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HO! FOR THE SPANISH MAIN

It was a strange scene the pale, cold moon looked down upon. A glade in a small wood, midway between. Islington, then a mere village some miles out of London, and& the city. A young fellow of about eighteen, dressed rather soberly lor that period, when rich and poor alike were most extravagant in their garb, was supporting on one knee a stout, middle-aged man, over whoso weather-beaten, bearded countenance the pallor of death was spreading. “ Ha I He is coming to,” said the young fellow, supporting the head of the dying man. “Jock, you chafe his hands, ana Dickon, you run and fetch some water. There ought to be a stream near.” The seaman opened his eyes hnd gazed intp the young man’s face. “Who—who are you? Where are those villains who attacked me?” “ Some of them lie yonder, having paid for their villainy with their lives. The others got away. We came to your rescue, but I fear we came too late to save you. Do not talk; you will only unnecessarily d'strcss yourself and exhaust the little strength you’ve left." “What doth it matter? I—l am done for: I feel it. The knaves ha’ settled mo. He clutched wildly at his doublet, and then continued in the same jerky, gasping way : “Ha! They did not get what they wanted after all. The chart is safe. Friend, you came to my aid like a true man when I called. Ha! Who is this other? A friend of thine! 'Tis well 1 He is to be trusted, I suppose?” “Aye, that he be, friend,” answered the young man in surprise. “ But for his and his brother’s help the gang o’ cutthroats who settled tiiee would belike ha’ done the same thing by me.” “ Feel—feel in my breast—pocket—find a chart and—and I—l give it to you in return for your kindness to me. Take it —take it; it will bring you wealth beyond your wildest dreams. It—it is a treasure-chart. Those rascals were after it. ’Tis yours 1 Seek out Captain Frank Drake—get him to join you in the search. Ah, lift me up! Lift me up! My sight is failing. I ” A torrent of blood gushed from his mouth and nostrils with the effort ho made to speak, then a film crept over his eves, his head fell suddenly back, and dyril Warhurst, the young fellow supporting him, saw he was dead. Gently laying down the corpse, the youth rose to his feet and turned to the two serving men, for Dickon had just returned with his plumed hat full of water from a stream, “ He spoke of a chart—a treasure-chart —he had in his keeping, that his assassins were after.” “Aye, Master Cyril, and he made you a present of it. He told you to take it and seek out Captain Drake, and' get him to join you in the search, I presume, for the treasure,” said Jock. “ ’Tis passing strange,” murmured Cyril. “Still, there is no harm in seeing if he really hath such a document upon him. Good Dickon, will you open his doublet and look in the breast pocket?” Without any hesitation the giant knelt down, and, opening the dead seaman’s doublet, felt in the inner pocket. Ho pulled out two folded and soiled fragments of parchment, which ho handed to Cyril. The young man opened out one of the sheets and saw it was a narrative of some kind, though the scrawl, which was in a reddish fluid, was almost undecipherable. Leaving the perusal for another occasion. he unfolded the second parchment, while the serving men stood behind him to look at it over his shoulders. There was a rude sketch upon it of an island with the words “ rocks," “ shoals," and “good landing-place," in crabbed handwriting in red ink on it in various places. In the centre of the islet was a red cross, and below the words: “Site of buried, treasure.” “Ah!” cried Cyril, “there was something in his words after all. Jock Dickon, I firmly believe this is 'the key to a great fortune. But the narrative, doubtless, will throw greater light upon it. Come, we will mount and hie ns without delay to my unde, and lay the matter before him. Jock, pnt the poor fellow across your horse’s back.” Jock Sloddart hoisted the dead seaman across the saddle, then sprang up behind the corpse. Cyril and Dickon mounted, and the three, setting spurs to their horses, .galloped off quickly in the direction of London city. At the sign of the Golden Crown they reined in. and Jock, dismounting, carried his ghastly burden into the hostelry, and consigned it to the care of the reluctant landlord, explaining how they had rescued the man at the point of death from a gang of footpads bn 'the Queen’s highway. Telling the innkeeper whore they were to be.found if any inquiry was held, and giving him a few pieces of gold to requite him for his trouble and expense in seeing the body had decent burial, Jock returned to his companions, and they continued their way. Not one of them again drew rein until they were riding through the streets of London: then they only moderated their pare very little. Clattering over old London Bridge they reached Roger Vaughan’s dwelling in Southwark. The young man found his uncle, ns usual, poring over his beloved crucibles and retorts in his laboratory. Roger Vaughan was an alchemist, and devoted all his time and means to trying to discover how to make the “Philosopher’s Stone,” a substance the touch of which it was believed at the time, by even the cleverest scientific men, would change lead into gold and give its owner riches without end. He looked up eagerly at his nephew’s entry, for ho had sent the latter to a brother-alchemist at Islington for a certain very costly and rare drug he hail run short of, and which he deemed to ho •absolutely necessary in the manufacture of the Philosopher’s Stone. “ Well, nephew, you have returned ?” ho said, with a pleased smile. “ k es, sir, and far richer than I went. Look at this, uncle, look at this !” And the excited young fellow held up the chart before the old man’s astonished gaze. “What is this, Cyril? What is this?” rubbing his eyes and staring in nutter amazement at the rude map. “ ft appears to be a chart of some kind.” “ It is, sir. It is—a treasure chart from the Spanish Main. What think you of that, sir. Better than your mythical Philosopher’s Stone, eh?” A small tropical island, full of high hills and deep valleys, with forests of fruit trees, fringed by a short stretch of vellow sand gleaming like gold in the ravs of the rising sun. In the offing a small galley of seventy tons burden, flaunting proudly the flag of St. George. She was the Pascha, at this time unknown to fame, and defined to achieve distinction as the forerunner of the first English craft, and the second of any nation, to “ put a girdle round tho -world." Presently from her side two boats were lowered. Tho sea - men, clad in brigardines, or half-mailed, and armed with all manner of weapons, from muskets and arquebuses to bows and arrows, scrambled in, and they put off for the shore. In tho coxswain of one of the boats we recognise our young friend Cyril Warhurst; the other is the commander of the galley, Captain Francis Drake. Cyril warhurst had easily obtained his uncle's consent to his accompanying Drake on the projected enterprise. He had taken the latter into his fullest confidence, shown him the dead seaman’s legacy, tho treasure chart, and .offered to go shares with him and all his crew, in it. Drake had agreed to take one-half of the treasure for himself and his men, if they found it, Cyril to become sole possessor of the other half. On these terms our young hero had joined the crew of the Pascha as a. gentleman volunteer. _ He was,, however, to act as a sub-officer in all fights that took place with the Spaniards, afloat or ashore. The narrative accompanying the treasure chart was to the 'effect that _ Captain Richard Arveloy, of the WKlliam and John, one of Hawkins’s ill-fated expeditions, had got away from tho massacre with half a dozen of his men in a pin*

□ace, and taken refuge on a little islet or “ key ” in the Bay of Honduras. While there a Spanish galleon, the Santa Vergen, came ashore, in a groat storm. She was laden with gold and silver ingots and pearls. All her crew were drowned, and when the sea went down Arveley brought the treasure ashore. He buried it, marked the spot, and put off in the pinnace, intending, if he ever reached home, to return and bring o5 the treasure. But the pinnace foundered in a gale in mid-Atlan-tio, and Robert Trice, the writer of the narrative, was the only member of the party saved. He was picked up by a Dutch ship, and after many adventures at last got* back to England. Drake was confident, from the description of the islet and with the aid of the chart, ho could find the former, and, after a momentous voyage out to the West and cruise round the Caribbean Sea, in the course of which he had captured several stately galleons laden with treasure bound from the American mines to Spain, he had at last reached the island in the Bay of Honduras he believed was the one signified in the chart. Pulling in cautiously for fear the place should be inhabited by either Spaniards or Indians, and with the musketeers and archers keeping a wary eye upon the woods, the treasure seekers ran their boats’ noses on to the shelving shore. Then, scrambling out into the surf, the greater mass of them foimed up in a semicircle round the boats to defend these in case of a sudden onset from foes Unking in the thicket. Drake told oil half a dozen reliable men to remain behind with the boats, and with the rest proceeded inshore to search for the spot marked in Cvril Warhurst’s treasure chart. That young fellow, of course, accompanied the party. They approached the woods m skirmishing order in case of an ambuscade, readv to fire a volley* of bullets and arrows at the fust sign of a hidden foe. But there wa.s none, so they penetrated the covert, fiomo of them cutting long sticks from the trees with which to beat the grass and tangled undergrowth to scare away serpents and other venomous reptile®. Marching steadily forward, less than an hour saw them approaching the spot marked ou the treasure cnart. At length, topping a high ridge, the partysaw lying lie fore them a small plateau clear of wood and brush. This was the spot marked on the chart as the site of the buried treasure; With a wild halloo the party luoke. and rushed forward like a pack of schoolboys, scrambling over the boulders and unevenness of the ground, all eager to be the first at the spot itself, which was indicated, so the narrative and chart said, by five great boulders rolled together in the shape of a pentagon or five-sided figure. A gleeful shout from the leading seaman, a young and active fellow, who had outstripped oven the eager Cyril Warhurst, betokened the discovery of the pentagon. Yes, there w r ere the five boulders rolled together, but a gasp of dismay, of bitter disappointment and chagrin, welled up in a mighty “Oh !” from the throats of all as they beheld beside the boulders a heap of sand, and within them a deep hole dug in the earth. Someone had, anticipated them—forestalled them. Someone else, who knew of the existence of the treasure, had been before them and removed it. With various exclamations of rage and disappointment they all ran up to the pit. Cyril Warhurst, however, was the first to reach it apei scramble over the boulders on to it® brink. He immediately uttered a cry of horror and recoiled for a moment, to leap down the next into a cavity. When Drake and the others gained the spot they saw him standing beside a gruesome skeleton, to which a lew tattered garments were still clinging, lying at tho bottom of the hole. Cyril held in one hand a dirty piece of paper, in the other a small iron-clasped book, a Bible to all appearances. “What dost think of this captain? - ’ he called out. “It is in English, and oxplaineth how wo were anticipated. List ye.” And he proceeded to lead from the paper. “I write this in hopes it may one day come into the hands of my countrymen, who will avenge mo. I am an Englishman, by name Richard Arveley, hate captain of the good ship William and John. I sailed with Captain John Hawkins to traffic honestly in African lakes with the Spanish planters of Mexico. I and some few of my crew escaped tho murderous hands of tho Span'iuds, anil got away to an island, where wo found a wreck laden with gold and silver aid pearls. We buried it, as we were unable to take it with us in the pinnace, at tho spot indicated on the accompanying chart.” Cyril looked up from the paper. “ Tliere was no chart with it, but doubtless it was a copy of that wo possess. Thor© is something more in another and lies scholarly hand, and writ in blood, methinks. 'I call on all who hoar the name of Englishmen to avenge my terrible wrongs, I was tortured in a hundred devilish wars, but lastly on the rink. hy the Spanish Governor of San Juan de Ulloa, in the Gulf of Mexico, in order to wring from nw the cate of the treasure we buried here. At last, m a. moment of weakness, I consented to lead a party to the spot, and the Governor (Don Ramon Velasrpie?,) promised me my liberty and safe conduct to an English port if I did so. Tho perfidious, fail likes vllain, instead of keepi-ip his word he oidered hie followers to shoot me (town as soon ns the treasure was unearthed, and ns I scrawl these words I am dying from three gunshot wounds. I have sea > only enough strength left to ’ That's the end of it. The poor fellow must have sunk down (hen from weakness and succumbed,’ finished Cvril. For a tow minutes a deathlike stillness prevailed, then it. was broken hy a yell of rage and vengeance from every man of the party. “ Don Ramon Vehnriuer,, the Governor of San Juan de VHoa ; T have a terrible score to wipe out myself with that, perfidious wretch."’ ervd Drake, his snubmnt face empurpled with resentful passion. “We in the link Judi'h only •srap-d destruction bv the skin oi our (o"ih on Jim same ocearion as saw the ma«saere of so many of oar f-llow-icni icei s. _ Some of ye were with me." tinning to his followers “Lads, ye are dVappointed 5’ not finding this irrnpr.ro, Vo’loav ir.°. nrd I vil! kvki ye to where there •>. gold ami silverjn plenty to km had for tie fighting. -I\ salty boys all. we will avenge our countrymen's wrongs and our own whT' enrie-i----ing ourselves with goodly Spani-h treasure. Come, fihirmates. Ft ns return to our visse] and sail heme to plunder the rare argosies with which .Spain has burdened these seas ” . , T , , “Hurrah for our h’-avo eapla'Ti’_ trank Drake for ever! Vengeance against the Dons! .«f. George for Mm-rio England .

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141212.2.66

Bibliographic details

HO! FOR THE SPANISH MAIN, Issue 15674, 12 December 1914

Word Count
2,624

HO! FOR THE SPANISH MAIN Issue 15674, 12 December 1914

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