took up a similar position and also opened fire. Though many of their shots went high or passed wide, one penetrated the bulwarks, killing two men and wounding three.

The master gunner, who had returned on board, besought our Captain to open fire.

"No," he replied resolutely. "We must grin and bear it awhile."

Just then a shot was fired from the Neptune. Possibly the captain of the gun had lost his nerve; but the shot was well aimed, for it struck the fore mast of the nearest buccaneer.

"A pest take it!" muttered Captain Jeremy, "that will ruin all my plans;" and springing on the poop he hailed the Neptune, to know why the gun had been discharged.

Fortunately the premature shot was not followed by others, though we expected it would be mistaken for the signal to commence firing; and for ten minutes longer we lay under a heavy fire from all the vessels.

Evidently the buccaneers did not wish to sink us, for they directed their fire principally at our spars and cordage. Once we were captured they would remove our stores and other valuable gear, and scuttle the ships, so as to leave no trace of their fiendish handiwork. Such has been the fate of many unfortunate merchantmen in West Indian waters, with hardly a fragment left afloat to tell the tale.

"Stand to it, my lads," shouted Captain Jeremy encouragingly. "Spars can be replaced and cordage refitted. They'll get tired of that game ere long. Lie down, all of you."

It was indeed a trying ordeal. We had already lost our foreyard, which had tumbled down across the fo'c'sle, bringing with it a litter of ropes, blocks, and torn canvas. Our spritsail yard, broken in two places, dangled from the bowsprit; while our mainmast was splintered from the futtock-shrouds to within ten feet of the deck. Several shots had torn gaping holes in our sides, and as a result four more dead men lay on our decks, while nearly a dozen badly wounded were carried below.

Nor was our consort in a better plight. Her fore topmast had been shot away early in the cannonade, her poop lanterns and part of the taffrail had disappeared, and several ominous dark holes were visible in her bulging yellow sides.

"How much longer are we to stand this?" asked Touchstone, as he bound his wrist with a kerchief.

"Patience, man, patience!" was Captain Jeremy's only reply, as he calmly surveyed the scene of destruction--the blood-stained deck littered with the prone figures of seamen, whether they were dead, or wounded, or unhurt; and the tangle of shattered spars and cordage--and the smoke-enshrouded outlines of our ferocious attackers.

Ever and anon a shrill cry of pain or an exclamation of rage would be heard, as a mass of timber dislodged from aloft came hurtling through the air and struck some unfortunate man crouching near the guns; and another limp body would be borne below to add to the steadily growing numbers of our wounded. Yet discipline, iron discipline, prevailed, and were we to win the day we must receive hard knocks with the traditional fortitude of Englishmen.

Ashore our stockade, its seaward face hidden by a mask of bushes, also maintained a dignified silence, though in the case of its defenders, they were not put to the same temptation as ourselves.

All at once two men emerged from our main hatchway, dragging with them a great, hulking fellow, whose face was livid with terror.

"'Ere you are, Cap'n," said one of the men. "We found 'im skulking in t'hold."

"And 'e hasn't a scratch on 'im," added the other. "Shall us pitch 'im over the side?"

For the space of a full minute Captain Jeremy intently regarded the trembling man; then, as the cry arose, "Here they come!" he stepped to the weather bulwarks and looked in the direction of the enemy.

"Pass the word for the crew to stand to their arms," he said in a low tone to the master gunner; then, returning to where the abject creature still stood cowering, "There's your chance," he remarked quietly, pointing towards the buccaneering craft; "play the man!"


"Repel Boarders!"

The three vessels had now ceased firing, and from under their sterns six large boats, crowded with armed men, were being pulled straight towards us with all their rowers' might.

We could see the water foaming at their bows, and hear the splash of the oars as they dipped with rapidity and regularity, while the sun glistened on gun barrel, pike, and cutlass.

Unmolested they passed between the two arms of the harbour, then, having drawn into line, they separated, three boats making for each of our vessels.

Suddenly the order was given to open fire. The guns were run out, and the Golden Hope quivered from truck to keelson with the roar of her ordnance. The Neptune followed suit, while the stockade ashore added to the din.

The calm water around the boats was transformed into a veritable cauldron, and it seemed impossible that a single boat could remain afloat in that iron hail.

Although taken completely by surprise, the buccaneers were made of stern stuff, and before the smoke cleared away sufficiently to enable us to see the result of our united broadsides, they were swarming up over our tall sides.

"Repel boarders!" thundered Captain Jeremy, waving his cutlass as he sprang to meet the attack. Nobly our men responded, and midst the sharp crack of pistols, the groans of the wounded, and the sharp exclamations of fury, cutlass crossed with cutlass and pike encountered pike.

I found myself opposed to a villainous halfcaste, clad only in a pair of drawers, and armed with a large cutlass. In spite of my efforts, for I possessed both skill and strength far beyond my age, I soon found that I had all my work cut out, for my opponent whirled his blade with great force and rapidity. Twice, however, I put in a thrust beneath his guard, wounding him slightly on the hip and on the right shoulder. Yet in spite of this slight advantage I was slowly and surely being driven back, when, tripping over a broken spar, I fell heavily.

Every instant I expected to feel the sweep of the pirate's cutlass, but the blow never came. So I took courage and raised myself on my elbow, and, to my surprise, I found my late antagonist engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the man who had been brought before Captain Jeremy for skulking in the hold.

All sense of fear had apparently left the latter. I heard afterwards that he had received a slight wound in his left arm, and the pain had transformed him into a veritable demon. Shouting, "Let me have a rub at the brutes!" he seized an iron bar, and met the onrushing buccaneers with the utmost fury. Two men had already gone down before his ponderous weapon ere, fortunately for me, he diverted the attention of the mulatto just as he had me at his mercy.

Even as I looked the iron bar crashed past the pirate's uplifted cutlass and, descending on the half-caste's head, stretched him lifeless on the deck; but in the moment of victory a chance pistol shot laid the erstwhile coward over the body of his antagonist.

It seemed at this juncture that the buccaneers would succeed in carrying the Golden Hope, till Clemens, the Cornishman whom we had rescued from the Algerine vessel, clambered up the shattered poop ladder, and, training one of the swivel guns, which fortunately was loaded, upon the thickest of the press of our enemies, fired a heavy charge of small shot with deadly effect.

Then, headed by Captain Jeremy and the master gunner, our men made a determined rush, and, still contesting every inch of our planks, the buccaneers were forced back over the side.

A hurried glance showed that the Neptune had also succeeded in beating off her attackers, and was already resuming her fire upon the retreating boats.

Without pausing to regain their breath, our men also remanned their guns and poured a destructive broadside on the boats, of which three had been sunk when we first opened fire. Two more disappeared amidst a swirl of shot-torn water, while the sole remaining boat, moving slowly, for most of her oars had been shattered and she was more than half-full, managed by little short of a miracle to regain her parent ship.

But there was no respite for our weary crew, for the three buccaneering craft resumed their fire. It being comparatively feeble, we knew that their guns were now ill-served, and that they were only firing to aid their escape.

"Aim carefully! Wing 'em!" shouted the master gunner, as he passed along the line of guns, some, alas! silent for want of a crew. In spite of his cautions, however, our men, elated with their victory, fired rapidly and erratically; but as the buccaneers made haste to sheer off, the mainmast of one came crashing over the side, while the others' spars were in a tottering state.

We could see the discomfited crew of the former vessel attack the wreckage with axes in an attempt to free themselves from the fatal encumbrance, but ere this could be done their ship drifted on to a shoal.

The remaining vessels were more fortunate. Slowly tacking, they drew beyond range, and having picked up the survivors of their consort who, on finding their vessel aground, had abandoned her, they gained the open sea.

"Man the long-boat and make sure of yonder craft!" shouted Captain Jeremy. "Let go her anchors when you get aboard, or she may float off with the rising tide."

Even as he spoke there was a crashing report, and, clapping his hands to his head, our gallant Captain staggered and fell senseless to the deck.

One of the buccaneers, who had been left for dead on our deck, had treacherously shot him at almost point-blank range.

With a howl of rage some of our men threw themselves upon the villain and dispatched him with their cutlasses, while others hastened to raise Captain Jeremy and bear him into his cabin.

There we found that the wound, though dangerous, might not prove mortal. The bullet had ploughed a furrow just above the temple, and though the place bled profusely, Captain Jeremy soon recovered his senses.

His first thought was of the disabled buccaneering vessel. "Hath the long-boat pushed off yet?" he asked. "No? Then bid them go at once."

"Master Hammond," said Touchstone, on whom the command of the Golden Hope now devolved, "do you take charge of the boat. You know your orders?"

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"Then carry them out--but, hark'ee, mind how you board. Be careful; make sure she is quite deserted, and straightway examine her hold. I know the villains; unless I am much mistaken, they will have left a slow match to the magazine."

Taking my place in the stern sheets, I ordered the boat to give way, feeling highly elated at my first command, yet, withal, having a presentiment that 'twas a hazardous enterprise.

Half-way across the harbour we came upon the shattered bow of one of the pirates' boats floating just awash, while all around were pieces of planks, showing how effectual and destructive our fire had been. The other boats that had been destroyed must have sunk with the weight of their contents, for we saw no signs of them.

The deserted ship lay with her bow towards the reef on the larboard side of the channel, and having received several shot-holes 'twixt wind and water, had settled down somewhat, till the sea lapped her after ports.

"She's safe enough, sir!" exclaimed one of the boat's crew, looking over his shoulder at the wreck, as he rested on his oar. "Her hold is full of water. That'll put out any trains, if the villains have left them."

I was of the same opinion, so, having rowed completely round the stranded ship, which seemed quite deserted, I gave the word to run alongside.

Bidding all the men save one to remain in the boat, I made sure of the priming of my pistols, then swinging myself up the side by means of the cordage of the broken mainmast, I gained the deck.

It was deserted, save for the corpses of some half a dozen men who had been slain by the discharge of our ordnance, most of them being shockingly mangled.

A hurried yet cautious search revealed a like state of things in the after cabins, while the fo'c'sle was also empty. Peering down the main hatch I saw that, as we had expected, the main hold was flooded, though amidships the depth of water was but a foot.

Making fast one end of a rope, for there was no sign of a ladder, I threw the other end down the hatchway, and by this means gained the sloping planks of the hold. Ankle deep in water, I made my way forward, till in the dim light I perceived a stout bulkhead running athwartships and pierced by a little sliding door, or hatch.

Owing to the slight list of the ship this door had jammed, so that it required considerable effort ere I opened it sufficiently to enable me to squeeze through.

Within it seemed as black as the darkest night, till I saw a sight that caused me to be rooted to the spot. Softly fizzing and spluttering within a few inches of two tiers of sinister-looking barrels was a fuse!


Blown Up

To play the part of a bold hero, I suppose I ought to have made a dash for the burning train and put out the fire. But I did nothing of the kind--I simply stood still and watched with horror-stricken eyes the dim glimmer of the fuse. Even had I had the presence of mind and the courage to make the attempt, the ordering of the barrels would have prevented me, for the train was laid 'twixt tiers standing so close together that there was scarce a hand's width between their bulging sides.

Already I regarded myself as doomed to die a swift and terrible death, but remembering my comrades in the boat, I backed away from the hatchway. I tried to raise a warning shout, but not a sound save a feeble gurgle could I utter. My tongue clave to the roof of my parched mouth, while my heart beat like a sledge-hammer.

Dipping my hand in the water that flooded the floor of the hold, I moistened my lips, then--

"Push off, men!" I shouted. "A fuse!"

The effect of my warning was instantly plain. The man who had accompanied me on deck leapt into the long-boat, and I heard the scraping of their oars as the crew pushed off with feverish haste.

Now that I look back upon this matter, I can scarce blame them. They acted according to my orders, combined with the thought of self-preservation. Doubtless in their panic they knew not whether one or two persons had leapt from the ship's bulwarks into the boat. But be that as it may, they rowed off with all their might and left me to my fate--and a hideous one at that.

Yet, as the explosion had not taken place, I gathered courage, and seizing the rope by which I had descended into the hold, I began to swarm up it. Suddenly, although it had appeared sound and had borne my weight before, it parted like pack thread, and I fell on my back in the hold, where the water broke my fall.

I was on my feet in an instant, now alert to take every possible chance of saving myself, and seeing a shaft of light in the dim recesses of the after hold, I waded down the sloping planks till the water rose to my shoulders.

A few strokes sufficed to bring me to where a small hatch communicated with the main deck, for the water was here so high that by raising my arm I could grasp the coaming of the hatchway.

Though my sodden clothing seemed like lead as my body drew clear of the surface, I managed to drag myself through the opening and gain the deck, where, without a moment's hesitation, I rushed on to the poop, and sprang over the taffrail into the sea.

I must have dived to a depth of from two to three fathoms, for I could see the rocky bottom of the sea a few feet below me; and just as I was on the point of ascending to the surface, I heard the roar of the explosion.

It seemed as if the drums of my ears were broken by the concussion, while the water was agitated by a sudden current, or eddy, that swept me along the bottom. I remained underneath till I could contain my breath no longer, then with a few strokes I rose to the surface.

All around a heavy, pungent cloud, or rather haze, of smoke enveloped everything, though towering above me I could discern the outlines of the ship's poop. That, at all events, had withstood the shock and had proved my salvation, for the pieces of shattered timber were still falling, many of them being shot skywards to a terrific height.

I trod water for a space till all danger from the falling debris was over, then, swimming round the scorched and shattered side of the ship, I found a place where the timbers had been torn away right to the water's edge.

Half-suffocated by the fumes, for many of the planks still smouldered, I made my way aft to where the poop deck remained practically intact; and utterly done up, I threw myself down, too dazed to realize that I had been miraculously preserved.

How long I remained in that position I cannot tell, but at length I staggered to my feet and looked around.

The ships of the escaping buccaneers were still visible, though nearly hull down. They had hauled to the wind and were standing on a northerly course parallel with the eastern shore of the island.

Looking round the harbour, I could see the Golden Hope and the Neptune, their sides crowded with men, while within a few hundred yards of them was the long-boat, rowing slowly, with her gunwale barely showing. So she had not escaped unhurt, I reasoned.

Of the vessel on which I stood nearly two-thirds had quite disappeared, while of the quarter-deck only a few blackened crossbeams and ribs remained. All around were pieces of timber of all sizes and shapes, slowly drifting shorewards with the flood tide.

The black flag, with its grinning skull and crossbones, was trailing in the water under the wreck's quarter. This would serve for a signal, so, hauling it on board, I lashed it to a pike, which in turn I fastened to an iron socket that at one time had supported the poop lantern.

My signal was soon observed, and a boat was put off from the Neptune; and while awaiting her arrival I ran below and made a second examination of the cabins and after hold. Most of the former were luxuriously furnished, though they had suffered severely, from both our shot and the effect of the explosion. Yet, brief as was my inspection, I saw that two of them were used as store places, and that they were filled with the loot of many an unfortunate vessel. Gold and silver ornaments and plate, coins of a dozen different countries, and other precious goods filled the lockers. To me it seemed enough for the ransom of a king.

Looking through the hatch by which I had escaped from the hold, I perceived how nearly the whole of the treasure had been lost to us, for now, plainly visible in the flooded after-magazine, were barrels of powder, far more than the fore part of the ship had contained; while from one of them a wisp of tow floated towards the surface. Its charred end showed how near had been the consummation of the buccaneers' diabolical plan, for when the magazine was flooded the fuse had burned to within a foot of the powder.

Great was the astonishment of the men to find me alive and unhurt, for although I had been seen standing on the poop, no one on the ship had recognized me. My clothing was rent, and my damp hair hung over my face, which was black with charcoal, smoke, and dust. Captain 'Enery had concluded that I had perished in the explosion, and that the figure they had seen on board was that of one of the buccaneers, who, on the vessel being blown up, had swum off from a neighbouring shoal.

"The wreck is full of treasure," I announced, and on hearing the good news the boat's crew gave a hearty cheer. Some were for making their way on board, but the coxswain sternly ordered them to remain in the boat.

"The stuff is safe enow," said he, "and all will share and share alike when the time comes. There's plenty of work to be done before we trouble about what's aboard yon craft."

This was the case, for when the boat put me once more aboard the Golden Hope I found all hands busily engaged in clearing up the damage done in the fight. The work of making good the mischief done aloft would take weeks of continuous labour, though the spars of the wrecked buccaneer could be utilized to replace our own, for, trailing over the side, they had escaped the force of the explosion.

But though the ships suffered severely, our loss in men was far more to be deplored. The Golden Hope had eleven killed and fifteen wounded, including Captain Jeremy, and the Neptune nine killed and seventeen wounded. In the stockade, however, not a single man had been hit. Thus, including the six men who were missing after our futile expedition to recover the treasure, only one hundred and twenty-eight were fit for duty, and of these nearly two score had received slight wounds.

My first act on returning on board was to see how Captain Jeremy was progressing. I found that he was sleeping peacefully, his wound having been carefully dressed; and that, should no feverish symptoms make their appearance, his recovery would be but a matter of a few weeks. As quietness was a necessity, it was planned that he should be carried ashore to the stockade with the rest of the wounded on the following day, so as not to be disturbed by the shipwrights and riggers at their work.

That night, as I lay on my bunk, I pondered over the words of the old friar, Pedro Lopez. Surely we had gone through enough bloodshed and fire to fulfil the exacting conditions that had to be carried out ere we recovered the treasure? Would not the facts that a score of our men were awaiting burial on this far-off island, and that over thirty more were groaning on the ballast, serve to appease the wrath of the slaughtered Spaniards? And when I thought of my ordeal by fire, and my terrible position as I waited for the crash of the explosion, I prayed that we had seen the last of our perils.

It must have been about eight bells of the middle watch (4 a.m.), ere it was light, when a sharp rattle of musketry caused me to awaken with a start. Hastily rushing on deck, I found our men already standing to their guns, while on shore a desperate conflict was in progress.

The stockade was attacked on all sides.


The Repulse at the Stockade

Who our new enemies were, and whence they came, we knew not. Judging by the outer ring of flashes, it would seem that they outnumbered the defenders of the stockade by seven to one; for only twenty-five men had been left on shore on the preceding evening.

These were once more under the command of Touchstone, who, on the termination of our fight with the pirate ships, had resumed his post at the base of our operations on land. Yet the handful of men, under the spirited leadership of the master gunner, ought to prove themselves equal to their attackers, as they had the advantage of a stout breastwork.

But while the fight continued we were tormented with doubts and fears. In the darkness we could tell by the rapid spurts of flame that came from the stockade that our men were fiercely contesting their ground, although by the flashes encircling them we knew that the attack was being pushed close home.

Nor could we render any assistance, for our broadsides might do more harm to friend than to foe; while it would be extremely hazardous to attempt to land an armed party on an open beach, as we knew not the numbers of our enemies. Moreover, in the darkness we might fire on, or be fired upon by our own men.

Above the crackle of musketry and the shouts of the combatants we could distinguish the deeper crash of the ordnance that had been landed from the Golden Hope, while now and again would come an ominous lull, only to be broken by another crash of guns and the noise of a hand-to-hand conflict.

Having loaded all our ordnance on the landward side, and kept such of our boats as were still seaworthy close alongside, we could only await the dawn, of which signs were already apparent.

At length it grew light, with all the splendour and rapidity of a West Indian dawn, and we were able to see how things fared ashore.

The stockade was still in the hands of Touchstone and his men, though two gaps in the palisades showed how close home the attack had been pushed. Yet around these breaches the dead lay thick, while scattered over the plain were other corpses, proving how well our people had handled their muskets.

Drawn up at a distance of half a mile from the stockade was a body of musketeers, to the number of about fifty. They were evidently planning a fresh attack, for those who carried firearms had their matches lighted. Yet they appeared to have no heart to advance, for we saw one whom we supposed to be their leader beckon angrily with his sword.

One broadside from the Neptune sent them helter-skelter. They fled past the landward side of the stockade, though beyond musket range, and disappeared behind the rising ground that terminated in the headland on the northern side of the harbour.

Captain 'Enery immediately sent two boats ashore laden with men, and, going with them, I was able to see the effects of the attack.

It appeared that our sentinels had heard the sound of footsteps and, receiving no reply to their challenge, had opened fire. The garrison had barely time to stand to their arms and man the stockade ere the foremost of their attackers gained the ditch, and attempted to rush the palisade.

In the protracted defence we had lost but three men killed and four badly wounded, while of our enemies nearly two score were found lying outside the defence.

One of the latter, being but slightly wounded in the leg, was brought into the stockade and questioned. Doubtless expecting to be hanged forthwith, he maintained a sullen silence, till Touchstone promised him his life should he speak the truth. This offer, combined with a number of veiled threats should he still prove obstinate, had its effect, and the prisoner became communicative.

His was a disquieting report. In the north-western part of the island, some eight or nine miles by the direct route across the marshy forest, though nearly twice that distance by the coast, was a settlement inhabited by buccaneers. They had seen our arrival, but, owing to the fact that their squadron of four vessels was away on a cruise, they had refrained from molesting us till the ships returned.

Possibly they were unaware of our expedition into the interior, for had they known of this they would certainly have ambushed our party on the march.

The prolonged stay of our two ships in the harbour had puzzled them not a little, and when their three vessels returned, the fourth having been separated from her consorts, a combined attack by land and sea had been planned.

By some means the two buccaneering parties had failed to co-operate, so that their ships had already been beaten off ere the land force appeared. The latter had heard the firing, but, little thinking that we should have held our own, they imagined the victory already complete, till in the darkness they stumbled upon our stockade.

"How many men were left to guard your settlement?" demanded Touchstone.

"Only a handful--enough to keep the slaves in order," replied our prisoner.

"Is the place fortified?"

"By a wall and a ditch. There are eighteen guns in position."

"And when will the fourth ship return?"

"I do not know."

"Remove him," ordered the master gunner, and he hurried off to the shore, whence the crew of one of the boats rowed him to the Golden Hope.

In less than half an hour he returned, bringing with him another reinforcement of armed men.

"My lads," said he, "I have obtained Cap'n 'Enery's consent. I propose to lead a body of men across the island, ambush the rest of these rascals, and, if successful, follow that up by seizing and burning their dwellings and storehouses. Forty men will be sufficient. Now, who's going to volunteer?"

Every one of us expressed his readiness for the service, but, refusing to take more than the number he had stated, the master gunner picked out his force, and examined their arms. Then, for every moment was precious, he gave them the word to march, and the little band set out on its errand.

Although I wished to share in the enterprise, Master Touchstone refused to allow me to accompany them, and to my disappointment I watched them disappear in the belt of canes and scrub by the route that we had twice traversed but a few hours before.

Four days passed without any tidings of our comrades, and we were naturally anxious at their prolonged absence. Yet those of our men who remained were not kept idle. The work of refitting proceeded apace, while advantage was taken of a spell of fine weather to bring off all the precious cargo that remained in the shattered hull of the wrecked buccaneer. Her name, we discovered, was the Black Arrow, her burthen being two hundred and eighty tons. She was the smallest of the pirate fleet, the others being the Terror, of three hundred and twenty tons, the Bonito, of three hundred tons, and the Secret, of the same burthen. This last was the vessel that we had not as yet fallen in with. Should she have returned to the pirates' haven, her crew would be able to rout our little force; so, as this event might take place, our anxieties increased as the hours passed with no news of Touchstone and his men.

Owing to the great reduction in the number of our men by death and wounds, together with the absence of Touchstone and his party, only eighty remained. Captain 'Enery therefore determined to temporarily abandon the Neptune, so that our slender force might be divided to the best advantage 'twixt the Golden Hope and the stockade.

With our own ship well manned we could beat off any attack from seawards, even should the still undamaged Secret rejoin her consorts; while the garrison ashore had to be maintained, so that the master gunner and his people might have a refuge should they be compelled to retreat before a superior force.

During the three days following their departure the wind had blown steadily on shore, and we were thus prevented from hearing any sounds of an engagement with the retreating buccaneers, although on the evening of the third day I thought I heard the sound of a distant cannonade.

"It does sound like it," assented Captain 'Enery, when I called his attention to the circumstance, "though it may be thunder."

"Whatever it is, it comes from seaward," said the quartermaster.

"Sink me, if I like this business," replied Captain 'Enery. "No news for three days, and then the sound of cannonade at sea. I'll send a man away to-night, and let him gather news of Touchstone."

Accordingly Clemens, the Cornishman, was selected to make his way in the darkness in the direction of the buccaneers' line of retreat. The man could be thoroughly trusted to look after himself, for he was as crafty as a fox, while he possessed such a turn of speed that few could hope to overtake him in flight.

By daybreak, according to his instructions, he returned, without encountering a single living being; yet he reported that there had been an engagement, for the ground bore traces of a conflict, broken weapons lying about everywhere. Who were the victors he was unable to state, though he followed the marks left by a number of men till the approach of daybreak made it necessary to retrace his steps. The mystery seemed to deepen.

About noon on the same day our look-outs reported the appearance of a body of armed men over the brow of the distant hill. Immediately there was a rush on deck, and glasses were brought to bear on the arrivals.

"Hurrah!" shouted one of the crew. "'Tis Master Touchstone and his party."

"You're right," said Captain 'Enery. "But what doth it mean? There are at least a score of armed men more than he took with him."


Captain Craddock

Fired with impatience to solve the mystery, Captain 'Enery rowed ashore and proceeded to the stockade, there to await Touchstone's return; and in half an hour the expedition rejoined us. There were, as Captain 'Enery had said, at least a score of strangers, all well armed and mingling freely with our people in a friendly manner; while at Touchstone's side walked a man who was evidently someone in authority.

He was little in stature, yet of great breadth across the shoulders, and long in body. His legs seemed disproportionately short, so that he strutted like a young bantam. He was clean shaven, his sunburnt features being hard in expression, while the stern glint in his eyes betokened a commanding nature.

"Have I the honour of addressing Captain Henry?" asked the little man pompously.

"Cap'n 'Enery, if it please you," replied that worthy. "And you, sir?"

"I am Captain Edmund Craddock, commanding His Majesty's ship Antelope. I am beholden to your men for their co-operation in assisting to exterminate this nest of rascally pirates; but, in the execution of my duty, I must demand to see your warrant for your presence on this island with an armed force."

"That can be shown you on board the Golden Hope, your honour," replied Captain 'Enery.

"I trust so, for your own sakes," the other said; "therefore let us proceed on board her."

"He's a cool game-cock," remarked Clemens in an undertone to the master gunner, as we followed Captain 'Enery and the naval officer to the boats. "Why, for all he knows he may be running into a den of pirates!"

"I'll tell you more of him anon," replied Touchstone; "but take it from me, he knows his business."

On boarding the Golden Hope, Captain Craddock, accompanied by Captain 'Enery, retired to the cabin where Captain Jeremy was lying. Here they remained talking for more than an hour; but the interview must have been satisfactory all round, for on returning to the quarter-deck I saw the naval captain produce his snuff-box and offer it with a grave flourish to Captain 'Enery.

"Well, I wish you joy on it," I heard him remark. "If you find the treasure, for I've no doubt that it is on the island, you'll be far luckier than a good many. With your permission, I'll remain your guest till my vessel arrives."

"Does she know the channel?"

"As well as she knows her way into Spithead," replied the other, laughing. "Do you think I've cruised among these islands for the last twenty years, off and on, for nothing?"

Meanwhile the men who had accompanied Touchstone were gathered on the fo'c'sle, surrounded by a group of eager listeners, all anxious to hear the story of the pursuit; and at the same time the master gunner was relating the tale to the bos'n, the quartermaster, and myself.

"We covered the path through the forest in double-quick time," said he; "and directly we gained the crossroads that Captain Miles had hit upon we turned to the right. A mile farther on this road forked, the larger or left-hand path apparently making towards the pirates' settlement. As I thought 'twould be better to set an ambush as far from that place as possible, I took our men by the right-hand path, and finished up at a little cove, where three small boats were hauled up, quite deserted."

"There we took cover, for there were rocks in plenty, the seaside path running betwixt the boulders and a low cliff. We had not been there more than a couple of hours ere Jonas Cook, who had been sent off to keep a look-out, came running back with the news that the buccaneers were close at hand."

"On they came, quite unsuspectingly, straggling over a quarter of a mile of ground. This was bad for us, for our ambush would not allow every man of them to be surprised; so we let the head of the column pass, and then I gave the word to fire."

"We bowled a lot of them over like skittles those who had already passed broke and fled, but those in the rear, instead of running away, dashed towards us with pistol and cutlass. Although we gave them another volley, they still came on, till, being outnumbered, most of them were cut down. The remnant, escaping our fire, broke through our ambush and followed those who had gone on ahead."

"Wouldn't they have done better if they had run back and taken cover in the woods?" asked the quartermaster.

"I am right glad they didn't, or we should have had our work cut out to run them down," replied Touchstone. "They feared that a party was at their heels to complete the trap, and therefore they chose to run the gauntlet of our fire. But 'twas all the better for us."

"How so?"

"Why, we had them all in front of us. We pursued them for close on a mile, till from the top of a hill we saw a harbour larger than this, with a group of houses surrounded by a stockade on one side of it. And in the middle of the harbour were two large ships. Before the rascally villains could reach this fort a body of men rushed out. 'This is too many for us,' I thought, and I was about to beat a retreat when I saw the new-comers open fire on the runaways, who straightway laid down their arms and were instantly secured."

"Then I saw for the first time that both the vessels flew English colours, and when we had made ourselves known we found out that they were the frigate Antelope and the buccaneering craft Secret, which had been captured the day before. We won't be troubled with those rascals again, at all events, for the Antelope sank the two that escaped from here and, as I said, took the third. But----"

"Sail, ho!"

"Whither away?" shouted the bos'n, our conversation terminating abruptly with the interruption.

Gliding round the end of the reef by a channel of which we ourselves were ignorant came a graceful frigate, the setting sun gleaming on her brown canvas and her black-and-yellow sides, while the red cross of St. George streamed proudly in the breeze.

Smartly handled, she worked her way in through the narrow, land-locked entrance; then luffing up into the wind, she dropped anchor within a cable's length of the Golden Hope.

"What think ye of her, gentlemen?" asked Captain Craddock, with justifiable pride. "I'll warrant she's the smartest 40-gun frigate afloat, even though I, her captain, say it."

No one would have thought, to see the gallant vessel, that she had been in action with three buccaneers but two or three days ago. Her ports, picked out in vermilion, had been repainted, while every spar and rope was intact. Yet, on closer inspection, a number of neatly plugged holes in her sheering sides showed how fierce had been the engagement.

"We'll lie here for a few days," continued Captain Craddock, as his barge came alongside to take him back to the frigate. "If we can be of service to you in the matter of spare spars, cordage, or gear, you have but to say so."

Captain Craddock was as good as his word, and, thanks to his assistance, not only were our wounded carefully tended by the chirurgeon of the frigate, but the work of refitting the Golden Hope and the Neptune proceeded far more rapidly than we had expected, so that when the Antelope weighed and set sail for Port Royal, our two ships looked little the worse for the severe ordeal they had undergone.

Meanwhile Captain Jeremy continued to progress favourably, yet slowly. In this interval we could do nothing towards recovering the Madre treasure, so it is little wonder that time hung heavily on our hands.

One morning I landed with the intention of walking along the cliffs to the place where the Madre had first gone ashore ere she had slipped back into deep water. With me went one of the seamen, for 'twas unwise to stray far from the stockade alone. We were both armed, the man carrying his cutlass and a pistol in his belt, while I had a fowling-piece.

In less than an hour we gained the summit of the cliff, which was there about one hundred feet in height, though divided into two sheer drops of half that distance by a terrace or ledge, about six feet in width.

"See yon dark line in the water?" asked the Seaman. "'Tis the deep-water channel across the shoal by which the frigate came into harbour. I heard Cap'n 'Enery and the bos'n say as 'ow they were going to sound it. When we get out of 'ere--when, I says, with all due respect to you, Master Hammond--we ought to take yon passage and save a couple of leagues through the other one by which we came."

"There's a boat putting off from the Golden Hope now," I exclaimed.

"That be it for sartain. Howsomever, I'd liefer be here than sounding all day in the broiling sun."

"What a number of sea-birds!" I said, pointing to the face of the lower cliff, about which thousands of white, grey, and black gulls and cormorants were darting in and out of the crevices, making a continuous din. "Are they good for food? If so, I'll have a shot at some of them."

"Too fishy to my liking," replied the man, as he settled himself on the grass and proceeded to fill a short black pipe. "Their eggs ain't so bad, though. I've a mind to come 'ere with a rope, like I used to do at home. I'm a Portland man, I am, and know how to go bird-nesting. But if you want to, you can try a shot at 'em. I'll bring up 'ere for a spell and have a pipe. But mind you don't go too near the edge; it might give way."

Accordingly I shouldered my piece and walked towards a gap in the cliffs where, I could see, a natural path led to the lower ledge. For a moment I hesitated, for a false step would send me crashing upon the rocky platform below, with the prospect of a further tumble of fifty feet into the sea. But being cool-headed and now well accustomed to dizzy heights, I began to descend.

The path was little more than a succession of rough steps, covered with the deserted nests of sea-fowl, here and there partially hidden by a few tufts of coarse grass. I had to exercise considerable caution to prevent myself slipping, but at length I reached the ledge or platform without mishap.

Here I took cover behind a detached boulder to allow the birds to return, for my presence had alarmed them, so that they had temporarily flown farther afield.

I had primed my musket and laid it within arm's length, and was patiently awaiting their reappearance, when a dark shadow fell athwart the rock.

Instinctively I turned my head to ascertain the cause, when a hand was clapped over my mouth, and I felt the contact of a man's knees with the small of my back.

I was a prisoner.


A Leap for Life

In spite of my desperate struggles, a cord was wound tightly round my ankles, and my arms were bound behind my back. This done, a thick piece of canvas took the place of the hand across my mouth, so that I could scarce breathe, much less utter a sound; and a bandage was tied across my eyes.

Then I felt myself being set upon my feet, a rope was passed round my waist, and I was suspended over the edge of the cliff, as helpless as a trussed fowl.

"Stand by!" I heard a gruff voice exclaim, and the next instant I was lowered into space, where I hung, turning slowly at the rope's end, with the dull murmur of the waves at the base of the cliff some fifty feet below to add to the terror of my situation.

By the number of successive short jerks I knew that I had not been lowered more than ten feet when I was seized by rough hands and dragged in towards the cliff. The rope by which I had been lowered was cast off, and, lifted in a horizontal position, I was borne away.

The sudden change from the scorching rays of the sun to a chilly atmosphere, and the echoing footsteps of my captors, told me that I was being carried along a tunnel in the rocks. I distinctly counted four-and-forty footfalls ere the men set me down upon a stone floor; then the bandage was whipped off my eyes, and I found myself blinking in the subdued daylight.

Surrounding me I recognized Ned Slater and the five others who had slipped away on our retreat through the forest.

"Now, youngster," began the villainous rascal, whom I now knew to be guilty of my father's murder and the theft of the chart, to say nothing of his other crimes, "no beating about the bush, or 'twill be the worse for you. Where lieth the treasure?"

"I know not. You have the chart."

"Aye," he replied, with a hideous oath, "and little good it is to us. It is marked 'Much treasure here'--here, on or near this spot; but that is false. I know it, and you know it. Now, where does the treasure lie--somewhere inland? or was that part of old Miles's plan to mislead us? Come now, answer."

"I cannot say, nor would not if I could."

"You lie, you young rascal. But I'll find a way to make you use your tongue, though you may shout till you're black in the face, for no one will hear you. Search him first."

Two of the rogues emptied my pockets and relieved me of my knife.

"Ho, ho! What have we here?" exclaimed Slater, examining the blade carefully. "'Tis an old acquaintance. Nay, I go farther--'tis my property."

"Considering you sheathed it in my father's body," I replied boldly, "'tis not to be wondered at, you double-dyed murderer."

"All is fair in love and war," he replied. "If your father barred my way, what was to be done? But take heed, lest I plunge it into your body. Now, once again, where does the treasure lie hidden?"

I did not reply, for I was hard at work trying to devise some plan of thwarting him and at the same time of effecting my escape.

Finding that I remained obstinate, they left me lying bound and helpless, with a pannikin of water within a foot of my face, having previously moistened my lips with salt water.

I was indeed in a very tight fix. The cave was about ten feet in height, but owing to a sharp bend I was unable to see how long it was, or in what direction it dived into the rock. Unless one knew of its existence, he might search the ledge above for hours without being aware that its mouth yawned ten feet beneath. No doubt when I was missed a search would be made for me, with the result that it would be supposed that I had fallen over the edge into the sea.

As I lay unable to stir hand or foot, my thirst grew intolerable, my tongue was parched, and my throat burned like a lime-kiln. Yet within a foot stood a vessel of water which, for the good it did me, might have been better out of my sight.

Away in the recesses of the cave I could hear my captors talking in eager tones, doubtless highly excited at their success, for 'twas certain that they thought I held the prized secret.

"Get it from him at all costs, then do as you say," I heard one remark.

"Hush! not so loud," replied another.

"Yet it must be done."

"I know; I'm not saying anything against that, so----"

Here their voices became inaudible, but in those few words I gathered the full signification of their intentions. When they had finished with me they meant to finish me in a very complete sense.

Plan after plan flashed across my mind, only to be dismissed as impracticable, till, with the faintest ray of hope, I lighted on a scheme that might serve my purpose.

At length Ned Slater returned, humming a rollicking air, and with a hideous grin on his face. Stooping down, he raised the pannikin of water to his lips and took a draught with the utmost ostentation.

This done, he motioned as if to give me what remained in the vessel, but when 'twas within a few inches of my mouth he slowly and deliberately withdrew it. Twice did he offer the water, then with a steady hand he poured it on the floor, so that the liquid splashed over my bound hands.

"A curse on my clumsiness!" said he. "I must needs fill the pannikin again."

I heard the hollow sound of his footsteps retreating down the passage, but presently he returned, with the pannikin filled to the brim. Setting it down where it formerly stood, he said:

"Help yourself, you young rascal; there's plenty to spare."

Had the water been a thousand leagues off, I could not have helped myself any the less, and the villain knew it.

"Now, concerning the plan," he began, pointing to the chart which he held in his hand. "Art still of the same mind?"

"I'll tell you," I replied hoarsely; then, feigning with little effort, I began to cough and gulp as if unable to continue.

"Water!" I gasped, after a while.

He raised the pannikin and allowed a thin stream to trickle on to my face, and as I swallowed the cold liquid it seemed to instil new life into my tortured body.

"That chart is not correct," I began.

"I knew it," he replied, in a tone of triumphant expectancy; "but I'll lay hands on the treasure."

"And when you do, can you remove it from the island?"

"I'll find away," he replied, with a leer. "Dost think I have no friends aboard the ships?"

"Cast my hand loose, and I'll trace a plan of the island," I continued, pretending to ignore the latter part of his remark.

"Very well, then; but no trickery, or----" and he touched the hilt of my knife, which he was wearing in his belt.

"Do I look as if I could trick you?" I asked wearily. "A lad with his feet bound could not hope to get the better of you."

Without another word he cut the rope that encircled my arms, then, stepping back a pace, he drew the knife and held it in a menacing position.

I gave a short glance at the rope that bound my feet. It was thin cord, commonly known as half-inch line.

"Let this represent the coast," I began, tracing an irregular line in the dust that covered the floor of the cave. "Here is the cliff, and here the place where the Madre first struck. The first hiding-place of the treasure was here, I take it."

"'Tis more to the east, if yon point marks the cliff. Thus says the chart."

"Does it?" I asked, with feigned surprise. "Art sure?"

"Look for yourself," said he, holding the parchment close to my face.

"The light is bad," I replied, peering at the crabbed writing. "Turn it this way, so that it shows to the best advantage. 'Tis as I said; the place lies to the west of the cliff, just here----"

The villain's face was within arm's length, for in his eagerness he had drawn closer to hear my explanation. My fist shot out with a swift upward movement, and, taking him fairly on the point of his chin, sent him staggering against the opposite wall, whence he fell senseless to the ground.

In two bounds I was at his side, and seizing the knife, I severed the rope that fastened my ankles.

"At least," thought I, as I made ready to strike home, "if I am to die, you'll not live to see my death."

But ere I could achieve my aim, one of the rogues appeared, and, raising his arm, discharged a pistol at me.

The bullet ploughed through my hair, but without a moment's hesitation I flung myself straight at the man. Down he went, screaming with pain, with my knife betwixt his ribs.

Now or never I must gain the mouth of the cave, so, dashing forward, I ran along the tunnel towards the place where I knew the rest of the villains to be, for I heard them shouting in alarm as they hastened to their comrade's aid.

Just then I noticed that the passage, or tunnel, turned sharply to the left, and was quite dark when compared with the subdued light of that portion of the cave in which I had been kept a prisoner.

Down I lay full length on the floor, resting on my left side, and as the four men rushed blindly onward the first tripped over my prostrate body. The second I caught by the ankle, and he also fell, while the remaining two were brought up by a barrier of sprawling legs.

Ere they could realize who I was, I regained my feet, darted betwixt them and the wall of the cavern, and headed straight for the entrance.

Nor did I stop to think, but, gathering speed as I ran, I boldly leapt into space, still grasping the fatal knife in my hand.

Even as I felt myself hurtling through those fifty feet, however, I wondered whether, in my impetuous leap, I would strike the sea or solid rock, for I had not even stopped to see whether the cliff there fell sheer into the water or not.

Fortunately the precipice sloped inwards, so that I escaped being dashed to pieces. Keeping in an upright position, I struck the water feet first with tremendous force, and plunged beneath the surface to a considerable depth.

A few lusty strokes sufficed to bring me to the surface, however, and shaking my hair from my face, I struck out for the shelter of the overhanging cliff, so that I should be unperceived by the rogues in the cave.

It being close on low tide, the rise and fall in those parts being but five feet at most, there was nothing that would afford a foothold; the rocks were as smooth as a plank, and covered with a thick, dark curtain of seaweed.

Owing to the slight swell, the backwash of the waves made swimming a matter of difficulty, as I was continually in peril of being thrown against the cliff; and realizing that the sooner I found a landing-place the better, I again struck out, swimming along the face of the cliff and about ten feet from it, keeping a sharp look-out both for a possible refuge and for the swell, of which every seventh wave was more dangerous than the rest.

Having struck a current or eddy that ran close inshore, I made rapid progress, and in less than a quarter of an hour rounded a spur or headland that I knew was within a few hundred yards of the mouth of the harbour where the Golden Hope lay at anchor.

But here I found, to my peril, that the eddy was no longer in my favour. On the contrary, before I was aware of it I was being rapidly carried out to sea by a current that ran at a rate of over three knots an hour.

Once I realized the impossibility of making headway, I turned on my back and paddled easily. The sea was warm, and unless unforeseen circumstances arose, I could keep afloat for an hour or more with little effort. Ere then I hoped to be seen by the searchers on the cliff, or that the current would have changed in my favour. So, buoyed up by hope, I allowed myself to drift with the tide.

Soon I saw that I was nearly abreast that part of the cliff from which I had leapt, yet at a distance of nearly half a mile from it. I could discern the sloping part of the ledge where I had been surprised, and the dark, yawning mouth of the cavern, though I could see nothing of the rogues who dwelt there. There was some consolation in the fact that neither could they see me, nor was I within musket range; but against that there was the growing prospect of being swept far out to sea, to perish slowly in a vast waste of water.

At length I noticed that the sea, which all around was calm save for a gentle swell, was at a short distance ahead beginning to change in appearance. Short-crested waves were breaking over a shoal. That I knew by experience, but whether 'twas but a "tide rip", or really shallow water, I knew not.

The set of the tide carried me right towards the centre of this extent of agitated water, and to my relief I was soon standing on rocky ground, with the sea barely above my knees.

I was still in a position of great peril, for the rocks were slippery with kelp, while the current was strong enough to threaten to sweep me off my feet. Even though the tide might fall a few inches, I knew full well that ere long the flood would set in, and thus before high water the depth would be too great for me to retain a foothold.

Looking landwards, I saw by the agitation of the waves that the shoal extended well towards the shore, the distance between being but a few hundred yards. At this my hopes recovered, for could I walk or wade in that direction and await the change of tide, the same current that had carried me seawards would render me a good service in bearing me back towards the harbour.

I had not proceeded far, for wading was a matter of extreme difficulty, when a whip-like object seized my leg like a vice. The sensation was paralysing, for it seemed as if I was being burnt in a score of places at once. Like a flash I realized my danger. I was in the grip of an octopus!


The Perils of the Shoal

Before I could take any steps to free myself from the loathsome embraces of the octopus, another tentacle fastened itself round my leg, while others writhed menacingly in an attempt to seize their prey. The creature's body seemed but about the size of a sheep's head, while each of the arms or tentacles was less than a yard in length.

Retaining its hold on the rocks with a pair of its arms, the hideous brute began to increase its grasp on my leg, while at the union of the slimy tentacles I could distinguish a pair of small, protruding eyes and a formidable beak. That beak was slowly approaching my naked flesh, to rend it asunder.

Being without shoes, for I had kicked them off when I began swimming, I was unable to stamp on the creature with my yet free foot, though any attempt to do so might have led to my undoing, as I had all my work cut out to prevent myself from being capsized. Once prone on those slippery rocks, my fate was sealed.

Then I bethought me of my knife, which I had thrust into my belt. Gripping it dagger-wise, I braced myself to overcome a sickening sensation of fear, and plunged it to the hilt betwixt the eyes of the hideous creature.

'Twas only to be likened to cutting a leather bag filled with jelly--once the steel had ripped through the outer skin there seemed no resistance to the blade; yet, though a quantity of watery blood, mingled with a blackish froth, came from the wound, the octopus apparently lost none of its vitality. Its rage, if I may so term it, seemed to increase, for, quitting its hold on the rocks, it fastened upon me with all its tentacles. I felt its snake-like embrace encircle my legs, while two of its members seized my left arm. Though I struck madly at its head to ward off the terrible, beak-like mouth, my efforts seemed unavailing. The pain of the hundreds of suckers was intense, and I felt my legs giving way under the loathsome contraction of the creature's tentacles.

Suddenly the pressure seemed to relax, and redoubling my efforts, I severed three of the arms with as many sweeps of my knife. Thus I freed the upper part of my body; after that it was a comparatively easy matter to cut off the other tentacles, though the remaining parts still clung to my legs like a hundred leeches.

Shudderingly I made my way towards a portion of the reef that now lay exposed, keeping a wary eye on the seaweed lest another octopus should be lurking in the rocky crevices.

Having completely emerged from the water, I cut off the adhering tentacles with my knife, for they would not become detached by other means. Wherever the suckers had touched my flesh a small red wound remained, so that my legs were one mass of livid spots, showing vividly against the white skin, my prolonged stay in the water having well-nigh stopped the flow of my blood.

I rubbed my limbs vigorously, and began to consider how I should reach the shore, for the current had now ceased to ebb, as I could tell by the absence of ripples over the submerged portion of the shoal.

Fearing a similar encounter with an octopus, I hesitated to wade over the seaweed-covered rocks, till, realizing that the longer I waited the more exhausted I should become, and that I had traversed a considerable distance ere I was attacked, I took heart, and walked as rapidly as I could towards the landward edge of the shoal.

I noticed that from this part of the reef the blackened wreck of the pirate vessel was immediately in line with the south-eastern end of the island, so that by taking advantage of the flood stream I should be carried on to the ledge of rocks that extended betwixt the shore and the wreck, whence up to half tide I could walk ashore.

But just as I was about to commit myself to the waves, I saw a black, triangular object cutting through the water between me and the higher portion of the shoal I had just left. It was the fin of a shark!

This ravenous monster had evidently got out of its bearings, for, though shark's often frequent shoal water in search of their prey, in this case there was barely sufficient depth for it to swim in.

Nevertheless, the shark had seen me, and was making straight for the place where I stood. There was no help for it but to retrace my steps to the now fast disappearing rocks, where I would have to make a desperate stand until there was enough water for the brute to come to close quarters. And then--I shuddered at the thought of it.

I managed to evade the monster, for it floundered heavily in the shallows, lashing out with its tail, the noise of the blows sounding like the report of a musket.

The water was now up to my ankles on the highest part of the reef. Often would I imagine that my foot touched the slimy tentacles of an octopus, as the now increasing current caused the long tendrils of seaweed to sweep against my legs; while many crabs of small size would dart swiftly in a sidelong motion over my toes.

All the while the shark, having found a pool of deeper water, was swimming lazily to and fro, turning occasionally on its back. I could then see its small, evil-looking eyes, as it marked its anticipated prey.

In vain I sought for some stones to hurl at the monster--the face of the rock beneath the kelp was firm and solid.

Although the sun's rays had long since dried my scanty clothing, I shivered with numbness, aye, and with fear. Bitterly did I regret my rashness in descending to that fatal ledge without my companion, yet vain were my regrets.

More than once I resolved to cast myself into the sea and, knife in hand, to do battle with the ferocious monster that awaited me. 'Twould be victory or death, and even in the latter case it would the sooner end my prolonged torments. Yet, as I looked at the glistening white monster, with its huge mouth armed with serrated rows of sharp teeth, I could not force myself to take the desperate step.


Surely my ears deceived me, or did I hear the faint sound of a hail? Looking round I saw, to my inexpressible joy and relief, a boat making towards the shoal. It was the same craft that I had seen taking soundings in the channel that morning.

Under the powerful strokes of the rowers the boat dashed to my rescue, the foam hissing at her bows as her sharp stem cleft the water.

Then everything began to grow dim; I heard the report of a musket, and was barely conscious of the shark quivering on the surface of the water, with shattered jaws. Strong arms bore me to the boat, and directly I felt myself placed on the bottom boards a white mist swam before my eyes, and I lost consciousness.

* * * * *

When I came to myself I was lying on my bunk in the cabin of the Golden Hope. Captain Jeremy, his head swathed in bandages, was sitting an a chair, with a chart spread out on the table in front of him. This surprised me not a little, for when I had last seen him he was lying weak and helpless.

I tried to raise myself on my elbow, but the task was beyond my power. Seeing this, Captain Jeremy got up and, coming over to my bed, gave me something to drink.

"That's better," he exclaimed encouragingly. "Now try to rest awhile."

"But, sir," said I, so feebly that I could scarce realize 'twas my own voice, "how do I come to be here? Ah! I remember," and I shuddered at the thought of my harrowing adventures.

"Not another word," he said imperatively, and as obediently as a child I fell asleep.

A few days later I was able to sit up, and then I learnt that I had been unconscious for sixteen days, while anxiety for my condition had been largely responsible for Captain Jeremy's rapid recovery.

I knew the kindly Captain was burning with impatience to hear the story of my misadventures, but he refrained from questioning me for quite another week.

"Are you really sure you're not dreaming?" he asked, when, in the course of my narrative, I related how I had found my captors to be Ned Slater and the five other deserters.

"I would I had been," I replied. "Yet now I know, on the rogue's own statement, that he it was who slew my father."

"If I had only given heed to your suspicions!" returned Captain Jeremy grimly. "No matter, I'll lay them by the heels yet;" and at the conclusion of my story, to which both he and Captain 'Enery listened with the greatest interest, he expressed his intention of going ashore and making a descent upon the villains' retreat.

This he accordingly did, but, though the cave was discovered and a careful search made in and around the place, the rogues had vanished. I had often wondered how they managed to climb up from the mouth of the cavern to the top of the cliff. This Captain Jeremy explained. In the tunnel the searchers came across the trunk of a small tree which had apparently been thrust out a little way, so that by standing on it a man could climb up the perpendicular face of the precipice by means of a series of notches cut in the rock. This done, he fastened a stout rope round a projecting ledge, so that his companions could follow with ease. Beyond this the villains had left no trace save, on careful examination, a dark stain that was found on the dusty floor, thus bearing out my statement that I had accounted for one of them at least.

I progressed slowly yet surely, and meanwhile Captain Jeremy recovered his accustomed strength and health. At length, to the unbounded satisfaction of all hands, it was announced that, all preparations being completed, an expedition into the interior of the island would be made early in the following week.


More Trouble in Sight

Since the return of the master gunner and his party from their successful chase of the buccaneers, the crew of the Neptune had been increased, though not up to full strength. It was Captain Jeremy's intention to keep a large garrison in the stockade, under Captain 'Enery, while the master gunner resumed his duties on board the Golden Hope. Joe Clemens, by virtue of his having been mate on a trading vessel, was appointed to the charge of the Neptune till such time as Captain 'Enery could resume his command.

This was, in a measure, somewhat tactless, for Clemens, not being one of the original crew of the Golden Hope, was looked upon by some of the men as an outsider who had risen over their heads.

But Joe Clemens, cheerful and easy-going Cornishman that he was, treated this matter lightly, though he was fully aware of it. On being told of the feeling amongst certain of the crew of the Neptune, he merely remarked that they would soon get used to it, and that he was quite big and strong enough to look after both Captain Jeremy's interests and his own.

It happened, however, that one day, while Captain Jeremy, the master gunner, and I were in the cabin, a seaman knocked softly and, without waiting to be bidden to enter, came in and closed the door behind him.

He was one of the original band of Lymington men, yet Captain Jeremy, ever a strict disciplinarian, liked not the manner of his entry.

"How now, Cherry?" he asked sternly. "Is this the way--bursting in upon your officers without so much as 'by your leave'?"

"What I have to say must be said quietly, sir," replied the man resolutely.

"Say on."

"There's underhand work aboard the Neptune, sir," continued the man. "There's a dozen of 'em in touch with that rascal Slater."

Instinctively I recalled Slater's words: "Dost think I have no friends aboard the ships?"

"How d'ye know this?" demanded Captain Jeremy coolly.

"I heard 'em talking in the fo'c'sle last night, while I was lying down on the cathead for a spell. They'll try to seize the stuff when we get it aboard."

"Will they?" said the Captain grimly. "And who may the rascals be?"

Cherry gave the names of about a dozen, all of whom had, like Slater and his companions, joined the Golden Hope from a Chatham brig. "They mean to mutiny, lay hands on the treasure, and place it in the sloop," he continued. "They can scarce hope to take the Golden Hope."

Now, the sloop was a small, half-decked vessel, of about ten tons burthen, one of the craft that Touchstone had found hard by the place where he had ambushed the buccaneers. These boats had been brought round while I had been ill, and now lay close inshore, and almost abreast of the stockade.

"Why not send an armed force aboard the Neptune and secure them?" asked Touchstone. "They'll lie safely in the bilboes, even if we do not run them up to the yard-arm."

"Nay, I'll play with them awhile," said Captain Jeremy. "Yet I'll take no risks in the matter. For aught I care, they are right welcome to the sloop. And now, Cherry, I thank you for your warning, and rest assured that I'll not forget to recompense you for it."

The sailor withdrew, and long and anxiously the two officers conferred as to their plan of action.

"'Twill be one way out of the difficulty," concluded Captain Jeremy, slapping his thigh as he was wont to do when in high good humour. "Sink me! we'll begin our preparations to-morrow."

Accordingly, soon after breakfast on the morrow he was rowed aboard the Neptune, and having assembled the crew, true men and false alike, he addressed them.

"My lads," said he, "in the course of a few days I hope to have the long-sought-for treasure in our possession. Now, since no one can deny that I am a just man, I'll speak plainly on what I propose to do. Those of you who left England in the Golden Hope will receive a share in the Madre treasure, while all hands are entitled to the spoils we recovered from the wreck of the pirate ship. Now, to prevent mistakes, I propose to separate the two; and since the Neptune is of the lighter build, and sails a full knot faster than the Golden Hope, I'll stow the whole of the Madre treasure in the hold of the Neptune. Thus, should we be attacked while homeward bound, the Golden Hope can ward off our foes while the Neptune shows a clean pair of heels. Then, should Providence guide us safely into port, a fair and just distribution will be made ere we warp alongside Poole Quay."

Three cheers greeted this announcement, though I felt certain that there were a dozen rogues at least who were laughing in their sleeves at Captain Jeremy for being a fool.

Ere noon arrived the whole of the treasure that we had recovered from the buccaneering craft was safely stowed away in the strong room of the Golden Hope; while, acting under instructions, Joe Clemens and several of the proved members of the Neptune's crew removed their personal effects to the parent ship.

Meanwhile, the men who garrisoned the stockade had not been idle. They had thoroughly explored the cliff path that led to the now deserted buccaneering settlement, and also the road that traversed the island from north to south, the same one that we had struck on our first expedition into the interior. The cliff route was found to be far more practicable than the direct one through the forest, though 'twas considerably longer.

Captain 'Enery had constructed several large wheelbarrows so that, with the assistance of a couple of men pulling ahead, the treasure could be conveyed to the shore with comparative ease; and Captain Jeremy gave orders for several large boxes, or chests, to be made of strong wood, each numbered on the lid. These boxes, he announced, would hold the treasure safely during the passage home, till the time came for it to be duly apportioned.

While this was being done Captain Jeremy sent a party of six trusty men to proceed along the east coast of the island in a southerly direction till they came to a clump of three small palm trees standing far apart from the rest of the vegetation and close to the water's edge. These the men were to cut down, move a hundred yards in a southerly direction, and set up again as well as they were able. The seamen did this faithfully and well, whereat Captain Jeremy again slapped his thigh in evident satisfaction.

That the rascals on board the Neptune were in constant communication with Slater and his fellows we had no doubt, for twice we perceived two men swimming off to the ship by night. Yet all this Captain Jeremy purposely winked at, being of a mind to let the villains work their own destruction.

On the morning of the day before we purposed to set out to secure the treasure, two of the rascals rowed alongside the Golden Hole and asked permission to water their ship, as the tanks were well-nigh empty. To this request Captain Jeremy readily gave permission, and by the ill-concealed grin on the faces of the rogues when they heard him agree, I knew that they were setting in a store to last them on a voyage.

Every preparation having been completed, our Captain recalled 'Enery to take charge of the Golden Hope during his absence, while Touchstone was again to be in command of the stockade.

"There's mischief brewing," said he to Captain 'Enery. "But, mark my words, they'll lie quiet enough till the treasure is safely aboard the Neptune. Nevertheless, I know I can rely upon you to take every precaution to safeguard the ship; but do nothing to arouse suspicion. Let the men have shore leave if they ask for it; do nothing beyond the daily routine, for should those rascals smell a rat, all our preparations would count for naught."

At daybreak the force picked out for the expedition paraded outside the stockade. There were forty-five all told, composed of fifteen of the original crew of the Golden Hope on whom we could thoroughly rely and thirty of the peasants whom we had rescued from the Neptune.

All were armed with muskets and cutlasses, while in the barrows were piled hatchets, spades, and mattocks, together with a goodly supply of provisions.

Amid the cheers of those who were left behind, for all, whether true or false, wished us success, the expedition set out, Captain Jeremy and I walking at the head of the column.

Unless untoward events prevented it, another thirty-six hours would see the treasure of the Madre de Dios within our grasp.


We Arrive at the Hiding-place of the Treasure

Having gained the crest of the hill that terminated in the headland where I had met with my adventures in the cave, we descended by a gradually sloping path that followed closely to the coast. On our left the ground rose in uneven terraces, covered with thick, tropical vegetation; while on the right I could see the shoals whither I had been carried by the ebb tide.

At a distance of about six miles from the stockade we reached the north-eastern extremity of the island, where, owing to the hilly nature of the ground, we had to follow a course that resembled three sides of a square. Thence, proceeding due west, and still following the coast line, we arrived at the place where the master gunner had successfully ambushed the retreating buccaneers.

Here we found the termination of a well-defined path that had been made by the rascally pirates during their occupation of the island. This path, we now knew, made a junction with another track from the buccaneers' settlement, and, proceeding in an almost southerly direction, led to a small cove on the south side of the island.

The character of the scenery changed at this place, for the path plunged into a defile, the side of which showed traces of volcanic agency. Yet, though it was uphill for nearly four miles, the gradients of the road offered no great difficulty.

We harnessed four men to the traces of the wheelbarrows, but our rate of progress was so slow that 'twas close on sunset ere we arrived at the clearing where the path through the forest cut across the path we were pursuing. Here Captain Jeremy decided to pitch a camp, so as to be fresh for the next day's work.

Accordingly, the men cut down bushes to form a shelter from the night dews, and a huge bonfire was lighted, for the air during the hours of darkness was decidedly cool. Then, after we had partaken of supper, we turned in and slept, save those who were set on guard.

The night passed without interruption, as Captain Jeremy had expected, since, even had Slater and his villainous crew been anywhere near, 'tis unlikely that they would have made any attempt to molest us ere we had found the treasure.

"My lads," exclaimed Captain Jeremy, as we prepared to resume our march, the barrows being left in reserve at the place where we had camped, "for the next two miles we will have to cut our way, taking our direction by the compass. Now, lest you think that our first attempt was an utter failure, let me say that I took that opportunity of verifying my bearings, having made allowance for the difference and variation 'twixt the present time and when last I made the journey to where the treasure lies. If in six miles I have hit my former track, shall we miss in two miles more? I think not; so take heart, men, and may success reward our efforts!"

Having carefully indicated the required direction by placing two stakes in a line with the magnetic bearing, Captain Jeremy gave the word for the men to proceed, and, wielding their hatchets with a will, they began to cut the path that was to extend two miles in a straight line; for the track cut by Captain Jeremy years ago was now almost totally obliterated, though we had found traces of it in the swamps.

The ground, hitherto swampy in the direct route 'twixt us and the stockade (for which reason we had made a wide detour), now became firm, standing high and continually rising towards the dip in the saddle-shaped hill that we had seen on our first approach to the island.

The men, working in relays, were instructed to hew a path wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and, keeping in a straight line with the portion they had already cut, our rate of progression was about a furlong an hour.

For two hours not a sound was heard save the dull swish of the axes as they sheared through the sap-laden canes and brushwood.

Suddenly one of the men gave an exclamation of surprise, and, dropping his axe, seized on a strange object and with a heave wrenched it from the ground. It was an arquebus, apparently of sixteenth-century workmanship, its barrel nearly rusted through, and its stock so worm-eaten that it crumbled in his grasp.

This was the first token we had seen which related to our quest, and with renewed efforts our men again attacked the impeding mass of vegetation.

When at length the path had been constructed to a distance of about two miles, our hopes and fears increased. How could the exact spot be fixed in that wilderness? Had Captain Jeremy some particular clue, the result of which he kept locked in his breast till the fateful moment? A glance at our leader's resolute face was sufficient. He, at all events, was satisfied with the progress made.

"A man with a mattock!" he exclaimed; and as a seaman ran forward with the required article, he gave the order, "Dig here".

A few heavy strokes, and the implement struck a blackish stratum of soil. Picking up a handful, Captain Jeremy sniffed at it; but even where I was standing I recognized the odour. It smelt of pitch.

"We are hard on the place," the Captain exclaimed; "another twenty yards, lads!"

At length, with an exclamation of triumph, one of the men pushed aside the reeds, and disclosed a scene the like of which I had never seen before. For a space of nearly a hundred yards across, the ground was destitute of verdure, being composed of a bituminous soil. On all sides, save the one by which we had approached, were lofty black rocks, grotesquely shaped as if carved by the hand of man; while facing us was a pinnacle that resembled a human face in profile, about thirty feet in height. A more repulsive caricature could not be imagined. The thick, protruding upper lip, the overhanging eyebrows, and the diabolical grin--'twas the very image in stone of the villainous Ned Slater.

"Where--where?" exclaimed Captain Jeremy, gripping his pistols, for I had unconsciously uttered the miscreant's name.

"Nay," I replied, "not Ned Slater in the flesh, but his features carved in stone. Look at yon rock!"

"Sink me!" muttered the astonished Captain. "Oft have I seen this rock, but never till now have I noticed this resemblance, yet 'tis passing strange."

"Is this the work of man?" I asked of him, as the seamen crowded into the open space and gazed amazedly at the hideous shape.

"'Tis hard to believe it is the hand of Nature," replied Captain Jeremy. "I have seen the like in the temples of the ancient Mexicans, save that here are no traces of the sculptor's tools. I believe 'tis a strange freak of fire, for all around can be seen distinct evidences of volcanic action. This floor is formed of dried pitch, of a like nature to the lake of pitch in the Isle of Trinidad. But we are not here for the purpose of debating upon the origin of these rocks."

So saying, he strode forward across the open space, and we followed in a body, our boots ringing on the hard surface 'neath our feet. Then I saw that the image of the man's head was on one side of the rock only; on the other the outlines were roughly continued in horizontal lines along the face of a cliff, till the continuity was broken by a projecting rock that resembled the gargoyles one sees on the towers of cathedrals and churches in England.

Having stopped at the spot where the chin of the human-like profile touched the ground, Captain Jeremy measured off seven paces along the base of the cliff. Here, as far as one could judge, the rock presented an unbroken wall, so our amazement was unbounded when the seamen were ordered to attack the cliff with their mattocks.

Almost at the first blow there was a sudden fall of stones, and when the dust had cleared away a dark, yawning cavity was disclosed, while 'twas now evident that a wall had been built up and carefully concealed with a kind of dark plaster, so that it resembled the rest of the rock.

"Steady, men!" warned the Captain, as several of the seamen prepared to scramble over the rubbish into the sombre cavity, "the air may be poisonous."

Directing a number of the men to cut down some pine saplings, so as to make torches, Captain Jeremy called for flint and steel.

"Be careful of the tow," he cautioned. "A chance spark in this pitch-steeped place might be the death of all of us. Once within the cave, there will be no further danger from fire. Stand by, some of you, with a barrico, and douche every spark that falls."

One of the improvised torches was quickly in a blaze, and, describing a graceful curve as it was hurled into the cavern, it struck the floor, sending out a shower of sparks on the impact.

For a full minute the flame burnt steadily. The air was free from noxious gases.

"Five men will be sufficient at first," exclaimed Captain Jeremy. "You, too, Master Clifford. Follow me."

And stepping over the dislodged rubble, he entered the cave.


Untold Wealth

By the glare of the smoking torches I saw that we were in a vast cavern, the walls of which were smooth and fairly regular on both sides, although the extent of the place was hidden by a darkness which the flaring lights failed to penetrate. In the distance I heard the splashing of a torrent of water, but as the floor of the cave was covered to a depth of about six inches with dry dust, the stream must have found an outlet at a lower level.

Led by Captain Jeremy, who strode along rapidly, with the confidence of a man who was well acquainted with the place, we traversed some fifty yards of gradually shelving floor, till the torchlight flickered on several ghastly objects that were lying about in various positions. There were rusty steel morions, breast-plates, and buff leather coats, each complete suit containing a grisly skeleton; while scattered around were arquebuses, muskets, pikes, swords, and pistols.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed one of our men in an awestruck tone. "Starved to death!"

"Nay," replied Captain Jeremy, "they fought among themselves. These were the survivors of the wreck of the Madre de Dios. Consumed with the lust for gold, they exterminated each other, or, at least, if any escaped the combat they never left the island."

A few steps farther, and we beheld a pile of casks standing breast high. Plunging his hand into the nearest, Captain Jeremy drew out a brick-shaped object, and, knocking it against the side of the cask to remove a thick deposit of dust, revealed a piece of dull-coloured metal. It was gold!

Regardless of their gruesome surroundings, the men burst into a continuous roar of cheering, and like delighted children flung themselves upon the casks.

Vessels, plate, bars of gold, and coins were disclosed to our view, till the floor was littered with dull red metal, mingled with tarnished silver.

'Twas the much-sought-for treasure of the Madre de Dios.

"Pass the word for more torches," exclaimed Captain Jeremy, who alone seemed unmoved by this vast display of wealth, "and bid the men bring with them the canvas sacks. Hasten, for we must needs get clear of this place ere night." When at length some semblance of order was restored, the work of loading the treasure was begun and carried on till, staggering under the weight of seventeen heavy sacks, the seamen gained the open air.

"Shall we do anything with these, sir?" asked one of the men, pointing to the skeletons of the ill-fated members of the crew of the Madre.

"Nay; they have guarded the treasure so far, let them sleep on in peace," replied Captain Jeremy softly, as, stooping down, he picked up a rapier of exquisite workmanship.

I did likewise, wondering at the contrast betwixt the bright steel blades and the rusty armour.

"Their mail was tarnished by exposure ere they died," replied Captain Jeremy, in answer to my question. "The air is so dry within the cave that rust is almost impossible. Were it not for the treasure having been submerged in the sea, we would have been well-nigh blinded by its glister."

Meanwhile the seamen were busily employed in cutting stout poles of about six feet in length. Over these the sacks were slung, each pole resting on the shoulders of two men.

Captain Miles gave the order to march, and within a couple of hours from the time of our arrival the whole of the Madre treasure was on its way to the ship.

Yet, so heavy were the burdens and so difficult the path, it was nearly sunset ere we reached the place where we had camped the previous night.

Here we found the barrows quite undisturbed, so with feelings of relief the elated men prepared to spend another night in the open.

The treasure was stacked in the centre of a ring of sleeping men, while double guards were set, Captain Jeremy himself keeping watch throughout the long night. Hunger and sleeplessness seemed strangers to him, yet it was anxiety, not highness of spirits, that kept him awake.

"Are you not glad that the treasure is found, sir?" I asked.

"Glad, aye, that I am; but I'll not feel satisfied till I have the stuff safe and sound in Poole Harbour. Mark my words, the most anxious time is yet to come."

Shortly after midnight the camp was aroused by a musket shot, and all hands, standing to their arms, prepared to resist an attack, though by whom we knew not. But it turned out to be a false alarm, for one of the seamen, being overexcited with the events of the day, had unwittingly fingered the trigger of his piece.

Nevertheless, few of us had much sleep that night, and with the first sight of dawn the march was resumed.

The greater part of the path now being downhill, we made far more rapid progress than on the outward journey, in spite of the load of treasure; and late in the afternoon we reached the brow of the hill overlooking the harbour where the Golden Hope and her consort lay.

Captain Jeremy thereupon ordered three musket shots to be fired in the air--the pre-arranged signal of success. Instantly a crowd of men issued from the stockade, and with shouts and much waving of arms rushed to meet us. The ships, too, hoisted their colours to the mastheads, while the Golden Hope fired seven guns by way of a salute.

Willing hands seized the heavily laden barrows, and with a rush they were run down the hill, across the flat plain, and into the stockade, while Captain 'Enery and our leader exchanged congratulations and eager questions.

"Any news?" asked Captain Jeremy anxiously.

"None; all is quiet on both vessels."

Having entered the stockade, Captain Jeremy immediately gave orders for the spoil to be carried into the storehouse, and, having picked out four tried men, he set them, under the superintendence of Captain 'Enery, to load up the stout chests that had previously been prepared.

"Men," he exclaimed to the rest of the crews, "the treasure is, as you know, found." Here the bursts of cheering interrupted further speech for a space of nearly two minutes, but when order was at length restored Captain Jeremy continued: "Ere night I hope to have the whole of these chests safely aboard the Neptune. It will mean much labour, but I know you'll work with a will. This done, I want all hands, save a sufficient guard on both brigs, to repair to the stockade, and we'll have a right good carouse on the strength of our success. There are several casks of spirits aboard the Golden Hope, and sink me if I be niggardly in this matter."

Renewed cheering greeted this announcement, though, knowing that Captain Jeremy was not a man to encourage a carouse, I wondered at his action, especially at such a time, when there was danger from a known mutinous party in our midst.

"Number one ready, sir," announced one of the men from the door of the storehouse.



"Then out with it," replied the Captain, and as the bulky chest appeared, carefully nailed and corded, it was seized upon by a gang of lusty seamen and conveyed to the water's edge, where a boat was lying in readiness to take it to the Neptune. Seven others followed before Captain 'Enery and the men, all looking warm with their exertions, emerged from the storehouse, and the door was carefully locked.

"Now to set the watches on board both vessels," said Captain Jeremy; then in an aside to Captain 'Enery, though loud enough for me to hear, "Are our men ashore? Good! Now to settle with the rogues."

"Master Hammond, will you go and warn the crews of both vessels to muster ashore to-night? The exceptions are named on this list," he continued, slipping a paper into my hands. "They are to remain on board and keep a careful watch. Warn them on the Neptune of the precious nature of their trust."

I made my way to the shore, where a boat conveyed me to the Golden Hope. Then, having delivered Captain Jeremy's orders and detailed the watch party, I proceeded aboard the Neptune.

Here I was met at the gangway by Tompkins, the quartermaster, whom we knew to be one of the malcontents.

"Master Clemens is sick, sir," he reported, "and desires permission to be taken ashore."

"Let him go, by all means," I replied. "What's amiss?"

"I know not," answered the man, "though it seems of the nature of an ague."

Having had the crew mustered, I repeated Captain Jeremy's orders, and proceeded to read the names of the men who were to remain. There were sixteen of the latter, being five more than the watch on board the Golden Hope, and as I called the names their bearers replied, "Here, sir."

"Gadd--Jonathan Gadd?"

No answer.

"Jonathan Gadd," I repeated; "where is he?"

No one seemed to know.

"Beck, William?"

He, too, was absent, cause unknown.

So were two others, Wood and Hoit; it could only be by design, for there were only the malcontents of the crew remaining on board the Neptune. And under the charge of these rascals were the eight treasure chests.


The Mutiny of the Neptune

Having carried out my instructions, I directed the boat's crew to row back to the shore, and having secured the little craft and removed her oars, the men followed me to the stockade.

It was now night, but the open space within the palisade was lit by the glare of a huge fire. Seated around on upturned casks, or sprawling on the ground, were as many of the crews of both brigs as could be spared, besides the garrison of the stockade; and, to my surprise, I recognized Joe Clemens, who had been sent ashore, presumably ill with the ague, and also the four men who ought, according to the list of names, to have been keeping watch on board the Neptune.

Having reported myself to Captain Jeremy, I walked over to where Clemens was seated, and asked him how he felt.

"Never better in my life, Master Hammond," was his astonishing reply; from which, coupled with the fact that the other absentees from the Neptune were not ashamed to be seen away from their posts, I concluded that 'twas all part and parcel of Captain Jeremy's plans.

The casks of spirits had been broached, and with rousing song the men, to use Captain 'Enery's expression, "let themselves go". The firelight gleamed on their bronzed, hearty features, and cast fantastic shadows upon the encircling wooden fence, where, like ghostly shapes against the dark sky, stood the sentinels who had been posted to keep watch while their comrades feasted and caroused. The air was thick with the reek of burning logs and the odour of strong waters.

Yet, in contrast to the general festivity, Captain Jeremy and his officers maintained the strictest abstinence, though they applauded with the rest as a ballad went well, or joined in a volley of chaff when a seaman broke down in a partly forgotten song.

Frequently the Captain would slip quietly away and mount the parapet, whence he would gaze steadfastly across the harbour to where the anchor lamps of the two ships glimmered like stars on the point of setting.

It was well after midnight ere the fire had burnt itself low, and the glowing embers played on the faces of men who were too tired even to join in a chorus.

"My lads," exclaimed Captain Jeremy, "'tis too late to return on board. Make yourselves as comfortable as you can here, and report yourselves to me to-morrow at eight bells."

"Three cheers for Captain Miles!" shouted a hoarse voice, and the men, having expended their last remaining energy in paying this tribute to their popular chief, trooped off to rest in the barrack-like shelters that had been erected for the comfort of the little garrison.

When all was quiet, Captain Jeremy, 'Enery, Silas Touchstone, and I walked down to the beach, followed by the boat's crew, and were rowed off to the Golden Hope.

"Turn in now, Master Clifford," said Captain Jeremy, as we gained the deck; "you must be tired out with the day's excitement and the night's revelry."

He had donned his thick peajacket, so I knew that, though he had not slumbered on the previous night, he meant to keep on deck. Something was in the wind.

Tired as I was, I could not sleep. For hours I lay awake, listening to the dull roar of the breakers on the reef and the periodical notes of the ship's bell, which, with faithful precision, were repeated on board the Neptune; while, borne on the soft air, as the land breeze blew across the bay, I could distinguish the "All's well" of the men on guard at the stockade.

Overhead I could hear a measured tramp, as the two captains paced the deck, for they had left the quarter-deck and were patrolling the poop, talking in earnest tones, though their words were inaudible.

Six bells! Would sleep never come? I sprang out of my bunk, and walking over to one of the open stern ports, I leant out.

Grey dawn was beginning to glimmer in the east, and with it came the moaning of a rising wind. Barely distinguishable against the pale night mists, I could see the outlines of the Neptune. Did my eyes deceive me? Her sails had been shaken loose and were being sheeted home.

The footsteps overhead were still. The captains had ceased their monotonous walk. Had they, too, noticed the mysterious and unauthorized manoeuvre?

Even as I watched I heard the splash of the cut cable, and, listing over to the now stiff breeze, the Neptune began to forge ahead.

I waited no longer; but rushed on deck, and gained the poop just as Captain Jeremy hailed, in a voice like the bellowing of a bull:

"What are ye up to, ye rascals? Heave-to, I say, or I'll sink you!"

Still the Neptune came on, moving with increasing pace as she drew farther from the lee of the land.

"Below there," shouted the master gunner, "stand to your guns!"

The newly awakened members of our scanty crew passed through the fore hatchway in all states of clothing. They needed no second bidding, but, rushing to the guns, began to load.

Suddenly one of the gunlayers gave an exclamation of angry surprise.

"Spiked!" he shouted, with an oath.

"Same here," announced another, and a hasty examination revealed the unpleasant fact that every gun on the starboard side had an iron nail wedged into the touch-hole and broken off short.

Silas Touchstone disappeared, only to return with a box of armourer's tools. If anything was to be done it must be done speedily, for the Neptune was now close to our quarter.

"Oh, for a single gun!" exclaimed Captain 'Enery. "We could wing her now."

Then, to my unspeakable dismay, I saw, gripping the weather-poop rail of the Neptune, the figure of my enemy, Ned Slater. He had proved his words concerning his friends on the ship by taking possession of her, thanks to the aid of the mutineers.

The light was now sufficiently strong to distinguish the hideous leer of insolent triumph on his features..

"Farewell, Captain Miles!" he shouted. "A thousand thanks for having handed over the Madre treasure, to say nothing of having provided the means to find the way out," and with an ostentatious flourish he displayed the well-known chart.

"May you be much beholden to it, you villain!" returned Captain Jeremy, and, laying hold of a musket, he fired at the double-dyed rogue.

Now, in all my experience I had never known Captain Jeremy to miss his mark at that comparatively short distance, and I fully expected to see the murderous thief fall dead on the deck. But the bullet went wide, so wide indeed that Slater never so much as ducked his head, which he would assuredly have done had it 'scaped him narrowly.

"Try again, Cap'n," came the taunting cry.

"I'll be even with you yet," shouted Captain Jeremy, as he proceeded to reload his piece.

Meanwhile our men worked their hardest to run one of the larboard guns over to the other side, but owing to the shortage of hands and the encumbered state of our decks 'twas evident that the Neptune would be well out of range ere a single gun was in position to open fire.

Having passed well ahead of us, the disloyal brig smartly starboarded her helm and stood out for the open sea, followed by a desultory cannonade from the stockade, which, however, did little or no harm, though it proved that the men were fairly alert, in spite of their overnight carouse.

"She's off, right enough," exclaimed one of the men.

"And the treasure with her!" shouted another, in a paroxysm of rage. "Where's my share now? All lost! All lost!"

"Peace, you fool!" said Captain Jeremy sternly.

"If you have lost your share, have I not lost far more? Wait and see."


The Fate of the Mutineers

Presently most of the men who had been left in the stockade, having taken to the boats and the little sloop, came on board. Fury, disappointment, and despair were written on their faces as they gathered in the waist awaiting the orders that were not forthcoming.

"Aren't you going to weigh and chase 'em, Cap'n?" shouted one, with more zeal than discretion.

"Send away the long-boat, and we'll soon overhaul them," suggested another.

"With this sea running?" replied Captain Jeremy at length. "You would never make head way. Trust me and wait."

The crew could scarce believe their ears. Was the Captain overcome by the strain of the last few days? His pensive attitude seemed incomprehensible.

Yet Captain Jeremy was outwardly cool and collected as, glass in hand, he followed the course of the disappearing Neptune.

She was now on the bar, tossing, pitching, and rolling in the heavy breakers, for already the sea outside was running high and breaking over the shoals in one continuous field of snow-flecked foam. Yet the errant brig held slowly and truly on her course 'twixt the shallows that threatened her at half a cable's length to starboard and larboard.

She stood out close hauled on the larboard tack, the wind being due north, till she reached the bend in the channel that ran parallel with the shore. Here, being smartly handled, she turned and ran dead before the wind, her hull being lost to view from our decks by the intervening reef.

Instantly there was a scramble aloft, Captain Jeremy and I, with nearly a dozen men, gaining the main top, while the shrouds were alive with the discomfited crew as they watched from their lofty point of vantage the rapidly receding brig.

I glanced at Captain Jeremy. In spite of his coolness, I fancy his anxiety increased as the Neptune ran before the wind.

"Sink me," I heard him mutter, "she's hauling to the wind!"

This was indeed the case, but even as she did so she struck the fatal reef. The next instant she broached to, the rollers making clean breaches over her hull, and almost immediately her masts went by the board.

Then I understood, though imperfectly. Captain Jeremy, by altering the position of the clump of trees, had created a false landmark, and the Neptune had fallen into the trap.

"There's an end to the treasure, anyway," exclaimed one of the men. "There won't be as much as a plank or a copper nail left ere night."

Having witnessed the destruction of the mutineers, Captain Jeremy descended to the deck and ordered the bos'n to pipe all hands. Then, mounting the poop, he faced the dejected men.

"My lads," he exclaimed in ringing tones, "I'll deceive you no longer. There is no need for discontent or vain regrets, for not one pennyworth of treasure is aboard yon craft. The whole of it is now lying in the storehouse on shore!"

For a full twenty seconds there was a lull or absolute silence; the men seemed unable to grasp the full significance of the words. Then, as the meaning dawned upon them, a roar of cheering burst from a hundred throats.

"If you pause to consider," continued the Captain, "you will see that I acted for the best, even though I had to practise a mild deceit on most of you. Knowing that the rogues on the Neptune were in league with that villain Slater, I purposely caused the treasure chests, filled with stones, to be conveyed on board their craft. You will remember that at no time did I say the treasure was in those chests, but the rascals jumped at the bait. By so doing they have served a double purpose: we shall be troubled by them no more, and the loss of the Neptune has relieved me of a great load of anxiety. How say you? What would they at home say if they saw me bringing back two ships, when I set sail with one only? I also see a way whereby those of you who were shipped as slaves aboard the Neptune can return to your homes, or, if you will it, be set ashore at any port we touch, with your full share of the spoil of the captured buccaneer."

"I have also another proposal to make. By their mutinous conduct those aboard the Neptune would have forfeited their share in the Madre treasure had they lived, so that the amount to be distributed amongst the remaining members of the original crew of the Golden Hope is considerably increased. Now, I am going to set aside the amount of those forfeited shares and divide it amongst you, irrespective of rank, or whether ye be the men who left Poole in the Golden Hope or those who joined us off the Neptune; for 'twas by the hearty efforts of all hands here that we were enabled to lay hands on the treasure. Now, lads, I thank you one and all. It only remains to load up our precious cargo, get the ship ready for sea, and yo-ho! for old England."

When the applause that greeted the termination of Captain Jeremy's speech had subsided, a number of men, headed by Tom Cherry, elbowed their way through the dense crowd of their delighted comrades.

"Cap'n," exclaimed Cherry, "I've a favour to ask you."

"Say on," replied Captain Jeremy.

"Me and my mates here," said the sturdy seaman, "want to take the long-boat and row out to yon wreck. Maybe some of the poor chaps are still aboard."

"Nay," answered the Captain, a flush of anger overspreading his bronzed features. "They are but mutinous dogs; let them perish."

"They were our comrades, an', though it shames me to say it, my brother's son is with them," Cherry said doggedly. "If we pick 'em up we can send 'em off in the sloop, and they won't harm us any more."

"A boat would never live in such a sea," observed Captain Jeremy, with a sweep of his arm in the direction of the bar, where the breakers were tumbling in white, confused masses, for it was now blowing hard outside. Yet our Captain was certainly turning aside from his hard purpose.

"We are willing to take the risk, sir," pleaded the seaman earnestly. "I've not been brought up on the coast of Kent for nothing."

"Then go. But, mind you, one condition I make. Should you bring that murderous villain Ned Slater back alive, I'll run him up to the yardarm."

Tom Cherry touched his forelock and turned away, followed by his eight comrades. The long-boat was already alongside; so, tossing a mast and sail, an empty beaker, and a coil of grass rope into her, the dauntless men dropped over the side of the Golden Hope and pushed off.

"You are quite certain of the channel, I hope, Cherry?" shouted Captain Jeremy.

"Yes, sir; and besides, there's enough water over the shoals for us."

"Not with this tumble outside; so be careful, and keep to the smoothest water."

"More food for the sharks," I heard a seaman say, as he watched the boat gather way.

Hoisting a mere rag of sail, the daring rescuers headed for the open, the boat speeding under the pressure of the howling wind, while Tom Cherry steered her adroitly to meet each threatening comber. At one moment we could see nearly the whole of the boat's bottom boards, as she climbed an immense wall of water; at another, only her long, lean quarters and stern, as she slid down the far side of the safely passed crest.

Once more we manned the rigging, and with eager eyes and apprehensive looks followed the hazardous fortunes of our humane comrades as they turned and ran down before the wind towards the wreck.

From my swaying perch on the main top--for even in this usually sheltered harbour a heavy "gush" caused the Golden Hope to roll sluggishly--I had great difficulty in keeping the boat within the field of my telescope. The men had now stowed sail, and under oars were backing slowly towards the shattered Neptune, the figure of Tom Cherry being clearly distinguishable as he stood, steering oar in hand, keeping the boat's stern to the towering crests.

By this time the after part of the Neptune had completely disappeared, and the waist was fast breaking up under the relentless blows of the resistless breakers; yet through the cloud of spray that dashed over the fo'c'sle I could see the forms of some half a dozen helpless creatures hanging on to the frail protection afforded by the weather rail.

The men in the long-boat were now rowing their hardest to keep to windward of the wreck. They were evidently paying out the beaker by the grass warp in the hope of establishing a communication 'twixt the two craft. It was a life-or-death struggle with the elements--English courage and brawn pitted against the combined action of wind and sea. Which would win?

Suddenly a heavy rain squall came on, bearing down the crested waves with its weight, and obliterating everything within a quarter of a mile of us.

When the squall passed, a groan of dismay burst from our lips. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but a chaos of angry sea and sky. Both the wreck and the gallant long-boat had vanished.


Homeward Bound

For the rest of that fateful day the greatest despondency prevailed amongst our crew. The fate of their devoted comrades, whose lives had been thrown away in a useless attempt to save a worthless lot of mutineers, weighed heavily on their minds. Even the thought of the treasure being safe in our possession hardly asserted itself.

But with the morning there came a change. The storm, short and fierce, had blown itself out, and once more the tropical sun poured its scorching rays upon the gently heaving waters. Not only had the Neptune disappeared from view, but the gale had swept away the few remaining fragments of the pirate ship Black Arrow, so that another link with the adventurous past had been severed.

Seamen, from their constant exposure and peril, are ever ready to rise above their misfortunes, though these are not easily forgotten; and so it was with the crew of the Golden Hope. The dejected mien so observable on the preceding day gave place to a bustle of activity, for much had to be done ere we were ready to weigh anchor and set sail on our homeward voyage.

The brig had to be careened, so that as much as possible of the thick deposit of weeds and barnacles 'neath the waterline could be scraped off; while ashore great cauldrons of pitch bubbled over the fires, for much paying and caulking of seams had to be done ere the Golden Hope could be deemed sufficiently seaworthy for her long voyage.

While the work was in progress Captain Jeremy ordered a party of men to remove the false landmark, and to place in the former position of the clump of trees a tall pole, surmounted by a large triangle conspicuously painted black and white. Without this mark it would be well-nigh impossible to get our correct bearings, and the Golden Hope would doubtless share the fate of the ill-starred Neptune unless we took the narrow channel by which the Antelope had arrived. But this course would be impracticable with the winds prevailing at this time of the year, hence the importance of the newly erected pole.

At length the scraping and pitching of the brig's hull was completed, and the Golden Hope rode once more on an even keel. The work of transporting the treasure from the stockade was now carried out in earnest, and without mishap the whole of the precious stuff was safely stowed in the Golden Hope's strong room, under the poop deck.

This done, it was thought prudent to dismantle and evacuate the stockade.

The ordnance was removed and taken aboard the brig; the powder, of which we had a considerable reserve, was carefully stowed in her magazines. Silas Touchstone had proposed to destroy the stockade and the buildings within it by fire, but to this proposal Captain Jeremy refused to give his consent, observing that they might be useful to any castaways who might have the misfortune to land on the island.

The small craft that had been taken from the buccaneers after their rout by Silas Touchstone were beached as far as possible in the most secluded part of the harbour. Though the wind and the sun would ere long reduce them to mere wrecks, Captain Jeremy, in his humanity, thought they might also be of service to others.

Then, having watered the ship, filling all the available barricoes in addition to the tanks, for we knew not whether to make straight for home or to put into Port Royal, we prepared to spend our last night in the harbour of Treasure Island. Accordingly, having, as we thought, finally severed our connection with the shore, we hoisted in our boats, preparatory to making a start at dawn.

About an hour after sunset I was pacing the deck, when I heard a hail from shore: "Golden Hope, ahoy!"

Several of the watch on deck also caught the cry, but, too astonished to reply, they crowded to the bulwarks and listened with awestruck feelings for a repetition of the hail.

Again the shout, "Golden Hope, ahoy!" pierced the darkness.

"Who can it be?" muttered one of the men. "All hands are aboard, for they were mustered just before eight bells."

"I like it not," replied another, with a shudder. "'Tis the ghosts of the slain men. We'll never reach home after this."

"Run and tell the Cap'n," suggested a third, with more good sense than his comrades.

Just as Captain Jeremy came on deck the hail was again repeated.

"Who are ye, and what d'ye want?" shouted our Captain. He, too, was puzzled by the mysterious cry. Something was shouted in reply, but the words were unintelligible.

"Lower away a boat," ordered Captain Jeremy curtly.

The men moved aft to obey, obviously with reluctance.

"What are ye afraid of?" demanded our commander. "I'll go ashore in her. Take arms and a lantern, and we'll soon sift this business."

The boat was lowered and the falls cleared, and the men, tumbling into her, brought her round to the gangway. Here Captain Jeremy stepped into the stern sheets, whither I followed, eager to solve the mystery.

When within twenty yards of the shore the boat was turned till her stern pointed landwards. Captain Jeremy stood up, striving by the aid of the lantern that one of the men held behind him to penetrate the darkness. I could distinguish a knot of men close to the water's edge.

"Who are ye, and what d'ye want?" repeated Captain Jeremy.

"We've come back," replied a voice that I failed to recognize. Then, after a pause, it continued: "Tom Cherry and the long-boat's crew."

"Run her ashore, men," shouted Captain Jeremy excitedly, and as the boat's forepart grounded on the shingle our men jumped out to welcome those who we thought were dead.

They were all present, nine all told, but with what a change in their appearance! Even the yellow light of the lantern failed to disguise the pale, gaunt features of Tom Cherry and his men. Their clothes were in rags, and shoes they had none, though most of the poor fellows had their feet bound with strips of cloth.

"The boat's safe enow, sir," exclaimed Cherry feebly, as he raised his hand to the salute with an effort. "She's----"

"Never mind that," replied our Captain. "Get aboard as fast as you can, and don't say another word till you are fed and rested."

'Twas easy to order the men to hasten aboard the boat, but so weak were they that they had to be assisted over the gunwale, while, to get them over the side of the Golden Hope, a bos'n's chair had to be rigged. At length they were safely aboard, where it was painful to see the poor wretches devour the food that was given them. Had they had their will, they would assuredly have killed themselves by their ravenousness; but having supplied them with small quantities of broth, Captain Jeremy ordered them to be placed in their hammocks and fed again in an hour's time.

The return of Cherry and the long-boat's crew prevented our sailing at the appointed time, for since their craft was, according to the gallant coxswain, "safe and sound", Captain Jeremy decided to bring it back to the ship, as it was the most useful boat we carried.

The sufferers recovered sufficiently by the morning to tell us of their hazardous adventures. When caught by the squall they were swept to leeward of the Neptune just as she disappeared, but were unable to save any of the mutineers. Every moment they expected to find themselves struggling in the water, for the boat was being carried right over the shoals, on which the breakers were falling heavily. But for the presence of mind of Tom Cherry, who ordered the mast and sail to be lashed to the grass rope and thrown overboard, so that the boat's head was kept to the crested waves, the long-boat would not have kept afloat. As it was, this floating anchor acted as a kind of breakwater, much of the force of the waves being expended ere they passed under the boat. Even then several seas broke over it, necessitating continuous bailing.

Ere the rain squall ceased they had been carried past the south-western extremity of the island, where, being more under the lee of the land, and the sea being deeper, the waves did not run so high. Nevertheless, in their exhausted condition, they could not make headway, and when two oars broke they were compelled to let themselves drift, riding in comparative safety to their sea anchor.

During the night the wind dropped and the sea subsided, but being without a compass and unable to see the island in the darkness, they had to drift about till nearly two hours after midnight. Then, the sky becoming clear, they were enabled to take a rough bearing by the stars. Dawn found them with the island nearly below the horizon, but after five hours' hard and laborious pulling they managed to land at a little cove at the south end.

Here they found a path leading northwards, and after several hours' walk, during which time they made a sorry meal of berries and water, they recognized their road as being the same as we had taken when we recovered the treasure. After great privations, and filled with fears that the Golden Hope had sailed, they managed to struggle through the forest by the path we had made during our first expedition into the interior, and arrived at the shore, having lost their way more than once in the intense darkness.

During the day one of our boats was dispatched to bring back the long-boat. As Cherry had reported, she was practically undamaged, and with a favourable breeze both craft were alongside the brig well before sunset.

At daybreak on the following morning the welcome order to weigh was given, and as the capstan revolved to the cheery song of the seamen the anchor came home, after an acquaintance of nearly two years with the bed of the bay.

The wind had again backed, and blew lightly from the north'ard, so that it was unwise to attempt to beat through the shorter and more recently discovered channel that passed inside the shoal on which I had had such a hazardous adventure.

Nevertheless, we negotiated the bends of the other passage in safety, thanks to the replacement of the navigation mark on shore, though everyone was anxious till the lead gave a depth of forty fathoms.

An hour later the highest peak of Treasure Island had vanished 'neath the horizon. We were homeward bound.


The Last of my Sworn Enemy

That same day the wind, hitherto mainly from the north'ard, suddenly changed, and blew freshly from the south-west. Nevertheless, as we were in the joint current caused by the union of the North Equatorial and the Canaries' Stream, our progress was slow.

Neither could we hope for long to be favoured by the breeze, as we were in the zone of the north-east Trades; so Captain Jeremy decided to skirt the windward side of the Lesser Antilles and the Bahama Islands, and thus gain the double advantage of the Gulf Stream and the prevailing south-westerly winds off the coast of North America. Having progressed thus far, the proposal at one time talked of to repair to Port Royal was given over, and our first place of call was to be the Bermudas.

'Enery was now relegated to the post of first mate. He seemed quite content with the reversal of his position, since he hoped, should he reach England safely, to purchase an interest in a ship, and sail in command.

I do not believe that there was a discontented man on the ship. Thanks to our good fortune, the individual share of the treasure would be considerable, and everyone was in high glee; and as each hour brought us nearer to Old England's shores, the men's spirits rose to such an extent that I wondered what they would be like when they set foot in Poole once more.

On the third day of our homeward voyage we were sailing close-hauled on the larboard tack, with the island of Barbuda just visible away to windward.

The day was hot and sultry, and, the breeze being light, the Golden Hope was barely doing more than two knots.

Suddenly there was a shout from the look-out on the fo'c'sle that a small craft was in sight. As this served to break the monotony, there was a rush for'ard to see what kind of vessel it might be.

"It's a deserted boat," exclaimed Clemens, who had snatched up a telescope. "At least, I can perceive no one in her."

As the Golden Hope was heading almost straight for the derelict, a very slight alteration in her course would bring her close alongside, so Captain Jeremy ordered this to be effected.

"There's a man in her, a-lyin' with his head over the side," shouted a seaman. "I can see him moving his arm."

"That is so," assented Captain Jeremy, after a prolonged examination through his glass. "A survivor of some wreck, I expect. Anyway, he'll be as dead as a marline-spike before we get alongside, if he remain like that, with the sun pouring on him."

"He's dead, right enough," said 'Enery, after a while. "'Tis the tossing of the boat that makes him move."

'Enery was right. Hanging over the gunwale, with one arm trailing in the water, was the corpse of a man. We could not see his face, but the nape of the neck was blackened from exposure to the sun. The arm moved sluggishly with every roll of the little craft, giving the corpse the appearance of being alive.

"Poor fellow! Starved to death, I take it," said Touchstone softly. "I've seen that sort of thing before to-day. Shall we run alongside, sir?"

"Aye," replied Captain Jeremy. "We might just as well, in case we can do anything."

Silence fell upon the crew as the Golden Hope crept slowly towards the floating monument of an ocean tragedy, till all at once the master gunner shouted:

"By Jove, that's one of our chests!"

We were now near enough to see over the gunwale as the boat rolled in the oily swell. Lashed amidships, 'twixt two of the thwarts, was one of the boxes we had made, ostensibly for the storing of the Madre treasure. Then, like lightning, the truth flashed across my mind: I was gazing at the corpse of Ned Slater.

The chest told a silent tale. The villain must have begun loading the boat directly the Neptune struck the reef; then, seeing that the ship was doomed, he sprang into the little craft, basely deserting his companions in crime. By some means the boat had escaped being swamped, and, offering little resistance to the wind, had been carried by the current in a northerly direction. When the gale died away, Slater must have prised open the lid of the chest to bloat over its contents, only to find a load of stones within. Either through the fury of his baffled hopes, or through the stern necessity of lightening the little craft, he had hurled the valueless cargo overboard, for the chest was empty. Helpless, and blown far from land, the villain had died a horrible death from slow starvation.

Springing into the fore chains, 'Enery, with boat-hook in hand, caught at the gunwale of the boat as it slowly drifted alongside. He made a sign to a couple of seamen, who, understanding, brought a heavy shot wrapped up in a piece of canvas. Nimbly dropping into the boat, one of the men quickly fastened the weight to the body of the ill-fated wretch; then, staving a plank with an axe, he sprang back into our fore chains.

'Enery disengaged the boat-hook, and ere the Golden Hope had drifted clear the boat sank beneath the waters of the Atlantic, and the body of my father's murderer disappeared from view till the time when the sea shall give up the dead that are in it.

I was glad that 'Enery had behaved thus. He had acted generously to the memory of a man who had done his best to raise his hand against every member of our crew. The rogue had paid the penalty and had received his deserts, though in my calmer moments I rejoiced that he had not met his death at my hands.

Soon after this gruesome incident we picked up a steady breeze that enabled us to make rapid progress, and seven days after leaving Treasure Island we crossed the Tropic of Cancer.

It was all plain sailing till we were within a few hundred miles of the Bermudas, when a heavy gale caused the main topmast of the Golden Hope to spring.

In this crippled condition the brig crawled into the harbour on whose shores the principal settlements are built, but ere we could effect repairs an awful hurricane, the worst I have ever met, or hope to meet, burst over the islands.

The storm came on quite suddenly, and almost before we had time to strike our still-standing fore-topmast, and veer out all our cable. Even in the comparatively sheltered harbour where we lay the sea was churned into a seething cauldron of foam, whilst ashore the damage was terrific. The lightly built huts of the settlers were unroofed and most of the trees blown down; and so great was the havoc wrought that 'twas a matter of difficulty to get our damaged topmast repaired till nearly six weeks after the storm.

While lying in harbour we learnt from an outward bound West Indiaman that things at home were in a very unsettled state, for almost all men were dissatisfied with King James.

Yet--so suspicious had Englishmen become of each other--we could gather no definite information, though many hints were thrown out concerning what we might expect to find on our arrival at home.

At length, on the second day of October, 1688, we weighed and set sail on the last stage of our homeward voyage, and late on the forenoon of the following day the last of the low-lying Bermudas was lost to view.

During the next three weeks nothing untoward occurred. The Golden Hope pursued her course over a seemingly boundless ocean, with never a sail to break the skyline, till, when, according to our reckoning, we were within ninety miles of Land's End, I was aroused just after midnight by the shout:

"A light on the starboard bow."

Gleaming faintly through the darkness, I could distinguish a small column of flame, apparently ten miles away, which faded and waxed stronger at close intervals.

"What d'ye make of it, sir?" asked 'Enery, as he and Captain Jeremy mounted the poop ladder to get a better view of the mysterious light.

"Make of it? Why, it can be but one thing. 'Tis a ship on fire."


The Burning Ship

Within an hour or so we had approached sufficiently near to the conflagration to prove the truth of Captain Jeremy's assertion.

It was a large vessel burning from bow to stern, the flames mounting to a tremendous height and casting a lurid glow on a thick column of smoke that blew miles to leeward. The masts and spars of the ship were still standing, though licked by the devouring fire, while her double line of ports shone like a line of gigantic glow-worms.

Even at the distance we were from her we could hear the crackling of the burning woodwork, and the subdued roar of the flames as they issued from the bowels of that floating inferno.

"Near enough!" exclaimed Captain Jeremy. "'Twill not do to get to leeward of her. Heave-to and lower away a boat; we may be able to render assistance, though I fear 'tis too late."

These orders were promptly carried out, and the Golden Hope was brought-to at about three-quarters of a mile from the burning ship. 'Enery, with a willing crew, took one of the quarter-boats and rowed boldly towards the vessel, while lanterns were hung on our rigging and guns were fired at frequent intervals to attract the attention of any boat-load of survivors that might have managed to effect an escape.

Spellbound, I, with the rest of our remaining crew, watched the conquering progress of the devouring element. Yard after yard came crashing down from aloft, the blazing timber plunging into the sea with a loud hiss as the flames were extinguished in the water. The tarred and hempen shrouds, long since severed at the deadeyes, were dangling like fiery serpents from the swaying masts; while ever and anon the shotted guns of her broadside would discharge their dangerous contents, the balls ricochetting on the surface of the sea with a series of fountain-like jets. Some of the shots passed unpleasantly close to the Golden Hope, and orders were given to forge ahead till we were well in line with the stern of the burning ship, where, being still to windward, we were in no danger.

Meanwhile we could perceive 'Enery and his men pulling slowly round the ship at a respectful distance, the shot whizzing well over their heads; and though the mate was to be seen standing up in the stern sheets and carefully examining whatever floating piece of wreckage they came across, we knew that none of the unfortunate crew had been taken into the boat. If still alive, where were they?

The roar of our ordnance, fired at regular intervals, added to the din; yet this signal seemed useless, for no strange craft was to be seen rowing for the shelter offered by the Golden Hope.

Suddenly, with a loud crash, the foremast of the vessel went by the board, and lay, still burning fiercely, across the fo'c'sle. The mainmast soon followed, but, falling clear of the ship, it drifted close alongside, the damp timber still emitting a dense cloud of smoke.

By now the vessel had burned almost to the water's edge amidships, and crash after crash could be heard as the guns plunged through the burning planks into the hold. The fo'c'sle and poop still reared themselves high above the sea, the latter surmounted by a pillar of fire that encircled the mizen-mast.

Suddenly the dazzling glare of the flames was eclipsed by a flash so brilliant that I was obliged to close my eyes to shut out its brightness. Then came the deafening roar of an explosion, and opening my eyes, I saw the air filled with flying pieces of shattered timber. The magazine had taken fire.

Almost immediately the fire was extinguished; a thick cloud of smoke hovered over the spot where the ship had been, while aloft a thousand fitful streaks of light marked the downward course of the burning timbers that had been shot up to an immense height.

For a full half minute the meteor-like flight continued, till the hiss of the last of the burning timbers ceased and a great darkness, intensified by the sudden cessation of the glare, overspread the agitated sea.

We were now considerably concerned for the safety of 'Enery and the boat's crew, for they were exposed to a great danger from the falling wreckage, till the gleam of the boat's lantern showed that they were at least still afloat.

At length the men rowed back to the brig, having sustained no damage, though their faces were blackened with the smoke and particles of dust that enveloped everything within half a mile of the burning vessel.

"No sign of anyone," reported 'Enery, as he came over the side, "though they may have taken to the boats long before we arrived."

"That's true," assented Captain Jeremy, "so keep the signal guns firing till dawn."

"'Tis well that there's no sea running," said the mate. "A few hours in an open boat will do no harm on a night like this, e'en though the air is sharp."

"Not if we pick them up," added Captain Jeremy; "but I should not wonder if they have already shaped a course for land. Yet do you keep the brig hove-to till daylight."

The day broke with a red, angry sky that betokened foul weather. The wind, hitherto light, began to strengthen, and an ominous swell presaged rough water within a few miles of us.

Sunrise revealed no trace of the boats of the ill-fated ship, so, ordering the Golden Hope to be again placed on her course, Captain Jeremy retired to his cabin to enjoy a well-earned repose.

Hardly had he turned in when, just as seven bells was striking, the look-out reported four boats ahead.

Instantly there was a rush to see what manner of craft they were, and it was soon evident that they were indeed the boats from the burning ship.

By this time there was a fairly high sea running, and the boats, having perceived our approach, had turned and lay on their oars, with their bows facing us, the men giving an occasional stroke to keep the boats so that they met the rollers bows on.

"She was no ordinary trader," observed Silas Touchstone, pointing to the little flotilla. "Yon boats are crowded to excess. There's a couple of hundred aboard 'em, or I'm a Dutchman."

"They would never reach land with the wind piping up as it is doing," said Captain Jeremy, who had been roused from his cabin, giving a hasty glance to windward. "Stand by to shorten sail."

Already three of the boats had shipped several seas, for we could see the men bailing vigorously. There was not a moment to be lost.

It being now eight bells, we hoisted our ensign, according to custom, and the sight of the Cross of St. George was hailed by a cheer that was faintly borne to our ears from the still distant boats. If the survivors had had any doubts as to our nationality, they were now set at rest.

"Hands shorten sail!" Hardly had the last notes of the bos'n's mate's whistle died away, when the topmen were flying away aloft; the courses were taken up, the topsail yards lowered, and slowly the Golden Hope began to lose way.

"Women and children too, by Jove!" ejaculated Captain Jeremy, as the boats made towards us. "'Tis well we are close to land, or we would be hard put to it to feed them."

"'Twill mean half rations, in any case," replied 'Enery, "though the men will not mind that."

"I'm sure they won't," assented the Captain. "But stand by; let the men prepare bowlines, or we'll never get the women aboard without mishap."

A long-boat, with most of its passengers huddled on the bottom boards, was the first to get alongside, and willing hands helped the weary men to climb our heaving sides. This done, 'twas easier for our people to board the boat and fix the bowlines round the waists of the female passengers; and without a hitch, though the frightened women made no little commotion, we had them safely aboard. The crew followed, and we having no further use for the boat, she was cast adrift.

The second and third boats were also relieved of their human loads and likewise sent adrift, but the fourth gave us more trouble.

Being handled with less skill than her consorts, she crashed broadside on to the Golden Hope just as the brig was recovering from a heavy roll, with the result that some of the boat's planks were stove in and she commenced to fill.

In the confusion several of the passengers, despite the assurances of the officers and seamen in the boat, jumped to their feet, so that the already heavily laden craft was in imminent danger of capsizing.

Ropes were thrown from the towering sides of the Golden Hope amidst a loud shout of "Women first!" Yet (though some excuse must be made for their cowardice) several of the men sprang for our bulwarks. Others, with more presence of mind, assisted in slipping the bowlines over the shoulders of the women; and as each one was hoisted aboard the danger of the boat being swamped became less.

Just as the last female passenger was being hauled up, the knot in the rope that held her became unhitched-no doubt 'twas a landlubber who tied it--and the next instant she was struggling in the sea.

It so happened that at that moment I was standing in the main chains with a coil of rope in my hands, ready to throw it into the boat.

Fastening one end of the line round my waist, and calling to some of our men to tail on to the other end, I took a flying leap into the water. In my haste I miscalculated the distance that the brig rolled, and ere I struck the surface I came into violent contact with the side of the Golden Hope as she swung back to larboard.

Half-dazed with the blow and well-nigh breathless, I plunged, or rather rolled, into the water. The shock of the immersion recovered me some what, and I struck out to where I had seen the girl sink for the second time.

Guided by the bubbles that rose to the surface, I swam downwards for nearly two fathoms, till just beneath me I saw her feebly struggling form.

Grasping her by the hair--the only time I have ever served a woman thus--I reached the surface in a few strokes, and called to the men to haul handsomely on the rope. Then disengaging my hand and throwing my left arm tightly round the girl's waist, I waited for the Golden Hope to come to the end of a roll, and shouted to the men to heave roundly. This they did, and in a trice we were on the deck of the brig.

By this time the work of rescuing the other occupants of the boat had been completed. The female passengers had been sent into the after cabins, there to be rigged out in motley garments of blankets, sailcloth, and what not. The male passengers were sent willy-nilly into the fo'c'sle, where they and the crew of the lost ship were accommodated with the spare clothing of our men. The captain of the vessel, a short, red-faced man, was almost beside himself at the loss of his vessel, asserting in no mild tones that she had been fired maliciously, and that he knew the culprit and would hand him up to justice at the first port we touched. Strangely enough, he uttered no expression of gratitude for the deliverance of the ship's company and passengers from the perils of the deep, nor did he seem sensible of the services we had rendered.

The ill-fated vessel was the Phoenix of London, bound for Richmond and other parts of Virginia with a full cargo and a great number of settlers, mostly men of means who were dissatisfied with the state of things at home, and hoped to live with greater freedom in the New World. Many of them had lost their all, yet the worst sufferers seemed by far the most stouthearted of the forlorn crowd.

The Phoenix was but four days out from the Downs when, just after sunset, the alarm of fire was raised, and soon dense volumes of smoke were seen issuing from the fore hatch, apparently from the lamp and oil room. Already the flames had taken a good hold, and in spite of the utmost efforts of the crew, aided by many of the passengers, the fire steadily gained, till just before midnight the order was given to abandon the ship.

Directly the whole of the passengers and crew were embarked, the boats pushed off and shaped a course for the Lizard, and having the burning ship 'twixt them and us, they were prevented by the thick cloud of smoke and the roar of the flames from seeing our lights or hearing our signal guns.

Daylight showed them our sails well down to the west'ard, so, on making sure that we were proceeding in their direction, they abandoned the attempt to reach land, and waited for us to come up. 'Twas as well they did so, for all were of the opinion that none of the boats would have reached shore.

Having been unable to change my saturated clothing, the after cabins being, as I have said, given over to the women, I borrowed some clothes from one of the men, putting on a thick pilot coat over all, for the air was raw, especially after our lengthy sojourn in the Tropics.

Then, to regain warmth, I began to pace the deck vigorously. In the midst of my walk the poop door opened, and a girl appeared. In spite of her quaint appearance--for she wore a skirt fashioned from a red blanket and a coat that belonged to Captain Jeremy--my heart gave a sudden bound, for I was face to face with my sister Constance!


Constance's Story

The surprise and recognition were mutual. Only the untoward state of my sister's garments prevented her from throwing herself into my arms. As it was, she could only grasp my hand and exclaim:

"Oh, Clifford, you here! I thought you were dead long ago."

"Far from it," I replied, leading her to the shelter of the weather bulwarks, for the wind was now howling fiercely. "But tell me, how came you here?"

"'Tis a long story," she said, striving to keep back the tears of joy that welled to her eyes. "But why--oh, there's Captain Jeremy!"

And at that moment our Captain came down the poop ladder, to find, to his unbounded astonishment, that Constance was one of the rescued passengers.

It was some time ere we dispensed with small talk and entered into the more important details of our respective adventures, when Captain Jeremy listened with rapt attention to my sister's narrative, occasionally giving vent to a hearty exclamation of approval as she told her story.

"You would hardly realize the consternation that your disappearance caused. At first our uncle thought you had left the house by stealth in order to go fishing, and promised you a warm reception on your return. But when evening came and you did not return, we began to grow anxious----"

"There you are," exclaimed Captain Jeremy. "Did I not say you were a young rascal, when you were found in the hold? Didst give a single thought to your worthy relative's distress?"

"There was a hue and cry raised, but though the countryside was searched most diligently, not a trace of you was found. A month or so later a lad's body was found in the Lym stream, and though 'twas well-nigh unrecognizable, our uncle was convinced 'twas yours. At any rate, he came to the conclusion that you had been drowned while swimming in the river, and the body was buried as that of Clifford Hammond."

"Then another misfortune came. Uncle John was thrown from his horse near Buckland Rings, and received such severe injuries to his head that in less than a week he died. Thus I was left without a relative in England. In my distress I thought of our mother's brother's wife, whom I knew to be living somewhere in Virginia; and being, as I thought, without a single tie at home, I resolved to adventure myself in the New World. With this object in view I went to see Lawyer Thompson of Lymington, who had, as you know, the ordering of our affairs. He approved of my resolve, but urged me to wait until definite news could be obtained of our relative's whereabouts. Accordingly a letter was sent by the hand of one Captain Joseph Bennett, whose ship Prudence was about to sail for the port of Richmond."

"Four months later I had a reply, brought by the same Captain Bennett, to the effect that Mistress Green, our maternal aunt, would be glad to receive me."

"The Prudence was timed to sail again from Gravesend on the following Thursday week, and having made arrangements for my passage, I prepared for the hazardous journey."

"At length I bade farewell to the home of my childhood. Lawyer Thompson accompanied me as far as Southampton, whence the coach was to carry me to London. It was a tedious two days' journey, with the best part of another day's ride to Gravesend."

"On arriving at the latter place I found, to my consternation, that the Prudence had sailed on a special voyage to Hull, and would not be back for another fortnight."

"There was nothing to do but wait, and by good fortune I found a comfortable lodging at the house of one Mistress Thetwell. But once again I was doomed to disappointment. The Prudence never returned to the Thames--she was lost, with all her crew, off Yarmouth--so I was obliged to wait at Gravesend until such time as I could find a ship that was sailing for Virginia."

"While awaiting this opportunity I chanced one day to be taking the air along the Rochester road, when I heard the sound of a horse galloping behind me. I turned, and saw a mettlesome nag bolting down the highway, while, clinging desperately to the animal's mane, was a girl of about my own age."

"As you know, Clifford, I was always used to horses, so as the brute rushed by I caught at the dangling bridle. The nag carried me some distance, and just as I had mastered him he trod on my foot. The pain was intense, and I was barely conscious of seeing the girl slip from the saddle ere I swooned."

"When I recovered my senses I found myself in a strange bed, with a motherly lady watching me."

"She was Mistress Farndale, wife of a wealthy landowner, and it was her daughter Winifred whose horse I had helped to stop. All the members of the family were kind to me beyond measure, and, hearing my story, proposed that I should stay as a companion to Winifred till an opportunity occurred for me to take ship. And, strange to say, I felt perfectly contented and happy, actually hoping that that opportunity was yet a long way off."

"At length Master Farndale, for having spoken too openly in favour of Archbishop Sancroft, was threatened with arrest; so, having disposed of most of his property, he took ship for Virginia, having previously made arrangements for his family to follow directly he had prepared a suitable home for them."

"Thus I was able to carry out my original intentions, without having to undergo the grief of parting from my newly found friends, when we took passage on the Phoenix. There were Mistress Farndale, Rupert and Gerald, her sons; and Winifred and myself, together with a maid."

"I need not relate what happened on our unfortunate voyage, for you already know of it; but when we were being taken on board this ship from the boat Winifred fell into the sea, and someone rescued her----"

"Lucky lad! Lucky lad!" exclaimed Captain Jeremy, bringing his open hand down heavily on my back, to my great confusion. Then, as Constance was at a loss to understand this sudden outburst, he explained: "You see, Mistress Constance, 'twas your brother who jumped after her. Sink me! 'twas a plucky action, for he was like to have had his head crushed like an eggshell by the ship's side. But I must away, for 'tis about time we made a landfall." So saying, he hurried on to the poop, leaving us to continue our conversation.

"I, too, have news for you," said I. "Constance, we are now rich, for the Madre treasure has been found. It is on board this very ship."

"How much is it worth?" she asked, with true feminine curiosity.

"Nay, I cannot say to a certainty, yet 'tis enough for us to be for ever free from monetary difficulties."

Then I related all the principal incidents of our voyage, not omitting the terrible fate of my father's murderer, till our conversation was interrupted by the welcome cry of "Land--ho!"

From the poop I gazed once more upon the shores of Old England, after an absence of three years, for on our larboard bow I could discern the dark, lofty outlines of the Lizard, the southernmost headland of our isle.

The Golden Hope was now bowling along under easy canvas at a good six knots, and ere night the dreaded Eddystone, rearing its ugly reef above the breakers, was well abeam, and the rugged Devon coast away on our larboard bow. Should this breeze continue, to-morrow's eve would find us safe in Poole Harbour.

Just before sunset most of the rescued passengers, having recovered from their harrowing experience, came on deck, and Constance immediately gave me an introduction to Mistress Farndale and her daughter.

Presently we were joined by Rupert and Gerald Farndale, whose acquaintance I had made earlier in the day; and together we formed quite a happy party, talking under the break of the poop deck until it was quite dark.

Then the ladies retired, while I, lying in a hammock slung under the crowded fo'c'sle, dreamed of Constance and Winifred, till I was awakened by the violent ringing of the ship's bell and the hoarse order, "Put your helm up, or we'll be run down!"


Safe in Port

'Twas a strange sight that met my eyes as I rushed on deck and gained the fo'c'sle.

The wind had fallen light, and in the cold, raw gloom of that November morning I could see ahead and on both sides of us a multitude of great warships.

They were sailing in close order, under all plain sail, and had just gone about on the starboard tack, for their crews were still engaged with the halyards and braces, in obedience to orders shouted in a foreign tongue.

This manoeuvre had thrown us fairly across their line, so that only by putting our helm hard up were we able to avoid being run down by a huge two-decker.

In the comparatively small limit of my vision, for the weather was thick, I counted over forty sail, though, judging by the sounds, there must have been twice that number hidden in the mist.

We scraped past the two-decker at barely ten yards' distance. She was high-sided, and painted with one broad yellow and two narrow brown stripes; while through her green-lined ports the muzzles of some thirty-two brass guns flashed dully in the moist atmosphere.

Her decks were crowded with men, for in addition to her crew there were about a hundred phlegmatic-looking soldiers, in blue-and-yellow uniforms. On her poop stood a burly great-coated officer, who raised his speaking-trumpet with the evident intention of hailing us; but apparently he thought better of it, and in almost perfect silence, save for the hiss of the water at her cutwater and the straining and creaking of her tackle, the ship glided past. Then, as she displayed her lofty stern, with its wreath of decorative giltwork, I read the name Maese.

For a full half-hour we were hard put to it to avoid being run down by the ships of the mighty fleet, which, we learned from the crew of the Phoenix, was known to have been lying at Helvoetsluys, ready to carry the Prince of Orange to England to wrest the crown from his incapable father-in-law, King James.

"Where are they bound for, being so far down Channel?" asked the master gunner.

"Nay, I know not," replied Captain Jeremy. "But Heaven forfend that they land in the West. Enough English blood was wasted in the last rising, as many of us know."

"What chance hath the Prince, think you?" he continued, addressing the master of the Phoenix, who had also turned out to see the unwonted sight.

"A far better one than had the Duke of Monmouth," was the answer; "though, with all his faults, give me King James. I fought under him when he was Duke of York, and a braver seaman never trod deck."

"Ah! James Duke of York and James King of England are two very different personages, I trow," replied Captain Jeremy. "The best fighter is ever the worst statesman."

"After all," said the master of the Phoenix, "so long as there are English ships at sea and plenty of work for us poor seamen, it matters not much who rules the roost. That's how the wind blows, say I."

"The wind draws ahead," observed Captain Jeremy; "that is the matter that concerns us chiefly. I doubt whether we'll see port today."

This was indeed the case, for the breeze, now provokingly light, had backed till it came from the east'ard, so that it meant a dead beat to windward. To men long absent from home this was especially galling, though in my case I found consolation in being in the company of Mistress Winifred, with whom I generally managed to have several hours pleasurable conversation.

Neither did we make Poole that day nor the next, for it fell a flat calm, after the manner of St. Martin's summer, so that for thirty-six hours we drifted with the tide within sight of the Dorset hills.

At length a steady southwesterly breeze sprang up, and, with barely a hogshead of biscuit and a gallon of water aboard, the Golden Hope came in sight of Poole Harbour.

"What cheer--ho, Master Light!" exclaimed Captain Jeremy, as a weather-beaten pilot came over the side. "How fares it at home?"

"Precious little news," replied the pilot, "though they say that English beef will henceforth be flavoured with Orange."


"Aye; they say the Dutchman hath landed at Torbay, and advanced on Exeter. In short, there are all sorts of rumours, yet I pay scant heed to them."

With the air of a man who, in the exercise of his duty, scorns to indulge in conversation, Master Light made his way aft, and under his guidance the Golden Hope threaded the tortuous channel that leads to Poole Town.

"Is it your wish to berth alongside the quay?" demanded the pilot.

"Nay, rather I would anchor in the stream," replied Captain Jeremy, mindful of the precious nature of our cargo.

"Hands shorten sail!"

Slowly the Golden Hope, with ever-decreasing way, glided abreast of the town, and with the welcome order, "Let go", the anchor plunged into the muddy waters of Poole Harbour.

The voyage of the Golden Hope was over.

The news of the success of the Prince of Orange was hailed with delight by the former crew of the Neptune. To them it meant that they were free to return to their homes in the marshes of Somerset, without fear of being again hauled before the justices and sentenced to a horrible existence in the unhealthy swamps of Barbados; and on this account we, too, felt glad at the unexpected solution of their difficulties.

Our first care was to get the passengers and crew of the Phoenix safely ashore. There was, we heard, a stout barque on the point of sailing for Virginia in a few days' time, so that those who were of a mind to cross the ocean, and had sufficient means to pay for their passage, could avail themselves of her departure.

Mistress Farndale and her family had resolved to do this, but ere they went ashore I promised to call upon them as soon as my duties would permit, for until the matter of sharing the treasure was settled Captain Jeremy would allow no communication with the land.

Three days later two assessors, being duly qualified Government officers, came post haste from the Royal Mint and boarded us. The seals of the strong room were broken and the massive locks unfastened, and the task of allotting the wealth proceeded.

Having set aside the tithe claimed by the state, and also the amount due to Sir William Soams (who received a good eight hundred per centum on his outlay), the shares owing to the original crew of the Golden Hope and to the men of the Neptune were duly paid out.

Then the residue, by a rough calculation of the value of 180,000 pounds, was to be equally divided 'twixt Captain Jeremy and the heirs of the late Captain Richard Hammond. I could hardly realize the value of this immense sum, though I knew that our share was sufficient to restore the fortunes of our house to its former greatness.

The Golden Hope was now moored alongside a wharf on the Hamworthy side of the harbour, and at two bells in the afternoon watch the men mustered on deck, those who came off the Neptune having fallen in on the larboard side, each with his bundle ready for his long tramp to distant Sedgemoor.

In a few hearty words Captain Jeremy addressed them, thanking them for their services, and wishing them every success in their future. Then, after three ringing cheers, the "Neptunes", their pockets filled with coin, went ashore, amid the boisterous farewells of their comrades of the last two years and more; and as the little band of men, who were now returning to till the soil instead of ploughing the deep, disappeared from our view, I felt that another link with the past had been finally severed.

Our share of the treasure having been placed in safe keeping in the town vaults of the corporation of Poole, those of the crew who wished to take their discharge were dismissed, and under the command of Clemens and the master gunner the Golden Hope sailed for the Thames, where she was to be handed back to her owners.

Two days later Master Phillips, a London goldsmith, arrived, and, having carefully examined the plate, made us a good offer. Thus the precious cargo of the wrecked Madre de Dios passed out of our keeping, though I retained a few pieces of rare and costly workmanship as a visible reminder of the treasure that, according to the friar's prophecy, had been obtained through fire and blood.

* * * * *

Thus the story of the quest of the Golden Hope draws to a close, yet I must briefly dwell on the subsequent history of the principal characters who played their parts in the search for the Madre treasure.

'Enery, bluff, stouthearted seaman, is now master and part owner of the vessel in which he sailed with Captain Jeremy to the far-off West Indies, for the Golden Hope is now engaged in prosperous trading voyages to the Mediterranean ports. Yet whenever she returns home, Captain 'Enery, still much the same as of yore, generally contrives to visit his native Lymington; nor does he forget to extend his journey as far as Brockenhurst, where, joining with his former captain in a glass and a pipe, he'll fight his battles o'er again.

Of Clemens the Cornishman we still hear, though less frequently than we should like. He returned to his native town of Looe, where, having given up the sea, he has worked up a sound boat-building business.

Silas Touchstone, the master gunner, finding little use for his calling on private vessels, took service in His Majesty's Fleet, and promised to make a name for himself. Both at La Hogue and the desperate and successful attempt upon St. Malo our late master gunner was mentioned for conspicuous bravery. To what extent his dauntless courage would have led him 'twould have been hard to say, had not his career afloat been nipped in the bud by the loss of a leg in action in Vigo Bay.

On attaining my twenty-first birthday I took ship to Richmond, in Virginia, where Winifred and I were made one. A happier couple 'twould be hard to find, for our love has stood the test of time. Still, there are moments when I hear the call of the salt-laden breezes, and even yet I may once more adventure myself upon the high seas.

Nor must I omit mention of a tall, elderly man, who, despite his white locks and iron-grey beard, still carries himself erect and alert as of yore. A general favourite with my children, especially his little namesake, now a sturdy child of nine years, Captain Jeremy Miles has given up the sea, and spends the greater part of his leisure hours in spinning yarns to his interested listeners of the quest of the Golden Hope.