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Title: The Cruise of the 'Alerte' - The narrative of a search for treasure on the desert island of Trinidad
Author: Knight, E. F. (Edward Frederick), 1852-1925
Language: English
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THE CRUISE OF THE 'ALERTE'

_UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME._

  THE GREAT BOER WAR.                  _Arthur Conan Doyle._
  COLLECTIONS AND RECOLLECTIONS.       _G. W. E. Russell._
  FROM THE CAPE TO CAIRO.              _E. S. Grogan._
  LIFE OF LORD DUFFERIN.               _Sir A. Lyall._
  SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD.                  _Augustine Birrell, K.C., M.P._
  THE MAKING OF A FRONTIER.            _Colonel Durand._
  LIFE OF RICHARD COBDEN.              _Lord Morley._
  LIFE OF PARNELL.                     _R. Barry O'Brien._
  MEMORIES GRAVE AND GAY.              _Dr. John Kerr._
  A BOOK ABOUT ROSES.                  _S. Reynolds Hole._
  RANDOM REMINISCENCES.                _Charles Brookfield._
  AT THE WORKS.                        _Lady Bell._
  MEXICO AS I SAW IT.                  _Mrs. Alec Tweedie._
  PARIS TO NEW YORK BY LAND.           _Harry de Windt._
  LIFE OF LEWIS CARROLL.               _Stuart Dodgson Collingwood._
  NATURALIST IN THE GUIANAS.           _Eugène André._
  THE MANTLE OF THE EAST.              _Edmund Candler._
  LETTERS OF DR. JOHN BROWN.
  JUBILEE BOOK OF CRICKET.             _Prince Ranjitsinhji._
  BY DESERT WAYS TO BAGHDAD.           _Louisa Jebb._
  SOME OLD LOVE STORIES.               _T. P. O'Connor._
  FIELDS, FACTORIES, & WORKSHOPS.      _Prince Kropotkin._
  LIFE OF LORD LAWRENCE.               _R. Bosworth Smith._
  PROBLEMS OF POVERTY.                 _Dr. Chalmers._
  THE BURDEN OF THE BALKANS.           _M. E. Durham._
  LIFE AND LETTERS OF LORD MACAULAY.--
    I. & II.                           _Sir George O. Trevelyan,
    Bart._
  WHAT I SAW IN RUSSIA.                _Hon. Maurice Baring._
  WILD ENGLAND OF TO-DAY.              _C. J. Cornish._
  THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS.            _Mrs. Alec Tweedie._
  THE VOYAGE OF THE "DISCOVERY."--
    I. & II.                           _Captain Scott._
  FELICITY IN FRANCE.                  _Constance E. Maud._
  MY CLIMBS IN THE ALPS AND CAUCASUS.  _A. F. Mummery._
  JOHN BRIGHT.                         _R. Barry O'Brien._
  POVERTY.                             _B. Seebohm Rowntree._
  SEA WOLVES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN.     _Commander E. Hamilton Currey,
    R.N._
  FAMOUS MODERN BATTLES.               _A. Hilliard Atteridge._
  THE CRUISE OF THE "FALCON."          _E. F. Knight._
  A. K. H. B. (A Volume of Selections).
  THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS.             _Jack London._
  GRAIN OR CHAFF.                      _A. Chichele Plowden._
  LIFE AT THE ZOO.                     _C. J. Cornish._
  THE FOUR MEN.                        _Hilaire Belloc._

  _Etc., etc.
  Others to follow._



THE CRUISE OF THE 'ALERTE'

THE NARRATIVE OF A SEARCH FOR TREASURE
ON THE DESERT ISLAND OF TRINIDAD


BY

E. F. KNIGHT


THOMAS NELSON AND SONS
LONDON, EDINBURGH, DUBLIN
AND NEW YORK



CONTENTS.


    I. THE HISTORY OF THE TREASURE                      7

   II. THE 'ALERTE' IS FITTED OUT                      32

  III. THE SHIP'S COMPANY                              49

   IV. A ROMANCE OF THE SALVAGES                       62

    V. OUR FIRST VOYAGE                                78

   VI. ON THE SALVAGES                                 97

  VII. RUNNING DOWN THE TRADES                        121

 VIII. BAHIA                                          141

   IX. TREASURE ISLAND AT LAST                        158

    X. THE SUMMIT OF TRINIDAD                         174

   XI. ON THE ROAD TO TREASURE BAY                    190

  XII. WE EXPLORE THE RAVINE                          208

 XIII. A NARROW ESCAPE                                226

  XIV. WE LAND THE STORES IN THE BAY                  237

   XV. OUR CAMP                                       252

  XVI. DISCOVERIES IN SOUTH-WEST BAY                  269

 XVII. PICK AND SHOVEL                                282

XVIII. A VOYAGE TO MARKET                             300

  XIX. HOVE TO                                        314

   XX. THE ADVENTURES OF THE SHORE-PARTY              329

  XXI. WE ABANDON THE SEARCH                          355

 XXII. HOMEWARD BOUND                                 366



THE CRUISE OF THE 'ALERTE.'



CHAPTER I.

THE HISTORY OF THE TREASURE.


In the course of a long cruise in the South Atlantic and up the South
American rivers, in the years 1880 and 1881, with my little yacht the
'Falcon,' I found myself, more by accident than intention, in the
neighbourhood of the small desert island of Trinidad. We were bound
from Montevideo to Bahia, and, after running before a heavy pampero
off the River Plate, we fell in with strong head winds, and had to
thrash our way to windward for upwards of a thousand miles of choppy
seas and boisterous weather, while the rain poured down upon us almost
without cessation, as it not unfrequently does during the season of
the northerly Brazilian monsoon.

We steered a course away from the land to the eastward, hoping to meet
with more favourable winds when we had obtained an offing of some four
or five hundred miles. Vessels bound north from the Plate during the
season of the northerly monsoon invariably pursue this plan, sailing
as much as seven hundred miles close hauled on the port tack before
they go about and make their northering. Thus it was that our course
brought us in the vicinity of Trinidad, which lies in latitude 20° 30'
south and longitude 29° 22' west, distant about seven hundred miles
from the coast of Brazil, and my curiosity being aroused by the
description of the islet in the 'South Atlantic Directory' I decided
to land and explore it.

We came to an anchor off this desolate spot on December 8, 1881, and
we remained there for nine days. Our adventures of various sorts, the
perils of landing, the attacks made on us by the multitudes of hideous
land-crabs and ferocious sea-birds, our difficult climb over the
volcanic mountains, and finally our anything but regretful departure
from one of the most uncanny and dispiriting spots on earth, are fully
set out in my book, 'The Cruise of the "Falcon."' On turning to that
book I find that I state there that I had had more than enough of
Trinidad, and would on no account set foot on its barren shores
again--a rash resolution which I was destined to break nearly ten
years after my first visit to the island.

The descriptions of Trinidad in the 'South Atlantic Directory' are all
of an old date, and were supplied at different times by captains of
vessels in want of water or with crews stricken with scurvy, who
effected a landing in order to procure water or the purslain and other
greens which abound on some portions of the shore. Halley in 1700,
Amaso Delano in 1803, and Commodore Owen in 1822 visited the island,
and it is from their accounts that most of the information concerning
it has been gathered. All describe the landing as extremely difficult,
and often quite impracticable, on account of the almost perpetual surf
which breaks on the iron-bound coast. Consequently mariners avoided
the coral reefs and sea-worn crags, and, though the masters of
homeward-bound vessels from around Cape Horn often sighted the island
from a safe distance in order to correct the rate of their
chronometers, it was rare indeed that the foot of a human being trod
its shores.

But now the land-crabs and sea-birds of Trinidad must be becoming
almost familiarised with the sight of man, for the report of a vast
treasure that is supposed to have been buried here some seventy years
ago, has induced no less than five different bands of adventurers in
the course of the last twelve years to fit out vessels for the purpose
of seeking their fortunes among the volcanic ash.

This is an account of the most recent of these ventures, and I think
it will be the last of them; for whereas all the previous
explorers--in consequence of mutiny, the difficulty of landing, and
other causes--failed to make any real attempt at digging into the
landslip which now covers the spot where the treasure is supposed to
lie, and, losing heart in the presence of the preliminary perils and
discomforts, abandoned the island after a few days' stay, we succeeded
in landing by degrees our tents, tools, and stores, and established
quite a comfortable little settlement, while the digging was steadily
carried on for three months, and many thousands of tons of earth and
rock were removed.

We worked on until we were satisfied that further search was useless.
We failed to find the treasure, but we did what our predecessors did
not--we had a very good try for it; and we have, I think, at any rate
proved that it is not worth the while of any other adventurers to go
in search of this too carefully concealed hoard.

When I visited Trinidad in 1881 I was not aware that a treasure was
supposed to be buried there, else I should most probably have
prosecuted some preliminary search with the small crew--we were five
all told--and the inadequate tools I had on board, so as to ascertain
whether it would be worth while to organise a properly equipped
expedition on my return home. It was not until the year 1885 that my
attention was directed to paragraphs in the newspapers which spoke of
the departure from the Tyne of the barque 'Aurea' with a considerable
company, including navvies, and well provided with the tools that were
considered necessary for the recovery of the treasure.

These adventurers started full of hope, but were doomed to
disappointment, as is shown in the following extract which I cut from
a daily paper some months later:--

'Further information has been received regarding the unfortunate
expedition of the "Aurea," the vessel chartered by a number of
Tynesiders for a voyage to the small island of Trinidad, off the coast
of Brazil, where it was reported a large amount of treasure was
concealed. The last letter is from one of the seamen, a young man
named Russell, to his parents in North Shields. Russell states that it
is with _"the greatest pleasure" that he has an opportunity of
writing, and continues to say that the "Aurea" left the island on
April 29, and, he was sure, the crew were not sorry at leaving. He
states that eight seamen were ashore fourteen days, and at the end of
that time they were so exhausted with the want of water and
provisions, and with the scorching heat, that they had all to be
carried on board. As a consequence eight of them were laid down with
fever, and out of the eight two seamen died. The expedition was thus
unfortunate in more than one respect. The "Aurea," according to the
writer of the letter, was at Trinidad in the West Indies, and was
expected to leave for England. Russell says nothing about treasure;
the burden of his letter is that the crew left the island with the
greatest satisfaction.'_

This ill-fated expedition of the 'Aurea' was, so far as my information
goes, the last before that of the 'Alerte.'

In the autumn of 1888, I happened to meet some South Shields people
who knew the history of the treasure and of the previous expeditions.
They told me that there had been some talk lately of fitting out
another vessel to renew the quest, and that many undeniably shrewd
Tynesiders had a complete faith in the existence of the treasure, and
were willing, despite former failures, to risk their money and lives
in order to discover it. My informant gave me an outline of the
evidence on which this faith was based, and I heard enough to so
interest me that I forthwith took train to South Shields and put
myself into communication with the heads of the 'Aurea' expedition,
with the view, in case I should consider the prospects of securing the
treasure to be not too remote, of fitting out a small yacht and
sailing away once more to Trinidad.

The following is the substance of the story as I heard it from Mr.
A----, who was the prime mover of the last venture, and who himself
sailed in the 'Aurea,' and passed fourteen days on the island.

'There is now living, not far from Newcastle, a retired sea captain,
Captain P----, who was in command of an East Indiaman engaged in the
opium trade in the years 1848 to 1850. At that time the China seas
were infested by pirates, so that his vessel carried a few guns, and a
larger crew than is usual in these days. He had four quartermasters,
one of whom was a foreigner. Captain P---- is not sure of his
nationality, but thinks he was a Russian Finn. On board the vessel the
man went under the name of the pirate, on account of a deep scar
across his cheek, which gave him a somewhat sinister appearance. He
was a reserved man, better educated than the ordinary sailor, and
possessing a good knowledge of navigation.

'Captain P---- took a liking to him, and showed him kindness on
various occasions. This man was attacked by dysentery on the voyage
from China to Bombay, and by the time the vessel reached Bombay he was
so ill, in spite of the captain's nursing, that he had to be taken to
the hospital. He gradually sank, and when he found that he was dying,
he told Captain P----, who frequently visited him at the hospital,
that he felt very grateful for the kind treatment he had received at
his captain's hands, and that he would prove his gratitude by
revealing a secret to him that might make him one of the richest men
in England. Captain P---- says that he appeared very uneasy about this
secret, and insisted on the door of the ward being closed, so that
there might be no listeners. He then asked Captain P---- to go to his
chest and take out from it a parcel. The parcel contained a piece of
old tarpaulin with a plan of the island of Trinidad on it.

'The man gave him this plan, and told him that at the place indicated
on it--that is, under the mountain known as the Sugarloaf--there was
an immense treasure buried, consisting principally of gold and silver
plate and ornaments, the plunder of Peruvian churches which certain
pirates had concealed there in the year 1821. Much of this plate, he
said, came from the cathedral of Lima, having been carried away from
there during the war of independence when the Spaniards were escaping
the country, and that among other riches there were several massive
golden candlesticks.

'He further stated that he was the only survivor of the pirates, as
all the others had been captured by the Spaniards and executed in Cuba
some years before, and consequently it was probable that no one but
himself knew of this secret. He then gave Captain P---- instructions
as to the exact position of the treasure in the bay under the
Sugarloaf, and enjoined him to go there and search for it, as it was
almost certain that it had not been removed. The quartermaster died
shortly afterwards.'

Now this story, so far, bears a strong family resemblance to many
other stories of pirate treasure, mythical or otherwise, and, though
there can be no doubt that great stores of valuable plunder are still
lying hidden away in this fashion on many a West Indian cay and desert
ocean island, the dying quartermaster's deposition was hardly enough
by itself to warrant the expense of fitting out an expedition for
Trinidad. But on making researches it was found that his story was
corroborated in many remarkable ways.

In the first place the archives of Cuba were inspected, and a record
was discovered which showed that a gang of pirates who had plundered
Spanish vessels sailing from Lima had been hanged at Havannah at the
time mentioned.

The probability of the story is further strengthened by the actual
history of Peru during the war of independence. It appears that the
Spanish population of Lima entertained a wholesome dread of the
liberators of their country, and deposited large sums of money and a
vast amount of plate in the forts for security. Lima was then a city
extremely rich in gold and silver plate, and the value of the property
lying in the fortress alone was estimated by Lord Dundonald as at
least six millions sterling.

Lord Dundonald, who was at the time in command of the Chilian fleet
which had been sent to the assistance of the liberators of Peru,
endeavoured to obtain possession of this fortress by negotiations, and
offered the Spanish governor to permit his free departure with
two-thirds of this treasure on condition of the remainder, together
with the fortress, being given up to the Chilian squadron. The admiral
hoped by means of this one-third to abate the mutinous spirit of his
men, who had received no pay for a long period, and who were,
moreover, in a state of actual destitution. But, to Lord Dundonald's
disgust, the Peruvian Protector, San Martin, for purposes of his own,
allowed the garrison to evacuate the fortress, carrying away with them
the whole of these riches. Later on, however, Lord Dundonald took the
responsibility on himself of seizing the Protector's yacht at Ancon,
and discovered that it was entirely ballasted with silver coin and
uncoined gold. With this he paid his sailors some of their arrears of
pay and prize-money.

During the first few years of their liberty the unhappy Limenos must
have occasionally regretted the old Spanish misrule, bad as it was;
for their liberators plundered them in the most shameless fashion, and
most of the wealthy citizens of Lima were reduced to a state of abject
poverty. The tyrannical Protector inflicted great hardships on the
Spanish inhabitants, and among other of his decrees one was passed
confiscating to the public treasury one-half of all their property.
When some of these unhappy people, driven to desperation, took to sea
and endeavoured to escape with the remaining half of their
possessions, the Republican officers boarded their vessels and, wholly
regardless of the decree, appropriated this half also.

The wealth of Lima, the richest city of Spanish America, was soon
scattered far and wide, and disappeared for ever; but it is probable
that only a small proportion of it fell into the hands of the
liberators; for the executive was not sufficiently well organised to
carry out fully the decrees of confiscation. I do not think that the
property to the value of six millions sterling which was carried away
by the Spanish garrison has been all traced, but the records of the
day show that the Spaniards took every opportunity of escaping to sea
in any sort of vessel they could procure, carrying with them all the
property they could collect, in the hope of reaching the mother
country or some neutral port.

It must have been a glorious time for adventurous persons not
overburdened with scruples; for it seems that all the gold and
precious stones of Peru were travelling about recklessly by sea and
land without any proper protection. The pirates who then swarmed in
those seas were not slow to avail themselves of this rare opportunity,
and carried on a flourishing business until such time as they were
caught and hanged by that terrible English admiral.

Numbers of piratical craft hovered around the Peruvian ports, and the
badly equipped vessels of the Spanish fugitives fell an easy prey to
them. But Lord Dundonald, on the other hand, was ever pursuing the
pirates with great energy. He captured many of them, and, later on, he
was able to boast that he had swept the West Coast clean of these
scourges of the sea.

It is known, however, that several of these vessels escaped his
vigilance, and that enormous quantities of cathedral plate and specie
were never recovered from their hands.

The pirate vessel that succeeded in reaching the islet of Trinidad is
supposed to have been one of these.

Captain P----, on leaving Bombay after the death of his quartermaster,
had intended to land on Trinidad and examine the spot indicated on the
pirate's plan; but as he had a rather unruly crew, and was himself
crippled with a broken arm, he thought it prudent not to make the
attempt then, and so passed the islet and sailed home.

On his return to England he told the pirate's story to many people,
but of course preserved the secret of the exact position of the
hiding-place. Nothing, however, seems to have been done towards
recovering the treasure until 1880, when Captain P---- persuaded a
shipping firm at Newcastle to allow one of their vessels trading to
the Brazils to visit the island. It was arranged that the barquentine
'John' should call at Trinidad on her way from Santos to Bull River,
and that Captain P----'s son should go with the vessel so as to
identify the spot and act on his father's behalf.

The 'John' reached the islet, but, after beating about off it for a
week, no landing-place could be found, and the captain decided to give
up the attempt. But young P---- was very disinclined to return without
having effected a landing, and persuaded the captain to allow him to
swim ashore from a boat. The ship's longboat was therefore put out,
and was pulled as close to the long roll of furious breakers as was
considered safe. Then young P---- plunged into the sea, and contrived,
after a narrow escape from drowning, to reach the land. The surf
became more furious while he was on shore, so that it was impossible
for him to swim off again that day. He had, consequently, to pass the
night on the sands without either clothes or provisions, and was,
moreover, in danger of being eaten alive by the land-crabs.

On the following morning the captain succeeded in casting the end of a
line on shore, and the young man was dragged through the surf to the
longboat, and carried on board the vessel. He reported to the captain
that he had discovered the spot described by the pirate; but that a
great landslip of red débris had fallen on the treasure, which could
not be removed without great labour. He said the place tallied exactly
with the description furnished by his father, and that he firmly
believed the story to be true and that the treasure was still there;
but that he would not spend such another night on the island even if
he could get the whole treasure for himself by doing so.

The captain of the 'John,' on hearing the young man's story,
considered that any further attempt to land would involve great
danger, which he would not be justified in risking, and, declining to
lend further assistance in the matter, set sail at once for his
destination.

The next expedition was organised by my informant, Mr. A---- of South
Shields. The 'Aurea,' a barque of 600 tons burthen, was chartered. She
was provided with lifeboats suitable for surf work, and an ample
supply of picks, shovels, timber, blasting powder, and other stores.
She was partly ballasted with a cargo of steam coal, which it was
intended to sell in some foreign port, so as to pay part of the
expenses of the expedition. The necessary funds were subscribed by
several gentlemen, most of whom, I believe, accompanied the
expedition. Proper agreements were drawn up, and were signed by the
officers and members of the expedition, setting forth the proportion
of the treasure each was to receive, should the search be successful.

This party also found the island to be almost inaccessible, on account
of the surrounding circle of savage breakers, and experienced great
difficulty in landing.

The following extract from the letter of one of the expedition
describes only the commencement of their perils and adventures:--

'We sighted the island on March 23, 1885, but, as it was very squally
weather, we could do nothing until the next morning, when we got out
the lifeboat, fitted her with mast and sail, and loaded her with
provisions and baggage. The ship towed us as near to the shore as was
deemed prudent, and then left us to make the best of our way there,
while she stood on her course. The weather was very wet and squally,
and, with our deeply-laden boat, we found we made no progress, either
with the sails or oars, and, after toiling until after sunset, we
found ourselves in a most deplorable position. We were all wet to the
skin, and exhausted with pulling, and the seas were continually on the
point of swamping our boat. Darkness then set in; our vessel was out
of sight, and we scarcely knew what to do. However, I took a lantern
from among the stores, and got one of the men to light it and hoist it
at our boat's masthead as a signal to our vessel. It blew out almost
as soon as it was up, but we succeeded at last in sighting the
vessel's port light, and got safely on board. The next day we
determined to take the ship's boat and small dinghy with us, and tow
the lifeboat ashore. We started early in the morning, the ship towing
the three boats as close as possible to the Sugarloaf, and as the
weather was now fine we soon got into South-west Bay, but found that
the surf was much worse than we anticipated. We anchored the lifeboat
with her cargo of stores close to the edge of the surf, and then Mr.
D----, the mate, myself, and two hands, pulled along the weather side
of the island, seeking a landing-place; but found a heavy surf at all
points, and the bottom sown with sunken rocks. We then pulled back to
South-west Bay, to consult with the others as to the best course to
pursue. At last the mate volunteered to scull the dinghy ashore
through the surf, if one man would go with him. One of the crew agreed
to go, so they partly undressed, and took their places in the dinghy.
A line was made fast to the stern, and as they pulled towards the
shore we paid out, intending to haul the dinghy back again when they
had reached the shore. All went well for a time, but when near the
beach a tremendous roller caught the stern of the dinghy, drove the
bow under, and turned her right over. The two men managed to get clear
of the boat, and with some difficulty swam ashore.'

Eventually Mr. A---- and seven other men succeeded in landing,
carrying with them a limited quantity of provisions and some of the
tools. They remained on the island from March 25 to April 17, during
which time the vessel had been blown out of sight. Insufficient food
and exposure to rain dispirited the men, and their imaginations were
dismayed by the dismal aspect of these barren volcanic crags, and by
the loathsome appearance of the land-crabs, which swarmed everywhere
and continually attacked them.

They found what they considered to be the spot described by the
pirate, but do not appear to have been quite so certain on this point
as was young P----. Very little digging was actually done, 'for,' says
Mr. A----, 'we had few hands on shore capable of standing the heavy
work under such a burning sun.' They had only dug a small trench four
feet deep into the landslip when the 'Aurea' was sighted; then the
sick and disheartened band refused to stay any longer on this accursed
island, and insisted on being taken on board. So, leaving all their
tools behind them--for in their anxiety to get away safely they would
not be burdened with these--they were carried off to the vessel, so
emaciated, weak, and ill that the captain came to the conclusion that
he would lose most of his men if he landed them on so uninhabitable a
spot, and, abandoning the search, he set sail for the West Indies.

This expedition, therefore, practically accomplished nothing. The
problem as to whether the treasure was or was not lying under the
landslips in South-west Bay was as far from solution as ever.

Before the departure of the 'Aurea' expedition from South Shields, a
good deal had been written concerning it in the English papers, with
the result that some other adventurous spirits, having had their
attention drawn to this possible El Dorado, hurried away to Trinidad
in order to anticipate the Tynesiders. The following letter appeared
in an English paper on May 14, 1885. The 'Aurea' people, of course,
knew nothing of this rival expedition, until they returned to
England:--

    TRINIDAD IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC.

    _The Hidden Treasure Expedition._

    [FROM A CORRESPONDENT.]

    Kiel, May 11, 1885.

    'Under this heading I have just now noticed a paragraph sent to
    the editor of a Danish daily paper, which, in its bearing on the
    well-known search-for-treasure expedition, may prove of interest
    to your readers, being in the shape of a letter sent from New
    York:--

        'New York, April 17, 1885.

        'On my arrival in New York from Aracaju, I read in your
        paper of January 14, 1885, about an expedition to be
        started from Newcastle, to proceed to the island of
        Trinidad in the South Atlantic, with the object in view of
        finding a treasure buried there some time ago by pirates:
        and I am in a position to furnish some particulars which,
        in all probability, are connected with this affair. On
        January 13, 1885, I was chartered with my vessel in Rio de
        Janeiro to take over to the above mentioned island an
        American captain and four Portuguese sailors, together with
        a number of pickaxes, spades, &c., and a whale-boat. I was
        told that these people intended to go to this island to
        investigate if any "guano" was to be found. A voyage of
        eleven days brought us there, but we had to keep off the
        shore on account of breakers for over three days. The men
        were then put ashore, and remained on the island for four
        days, during which time they were occupied with boring and
        digging, whereupon we sailed back to Bahia, and landed them
        there. I believe that these men, either by telegram from
        England or by other means, had heard of the existence of a
        treasure on this island, and that they meant to anticipate
        the English expedition. However, they found nothing. I
        noticed very well that the American captain, as well as his
        men, were highly disappointed. Let me take this opportunity
        to dissuade all masters of vessels to search in this
        uninhabited island for fresh water. It is a matter of great
        difficulty and danger to put boats on shore, through coral
        reefs. The indications on the charts for casting the lead
        should be a good deal further from the shore. During the
        time we were there the wind was N.N.E. and the current to
        S.W., upon a speed of from 12 to 15 quarter-miles in 24
        hours. In South-west Bay, two cable-lengths from the shore,
        there is a reef not mentioned on the charts.

        'H. N. ANKERSEN,

        'Master of sailing vessel from Fanoe.'

I found that the correspondent who sent this letter was correct
in his information. When I called at Bahia with the 'Alerte,' my
ship-chandler, Mr. Wilson, told me the whole of this story as it was
related to him by the American adventurer on his arrival at Bahia from
Trinidad. It is somewhat strange that the excavations made by this
party were not seen by the 'Aurea' people, who landed on the island
within two months of the departure of the Americans; but this islet
has been so shaken to its foundations by earthquake shock and volcanic
action, that it is brittle from its mountain-tops to the beach, and is
in a state of perpetual change. Gigantic landslips are frequent, and I
should not be surprised to find that all traces of our three months'
hard digging have by now been entirely obliterated.

There might have been some fun, by the way, had the 'Aurea' and the
American arrived off the island at the same time.

Since my return, I have heard of two other expeditions which started
from the other side of the Atlantic in search of the hidden treasure
of Trinidad, but, as with the former expeditions, nothing was
accomplished. The loss of men and boats in the surf, sickness, and the
numerous difficulties and dangers encountered, disheartened the men,
and the attempt was abandoned before any serious work was done. It
would seem as if this was one of those forlorn islands of which one
reads in the old romances of the sea, on which the bloody deeds of the
pirates have left a curse behind, so that the treasure is protected by
evil spirits; and the great roaring seas which roll up seemingly
without any natural cause, even after days of windless weather, and
the ever-tottering crags, and all the forces and terrors of nature are
made to keep man off from the inviolate hoard; while the loathsome
land-crabs might well be the restless spirits of the pirates
themselves, for they are indeed more ugly and evil, and generally more
diabolical-looking, than the bloodiest pirate who ever lived.



CHAPTER II.

THE 'ALERTE' IS FITTED OUT.


Such is the story of the Trinidad treasure, a story that seemed to
me to bear the stamp of truth, and it was difficult to conceive
that--allowing Captain P----'s narrative to be correct, and there is
every reason to believe it as such--so many coincidences could have
collected round a mere fabrication.

It is highly improbable that the foreign quartermaster evolved the
whole matter from an imaginative brain, especially on his deathbed,
when he was professing to confide a valuable secret to a friend as a
token of his gratitude; neither can his statements be considered as
being the ravings of a sick man, for they were far too circumstantial
and compatible with facts.

In the first place, his carefully prepared plan of the island, the
minute directions he gave as to the best landing, and his description
of the features of the bay on whose shores the treasure was concealed,
prove beyond doubt to myself and others who know Trinidad that he, or
if not himself some informant of his, had landed on this so rarely
visited islet; and not only landed, but passed some time on it, and
carefully surveyed the approaches to the bay, so as to be able to
point out the dangers and show the safest passage through the reefs.
This information could not have been obtained from any pilot-book. The
landing recommended by previous visitors is at the other side of the
island. This bay is described by them as inaccessible, and the
indications on the Admiralty chart are completely erroneous.

And, beyond this, the quartermaster must have been acquainted with
what was taking place in two other distant portions of the world
during the year of his professed landing on the desert island. He knew
of the escape of pirates with the cathedral plate of Lima. He was also
aware that, shortly afterwards, there were hanged in Cuba the crew of
a vessel that had committed acts of piracy on the Peruvian coast. It
is scarcely credible that an ordinary seaman--even allowing that he
was superior in education to the average of his fellows--could have
pieced these facts together so ingeniously into this plausible story.

It is needless to say that one like myself--who knew Trinidad, and who
had personally sifted the evidence, and was constantly coming across
numbers of incidents not mentioned here, trifling in themselves, but,
taken together, strongly corroborative--would be more impressed by the
coincidences, and consequently be more inclined to give credence to
the story than one who merely reads the narrative in the pages of this
book.

Hence the result of my interview with Mr. A---- was that I decided to
sail to Trinidad and search for the treasure. I knew, of course, that
the chances were greatly against my finding anything. I was quite
prepared for complete failure; but I considered that there was a
sufficient possibility of success to make the venture worth the
undertaking.

I, of course, saw that the great impediment was the landslip, which
might have covered the landmarks, and so altered the features of the
ravine as to render recognition of the exact spot extremely difficult;
for it is quite possible that young Mr. P---- was somewhat
over-sanguine, and that the grounds for his so readily identifying the
pirate's hiding-place were inadequate.

The former adventurers seem to have considered that the difficulties
of landing constituted almost as great an obstacle to success as the
landslip itself; but I was confident that these difficulties were
anything but insuperable, and that, by taking proper precautions, it
would be quite possible to land a working-party with all necessary
stores and tools, and even, if necessary, heavy machinery as well. I
had myself, nine years previously, landed at three different points of
the island, and had passed several days on shore, so I quite realised
what was before me.

There is no doubt that the former adventurers failed from
precipitancy. Patience is a necessary quality for those who wish to
land on Trinidad. One must not expect to sail there and forthwith
disembark with one's baggage as if it were on Southsea Pier. It
appears, too, that the captains of the square-rigged vessels which
carried the expeditions to the island were largely responsible for the
failure of the former quests; they would not approach the islands
within several miles; they became anxious as to the safety of their
boats and men, were fidgety to sail away again to the safety of the
broad ocean, and hurried the adventurers off the shore before they had
had scarce time to look around them. The captains, no doubt, were
quite right from their point of view; but it is also certain that the
treasure could never be recovered by this way of going to work. To dig
away the landslip would involve many months of labour, and during that
time the captain of the vessel must be prepared to stand off and on,
or heave to off the island--for to remain at anchor for any length of
time would be dangerous. And again, there must be no hurry in landing:
the working-party may have to remain on board the vessel for weeks at
a stretch gazing at that wild shore, before it be possible for them to
attain it. I have seen the great rollers dashing on the beach with a
dreadful roar for days together, and the surf--as the 'South Atlantic
Directory' observes without any exaggeration--'is often incredibly
great, and has been seen to break over a bluff which is two hundred
feet high.'

Notwithstanding this, if one is patient and bides one's opportunity,
there are days when landing can be accomplished without any difficulty
whatever.

When I visited Trinidad with the 'Falcon' I discovered one especially
safe landing-place on the lee side of the island, where a natural pier
of coral projects into the sea beyond the breakers. I knew that it was
possible to effect a landing here ten times to once that this could be
done on the more exposed beach of the bay under the Sugarloaf, where
the 'Aurea' party landed. A considerable and, I believe, perennial
stream of water runs down as a cascade into the sea close to my
landing-place, and I knew that it would be easy to disembark here a
quantity of provisions, and establish a depot to which the
working-party in Sugarloaf Bay could repair in the case of their
stores falling short and their communication with the vessel being cut
off by bad weather. I had myself crossed the lofty mountains which
separate this landing-place from the bay under the Sugarloaf, and knew
that, though difficult, they were not inaccessible.

My negotiations with Mr. A---- terminated in his furnishing me with
the bearings of the hidden treasure, and handing over to me the copy
of the pirate's plan of the island, which the 'Aurea' people had taken
with them. This plan merely indicated the safest landing-place in the
bay.

Mr. A----'s account of his own experiences were of great service to me
in fitting out this expedition. He told me that there was no constant
stream of fresh water on the shores of this bay, or anywhere near it;
but that a little water of an inferior quality could be collected
after rain. There was, however, according to him, an abundance of dead
wood on the hill-sides, which served admirably as fuel; so I took note
that a condensing apparatus would be an indispensable addition to our
stores. He told me that I should find the 'Aurea' tools lying on the
beach, which if not too corroded, might be of use to us. We did
eventually find some of these, and employed them in our operations: I
have now in my possession an 'Aurea' pick which I brought away with
me. I have to thank Mr. A---- for a variety of valuable hints, which I
did not neglect.

Having decided to go, the first thing to be done was to find a vessel,
a fore-and-after which could accommodate thirteen or fourteen men on
an ocean voyage, and which could yet be easily handled by two or three
while hove to off the island.

I went down to my old headquarters, Southampton, and explained what I
was in search of to Mr. Picket, of West Quay, who had been my
shipwright from my earliest yachting days, and who fitted out the old
'Falcon' for her long voyage. With his assistance I soon discovered a
very suitable vessel, the cutter-yacht 'Alerte,' of fifty-six tons
yacht measurement, and thirty-three tons register. This was,
therefore, a considerably larger vessel than the 'Falcon,' with which
I had made my first voyage to Trinidad, for she was twenty-four feet
shorter than the 'Alerte,' and was only of fifteen tons register.

The dimensions of the 'Alerte' are as follows:--length, 64.3 feet;
beam, 14.5 feet; depth, 9 feet. She was built by Ratsey of Cowes in
1864, so she is rather an ancient vessel; but she was constructed in a
much stronger fashion than is usual in these days, of thoroughly
seasoned teak. There had been no scamping of work in her case, and
now, after twenty-six years of service, she is as sound as on the day
she left the stocks; there is not a weak spot in her, and she is in
fact a far more reliable craft than a newer vessel would have proved;
for, even as a human life is more secure after it has safely passed
through the period of infantile disorders, so a vessel, if she does
not develop dry-rot within a few years of her launching, is not likely
to do so afterwards. She has proved herself to have been honestly put
together of seasoned timber, and not of sappy rubbish.

The 'Alerte,' moreover, was of the good old-fashioned build, with
ample beam, and not of the modern plank-on-end style. She had only two
tons of lead outside, the remainder of her ballast was in her hold--a
great advantage for real cruising; for a vessel with a lead mine on
her keel cannot but strain herself in heavy weather with the violent
jerkiness of her action, instead of rolling about with a leisurely
motion on the top of the water as if she were quite at home there,
like a vessel of the comfortable 'Alerte' type.

This was not the first ocean cruise the gallant old cutter had
undertaken; for she once accomplished the voyage from Southampton to
Sydney in 103 days, which is very creditable work.

She was provided, I found, with new sails by Lapthorn, and an
excellent inventory throughout, so little was required besides making
the alterations necessary for the particular objects of our cruise. I
accordingly purchased the vessel, very pleased at having without delay
discovered a craft so suitable, and put her into Mr. Picket's hands to
be got ready for sea. While this was being done I let it be widely
known that I was organising a treasure-hunting expedition and was in
search of volunteers. Numbers applied, and I gradually selected my
crew, some of whom made themselves of use in assisting me to fit out
at Southampton.

A cruise of this description involves a good deal of preparation. In
the first place, seeing that the 'Alerte' was a somewhat heavily
sparred vessel, I resolved to convert her into a yawl. So the main
boom and gaff were shortened, the area of the mainsail considerably
reduced, and a mizzen mast was stepped in the counter, on which we set
a snug jib-headed sail. No other alterations of importance were
required on deck.

Below we had to find room for, and construct, extra bunks, and extra
water-tanks occupied all available room. A condensing apparatus
intended for use on the island was made for me by Mr. Hornsey of
Southampton. The boiler was a strong twenty-gallon drum, and a
forty-gallon tank contained the worm. At sea these two were
disconnected and lashed in the saloon, serving as water-tanks. We
carried in all 600 gallons of water. The precious fluid was, of
course, never used for washing purposes at sea. Salt-water-soap and
the Atlantic had to content us for our ablutions, and, where possible,
sea-water was employed for cooking purposes as well.

The 'Alerte' carried two boats, a dinghy and a gig. We condemned the
gig, as being quite unfit for our work, and left her behind. As a
capacious lifeboat was necessary for landing men and stores on the
island, Mr. White of Cowes built one for us--a light yet strong
mahogany boat, double ended, with water-tight compartments at either
end. She was easy to pull, considering her size, and sailed fairly
well under two sprit-sails. We carried this boat on deck on the
starboard side, as she was too heavy for our davits. The dinghy, on
the other hand, was always swung on the port davits.

As the stores would put down the vessel a good deal, we took out of
her a corresponding weight of ballast--about eight tons. Two tiers of
lead were removed from under the saloon floor, and in the space thus
gained we stowed the greater part of our tools.

Among these was a complete set of boring apparatus constructed for us
by Messrs. Tilley, by means of which we should be enabled to explore
through earth and rock to the depth of fifty feet. We also carried a
Tangye's hydraulic jack, capable of lifting twelve tons, which we
found of service when large rocks had to be removed from the trenches.
Shovels, picks, crowbars, iron wheel-barrows, carpenters' and other
tools; a portable forge and anvil, dogs and other materials for
timbering a shaft if necessary, and a variety of other useful
implements were on board. We took with us two of Messrs. Piggot's
large emigrant tents, wire-fencing with which to surround our camp and
so keep off the land-crabs, a few gardener's tools and seeds of
quick-growing vegetables for the kitchen-garden which we intended to
plant on the island--a horticultural scheme which never came off in
consequence of the want of water--taxidermic gear with view to the
rare sea-birds that breed on the island, medical stores and surgical
instruments, fishing-tackle; and, in short, we were well-equipped with
all needful things, a full inventory of which would nearly fill this
book.

Neither did we omit the precaution of arming ourselves in case any one
should choose to molest us, a not altogether improbable event; for
there was a talk of rival expeditions starting for the island at the
very time we were fitting out; our plans had been fully discussed in
the newspapers, despite our attempt to keep secret our destination at
least; and I called to mind the Yankee vessel that had endeavoured to
anticipate the 'Aurea.' Should some such vessel appear on the scene
just as we had come across the treasure, it would be well for us to be
prepared to defend it.

Each man, therefore, was provided with a Colt's repeating-rifle, and
in addition to these there were other rifles and several revolvers on
board, and no lack of ammunition for every weapon. The Duke of
Sutherland kindly lent us one of Bland's double-barrelled
whaling-guns, which was carried on his Grace's yacht, the 'Sans Peur,'
during her foreign cruises. This was a quick firing and formidable
weapon, discharging steel shot, grape, shell, and harpoons, and
capable of sending to the bottom any wooden vessel. I think the sight
of it inspired some of my crew with ideas almost piratical. I have
heard them express the opinion that it was a shame to have such a gun
lying idle on board, and that an opportunity ought to be found of
testing its powers.

Of the provisioning of the 'Alerte' I need say little, for all
foreign-going vessels are provisioned more or less in the same way;
but to foresee all that would be necessary for thirteen men for a
period of at least six months, and to stow away this great bulk of
stores, was not the least troublesome part of our fitting out.

Former experience had taught me that it would not do to rely too much
on tinned meats, more especially in the tropics. I am confident that a
diet composed principally of these is extremely unwholesome, and to
this cause alone can be attributed an illness that attacked the whole
crew of the 'Falcon' during the latter months of her South American
voyage. The old-fashioned sea-food is the best after all. Salt beef
and salt pork, even after it has travelled a few times round the
world, and is consequently somewhat malodorous, forms a far more
sustaining diet than the very best of tinned meats. The instinct of
the sailor teaches him this; as a rule he detests the flabby,
overcooked stuff out of the cans, and, even if he tolerates it, will
always prefer to it the commonest mess beef, which in odour, taste,
and appearance would be horrible to a fastidious person. But let this
same person have been at sea for a few months, and the chances are
that he will look forward with pleasure to the days on which the salt
junk appears on the ship's bill of fare.

So, though we took on board a large quantity of tinned meats of
various kinds, we also had some 600 pounds of beef and pork salted
down for us, with which we filled the vessel's harness casks and meat
tanks. This meat was of the very best quality, and for this very
reason a great deal of it was spoiled and had to be thrown overboard.
It had been salted too recently. Barrels of ancient mess beef soaked
with saltpetre and hardened into almost the consistency of a deal
board, though far from being so tasty as was our meat before it was
tainted, would have answered our purpose far better, and would have
kept well despite the high temperature of a small vessel in the
tropics.

In the same way a short-sighted love of luxury induced us to supply
the vessel with barrels of the best cabin biscuit. The result was that
our bread, long before the termination of the cruise, was swarming
with maggots and an exceedingly unpleasant species of small beetle,
and was, in addition to this, attacked by mildew. A commoner quality
of ship's bread would not have spoiled so readily, for it is known
that insects thrive best and multiply amazingly on this tempting
first-class flour.

All sorts of preserved food, jams, vegetables, &c., were of course
included in our store-list, as was also the indispensable
lime-juice--the vessel was, in short, supplied with a sufficient
quantity of necessaries and luxuries.

We got our tobacco out of bond, also our rum, which was the only
alcoholic beverage on board; it certainly is the most wholesome spirit
for sea use, especially within the tropics.

During the first portion of the voyage small rations of rum were
served out daily to each person on board. Later on, when it was clear
that none of the gentlemen-adventurers showed any inclination to
exceed in this respect at sea, the first mate, Mr. Meredyth,
petitioned me to give up the ration system so far as they were
concerned, and to allow the bottle of spirit to be put on the saloon
table at dinner for their free use. This was done, with no bad result.
The paid hands were, of course, always limited to rations of spirit.



CHAPTER III.

THE SHIP'S COMPANY.


To fit out and store a vessel for a lengthy expedition may be a
somewhat arduous task, but it is an interesting and pleasant one,
which is more than can be said with regard to that equally important
work, the choice of one's companions. One cannot make any very serious
mistake in the selection of one's provisions, but to take the wrong
man with one on a voyage that involves a complete severance from all
the influences of civilisation for months at a time may bring
exceedingly unpleasant consequences.

I determined to ship as few paid hands as possible, and to outnumber
them with a chosen body of what, in the parlance of the old
privateering days, may be termed gentlemen-adventurers, volunteers who
would contribute to the cost of the expedition, would work as sailors
on board and as navvies on the island, and who would each be entitled
to receive a considerable share of the proceeds of the venture, should
anything be discovered. The officers of the vessel would be selected
from this body, and I myself would act as captain. In this way the
causes which led to the failure of some of the previous expeditions
would be wanting. The professional sailors would be unable--in their
disinclination to face the difficulties of the island--to insist on
the adventurers abandoning the project. There would be no paid captain
to lay down the law to his employers.

I knew that by the time we should reach Trinidad even those gentlemen
who had never been to sea before would have learnt a good deal, so
that in the case of our paid hands proving mutinous we could dispense
with them altogether. I was well aware that if I undertook such an
expedition with a paid crew of the ordinary type, far outnumbering the
gentlemen aft, the value of the treasure, if discovered, would not
improbably tempt them to murder their officers and employers and seize
it for themselves. With a majority of volunteers on board, each
entitled to a large share in the find, all risk of this description
would be avoided.

I decided that our complement should be thirteen all told, consisting
of nine gentlemen-adventurers, myself included, and four paid hands.

The following are extracts from some of the clauses of the agreement
which was entered into between myself and the volunteers:--

'Mr. E. F. Knight undertakes to provide a vessel, stores, etc.,
suitable for the expedition, and to provide at least sufficient
provisions for the voyage out and home and six months besides.

'Each member of the expedition will pay in advance to Mr. Knight
100_l._, and undertake to work both on board and on shore under
Mr. Knight's directions. This 100_l._ will be the extent of each
member's liability.

'During the first six months from the time of landing on the island,
the enterprise can only be abandoned with the consent of Mr. Knight,
and on decision by vote of three-quarters of the members. After six
months have elapsed, a majority of three-quarters of the members will
determine whether the enterprise is to be continued or abandoned.

'Each member, or, if he die in the course of the expedition, his legal
representative, will receive one-twentieth of the gross proceeds of
the venture.

'If any member of the expedition mutiny or incite to mutiny, he shall
be tried by a court-martial of the other members of the expedition,
and, if it be decided by a majority of three-quarters that the offence
be sufficiently grave, he shall forfeit all share in the proceeds of
the expedition, subject to an appeal to the English Courts on his
return.

'None of these rules apply to the paid hands on the vessel.'

                 *       *       *       *       *

The paid hands received good wages and were entitled to no share of
the treasure, though they, of course, knew well that, should our
search prove successful and their conduct have been satisfactory, they
would receive a substantial present.

It would, of course, have been very pleasant for me to have selected
my volunteers from among my own friends, especially those who had been
at sea with me before; but this I found to be impossible, at any rate
at such short notice. I knew dozens of men who would have liked
nothing better than to have joined me, but all were engaged in some
profession or other which it would have been folly to have neglected
for so problematic a gain. The type of man who is willing to toil
hard, endure discomfort and peril, and abandon every luxury for nine
months on the remote chance of discovering treasure, and is, moreover,
willing to pay 100_l._ for the privileges of doing so, is not to be
found easily, either in the professional or wealthy classes.

There are, doubtless, thousands of Englishmen willing to embark on a
venture of this description, but it is obvious that there is a
likelihood of a fair percentage of these volunteers being adventurers
in the unfavourable sense of the term--men anxious to get away from
England for reasons not creditable to themselves, men, too, of the
rolling-stone description and more or less worthless in a variety of
ways, and who would be more likely than the paid sailors to wax
discontented and foment mutiny. I realised that the selection of my
men should be made with great care.

Of volunteers I had no lack. An article in the _St. James's
Gazette_ describing my project brought me applications to join from
something like 150 men.

Some of the letters I received were great curiosities in their way,
and would cause much amusement could I publish them. I interviewed
some sixty of the applicants, and this was certainly far the most
arduous and difficult work connected with the undertaking, so far as I
was concerned. I shall never forget how weary I became of the
repetition to each fresh visitor of the conditions and object of the
voyage, and with what dread I looked forward to my visits to the
little club at which these interviews were held.

All manner of men made appointments to meet me--the sanguine young
spirits eager for adventure, the cautious and suspicious who would not
risk their 100_l._ unless they were guaranteed a return of 50,000_l._
or so. There were also those who wasted my time out of mere curiosity,
never having entertained any intention of joining me, and others who
hoped to pump enough information out of me to enable them to earn a
few guineas by writing an article for the newspapers.

But the majority of my applicants were in earnest, and I will here
take the opportunity of expressing my regret if, in the midst of all
the hurry and worry of that time, I omitted to reply to some of my
correspondents. All the preparations for the voyage had to be carried
out in a very limited space of time, in order that we should get away
from England before the autumnal equinox; I was fitting out the vessel
and selecting gentlemen-adventurers simultaneously, constantly
travelling backwards and forwards between London and Southampton, and
by the time we were ready for sea I was pretty well worn out with
anxious work.

One by one I selected my men, and those who saw them congratulated me
on having got together a most promising-looking crew. Some, it is
true, proved themselves to be quite unsuitable for the purpose; but at
the end of the expedition, when we were at Port of Spain, I had on
board seven men at least who were ready to go anywhere and do anything
with me, all of them more cheerful, fit, and capable in every respect
than they were on leaving Southampton.

References were brought to me by each volunteer for the expedition. I
know how worthless references generally are, but never before did I so
strongly realize this fact. The most undesirable person can often
produce excellent testimonials from undoubtedly worthy people, who
have met him in London society, for instance, but who know absolutely
nothing of the true nature of the man, least of all of how he would
prove himself in such an undertaking as this was, when traits are
revealed that do not generally declare themselves in a drawing-room.

The volunteer whom I made first mate turned out very badly. He was
afraid himself, and he did his best to scare the other gentlemen and
the paid hands. He came to the conclusion that the 'Alerte' was a bad
sea-boat, cranky, too heavily sparred, and generally too small and
unsafe to be entrusted with his valuable life. I found out afterwards
that a little conspiracy was hatching to compel me to sell the
'Alerte' in the Cape Verde Islands for what she would fetch, and
charter a large Yankee schooner. He endeavoured to disseminate
discontent behind my back and to undermine my authority, with the sole
result that he made himself detestable to his companions fore and aft,
and ultimately, having made the vessel too warm to hold him, packed up
his traps and deserted her at Bahia, without giving me any reason for
so doing.

Not content to desert himself, he did his best to persuade others to
do likewise. He succeeded with one timid individual, who also went off
at Bahia--luckily for us, as we did not want him. There was yet a
third who had half a mind to desert with them, but who remained with
us, a discontented young man to the end. Being the one man of the sort
left on board, his opinions were a matter of indifference to us; but
he was the sole cause of those 'disagreements' of which he has since
complained in print, and I have no doubt made his own life
'disagreeable' enough. To do him justice, he was the ablest swimmer
and the best judge of blue china on board.

I should not have alluded to our squabbles in this book had not the
men who caused them spread all manner of false reports on their
return, which have appeared in the newspapers and magazines.
Therefore, instead of treating the whole matter with the contempt it
deserves, I am justified, I think, in entering into this explanation
on behalf of myself and of my loyal companions who stuck to the
expedition to the end.

Only one other of my companions aft voluntarily left me, a very good
fellow, who had undertaken a job the nature of which he had not fully
realised; for the sea, at any rate as viewed from a yacht, had such
terrors for him, and his health suffered to such an extent, that,
under our doctor's advice, he left us at St. Vincent. I believe that a
good deal of his nervousness was due to the insinuations of the first
mate's evil tongue.

Having rid ourselves of these two people at Bahia, everything went on
much better, all work was done more promptly and smoothly, the old
friction disappeared, a cloud seemed to have been lifted from the
vessel, cheerfulness prevailed, and when we sailed to Trinidad and the
real business and difficulties commenced all was got through in a most
satisfactory fashion.

Grumbling is the Englishman's privilege on land, still more so at sea,
where some growling is absolutely necessary to relieve the monotony of
ship-life; after leaving Bahia an unusually small amount of this
privilege was enjoyed on the 'Alerte.'

As I was taking a fair number of paid hands with me, I did not
consider it necessary that all the gentlemen-adventurers should have a
knowledge of seamanship. Indeed, I believe that only the first mate
and the doctor had ever before handled a fore-and-after. However, most
of the others were willing, and soon learnt to take a trick at the
tiller and haul at a rope in a satisfactory manner.

Some of the volunteers did not treat me quite fairly, for, after
deciding to join me and so causing me to refuse other eligible
candidates, they discovered at the very last moment that something
prevented them from going. This naturally put me to great
inconvenience, and obliged me to take others, to replace them, at the
shortest notice. Thus I had to ship my last two men the day before we
sailed.

Remembering how interesting was the scenery of Trinidad, I had
intended to acquire some knowledge of photography and carry an
apparatus with me. But one of my volunteers professed to be an
excellent amateur photographer, and as he promised to take upon
himself that part of the work I relied upon him to do so and left it
to him. He was one of those who failed to turn up on the day of
sailing, and we had to put to sea, to my great regret afterwards,
without a camera.

We were equally unfortunate with our taxidermist. One of the
volunteers had undertaken to take lessons in bird-skinning at my
suggestion; for I knew that Trinidad was the principal breeding place
for sea-birds in the South Atlantic, and that very rare specimens can
be collected there. He, too, never reached the desert island--more, I
must allow, on account of illness than through any fault of his own.
But it was very disappointing, for all that.

For such a voyage as the one contemplated the presence of a surgeon
was advisable. A young doctor was therefore included among the
gentlemen-adventurers--Mr. Cloete-Smith, who also occupied the post of
mate after the desertion of the officers at Bahia.

Of the four paid hands one, the boatswain, only accompanied us as far
as Teneriffe.

Our cook, John Wright, had been with me on three previous voyages as
sole hand. One of our A.B.'s was Arthur Cotton, who, as a boy nine
years before, had been the only paid hand on the 'Falcon' when we
sailed from Southampton to South America. In the course of that voyage
he had visited Trinidad with me, and was now able to spin to his
shipmates long and more or less fantastic yarns concerning the place
we were bound to. The strange island had evidently made a great
impression on his imagination. Our other A.B. was Ted Milner, a lad
from the North Sea fishing-smacks.



CHAPTER IV.

A ROMANCE OF THE SALVAGES.


The article in the _St. James's Gazette_ attracted a considerable
amount of attention, as was proved by the bewildering mass of
correspondence with reference to the expedition which I received
during the weeks preceding our departure. Many of these letters were
prompted evidently by mere curiosity, others contained suggestions--of
which some were sensible enough; a few, whimsical in the extreme.
Cranks wrote to me who professed to be acquainted with certain methods
for discovering treasure by means of divining rods, or charms, or
other uncanny tricks. Others had dreamt dreams, in which they had seen
the exact position of the wealth; but most curious of all were the
letters from individuals in all parts of Europe and America who were
acquainted with the existence of other treasures, which they proposed
I should search for in the course of my voyage. To have sought them
all would have meant to sail every navigable sea on the face of the
earth, and to have travelled into the heart of continents; in short,
to have undertaken a voyage which would have extended over a century
or so. To have found them all would have necessitated my chartering
all the merchant fleets of Europe to carry them home; and then gold
would have become a valueless drug on the markets, and my labours
would have been all in vain.

One individual modestly asked for 1,000_l._ down before he would give
the slightest hint as to the nature of his treasure or its locality;
but, according to him, there could not be the slightest doubt as to
my finding it, and as one item alone of this pile consisted of ten
million pounds' worth of golden bars, it would be the height of folly
on my part not to send him a cheque for the comparatively ridiculous
sum of 1,000_l._ in return for such information.

Some of these treasure tales were very terrible, and the most
bloodthirsty villains figured in the ghastly narratives. Among my
correspondence I have materials that would supply all our writers of
boys' stories for years.

But in addition to the numerous impossible tales, there were some well
authenticated, and people who had taken an interest in these matters,
and had carefully collected their data, wrote to me concerning several
promising schemes.

A few days before sailing, a retired naval officer residing in Exeter
came to see me at Southampton; he told me he had guessed that our
destination was the islet of Trinidad, and that he was acquainted with
the record of another treasure which had been concealed on a desert
island lying on our route, distant about 1,400 miles from Southampton
and 3,400 from Trinidad; and he thought it would be worth our while to
make a call there, and endeavour to identify the spot.

An outline of this story is given in the 'North Atlantic Directory,'
but the following account was copied by my informant from the
Government documents relating to the matter.

Early in 1813 the then Secretary of the Admiralty wrote to Sir Richard
Bickerton, the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, instructing him to
let a seaman who had given information respecting a hidden treasure be
sent in the first King's ship likely to touch at Madeira, so that the
truth of his story might be put to the test.

The 'Prometheus,' Captain Hercules Robinson, was then refitting at
Portsmouth, and to this officer was entrusted the carrying out of the
Admiralty orders. In his report Captain Robinson states that after
being introduced to the foreign seaman referred to in the above
letter, and reading the notes which had been taken of his information,
he charged him to tell no person what he knew or what was his
business, that he was to mess with the captain's coxswain, and that no
duty would be required of him. To this the man replied that that was
all he desired, that he was willing to give his time, and would ask no
remuneration if nothing resulted from his intelligence.

A few days afterwards the ship sailed, and in a week anchored at
Funchal, Madeira. During the passage, Captain Robinson took occasion
to examine and cross-question the man, whose name was Christian
Cruise, and compare his verbal with his written testimony.

The substance of both was that some years before he was sent to the
hospital in Santa Cruz, with yellow fever, with a Spanish sailor, who
had served for three or four voyages in the Danish merchant ship in
which Cruise was employed. He was in a raging fever, but,
notwithstanding, recovered. The Spaniard, though less violently ill,
sank under a gradual decay, in which medical aid was unavailing, and,
a few days before his death, told Cruise he had something to disclose
which troubled him, and accordingly made the following statement.

He said that in 1804 he was returning in a Spanish ship from South
America to Cadiz, with a cargo of produce and about two millions of
dollars in chests, that when within a few days' sail of Cadiz they
boarded a neutral, who told them that their four galleons had been
taken by a squadron of English frigates, war having been declared, and
that a cordon of cruisers from Trafalgar to Cape Finisterre would make
it impossible for any vessel to reach Cadiz, or any other Spanish
port. What was to be done? Returning to South America was out of the
question, and the captain resolved to try back for the West Indies,
run for the north part of the Spanish Main or some neutral island, and
have a chance thus of saving at least the treasure with which he was
intrusted. The crew, who preferred the attempt of making Cadiz, were
all but in a state of mutiny. But they acquiesced in the proceeding,
and, keeping out of the probable track of cruisers, reached a few
degrees to the southward of Madeira, where they hoped to meet the
trade-winds.

They had familiarised their minds to plans of resistance and outrage,
but had not the heart to carry them into effect, till, one daybreak,
they found themselves off a cluster of small uninhabited islands fifty
leagues to the southward of Madeira, and nearly in its longitude, the
name of which the narrator did not know. The central island, about
three miles round, was high, flat and green at top, but clearly
uninhabited; the temptation was irresistible: here was a place where
everything might be hidden; why run risks to avoid the English, in
order to benefit their captain and the owners? why not serve
themselves? The captain was accordingly knocked on the head, or
stabbed and carried below, and the ship hauled in to what appeared the
anchorage on the south side of the island. There they found a snug
little bay, in which they brought up, landed the chests of dollars,
and cut a deep trench in the white sand above high-water mark, and
buried the treasure and covered it over, and, some feet above the
chests, deposited in a box the body of their murdered captain. They
then put to sea, resolving to keep well to the southward, and try to
make the Spanish Main, or a neutral island, run the ship on shore and
set her on fire, agree on some plausible lie, and with the portion of
the money which they retained and carried on their persons they were
to purchase a small vessel, and, under English or other safe colours,
to revisit their hoard, and carry it off at once or in portions. In
time, they passed Tobago, and in their clumsy, ignorant navigation,
while it was blowing hard, ran on an uninhabited cay on which the ship
went to pieces, and only two lives were saved. These got to Santa Cruz
or St. Thomas, one died, and the other was the seaman who made the
statement to Christian Cruise. The name of the ship, the owners, the
port she sailed from, the exact date, or various other particulars by
which the truth might be discovered, were not told to Christian
Cruise, or not remembered.

Captain Robinson gave at length, and in a quaint old-fashioned way,
his impressions as to the _bona fides_ of Cruise. He says:--'May
he not have some interested object in fabricating this story? Why did
he not tell it before? Is not the cold-blooded murder inconceivable
barbarity, and the burying the body over the treasure too dramatic and
buccaneer-like? or might not the Spaniard have lied from love of lying
and mystifying his simple shipmate, or might he not have been raving?'
Captain Robinson then thus satisfactorily replies to his own queries:
'As to the first difficulty, I had the strongest conviction of the
honesty of Christian Cruise, and I think I could hardly be grossly
deceived as to his character, and his disclaiming any reward unless
the discovery was made went to confirm my belief that he was an honest
man. And then, as to his withholding his information for four or five
years, be it remembered that the war with Denmark might truly have
shut him out from any possibility of intercourse with England. Next,
as to the wantonness and indifference with which the murder was
perpetrated: I am afraid there is no great improbability in this; with
self-interest in the scales, humanity is but as dust in the balance. I
have witnessed a disregard of human life in matters of promotion in
our service, etc., even among men of gentle blood, which makes the
conduct of these Spaniards under vehement temptation, and when they
could do as they pleased, sufficiently intelligible. But, certainly,
the coffin over the treasure looked somewhat theatrical, had given it
the air of Sadler's Wells or a novel, rather than matter of fact. I
inquired, therefore, from Christian why the body was thus buried, and
he replied that he understood the object was, that in case any person
should find the marks of their proceeding, and dig to discover what
they had been about, they might come to the body and go no further.
Then, as to the supposition of the Spaniard lying from mere
_méchanceté_, this conduct would be utterly out of keeping in an
ignorant Spanish seaman. But, lastly, he might have been raving, and
on this point I was particular in my inquiries. Cruise said,
'Certainly not, he was quite clear in his mind; his conscience might
be troubled, but his head was not disturbed,' and it is conceivable
enough that this dying criminal might have been able to bring into
such correct review, as he was stated to have done, these portions of
his dark history. The result of my inquiries and cogitations on the
subject was, that the probability was strongly in favour of the
substantial truth of this romance of real life, that I considered
would be still further substantiated if the _locus in quo_, the
Salvages (for to them alone the latitude and longitude pointed),
corresponded with the account given of the tomb of the dollars.'

Captain Robinson goes on to state that he inquired at Madeira whether
anything had ever been picked up at the Salvages, and was informed
that some years before the taffrail of a foreign ship had been found
there and two boxes of dollars. Being unable to obtain any precise
information, he then proceeded for the islands. On arriving off the
Great Salvage, they found it was about a league in circumference, flat
at top, and green with salsola or saltwort and other alcalescent
plants; and on hauling round the east point opened up a sandy bay with
white beach and the little level spot above high-water mark just as
they wanted to find it. Captain Robinson asked Christian, 'Will this
do?' and the man replied, 'No doubt, sir, it must be the place.' The
captain then sent for the officers, and, pledging them to secrecy that
others might not interfere with them, told them all the story, but
desired them to announce only half the truth to the men--namely, that
they were in search of a murdered man who was supposed to be buried
somewhere above high-water mark. Fifty or sixty of the ship's crew
were then landed, provided with all the shovels there were on board,
and boarding-pikes; and to encourage them they were told that the
discoverer of the coffin should have a reward of one hundred dollars.
Their embarrassment, however, was now extreme; the white sand extended
round the bay, and a large area intervened between the high-water and
the foot of the cliff, which a month would not turn up. They selected
the centre of the beach and went beyond high-water mark to where
Captain Robinson thought the breaking of the sea and the drainage
through the sand might terminate, and where a man would be likely to
drop his burden, and then they dug a deep hole, but with no greater
success than finding some broken shells and rounded pebbles. The men
in the meanwhile were probing with their boarding-pikes in all
directions, and digging in every promising spot. This went on for
several hours, and finally the captain abandoned the search and
ordered the boats on board, and, as night was approaching, and the
ship's situation unsafe, hoisted them in, weighed, and stood out of
the bay and shaped course for Madeira. On arriving at Funchal they
found other orders and occupation, and had no opportunity of
revisiting the spot before their return to England. Nor did the
Admiralty of the day, on receiving Captain Robinson's report, think it
worth while to prosecute the matter further.

In conclusion, Captain Robinson remarks that, 'In favour of the
affirmative view, there is the apparent honesty, fairness, candour,
and clear-headedness of Christian Cruise, as well as the entire
correspondence of the place with that described; and opposed to this
are the many motives to falsehood, deceit, and self-interest in some
obscure shape, or even mere love of lying; or it may be the ravings of
lunacy and the wonderful plausibility of perverted reason. If I am
asked for my own opinion, I would say that my judgment leans, as I
have already declared, to the probability of some transaction having
taken place, so much so that I certainly think it worth the while of
any yachtsman to try what this might turn up.'

My informant from Exeter told me that he had sailed by these islands
close in shore while he was serving in the navy, and he gave me an
account of their appearance. He said he had perceived men on the Great
Salvage, and understood that Portuguese or other fishermen visit the
island at one season of the year in order to catch and salt down the
fish that abound in the surrounding sea. He did not consider that
there was ever a large body of these men on the island, so that in the
event of our digging there and discovering the treasure, our party
would be strong enough, well armed as we were, to protect and carry it
off in spite of any opposition that might be offered.

As my informant pointed out, one curious feature in this vague and not
very encouraging tale of hidden treasure was that the foreign seaman,
according to the report, stated that the chests of dollars were landed
on the middle island, whereas Captain Robinson prosecuted his search
on the Great Salvage, or northernmost island.

The Salvages consist of three islands, of which the middle one, known
as the Great Piton, is the largest; and if the man's tale be true, it
is on this island that the treasure should be sought.

It would not be worth while to fit out an expedition to the Salvages
on such evidence as this; 'but,' argued my informant, 'as you must
pass near the group with your vessel, it would not delay you much to
discover whether any bay answering to the man's description exists on
the south side of the Great Piton.'

I told this gentleman that I would put the matter before my
companions, and that in case they agreed to this deviation from our
original scheme, we would, if possible, land on the Great Piton and
explore the likely portions of the sands for the chests of dollars.

Seeing that the Salvages, adjacent as they are to both Madeira and the
Canaries, might belong to either Spain or Portugal--though I could
find no record of such being the case--I thought it prudent to keep
this portion of our programme a secret; for the publication of our
intentions in the papers might attract the attention of those who laid
claim to the islets and cause them to interfere with our operations.
Consequently, when we sailed only three men knew whither we were
bound, and I said nothing about the Salvages until we had been two
days at sea, when I repeated the whole story to my companions after
dinner. They were unanimously of opinion that we should visit the
island and see what could be done there. Our course was accordingly
shaped for it. We talked over the possibility of our finding foreign
fishermen on the Salvages, and some of my companions proposed that in
this case we should take charge of their boats for them during our
stay, so that they would have no means of communicating with their
countries and giving notice of our arrival. Having thus, as it were,
taken temporary possession of the island, we were to compel the
fishermen to dig for us at a reasonable rate of pay--a somewhat
high-handed proceeding, but the suggestion at any rate showed that
there were those among my crew who would not be deterred by small
difficulties, when impelled by the prospect of discovering gold.

I was unable to take a bill of health for our first port of call, as I
did not myself know what it would be, our stoppages on the way out
entirely depending on our necessities, such as want of water or
repairs of any damage to the vessel. If it had been possible to have
done so I would have called at no inhabited place until the
termination of the expedition; but I was well aware that the lack of
something or other would sooner or later drive us into port. I
accordingly procured a bill of health for Sydney; not that I had the
slightest intention of going there, but I knew that this document
would satisfy the authorities of any place at which I was likely to
call for stores: every harbour on either side of the Atlantic can be
considered as being more or less on the way to Australia, and on
entering a port a visé of our bill of health would be all that was
necessary; for there is no law against zigzagging across the world to
one's destination in a leisurely fashion if one chooses to do so.



CHAPTER V.

OUR FIRST VOYAGE.


Our preparations were hurried on at Southampton, and I was never left
in peace, but was in a condition of perpetual work and travel, my sole
relaxation being the frequent farewell dinners given to myself and my
companions by our friends and sympathisers; and very jolly as these
dinners were, they were relaxations in the other sense of the term
rather than reposeful amusements for a weary man. Some of them were
arduous undertakings.

Our expedition interested the Southampton people a good deal, and all
wished us well; but I do not think many thought that we should be
successful in realizing our fortunes on Trinidad.

At last all was ready for our departure, when to my considerable
disgust, just as we were about to put to sea, two of the volunteers
suddenly found themselves prevented from going with us.

I forthwith telegraphed to others on my list of applicants, and at the
very last moment received telegrams from two gentlemen who were
willing to join at this short notice. When their messages arrived, all
my crew and other companions were on board, comfortably settled down,
having bidden their farewells and done with the shore; so I thought it
prudent to send them away from Southampton, where the 'Alerte' was
perpetually surrounded by boatfuls of visitors, to the seclusion of
the little bay under Calshot Castle at the mouth of Southampton Water.
Here they would be out of the way of temptation, as there are no
buildings save the coastguard station.

Therefore, on the evening of August 28, 1889, the 'Alerte' sailed
slowly down to Calshot, and came to an anchor there, while I waited at
Southampton until the following morning, with the object of securing
my new volunteers as soon as they should arrive, and carrying them
down to the yacht.

The said volunteers turned up early on August 29. Then, with a party
of some of my old Southampton friends, we steamed down the river on a
launch which had been very kindly placed at our disposal for the
purpose by the Isle of Wight Steamboat Company. Mr. Picket, of course,
would have nothing to do with work in his yard on that day; he took a
holiday and came down to see the last of us.

We were now all on board; but, finding that some of the fresh stores,
such as vegetables and bread, had not yet arrived, we postponed our
departure until the following day. In the meanwhile we were not idle;
we sent a boat to the Hamble River to fill up those breakers that had
been emptied, we got our whale-boat on deck and secured it, and, in
short, made all ready for sea.

On the following day the Isle of Wight boat, while passing, left the
missing stores with us; then Mr. Picket's sloop sailed down with some
friends who had determined to bid us even yet another last farewell;
and, after dinner, we weighed anchor and were off, while the friends
on the sloop and the crew of a yacht which was brought up near us gave
us a hearty good-bye in British cheers.

But our anchor had not yet had its last hold of English mud, and we
were not to lose sight of the Solent that day; for, in consequence of
some clumsiness, or possibly too much zeal on the part of those who
were catting the anchor, the bowsprit whisker on the starboard side
was doubled up; so we had to proceed to Cowes, and bring up there
while we sent the iron on shore to be put in the fire and straightened
again. However, this did not delay us much, for it fell a flat calm,
which lasted through the night; we were better off sleeping
comfortably at anchor than we should have been drifting helplessly up
and down with the tides.

At 11 a.m. the next morning, it being high-water, we weighed anchor,
and were really off at last, the weather glorious and hot, but the
wind light and variable.

For weeks, while we had been lying off Southampton, the weather had
been detestable--blusterous north-west winds, accompanied by heavy
rains, prevailing. But now, very opportunely for us, a complete change
set in just as we started, and it was evident that we were at the
commencement of a long spell of settled fine weather. I had
anticipated this luck; for I knew by experience that the last weeks of
August and the first weeks in September are the most favourable for a
voyage south across the bay, for then there generally comes a period
of moderate easterly winds and warm weather, which precedes the stormy
season of the equinox. Thus, when I sailed in the 'Falcon' at this
very time of the year, I was fortunate enough to carry a north-east
wind all the way from Southampton into the north-east trades, and I
was confident that we were destined to do something of the sort now;
nor was I disappointed.

We got outside the Needles, and, the wind being light from west to
south-west, we tacked very slowly down Channel, always in sight of the
English coast, until nightfall, when the wind dropped altogether, and
we lay becalmed in sight of Portland lights. It was our first Saturday
night at sea (August 31), so we kept up the good old fashion of
drinking to our wives and sweethearts at eight o'clock. We never
neglected this sacred duty on any Saturday night during the whole
cruise. A light air from the east sprang up at night, but, though we
now had racing spinnaker and topsail on the vessel, we made little
progress, and it seemed as if we could not lose sight of the lights of
Portland.

Throughout the following day--September 1--the same far too fine
weather continued, with light airs from various directions,
alternating with calms. But we did at last contrive to get out of
sight of land this day; Portland, to our delight, became invisible,
and we saw no more of the English coast.

This calm weather was trying to the patience; but it was perhaps well
for us to have this experience at the commencement of the voyage; for
it enabled the raw hands to settle down to their work quickly, and
there was but little sea-sickness on board.

At midday, September 2, we were off the chops of the Channel, a fresh
easterly wind that lasted some hours having carried us so far. Then
the wind fell again, and we sailed on in a very leisurely fashion
until the morning of September 5, when, being well in the middle of
the Bay of Biscay, the wind, which was from the south-east, began
gradually to freshen. First we were going five knots through the
water, then seven, and by midday we were travelling between eight and
nine. In the afternoon the wind increased to the force of a moderate
gale and the sea began to rise. During the night some rather high seas
rolled up after us occasionally, so that we had to bear away and run
before them, and only the old hands could be entrusted with the
tiller. We passed Finisterre on this night, but were too far off to
see the lights; and now we had done with the Bay of Biscay, which had
certainly treated the 'Alerte' with great consideration, and not shown
us any of its proverbial bad temper. The wind had gone down by midday
on the 6th, and the run for the previous twenty-four hours was found
to have been 158 miles.

From this date we kept up a fair average speed; though our voyage
could not be termed a smart one, for there was scarcely a day on which
we were not retarded by several hours of calm.

While going down Channel we had kept watch and watch in the usual sea
fashion, the first mate taking one watch and myself the other. But now
that we were out at sea, clear of all danger, it became unnecessary to
continue this somewhat wearisome four hours up and four hours down
system; so we divided ourselves into three watches, the second mate
taking the third watch. This gave the men an eight hours' rest below
at a stretch, instead of only four. As we had three paid hands in
addition to the cook, one of these was allotted to each watch. But
before reaching the South American coast the second mate resigned his
post, and we reverted to the watch-and-watch system again, which was
observed until the termination of the cruise.

A good deal of useless form was kept up at this early stage of the
voyage. A log-slate was suspended in the saloon, and each officer as
he came below would write up a full account of all that had occurred
in his watch. The most uninteresting details were minutely
chronicled--only to be rubbed off the slate each midday, and I think
there was a little disappointment expressed because I would not copy
all these down in my log-book. Had I done so that log-book would have
been a dreadful volume to peruse.

To us, however, the log-slate was a source of great amusement on
account of its utter fallaciousness. The patent log was, of course,
put overboard when we were making the land, but when we were out on
the ocean and no land was near us we naturally did not take the
trouble to do this, neither did we make use of the common log-ship or
keep a strict dead reckoning. But, despite this, the officer of a
watch would religiously jot down the exact number of knots and
furlongs he professed to have sailed during each of his four hours on
duty; he did not even try to guess the distance to the best of his
ability; he was fired with an ambition to show the best record for his
watch; so he would first scan the slate to see how many knots the
officer just relieved boasted to have accomplished, and then he would
unblushingly write down a slightly greater number of miles as the
result of his own watch, quite regardless of any fall in the wind or
other retarding cause.

Thus: if five knots an hour had been made in one watch, five and a
quarter would probably be logged for the next, and five and a half for
the next. Sometimes there was a flat calm throughout a watch, and then
the ingenious officer, though he could not help himself and was
compelled to write himself down a zero before three of the hours,
would compensate for this by putting down a big number in front of
that hour during which he imagined that all the individuals of his
rival watches were fast asleep below, and would boldly assert in
explanation that just then he had been favoured with a strong squall
to help him along.

No one put any confidence in this mendacious slate, which soon became
known on board as the 'Competition Log,' and inspired our wits with
many merry quips. The distance made in each twenty-four hours as
recorded by the Competition Log was about fifty per cent. greater than
that calculated from the observations of the sun.

At last, on the morning of September 13, having been fourteen days at
sea, and having accomplished a voyage of something under fifteen
hundred miles, we knew that we were in the close vicinity of the
Salvages, and a sharp look-out for land was accordingly kept. We had
seen nothing but water round us since leaving Portland Bill, and all
on board were excited at the prospect of so soon discovering what
manner of place was this desert treasure-island of which we had been
talking so much.

The Salvages lie between Madeira and the Canaries, being 160 miles
from the former and about 85 from Teneriffe. Vessels avoid their
vicinity, especially at night, on account of the dangerous shoals that
surround them. The description of the group in the 'North Atlantic
Memoir' is as follows:--

'The Salvages consist of an island named the Ilha Grande, or the Great
Salvage, a larger island named Great Piton, and a smaller one called
the Little Piton, together with several rocks. The Great Salvage lies
in lat. 30° 8´, long. 15° 55´. It is of very irregular shape, and has
a number of rocks about it within the distance of a mile. It is much
intersected, and has several deep inlets, the most accessible of which
is on the east side. It is covered with bushes, amongst which the
thousands of sea-fowl make their nests. It is surrounded on all sides
with dangers, most of which show, but many require all caution in
approaching.

'The Great Piton lies at the distance of 8-1/4 miles W.S.W. 3/4 W.
from Ilha Grande. This islet is 2-3/8 miles long, and has a hill or
peak near its centre. The Little Piton lies at a mile from the western
side of the former, and is three-quarters of a mile long; both are
comparatively narrow. These isles are seated upon and surrounded by
one dangerous rocky bank, which extends from the western side of the
little isle half a league to the westward.'... 'The southern part of
the Great Piton appears green, its northern part barren. It may be
seen 5 or 6 leagues off. The Little Piton is very flat, and is
connected to the south point of the greater one by a continued ledge
of rocks. The whole of the eastern side of the Great Piton is rocky
and dangerous.'

A light north-east trade-wind was blowing, and we were running before
it at a fair rate through the smooth water, with topsail and racing
spinnaker set. It was a glorious morning, with but few clouds in the
sky, and those were of that fleecy, broken appearance that
characterises the regions of the trade-winds.

At 8.30 a.m. the man on the look-out at the cross-trees sang
out:--'Land right ahead, sir!' Yes--no doubt about it--there it was,
still several leagues off, a faint blue hill of rugged form on the
horizon; we had made an excellent land-fall. While we were straining
our eyes to make out the features of our desert island, our attention
was attracted to a still nearer object which suddenly gleamed out
snowy white as the sun's rays fell on it, triangular in form and
appearing like a small chalk rock, but too far off to be clearly
distinguished. Gradually we approached this, and, after a little
doubt, it proved to be no rock, but a sailing vessel of some kind.
Then with the aid of the binoculars we made her out; she was a small
schooner of foreign rig, evidently hailing from the Canaries or
Madeiras, and she was sailing as we were, shaping a course direct for
the island.

We had seen no vessel for several days, and the appearance of this
suspicious-looking craft caused some excitement on the 'Alerte.' We
called to mind the foreign fishermen who, according to rumour,
occasionally visit this uninhabited archipelago. Was this one of their
vessels? If so, there might be trouble ahead for us.

We rapidly gained on the enemy, though we were engaged in a stern
chase. This adventure put my crew in lively spirits, and I think that
some of them began half to imagine themselves to be bold privateers of
the olden days, after a Spaniard or a Frenchman.

Gradually we approached the Great Salvage, which, lying between us and
the Pitons, concealed the latter from our view. Its appearance was
very different from what we had expected. We had come to the
conclusion, I know not for what reason, that we should find an island
consisting for the most part of great sand-hills; but there was not
the smallest patch of sandy beach to be seen anywhere. Sheer from the
sea rose great rocks of volcanic formation, dark and rugged; and,
though we were still several miles off, we could perceive that the sea
was breaking heavily on every part of the weather coast, for we could
hear the booming of the rollers and see the frequent white flash of
the foam against the black cliff-sides. But above these precipices
towards the centre of the island there was a plateau, or rather an
undulating green down, with one steep green dome dominating all,
looking very fresh and pleasant to eyes that for two weeks had only
gazed at the monotonous plains of the sea.

As I have already explained, my informant from Exeter was of opinion
that the 'Prometheus' people were wrong in digging on the shores of
the Great Salvage, and that the treasure had been concealed on the
Great Piton or middle island. We decided in the first place to come to
an anchor off the Great Salvage, and after having explored that
island, to sail for the Great Piton.

According to the Admiralty charts there are two anchorages off the
Great Salvage, one in the East Bay and one in the South Bay. We
accordingly steered so as to coast down the east side of the island,
and thus open out both of these inlets.

At midday we were not quite a league astern of the schooner. She was
close under the north point of the island, when suddenly she hauled
her wind and steered in a westerly direction, seemingly for the open
sea; so we came to the conclusion that our excitement had been
groundless, and that in all probability we should not be troubled by
inquisitive foreigners during our exploration of the Salvages.

We soon found that it was necessary to exercise considerable caution
while approaching this island. Nearly two miles away from it there was
a shoal over which the sea was breaking heavily; we passed between
this and the island as directed by the chart, and kept close under the
shore, where the dark violet of the deep sea was changed for the
transparent green of comparatively shallow water. Here again we had to
pick our way through outlying rocks and shoals. One of these shoals is
particularly dangerous, for, as there is some depth of water over it,
the sea only occasionally breaks, and for a quarter of an hour at a
time there is nothing to indicate the danger, so that a vessel might,
through inadvertence, be taken right on to it.

When we were close to it the sea happened to break, and the sight was
a lovely, yet a terrible one. A huge green roller, very high and
steep, suddenly rose as if by magic from the deep; then swept over the
shoal, and, when it reached the shallowest part, its crest hung over,
forming a cavern underneath, through whose transparent roof the sun
shone with a beautiful green light; and lastly, the mass overtopping
itself fell with a great hollow sound, and was dashed to pieces in a
whirl of hissing foam. Had the old 'Alerte' been there at that moment
her end would have come swiftly, and perhaps ours too.

The chart seems to mark these rocks and breakers very correctly, and
there is small danger of falling a victim to them if proper
precautions are observed. Besides which, the water is so clear that
one can see through it many fathoms down, and a man in the cross-trees
with an eye experienced to the work could always detect a danger in
good time.

We rounded the north-east point and opened East Bay. We did not like
the look of the anchorage here, which is in ten fathoms, and could see
no good landing nor any signs of a sandy beach; so we sailed on and
doubled the south-east point and the shoals that extend some way from
it, suddenly opening out South Bay, the one in which it seems that the
'Prometheus' came to an anchor.

And then, to our astonishment, we beheld a very unexpected sight.
Rolling easily on the green ocean swell, at some three cables' length
from the shore, lay a small schooner at anchor; her crew--a
half-naked, bronzed, and savage-looking lot--were engaged in stowing
her mainsail. She was evidently the same schooner we had seen outside.
While we had been coasting round the east side of the island, she had
followed the west side, and here we had met again. But she was not the
only surprise in store for us. There were no sandy dunes in this bay;
its shores were steep and rocky, and on either side reefs, on which
the sea broke, protected the anchorage to some extent. At the head of
one picturesque cove, wherein was evidently the best landing-place,
were two small huts, put together of rough stones from the beach, and
from these a footpath wound up the bare volcanic cliffs to the green
plateau some four hundred feet above. A quantity of barrels were being
quickly landed here from one of the schooner's boats, and several
other wild-looking men were carrying these up to a cavern a little way
up the rocks behind the huts. The whole formed a wild and fantastic
picture. It was just such a scene as Salvator Rosa would have
delighted to paint, it would have suited the savage austerity of his
style. The rugged cove might well have been the haunt of smugglers or
pirates. And who, we wondered, were these people, and what were they
doing; these were mysterious proceedings for a desert island! The
evident labour of the men while carrying the barrels proved to us that
they were very heavy. 'Perhaps,' suggested one of us--'perhaps we have
just arrived at the right moment to interrupt another band of pirates
in the act of hiding another immense treasure.'

This would have been almost too great a stroke for my band of
adventurers. It would have been very pleasant to have saved ourselves
all the trouble of digging, and to have simply carried off the
evilly-earned hoard of these wicked men and divided it among our
virtuous selves. We had sanguine men on board whom no failure
disheartened, despite their invariable habit of counting their
chickens before they were hatched; so I was not surprised to be now
asked by the sportsman of our party how long I thought it would
take us to get back to England. When I had replied, he evinced
great satisfaction. 'Oh, that is all right then!' he said. 'We can
get this stuff on board and be back home just in time for the
pheasant-shooting; and, after that, we can fit out again and fetch
our other treasures.'

We came to an anchor in seven fathoms of water a short distance
outside the schooner. It was not the sort of roadstead I should like
to remain long in; for an iron-bound shore was before us, and around
were numerous shoals on which the rollers kept up a perpetual
hulla-balloo--a nasty trap to be caught in should the wind suddenly
veer to the southward.

It was after one o'clock when we brought up, so we decided to go below
and dine before doing anything else, and the conversation at table
became more piratical in its tone than ever. After the details of how
we were to enrich ourselves despite all obstacles had been thoroughly
discussed, each of the adventurers explained in what way he would
spend his share of the booty; how it should be invested was, of
course, far too prosaic a matter for his consideration.



CHAPTER VI.

ON THE SALVAGES.


As soon as dinner was over the whale-boat was put into the water, and
I pulled off to the landing-place with two of my companions.

The men on shore were still employed in carrying the barrels up to the
cavern, but when we approached they ceased working, and stood gazing
at us, with a not unnatural curiosity. We found the landing-place to
be a queer one. A little channel clove the rocks for sixty or seventy
feet inland. This inlet was so narrow that there was scarce room
within it to work a boat with oars, and, as the ocean swell entered it
with sufficient force to render a collision with the rocks dangerous
for any boat, an ingenious arrangement had been placed there to
facilitate the landing. Just outside the entrance of the inlet a
barrel floated, which was moored to a big stone or anchor at the
bottom; a stout grass rope was attached to this barrel, and the other
end of it was made fast to a rock on shore at the head of the inlet.
By hauling along this rope, which was sufficiently taut for the
purpose, the boat was kept well in the centre of the channel, and all
risk of getting foul of the rocks on either side was avoided. At the
end of the inlet was a rocky shelf, on to which we jumped, having
first made our boat fast to the rope in such a way that she could not
bump against the shore.

Then there came down to us a very brown and amiable-looking old
gentleman, whose dress consisted solely of a short, ragged shirt,
which had once, I think, been of a vivid green, but which had now been
toned down to a more æsthetic tint with age and dirt. He welcomed us
to the island by silently shaking each of us by the hand very
cordially.

I addressed him in Spanish, but he shook his head and commenced to
speak in a language which I recognised as a Portuguese patois of some
description. But we soon contrived to understand each other fairly
well. He told me that he was the padron of the wild crew who stood
round listening to our conversation with grave faces--a sort of
governor of the islet, and chief owner of the barrels of wealth which
lay before us. He was also captain of the schooner.

Then he beckoned us to follow him, and he led us into one of the stone
huts, the furniture of which consisted of barrels like those that were
being landed from the schooner, an open hogs-head of black grapes, and
a demijohn. The good old man pulled out a pannikin from between the
stones of the wall, and proceeded to serve out to each of us a tot of
excellent aguardiente from the demijohn.

One of the half-naked men happened to be bringing another of the
mysterious barrels into the hut; so, without showing any impolite
curiosity, I contrived to hint that I should like to know what it
contained. The padron forthwith dipped the pannikin into a barrel that
had been already broached, and poured the contents into my hand. It
was, as I had expected, not pirate treasure, but coarse salt.

Then he explained to me that he and his companions were natives of
Madeira, that they were in the habit of coming here with their
schooner at this season of the year, and that they made this bay their
headquarters for salting down the fish which they caught, but that for
the remainder of the year there were no human beings on these islands.
He further said that the Salvages were claimed by the Portuguese, and
not by the Spanish. On being asked whether there was any fresh water
on the island, he said there was a small fountain in a hollow on the
summit, and that all the water they used had to be brought down from
there in small breakers on the heads of his men. They were nimble
enough in scrambling down the cliffs under their burdens, as we saw
later on; but all Madeirans are excellent mountaineers.

Then the padron, looking rather sly, inquired in his turn:--'What have
you Englishmen come here for? It is rare that vessels come by here.'

'It is on our way to Teneriffe,' I replied, 'and as this is a pleasure
yacht we are not bound to time.'

'Once before an Englishman came here. I thought you might have come
for the same reason as he.'

'And why did he come?'

'To look for hidden money.'

This was very interesting, but we tried to assume a look of innocent
surprise, as if we had heard nothing of this before.

'There is a great treasure hidden on this island somewhere,' he
continued, 'and the English know of it. Some years ago this milord
came with his yacht, a bigger one than yours, a steamer with three
masts, and they dug for the treasure. Oh! it is a great treasure, more
than a thousand English pounds they say; but the Englishmen did not
find it.'

'Where did they dig?' I asked.

'I do not know. I was not on the island at the time. It was several
years ago.'

That was all he seemed to know; we could elicit no further information
on the subject from him; but it was evident that the 'Alerte' was not
the first yacht that had come to the Salvages in search of the hidden
chests of dollars.

We then set forth to explore the island. We climbed the narrow path
that zigzagged up the bare cliffs, and in the construction of which a
considerable amount of labour must have been expended, a proof in
itself that the rare visitors to the island were Portuguese, for these
people alone take the trouble to make roads on desert islands. They
seem to love for its own sake the arduous work of cutting paths up
difficult precipices, and very cleverly they do it too. We came across
the remains of excellent Portuguese roads even among the apparently
inaccessible crags of Trinidad.

We reached the green downs on the summit. The sky was cloudless and a
fresh breeze was blowing over the sea, so the tramp was very enjoyable
to us after the cramped life on board of a small vessel.

On every portion of these downs we found walls roughly put together of
piled-up stones, which in some places formed long parallel lines, in
others square enclosures. The object of these had probably been to
prevent the soil from being washed into the sea; but whatever
cultivation had formerly been carried on here had evidently been
abandoned long since, in consequence, no doubt, of the insufficiency
of the water-supply. The fishermen appeared to be entirely ignorant of
the history of these old walls. In one place there were traces of an
ancient vineyard. Wherever the ground was not too stony a coarse grass
grew luxuriantly over the downs. There were also wild tomatoes in
profusion and alkaline sea plants of various species.

We saw many rabbits dodging among the rocks, and gulls and cormorants
in quantities. The cormorants dwelt with their families in fine stone
houses which they had constructed with great ingenuity. Some of the
stones were large and heavy; it would be interesting to observe how
the birds set to work to move these and how they put their roofs on. I
have been told that they rake up a mound of stones with their powerful
wings in such a way that by removing some of those underneath they
leave the roof above them. The gulls are not such good architects as
the cormorants, and for the most part live in the natural crevices of
the rocks, or in holes which they steal from the rabbits. We, however,
saw one conscientious gull in the act of making his own house. He had
selected a large stone lying on soft soil, and was burrowing a deep
cavern underneath it.

We walked round the downs, looking over the cliffs into every bay; but
we could see no extensive sandy beach such as that described by
Captain Robinson. There were small patches of sand here and there, and
that was all. The shore was formed of rock and shingle. It is probable
that many changes have taken place on this exposed islet since the
visit of the 'Prometheus'; the sands may have been washed away, and
there is no doubt that rocks and rocky landslips are constantly
falling from above.

We saw clearly that it would be useless for us to dig in any of these
bays; for none of them corresponded with the description given by the
Spanish sailor; so we came to the conclusion that our search must be
undertaken, if anywhere, on the middle island and not on the Great
Salvage.

When on the summit of the island we looked out towards the south for
the famous Peak of Teneriffe, which is said to be sometimes visible at
a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. We were not much more than
eighty miles from it here and the day was quite clear, but we could
see no signs of it; neither was it visible while we were on the Great
Piton, which is eight miles nearer. I have been at sea in the
neighbourhood of Teneriffe on several occasions, but have never yet
had a view of the great mountain, so either I am very unlucky or it
must be rare indeed that it is to be distinguished at anything like
the distance alleged.

Having explored the islet, we proceeded to hunt rabbits. We had
brought no guns with us, so tried to kill them with stones, but failed
completely; we were all out of practice at this sort of sport. We then
descended the path to the huts, where the padron gave us a smiling
welcome, and, inviting us again into the hut, produced for our benefit
an unwonted luxury, a bottle of rough Madeira. We purchased some
grapes from him and a bottle of aguardiente, and, having bade farewell
to our Portuguese friends, we pulled off to the yacht and recounted
our adventures to the others.

When we tasted the aguardiente we discovered that the monarch of the
desert island understood how to trade in quite a civilised fashion; it
was horrible stuff, not at all up to the excellent sample he had
treated us to on our landing.

Shortly before sunset the schooner, having discharged all her salt,
weighed anchor and set sail for Madeira, leaving about six men behind
on the island.

As some of my companions seemed rather keen on taking their guns on
shore and having a few hours' rabbit-shooting, I decided that the
yacht should remain at anchor where she was during the following
forenoon, so as to enable them to enjoy their sport and stock our
larder with fresh meat--a very acceptable luxury--while I would sail
with a few hands in the whale-boat at daybreak to the Great Piton,
effect a landing there if possible, and discover whether there was any
bay which answered to the Spanish sailor's description. In the
afternoon the yacht was to get under weigh, and rejoin me at the other
island.

So at 4 o'clock the next morning, September 14, we had coffee, put
some provisions and two breakers of water into the boat, together with
a few picks and shovels, a compass and other necessaries, and then
sailed away.

I left the first mate in charge of the yacht, having first arranged a
short code of signals with him, so that I could communicate from the
shore when the yacht appeared off the Great Piton.

I took one of the signal code flags with me, which when flying from a
perpendicular staff was to signify 'All Right,' two waves of the flag
indicated that we were coming off to the yacht in the boat, four waves
was an order to the mate to send the dinghy off to us, and eight or
more waves meant that we had found a likely-looking place and that I
had decided to carry on digging operations. We were to indicate the
best anchorage by pointing the flag in the direction we wished the
yacht to be steered.

It was still dark when we got under weigh in the whale-boat, so the
binnacle light was lit, and we shaped our course by compass towards
the still invisible island, which was about nine miles distant.

I had with me the doctor, the second mate, and one of the paid
hands--Arthur Cotton. When we got clear of the protecting island we
found that a fresh wind was blowing nearly right aft; so we set the
two sprit-sails and ran fast across a tumbling sea, the Atlantic swell
looking formidable when our little boat was in the deep hollows
between the lofty crests.

By-and-by a faint light appeared in the east, and a red, rather
stormy-looking dawn broadened across the dark sky.

Shortly after sunrise, the mists clearing from the islet, we perceived
the Great Piton right ahead of us; but we only caught sight of it when
we were on the summits of the waves, losing it again when we were in
the deep valleys between.

We scudded on, and as we approached nearer, the sea became more
confused and a little water tumbled on board occasionally. Outlying
rocks showed their black heads above the water here and there, while
curling breakers indicated the presence of other invisible dangers.

We lowered our sails and inspected the island from a safe distance
before venturing to land; for if proper precautions are not exercised
it is a very easy matter to lose one's boat in a moment while beaching
on any of these small oceanic islets.

We saw that the Great Piton was much lower than the Great Salvage, the
shore was rocky and indented, and there was a good deal of surf in
places. Above the shore was a green undulating plain, while towards
the middle of it rose a steep dome with dark rocks at the summit.

The average height of the plain above the sea seemed to be about
twenty feet, and the central hill, according to the chart, is only 140
feet high. We observed that there were sandy beaches in many of the
little coves, and some of these tallied well with the spot described
by the Spaniard.

The Great Piton is a long narrow island extending from north-east to
south-west magnetic; therefore the whole side facing the south-east
could be accurately described as the south side. It was somewhere on
this shore that the mutineers must have landed with the chests.

Picking our way through the outer shoals we made for what appeared to
be the best landing-place, a snug little cove at the eastern extremity
of this south side. Here we landed without any difficulty; but,
finding it impossible to haul our heavy boat up the beach, we moored
her safely in the bay and waded on shore with our stores.

On a sandy slope above the rocks we found the ruined walls of a stone
hut. By placing our sails over these we made a snug little house. 'And
now,' cried our medical adviser, 'I suggest that, before doing
anything else, we have breakfast.' Our early morning sail on the ocean
had given us all a hearty appetite; so a fire was lit, cocoa made, and
the ship biscuits and tinned beef were duly appreciated. Then we
enjoyed our pipes, and leaving Arthur behind to make the camp as
comfortable as he could, we set forth to explore the island. Our first
discovery was that the corner on which we had landed became a separate
islet at high-water; for it was divided from the bulk of the Great
Piton by a broad depression, across which at about three-quarters
flood the sea rushed with a violent current. This depression was of
rock and lava, and it had been worn into a smooth and level floor by
the action of innumerable tides. At low water it was several feet
above the sea, so that one could then walk across dryshod.

We walked along the whole southern shore of the island, and it
appeared to us that there were at least three coves to which the
Spaniard's description could apply equally well. We found no
inhabitants, but there were frequent signs of the Portuguese fishermen
who occasionally visit the islet. We saw many foot-prints on the
sands, showing that some men had been here very recently. We came
across their rough stone huts full of fleas, some of their
fishing-tackle, mounds of coarse salt, the ashes of their fires, and
in one cavern there were stored the large iron pots in which they
cooked their food.

We found no rabbits on the island, and very few birds. The sole
creatures on shore were beetles, flies, and fleas. The latter lively
insects were a great plague to us at night; it was unwise of us to
pitch our camp in the hut of a Portuguese fisherman. On the beach were
great numbers of very active little crabs. There was no fresh water on
the island.

We ascended the peak, which is named Hart Hill. Its top is formed of
rugged masses of coal-black rock, evidently of volcanic formation, and
this is studded with large black crystals, like plums in a
plum-pudding. These crystals attracted our attention at once. We
chipped off some and found them hard and heavy. We began to speculate
on the nature of this substance, and, as none of us knew much of
mineralogy, we of course at once decided, in our usual sanguine way,
that this must be an oxide of antimony, or manganese, or some other
valuable product. There were thousands of tons of this stuff on the
island, so we clearly saw our way to another vast fortune of a
different description to that we were seeking. It was settled that we
would obtain a concession from the Portuguese before the value of our
find leaked out, then we would sell our rights to an English company
or syndicate for an immense sum. We sat there on the top of our
crystalline treasure and arranged it all. 'It might be worth while,'
suggested one humdrum individual, 'in the first place to send a
specimen home to be assayed, so that we may form some approximate idea
of the extent of our fortunes; but we must send it to some person whom
we can rely upon not to breathe a word of the secret and so stop our
chances of making an advantageous bargain with the Portuguese.'

Later on, when we reached Teneriffe, we did send some of the crystals
home, and when we arrived at Bahia we were informed by letter of the
result of the assay and of the exact market value per ton of the
stuff.

But I will not keep any of my friends who may read this book in
suspense. They need not apply to me for an early allotment of shares
in the great syndicate. We have not made our fortunes just yet. I will
anticipate by giving the assayist's report. It ran thus:--'Volcanic
hornblende. Commercial value--nil.'

But we did not waste much time in building our castles in the air, and
returned to business.

Looking from the summit of our hornblende peak the whole island lay
stretched out before us like a map, and we could easily distinguish
all the features of the Little Piton, which seemed to be about two
miles away. On the Admiralty chart the coast and shoals of the Great
Salvage are correctly drawn; but this cannot be said of the plan of
the Great Piton: this is utterly unreliable. The survey does not
profess to be more than a superficial one, but great changes must have
occurred here since it was made. There are not wanting signs that the
sea has encroached a great deal on the land, and that it is still
doing so. In the first place the island is not three miles long, as
shown on the chart; its length cannot exceed one mile and a half. The
shores, again, are far more irregular in shape, the outer islands and
shoals more numerous, than the chart indicates. Perhaps these last
have been cut off the island by the sea since the survey. We perceived
that the sea was breaking all round the island on far projecting
promontories and shallow reefs; but, strangely enough, where the chart
does mark one well-defined continuous reef joining the Great Piton to
the Little Piton, there appeared to be a broad open channel of deep
water.

We saw one likely-looking bay to the southward of our camp, so, while
we were waiting for the yacht, we three of us set to with our shovels,
and dug parallel trenches in the sand at right angles to the shore,
working upwards from a short distance above high-water mark. We did
not dig these trenches to a greater depth than three feet, for we then
came to a hard soil which to all appearance had never been disturbed.
We found it pretty hard work under that fiery subtropical sun,
unaccustomed as we were to the use of pick and shovel.

In the afternoon the yacht appeared off the island; so we signalled to
her with the flag in the preconcerted manner: 'Come to an anchor.' 'We
will pass the night on shore.' And, whereas eight or more waves of the
flag were to signify that we had found a likely place for the hidden
treasure, we waved most energetically for quite two minutes--a
sanguine signal that must have led my companions on board to conclude
that we had at least discovered the first of the chests of dollars.

The yacht came to an anchor off the bay at which we had first landed.
The mate came off to us in the dinghy, and I told him our plans and
instructed him to send other hands off to us in the morning, together
with all necessary stores. He then returned to the yacht, while we
passed the night in our hut in the company of the innumerable
sleepless fleas.

Early on the following morning--September 15--the boat came off with
five more of my companions, which raised our shore-party to nine.

We then shifted our camp from the torture hut of fleas to a sandy spot
further to the southward under Hart Hill, and here we pitched the two
emigrant tents which had been brought for Trinidad. The boat returned
to the yacht for the stores, and brought back to us all the picks,
shovels, and crowbars, a forty-gallon tank of water, and plenty of
provisions, including a savoury stew of Salvagee rabbits, for our
sportsmen had had good luck on the previous day.

After the camp had been put in order the whole party set forth to
survey the southern shore, and each, having read the Spaniard's
narrative, gave his opinion as to the most likely spot.

Then we arranged a methodical plan of action, and his portion of work
was allotted to each man. We dug trenches in parallel lines in some
places, in others we drew them in A shapes, gold prospector's fashion,
generally working in a sandy earth, but sometimes through shingle.

The surface of the island has, no doubt, undergone many changes since
1804, the year in which it is alleged that the treasure was buried. It
was therefore often difficult to decide to what depth the trenches
should be dug; for we came to a hard, darker soil, which some of us
considered to be of ancient formation, undisturbed for centuries,
while others were of opinion that loose sand mixing with vegetable
matter could easily have consolidated into this in the course of
eighty years. When we had dug the trenches as far down as we intended
we sounded the earth to a still greater depth by driving in the
crowbars at short intervals. At one time some excitement was caused by
the discovery of bones, but our doctor pronounced them to be the bones
of a whale and not of a human being.

By dinner time we had dug a goodly array of trenches; for we were
working energetically despite the burning sun.

While we were enjoying an interval of rest after the midday meal and
smoking our pipes, I took those of the working-party who had not yet
seen the black crystals to the summit of Hart Hill, and asked their
opinion of the mineral. None of them had seen a rock of like formation
before, and they thought this might prove a valuable discovery. Our
sportsman took in the value of the hill at a glance. 'Well,' he said,
'I don't think so much of this as of the other treasures. However, it
may be worth a quarter of a million or so to us. I will put my share
of it on "X" for the Derby.' I may mention that the horse he selected
did not turn out to be this year's Derby winner.

We worked steadily through the afternoon, also for the whole of the
next day, September 16. On this day the mate reported that the
remainder of our salt beef, some 400 pounds, was spoiled. It had,
accordingly, to be thrown overboard.

It was just possible that the treasure had been hidden on the Little
Piton, and not on the island on which we were working. The Little
Piton might be described as the middle island, for it lies between the
Great Piton and another small islet or rock, apparently not marked in
the chart; while the Great Salvage is as often as not invisible from
here.

So on the morning of September 17, leaving the other hands to continue
the trenches, I sailed in the whale-boat with two of my companions to
the Little Piton. We found that this islet also had a sandy down in
its centre; but after several trials we saw that it was impossible to
effect a landing on any part of it. There was no snug little cove,
such as the one described by Cruise. The sea was breaking in an ugly
way along the rocky coast, and the water round the islet was so
thickly studded with rocks and reefs that it was dangerous to approach
it.

After inspecting the shore as closely as we dared we abandoned the
attempt, and, setting sail, hurried back to the Great Piton; for the
sky looked stormy to windward, and a heavy rain-squall came up which
for a time hid all land from our sight--not desirable weather for
cruising about the Atlantic in an open boat, for should a strong wind
rise we should be unable to make any way against it, and might easily
be blown away from the islets out to sea.

We landed again safely on the Great Piton, and after digging for some
more hours, we sat together in council, and upon a little discussion
it was unanimously decided that it was not worth our while to carry on
any further operations on the Salvages. We had already dug hard for
four days and might easily dig for forty more without having explored
more than a small fraction of the sandy beaches on the south side of
the island. Besides this there existed a considerable doubt whether
this was the right island at all. The information was of far too vague
a nature, our chance of success far too remote, to encourage us to
stay longer. Moreover, the anchorage was a very unsafe one should it
come on to blow, and even now the glass was falling rapidly and the
sky looked ominous.

I had originally intended to sail for St. Vincent in the Cape Verde
islands, and had indeed directed letters to be forwarded to us there;
but this island was still a thousand miles distant, and, seeing that
we had lost all our salt beef and had consumed a good deal of our
water--the digging on the island under the sun had, of course,
produced great thirst--it became almost necessary to call for
provisions at some nearer port than St. Vincent.

I accordingly decided to sail for Santa Cruz on Teneriffe, which is
less than a day's sail from the Great Piton, if one have any luck in
one's winds.

So we broke up our camp, struck the tents, carried everybody and
everything on board in two journeys of the boat, then got both boats
on board, and made all ready for sea.

With the exception of the Salvages, I had before visited every place
at which we called with the 'Alerte'; and even the Salvages were not
entirely new to me, for I had seen them from the deck of the
steam-yacht 'Sans Peur' in 1885, when she was on her way from Madeira
to Teneriffe.

This cruise consequently was not quite so fresh and interesting to me
as to my companions, and would have seemed almost a dull one had it
not been for the excitement of treasure-hunting.



CHAPTER VII.

RUNNING DOWN THE TRADES.


At four in the afternoon we hoisted the sails and weighed the anchor.
I was at the helm at the time, and was very surprised at the
extraordinary manner in which the vessel now behaved. She seemed
bewitched; a nice breeze was blowing, her sails were full, and yet she
gathered no way on her, forged not a foot ahead, but remained where
she was, tumbling about uneasily on the long ground-swell.

She was acting for all the world like an obstinate buckjumping horse.
Never before had the amiable old yawl evinced any signs of temper, and
this display grieved me very much, for I had thought better of her.

This strange behaviour went on for quite a minute, when suddenly she
seemed to come to her senses, gave herself a shake, and with a quick
leap darted ahead and was rushing through the water in her usual
steady style.

One of the crew now happened to look over the side, and called the
attention of the others to something that he saw dangling there. There
was a roar of laughter. The good old vessel had been cruelly wronged
by our suspicions; she was entirely innocent of obstinacy or temper of
any sort. Our purser alone was to blame for what had occurred. He was
a most energetic but unsuccessful fisherman, and had come on board at
Southampton well provided with fishing tackle of all descriptions; he
was prepared for every inhabitant of the deep, from the narwhal and
the whale to whelks and whitebait. So on this afternoon, while we were
getting ready for sea, he had been vainly attempting to catch sharks
with a bit of our condemned beef as bait, and had forgotten to take
his line on board when we got under weigh. The stout shark hook had
got hold of the rocks at the bottom and had securely anchored us by
the stern. The strong line held well, but something had to give way
before the increasing straining of the vessel as the wind filled her
sails; on hauling in the line we found that one arm of the hook had
broken off and so released us.

At sunset the desert islets faded out of sight, and we sailed on
through the night across a smooth sea with a light westerly breeze on
our beam.

That we failed to discover the treasure on the Salvages did not
dishearten my companions in the least. It is true that all had
realised beforehand how remote were our chances of success; still, it
was very encouraging to find that there was no grumbling or expression
of disappointment after those four days of hard digging in vain under
a hot sun: it argued well for the way in which these men would face
the far greater difficulties of Trinidad.

On the following morning, September 18, we caught sight of the Peak of
Teneriffe, about twenty miles distant. We sailed past the north point
of the island, coasted by the volcanic mountains that, with their
barren inhospitable crags, give so little indication of the fertile
vales within, and came to an anchor at 2 p.m. off Santa Cruz.

The Port doctor immediately came off to us, and was quite satisfied
with my bill of health for Sydney, and my explanation that we had
called here for provisions and water; so he gave us pratique without
demur.

Then land-clothes were donned, and some of my companions went on shore
to enjoy the luxuries of civilisation once again.

Santa Cruz is a pleasant little place, and seemed to me to have
improved a good deal since my last visit. The hotels at any rate are
far better than they were; I remember that it was once impossible to
get a decent meal in the town, but we were now quite satisfied with
the International Hotel in the Plaza. It is under English management,
and several of our countrymen and countrywomen were passing the winter
there. Some of my companions dined at this hotel every night during
our stay, and expressed themselves well contented with the table; like
all pirates, they were, of course, great gourmets while on shore and
knew the difference between good and bad.

We remained a week at Santa Cruz, being delayed by a variety of
causes, so some of the party were enabled to travel over the island on
donkeys and see its peculiar scenery.

A very sharp little ragged boy took a great fancy to the 'Alerte'
crew. He insisted on protecting the innocent foreigners and acting as
their cicerone when they walked about the town. He drove all other
beggars and loafers away from them, and even bullied the sentries when
they raised objections to a couple of my men trespassing on the
forbidden precincts of the citadel. This urchin was afraid of no one,
and was very intelligent; as few of us understood his Spanish, he
communicated all that he had to say by means of a most expressive
pantomime. It was grand to observe his apologetic manner when he took
us into the cathedral and showed us the flags that had been captured
from Nelson during his disastrous attack on Teneriffe in 1797. He
looked up into our faces with a solemn and sympathetic look. He would
not hurt our feelings for worlds.

The ragged urchins of Santa Cruz are as like each other as so many
John Chinamen; so, when our own particular boy was not by, some other
would come to us with a welcoming smile and attempt to impersonate
him. Therefore, in order to distinguish our own from his pretenders,
we decorated him with an old brass button, which he wore proudly on
his breast.

I will not attempt here a description of this so often described
island. In my opinion it must be a far pleasanter winter resort than
that somewhat melancholy island Madeira, where there is a depressing
sense of being imprisoned by the steep mountains. The mountains of
Teneriffe are still higher, but there are broad and beautiful plains
beneath them that give an idea of freedom and breathing-room. There
are excellent hotels in other portions of Teneriffe, and in the
neighbourhood of Santa Cruz there are many beautifully situated villas
and châteaux belonging to the native gentry that can be hired at very
moderate rates indeed, while provisions are good and cheap.

The ship's complement was diminished by two at Santa Cruz, the
boatswain and one of the volunteers leaving us.

Before sailing we took on board a large quantity of stores, including
barrels of salt beef which proved to be of a very inferior quality to
that we had brought from Southampton, but this was ancient, and,
having arrived at a certain stage of nastiness, was not likely to get
any worse. The paid hands quite approved of it, for it was at any rate
better than that served out on the majority of merchant vessels. We
also procured some very fair native wine, like a rough port, which,
mixed with water, formed a wholesome drink for the tropics. The high
temperature we experienced while crossing the equator nearly spoiled
this, so that we had to fortify it further with rum in order to
preserve it. On the last day of our stay we went to the excellent
fruit market, and laid in a good supply of grapes, bananas, and other
fruits and vegetables. We also purchased a quantity of the cheap
native cigars; so for a while we lived luxuriously on board ship.

I would have sailed from here direct for Bahia, at which port--as
being the nearest to Trinidad--it was my intention to fill up with
water and other necessaries before commencing our chief operations;
but as letters were awaiting many of us at St. Vincent in the Cape
Verdes I decided to call at that island on the way.

At 9 a.m., September 25, we weighed anchor and sailed to St. Vincent.
The distance is a little under 900 miles, which we accomplished in
seven days.

For the first three days we encountered south to south-east winds,
with fine weather. On September 28 the wind veered to the north-east,
being thus right aft. As the boom of our racing spinnaker was a very
heavy spar and formed a considerable top weight while standing along
the mainmast in the usual way, we unshipped it from its gooseneck and
laid it on deck.

We had now come into a region of strong trades. The wind was fresh and
squally and we ran through the night with the tack of our mainsail
triced well up and our mizzen stowed.

On the following day, September 29, the glass was still falling, and
the sea running up astern of us was occasionally high and steep. There
were signs of worse weather coming, so we prepared for it by striking
the topmast, lowering our mainsail, and setting our trysail. The day's
run was 174 miles.

The glass had given us a false alarm after all; for on the following
day the wind moderated, and we were enabled to hoist our large balloon
foresail; but a heavy sea was still rolling up from the north-east. It
was evident that a gale had been recently blowing over the disturbed
tract of ocean which we were now crossing.

The Cape Verde islands are frequently enveloped in clouds, so that
they cannot be distinguished until one is quite close to them. This
had been my former experience and the same thing occurred now. In the
night of October 1, we knew that we were in the vicinity of the island
of St. Antonio, the northernmost of the archipelago, but right ahead
of us there stretched a great bank of cloud, concealing everything
behind. At last, however, a squall partly cleared the rolling vapour
and we perceived, a few miles distant, the black mountainous mass of
the island, whose volcanic peaks rise to a height of upwards of 7,000
feet above the sea. Then the bright flash from the light-house on Bull
Point became visible.

The islands of St. Vincent and St. Antonio are separated from each
other by a channel two leagues broad, so I decided to heave to in
sight of the St. Antonio light until daybreak.

We got under weigh again at dawn, October 2, and in a few hours were
lying at anchor in Porto Grande Bay, St. Vincent. This desolate
island, which is an important coaling station and nothing else,
inhabited by a robust but ruffianly race of negroes, has been often
described; a mere cinder-heap, arid, bare of verdure, almost destitute
of water, it is the most dreary, inhospitable-looking place I know,
and the volcanic soil seems to soak in the rays of the tropical sun
and convert it into a veritable oven at times. But the dismalness of
nature is atoned for by the cheeriness and hospitality of one section
of the population. For the white community here is almost entirely
composed of Englishmen, the staff of the Anglo-Brazilian Telegraph
Company--of which this is a very important station--and the employés
of the two British coal-kings of the island. Though there had sprung
up a new generation of these young fellows since I had visited the
island in the 'Falcon,' yet I met several old friends whose
acquaintance I had then made.

Porto Grande, miserable place as it still is, had improved a good deal
since I had seen it last. There are hotels here now of a sort, and at
one of these on the beach, kept by a pleasant Italian and his
Provençal wife, we found it possible to lunch and dine very decently.
I notice that I have a tendency in this book to speak of little else
save the gastronomic possibilities of the ports I called at in the
course of the voyage. But I had visited and described all these places
before, and that is some excuse, for the sights were not new to me,
whereas a good dinner seems always to have the freshness of novelty.
This may sound disgustingly greedy to a sedentary and dyspeptic
person; but may I ask whether every sound Britisher does not look upon
the quality of his food as one of his most important considerations
during his travels abroad. How natural, then, was it that seafarers
like ourselves, who were seldom in port and whose diet for months
consisted chiefly of tough salt junk and weevily biscuit, should be
more vividly impressed by a luxurious meal on shore than by all the
lions of these foreign lands.

Here one of the volunteers, our poor old purser, generally known on
board as the bellman, left us, and returned to England. The state of
his health rendered it unwise for him to proceed further on a voyage
of this description.

Suspecting that I might lose others of my crew, I looked round Porto
Grande for two fresh paid hands. This is a very bad place to pick up
sailors in, but I was lucky in my search. I shipped two young coloured
men from the West Indies--one a native of St. Kitt's and, therefore,
an English subject, and the other a Dutchman, hailing from St.
Eustatius. These two negroes, whose names were respectively John
Joseph Marshall and George Theodosius Spanner, had been loafing about
Porto Grande for some time in search of a vessel. The poor fellows had
been jumped from a Yankee whaler that had called here.

'Jumping,' I may explain, for the benefit of those who do not know the
term, is the process by which an unprincipled skipper obtains a crew
for nothing. It is done in this way. Hands are shipped, say for a
whaling voyage. In time, long arrears of pay are due to the men, as
also are their shares in the results of the fishery. But the period
for which they have signed articles has not yet been completed, and so
they are at the captain's mercy for some time to come. This tyrant,
therefore, proceeds to ill-treat them to such an extent that, as soon
as a port is reached, they escape on shore and desert the vessel,
thereby forfeiting all claim to the money due to them. Thereupon the
skipper pockets the earnings of his men, and sails away with a fresh
crew, with whom he repeats the process. Some whaling captains are
great adepts at jumping, and will even sometimes bully the entire crew
into desertion. But those who are not masters of the art dare not risk
this, but content themselves with selecting a few hands only,
generally those who are weak or unpopular in the forecastle, as
victims for their brutality.

John Joseph and Theodosius, as being innocent West Indian blacks, had
been the victims of this particular skipper, and nine months' pay was
due to them when they deserted. John Joseph shipped with us as cook,
Wright being now rated as A.B., while Theodosius served before the
mast. They both proved to be excellent fellows.

We found fresh provisions very scarce and dear at Porto Grande. As a
rule, tropical fruits and vegetables are plentiful and cheap here, for
though St. Vincent is barren, the inner valleys of the neighbouring
island of St. Antonio are extremely fertile, and provisions of all
sorts, and even fresh water, are brought over from it in the native
boats. But small-pox happened now to be very prevalent among the negro
population of St. Antonio, so that the island was strictly
quarantined, and St. Vincent was cut off from its usual source of
supplies.

Our racing spinnaker and its boom had proved to be rather large and
unmanageable for the purposes of an ocean voyage; but our balloon
foresail was of about the right size for a cruising spinnaker. I
accordingly had a small boom made for it here, and it was invariably
used for the future in place of the unwieldy racing sail.

From St. Vincent we sailed across the Atlantic to Bahia in Brazil. I
had followed exactly the same route with the 'Falcon,' and found the
voyage a tedious one; for, on leaving the region of the north-east
trades, a vessel encounters the squally and rainy south-west African
monsoons, blowing right in her teeth; and, when these are passed,
there lies before one the broad belt of the equatorial doldrums, a
region of steaming, debilitating calms, that divides the north-east
from the south-east trades.

Under the impression that the log of a small vessel that had made this
uncomfortable passage might be of interest to yachting men, I
described this portion of the 'Falcon's' voyage in my book with more
minuteness than usual, with the result that one reviewer characterised
the perusal of that particular chapter as being 'like eating sawdust.'
I will profit by this warning, and spare my readers too much log of
calms and squalls, doldrums and monsoons, and treat them to as little
sawdust as possible.

With the 'Falcon' we accomplished the voyage from St. Vincent to Bahia
in twenty-two days; but with the 'Alerte' we were twenty-six days
doing this, for we were not so lucky in our weather, and were delayed
by a much longer spell of calms on the line than we had experienced in
the 'Falcon.'

We weighed anchor in the afternoon of October 9, and got out of the
harbour under all plain sail. For the first four days we did very
well; the wind was south-east and the sea moderate, so that at midday
of October 13 we were well on our way, being in latitude 2° 25' north
and longitude 28° 52' west.

But now our troubles commenced. With a squall the wind shifted to the
south-west, and we knew that we had reached the dreaded monsoon
region. The log was now a record for days of what sailors call dusty
weather, and I fear that the reading of it would prove 'sawdusty' in
the extreme. The south-west monsoon is accompanied by violent
thunderstorms, rain, and squalls, and the sea in this portion of the
ocean is perpetually confused, so that a vessel turning to windward
can make but little progress. Then we came into the abominable region
of calms, where we rolled helplessly on the smooth, long swell, while
our ropes and sails chafed themselves away with idleness, suffering
more wear and tear than they would in a week of gales. Ours was indeed
a very unpleasant experience of the doldrums. For some days we made no
progress whatever, not even an occasional squall coming down to help
us along for a mile or so. In two weeks we only travelled 400 miles,
and we did not cross the equator until October 27.

We saw few vessels on this voyage. We spoke two: the French mail
steamer 'Parana,' homeward-bound, and the British ship 'Merioneth,' of
Liverpool, bound south.

We were not only unlucky with our winds but also with our fishing.
While crossing this sea on the 'Falcon' we had caught quantities of
dolphins, thrashers, and kingfish; but on this voyage we caught
nothing until we had sighted Fernando Noronha, when we did manage to
secure a barracouta and a kingfish.

While rolling about helplessly in the dreary doldrums in the
atmosphere of a Turkish bath, there was nothing to interest us save
the sunrises and sunsets over the monotonous, oily-looking sea. And
these for several days in succession were more magnificent than I
think I have ever seen before. Sometimes the whole heaven seemed
ablaze with flames, and at other times sharply-defined, black, opaque
masses of cloud stood out in strange contrast to a background of
brilliant and transparent colour, and behind the nearer atmosphere one
caught glimpses of vast spreads of the most delicate and tender tints,
pink, green, blue, and creamy white, looking like a glorious placid
ocean of light infinitely far away, studded with ever-changing fairy
islands. With the exercise of a very little imagination one could
distinguish on that wonderful equatorial sky oceans and continents,
mountains of snow and glowing volcanoes, and immense plains of
indescribable beauty.

One of the characteristics of the atmosphere of the doldrums is the
opaque appearance of the lower banks of clouds. At night they often
look like solid black walls close to one; so much so that I was twice
called up by our absurd second mate, who had been terrified by the
sudden discovery that a large, hitherto unknown island was just under
our lee.

We fell in with the south-east trades when we were but two degrees
north of the equator; but it was not until we had crossed the line
that we were able to record anything like a good run each midday. We
were then sailing full and by, on the port tack, and the trades were
so high that for three days we were under two reefed mainsail and
reefed foresail, the vessel occasionally plunging her bows into the
short seas.

At dawn on October 29 we sighted the island of Fernando Noronha on the
port bow, and at midday we were close under it. This island, which is
about six miles long, presents a beautiful appearance from the sea,
with its lofty pinnacles of bare rock towering above the dense green
vegetation that covers the hill-sides. Fernando Noronha is used as a
penal settlement by the Brazilians, and is commanded by a major who
has a hundred black troops under him. There are about 1,500 convicts
on the island, chiefly blacks and mulattoes; but there is or recently
was, one Englishman among them. It is almost impossible for a prisoner
to escape, for there are no boats on the island, and the regulations
about landing are very strict; indeed, I believe that no foreign
vessel is allowed to hold any communication with the shore, unless in
want of water, or other urgent necessity.

On the morning of October 31 we sighted the Brazilian coast near
Pernambuco--a long stretch of golden sands beaten by the surf, fringed
with waving cocoa-nuts, behind which, far inland, were swelling ranges
of forest-clad mountains.

It was a beautiful and very tropical-looking shore, familiar to me,
for I had sailed by it on several previous occasions.

We now followed the coast for upwards of 400 miles, observing a
distance of five miles off it, so as to be clear of the outlying coral
reefs. We passed many of the native fishing catamarans manned by naked
negroes, quaint rafts with triangular sails and decks that were under
water with every wave.

For three days we coasted along this beautiful land with a favouring
wind. On Saturday night, November 2, we opened out the entrance of the
Reconcavo or Gulf of Bahia, and, sailing up, we let go our anchor at
midnight off the city of Bahia, close under Fort la Mar, where I had
anchored in the 'Falcon.'

All my companions were amazed at the beautiful appearance of the city
as seen from the sea by night. The churches and houses of the upper
town gleaming like white marble in the moonlight, with lofty cabbage
palms and rank tropical vegetation growing between, the long lines of
well-lit streets extending for miles round the bay, gave them an idea
of the magnificence of Bahia that a walk through the dirty streets by
daylight on the morrow did much to modify. The old Portuguese city is
picturesque but scarcely magnificent.



CHAPTER VIII.

BAHIA.


All hands turned out early on the morning after our arrival anxious
for shore leave, so that they might inspect the city that rose before
them so majestically from the edge of the green water. Now could they
realise better than by night what a magnificent harbour is this
Reconcavo--an extensive inland sea 100 miles in circumference, into
which several large rivers pour their waters, surrounded by a country
of prodigal fertility, and studded with beautiful islands!

The town was merry as usual with a sound of bells, crackers, and
rockets. These are never silent in Bahia. It is a most religious city.
It is called Bahia de Todos os Santos, the Bay of All Saints, and
every day of the year is the saint's day of some parish or street or
even family, and it has to be celebrated by fireworks, which,
according to the custom of the country, are let off by day quite as
much as by night. If there happened a sudden cessation of this noise
of bells, crackers, and rockets, I believe the inhabitants would run
out of their houses in consternation, under the impression that an
earthquake or a revolution had come upon them.

The Bahian custom-house is not open on Sundays; but the authorities
were good enough to break through their rule, and, coming off to us in
their launch at an early hour, gave us pratique. They also gave us
permission to land with our boats at the arsenal, and to put off from
it at any hour of the day or night. This important privilege is
granted as a matter of courtesy to every foreign man-of-war and yacht.
On the other hand, very inconvenient restrictions are placed on
merchantmen, originally, I believe, for the purpose of preventing
slaves from escaping on board foreign vessels. Slavery has been
abolished quite recently, but the old rules still remain in force. No
one may leave or board a merchantman after 8 p.m., and any one who is
not on the ship's articles cannot do so even in the daytime without a
special permit from the custom-house. We were free to do what we
pleased during our stay, but I observed that the custom-house boats
hovered round the 'Alerte' a good deal at night, and that a sharp
watch was evidently kept on us. All manual labour is left to the
negroes in the Brazils, and a yacht manned for the most part with
volunteer milords instead of paid hands must have appeared to the
natives an incomprehensible, and consequently a highly suspicious,
phenomenon.

Even before we had obtained pratique the energetic ship-chandlers were
off to us in their boats, soliciting our custom by shouting to us from
a distance. Pratique granted, they closed in upon us. There is a
tremendous competition between these gentry at Bahia, as I had
discovered while here in the 'Falcon.' But I was soon recognised, and
then all retired from the field save two, between whom the competition
waxed most furiously. It seemed that my old ship-chandling firm had
split itself into two houses, so the two ex-partners and now bitter
rivals boarded the 'Alerte,' and each claimed me as his own lawful
prey.

This was embarrassing, for I had been satisfied with both when they
were as one at the time of the 'Falcon's' visit; but, as a single
ship-chandler at a time is quite enough, I had to make an invidious
choice between my old friends. One was an Englishman, the other a
Brazilian; so I thought it right to surrender myself into the hands of
a fellow-countryman, Mr. Wilson, who carried us off in triumph in his
boat as soon as we had donned our shore-going clothes.

We landed at the Praya, the ancient and dirty stone quay which
stretches along the shore for four miles, a spot of great commercial
activity. Here are the great ware-houses whence the coffee, sugar,
tobacco, cotton, logwood, and the other produce of this rich tropical
land, are shipped to every quarter of the globe. Here, too, are
markets of strange fruits and vegetables, and a bazaar where one can
buy gorgeous or voluble parrots, baboons and monkeys of many species,
pumas and jaguars too, and indeed specimens of nearly all the wild
beasts of South America. Grog shops, where poisonous white rum is sold
to British seamen, are frequent. Along the quay are ranged the quaint
native lighters with their half-naked ebon crews. A jostling,
jabbering crowd of negroes and negresses with gaudy robes and turbans
throngs the Praya, and when one first lands one is oppressed by a
bewildering sense of confusion--a flashing of bright colours--a din of
negroes, parrots, and monkeys--a compound smell of pineapples and
other fruit, of molasses, Africans, bilgewater, tar, filth too of
every description; not a monotonous smell, however, but ever varying,
now a whiff of hot air sweet with spice, then an odour that might well
be the breath of Yellow Jack himself.

There was no yellow fever at the time in Bahia, though it had been
rather severe at Rio not long before. We repaired to the
ship-chandler's, saw the latest papers and heard all the news. I found
that Brazilian politics formed the chief topic of conversation. A
stranger visiting this country ten years back would have almost
imagined that this was a happy land in which politics were unknown, so
little did he hear of them. Now all was changed. Everybody was
complaining of the stagnation of business. The Creoles were irritated
at the recent abolition of slavery--a measure which, according to
them, would ruin the country, but which, in the opinion of some was
rendered necessary by the determined resistance of the large bands of
fugitive slaves in the southern provinces. The troops were unable to
put them down, their success had brought the country to the verge of a
general servile insurrection, so that it became merely a question
whether the Government should submit quietly to their demands at once
or be compelled to do so later on after much bloodshed. I do not think
the revolution that took place a few days later was altogether
unexpected. There were rumours of it in the air and an uneasy feeling
existed among the mercantile classes.

This was my third visit to this port, so I had, of course, plenty of
friends in the city. These soon found me out, and I noticed that,
despite the supposed unhealthiness of Bahia, none of them looked much
the worse for the eight years they had spent here since I had seen
them last. There can be no doubt that Brazil enjoys a very healthy
climate considering its position within the tropics.

We were elected honorary members of the English Club during our stay
at Bahia, and there we found that the object of our voyage had been
much discussed. The English papers had advertised us somewhat too
well, and though the name of the island we were bound for was not
exactly mentioned, my Bahian friends had formed more than a suspicion
as to our destination. They, of course, knew that I had visited
Trinidad before, and they also were aware that treasure was supposed
to be concealed there, for the American adventurer called here after
the unsuccessful search to which I have alluded.

'Tell me,' said Mr. Wilson, with a smile, when he got me alone, 'tell
me in confidence. Are you not going to Trinidad again from here?'

When I had replied in the affirmative, he said, 'Three years after you
sailed from here with the 'Falcon' an American came into my office. He
had just come from Trinidad, and was very reserved about it. But two
of the crew told me that they had been on shore digging for three
days, they did not know what for, but they supposed the captain had
some information about hidden treasure. At any rate they found
nothing, and while he was at Bahia, the captain seemed to be very
disappointed and would speak of his adventures to no one.'

This tallied exactly with the letter of the Danish captain which I
have already quoted. It was not altogether agreeable to us to find
that our plans were so generally canvassed, for we knew that the
Portuguese had laid claim to Trinidad something like two hundred years
ago, and it was possible that the Brazilians, as successors to the
Portuguese in this quarter of the globe, might consider the island as
their own, and assert their right to any valuables we might find upon
it. I need scarcely say that I had made up my mind, should we find the
treasure, to sail directly to some British port. I would not trust
myself in any country of the Spanish or Portuguese; for once in their
clutches we should in all probability lose all the results of our
labour. The Roman Catholic Church of Spain or Lima might, with a fair
show of right, demand the treasure as her own; so might the
Governments of Peru, Chile, Brazil, Spain, or Portugal. But if we
could once secure it, get it safely home, and divide it, it would be
exceedingly difficult for any one to establish a better right to it
than we could--for should we not have the right of possession, with
nine-tenths of the law on our side?

Bahia is a dull place, but it is an interesting old city, and contains
some very picturesque streets, especially those which connect the
upper and the lower town, and which wind, in flights of stone steps,
up a precipitous wall of rock 240 feet in height. This cliff, despite
its steepness, is green with bananas, palms, and other tropical
plants, which fill up all the space between the ancient stone houses
and tortuous alleys, producing a very pleasing effect from the sea.

The old Dutch and Portuguese houses are very solidly built of stone,
and among them are some of the most ancient buildings of the New
World. The Fort la Mar, under which we were anchored, is a picturesque
fortress constructed by the Dutch 400 years ago on a rocky islet in
the harbour. The cathedral and some other of the ecclesiastical
buildings in the upper town are built of marble that was brought from
Europe. In the olden days--and to some extent this is the case even
now--everything needed by the Spanish and Portuguese colonists of the
New World, with the exception of gold and jewels, was imported to them
from the mother-countries. Thus there are cities in the heart of South
America which have quarries of marble in their immediate vicinity, and
whose churches are, notwithstanding, built of marble blocks carried
from Europe by sea and land at tremendous cost. With its vast arable
lands, that might supply the granaries of the world, the River Plate
district, until quite recently, depended on foreign countries for its
supplies of grain. The old theory of the Conquistadores, that it was
beneath their dignity to perform any labour save that of extracting
gold from the country and its natives, seems never to have been quite
eradicated from the Creole mind.

I could see few changes in Bahia since my last visit. It seemed the
same busy, dirty, old place. A new broad carriage-road had been
carried up the cliff, and this, together with the hydraulic lift which
connects the lower with the upper town, has certainly diminished the
number of sedan chairs. Once these were a quaint feature in a Bahian
street scene. They are almost of the same model as those in use in
London 200 years ago, and are carried by stout negroes. Now they are
only employed by Creole ladies of the old school, who do not care to
sit in the trams by the side of their late slaves.

The crew of the 'Alerte' had now the opportunity of relaxing
themselves a little before sailing away for the scene of their real
work. Some made expeditions up the rivers into the beautiful country
that surrounds Bahia, and the frequent race-meetings afforded
amusement to others. I believe we were lucky, on the whole, while
matching ourselves against the local bookmaker, and realised a few
thousands--not of pounds, but reis, of which a thousand are equivalent
to two shillings.

Our first and second mate left us after we had been a few days at
Bahia, packing up their traps and getting ashore before they ventured
to announce their intention. From this date things went smoother with
us. The cause of all the mischief on board had departed. There was an
alacrity and cheerfulness fore and aft that had been wanting so far.
Now when reefing or other work had to be done it was accomplished by a
third of the number of hands, in one-third of the time, and with none
of the fuss that seemed to be necessary before. I do not go so far as
to say that a sort of millennium came to the 'Alerte'--there was
still, of course, occasional discord, but on what vessel are there not
rows and growlings? It can be safely asserted, however, that from the
time we left Bahia the 'Alerte' was far freer than the average
foreign-going vessel from troubles of this description; and this is
very creditable seeing that our crew was so unusually constituted,
half of the men being paying, instead of paid, hands, and, therefore,
possibly inclined to imagine that they had a right to more voice in
the management of things than was quite feasible.

The crew of the 'Alerte' now consisted of ten all told:--Dr.
Cloete-Smith, Mr. Pollock, Mr. Powell, Mr. Pursell, and myself aft;
Ted Milner, John Wright, Arthur Cotton, and the two coloured men
forward. Of the nine volunteers who sailed from England five thus
remained.

None of the gentlemen above mentioned had any practical knowledge of
the sea when we left Southampton; but they picked up a good deal in
the course of the voyage to Bahia, and now set to with a will to learn
more. I was the only navigator on board when we sailed from Bahia, but
before the cruise was over everybody aft could take his observations
of the sun and work out his latitude and longitude. I now appointed
Dr. Cloete-Smith as my mate, he to take the port watch and myself the
starboard. Mr. Pollock and Mr. Pursell undertook the posts of purser
and carpenter.

We laid in a quantity of provisions at Bahia; these, in consequence
partly of the heavy duties and partly of the constant obstacles placed
by a corrupt administration in the way of all commerce, are
excessively dear in this port. Among other stores we procured two
barrels of salt beef, which proved to be somewhat better than we got
at Santa Cruz, a cask of rough and strong Portuguese wine, cases of
preserved guavas, tamarinds, and figs; and, of course, as many
pineapples, hands of bananas, oranges, yams, sweet potatoes, and
pumpkins as we could carry.

Here, too, we purchased some tools, a large iron cooking-pot for our
camp on the island, some blasting powder, and several stout bamboos
for the purpose of constructing rafts.

We had had enough of Bahia in a week, and were all ready for sea again
on November 9; but as several letters expected by members of the
expedition had not arrived, we put off our departure until the coming
of the next mail steamer from England. It was lucky for us that we did
this, for we thereby escaped some rather tempestuous weather.

On November 11 the Royal Mail steamer 'La Plata' arrived from the
north, bringing with her the missing letters. We had intended to sail
at daybreak on the following morning, but the glass began to fall and
the wind rose in the night. In the morning the sky had a very stormy
appearance and a fresh south-west gale was blowing. On the following
day--November 13--there was a continuance of the same weather, and the
scud overhead was travelling at a great rate.

An English cargo steamer came in this day from the southward, so I
went on shore to find her captain and inquire from him what it was
like outside the bay. He told me that he had been overtaken by the
gale in the latitude of Cape Frio, and that a heavy sea was running in
the Atlantic, while on the bar the breakers would be dangerous for a
small vessel. Hearing this, impatient as we were to get away, I
decided that it would be better to remain where we were until the gale
had blown itself out.

This was, no doubt, the fag-end of a _pampero_ or River Plate
hurricane. The _pampero_--so called because, after rising in the
Andes, it sweeps over the vast plains of the _pampas_, increasing
in force as it travels--blows with great fury at the mouth of the
River Plate and sometimes extends far north. I had had some experience
of _pamperos_, and was not fond of them. I rode out one on the
'Falcon' at anchor off Montevideo, and on that occasion fifteen solid
stone houses were blown down in a row on the sea front, the exhibition
building at Buenos Ayres was destroyed, and a barque lying at anchor
near us was capsized by the first gust. We ran before another of these
storms for three days and were nearly lost.

The _pampero_ was our bugbear while we lay off Trinidad; for this
islet is within the range of the more formidable of these gales, and,
even when they do not extend so far, the great swell raised by them
rolls up hundreds of miles to the northward of the wind's influence
and breaks furiously all around the exposed shores of Trinidad.

Towards evening the wind moderated and the glass began to rise, but
the rain continued to fall heavily. On the following morning, November
14, the weather had still further improved; so anchor was weighed at 8
a.m. and we sailed out of the harbour, my companions in very cheerful
spirits, and eager to get to the desert island and be at work with
pick and shovel as soon as possible.

We had now done with civilisation for some time to come, and we had no
idea when and where, and under what conditions, we should next see any
men save those forming our own little band.

Trinidad is roughly 680 nautical miles from Bahia; we sighted it in
exactly six days from the time we weighed anchor.

The experiences of our first day out did not promise well for a smart
voyage. We tumbled about a good deal on the bar at the mouth of the
bay, and found that the sea outside had not yet gone down. The wind
was moderate and variable, but generally south-east--that is, right in
our teeth. We tacked ship three times in the course of the day, and
made little progress against the head sea.

On the following day, November 15, things looked better; the wind
veered to the eastward, so that the yacht could lay her course with
her sheets slacked off a bit.

The next day the wind was fairer still--from the east-north-east--blowing
fresh, and raising a steep, confused sea, for the south-west swell of
the _pampero_ had not yet entirely subsided. We close-reefed the
foresail so as to prevent the vessel driving her nose into the seas,
and during this day and the next, November 17, we were constantly
tricing up the tack of the mainsail in the squalls.

On the 18th and 19th the wind was moderate, so we had all canvas on
the old vessel again, including topsail and balloon foresail; and on
the morning of November 20 all hands were in eager expectance of
catching the first glimpse of Treasure Island.

At about 8 a.m. it suddenly appeared right ahead, a faint blue peak on
the horizon, fully forty miles away.



CHAPTER IX.

TREASURE ISLAND AT LAST.


We sailed on towards the desert island under all canvas, but did not
reach it for eight hours from the time we first sighted it.

As we neared it, the features of this extraordinary place could
gradually be distinguished. The north side, that which faced us, is
the most barren and desolate portion of the island, and appears to be
utterly inaccessible. Here the mountains rise sheer from the boiling
surf--fantastically shaped of volcanic rock; cloven by frightful
ravines; lowering in perpendicular precipices; in places over-hanging
threateningly, and, where the mountains have been shaken to pieces by
the fires and earthquakes of volcanic action, huge landslips slope
steeply into the yawning ravines--landslips of black and red volcanic
_débris_, and loose rocks large as houses, ready on the slightest
disturbance to roll down, crashing, into the abysses below. On the
summit of the island there floats almost constantly, even on the
clearest day, a wreath of dense vapour, never still, but rolling and
twisting into strange shapes as the wind eddies among the crags. And
above this cloud-wreath rise mighty pinnacles of coal-black rock, like
the spires of some gigantic Gothic cathedral piercing the blue
southern sky.

The loftiest peak is about three thousand feet above the sea, but on
account of the extreme precipitousness of the island it appears much
higher.

As a consequence of the recoil of the rollers from the shore we found
that, as we got nearer in, the ocean swell under us increased in
height, and rose and fell in an uneasy confused fashion. The breakers
were dashing up the cliffs with an ominous roar, showing us that, in
all probability, landing would be out of the question for the present.

We passed North Point and opened out North-west Bay. At the farther
end of the bay we saw before us the Monument, or Ninepin, as it is
called on the charts--a stupendous pinnacle of basaltic rock 850 feet
in height, which rises from the edge of the surf, and is detached from
the main cliffs.

The scenery was indescribably savage and grand, and its effect was
heightened by the roaring of the surf on the beach and the echoes of
it in the ravines, as well as by the shrill and melancholy cries of
thousands of sea-birds so unaccustomed to the presence of man that
they came off the crags and flew round us in evident wonder as we
sailed by, often approaching so close to us that we could strike them
with our hands.

My companions had expected, from what I had told them, to find this
islet a strange, uncanny place, barren, torn by volcanic action and
generally forbidding, and now they gazed at the shore with amazement,
and confessed that my description of its scenery was anything but
exaggerated. It would be impossible to convey in words a just idea of
the mystery of Trinidad. The very colouring seems unearthly--in places
dismal black, and in others the fire-consumed crags are of strange
metallic hues, vermilion red and copper yellow. When one lands on its
shores this uncanny impression is enhanced. It bears all the
appearance of being an accursed spot, whereupon no creatures can live,
save the hideous land-crabs and foul and cruel sea-birds.

We were now coasting under the lee of the island and our progress was
but slow, for the high mountains intercepted the wind from us, and we
were often becalmed on the oily swell under the hottest sun we had yet
experienced. Occasionally a violent squall, but of short duration,
would sweep down on us from some ravine and help us along. What wind
there was between the squalls came from every point of the compass in
turns, and we were constantly taken aback.

But at last we passed the rocky islet which I named Bird Island at the
time of my former visit, and, doubling the West Point, we entered a
bay which I recognised well, for there was the cascade still falling
over the cliff, and, near it, the landing-place off which I had
anchored in the 'Falcon.' As the swell was not high here, I decided to
anchor at once; so, bringing the vessel as near in as was
prudent--about six cables from the shore--I let go in eighteen
fathoms.

The scene before us was a fine one. A very steep and rugged ravine
clove the mountain from summit to base. At the bottom of this ravine a
stream fell in a cascade over a ledge of black rock on to the beach,
about thirty feet below. One could trace the silver line of the
falling water in many other parts of the ravine, especially in one
place far up, where it fell over a gigantic black precipice.

The mountain-sides were barren, save in spots where a coarse grass
grew sparsely. At the very head of the ravine were downs beautifully
green, with a dense grove of trees the nature of which it was not easy
to distinguish from so far below; but, as I had ascended this ravine
during my last visit to Trinidad, I knew that these were tree-ferns,
which only grow on this portion of the island high up among the damp
clouds, and are in charming contrast to the desolation that prevails
around them.

Between the foot of the mountains and the surf extends a narrow beach
of rugged stones of all sizes fallen from above, and the black heads
of rocks appear here and there in the middle of the surf, so that any
attempt at landing seems a risky venture.

But I knew where the safe landing-place was, and soon recognised it
again, though it was not to be easily distinguished from the vessel. I
pointed it out to my companions. Some forty yards to the left of the
cascade an irregularly shaped rocky ledge extends from the beach some
way out into the deep water beyond the beach, and thus forms a natural
pier. I had often found it quite an easy matter to land here when to
do so anywhere else would be impossible; for, as a rule, the seas do
not break until they have rolled some way inside the end of this
point; so that, by approaching it carefully, and waiting till the boat
is on the summit of a wave and near the level of the top of the rock,
one can leap or scramble on to it with the exercise of a little
agility. There are occasions, however, when the seas wash right over
this ledge.

Looking from our anchorage we could see the coast as far as West Point
on one side of us, with the head of the Ninepin just visible above the
cape; and on the other side as far as the promontory of basaltic
columns which forms the western extremity of West Bay, and which I
named the Ness.

As soon as the sails were stowed I went below with the doctor to talk
over our immediate plans. It was now five in the evening, so it was
too late to attempt a landing, even if the conditions were favourable,
which they were not; for every now and again a sea would break over
the pier, sending showers of spray high into the air.

While we were discussing things, there suddenly came a violent
thumping on the deck above us, and from the shouts and laughter of the
men we knew that something exciting was going on; so we went up the
companion-ladder to see what the fun might be. We found that a
fair-sized shark was tumbling about the deck in very active fashion,
while Ted was dodging him, knife in hand, ready to give him his
_coup de grâce_. Our sportsman had got his lines out as soon as
all had been made snug on deck, but his sport for the first hour
consisted of nothing but sharks, of which he caught several. After
this he had better luck and was able to supply the cook with fish
enough for dinner and breakfast for all hands.

The sea round Trinidad swarms with fish; but, for some reason, though
we got as many as we required, they were not to be so readily caught
now as at the time of my first visit; for then we hauled them in as
fast as we could drop our hooks in the water.

There are various species of edible fish here--among others, dolphins,
rock-cod, hind-fish, black-fish, and pig-fish. None of these
hot-water-fish are to be compared in flavour to those of Europe, and
we found that the sharks were the least insipid of the lot; stewed
shark and onions is not a dish to be despised.

According to the chart of the South Atlantic which I made use of on
this voyage, the island of Trinidad is rather more than five miles
long. Another chart which I possess gives its length as only three
miles, which I am sure is wrong; but, on the other hand, this latter
chart is the more correct in some other respects, and marks outlying
shoals which are not indicated on the other. There are, indeed, no
absolutely reliable charts of this island; for the different surveys
have been somewhat cursory, and each has repeated the faults of its
predecessors. The longitude has, I believe, never been accurately
determined, and even the latitude of the landing-place is, if I am not
much mistaken, more than a mile out on the chart.

Before going further with the narrative, however, it will be well to
enter into some explanation of the task that was before us.

The treasure was supposed to be hidden in South-west Bay, in a little
ravine just to the left of our camp.

The yacht was anchored out of sight of this spot, and at a distance of
two and a half miles from it as the crow flies. My companions were, I
imagine, somewhat surprised at this manoeuvre of mine, especially
when I told them that it was highly improbable that we should shift
our anchorage any nearer to the scene of our operations on shore.
Later on, however, they realised that there was a good reason for the
course I had taken.

My former experiences off Trinidad with the 'Falcon' had convinced me
that the anchorage off the cascade was far the safest; indeed that
here only could one remain at all for any length of time. It must be
remembered that a vessel is never really secure when anchored off a
small oceanic island like Trinidad. One should be always prepared to
slip one's anchor and be off to sea at once should it come on to blow.
It is therefore necessary to lie at some distance from the land, so as
to have plenty of room to get away on either tack. If one is too near
the shore one incurs great risk, as I frequently discovered while
coasting later on; for even though it be blowing hard outside, one is
becalmed under the cliffs or subjected to shifting flaws and
whirlwinds, so that the vessel becomes unmanageable, and is driven
straight on to the fatal rocks by the send of the swell. I need
scarcely say that to come in contact with this shore, even in the
finest weather, would involve the certain destruction of any craft in
a very few seconds.

The anchorage off the cascade possesses many advantages. The coast
here is free from any outlying dangers, and there is a depth of five
fathoms close to the beach. One cannot be embayed there, for the coast
beyond West Point trends away northward almost at right angles to the
south-west shore, so that from the anchorage it is easy to get away on
either tack, according to the direction of the wind. Here, too, the
sea is smoother than anywhere else, except on rare occasions, for the
prevailing winds are north-east to south-east, more generally
south-east.

Now, the only other possible anchorage for us would have been in
South-west Bay, in very convenient proximity to our camp; but this,
though it might do for a day or two, was absolutely unfitted for a
lengthy stay, more especially as difficulties might occur with the
vessel while I was on shore myself and only inexperienced people were
in charge of her. In this bay one is surrounded by dangers. South
Point is on one side, with the current generally setting directly on
to it and across the perilous shoals that extend a mile and a half
seaward. On the other side is the cape dividing West and South-west
Bays, off which also lie several dangerous islets and rocks. According
to the Admiralty chart South-west Bay itself is quite clean, with a
uniform depth of ten fathoms. As a matter of fact, it is full of
sunken rocks, and there is an island right in the middle of it; its
existence is ignored by all the charts. Surrounded as the bay is by
lofty mountains, the winds are very uncertain within it, so that if
one should have to weigh anchor it might be difficult to extricate the
vessel from her dangerous position even by the exercise of the
smartest seamanship. Lastly, it affords no shelter from the prevailing
wind, south-east, which often raises a nasty sea, and, what is more,
it is entirely exposed to the storm-wind of these seas, the dreaded
_pampero_, which blows right into it. Any one in charge of a vessel
brought up in this trap would be compelled to get under weigh
frequently under most difficult circumstances, and would live an
unenviable life of perpetual anxiety. This information will, I trust,
be of use to any fresh adventurers who propose to hunt for the
treasure of Trinidad.

Though I would not venture into South-west Bay with the yacht, I knew
that we should have to carry our stores and tools there by boat and
land them on the beach opposite to the treasure ravine; for to
transport them by land from the easy landing-place near the cascade
would be an almost impossible undertaking.

According to the dead pirate's statement, he and his comrades had
surveyed South-west Bay and discovered the best channel between the
rocks. He gave the directions for finding this channel to Captain
P----, and its existence had been verified by both the South Shields
explorers; but as they had brought back an alarming account of its
dangers, and boats had been lost in it, I considered that it would be
a wise precaution for me to land at the pier in the first place,
walk--or rather crawl and climb, for there is not much walking to be
done on that journey--across the island and survey South-west Bay from
the hills above it, before attempting to beach a boat there.

In the evening we held a council in the saloon over our pipes, and I
explained my plans for the following day.

I had explored the island pretty thoroughly while here before, and I
knew that it mainly consisted of inaccessible peaks and precipices,
among which there were very few passes practicable for men. In many
places the cliffs fall precipitously into the sea, affording no
foothold. I had landed in both North-west Bay and the bay beyond it,
and, though there were sandy beaches in both these, still, one could
go no further, for sheer promontories on either side and mountains
equally insurmountable at the back cut off all communication between
these coves and the rest of the island. I also knew that it would be
impossible for me to walk along the beach from the pier to South-west
Bay, for between these were the two capes that bound West Bay, both
opposing barriers of precipices to one's advance.

But while here with the 'Falcon,' after a difficult and dangerous
search which has been fully described in the narrative of that voyage,
I at last discovered a pass, and I believe it is the only one, by
which the mountains at the centre of the island can be traversed and
the windward shore attained.

First, I ascended the steep ravine down which the cascade flows.
Having arrived at the summit of the ravine I crossed the groves of
tree-ferns, and, after making several descents into ravines which
terminated in precipices and so compelled me to retrace my steps, I
succeeded in discovering a gully which led me to the beach on the
north-east side of the island. From here I found it possible to walk
along the beach to South Point, for no insurmountable capes
intervened; and from South-east Bay there was an easy pass under the
Sugarloaf Mountain by which the Treasure Bay could be reached. This
was the journey which I intended to make once again on the following
morning. This route, together with others taken in the course of our
explorations, are I believe the only accessible ways on the island.

I knew by experience that the passage over the mountains to the
windward beach was both arduous and perilous, and that to climb to
South-west Bay, survey it, and return to the pier would occupy the
best part of three days.

The doctor volunteered to accompany me, and I decided to take him with
me. It was indeed important that he should make himself acquainted
with the pass, for it had been settled that whenever I remained with
the yacht he should be in command of the party working on shore, and,
as the only reliable water-supply I knew of was at the cascade, it
might become necessary for him to lead the men across the mountains to
it should a water-famine occur at South-west Bay. Again, it was
certain that bad weather would occasionally make the landing of boats
at South-west Bay impossible for weeks at a time, so that, if there
were some urgent reason for communicating with the yacht, this could
only be done by crossing to the pier landing-place, at which I am of
opinion that one can land ten times with safety to once in South-west
Bay. It had been my intention to form a depot of stores at the pier,
but this we found to be unnecessary.

After I had made the above explanations to my companions assembled in
the saloon, our sportsman, who had been listening attentively,
remarked: 'Skipper, you have given us plenty of reason for taking
Cloete-Smith with you tomorrow and teaching him the roads; but you
have omitted the most important reason of all. Let me inform you that
you won't get us to do any work on shore on Sundays; so on every
Sunday afternoon we will put on our best clothes and the doctor will
have to take us over the pass to the pier, where we can do a sort of
church-parade, and listen to the band. I suppose there will be a bar
there, too, with Theodosius as bar-man presiding over the rum-barrel.'



CHAPTER X.

THE SUMMIT OF TRINIDAD.


On the following morning--November 21--as soon as breakfast was over,
the doctor and myself started for the shore. In view of the rough
climbing before us we did not burden ourselves with much baggage, but
set forth in light marching order. We dispensed with blankets, and, in
addition to the somewhat scanty clothing we had on, we carried merely
provisions for three days, consisting of some ship's biscuit, a few
strips of Brazilian _charki_ or jerked beef--rather rank--some
dried figs, a flask of rum, a tin bottle to hold water, one pannikin,
tobacco, pipes, and matches.

We could see from the deck that there was considerable surf on the
beach, and it was evident that we should not find the landing at the
pier to be so easy a matter as it often is.

Two of the paid hands pulled us off in the dinghy. When we were about
halfway to the shore we perceived a bright red object on an eminence
near the cascade. On getting nearer we distinguished this to be a
ragged red flag flying from a pole. This was a startling discovery for
us, and might signify that some rival expedition had landed on the
island.

We reached the pier and found a high swell rolling by it, while eddies
and overfalls round the outer end of it caused the boat to become more
or less unmanageable, driving her first in one direction, then in
another, so that she could not be brought very close to, without risk
of staving her in against the rocks.

Under these circumstances the only safe method of getting on shore was
to jump into the water. The boat was backed in towards the pier end,
the men pulling a few strokes ahead whenever a wave threatened to dash
her on to it. I stood in the stern and awaited a favourable
opportunity, then jumped overboard and clambered quickly up the pier
side before the next roller should wash me off. Then the boat was
backed in again, and the doctor repeated the performance.

We had no particular objection to the wetting we had received, but a
good many of our biscuits were converted into a pulp and our figs were
pickled with the sea-water.

So here we were at last safely on shore at Trinidad, both in high
spirits at the prospect before us, for we were eager to commence the
exploration that might result in who could tell what magnificent
results.

Climbing over the rugged top of the pier we descended on the beach,
which at high-water is partly overflowed, the pier being then
converted into an island. We scrambled over the rocks and scoriæ to
the height by the cascade on which the flag was, and then our
suspicions were put at rest by what we discovered. A good-sized barrel
had been firmly jammed between the rocks in a prominent place and
filled with stones. A pole had been planted in the barrel, and from
this floated the red flag we had seen. It was in so ragged a condition
that it was impossible to say whether it had ever been a British flag
or not. Under it was a wooden tablet, on which was painted the
following inscription: 'H.M.S. "Ruby," February 26, 1889.' There was
also a bottle on the cask containing the cards of the commander of the
vessel, Captain Kennedy, and his wardroom officers.

Having thus satisfied ourselves that no enemy was in possession of the
island, we went to the cascade. This stream rises among the tree-ferns
at the summit of the mountain and rushes down the gully with a
considerable volume of water. This issue is, I should imagine,
perennial.

Then we commenced our ascent, which involved no light work. The gully
was excessively steep. We were climbing up a staircase of great rocks,
and often where there were insurmountable precipices we had to make
a _détour_ round the mountain-side, creeping carefully along the
steep declivities that overhung the cliffs, the rock and earth
crumbling beneath our feet as we went: for one of the most unpleasant
peculiarities of this island is that it is nowhere solid; it is rotten
throughout, its substance has been disintegrated by volcanic fires and
by the action of water, so that it is everywhere tumbling to pieces.
As one travels over the mountains one is ever starting miniature
landslips and dislodging great stones, which roll, thundering, down
the cliffs, gathering other companions as they go until a very
avalanche is formed. On this day the doctor, who was a little ahead of
me at the time, sent adrift a stone weighing a hundredweight at the
least, which just cleared my head as I stooped down to dodge it. We
were on a dangerous part of the mountain, and had it struck me it must
have impelled me over a precipice several hundred feet in height.
After this we followed parallel tracks wherever this was feasible.

The unstableness of Trinidad causes a perpetual sense of insecurity
while one is on the mountains. One knows not when some over-hanging
pinnacle may topple down. One great source of danger is that there are
many declivities which can be descended but not ascended, and it would
be easy to get hopelessly imprisoned at the foot of one of these. In
the 'Cruise of the "Falcon"' is described one really terrible
experience we went through. Our exploring party had found no water,
and the boy was practically dying of thirst. So, driven by urgent
necessity--for we saw by the configuration of the mountains that we
should almost certainly find water at the bottom of a certain
ravine--we proceeded to descend to it down a great slope, not of
loose _débris_, but of half-consolidated volcanic matter like
half-baked bricks, and very brittle.

This slope became steeper as we advanced and very dangerous, but it
was impossible to retrace our steps. When we attempted to ascend, the
mountain slid away under our feet, crumbling into ashes. It was like
climbing a treadmill. So we had to abandon this hope and go still
further down, lying on our backs, progressing inch by inch carefully,
one of us occasionally sliding down a few yards and sending an
avalanche before him. We knew not to the edge of what precipices this
dreadful way would lead us. Luckily we reached the bottom and found
water in safety. I determined not to get into any difficulties of this
description in the course of our present journey.

We gradually ascended the ravine, sometimes climbing on one side of
it, sometimes on the other, and occasionally wading through the water
at the bottom, according to which route was the safest.

The nature of the scenery around us was now grand in the extreme, and
had a weird character of its own that I have never perceived on other
mountains. The jagged and torn peaks, the profound chasms, the huge
landslips of black rocks, the slopes of red volcanic ash destitute of
vegetation, in themselves produce a sense of extreme desolation; but
this is heightened by the presence of a ghastly dead vegetation and by
the numberless uncanny birds and land-crabs which cover all the rocks.

This lonely islet is perhaps the principal breeding place for
sea-birds in the South Atlantic. Here multitudes of man-of-war birds,
gannets, boobies, cormorants, and petrels have their undisturbed
haunts. Not knowing how dangerous he is, they treat their superior
animal, man, with a shocking want of due respect. The large birds more
especially attack one furiously if one approaches their nests in the
breeding season, and in places where one has to clamber with hands as
well as feet, and is therefore helpless, they are positively
dangerous.

As for the land-crabs, which are unlike any I have seen elsewhere,
they swarm all over the island in incredible numbers. I have even seen
them two or three deep in shady places under the rocks; they crawl
over everything, polluting every stream, devouring anything--a
loathsome lot of brutes, which were of use, however, round our camp as
scavengers. They have hard shells of a bright saffron colour, and
their faces have a most cynical and diabolic expression. As one
approaches them they stand on their hind legs and wave their pincers
threateningly, while they roll their hideous goggle eyes at one in a
dreadful manner. If a man is sleeping or sitting down quietly, these
creatures will come up to have a bite at him, and would devour him if
he was unable for some reason to shake them off; but we murdered so
many in the vicinity of our camp during our stay on the island, that
they certainly became less bold, and it seemed almost as if the word
had been passed all over Trinidad that we were dangerous animals, to
be shunned by every prudent crab. Even when we were exploring remote
districts we at last found that they fled in terror, instead of
menacing us with their claws.

But the great mystery of this mysterious island is the forest of dead
trees which covers it and which astonishes every visitor.

The following account of this wood is taken from the 'Cruise of the
"Falcon,"' and as it was nine years ago, so is it now:--

'What struck us as remarkable was, that though in this cove there was
no live vegetation of any kind, there were traces of an abundant
extinct vegetation. The mountain slopes were thickly covered with dead
wood--wood, too, that had evidently long since been dead; some of
these leafless trunks were prostrate, some still stood up as they had
grown.... When we afterwards discovered that over the whole of this
extensive island--from the beach up to the summit of the highest
mountain--at the bottom and on the slopes of every now barren ravine,
on whose loose-rolling stones no vegetation could possibly take
root--these dead trees were strewed as closely as it is possible for
trees to grow; and when we further perceived that they all seemed to
have died at one and the same time, as if plague-struck, and that no
single live specimen, young or old, was to be found anywhere--our
amazement was increased.

'At one time Trinidad must have been covered with one magnificent
forest, presenting to passing vessels a far different appearance to
that it now does, with its inhospitable and barren crags.

'The descriptions given in the "Directory" allude to these forests;
therefore, whatever catastrophe it may have been that killed off all
the vegetation of the island, it must have occurred within the memory
of man.

'Looking at the rotten, broken up condition of the rock, and the
nature of the soil, where there is a soil--a loose powder, not
consolidated like earth, but having the appearance of fallen volcanic
ash--I could not help imagining that some great eruption had brought
about all this desolation; Trinidad is the acknowledged centre of a
small volcanic patch that lies in this portion of the South Atlantic,
therefore I think this theory a more probable one than that of a long
drought, a not very likely contingency in this rather rainy region.'

Some time after the publication of the 'Cruise of the "Falcon"' I came
across an excellent description of Trinidad in Captain Marryat's
novel, 'Frank Mildmay.' It is obvious from the following passage,
which I quote from that work, that the trees had been long dead at the
date of its publication, 1829:--

'Here a wonderful and most melancholy phenomenon arrested our
attention. Thousands and thousands of trees covered the valley, each
of them about thirty feet high; but every tree was dead, and extended
its leafless boughs to another--a forest of desolation, as if nature
had at some particular moment ceased to vegetate! There was no
underwood or grass. On the lowest of the dead boughs, the gannets, and
other sea-birds, had built their nests, in numbers uncountable. Their
tameness, as Cowper says, "was shocking to me." So unaccustomed did
they seem to man that the mothers brooding over their young only
opened their beaks, in a menacing attitude, at us as we passed by
them. How to account satisfactorily for the simultaneous destruction
of this vast forest of trees was very difficult; there was no want of
rich earth for nourishment of the roots. The most probable cause
appeared to me a sudden and continued eruption of sulphuric effluvia
from the volcano; or else by some unusually heavy gale of wind or
hurricane the trees had been drenched with salt water to the roots.
One or the other of these causes must have produced the effect. The
philosopher or the geologist must decide.'

Captain Marryat was evidently unaware that these dead trees are to be
found on the heights 3,000 feet above the sea-level as well as in the
valleys, or he would not have suggested salt water as the cause of
their destruction.

His description proves that the trees were dead at least sixty years
ago, and in all probability they had been dead for a long time before.
The latest record I have been able to discover which describes live
trees as existing on Trinidad is dated as far back as 1700. The
Ninepin and the Sugarloaf, now utterly barren, were then crowded with
trees of a great size.

Though some of this timber is rotten, a large proportion of it is not
decayed in the least, but when cut with the axe presents the
appearance of a sound, well-seasoned wood. It is gnarled and knotty,
extremely hard and heavy, its specific gravity being but slightly less
than that of water. It is of a dark reddish colour and of very close
grain.

I brought a log of it home and sent it to a cabinetmaker, who found
that it would take an excellent polish. On sending this specimen to
Kew I was informed that the wood 'probably belongs to the family
Myrtaceæ, and possibly to the species Eugenia.' I find that this
species includes the pimento or allspice, the rose-apple, and other
aromatic and fruit-producing trees; so that desert Trinidad may at one
time have been a delicious spice-island.

The doctor and myself toiled on up the gully, whose slopes, as we
approached the summit, became less rugged, and here the ferns grew up
between the trunks of the dead trees, spreading wide their beautiful
fronds of fresh green.

When we had come to a spot a little below the source of the stream we
left the gully--not before we had drunk our fill and replenished the
bottle--and ascended the down where the tree-ferns grow thickest. The
soil is here very loose and presents the appearance of having been
quite recently ploughed up, while it is honeycombed with the holes of
the teeming land-crabs.

Soon we reached the summit of the plateau, where a pleasant breeze
stirred the ferns and we could now command a magnificent view not only
over the mountains we had climbed but over the weather side of the
island as well. I remembered the scene, for I had looked down from
here nine years before. On the weather side of the island the
mountains are even more precipitous than on the lee side; but, on the
other hand, they do not run sheer into the sea, for at their base
extend great green slopes continued by broad sandy beaches. Along all
this coast are shallow flats and outlying rocks on which the surf
breaks perpetually. Thirty miles out to sea rise the inaccessible
rocky islets of Martin Vas.

The plateau we were on was covered with a luxuriant vegetation, for
in addition to the tree-ferns there were large bushes of some
species of acacia--a tall thorny plant with flowers like those of
scarlet-runners, and bearing large beans--flowering grasses, and
various other plants. I collected specimens of these later on, which
were lost, however, with other stores shortly before we abandoned
the island, in consequence of the capsizing of our boat while
launching her in Treasure Bay.

It seemed strange to find so beautiful a garden, high up, almost
unapproachable for the perils that surround it, throned as it is on a
wilderness of rock rising up to it in chaotic masses and sheer
precipices from the shore far below. The sailors under Frank Mildmay
discovered this grove before me. In all his descriptions of places and
scenery Captain Marryat is singularly faithful to the truth, even in
the minutest details. In this respect indeed he is more conscientious
in his works of fiction than are most travellers in their presumedly
true narratives. The most minute and accurate description of Trinidad
that I have come across is in 'Frank Mildmay,' and it is easy to
identify every spot mentioned in that book. The author must himself
have visited this strange place, and his imagination was strongly
stirred by it. He gives us graphic pictures of 'the iron-bound coast
with high and pointed rocks, frowning defiance over the unappeasable
and furious waves which break incessantly at their feet.' His hero
also experiences the usual difficulty in landing; men and boat are
nearly lost, and in all his thrilling narrative there is not the least
exaggeration. All the events described might well have happened, and
probably did happen.

Of the grove he says:--'The men reported that they had gained the
summit of the mountain, where they had discovered a large plain,
skirted by a species of fern-tree from twelve to eighteen feet
high--that on this plain they had seen a herd of goats; and among them
could distinguish one of enormous size which appeared to be their
leader. They also found many wild hogs.'

We saw no goats or hogs, and I am confident that none are now left
alive. We did, however, in the course of our digging discover what
appeared to be the bones of a goat. It is well known that these
animals once abounded here. Captain Halley, of the 'Paramore Pink,'
afterwards Dr. Halley, Astronomer-Royal, landed on this island April
17, 1700, and put on it some goats and hogs for breeding, as also a
pair of guinea-fowl which he carried from St. Helena. 'I took,' says
his journal,'possession of the island in his Majesty's name, as
knowing it to be granted by the King's letters-patent, leaving the
Union Jack flying.'

The American commander, Amaso Delano, visited Trinidad in 1803. He
writes:--'We found plenty of goats and hogs. We saw some cats, and
these three sorts of quadrupeds were the only animals we saw on the
island.'

Possibly the land-crabs have gobbled all these up, for the only
quadrupeds we came across were mice.

Having attained the summit of the island, the doctor and myself took a
rest under the shade of the tree-ferns, while we partook of a frugal
lunch of biscuits and rum, the indispensable pipes, of course,
following.



CHAPTER XI.

ON THE ROAD TO TREASURE BAY.


Having smoked our pipes we continued our journey. At first I was a
very sanguine guide. I thought I should have no difficulty in
recognising the ravine by which, nine years before, I had descended to
the windward shore. But in this I was mistaken, for I found it
extremely difficult to find my way to it again.

At any rate we were not now about to undergo the great toil, thirst,
and danger that I had experienced during my former visit, for I at
least knew some of the places to avoid, and this was a matter of
importance. As we clambered along the edges of the mountains, looking
for the pass, I was able to condemn at once as false passages several
promising-looking routes, the vain trial of which had exhausted myself
and my companions on my previous expedition.

For instance, there was one long slope of volcanic _débris_ of a
ruddy colour which appeared from where we stood to join on to the
green hills below and so to lead to the sandy beaches. The doctor was
anxious to attempt this easy-looking way, but I knew the deceitful
place too well of old. It tempts one further and further down, ever
getting steeper, until one suddenly finds oneself at the edge of a
frightful precipice, invisible from above, which compels one at great
risk to retrace one's painful steps to the heights.

In the course of my first exploration we made so many false descents
of these ravines and slopes, all terminating in precipices and driving
us back again, that at last, finding no water, we were completely worn
out and nearly perished of thirst. The heat is intense on Trinidad,
especially at this season of the year, when the sun is vertical, and
to climb these hot crags through the suffocating air is the most
completely exhausting work I have ever undertaken. No other place
within the tropics that I have visited has such an oppressive climate.
I, therefore, determined to make no foolish experiments on this
occasion, and not to attempt the descent until I was certain of my
pass.

We crawled along the cliff-side for a long way, looking over at every
point; but I could see nothing like my old ravine, and soon got fairly
puzzled. At last we had followed the mountain ridges almost to the
north end of the island, where the plateau of tree-ferns ceases, and
where the mountains fall nearly perpendicularly into the sea, and
culminate in needle-like peaks, affording no soil for vegetation of
any description. So I knew that we had come too far and had passed the
entrance to the ravine. We accordingly retraced our steps. We had now
exhausted our bottle of water and were suffering from thirst. My old
experience had taught me never, if possible, to be far from a stream
while wandering over Trinidad. To toil among these arid rocks produces
an insatiable thirst, and one's strength fails if one is deprived of
water even for a short time. Therefore as we saw below us a ravine
that looked like a water-course and which bore some resemblance to the
one I was in search of, we decided to explore it. We lowered ourselves
down from rock to rock for some way, and soon, to our delight, found a
small issue of cool water. But this was not my ravine, for, on
descending further, we came to the edge of one of the usual
precipices, and we had to clamber up again.

We attempted yet another ravine, which I did not recognise as
_the_ one, but which might prove to be it nevertheless, for I had
to confess that I was quite at sea. This in time led us to a sloping
shelf of rock overhanging another precipice. This shelf was extremely
slippery, for the stream flowed over it in a thin film and it was
covered with a short moss. This, too, exactly corresponds with a
description in 'Frank Mildmay,' that excellent guide to Trinidad, and
what is said about the spot in that work may serve as a warning to
any--if such there ever be--who may meditate a tour on this island.
Two of Mildmay's sailors had been lost while goat-hunting, so he sets
forth in search of them. 'I was some yards in advance of my
companions,' he says, 'and the dog a little distance from me, near the
shelving part of a rock terminating in a precipice. The shelf I had to
cross was about six or seven feet wide and ten or twelve long, with a
very little inclined plane towards the precipice, so that I thought it
perfectly safe. A small rill of water trickled down from the rock
above it, and, losing itself among the moss and grass, fell over the
precipice below, which, indeed, was of a frightful depth. This
causeway was to all appearance safe, compared with many which we had
passed, and I was just going to step upon it when my dog ran before
me, jumped on the fatal pass--his feet slipped from under him--he fell
and disappeared over the precipice! I started back--I heard a heavy
squelch and a howl; another fainter succeeded, and all was still. I
advanced with the utmost caution to the edge of the precipice, where I
discovered that the rill of water had nourished a short moss, close
and smooth as velvet, and so slippery as not to admit of the lightest
footstep; this accounted for the sudden disappearance and, as I
concluded, the inevitable death of my dog.' Later on, far below, he
found 'the two dead bodies of our companions and that of my dog, all
mangled in a shocking manner; both, it would appear, had attempted to
cross the shelf in the same careless way which I was about to do when
Providence interposed the dog in my behalf.' The adventures of Frank
Mildmay and his crew on Trinidad are recorded with such realism and
with--as I have before said--such accuracy of local colouring, that I
suspect Captain Marryat in this portion of his work is recounting his
personal experiences.

So, foiled once again, we reascended the ravine and walked along the
edge of the mountains, till we came to a projecting rock that
commanded an extensive view over the cliffs. Here we sat down and
discussed the problem before us. I assured the doctor that my ravine
was certainly close to us somewhere, but that I altogether failed to
identify it among the ravines before us, though I carried in my mind's
eye a very vivid picture of its appearance.

'Perhaps it has disappeared,' suggested the doctor. This seemed
scarcely possible, but it might, I acknowledged, have been so changed
by landslips as to be unrecognisable.

Being people of logical mind, we reasoned that, if the ravine still
existed, we ought now to discover it without any difficulty by a
simple process of elimination. There was only a limited number of even
possible-looking ways down the precipices. Of these we had now tried
two in vain. Again, there were several others which I remembered well
to have attempted at the time of my previous visit and to have found
impracticable. It followed that we had now to confine our attention to
any remaining possible routes, and of these there could be very few.

Indeed, after a careful survey along the edge of the cliffs, we found
that there was but one such way left to us, and that looked very ugly.
Everywhere else were precipices that could obviously only be descended
by a means of progression more rapid than we cared to undertake.

This way seemed as if it might afford a passage to the beach, but it
was not a ravine at all. The mountain on which we stood had fallen
away, leaving a precipitous step some fifty or sixty feet in height,
and from this step there sloped down to a depth, I should say, of
quite 1,500 feet a great landslip of broken rocks, the _débris_
of the fallen mountain. This landslip appeared to have taken place not
long since. It was composed of rocks of all sizes and shapes, almost
coal black, piled one on the other at so steep an angle that it was
extraordinary how the mass held together and did not topple over. It
was indeed in places more like an artificial wall of rough stones on a
gigantic scale than a landslip.

The pass I was searching for was utterly unlike this. I remembered
well that I had found a ravine extending from the mountain top to the
beach, which I described in my narrative as 'a gloomy gorge with sides
formed of black rocks piled on each other in chaotic masses, with a
small stream trickling into it.' We had experienced little difficulty
in ascending or descending it. Before us were now a sufficiency 'of
black rocks piled on each other in chaotic masses,' but no signs of a
ravine or stream.

It did not look a tempting route, but we could see nothing else, so
decided to try it. The descent was anything but easy and was certainly
rather trying to the nerves. To begin with, the descent of the
precipitous step I have mentioned was a very creepy business. Having
accomplished this without accident, we clambered down the giant
staircase of black rocks the best way we could, and also with as much
speed as was consistent with safety; for the sun was low, the sudden
tropical night would soon be on us, and as it would be, of course,
impossible to proceed in the dark, we should be compelled to camp out
in this very uncomfortable place if we did not hurry on.

We at last reached the foot of the landslip, and were on the green
down we had seen from above, and which slopes gently to the beach. All
our difficulties were over.

These slopes on the windward side of Trinidad are overgrown chiefly
with a sturdy species of bean. This plant creeps along the ground,
throwing out long tough tendrils, whose mission it evidently is to
climb up something for support; but in this they are generally
unsuccessful, for nearly all the dead trees have been blown down on
this wind-swept corner of the island. A few trees are still standing,
and these are overgrown with clinging creepers more lucky than the
rest. The scene reminded me of countries I had visited where there are
ten women to one man and where, consequently, the male is properly
appreciated and made much of, while thousands of luckless old maids
vegetate hopelessly with no one to cling to. When I imparted this
simile to the doctor he implored me not to be sentimental.

The flowers of this bean are pink, and the pods are as large as broad
beans. These the doctor at once pronounced to be edible, for, as he
explained to me, none of these leguminosæ are poisonous. This was a
good thing to know, for they grow so thickly on these shores that we
could have collected any quantity we pleased during our stay on
Trinidad; and with these, the fish, the turtle, the birds and their
eggs, all of which are procurable here without any difficulty, it
would be possible for men left on this island to ward off starvation
for any length of time.

When I speak of the slopes we were now on as downs, the reader must
not conjure up a picture of the grassy downs of the English coast,
pleasant under foot and easy to travel on. To drag one's feet over the
downs of Trinidad is a very weary business. There are large rocks and
deep pits everywhere. One's progress is impeded by the extreme
softness of the soil, into which one's feet sink deeply, and this is
made still worse by the burrows of the land-crabs, while the roots of
the tall grasses and the trailing tendrils of the beans try to trip
one up at every step.

Here, to our relief, we found water again. At the foot of the landslip
a deep gully opened out which clove the down to the edge of the shore.
At the bottom of this a little stream flowed for a short distance,
being absorbed by the thirsty soil long before it could reach the
sands below.

In order to avoid the entangling vegetation we walked down this gully,
and an exceedingly unpleasant place we found it. For here an
incredible number of large fluffy white birds, a sort of gannet, were
sitting on their nests with their young. They covered the rocks and
the branches of the dead trees. They attacked us savagely whenever we
came within reach of them, and the whole of the hot narrow gorge stank
most offensively of the rotten fish they had strewed about. The
different species of birds occupy different portions of this island,
and this ravine is the chief haunt of this particular disagreeable
tribe.

The whole scene now seemed strangely familiar to me--the ravine, the
black rocks, the crowds of brooding white birds--and when at last we
came to what appeared to be an old road of piled-up stones crossing
the gully I stood still and cried in astonishment: 'Why, doctor, this
is my ravine after all! I remember this place well!'

Then I looked behind me at the mountain we had descended, and I began
to understand how it was that I had been unable to find out my old
route. As I have explained, the ravine I had travelled down nine years
before extended from the plateau of tree-ferns to the shore. But since
then a gigantic landslip had evidently taken place. The mountain-side
had fallen away, and millions and millions of tons of rocks had rolled
below, entirely filling up the ravine and destroying all traces of it,
until far down, where it appeared again on the downs beyond the limit
of the landslip.

This was one among other instances I can mention showing that enormous
changes have taken place on this island even in the course of the last
nine years. When this terrific fall of rocks occurred, it would have
been a wonderful sight to one gazing at it in safety from the sea, and
the noise of it must have made itself heard for many leagues around.
It has certainly converted what was once a comparatively easy and
perfectly safe road from the mountain-tops to the windward shore into
an extremely difficult and dangerous one. So much so that the doctor
and myself saw at once that it would be useless to establish a depot
of stores at the pier, as it would be out of the question to lead the
members of the expedition up such a perilous place as this. It was
absolutely certain that lives would be lost if this pass were often
attempted. No skilful mountaineering would avail against the
treacherous rottenness of the precipitous step which surmounts the
landslip, and which did not exist of old, There is no certain foothold
anywhere upon its face, and we looked forward with no pleasurable
anticipation to our enforced return by this way on the morrow.

The birds' eggs lay on every stone in this valley. We tasted some of
them, but the flavour bore too much resemblance to the stench of
rotten fish around us to be altogether pleasing.

The bank of stones which I had recognised in the ravine was of far too
regular formation to be otherwise than the work of men's hands.

Some hundreds of years ago, the Portuguese had a penal settlement on
this side of Trinidad, and this, no doubt, was what remained of one of
their roads. Some weeks later, I explored the ruins of this
settlement, which is a short distance to the north of this gully. I
will describe it when I come to that portion of my narrative.

Before we came to the spot where the stream soaks into the earth we
filled our bottle with water; then we walked down to the sandy beach,
reaching it just before it became too dark to see our way. We were not
long in selecting our camp. There was a large rock on the sands above
high-water mark, whose hollow side afforded good shelter from wind and
rain. In front of this, we lit a fire of the wreckwood, of which there
was no lack round us, and after a supper of roasted _charki_ and
biscuit, we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable over our pipes and
rum. We were tired, and would have slept very soundly with the sound
of the surf on the reefs as our lullaby, had it not been for the
land-crabs, which would not let us alone, but pulled our hair or
nipped our necks as soon as we began to doze off.

At last their conduct became unbearable, and our patience worn out, so
we got up, seized two sticks, and slaughtered some fifty of them. Then
we had a little rest, for the others left us alone for a while and
devoured their dead brethren, making a merry crackling noise all round
us, as they pulled the joints asunder and opened the shells. It was,
as the doctor remarked, like the sound of many lobster suppers going
on together at Scott's.

At daybreak (Nov. 22) we started for South-west Bay. We had drunk all
our water, and so were anxious to reach the bay, explore it, and be
back to our stream as quickly as possible. While making this same
journey nine years before, I had found no signs of fresh water between
this and South Point. The streams that flow from the mountain-tops are
absorbed far up by the slopes of _débris_ and never reach the shore.
Mr. A---- did discover a small, but uncertain, supply near his camp at
the head of South-west Bay, but we felt that we could not rely on
this, and that the issue in the ravine above us, which we had left on
the previous evening, was the only one we could fall back upon with
certainty on the whole weather shore of the island.

We walked along the sandy beach, with the mountains towering to the
right of us and the ocean swell breaking heavily on the reefs to our
left. The beach was covered with wreckage--planks, barrels, spars,
timbers of vessels with the corroded iron bolts still sticking in
them--a melancholy spectacle; but I was unable to find one particular
wreck which I had seen here nine years before--the complete framework
of a vessel partly buried in the sands, into which I had thought it
might be worth while for our party now to dig, as some valuables might
be lying in her hold. Either the sea had broken up or the sands had
completely covered this wreck since my last visit.

We found traces of turtle on the sands, and we saw that the pools of
clear water left by the tide were full of fish, while sea-crabs
scampered over the rocks in quantities. The beans, too, grew in
profusion on the downs above the beach, so there was plenty of food
all round us, and, if there had only been fresh water, we could have
made ourselves very comfortable here. There were, of course, plenty of
land-crabs everywhere, but one would have to be hard driven to eat
these ugly brutes.

At last we came to a promontory of rock jutting out into the sea. We
climbed up this without difficulty, and descended the other side by a
steep slope of soft white sand.

From here we could see before us the Sugarloaf and Noah's Ark. The
former mountain, as its name implies, is of conical shape--a
stupendous mass, apparently of grey granite, whose summit is about
1,500 feet above the sea, and which on one side is very nearly
perpendicular. Noah's Ark (South Point on the Admiralty chart) was so
named by myself at the time of my former visit, in consequence of its
resemblance both in shape and colour to the favourite toy of my
childhood. It is of oblong form, with perpendicular sides and with a
top exactly like the roof of a house. It is formed of volcanic rock of
a peculiar reddish colour, and is about 800 feet in height. These two
strangely-shaped mountains are joined together by an apparently
inaccessible ridge composed chiefly of the red detritus from Noah's
Ark.

Our destination, South-west Bay, is bounded on its east side by these
mountains; it was, therefore, necessary for us now, being south of
East Point, to cross the intervening heights.

The only pass I knew was just under the Sugarloaf. This we used
generally to speak of as the Sugarloaf Col, so as to distinguish it
from another pass which we afterwards discovered. Sugarloaf Col is the
gap which divides the Sugarloaf from a jagged peak to the north of it,
and which, in its turn, is continued by the steep downs which lie to
the back of South-west Bay.

We crossed the sands, and then a small plain covered with a variety of
bushes, which brought us to the foot of the Col. This gap is formed of
rocks piled on one another, and is not difficult to surmount.

We reached the summit of it and then, looking down on the other side,
we beheld, lying at our feet, Treasure Bay at last.



CHAPTER XII.

WE EXPLORE THE RAVINE.


AS we stood on the Col, the steep wall of the Sugarloaf rising to the
left of us, the view over South-west Bay was exceedingly fine. The bay
is of semicircular form, with a distance of about a mile and a half
from point to point. Broad sands, with green downs behind them, border
the central portion; but it is bounded by steep bare mountains on
either side: on the east side by Noah's Ark, the Sugarloaf and the
peaks beyond; and on the west side by the rugged promontories and
islands which divide it from South Bay. In contrast to the savage
cliffs that shut them in, the sands and downs in the middle of the bay
present a very pleasing and fertile appearance, especially when seen
from the sea, conveying the idea that this is a far more agreeable
spot to live on than proves to be the case after a closer examination.

From the Col we could look right down on the bay, and, as the water
was very clear, we were able to distinguish all the dangers below the
surface, as well as those above. It was, no doubt, from here that the
pirate captain made his survey.

We saw that an islet, unmarked on any chart, rose in the middle of the
bay, while a reef of rocks, apparently coral, extended right round the
bay, parallel to the beach, and at a short distance from it. Some of
these rocks were above the surface of the water, some just below, and
others--the most dangerous--further down, so that it was only
occasionally that the sea broke upon them. The pirate in his
confession had spoken of a channel he had discovered through this
reef, situated under the Sugarloaf, at the eastern extremity of the
bay. We now saw that it existed there exactly as he had described
it--a broad opening in the line of rocks, through which a boat could
be pulled, and beached on the sands.

But still, it was an awkward place, and it would be impossible to land
there on such a day as this was, for immense rollers were sweeping up
the shore which would have almost certainly dashed any boat to pieces
that ventured among them. We were, however, very satisfied with the
success of our expedition so far. We had discovered and taken bearings
of the channel, and we knew how to pilot a boat through it, when the
weather should be favourable. Our next duty was to descend into the
bay and identify the place where the treasure was supposed to be
hidden.

It was not long before we had discovered what we considered to be the
right spot.

The pirate had described a small gully in the middle of this bay, at
the foot of which he and his men had erected three cairns, which
should serve as landmarks to those who had the clue, and point the way
to the treasure.

Mr. P----, and, after him, Mr. A----, had found this gully and the
three cairns, just as they had been described. Mr. A----, either for
the purpose of putting others off the scent, or in order to discover
if anything had been concealed beneath them, blew up these cairns with
gun-powder and dug into them, so that now we could only see traces of
one of them. He had, however, communicated to me what he understood to
be their signification, and how he had been led by them to the first
bend in the ravine, at which spot the plunder had been buried under a
hollow rock.

We walked up the ravine till we came to a bend, and here, as we had
expected, we saw what appeared to be a landslip of red earth, filling
up the corner of it, blocking up the mouth of any cave that might
exist there, even as Mr. P---- and Mr. A---- had described. And here
before us lay a small trench, with a broken earthenware water jar and
the remains of a wheel-barrow lying in it--all that remained to show
where Mr. A---- had carried on his not very extensive works.

This, therefore, was the spot we had crossed the Atlantic to find. We
stood and looked at it in silence for a while. 'What do you think of
it?' asked the doctor at last.

It was not an easy question to reply to, for I did not quite know
myself what to think of it. I had pictured to myself a very different
place. I saw that our work would in one respect be more difficult than
I had anticipated, in another respect far more easy. For this landslip
was not nearly so extensive as I had understood it to be, and the
slopes of the ravine were not of such a character as to render our
operations dangerous, or to necessitate any timbering of our shafts or
trenches. But, on the other hand, there was a want of definiteness
that was disappointing. There were no really sharp bends in the
ravine, and there were several landslips. It was impossible to be
quite certain of what was meant by 'the first bend;' for there were
bends of so insignificant a character that they might easily be
overlooked; and we had no knowledge of the number of paces from the
cairns to the cavern. Therefore, should we fail to find the treasure
at the spot where Mr. A---- commenced to dig, it would be necessary
for us to clear the landslip off the face of the cliff for some
considerable distance.

Having inspected the scene of Mr. A----'s operations, we set out to
explore the ravine carefully, and, bearing in mind what we knew of the
pirate's original instructions, we endeavoured to reason out whether
this or some other neighbouring bend was the most likely spot. The
treasure was lying, or had been lying, very close to us somewhere; of
that I felt confident at the time, and I have had no reason for
altering my opinion since.

First, we went down the ravine again, and when we reached the bottom
of it, where it opens out upon the back of the beach, we observed,
what had escaped our notice at first, an extensive excavation in the
hard soil--which is not so encumbered with boulders here as it is
higher up--a cutting so regular in form and with such perpendicular
sides that it was difficult to imagine that it had not been the work
of men's hands. This was certainly not one of Mr. A----'s trenches;
for to have removed such a quantity of earth and stones would have
occupied such a party as he had with him for six months at least.

Was it possible that the American, or some other adventurer, had been
here before us and carried away the treasure? We could find no marks
of tools or other traces of man in or near this trench, so it was
impossible to decide whether it was artificial or natural. Some of us
afterwards came to the conclusion that it was most probably the
latter, for we came across other cuttings, somewhat similar to this,
in other portions of the ravine, which had evidently been produced by
the action of water.

Next we went up the gully beyond Mr. A----'s trench, in the hopes of
finding water, of which we were beginning to feel the want. There was
no running stream here, though it was evident from its formation that
the ravine was swept by a mighty torrent after heavy rains. The water
that drained into it from the over-hanging mountain was soaked up by
the loose red soil that lay between the boulders.

But at last we came to a little hollow at the foot of a rocky step,
where was a tiny pool of tepid and muddy water. However, this was all
we required, for we could now afford time to survey the scene of our
operations more thoroughly, instead of hurrying back, driven by
thirst, to our distant water-course.

Between the hills and the beach, close to the mouth of the ravine,
there is a sort of plateau of sand and stones, and it was evidently on
this that Mr. A---- had pitched his camp, for here we came across his
tent poles, the remains of wheelbarrows, and some empty meat-tins.

We walked down to the eastern beach, where the landing was, opposite
the channel between the coral rocks. The sands here sloped steeply
into deepish water; it was, apparently, an excellent place for
beaching a boat when the state of the weather should allow. Though it
was a windless day the ocean swell was high, and it was a grand sight
to see the great green rollers sweep majestically up till they were
close to the beach, and then curl over and break in showers of
sparkling spray. While we stood there admiring the scene, we saw a
curious sight. A roller was travelling towards us, rearing its arched
neck high up, so that the light of the sun shining through it made it
transparent, and in the middle of the clear green mass we saw a long
dark body suspended, borne along helplessly. It was a large shark
that, venturing too near the beach, had been carried up by the
breaker; he floated there a moment, erect on his tail, his fins
beating impotently, when the roller broke and he was dashed with a
loud thud on the beach; then the recoil of the surf swept him seawards
and we saw no more of him.

Having carried out the object of our journey, we filled our bottle
with water and set forth on our return march. We recrossed Sugarloaf
Col and tramped along the sands. There was no wind and the day was
terribly hot. The sands reflected the burning sun into our faces, and
we felt as if we were literally roasting. Now and then we lay down,
clothes and all, in the salt-water pools, to cool ourselves, and we
rolled handkerchiefs round our heads, which we kept constantly wet. As
my hat had disappeared over a precipice on the previous day, this was
a very necessary precaution against sunstroke, so far as I was
concerned.

When we were not far from our previous night's camp, we saw what
appeared to be an easier way up the mountains than the one by which we
had come down. The precipitous step at the top of the landslip had
been difficult enough to descend, and on account of the rottenness of
its substance we felt that the ascent might be impossible.

Whether this new way of ours would have led us to the plateau of
tree-ferns high above us, I cannot tell; but I doubt it. At any rate,
we abandoned it before we had satisfied ourselves as to whether it was
a practicable route or not, for a most excellent reason on
Trinidad--the want of water. We had exhausted our bottle, and were
clambering up difficult declivities on hands and knees, with the
fierce sun blazing down upon our backs. As there was no wind, the air
that lay on the roasting rocks was so oppressive that we had to rest
frequently, and lie on our backs panting for breath.

I was in the worse condition of the two, in consequence of the loss of
my hat, for, when the thin handkerchief I had wrapped round my head
was dry, it was altogether insufficient for protection, and I ran some
risk of being struck down by sunstroke or heat-apoplexy.

Accordingly, as we saw no signs of water above us, and as it was more
than likely that this way would lead us to inaccessible precipices
which would drive us back again, we thought it prudent to retrace our
steps before we were quite exhausted, and make our way to the stream
we knew of. We could rest by it until the sun had dipped below the
mountain-tops, and then resume our climb in the shade.

We descended to the beach, and walked along the sands until we came to
the rock under which we had camped on the previous night, and then,
being opposite to our ravine, we struck out inland towards it across
the down of beans. We must have turned rather to the right of the
track we had followed on the previous day, for we suddenly came to a
terrace of stones which we had not seen before, and which had
evidently formed part of the Portuguese settlement. We clambered up
this, and then perceived, still further to the right, the ruins of
several huts and walls, built of unhewn stones and overgrown with the
creeping beans. Most of the huts were built at the edge of a deep
steep gully. As soon as we saw this, the same idea struck both of us:
the Portuguese would most certainly have chosen the vicinity of a
stream for their settlement, and in all probability there was running
water at the bottom of that gully.

As it would not take us much out of our way to satisfy our curiosity,
we climbed over the bean-covered rocks until we came to the edge of
the gully, and, looking over, saw, to our delight and astonishment,
not a tiny issue trickling drop by drop, like most of the streams of
these ravines, but a regular little river of sparkling water, rushing
down with a merry noise over the stones.

We drank our fill, and found the water cool and delicious, but
slightly fishy in flavour, for the large white gannets thronged the
hills above. This is the most considerable stream on the island, and
the only one that reaches the weather shore, all the others, as I have
explained, being sucked up high above by the slopes of _débris_.
This drains an extensive area, and several ravines meet at the head of
the gully, each contributing its share of water. Among others was one
of the ravines we had attempted to descend on the previous day, and
which had led us to the brink of the precipice. From below we could
now see the whole face of that precipice--a fearful wall of black
rock, with a thin thread of water falling over it.

We walked down the gully, and found that the stream, not only crossed
the down, but flowed right across the sands into the sea, the volume
of water being too great to allow of its being all swallowed up by the
thirsty soil on the way. We should have been more comfortable in our
camp on the night before had we known there was a stream so near to
us, and would have drunk our fill, instead of doling out to each other
thimblefuls of water with a grudging hand. It was strange, too, that I
had not discovered this river when I was here before. I had then, on
descending from the mountains, turned to the right, even as we had
done on the previous day, and suffered much from want of water;
whereas, had I turned to the left, I should have come upon this
generous supply after a few minutes' walk.

This was, indeed, a most valuable discovery for us, for now, should
the supply of water fail in South-west Bay, our working-party would
merely have to cross the Sugarloaf Col, and follow the sands to this
river--no very arduous journey.

The heat had been so intense this day that our recent vain climb upon
the mountain-side had somewhat exhausted us, and we did not feel
prepared to accomplish the whole of the long journey to the pier
before dark; moreover, the position of the sun showed us that it was
long past noon, and we should have had to hurry along without pause,
in order to save our daylight.

So we decided to take it easily, and select a camp for the night close
to water, on the weather slopes of the mountains. We should have liked
to remain where we were, by the river, in the midst of the old
Portuguese settlement, but, knowing the difficulties of the homeward
journey, we felt that it would be advisable to proceed some way
further on our road before camping, and so leave a shorter distance to
travel on the morrow.

We accordingly left the river-side and struck across the downs to the
foot of the ravine by which we had descended on the previous day. On
our way we gathered a quantity of beans for our supper.

We soon found the ravine, and began to ascend it. The foul white birds
again attacked us as we climbed from rock to rock, and the ugly crabs
waved their pincers at us with menacing gestures. Then we came to the
lowest point on the hill-side where water is found. This was at a much
greater distance from the beach than it had seemed to be while we were
descending on the day before; for the stream disappears in the soil at
a spot at least 600 feet above the level of the sea, and to attain it
from below involves a pretty stiff climb.

We went still higher up the ravine, until we were close to the place
where the stream issues from the ground, a short distance below the
foot of the great landslip of black rocks. Here we found an admirable
site for our camp. This gully, as I have explained, falls towards the
shore at a very steep angle, the rocks, as it were, forming a gigantic
flight of steps. We were now on one of these steps, a flat surface,
about ten feet across, covered with red sand. The stream fell on to
this from the step above, forming a little cascade some twelve feet in
height, and, after crossing one side of the flat, fell over another
wall of rock on to the step below.

The scene around us was strangely picturesque. Our step was simply a
small ledge in this wilderness of broken black rocks; above us and
below us were precipices and landslips. It was an excellent situation
for an eagle's nest, but not an over-secure spot for a camp of men.
Our narrow bed would not do for a restless sleeper: to slip off the
edge of it would insure a broken neck. A coarse grass grew here and
there between the rocks by the water-side, but there was no other
vegetation on the bleak crags, though of course the mysterious dead
trees, as everywhere else on this island, were lying thickly all
around. The foul birds and the land-crabs were the sole inhabitants of
this solitude.

We now proceeded to make ourselves at home for the night. I collected
the branches and trunks of the dead trees and built up a goodly pile
of firewood, while the doctor prepared our supper. We had no saucepan
with us, so the pannikin had to do duty for one. In this the doctor
concocted a stew, the ingredients of which were _charki_, biscuit,
figs, and Trinidad beans. It turned out to be a far more tasty dish
than one would have supposed.

After dinner the saucepan was cleaned out and grog was served out in
it--the last of our supply of rum. We had just lit our pipes and were
settling ourselves down to a comfortable half-hour's smoke and chat
before turning in (to whom is a pipe so sweet as to one camping out
under the stars after the day's work?) when suddenly the doctor cried
out, 'Hullo, look at our beds!' I looked, and lo! to my dismay, those
luxurious couches were under water.

I must explain that we had pulled up a quantity of grass and strewed
it over the sand, so as to make a snug soft sleeping-place for the
night. While we were enjoying our dinner, the river, unobserved by us,
had risen considerably, and was now flowing over that portion of the
step whereon we had made up our beds. There had been no rain to
account for this, so I suppose that the sun, blazing down on the
rocks, causes a great evaporation of water during the day, and that,
consequently, the volume of the stream is greater after sunset.

So we had now to put aside our pipes and grog for a few moments and
undertake some necessary engineering operations: we cleared away a
channel through the natural dam of grass, stones, and sand at the
lower edge of the step, and so gave a free passage to the swollen
stream. The flood subsided at once, and our beds were above water
again. The doctor, then, acting in his medical capacity, suggested
that damp mattresses were unhealthy; so we threw a few handfuls of
grass on the top of the sodden mass, and our beds were what we were
pleased to call dry again.

We lit a fire of the dead wood and kept it alight all night, so that
we could occasionally warm ourselves by it; for a wind had sprung up
at sunset, which swept up the ravine from the sea, making us feel
uncomfortably chilly, thinly clad as we were and having no blankets to
cover us.

We soon found that it would be impossible for us both to sleep at the
same time, for the land-crabs had smelt us out and swarmed down upon
us from all sides. We kept watch and watch; while one slept the other
tended the fire and killed the land-crabs, as they approached, with
sticks and stones. The other crabs, as usual, fed on the dead. I have,
in the 'Cruise of the "Falcon,"' described the peculiarly uncanny way
in which a land-crab eats his food. I saw this night, as I kept watch,
at least twenty of them at a time devouring the carcasses of their
slain friends. Each stood quite still, looking me straight in the face
with his fixed outstarting eyes, and with an expression absolutely
diabolical. He pulled the food to pieces with his two front claws, and
then, with deliberate motion, brought the fragments of flesh to his
mouth with one claw, and chewed them up with a slow automatic action,
but still those horrible eyes never moved, but stared steadily into
mine.

As we had no means of judging the time, it was difficult to divide the
night into watches of even length, so we had to portion it out between
us the best way we could.



CHAPTER XIII.

A NARROW ESCAPE.


We started early on the following morning, November 23, and reached
the summit of the landslip before the sun had heated the black rocks,
and the layer of close air immediately over them, to that high
temperature which we had found so insupportable on the previous day.

We managed to ascend the cliff which hangs over the landslip without
accident, but it was anxious work, and we experienced a sense of
relief when we found ourselves safe once more on the upper plateau.

From here we took a short cut across the groves of tree-ferns towards
the head of the cascade ravine, and came unexpectedly upon a green
valley in the middle of the plateau which we had not seen before, and
which is, without doubt, the most beautiful place on the island. At
the bottom of it a cool stream flowed through thickly-growing ferns
and grass. The scenery all round us was of a soft and pleasing
character, very strange to us after the dreary barrenness of the
mountain slopes beneath this elevated and almost inaccessible garden.

We might have been in some fair vale of Paraguay, instead of on the
summit of rugged Trinidad. Here were gently sloping green hills that
shut out all view of the jagged peaks. The vegetation was of a more
luxuriant nature than in any other portion of the island; tall
grasses, bushes, and plants of various kinds, most of them covered
with flowers, carpeted the soft red soil, while the tall and beautiful
tree-ferns stood in scattered clumps, casting a pleasant shade with
their fronds of darker green. Even the dead trees were not so
melancholy in appearance as elsewhere on the island; for from their
branches--as well as from those of the older bushes and
tree-ferns--there hung swaying festoons of a parasitic plant something
like the Spanish moss that covers the pines and live-oaks of Florida,
but more beautiful, for this was of a silvery white colour.

Besides those tyrants of Trinidad, the birds and land-crabs, mice,
flies, ants, earwigs, and big spiders dwelt in this happy valley.

From here we walked to the head of our ravine, where the principal
grove of tree-ferns crowns the cliffs, and now we looked down upon the
'Alerte,' seeming very small from this dizzy height, '_and yon tall
anchoring bark, diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy almost too
small for sight_.' We observed that the wind was blowing rather
freshly from an unusual quarter--north-west--making this a lee shore
to our vessel, but there were no signs of bad weather in the sky.

While descending the ravine we were shut in by the walls of rock, so
that we were unable to see the yacht; but on reaching a point just
above the cascade we again commanded a view over the whole roadstead,
and lo! we found, to our dismay, that the 'Alerte' was no longer lying
at her anchorage, nor was she anywhere in sight.

We stood and stared round the horizon, scarcely believing the evidence
of our eyes. Not an hour before we had looked down upon her from the
mountain, riding snugly to her anchor, with sails stowed. What
possible mischance could have occurred since then?

We proceeded to the pier, on to which we perceived that the sea was
breaking much more heavily than when we had landed on it, and from
here we were enabled to see further round the coast to the north-west.
Then we caught a glimpse of our vessel just before she rounded, and
was hidden by, the first promontory. She was about two miles away,
with all plain sail set, beating against the wind towards the northern
end of the island.

We surmised that those on board had become anxious about our safety,
and were sailing round the island in order, if possible, to discover
where we were--a course which they had no right to undertake, seeing
that the doctor and myself had not yet been two and a half days away,
and were not likely to have lost ourselves. Besides which, I knew that
there was no one on board competent to take charge of the vessel on a
cruise of this sort. Under these circumstances I was in anything but
an amiable temper, more especially as the doctor and myself were now
fagged out by our exertions, and had been looking forward to a square
meal, and some good red wine with it, on our return on board.

As it appeared that they were bent on sailing round the island, and
might not be off the pier again until the following day--for the yacht
was evidently progressing very slowly, plunging her nose constantly
into the steep head seas--I determined to recall them, if possible. So
we hurried back to a slope near the cascade where the grass was
growing thickly, and applied a match to it. As I expected, there was
soon a great blaze, and a dense volume of smoke arose which must have
made itself visible for many miles around. The wind fanned the flames,
and the fire crept slowly up the mountain-side wherever the dry grass
afforded a track for it; the dead trees, too, began to burn fiercely,
and we discovered that we had started a somewhat larger conflagration
than we had intended, and had set the whole of this side of the island
on fire.

However, it produced the desired effect: we saw the yacht sail clear
of the point again, on the starboard tack, bear away, and run down the
coast towards us. And now, at the suggestion, as I afterwards learnt,
of Arthur Cotton, who ought to have known better, but who, as having
been here before with me, professed to be well acquainted with the
pilotage of Trinidad, the anchor was let go, to my horror, quite close
to the edge of the breakers. Our vessel was now in very convenient
proximity to the end of the pier, it is true, but in a most perilous
position: for no sea-room had been allowed her--a very necessary
precaution under these cliffs, where the wind is never steady--and I
saw that, when the anchor was weighed again, we should run great risk
of being carried on to the rocks by the rollers before we could get
the yacht under command.

It may be imagined what was my condition of mind when I realised all
this, and the doctor was naturally as savage as myself. We stood on
the pier and watched the men as they lowered the sails and then
launched the whale-boat in order to fetch us off. Powell, Pursell, and
two of the paid hands manned the boat. The sea was now so high that
they could not approach very near to the shore. The waves were dashing
high up the sides of the pier, and, in recoiling, rushed across the
end of it in the form of a cascade.

Seeing that we must swim for it, we took off our coats and placed them
in a hole at the top of the rocks. I shouted to those in the boat to
keep some distance off, and throw a life-buoy with a line attached to
it towards the pier, so that we could jump in and be hauled off by it.
This was done. Choosing my time I leapt in, held on to the line, the
boat was pulled seaward out of reach of the breakers and I clambered
on board. Then we returned for the doctor. He stood on the pier,
waiting for his opportunity, but one much higher roller than the rest
came up and swept him off into the sea. Luckily, he was not dashed
against any of the rocks, but managed to swim out clear of the recoil,
while we backed towards him and took him on board.

Once safe on the deck of the 'Alerte' I listened to an explanation of
the extraordinary manoeuvres which had been taking place.

It seemed that either the yacht had dragged her anchor, or it was
supposed that she had dragged her anchor--for the opinions on the
matter were at variance--so the anchor was weighed, and, of course, as
the chain got short, the yacht, even if she had not done so before,
began to drag at a merry pace. Then sail was hoisted. By this time she
had drifted very close to the rocks, but, as far as I understand, she
was filling and would soon have been in safety again, when, for some
reason or other, down went the anchor, and she lay rolling about close
under the rocky Ness and the dangerous islets that lie off it. Up came
the anchor once more, and this time the yacht drove so very near to
the rocks that every one on board gave her up as lost, and some were
looking out for the safest spot on shore to swim to. A high sea was
breaking over the cliffs--one touch and she would have broken up. And
now, as by a miracle--for I don't know how it happened, and no one on
board seems to have known--the vessel got way on her and forged ahead,
so that she became manageable, and was steered out to sea, clear of
danger.

That she had been very nearly wrecked there can be no doubt, and that
this had been due to very awkward handling was also certain. I was
myself much to blame for the serious risk the poor old vessel had
incurred. Had I left the doctor in charge on board, in his capacity of
mate, while I was exploring the island, he would, no doubt, have
extricated the yacht from her difficulty as soon as she began to
drag--an easy task. I did not consider that there was any one else
among the volunteers capable of undertaking the responsibility of
command, but I was under the impression--wrongly it seems--that the
five paid hands on board would have had the common sense to give her
more chain when they perceived that the wind was freshening. Ted, for
instance, was bos'n, and might have taken it upon himself to do this,
as was indeed his understood duty when no officers were on board.

For the first and only time during the cruise these men lost their
heads, and, having no recognised leader to direct them, each
volunteered his own opinion as to what should be done, or as to
whether the vessel was dragging at all; but, as far as I can make out,
with one man giving one order at one end of the vessel, and another
man giving a contradictory order at the other end, nothing at all was
done until it was almost too late.

I made up my mind never from this time to leave the vessel, even for a
short time, without putting some one definitely in charge, even if he
were an incompetent person.

But the danger was not all over yet. The vessel was now tumbling about
in the high swell at the edge of the breakers, the wind had dropped,
and to have weighed the anchor would have been to have run great risk
of being carried on to the rocks by the rollers. So, as she was safe
where she was for the time, I saw it was advisable to wait until the
conditions should be more favourable, before shifting our anchorage.
The doctor and myself enjoyed our square meal to which we had been
looking forward, and then I turned in to sleep, giving orders that I
should be called at four in the afternoon.

At four the sea had gone down a good deal and there was a moderate
breeze, so I decided to move to a safer berth. We hoisted the sails
and, while we were getting the anchor up, I took the precaution,
seeing what little sea-room we had, of putting the whale-boat in the
water, with a long line fastened to the yacht's bows, ready to pull
her head round and tow her seawards should she not cant in the right
direction.

We got away safely, and the anchor was let go in nineteen fathoms
close to where we had brought up on our arrival.

The night was fine, but the surf was still roaring on the beach. The
mountains now presented a curious appearance, for our fire had spread
up the various arms of the ravine almost to the summit, and there were
clusters of lights, as of villages, in all directions, while here and
there what appeared to be bonfires were blazing, possibly at spots
where several dead trees had fallen together. We began to fear lest
the illumination, which must have been visible for leagues out to sea,
might attract the attention of passing vessels. A captain would
naturally conclude that these fires were the signals of a shipwrecked
crew, and therefore go out of his course to render assistance. Luckily
this did not happen.



CHAPTER XIV.

WE LAND THE STORES IN THE BAY.


The patience of my men was now to be severely tried. Here before them
was the mysterious isle, with all its golden possibilities; but for
five days the sea was in far too disturbed a condition to permit of a
landing; so they were confined to their floating prison, which rolled
and pitched at her anchorage all the while, and gazed with vain desire
at the forbidden land.

It was now that Ted came up to me, as spokesman for the rest of his
shipmates in the forecastle, and said that they were all anxious to go
on shore in turn, and do their share of digging with the rest of us.
It had been part of the original scheme to keep the paid hands--with
the exception, perhaps, of the cook--on board the vessel; but as by
this time we knew the ways of the 'Alerte,' and could handle her with
fewer men than when we had started. I decided that an officer and two
paid hands would be a sufficient crew while she was lying off the
island, and that all the other men could be spared for the work on
shore. I therefore acceded to Ted's request.

The men were led to understand that they would be entitled to no share
of the proceeds if the treasure were found, though they, of course,
knew that, should fortune favour us, a handsome present would be given
to them.

The agreement as to the division of the spoil among the
gentlemen-adventurers had also to be revised in one respect. It was
settled that the shares of those who had abandoned the expedition were
to be portioned out among those who remained. By this arrangement each
of my companions became nearly twice as rich--in expectations--as when
he sailed from England.

Trinidad is supposed to be outside the limit of the south-east
trade-winds, but I think this is doubtful; for, so far as my
experience goes, the prevailing winds are from the easterly quarter,
and more commonly from the south-east. When the winds are in the west
quadrant, and more especially when from the south-west, a heavy sea
rises, and landing is rendered altogether impossible. This was our
experience for the next few days.

On November 24, there was a high wind from the north-west and a great
swell. We were now on a lee shore, and a very dangerous one too; so
all was got ready for slipping the anchor and running to the open sea
in a moment, should it become necessary to do so. We gave the yacht
all her starboard chain--sixty fathoms. We got up the end of the
chain, and made it fast to the mainmast in such a way that we could
let it go at once. One end of a stout thirty-fathom hawser was
attached to the chain, just below the hawse-pipe, and to the other end
of it we fastened an improvised buoy, made of a breaker and a small
bamboo raft. In order to get under way we should now merely have to
throw the buoy overboard and cast off the end of the chain from the
mast. We could then sail away and leave our moorings behind us.

Then we set to work to bend the storm-trysail, a very handy sail,
which could be hoisted much more readily than our heavy mainsail. We
reefed the foresail, had a storm-jib ready, and housed our topmast. We
were now prepared for anything that might turn up.

We were not idle this day, for after making all snug, we got the
spades, hydraulic jack, and other tools out of the hold, so as to have
them in readiness to put in the boat the moment there was a chance of
landing.

Our fire on the mountain blazed away all this night and was not
entirely extinguished for six days afterwards.

The next day was overcast, and the wind was from the south-west; then
it veered to the southward. The sea was higher than on the previous
day. The vessel tumbled about a great deal, rolling her scuppers under
water, flooding her decks, and running her bowsprit under, all the
while. Still, she rode very easily, the great length of heavy chain we
had given her acting as a spring. We watched carefully for the first
signs of dragging, but the anchor had evidently got a good hold now
and she did not budge a foot. In the afternoon the glass fell rapidly
and the sky looked very stormy, while the temperature in our saloon
fell to 75°, which made us feel quite chilly.

It is probable that this disturbed weather and high sea were the
results of a _pampero_ raging thousands of miles to the southward
of us.

On this day we took our dinghy on deck--a dilapidated little boat--and
proceeded to stop her leaks, in a novel, but for the time effectual,
manner, with plaster of Paris and tar.

The fish would not be caught while this heavy sea was running, but we
secured some sharks and ate their flesh for dinner, to the horror of
our black cook, whom I overheard telling his shipmates that he
considered it 'degrading to eat de meat of de dam shark.'

_November 26._--Same weather, blowing, raining, rolling, and
impatient grumbling of men. Even the two amiable blacks, eager to be
at work on shore, fretted a bit at the enforced imprisonment on board.
They had always been fond of argument, but now the arguments became
stormy, and we could hear them laying down the law to each other in
the forecastle, while the English sailors sat round them, smoking in
silence and listening with amused wonder. One black was a Roman
Catholic, the other a Methodist; their discussions were generally
theological, and they exchanged vituperations with a fine theological
fury. It was grand to hear Theodosius rail at the Pope and call his
comrade a heathen idolater, while George would pour the vials of his
wrath on the Methodist heretic. These two poor fellows were the
greatest friends, but, of course, each was confident that the other
was doomed to perdition. When, in the course of one of these
controversies, a theologian found himself caught in a dilemma, he
would wax impatient and cry, 'Oh, chew it!'--an expression I have
never heard before--indicating that one has been worsted in argument,
but will not allow it, and insists, having had enough of it, on
winding up the debate at once.

On the 27th the glass rose, the wind veered to north-east, and the
sea moderated; but the surf was still dangerous, and we could see it
breaking over a rock sixty feet in height. On this day we sighted
two homeward-bound sailing-vessels. During our stay on Trinidad
we saw a good many craft, sometimes four or five in a week, all
homeward-bounders, for, as I have already explained, it is usual for
vessels coming round Cape Horn to make for and sight this island, so
as to correct the rate of their chronometers. Few outward-bounders
pass it, and it is altogether out of the track of steamers.

On November 28 things looked better, the sea had all gone down. In the
morning a few hands pulled off to the pier, where they found the
landing perfectly easy, and brought off the coat which the doctor had
left on the rock when we had jumped into the sea. My coat could not be
found, as it had been washed off by a wave. They also brought off a
specimen of a land-crab, which did not seem at all at home on our
deck. He was introduced to Master Jacko, our monkey, whose horror at
the uncouth apparition was intense. The wise monkey would not get
within reach of the crab's nippers, but, having cleverly driven him
into a corner, tried to push his ugly visitor through a scupper into
the sea with a bit of firewood.

I must now apologise to Jacko for not having before this introduced
him to my readers. He was a delightful little creature that we had
purchased on the Praya at Bahia. He was very affectionate, and was
free from malice, though, of course, full of mischief. He had a red
blanket of his own, which he would carry about with him wherever he
went, and, should a few drops of rain fall or spray come on board, he
would deftly roll it about him in the fashion of a cloak, with his
funny little head just peeping out of the hood. He was very fond of
tea, and while we were at sea he took his 4 a.m. cup with the others.
As soon as the cook began to lift the boiler of tea from the stove
Jacko would give a whistle of delight, clamber up the pantry wall,
unhook a pannikin, and walk up with it to be filled, 'all de same as a
little ole man,' as the cook used to say. It was amusing to see him
test the temperature of the tea with his fingers before drinking it.
He was a marvellously intelligent and jolly little creature, and is
now dwelling happily in a little house on a cocoanut tree in a
plantation near Port-of-Spain. He prefers a West Indian life of warmth
and unlimited bananas to an existence in a damp ship on salt junk and
biscuit.

At noon, as the sea was still smooth, we made our first attempt at
landing in Treasure Bay. We put the whale-boat in the water, and
loaded her with about a ton of stores, consisting of tinned provisions
of various sorts, biscuit, salt beef, the picks, spades, crowbars,
wheelbarrows, hydraulic jack, and other tools. We also took in tow a
raft constructed of the long bamboos we had brought from Bahia. These
we knew would be useful for several purposes.

I steered the boat, while the doctor, Powell, Pursell, and two paid
hands, took the oars. Having the wind behind us we were not long in
crossing the two miles of smoothly heaving sea that lay between us and
South-west Bay. We rounded the point into the bay, and, leaving on our
port hand the islet in the middle, we made for the channel which the
doctor and myself had surveyed from the mountains. When we came near
we found that there were three parallel lines of breakers to be
traversed, and, consequently, there was a treble chance of swamping.
The surf was much more formidable than we had expected to find it,
considering how smooth the sea was outside the bay. The wind was
blowing in strong gusts right off shore, over the depression in the
mountains at the back of the bay. It drove off the tops of the
oncoming waves into great veils of spray, curling over in a contrary
direction to the curl of the swell, and bright with shifting rainbows
as the sun's rays fell upon it. The bay presented a most beautiful
appearance from the boat, and those who had not seen the pirates'
haunt before uttered exclamations of admiration and wonder. Between
the gloomy black mountains on the left and the unearthly-looking dark
red walls of Noah's Ark on the right was a scene in which, flooded
with tropical sunlight, earth and ocean vied with each other in
vividness of colouring. Directly in front were the great rollers of
transparent green, their snowy crests flashing with rainbows; beyond,
dazzling golden sands; above, domes of brilliant emerald cleaving the
cloudless sky.

But this was no time to dwell on the beautiful; we had other matters
to consider. The grand rollers with their breaking tops had no charms
for us, for we had to get through them--a risky undertaking with a
deeply-laden boat.

We discovered afterwards that it is almost impossible to judge from
the height of the swell near our anchorage, or from the surf on the
pier, whether landing in South-west Bay is likely to be easy or the
reverse. The surf on this sandy beach is governed by a different
system of laws to that which prevails on other portions of the coast
of Trinidad. Here, curiously enough, there is more surf when the wind
is blowing off shore than when it is blowing on. The north-east wind,
sweeping in violent gusts down the slopes that back the bay, offers a
resistance to the swell rolling in, and piles it into steep walls of
water, breaking dangerously. The south-east wind raises a higher swell
outside, but, blowing right into this bay, drives the sea down, and
the landing becomes comparatively easy. At the anchorage opposite the
cascade the contrary is the rule: with a north-east wind blowing off
shore the sea is smooth, with a south-east wind the surf increases;
but, as I have already stated, it is always smoother there than in
South-west Bay.

The men rested on their oars, and we watched the surf from a safe
distance, to discover if there were any chance of picking a favourable
opportunity for landing. It would be a disappointing matter if we had
to pull our boat-load of stores back to the yacht against the wind;
so, after a little hesitation, I decided to risk the landing. One must
run some risks on such a place as Trinidad, and we might as well
commence at once. All in the boat were delighted at the decision.

Every one knows how the ocean swell proceeds in regular rhythm, and
how one sees at intervals three greater waves than usual come up, one
after the other, to be succeeded by a comparative calm. We took the
boat just outside the outer breakers and awaited one of these
smoothes. Soon three great waves passed under us, and broke beyond us
with terrific force. Now was our time, and we made a dash for it. The
long ash oars bent as the men, putting their backs into their work,
drove the boat through the sea. Pull away! Pull away! The first row of
breakers is passed; then we are safely borne on the top of the second,
looking down upon the beach as from a hill. It passes us and breaks.
All safe so far. We are close to the beach. Then, behind us, we see a
wall of water suddenly rise, curling over. We should simply be rolled
over if we tried to back the boat against it, so the men strain at
their oars to reach the shore before it. The boat is just touching the
sand, the order is given: 'All hands overboard and haul her up,' when
the sea pours over our heads, filling the boat. The men leap or are
washed overboard. One catches hold of the long painter we had provided
in view of such an emergency and contrives to reach the shore; then,
planting his heels in the sand, he holds on with all his strength, to
prevent the boat being swept off into deep water by the receding wave.
At first the other hands are out of their depth, but, as the roller
recoils, they feel bottom; then, two of us holding on to one side of
the boat and two on the other, while the remaining man scrambles on
shore to assist the man with the painter, we haul the boat up till she
grounds; then we all stand by till the next roller comes on to help us
up a bit further. Here it comes! right over our heads, and we are
afloat once more. But the two men on shore haul away with all their
might, as do the others when they touch bottom, and when the wave
recoils it has left us fifty feet higher up the bank, and out of reach
of any heavy body of water.

It was lucky for us that ours was a lifeboat with a water-tight
compartment at either end or we should not have got out of this scrape
so well. The boat did not capsize when she filled, neither did she
broach to, her head was always direct for the shore. The tide was
coming in fast, so we lost no time in getting her safely drawn up.
While some hands took out the stores and tools, others baled her out,
and, by placing bamboo rollers under her, we dragged her up the steep
incline of sand until she was quite out of reach of the sea. We found
that we had not lost or damaged any of our stores, so had good reason
to congratulate ourselves on our success.

A tot of rum was served to all hands after their exertions, and then
we carried all our property up to the spot we had selected for our
camp--a plateau of sand and earth opposite the mouth of the ravine.

Then, as all were, of course, anxious to see the supposed hiding-place
of the treasure, the doctor and myself took them to it. On ascending
the gully somewhat higher than we had gone on our previous visit we
discovered two or three small pools of inferior water. But the supply
was insufficient, even after the recent heavy rains; so it was evident
that, unless we found some other source, our condensing apparatus
would not have been brought in vain. There was, fortunately, an
abundance of fuel in the neighbourhood, for the dead trees were
strewed over all the hill-side.

We had not brought off any of the tents, but, with a good fire and
plenty to eat, drink, and smoke, there would be little hardship in
sleeping out; and the doctor and Powell volunteered to stay on shore,
while I went back to the yacht. It was my intention to return, if
possible, on the following day, with the tents and other stores, and
to then leave a working-party on the island. We might, of course, on
the other hand, be prevented by a heavy sea from landing again for a
week or more; so we bade our comrades an affectionate farewell, and
enjoined them not to be lazy, but to dig away until they saw us
again--a quite unnecessary suggestion, for they were very keen to
begin work.

Taking with me Pursell and the paid hands, we hauled the boat down to
the beach; we dragged her into the water quickly, just as one big
roller was recoiling, jumped in and pulled hard out to sea. We shipped
a little water at the second line of breakers, and were then in
safety.

We soon found, as we pulled back to the yacht, that our boat had
sprung a leak, for the water was pouring in fast through her bottom,
so that we had to stop and bale occasionally. She was an excellent
sea-boat, but lightly built, and her bump on the sands had done her no
good.



CHAPTER XV.

OUR CAMP.


We hoisted our leaky lifeboat into the davits when we got on board,
intending to repair her on the following morning.

During the night fierce gusts blew down the ravine from the
north-east, and black masses of cloud were constantly sweeping across
the mountains. The wind howled as it does in a wintry gale on the
North Sea, and, to all appearance, a heavy storm was raging. Still, it
was quite smooth at our anchorage under the lee of the island, and we
noticed that seawards the sky looked fine enough, and the clouds were
travelling at no great pace. The storm, in fact, was entirely local,
and was limited to the islet and its immediate neighbourhood. We
afterwards became quite accustomed to these harmless gales, which had
a habit of springing up at sunset.

Trinidad, in consequence of the loftiness of its mountains, can boast
of a climate of its own. It is subject to miniature cyclones, whose
influence does not extend a mile from the shore, and which, therefore,
cannot raise a heavy sea. We were sometimes riding with straining
chain to a wind of hurricane force, when we could see a vessel a
league or so from the land making no progress, her canvas shaking in
the calm; and, however fine it might be outside, the clouds would
collect upon the peaks in ominous torn masses, that whirled along as
if impelled by a terrific blast, and which looked very alarming until
we came to understand the innocence of the phenomenon. We also found
that the landing was often the most perilous on clear, windless days,
when no clouds crowned the mountains.

These storms were, however, a nuisance to us; for the squalls would
strike the yacht with great force, so that she strained at her chain
and was likely to drag; consequently the officer in charge was unable
to enjoy an undisturbed night's rest, but was in a state of constant
anxiety for the vessel, and was often brought on deck by the turmoil
to satisfy himself that all was going well.

The next day, November 29, was fine, the wind being still from the
north-east. There was even less swell than on the previous day, so we
saw that no time must be lost in landing more stores. A neglected
opportunity on Trinidad might mean a month's delay.

We examined the boat, and found that she had started a plank, but that
the damage was slight and could be easily repaired. A few copper
nails, some cotton thrust between the seams with a knife, and a little
marine glue, made her right again; and, after breakfast, she put off
to Treasure Bay with a miscellaneous cargo--the tents, a barrel of
flour, wire-fencing, the blankets and baggage for the shore-party,
etc.; but we did not venture to put nearly so heavy a weight into her
as on the previous day.

The surf in the bay was no longer dangerous, and, though water was
shipped, all was landed without accident. At midday the boat returned
to the yacht, was reloaded, and another successful disembarkation was
effected. This put us in very good spirits. We had succeeded in
overcoming the difficulties that had caused previous expeditions to
fail, and had now got on shore all that was absolutely necessary for
carrying on the digging for some time to come. The doctor, Pursell,
Powell, and Ted Milner were left on shore for the night, and the boat
returned to the yacht.

The next day, November 30, was the first on which we divided ourselves
definitely into two parties, the working-gang on shore and a crew of
three to take charge of the yacht. I had talked our plans over on the
previous day with my sole officer, our medico-mate, and we came to the
conclusion that it would be advisable for me to stay on board for the
first fortnight, at least; for we did not know as yet whether it would
be safe to remain at anchor for any length of time, or what steps
might become necessary in order to ensure the safety of the vessel;
and, until such knowledge had been gained by experience of the
conditions of the place, it was right that I should undertake the
responsibility of looking after the yacht.

So, on this morning, I went on shore for the last time, before
settling down to my fortnight's watch. We took another cargo of stores
in the boat, and landed without difficulty. This long spell of smooth
sea was a most fortunate occurrence for us.

On landing I found that the shore-party had been hard at work. They
had arranged the camp--and very snug it looked. Two ridge tents had
been placed side by side, to be occupied by the gentlemen-volunteers,
two in each; while a short way off was a larger tent, constructed of
our racing spinnaker and the quarter-deck awning supported by bamboos.
This was our dining-room and kitchen, and also served as sleeping
quarters for the paid hands. At one end of it was an elegant
dining-table--planks from the deck of some old wreck, supported by one
of Mr. A----'s wheelbarrows which had been found in the ravine. A few
campstools and barrels served as chairs, and the arrangements
generally were almost luxurious.

Many improvements were made to the camp during our stay in Trinidad,
and at last it became a comfortable little village. A conspicuous
object near the tents was the condensing apparatus. Later on, the
cooking was all done out of doors, a neat oven having been constructed
of stones and plaster of Paris. The plaster of Paris had formed part
of the taxidermist's stores, but, little used for its original
purpose, it was found to be of much service in the way of cement.

A list of all that we landed on the shore of South-west Bay would be a
long one. There was, at the very least, eight tons weight in all. I
need not say that the cook was well provided with culinary apparatus,
and that such articles as paraffin lamps for the tents, a library of
books, fishing lines and hooks, and carpenter's tools had not been
forgotten--our camp, in short, was fully furnished with everything
that could be required.

The doctor and myself discussed the scheme of work on shore, and, when
all was settled we launched the boat again and pulled off to the
yacht. It was decided that the shore-party should keep the
whale-boat--in the first place, because the crew on board would be
insufficient to man her, and, secondly, because it was only right and
prudent to leave a boat on the island in case of any accident
happening to the yacht. It would be easy for the working-party to pull
off, if necessary, and intercept a passing vessel. The dilapidated
dinghy was left on board for our use.

The hands who had come off in the boat dined on board, and then the
doctor, taking with him those who were going to stay on shore, pulled
back to the bay, to commence his duties as Governor of Trinidad,
leaving me with my two hands, Wright, and the coloured man Spanner.
And a very good governor the doctor proved too, as I discovered when I
next went on shore and saw the work that had been got through. He kept
up a discipline quite strict enough for all practical purposes. He did
more work than any one else himself, being physically the strongest
man of us all, and he superintended all the operations with great
skill and judgment. The control could not have been left in better
hands, and he was well backed up by his comrades. There was hard work
done on that island, considerable hardships were undergone, there was
often dangerous landing and beaching of boats, and all was carried on
under a vertical sun on one of the hottest and most depressing spots
on earth. Great credit is due to the doctor and the others who worked
so hard and with such pluck and cheerful zeal, and the ungenerous
remarks of the one discontented volunteer we had left--a man who did
not do his share of work either at sea or on shore, but who did far
more than his share of criticism and fault-finding--can only reflect
upon himself. As he has favoured the world with his sneers through the
medium of the papers, I feel bound to say this much.

The doctor remained and worked hard on the island during the whole
time that our operations were being carried on, as did Powell and
Pursell, and they, with the paid hands, who relieved each other at
intervals, practically did all the digging. I was on shore for one
fortnight only, as will appear in the course of this narrative. I had,
consequently, but a very small share of the hard work and of roughing
it, for the life on board ship was incomparably more comfortable and
easy than the life on shore. Our critical volunteer also only passed
about two weeks, of not arduous work, on the island; for the rest of
the time he was on the yacht.

This night we had another local storm, but by now we were getting
accustomed to this.

Shortly after dawn on the following morning, Sunday, December 1, I
saw, to my surprise, the whale-boat rounding the point. She came
alongside, and the doctor, who was in charge of her boarded us. Seeing
that there was very little surf in South-west Bay, he had rightly
taken the opportunity of putting off for another cargo of stores.
Among other articles, he carried away some large cocoanut mats we had
purchased at Bahia, and which, when laid on the sandy floor of the
tents, would make things more comfortable. He also took off the heavy
boiler and receiving tank of the condensing apparatus, which could
only be landed on a favourable day such as this was. Having loaded the
boat, he left us again.

We had now taken so much weight out of the yacht that she was high out
of the water, and might possibly prove somewhat cranky under canvas.
So, after dinner, I took the two men off with me in the dinghy, for
the purpose of fetching some heavy stones from the beach, to put in
our hold in the place of all the tools we had taken out. First we
pulled to the pier, where we landed without the slightest difficulty.
Wright, while wandering about the beach, came across the last object
one would expect to find on a desert island--a rather smart lady's
straw-hat, so far as my judgment goes, of modern fashion. It had,
probably, been blown off some fair head on a passenger steamer. The
gallant gentlemen-adventurers, when they heard of this discovery,
proposed that it should be stuck on a pole in the middle of the camp,
to remind them of home and beauty.

Finding that there were no suitable stones near this beach, we got in
the boat again and rowed to West Bay, to see if we should have better
luck there. Three islets lie off the east side of the Ness. We found
that the narrow deep-water channel between these and the cape could be
taken with safety on a fine day like this. As a rule, this channel is
impracticable, for the ocean swell penetrating it produces a great
commotion, the sea being dashed with violence from the cliffs on one
side to those on the other, so that the entire channel presents the
appearance of a boiling cauldron; and, even on this quiet day, we had
to keep the boat carefully in the middle, for the waves leapt high up
the rocky walls with a loud noise, which was repeated in manifold
echoes by the crags above. When we were in the passage between the
third islet and the shore the scene before us was most impressive. The
black cliffs rose perpendicularly on either side of us, about thirty
feet apart, casting a profound shade on the heaving water, so that it
looked like ink beneath us; and between these cliffs, as through a
dark tunnel, we saw the sunlit waters and shores of West Bay. The
mountains that lay to the back of it were barren and of bold outline,
great pinnacles of rock dominating huge landslips that slope to the
shingle-beach. We could distinguish the familiar forms of the
Sugarloaf and Noah's Ark towering over the depressions of the hills.

At the farther end of the bay we found a suitable place for getting
stones. Here a rocky shelf formed a sort of jetty. George leapt on
shore and brought down the stones, while Wright, sitting in the stern,
took them from him, and placed them at the bottom of the boat, while I
backed in towards the jetty and pulled out again between the waves;
for there was sufficient sea to do damage if proper caution was not
observed. Having taken on board about half a ton of large heavy
stones, we returned to the yacht and stowed them under the
cabin-floor.

On the following morning, December 2, the doctor came off again in the
lifeboat, and carried off another moderate load of stores. He reported
that on the previous day, being Sunday, he had given all hands a
holiday on his return to the shore, and that they had passed the day
in exploring the neighbourhood of Treasure Bay. They came across some
more tent poles and picks left by Mr. A----'s party. They also made
one very curious discovery--a quantity of broken pottery, lying in a
little rocky ravine at a considerable height above the shore. All this
was of Oriental manufacture. Some was of unglazed earthenware, some of
glazed china--the remains of what appeared to have been water-jars and
punch-bowls. There were also some broken case-bottles of glass,
oxidised and brittle from long exposure. The bowls proved to be of
Blue Dragon china, about a hundred years old, and, therefore, of some
value to the connoisseur.

Pottery of this description had certainly not formed part of the
equipment of Mr. A----'s, or of any other of the treasure-hunting
expeditions. Could these be relics of the pirates' booty--articles
they had thrown away as being of no value to them when they buried the
rest of the treasure? It was, certainly, difficult to account for the
presence of old blue china on a barren hill-side of Trinidad. It has
been suggested by an old sea captain that an East Indiaman may have
been wrecked here many years ago, and that her crew had contrived to
reach the shore with provisions and other property, for bowls of the
same description as those of which these fragments had formed part
were commonly used by the Malay sailors to eat their curry in.

The doctor soon left me, and hurried back with his boat's crew to the
camp, for the sea was rising, the glass had been falling for
twenty-four hours, and the sky had a stormy appearance, not only over
the mountains, but on the sea-horizon as well.

These signs of foul weather did not deceive us, for it now blew hard
from the south-east for several days, and the sea was so rough that we
were unable to launch the dinghy, while, on the other hand, it was
impossible to put out from the bay in the whale-boat. All
communication was, therefore, cut off between the yacht and the shore
for six days, and we could not even see each other during this time,
as two capes stretched out between us.

It was fortunate that we had landed such an ample supply of stores
while the weather was fine.

We had rather an uncomfortable time of it on board for the next few
days. For a good part of the time the wind was blowing with the force
of a gale, and it howled and whistled among the crags in a dreadful
fashion, while the surf thundered at the base of the cliffs. The wind
being south-east was parallel to this portion of the coast; so we were
scarcely, if at all, protected by the island. A great swell rolled up,
travelling in the same direction as the wind. But as violent squalls
occasionally rushed down the ravines at right angles to the true wind,
we were blown round by them, so that we were riding broadside on to
the sea, rolling scuppers under in the trough of it, pitching the
whole bowsprit in at one moment and thumping our counter on to the
water the next.

Things looked so bad on December 4 that I was thinking of slipping the
anchor and putting to sea, but, as the vessel did not appear to be
straining herself, I held on. Our dinghy was dipping into the sea as
we rolled, so we took it from the davits and secured it on deck.

We had now ample leisure to study the meteorology of Trinidad. The
rains were heavy during this stormy period and the cascade swelled
visibly. I do not think this island is subject to drought; for,
notwithstanding that this--the summer--was the dry season here,
scarcely a day passed without a shower during our long stay. In the
winter season this is, to judge from the logs of passing vessels, a
very rainy spot. The glass never fell below thirty inches while we
were here, and generally stood at about thirty and two-tenths. The
temperature in the shade on board averaged about eighty. In the tents
on shore it was far hotter. The sunsets are often very fine on
Trinidad, of wild and stormy appearance and full of vivid colouring;
these indicate fine weather. The boisterous south-west winds,
extensions of River Plate _pamperos_, are heralded by clear blue
skies.

We three now imprisoned on the yacht occupied our time in tidying her
up, and making all necessary repairs in the sails and gear generally.
We occasionally knocked down some birds as they flew over us. Some
would coolly perch on our davits and stare at us very rudely, to the
great indignation of Jacko, who swore at them in his own language. It
was curious to watch the birds fly far out to sea each morning for
their day's fishing, the air full of their shrill and melancholy
cries, and return again in the evening. It was invariably while
starting at daybreak that they called on the yacht. While going home
in the evening they had their business to attend to. It was then that
they carried food to their young--fluffy balls of insatiable appetite,
which, I am afraid, had sometimes to go to bed supperless; for the
anxious mothers are often robbed of their hard-earned fish by the
cruel pirates who are perpetually hovering round this island.

These pirates are the frigate or man-of-war birds. They do not fish
themselves, but attack the honest fishers in mid-air, and compel them
to surrender what they have caught. The frigate-bird is of the
orthodox piratical colour--black--but has a vermilion beak and a few
white patches on its throat. It has a forked tail, and wings of
extraordinary length in proportion to its body, their spread sometimes
attaining, it is said, as much as fifteen feet.

There are other pirates here as well, of a meaner description, who,
being able to fish for themselves, have no excuse for their crimes;
whereas the frigate-bird is unable to skim the sea after fish. Should
he touch the water he cannot make use of his unwieldy wings and
flounders helplessly about until he becomes the prey of sharks.

But these other robbers have taken to dishonest ways from sheer
laziness and lack of principle. Their favourite method is to seize a
smaller fisher by the throat, and hold him under water until he is
half drowned and has to disgorge his fish. Sometimes two or three
plucky little birds will assist a neighbour in resisting the big
bully, and often drive him off discomfited. We witnessed several most
exciting combats of this description.

We skinned the birds we killed, and I have brought these specimens
home with me. Of fish we now caught plenty. We salted and sun-dried
some, but these were not a great success, and had a rank flavour in
consequence of their oily nature.



CHAPTER XVI.

DISCOVERIES IN SOUTH-WEST BAY.


At last, on December 7, communication between the yacht and the shore
was resumed; for the wind and sea had greatly moderated, and the
doctor was enabled to come off to us at midday, with four volunteers
and paid hands. They had been labouring hard with pick and shovel, and
looked like it too. Digging into the volcanic soil of Trinidad soon
takes all superfluous flesh off. Indeed, led on by the energetic
doctor, they had worked harder, perhaps, than white men should in such
a climate, and had a stale overstrained appearance, while they
admitted that they felt somewhat slack.

They brought us off a quantity of turtle-eggs. The female turtle
frequent South-west Bay in large numbers, for the purpose of
depositing their eggs in the sand. But up till now, they had failed to
catch any of the turtle. The eggs are excellent, and can be used for
every purpose for which fowl's eggs are employed. Here is a receipt
for making egg-nog which I have tried myself and can recommend:--Two
turtle-eggs, a tea-spoonful of tinned milk, some water, sugar, and a
small glass of rum.

The shore-party had obtained an abundance of fish; they used to catch
them not only with hook and line, but with an extemporized seine net,
which they dragged with great success through the pools left by the
receding tide. This seine was simply a long piece of the wire-netting
which we had brought with us to serve as land-crab-proof fencing round
the camp. It seems that this netting did not fulfil its original
purpose very satisfactorily, as the crabs could burrow under it.

The land-crabs however, did not molest the shore-party to any extent,
and it was only now and then that a man found one of these unpleasant
creatures in his bed. It was the custom for the men to sally forth
every evening, just before dark, and kill, with sticks, every
land-crab they could find in the immediate neighbourhood of the camp,
each man slaying his sixty or seventy. This afforded an abundance of
food for the others during the night, so that they had no need to
stray into the tents. The crabs, I was informed, were excellent
scavengers, and consumed all the cook's refuse.

The doctor and his companions had no lack of news to impart. I was
anxious, of course, in the first place, to learn how the work had
progressed. I was told that some hundreds of tons of earth had been
already removed, and that a broad trench was being dug, along the face
of the cliff, through the landslip in the first bend of the ravine,
but that, so far, no indications of the treasure had been come across.
The chief difficulty consisted in the presence of a great many stones
of all sizes that were mixed up with the fallen soil, some of them
being of several tons weight. In digging the trench an inclined plane
was left at either end, up which the barrows of earth could be
wheeled; and when one of the big stones was found, the earth was, in
the first place, cleared from round it, and then it was dragged from
the bottom of the trench up one of these inclined planes by means of
powerful tackle, assisted by the hydraulic jack. When they had got it
by these means to the top of the trench, they could easily roll it
down the ravine.

The doctor explained to me all the routine that he had laid down for
observance on shore, and the different details of the work. Sunday was
always a holiday, and was occupied, as a rule, in wandering about and
exploring; but it was sometimes too terribly hot for this.

I was informed that a crowbar and several other fresh relics of Mr.
A----'s expedition had been discovered, and that a wooden box had been
found, carefully hidden away at the farther end of the bay, which
contained a chess-board, a quantity of shot cartridges, and several
London and Newcastle newspapers, dated October 1875. Mr. A----'s
expedition took place in 1885, Mr. P----'s--the first expedition--in
1880; so the papers gave us no clue as to who had brought them here.
The shore-party had amused themselves by reading these ancient
journals. In them they found accounts of the Wainwright trial and of
the collision between the 'Mistletoe' and the 'Alberta.' It was
strange to read, on Trinidad, the old theatrical advertisements in the
_Standard_, with Charles Matthews acting at the Gaiety and Miss
Marie Wilton at some other house. There was an excellent notice of the
latter charming actress in one of these papers.

I was told that there had not been so much surf in South-west Bay as
might have been expected with so strong a wind; but, as I have
explained, the south-east is the wind that raises the least surf on
this sandy beach, though it blows right on to it.

The doctor told me that they had experienced, on every occasion they
had landed, a strong current sweeping along the shore of the bay in an
easterly direction, so that, no sooner did the bow of the boat touch
the sand, than her stern was driven round by the current to the left,
and, unless proper precautions were taken, she would get broadside on
to the next sea and be rolled over.

On being asked whether they had had much rain in the bay, they replied
that the showers had been as heavy as those tropical downpours we had
experienced in the doldrums. They said that the Sugarloaf presented a
magnificent appearance after one of these showers, for then a cascade
700 feet in height would pour down its almost perpendicular sides.
They had been enabled to fill their tanks and breakers with
rain-water, and had only used the condensing apparatus on one or two
occasions, and then more by way of experiment, to see how it worked,
than from necessity. It acted perfectly, and with it five gallons of
fresh water were distilled from sea-water in a very short time.

The fortunate discovery had also been made of two small issues of
water among the cliffs at the east end of the bay. The supply was
sufficient, and though the carrying of the water in breakers from here
to the camp over the rough ground entailed heavy labour, it was easier
to fetch it in this way than to collect the large quantity of firewood
necessary for condensing an equal amount of water.

The doctor reported Arthur Cotton as being ill, and unfit for further
digging for the present; so he was left on board with me, while George
went on shore to take his place. The doctor promised to come off for
me on the following morning, so that I could pay a short visit to the
shore and inspect the works--provided, of course, the surf permitted.
Then we bade each other farewell, and the working-party returned to
the bay.

The boat did not come off for me on the following day, as the surf was
dangerous in South-west Bay; and I held no communication with the
shore-party for another week. During this time the wind was from the
south-east; but though it rushed down the ravine with the usual
violent squalls, it was moderate outside, and we had no more of the
heavy sea which had been running throughout the previous week. It
would have been possible for me to have landed at the pier on nearly
any day, but there was still a sufficient surf to prevent our carrying
off any more stones from the shore.

We were anchored on a sandy bottom, but we could feel, by the
grumbling of our chain as the yacht swung, that there were many rocks
under us as well. These caused us a good deal of annoyance; for on
several occasions, when the vessel was lying right over her anchor,
the slack of the chain would take a turn round a rock and give us a
short nip; so that when a swell passed under us, the vessel could not
rise to it, but was held down by the tautened chain, which dragged her
bows under, producing a great strain. The rocks must have been of
brittle coral formation, for, after giving two or three violent jerks
as the sea lifted her, the vessel would suddenly shake herself free
with a wrench, evidently by the breaking away of the obstruction. At
last all the projecting portions of the coral rock in our immediate
neighbourhood must have been torn off, the chain having swept a clear
space for itself all round, for after a time we were no longer caught
in this way. These great strains loosened our starboard hawse-pipe
badly, so that we had to slip our chain and pass it through the other
hawse-pipe.

On December 9, it being a very fine day, I made an expedition in the
dinghy toward the north end of the island. We found no good
landing-place in that direction, for a coral ledge extends along the
whole coast, causing broken water, and there are dangerous rocks in
the midst of the breakers. We pulled into several little bays, each
hemmed in by inaccessible barren mountains, so crowded with birds
that, from the sea, the black crags looked quite white with them. We
pulled inside Bird Island and inspected the Ninepin from close to.
This huge cylinder of rock, 900 feet in height, is described by old
navigators as having been crowned with large trees. It is now
completely bare of vegetation, as it also was when I first saw it in
1881. I observed that, since my last visit, a huge mass had fallen off
the top of it, which now lay by its side in shattered fragments. We
caught a quantity of fish in these bays, one a fine fellow weighing
thirty pounds; and we saw several large turtle floating on the water,
but they sank as soon as we got near them.

The uneventful days passed by, and I grew stout on laziness, salt
beef, and duff. At last, on December 14, we pulled off in the dinghy
to South-west Bay, to see how the shore-party was getting on. We took
with us a signal code book and the flags, so as to converse with our
diggers in case we could not effect a landing--a feat not to be
attempted with our rotten little dinghy except under the most
exceptional circumstances. The shore-party was, of course, also
provided with a code book and set of flags.

As I required some more specimens of birds, I took with me, not a gun
with which to shoot them, but simply a ramrod, the end of which I had
loaded with a piece of lead. With this, as I sat in the boat, I found
no difficulty in knocking down the inquisitive birds as they flew just
over our heads, and I thus procured several good specimens.

When we had pulled round the point and were in South-west Bay we saw
the white tents of the camp in front of us, and we could plainly
distinguish, in a ravine behind, the great trench which the men had
dug at the side of the cliff. We found little surf in the bay, but I
would not risk a landing; for it would not require much bumping to
knock our dinghy's ancient bottom off; so we remained outside the
breakers and signalled: 'Any news?'

There was no reply with the flags, but some of the men walked down to
the rocks under the Sugarloaf, so that we could come near enough to
them to hail. A very disreputable lot our friends looked, too: as
unkempt and rough as the original pirates might have been. The costume
of each consisted merely of shirt, trousers, and belt, some sort of an
apology for a hat crowning all. They were all more or less ragged, and
were stained from head to foot with the soil in which they had been
digging, so that they presented a uniform dirty, brownish yellow
appearance, and, from a passing vessel, might easily have been taken
for Brazilian convicts.

They shouted what news they had to tell. They reported that they were
progressing well with the digging, and that they had caught a number
of turtle. They promised to come off to the yacht the next morning,
surf permitting. I made some sketches of Treasure Bay and West Bay as
seen from the sea, and then returned to the vessel, to skin my birds.

The whale-boat was alongside on the following morning, December 15,
and the doctor, Powell, Pollock, and two paid hands, boarded us. They
had brought off some fresh and salted turtle and a quantity of
turtle-eggs.

The yacht had now been lying off Trinidad for twenty-five days, and
the shore-party had been hard at work for seventeen days; so I thought
it was quite time for me to join the camp, and do my share of the
work. I could see that the energetic doctor was anything but anxious
to change the hard labour on shore for the lazy life on board ship,
and though, as mate, he would have been the proper person to take
charge of the vessel during my absence on land, still we considered it
advisable to arrange matters differently.

The doctor, as I have said, was a most useful man on shore, and, as we
were anxious to complete our operations as quickly as possible and
leave the island before the stormy season should set in, it seemed a
pity to waste so much energy and muscle as his in an idle life on
board the yacht. Having remained at anchor for so long, and knowing
that our anchor had now got such a firm hold that there was but little
chance of its dragging, and having, moreover, discovered by experience
that it was possible to ride where we were even in bad weather, I had
acquired a considerable confidence in the safety of the vessel, and I
believe that she could have remained off the cascade for six months
without suffering damage. I, therefore, now came to the conclusion
that it would not be very imprudent to leave a somewhat incompetent
person in charge, as the chances were that he would have nothing to
do. Pollock, who had complained of slackness for some time, was the
one from whom the least amount of work could be extracted on shore,
and was, therefore, the one who could be the most easily spared. I,
consequently, decided to leave him on board the yacht, instead of the
doctor.

The weather now looked very settled and there was little chance of bad
weather for a time. I gave Pollock his instructions, and left with
him, as a crew, Ted Milner and George Spanner. I packed up my traps
and pulled off with the others to the bay, not at all sorry to do a
little work, for a change.

We took Jacko on shore with us. He did not admire the island, and
particularly objected to the land-crabs. His favourite amusement was
to turn on the tap of our tank, when no one was looking, and let all
our hard-got supply of water run out.

He behaved very well on the whole, however, except on Christmas Day,
when he drank some rum which he found at the bottom of a pannikin,
and, I am grieved to say, became disgracefully intoxicated. He had a
dreadful headache the next day.



CHAPTER XVII.

PICK AND SHOVEL.


As it was a Sunday there was no work done on the first day of my stay
in camp; all hands had the usual holiday, which they chiefly employed
in fishing, and in mending their clothes. I walked up the ravine and
was surprised to find that so much of the landslip had been already
removed. The trench was about twenty feet broad, and ultimately
attained a depth of upwards of twenty feet in places. It extended for
some distance along the face of the cliff--if that term can be
properly applied to a steep slope of a sort of natural concrete, a
compact but somewhat brittle mass of stones and earth. It was at the
foot of this cliff that we expected to find the cave described by the
pirate, but how far we should have to dig down through the
accumulation of earth and rocks that had fallen from above and now
filled up the bottom of the ravine it was not easy even to conjecture.

Our object, it will be seen, was to clear the face of the cliff until
we came to the original bottom of the ravine. Though the cliff was, as
I have explained, composed of brittle matter, as if in an intermediate
state between earth and rock, and of comparatively modern formation,
it was easy to distinguish it from the much looser soil of the
landslip that lay along its sides; this last, too, was of a very
different colour, being reddish brown, whereas the cliff was
slate-blue.

The men had constructed several little paths leading from the trench,
down the ravine, to the edges of the chasms and precipitous steps
which are frequent in this gully, and the earth and stones that were
dug out of the trench were carried down these paths in the
wheelbarrows and tilted over the precipices. As we gradually filled up
these chasms the roads had to be extended further down the ravine, and
at last we had formed a great dyke which stretched right across it. I
was satisfied that all the operations had been conducted with
judgment, and, if the treasure were in the ravine at all, there was
but little doubt that we should find it.

The same rules that had been laid down by the doctor for the
discipline of the camp were observed during my stay on shore. All
hands turned out at dawn, and cocoa and biscuit were served out. Then
we worked hard from half-past five till nine, at which hour the
temperature in that closed in ravine became so high that it was quite
impossible even for a black man to work with pick and shovel. A bath
in the sea, to refresh ourselves and wash off the clinging red dust,
was our next proceeding. Then we put off our working clothes for
others, and partook of a good breakfast, consisting chiefly of
oatmeal, which we found by experience was the best food to work on.
During the heat of the day we lay in our tents, almost panting for
breath at times, so intolerably hot and close it was. At half-past
three we returned to the ravine and did another three hours' work.
After this was another bath, then supper. There was a whole holiday on
Sunday and a half holiday on Wednesday.

Even during the early hours of the morning, when the sides of the
ravine shaded us from the sun, digging was hot and trying work for
white men. We were, of course, bathed in perspiration all the while,
and were, consequently very thirsty, so that the cook was kept busily
employed in going backwards and forwards between camp and trench to
refill our water-bottles.

In the middle of the day the sun, blazing on the sands, made them
terribly hot. No one could step on them with bare feet, even for a
moment; one could not even lay one's hand on the ground.

The sand here is mixed with a finely granulated black mineral
substance, and I think it is the presence of this that causes so great
an absorption of heat. I have never found sands elsewhere, even in the
Sahara, attain so high a temperature.

We were not altogether lazy out of digging hours. One's clothes had to
be washed, water had to be brought down in breakers and demi-johns
from the distant issue in the cliffs, and firewood had to be gathered.
We sometimes went out in a body to perform this last duty. We would
climb high up the mountain-sides, where the dead trees lay thickest,
and throw down the timber before us as we descended, until we had
accumulated a large quantity at the bottom.

I shared one of the tents with Pursell, while the doctor and Powell
occupied the other. On my first night on shore we caught three turtle.
Our black cook, who was always looking out for them, came to my tent
and reported that, while prowling about the beach, he had observed
several large females crawling up the sands. It was a very dark night,
so, taking a lantern, four of us set out. We soon came across one of
the creatures, and followed her quietly until she had reached a spot
far above high-water mark, and then we turned her over on her back.
This is by no means an easy undertaking when one has to deal with a
seven-hundred-pound turtle, and requires at least four men to carry it
out. The turtle does not permit this liberty to be taken with her
without offering considerable resistance: with her powerful flippers
she drives the sand violently into the faces of her aggressors,
attempting to blind them, so that caution has to be observed in
approaching her. We turned over three turtle, and, on the following
day, salted down the meat that we could not eat in a fresh state.

Turtle are kept alive for weeks on board ship, even in the tropics,
and all the care that is taken of them consists in placing pillows
under their heads, as they lie on their backs on deck--so as to
prevent apoplexy, I suppose--and in throwing an occasional bucket of
water over them. These creatures seem to be able to do without food
for a very long period. We found that we could not employ this method
of keeping alive the turtle we caught, for, though we constantly
poured buckets of water over them, and shaded them with matting, they
could not exist on these blazing sands; and the practice, cruel enough
at sea, would have been much more so here.

The paid hands enjoyed turtle-hunting, and were inclined,
thoughtlessly, to turn over more turtle than were required for
purposes of food; so that I had to give an order that no turtle should
be turned over without leave, and the destruction of the creatures was
strictly limited to the requirements of the larder. A similar law was
made for the protection of the silly sea-birds, and the only animals
that could be slaughtered with impunity were the unfortunate
land-crabs, for they had no friends among us to take their part and
legislate on their behalf. They were now not nearly so plentiful in
the vicinity of the camp as they had been. They had begun to give up
their ignorant contempt for man, and on only one occasion during my
stay on shore was it considered necessary for four of us to sally
forth with sticks, before supper, and slay about a hundred each.

The turtle were now so plentiful that we could have caught in a
fortnight sufficient to last us for six months, had we even lived on
nothing else. The Trinidad turtle are of large size--500 to 700
pounds--and their flavour is excellent. We had turtle-soup and
turtle-steak every day for breakfast and dinner, so that we became
utterly weary of the rich food, and I do not think any of us wish to
see calipash or calipee for a long time to come.

We did not neglect the other useful products of the island. We
gathered the wild beans, and found them a very welcome addition to our
diet. Of fish we always had plenty. Powell was our great fisherman,
and was the inventor of the seine constructed of wire-fencing which I
have already described. In addition to the edible fish I have
mentioned as swarming in these waters there are several other species
that we looked upon with some doubt, and refrained from eating. Some
of these were of quaint forms and dazzling colours, so that their
appearance seemed to warn us of their poisonous nature. There were
fish of brilliant blue, others with stripes of white and purple,
others with vermilion fins and yellow bands like those of a wasp.
Sea-snakes abounded in the pools. These, according to an Italian cook
we had on the 'Falcon,' are edible; but we did not venture to try
them. They attain the length of five feet and are of a grey colour,
with yellow stripes. They appear to be of savage disposition, for,
when harpooned, they twist about and bite with fury anything within
their reach.

I stayed on shore altogether for a fortnight, and kept a journal of
our proceedings, which, together with several sketches, specimens of
the flora, and other articles, were washed out of the lifeboat and
lost when we abandoned the island. The loss of the journal, however,
matters little, for our life on shore was almost devoid of incident,
and was chiefly made up of monotonous work with pick, shovel, and
wheelbarrow.

We dug away, still through loose soil that had evidently formed part
of the landslip, and removed some thousands of tons; but we did not
come to the foot of the cliff, or the cave which is described to be
there. Some of the stones that we had to remove in the course of our
digging were very large. We had a quantity of strong ropes and blocks
on shore, and when we came across an exceptionally big rock, we
clapped a number of watch-tackles one on the other, and, by putting
all hands on the fall of the last tackle, we obtained a very powerful
purchase, equivalent, I calculated on one occasion, to the power of
five hundred men. We found bones and bits of decayed wood among the
earth, but the former always proved to be the remains of a goat and
not of a pirate, and the latter were the fragments of dead trees and
not of chests of loot.

But shortly before Christmas there were some encouraging signs. We had
now got down to a considerable depth, and we noticed that, when a pick
was driven into the bottom of the trench, a hollow sound was given
out, as if we were on the roof of a cavern, and, occasionally, little
holes would open out and the earth would slip down into some chasm
underneath. We dug still deeper, and we came to a collection of very
large rocks, which we were unable to move. They were jammed together,
and evidently formed the roof of a cavern, for, wherever we could
clear away the earth that lay between any two of these rocks, we
looked down through the opening into a black, empty space, the bottom
of which we could not touch by thrusting through our longest crowbar.
This looked promising, for it was just such a cavern as this that we
were seeking.

We found that the rocks were too close together to allow of our
effecting an entrance from above, so we dug down along the side of the
last and largest of these until we came to its foot; and there indeed
was a sort of cavern, partly filled up with loose earth, which we
cleared out.

There was no treasure in it, and nothing to show that any human being,
before us, had ever visited the spot. I think it was at this stage of
our operations that each man began very seriously to doubt whether we
were searching in the right place at all, and whether there might not
be some further clue that was missing, and, without which, search
would almost certainly be futile. But, whatever may have been thought,
there was, so far as I can remember, no expression given to these
doubts, and each worked on with the same cheery will as at the
beginning, even as if he were confident of success. These men were
determined, in an almost literal sense, to leave no stone unturned,
and not to abandon that ravine until they had satisfied themselves as
to whether the treasure was or was not there.

On the Sunday after my arrival on shore, December 22, we went off in
the whale-boat to see how Pollock was getting on. The weather had been
exceedingly fine throughout the week in South-west Bay, and we might
have launched the boat on almost any day; but, though there had been
no heavy wind in the neighbourhood of the island, there had been a
considerable swell at the anchorage for part of the time, and Pollock
reported that the yacht had tumbled about a good deal. He had found
opportunities for landing at the pier with the dinghy, and had brought
off some breakers of water from the cascade and a quantity of
firewood. He had been very lucky with his fishing, having caught
several germanic, weighing from twenty to forty pounds apiece, and an
abundance of other fish. Ted Milner was now taken on shore with us,
while Arthur Cotton was left on board.

We worked away steadily in the ravine until Christmas Day, when there
was, of course, a holiday. We had a most luxurious dinner on shore, as
also had the three men on board the vessel. The menu of our
shore-dinner was as follows:--Turtle soup, boiled hind-fish, curried
turtle-steak, boiled salt junk, tinned plum-pudding. For vegetables we
had preserved potatoes and carrots, and Trinidad beans. Good old rum
was the only beverage. There were some other luxuries, chief of which
was a box of cigars, which had been put away for this occasion.
Christmas Day was intensely hot, so that we remained in our tents,
having no energy for exploring mountains. With the exception of
Jacko's disgraceful intoxication, no incidents of note occurred.

On the Sunday after Christmas Day, Pursell and myself set out to
explore the weather side of the island, taking our lunch in our
pockets--biscuits, figs, rum, and tobacco. We crossed the Sugarloaf
Col and descended upon the coast of South-east Bay, then we turned to
the right and followed the shore to the extreme south end of the
island, where Noah's Ark falls a sheer wall into the surf.

There was a quantity of wreckage in this bay, and in one place we
found a topmast and some ribs of a vessel which might have been the
remains of the hull I had seen here nine years before. The broken bits
of planks, timbers, barrels, hen-coops and other relics of ships, were
piled quite thickly on the rocks above high-water mark, and we came
across a square-faced gin bottle, full of fresh water, which, from its
position, could not have been washed ashore, but must have been left
here by some human being. We saw the foot-prints of turtle, showing
that every sandy beach on this island is frequented by numbers of
these creatures. In view of the threatened turtle-famine we read of,
it might be worth some one's while to come here for a cargo of them;
but the difficulty of getting any quantity off alive would be great.

The scenery of East Bay is very extraordinary, for here the signs of
volcanic action are more evident than on any other portion of the
island. At the south end of the bay there is no sandy beach; masses of
shattered rocks, fallen from above, strew the shore, and between these
are solidified streams of black lava, which appear to have followed
each other in successive waves, one having cooled before the next has
poured down upon it, so that a series of rounded steps is formed. The
ledges of lava extend far out to sea, producing a dangerous reef, on
which the sea always breaks heavily.

As we advanced over the boulders there towered above us on our right
hand the perpendicular side of Noah's Ark, of a strange red colour,
looking like molten iron where the sun's rays fell upon it. A quantity
of red _débris_ from the roof of this mountain was also lying on the
shore, and at the north end of it we observed that a gigantic
_couloir_--as it would be called in the Alps--of volcanic ashes and
lava sloped down from its summit to the gap which connects it with the
Sugarloaf. It was obvious, from the vast amount of these fire-consumed
_débris_ and waves of lava surrounding its base, that Noah's Ark had
once been a very active volcano, and I think it highly probable that
there is a crater at the top of it. Though it is perpendicular on
three sides, it might be possible to ascend it from the fourth side,
by the _couloir_ connecting it with the gap under the Sugarloaf;
but the attempt would be risky, and a slip on its steep, sloping roof
would mean a drop over a wall 800 feet in height.

We clambered over the rocks until we came to the end of Noah's Ark,
and we stood on a ledge of lava and gazed at one of the strangest
sights of this strange island. The base of the great red mountain is
pierced by a magnificent tunnel, known as the Archway, which connects
South-west Bay with East Bay. What seem to be gigantic stalactites
depend from its roof; and the different gradations of colour and shade
on its rugged sides--from glowing red in the blaze of the sun to
terra-cotta, delicate pink, and rich purple, and then to deepest black
in the inmost recesses--produce a very beautiful effect. The heaving
water is black within it, save where the white spray flashes; but,
looking through it, one perceives, beyond, the bright green waves of
South-west Bay, and the blue sky above them.

The sea does not flow freely through the tunnel, except at high-water;
for, on the side we were standing, its mouth is crossed by a ledge of
lava, which is left dry by the receding tide. But inside the tunnel
there is deep water, and the ocean swell always penetrates it from
South-west Bay, dashing up its sides with a great roar, which is
repeated in hoarse echoes by the mountain.

According to an ancient description of Trinidad quoted in the
'South-Atlantic Directory,' the Archway is 40 feet in breadth, 50 in
height, and 420 in length. I think it far higher and broader than
this--at any rate, at its mouth. No doubt the action of the surf is
continually enlarging it.

Pursell and myself, having admired this beautiful scene for some time,
turned back, crossed the rocky promontory of East Point, and proceeded
along the sands till we came to the Portuguese settlement, which I
wished to examine more carefully than I had been able to do when here
with the doctor a month before.

We had lunch by the side of the river which flows under the Portuguese
ruins, and then commenced to explore. The Portuguese had certainly
selected the only spot on the island at all suitable for a permanent
settlement; for not only is there here the best supply of water, but
there is also a considerable area of fairly fertile land, though it is
greatly encumbered with rocks. The downs by the river are densely
covered with beans, which also grow all over the ruined huts. It is
possible that these beans were originally planted here by the
settlers, and have since spread over all the downs between this and
South-west Bay; for they are not to be found on the other side of the
island.

The huts, of which the rough walls of unhewn stone alone remain, are
built in terraces one above the other on the hill-side. A great deal
of labour was evidently expended in the construction of these
terraces, and of the roads leading to them, and quantities of stones
had been piled-up in order to obtain a level surface. This must have
been a picturesque little village in its day--whenever that day was,
for, though I have searched diligently, I can find no record to show
at what period Trinidad was used as a penal settlement by the
Portuguese. Amaso Delano, writing of his visit to the island in 1803,
speaks of a 'beach above which the Portuguese once had a settlement;'
and a still older narrative alludes to a Portuguese penal
establishment here as a thing of the long past. Malley, who was here
in 1700, took Trinidad in the name of the King of England--as I have
already mentioned--and he says nothing of such a settlement.

Near the huts we found places where the soil had been cleared of
stones, for purposes of cultivation, and there were several walled-in
enclosures.

We saw a good deal of broken pottery and tiles lying about, not such
as we had discovered in South-west Bay, of Oriental manufacture, but
of a very rough description, probably home-made. For, on the top of a
hill overlooking our ravine, we came across a hole that had evidently
been dug for the purpose of extracting a sort of clay that is there,
and there were signs of fire near it, and many fragments of
earthenware, so we conjectured that we were looking at all that
remained of the ancient Trinidad pottery-works.

We did not return to South-west Bay by the Sugarloaf Col, but by
another route, which the shore-party had discovered in the course of a
previous Sunday's tour of exploration. This lay over the gap in the
downs at the back of our bay, and presented no difficulties; but the
soft soil and tangled vegetation made the climb a rather laborious
one.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A VOYAGE TO MARKET.


I remained on shore for a fortnight, during which the weather was
fine, though a slight shower generally fell in the morning.

We had still a large supply of stores, both on shore and on board; but
there was one article of food which we were consuming in much larger
quantities than had been anticipated--the necessary oatmeal--and it
was now found that but very little of it was left. It was, therefore,
decided that I should sail to Bahia--our nearest market-town--with the
yacht, and procure some more.

A voyage of 1,400 miles in order to purchase a little oatmeal sounds
like a rather large order; but, as a matter of fact, it was more
comfortable to be under weigh than to lie at anchor where we were,
exposed to the ocean swell. So we did not look upon the journey as a
troublesome duty.

My crew was to consist of Pollock and the three white sailors.

I put Ted Milner, the boatswain, on Pollock's watch, and took Arthur
Cotton on mine. John Wright did the cooking and kept no watch, though
he was always ready to lend a hand if necessary.

On Sunday, December 29th, the whale-boat went off to the yacht for
another load of stores, so that there might be an ample supply on the
island during the absence of the vessel; for it was not possible to
foresee how long we should be away.

On Monday, 30th, I returned on board, and, after the two parties had
bade each other good-bye and good luck, the whale-boat went off to the
shore with a last cargo of provisions. We now got the vessel ready for
sea. We unbent the storm-trysail and storm-foresail, and bent the
large foresail; being rather short-handed, we left our topmast housed
during this voyage.

We did not weigh the anchor until 5 p.m.; we set the whole mainsail,
the mizzen, foresail, and second jib. The wind, at first, was
exceedingly light, so that we drifted helplessly about for a time, and
we did not get clear of the island until after dark. I was thus unable
to sail round to the mouth of South-west Bay and satisfy myself that
the boat had been safely beached. However, seeing that so many
successful landings had been accomplished, I considered it unnecessary
to hang about the island until the following daylight, so we shaped
our course for Bahia. A moderate wind sprang up in the night and we
soon left the island far behind us.

This was a most successful voyage. The wind was from the north-east
all the time, right abeam, and therefore as favourable as it could be.
There was not quite enough of it, however, and our best day's work was
only 154 miles. On one day it was rather squally, and we had to trice
up the main tack now and then. The voyage only occupied five days, for
we sighted the white sands and the cocoanut groves of the Brazilian
coast at 5 p.m. on January 4, and at 7.30 we rounded St. Antonio
Point, and entered the bay of Bahia. Here we found that a strong tide
was running against us, and, as is usually the case in the gulf at
this hour, there was scarcely any wind; so we were compelled to let go
our anchor near the light-house. A Newfoundland barque that had
followed us in had to do likewise.

The next day, January 5, we rose early and saw before us again the
beautiful white city which we had left nearly two months before. We
got up the anchor as soon as the morning breeze had sprung up, and
sailed slowly to our anchorage under Fort la Mar, where we let go in
three fathoms of water.

We noticed that a strange flag was flying on all the forts and
government buildings, as well as on the guard-ship and a little
gunboat that was lying near us. It bore no resemblance to the flag of
Brazil, or to that of any other nationality, and puzzled us somewhat.

Though it was Sunday, our old friend, the harbour doctor, came off to
us in his launch. I was uncertain as to how he would receive us; for
the regulations of Brazilian ports are strict, and our entry here was
most informal. We had sailed out of Bahia, as the doctor himself must
have known, two months before, presumedly for Sydney, Australia; and
now, here we were again at Bahia, with no bill of health, and only
half of our crew on board.

He came alongside, and we greeted each other. 'What port do you come
from?' he then asked.

'We have been in no port since we left here,' I replied.

'How--in no port!' he exclaimed, raising his eyebrows in slight
astonishment. He was too thorough a Brazilian to express much surprise
at anything, or to rouse himself from the almost Oriental apathy of
manner that distinguishes this somewhat indolent race.

Then I explained to him that we had been passing our Christmas
holidays on the desert island of Trinidad, that I had left most of my
companions there while I had sailed to Bahia for more stores, and
that, having been in no inhabited port, I had, consequently, been
unable to provide myself with a bill of health.

'And what were you doing on Trinidad all this time?'

'Among other things, we were making collections of the fauna and
flora. There are some rare birds.'

'Have you any specimens of the birds on board?'

Luckily I had a few, and exhibited them. He was somewhat of a
naturalist himself, and recognised one species which he had seen on
Fernando Noronha.

He seemed satisfied, and gave us pratique without any demur.

Mr. Wilson had, of course, seen us, and had sent his boat to fetch me
on shore. Leaving the others on board, I got into the boat, and, as
the black boatman pulled me under the fort, it occurred to me to ask
him, in the best Portuguese I could muster, what was the signification
of the new flag that floated above the battlements. In my anxiety
concerning pratique I had forgotten to make any inquiries on the
subject from the doctor. The black looked up at the flag, smiled
faintly, and replied with an indifferent air--'Ah! la Republica.'

And so indeed it was--the Republic! When I reached the store, Mr.
Wilson told me all about the revolution, which had occurred quite
suddenly and quietly on the day after we had last sailed from Bahia. I
learned that the much esteemed Emperor had been deposed, and that a
Republican form of government had been proclaimed. And a very shabby
sort of a revolution it had been, too, for there had been no
slaughter, to give an air of dignity and respectability to it. The
people themselves appeared to be heartily ashamed of such a feeble
thing, and spoke little of it. The most insignificant Republic of
Central America could have got up a far more exciting and sanguinary
affair at a few hours' notice. The harbour doctor had not even thought
it worth while to mention the change of government when he gave me
pratique.

No national flag had yet been selected for this latest addition to the
list of American Republics, and the flag we saw was that of the State
of Bahia. There had been no disturbance in the city when the news of
the _pronunciamento_ was telegraphed from Rio. The negroes did
not raise a hand to support the Emperor, to whom they owed their
freedom. The only incident of note that occurred at Bahia was the
salute that was fired at Fort la Mar in honour of the new Government.
This salute did cause some little excitement; for, by some mistake,
round shot were fired instead of blank cartridges, and one shot went
through a longboat swinging on the davits of a Norwegian barque, and
did other damage.

The United States gunboat 'Richmond' was at anchor in the bay,
awaiting instructions from Washington, it was said, before officially
recognising the new sister Republic.

The next day was the feast of the Epiphany, a great holiday, and no
Brazilian could be got to work under any circumstances whatever.
Crackers, rockets, and bells were the order of the day. Even for the
two days succeeding the festival these pious people were disinclined
to work, and I heard the skippers of vessels raving in Wilson's store
because they could not get the water-boats alongside, or ship their
ballast, as the lightermen were still busy letting off crackers in the
streets. However, we managed to get all our stores off--oatmeal,
plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, molasses, and a small barrel of
_cana_ or white rum.

On Thursday, January 9, I renewed my acquaintance with some old
friends. The telegraph steamer 'Norseman' came into the port. She was
still under the command of Captain Lacy, who had taken the 'Falcon' in
tow with her from Rio to Maldonado nearly ten years before.

We had intended to sail on this day, but the glass had been falling
and it was blowing hard from the south-east, so that it seemed
advisable to wait for some improvement in the weather. The next day,
January 10, the glass began to rise and the sky looked less
threatening, the scud no longer rushing across the heavens at a wild
pace; so we got under weigh after breakfast, and once more set sail
for the desert island.

For a vessel sailing from Trinidad to Bahia the wind is always fair,
being from north-east to south-east; but for one sailing the reverse
way the wind is, as often as not, right ahead. This bad luck we now
experienced. Trinidad lay to the south-east of us, and south-east was
also the direction of the wind. When we were outside the bay we put
the vessel on the port tack and at five in the evening we were off the
Moro San Paulo light-house. Then we went about and steered away from
the land.

This was, I think, our most disagreeable voyage. It blew hard all the
time, and there were violent squalls of wind and rain that frequently
compelled us to scandalise our mainsail and lower the foresail. The
sea ran high, and was very confused, so that, sailing full and by, the
yacht made little progress, labouring a good deal, and constantly
driving her bowsprit into the short, steep waves. On the third day out
we took two reefs down in the mainsail and two in the foresail. The
wind was constantly shifting between east and south, so that we often
went about so as to sail on the tack which enabled the vessel to point
nearest to her destination.

When we had been six days out we were only half way to Trinidad,
having accomplished the distance of 350 miles from Bahia.

On this day I had some trouble with Arthur. He had, I think, brought a
bottle of rum on board surreptitiously at Bahia, or, possibly, he had
helped himself from the barrel, which was always kept, for security,
in my cabin. As I used to sleep on deck during Pollock's watch, he
could then find his opportunity, as no one was below to catch him. At
midnight, when I relieved the other watch, he refused to obey an
order. He had done this on two previous occasions, also when under the
influence of smuggled spirits, and had quickly been brought to his
senses and to his work by having his head punched. It was his wont to
become repentant and make amends for his bad conduct by extra good
behaviour; and I must allow that he did his work willingly enough, as
a rule, but drink converted him into a foolish sea-lawyer.

The offence was flagrant on this occasion, and as a head-punching only
resulted in making him sulky, I determined to discharge him. Seeing
that months might elapse before we left Trinidad for the West Indies,
and not wishing to have him on my hands all that time, I made up my
mind to run back to Bahia with him at once; so the mainsheet was
promptly slacked off, and we bore away, to the young man's great
surprise. I would not let him go below, in case he should get at the
rum again; so ordered him to stay on the deck forward. Before the end
of my watch he disobeyed this order and sneaked below in the dark.
When I discovered this I went down and ordered him to come on deck at
once. He obeyed, promptly this time, as he was, no doubt, reaching the
sober and repentant stage; but I would not trust him, and tied him up
by his foot to the bulwarks forward, and kept him a prisoner until we
came into port.

He was the only paid hand we had who was subject to these fits of
insubordination. The doctor and myself never had any difficulties with
the others; they did their work cheerfully.

Now that we were running before the wind and sea we made good
progress, and we sighted the Moro San Paulo light at 2 a.m. on Sunday,
January 19. The distance, therefore, that we had made after six days
of tacking was now accomplished before the wind in 50 hours.

We were becalmed off the entrance of the bay for several hours. It was
an excessively hot day, and the morning breeze did not spring up till
later than usual, so that we did not let go our anchor under Fort la
Mar until midday. And now, lo! the flags of the State of Bahia no
longer decorated the city and forts, but a flag something like the old
Brazilian flag, but yet not the same, floated everywhere. Had there,
then, been yet another revolution while we were away, and was some new
form of government--communistical or oligarchical or what not--being
experimented upon? We learnt, on landing, that this was the National
flag of the Brazilian Republic, but only a tentative one, which was
being flown so that the citizens could see how it looked. I believe
several other patterns were tried, and thus exhibited in the cities
for public approval, before one was definitely selected.

The harbour doctor came off to us, was amused at our story, and again
gave us pratique. Wilson had, of course, been much puzzled at the
re-appearance of the 'Alerte,' and was anxious to hear what had
happened.

I took Arthur before the Consul on Monday morning, and formally
discharged him.

New brooms sweep clean, they say, and the new Republican Municipality
had decided to clean dirty Bahia as economically as possible, and had
hit upon the following ingenious plan. The police were instructed to
consider any one, whatever his rank, who was found walking in the
streets after bed-time, as a dangerous conspirator, and to promptly
arrest him. All men locked up on any night for this crime were sent
out the next morning in a gang to sweep the streets. It was
interesting, I was told, to observe some gay young Brazilian masher,
in silk hat, lofty collar, and pointed patent boots, cleaning a gutter
out, with an armed policeman standing over him to see that he did not
shirk his work. I was instructed by the Consul to warn any of my men
who should come on shore as to the danger of strolling about the city
at night.

I did not wish to remain at Bahia one moment longer than was
necessary; but I thought it would be well, as we were here, to fill up
our water-tanks. But it happened to be another fiesta this day--bells
and crackers again!--and the water-boat could not come off. So we had
to wait till the following day, January 21, when the water was put on
board of us, and in the afternoon we got under weigh.



CHAPTER XIX.

HOVE TO.


It was blowing hard on the day of our departure from Bahia, and we
sailed down the bay under mizzen and head sails, so as to see what it
was like outside before hoisting our mainsail.

A high sea was running on the bar, and while the yacht was tumbling
about in the broken water, an accident happened to Wright. He was
preparing our tea, when a lurch of the vessel capsized a kettle of
boiling water, the whole contents of which poured over his hands and
wrists, scalding them severely, and causing intense pain; so that we
had to administer a strong sleeping draught to the poor fellow, after
the usual remedies had been applied to the scalded parts. He was on
the sick list for a long time, and was, of course, incapable of doing
work of any description during this voyage; though, as soon as he got
a bit better, it worried him to think that he was of no use, and he
insisted, though his hands were bandaged up, in trying to steer with
his arms.

This accident made us still more short-handed. There were but three of
us left to work the vessel. Luckily, I had one good man with me, in
the person of Ted Milner, who not only did the cooking, but worked
hard on deck during my watch as well as on the other, and was very
cheery over it all the while, too.

When we were outside, we took two reefs down in the mainsail before
hoisting it, and close-reefed the foresail, for it was evident that we
were in for a spell of squally weather.

We had better luck now than during our previous attempt at reaching
Trinidad, for the wind, instead of being right ahead from the
south-east, kept shifting backwards and forwards between north and
east, so that we could always lay our course on the port tack, and
could often do so with our sheets well off. But the wind was squally
and uncertain, and for much of the time the sea was rough, so that we
were eight days in reaching the island.

At dawn on January 29, we sighted Trinidad, right ahead, and in the
afternoon we were about two miles off, opposite to the Ninepin rock.
It was blowing hard from the eastward, and the sea was, I think,
running higher than on any occasion since we left Southampton. The
surf on the island was far heavier than we had ever seen it before,
and was breaking on every portion of the coast with great fury.

We now ran before the wind towards South-west Bay, and the squalls
that occasionally swept down the ravines were so fierce that we sailed
with foresail down and the tack of our reefed mainsail triced well up.
We saw that the seas were dashing completely over the pier, and
sending great fountains of spray high into the air. When we opened out
South-west Bay the scene before us was terribly grand. Huge green
rollers, with plumes of snowy spray, were breaking on the sandy beach;
and the waves were dashing up the sides of Noah's Ark, and the
Sugarloaf to an immense height, the cliffs being wet with spray quite
200 feet up. The loud roaring of the seas was echoed by the mountains,
and the frequent squalls whistled and howled frightfully among the
crags, so that even the wild sea-birds were alarmed at the commotion
of the elements: for they had risen in multitudes from all the rocks
around the bay, and were flying hither and thither in a scared
fashion, while their melancholy cries added to the weirdness of the
general effect.

And once more we saw before us, high above the sea-foam, our little
camp, with its three tents, and the whale-boat hauled up on the sands
not far off, with its white canvas cover stretched over it; but we
were surprised to see no men about: the camp appeared to be deserted.

It was, obviously, impossible for the shore-party to launch the boat
with so high a sea running, neither could we approach within
signalling distance of the beach; so that there was no chance of our
being able to communicate with our friends for the present. I also saw
that it would be highly imprudent, if not impossible, to come to an
anchor off the cascade with the yacht. There was to be no harbour for
us just yet, and the only thing to be done was to put to sea and heave
to until the weather improved.

We did not anticipate that we should have to wait long for this
improvement; but, as it turned out, we had to remain hove to for eight
days, before the state of the sea permitted the boat to come off to
us, during which time the bananas, pumpkins, and other luxuries of the
sort, which we had brought from Bahia for the working-party, began to
spoil, and we had to eat them ourselves to save them; so that, when at
last the men boarded us, we had but little left for them of the fresh
fruit and vegetables which were so grateful to them, though of oatmeal
and other provisions there was an ample store.

We soon discovered that it was much better in every way for the yacht
to be hove to than to be lying at anchor off Trinidad. To strain at
her chain in an ocean swell must be injurious even to such a strong
vessel as the 'Alerte' is; and, as I have said, we did pull one
hawse-pipe nearly out of her on the occasion that the chain got foul
of the rocks at the bottom, thus giving her a short nip. Even in fine
weather we experienced a lot of wear and tear; for the yacht used to
swing first in one direction, then in another, as the various flaws of
wind struck her, so that the chain was constantly getting round her
stem, and we found that a large piece of her copper had been worn away
in this manner, just below the water-line.

Had I fully realised before the great advantages of heaving to, I do
not think I should have ever let go my anchor at all here; but, in
that case, I should have been compelled to remain on board all the
while, and would not have had my fortnight's stay in camp. To remain
hove to off this lee side of the island is a very easy matter. Our
method was to sail out to sea from South-west Bay until we had got out
of the baffling local squalls into the steady breeze, and then we hove
to under reefed mainsail, small jib with sheet to windward, and helm
lashed. The yacht then looked after herself; and, as the wind was
always more or less off shore and the current was setting to the
south, she would drift away about twelve miles in the night towards
the open sea, always remaining right opposite our bay, so that those
on shore could see us at daybreak. We divided ourselves into three
watches at night, one man being sufficient for a watch, for he never
had anything to do but look-out for the passing vessels. Hove to as we
were under such short canvas the fiercest squall we ever encountered
had no effect on the vessel, and she was in every way very
comfortable.

In the morning we would hoist the foresail and tack towards South-west
Bay, so as to attempt communication with the shore; if that were
impossible, we hove to once more, to drift slowly seawards; and we
repeated this process several times in the course of a day, before we
finally sailed out for our night's rest on the bosom of the ocean.

We could sail into South-west Bay until we were abreast of the
Sugarloaf, but no further; we were then at least a mile and a quarter
from the camp, and it was difficult to read the signals of the
shore-party at that distance, as the flags they had with them were of
a small size.

To have approached nearer than this would have been a very risky
proceeding; for, though we might have succeeded in getting some way
further in, and out again, with safety, time after time, the day would
most assuredly have come when a serious accident would have happened.
For, as soon as the yacht had sailed across the line connecting the
two extreme points of the bay, the high cliffs diverted the wind so
that it was only felt occasionally, and then in short squalls, from
various directions; and between those baffling squalls were long
spells of calm, during which the vessel would drift helplessly before
the swell towards the surf under the cliffs, or would be carried by
the southerly current towards the lava reefs off South Point, in both
cases at imminent risk of destruction. And even when the squalls did
come down to render assistance, they shifted so suddenly that the
sails were taken aback two or three times in as many minutes, so that
all way was lost, or even stern way was got on the vessel, and one
lost control over her at a critical moment.

The 'Alerte' sailed into that bay a great many times without mishap;
but there were anxious moments now and then, and I was always glad to
escape out of this treacherous trap to the open sea, clear of the
rocks and squalls, with deep water round, and a comparatively steady
wind to help me.

We remained thus, standing off and on, and hove to, during the rest of
our stay at Trinidad. Our anchor was never let go here again. We had
been lucky with our weather when we first arrived at the island, and
had successively landed our working-party and stores, and our
whale-boat had been beached in South-west Bay a good many times,
without serious accident, though very seldom without risk. But now all
this was changed. High seas and squally weather were the rule during
the eighteen days we remained hove to: for the first eight days, as I
have said, we were unable to hold communication with the shore; and,
after that, there were but few occasions on which we could beach the
boat, and then this feat was generally attended with a capsize, loss
of property, and risk of life. But, fortunately, as will be seen, the
two days preceding our final departure from the islet were fine, and
we were thus enabled to carry off our tents and other stores. Had it
not been for this short spell of calm, we should have probably been
compelled to leave behind everything we possessed.

The fine season here is in the southern summer--our winter. In
winter--especially in the months of June, July, and August--landing on
Trinidad is almost always impossible. Strong winds and heavy rains
then prevail, while the seas run high. It is possible that the fine
weather was now beginning to break up, and that when we sailed from
the island--February 15--the stormy autumn season was setting in.

The ship's log for this period presents a monotonous repetition of
vain attempts at boating, as the following short record of our
proceedings for the first eight days will show. It will be remembered
that we arrived off the island and hove to on the evening of January
29.

_January 30._--Sailed into South-west Bay after breakfast. Though
we saw the camp standing as we had left it, could not perceive any
men, neither had we done so on the previous day. Wonder if, for some
reason or other, the shore-party have left the island, and been
carried away by a passing vessel? Drift out of bay and heave to. In
afternoon sail into bay again. This time are glad to see all the men
walking down to the beach. We signal for news. They reply, 'All well,'
and 'Too rough for boating.' We signal, that we have brought them some
letters from Bahia. When outside bay heave to for night.

_January 31._--At dawn ten miles off island. Tack towards island.
Sea high; squally. Sail into bay. No signals from shore. We conclude
it is too rough for boating, and that the men are at work in the
ravine. In afternoon sail again into bay. No signals. Heave to for
night, as before.

_February 1._--Sail into bay in morning. See the men on shore
taking the cover off the whale-boat, as if with the intention of
coming off. They drag her down to the edge of the sea. We cannot now
distinguish them, so cannot tell whether they have launched the boat
or not, or whether they have capsized, or what may have happened. All
is hidden from us for some time; then we see them hauling the boat up
the beach again. They have evidently abandoned the attempt as too
dangerous. Very squally. While hove to, drive a long way from island.
In evening, sail towards the bay again and heave to for night.

_February 2._--Heavy showers of rain obscuring island from our
view. Enter bay in morning. It being Sunday no work is done in the
ravine, but the shore-party make many fruitless attempts at launching
the boat during the day. We stand in and out of the bay all day,
watching the proceedings of those on shore through our glasses. On
several occasions the men draw the boat down to the edge of the sea,
disappear from our sight for a time, and at last reappear hauling the
boat up again. They persevere despite repeated failures. Think they
have capsized once at least, as they are baling the boat out on the
beach. At last, at 4 p.m., they give up the attempt as hopeless, and
hoist the signal: 'Impossible to launch lifeboat.' We exchange several
signals, but find it difficult to distinguish their small flags from
the yacht. At sunset we sail out to sea and heave to. Choppy sea.
Tumble about a good deal. Stormy-looking sky.

_February 3._--This morning very clear; so see distinctly for
first time the three rocky islets of Martin Vas, distant about
twenty-five miles from Trinidad, bearing east. Sail into bay. Again
several vain attempts to launch boat. Heave to. Drift this night
upwards of fifteen miles from island.

_February 4._--Sail into bay. Still high surf. A signal flying on
shore which we cannot distinguish, so sail somewhat nearer in. Are
becalmed under Sugarloaf. Then a squall--then taken aback by another
squall--then calm again. We drift towards Noah's Ark, up whose face
the sea is breaking fifty or sixty feet high. Another squall; wear
vessel and clear out of bay. A very squally day, with baffling winds
making it more than usually dangerous to enter the bay.

                 *       *       *       *       *

At last, on February 5, after having made three vain attempts to cross
the barrier of tumbling surf, the whale-boat was successfully
launched, and we saw her come out safely from the line of breakers at
the end of the bay; then the men pulled away towards us, visible one
moment as the boat rose to the top of the swell, and hidden the next
moment from our sight by the rollers as she sank into the valleys
between them.

We sailed into the bay to meet her, and hove to abreast of the
Sugarloaf. The boat came nearer, and we saw that the doctor, Powell,
Pursell, and the two black men, were in her. It was now thirty-eight
days since we had last seen our companions. They all looked gaunt and
haggard, and were clad in flannel shirts and trousers, ragged and
earth-stained from the work in the ravine.

But they were the same cheery boys as ever, as I discovered by the
jovial manner of their greeting as soon as they were within hail.
'Hullo!' sang out the doctor, 'what vessel's that, and where do you
come from? I am the doctor of the port here. Hand over your bill of
health, that I may see whether you can have pratique.'

'And I am the governor of this island of Trinidad,' cried Powell, with
affable pompousness from under an extraordinary hat that had been
manufactured by himself, apparently out of the remains of old hampers
and bird's-nests; 'will you do me the honour of dining with me at
Government House to-night? I shall be glad to learn from you how the
revolution is progressing in our neighbouring State of Brazil. I was
just on the point of sending out my squadron here'--patting the
whale-boat on the side--'to Bahia, to look after the interests of any
of our subjects who may be there.'

It was startling for us to find that these dwellers on a desert island
had already heard of the Brazilian revolution, and we were still more
amazed when they proved to us that they were well informed as to all
that had been going on in the outer world. We had been looking forward
to imparting the latest news to them, but lo! all that we had to tell
was stale to them. They kept us in a state of mystification for some
time before they revealed the source of this marvellous knowledge, and
the only information that Powell would vouchsafe us on the subject was
to the effect that:--'We found it slow here without the newspapers at
breakfast, and have established telegraphic communication with
England. All the latest racing intelligence comes through the tape in
the doctor's tent.' But, before asking any questions, we greeted our
long-absent friends. They came on board and had a good square meal,
such as they had not enjoyed for a long time, with red wine, cigars,
and other luxuries, and after this we sat down to a long yarn and an
exchange of news.



CHAPTER XX.

THE ADVENTURES OF THE SHORE-PARTY.


The doctor and his companions had plenty to tell. They had dug a great
deal and had cleared away the landslip, till they had arrived at what
appeared to be the original rocky bottom of the ravine. They had found
no signs of the treasure, and they had evidently come to the
conclusion that there was but little chance of finding it; but they
had not lost heart, and were of opinion that it would be advisable to
dig for a few weeks more, in the likely parts of the ravine, before
abandoning the search for good.

The doctor told me that the surf had been exceedingly heavy recently,
and that a storm had completely changed the character of the beach, a
sandbank having been formed at some distance from the shore, deep
water intervening. He explained to me that this bank was only just
awash at low water, and that the sea always broke upon it, ploughing
it up, so that sand and water were rolled up together, forming a
boiling surf dangerous for the boat to cross.

The adventures of the shore-party during our absence, the visit of the
man-of-war, and the marvellous escape from drowning of several of our
men, were very interesting to hear. Mr. Pursell, as being one of those
on shore, can tell the story better than I can, and he has kindly
written for me the following account of all that occurred whilst the
yacht was away. His narrative commences with our separation on
December 30.

                 *       *       *       *       *

After parting with our comrades on the 'Alerte,' we made haste to get
ashore again, as the weather looked threatening, and there was every
prospect of a rough landing. As soon as we had turned the corner of
Treasure Bay we found that the wind was blowing hard right on shore,
and that the sea had begun to break heavily on the beach, throwing
dense masses of spray into the air, which glistened like silver in the
sunshine--a magnificent sight, but one which portended a good ducking
for us. However, there was no help for it; we had to make the best of
it and get ashore somehow.

We waited for a comparative calm. We allowed three big waves to pass
and spend their fury on the beach; the word was given, and we dashed
on towards the land with all the force we could put into our oars. On
we flew, crossing one sandbank on the summit of a curling wave that
broke with a sound of thunder on the next bank. On we pulled with set
teeth and straining muscles. 'Hurrah!' cried the doctor, 'one more
stroke and we have done it!'--when, suddenly, we were in the
back-wash--the water seemed to shrink from under us into the wave that
followed--the stem of the boat ploughed into a sandbank, while a huge
wall of water rose up behind us, lifting the stern high in the air
till the boat stood end on, and the next moment oars, tins, boat, and
men were rolled over and over each other in the boiling foam.

Our first thought, on struggling to our feet, was naturally for the
boat. We found her turned right over and thrown almost on dry land. We
hastened to right her, bale her out, and drag her up out of harm's
way; then, having collected the oars, stretchers, rudder, etc., which
were floating about, we set to work to rescue our provisions. For two
hours we dived about in the surf, picking up tins of meat, Swiss milk,
and oatmeal, a bag of biscuit utterly spoiled, another of flour
reduced to paste, a couple of rifles, and one or two boxes of
cartridges. Our two happy-dispositioned coloured men had great fun
with the ruined flour, pelting each other with it until their shining
black bodies were almost covered with the white paste, and roaring
with laughter at each successful hit.

Though we did not abandon the search until nothing else could be
found, an inspection showed us that we had lost a good half of the
stores we had brought off in the boat. Having rescued all we could,
the doctor ordered all hands up to the camp for a tot of rum, which, I
need hardly say, we were very glad to get. The most important loss, of
course, was that of the biscuit and flour: for it was quite possible
that the yacht might be away for several weeks, on her voyage to and
from Bahia, and we had only a small supply of these articles on shore;
so we had to go on short rations, so far as they were concerned.

Cloete-Smith, Powell, and myself had now been on shore for about five
weeks, working steadily all the time, and we were beginning to feel
the effects of it--in trainers' language, we were getting horribly
stale. The doctor, therefore, decided that we should take holidays on
the following two days--Saturday and Sunday--and recommence work on
the Monday.

Now that the yacht had sailed we were quite cut off from the outer
world, and began to feel very much like shipwrecked sailors, with the
exception that we had many more comforts than usually fall to their
lot, I suppose it is only in novels that those convenient hulks drift
ashore containing just the very things the belated mariners are in
want of, for, though we kept a careful look-out, nothing of the kind
came our way. Powell, I believe, though naturally a most kind-hearted
fellow, would have cheerfully sacrificed a vessel for a few hundred
Turkish cigarettes, and we should all have been glad of a change of
literature. The library we had brought with us was well thumbed and
well read, even to the advertisements. We had a motley assortment. We
all became Shakespearean scholars; Bret Harte's poems and the 'Bab
Ballads' we almost knew by heart; and we came to look upon, as very
old friends, characters of all sorts and conditions; among others,
Othmar, Quilp, Adam Bede, Lord Fauntleroy, the Modern Circe, and Mrs.
Gamp.

On Monday we resumed our digging, with renewed vigour after our two
days' rest, and worked steadily at the landslip. After we had
thoroughly excavated under the big rock which had been discovered when
the skipper was on shore, without result, Powell and myself were sent
to examine two or three likely-looking places higher up the ravine, so
as not to leave any chance untried; while the others still worked away
at the old trench.

On the Wednesday morning our work was stopped for a time by the
heaviest storm of rain I have ever witnessed. After the first few
minutes the tents were no protection from the water, which quickly
swamped them, so we armed ourselves with soap, and, going out into the
open, enjoyed a glorious fresh water bath. At the same time we had a
view of a splendid waterfall. The rain beating on to the windward side
of the Sugarloaf gathered in a deep gully on its summit, and, rushing
down, struck a projecting rock, and leaped headlong into the sea,
seven hundred feet below. The effect was very fine, and, later on,
when the clouds lightened a little and the morning sun shone through
the rain, the whole island appeared to be covered with a transparent
veil of prismatic colour.

On the following Sunday the doctor and I set off for an expedition
into the mountains. On a previous occasion we had noticed a steep
landslip of red earth, mixed with cinders that looked very much as if
they had been thrown up from a volcano; so we made up our minds to go
to the top and see if we could find a crater. Slowly and carefully we
crawled on hands and knees up the steep slide, clinging like cats to
the side of the mountain, whose loose, charred soil crumbled away
beneath us. We reached the summit of the red landslip, and found
ourselves on a projecting spur of the mountain where the rocks had
fallen away, leaving a great obelisk, seventy feet in height, standing
on a narrow ridge, its base crumbling away with every storm, so that
it looked as though a push would send the whole mass crashing down on
to our camp far below. We could see no signs of a crater. Leaving this
ridge, we ascended the mountain behind, and when we reached the top we
sat down to rest and get cool under the shadow of a big rock.

From here the view was a grand one. To our right, nearly a thousand
feet above us, rose the highest peak on the island. At our feet was
Treasure Bay, our camp looking like a tiny white speck, even the great
obelisk of rock we had just left appeared insignificant from this
elevation, while the sea seemed smooth and innocent as the Serpentine,
and the roar of the breakers sounded like a gentle murmur.

Away at sea two vessels were in sight--one a full-rigged ship, not far
from the island; the other a barque, just breaking the horizon, with
her white sails gleaming in the sunshine. Suddenly, as I watched the
nearer vessel, I saw her royals taken in, and, looking to windward,
perceived a large black cloud hurrying towards her, the water being
churned up under it as it came along. The next moment the vessel was
hidden from our sight by the squall of wind and rain, though all the
while the sun was shining brightly on our island and not a drop of
rain fell near us. The cloud passed by, the brave ship seemed to shake
herself after the struggle, the sun shone once more on her dripping
canvas, and by the time she had set her royals again and resumed her
course, the squall had passed away below the horizon.

About this time we caught plenty of turtle, which formed a very
welcome addition to our larder, and they also enabled us to husband
our other stores, which were beginning to get low. Biscuit was
entirely exhausted, and of flour we had but little, and, though Joe
managed to make a very eatable cake out of preserved potatoes, the
absence of bread-food was a serious inconvenience. The wild beans that
grow on the island were now of great use.

For another fortnight we dug steadily on, gradually getting worn out
with the hard work, and seeing our hopes of fortune diminish as, one
by one, the likely places up the ravine were tried and found wanting,
and the big trench grew deeper and wider without giving any promise of
yielding up the golden hoard. The life was dreadfully monotonous, not
an incident occurring worth the mention to vary the daily drudgery
with pick and shovel. We no longer set out on Sundays and
half-holidays for those glorious but exhausting climbs over the
mountains, as we had to cherish all our strength for our work; and,
after each spell of digging, were glad to rest in our tents, sheltered
from the burning sun. However, we kept up our spirits, were cheery
enough, and always got on splendidly together.

The yacht had now been away three weeks, and we began to look forward
to her return. We kept a good look-out, expecting to see her at any
moment turn the corner of Treasure Bay. Just at this time we found
considerable difficulty in obtaining fish. The weather had been bad
for many days, the wind strong and squally from the north-east, and a
heavy surf running on the shore. The effect of this on our sandy beach
was to completely change its shape and appearance, and the little
pool, in which we used to catch small fish with our wire-netting,
entirely disappeared. Moreover, although Powell was energetic, and
indeed very often rash, in venturing out on to the rocks with his
bamboo rod, the seas now constantly broke right over them, so that
another of our food-supplies was cut off.

On Sunday, January 19, we had an unexpected and most welcome visit. As
we turned out of our banqueting hall after breakfast, we saw, to our
amazement, a large man-of-war standing right into the bay from the
south-east. Our camp was instantly a scene of excitement. We got out
our glasses and strained our eyes to make out her nationality.

Was it possible that the Brazilian Government had heard of our
expedition and had sent a gunboat to wrest our treasure from us and
bear us away in chains? As a relief to the monotony of this long
expedition we were always chaffing and talking nonsense--a very good
plan, too; so we began to discuss the approaching vessel in our usual
mock-grave fashion. If she should prove to be an enemy, we said that
we would defend our island to the last gasp. Cloete-Smith began to
reckon up what forces he had at his disposal. There were the two
Englishmen, more or less white: these he called his Light Brigade. He
called the two coloured men the Black Watch. There was the monkey too,
who could serve as an irregular force to harass the enemy generally--a
sort of 'gorilla warfare' as I put it--a remark which called forth a
severe reprimand from the commander-in-chief. In the armoury
department we had three repeating-rifles, two revolvers, and a case of
surgical instruments. Fortunately we were not called upon to fight,
for, when the vessel had approached close to Noah's Ark, we were able
to make out the glorious old white ensign of England floating over her
stern.

We greeted it with a wild cheer.

Presently we saw that two boats were lowered and manned. Then the
doctor gave the order: 'All hands shave and prepare for visitors.' We
turned to with a will to make ourselves comparatively respectable, all
the while eagerly watching the proceedings in the bay. We saw the two
boats pull close into the shore, and then retire, evidently not liking
the look of the tremendous surf. They were then taken in tow by the
vessel, which steamed slowly across the bay and disappeared round the
west corner, evidently to see if they could effect a landing in the
other bay.

In about twenty minutes, just as we had completed our toilet, she came
back again, the boats were hoisted on board, and, to our dismay, she
steamed away and vanished from our sight round South Point. We were
deeply disappointed and returned to our tents in no amiable frame of
mind.

But we had not been deserted, after all; for, three hours later, just
as we had finished our midday meal, we perceived four white-helmeted
figures making their way down the green slopes at the back of our
ravine. We hastened to meet them, greeted them like long-lost
brothers, and brought them in triumph to the camp, for glad we were to
see fresh friendly faces. As soon as they had refreshed themselves
after their long walk, we sat down to hear all the news. Our visitors
proved to be the captain, the surgeon, and two of the wardroom
officers of H.M.S. 'Bramble,' which vessel was on her way from
Ascension Island to her station at Montevideo. They had sighted
Trinidad at daybreak, and, standing in close to examine it, had
discovered our tents on the shore. Having found the surf too heavy
both in South-west Bay and at the pier, they had steamed round to the
other side of the island. Here, after having attempted a landing at
various places, they had at last succeeded in getting on shore, and
after an hour's walk over the mountains had reached our camp.

Then we, in our turn, explained to them who we were and what we were
doing here; and took them up to see our diggings, in which they seemed
highly interested, though somewhat amused at our method of searching
for fortune.

The officers asked us to go off and mess with them on the
'Bramble'--an invitation we gladly accepted. We accordingly set out
with them across the mountains, leaving our two black men in charge of
the island during our absence. We found that their jollyboat was in
South-west Bay, with five men in her. They had dropped their anchor
near a coral reef running out at right angles to the shore, and now
they allowed the boat to back near enough to it for one of us to
scramble on board at a time, seizing, of course, the most favourable
opportunity when the sea was comparatively steady, and hauling the
boat off after each attempt, for had she touched the rock, not much of
her would have been left in a couple of minutes.

We pulled off to the vessel, which was lying at about half a mile from
the shore. As soon as we were on board the captain gave the order to
get under weigh, and we steamed at half speed into Treasure Bay, and
the vessel was anchored for the night near the Noah's Ark mountain, in
twenty fathoms of water. Then some one suggested cocktails--a most
unwonted luxury for us--and we adjourned below for a chat. We found
the officers of the 'Bramble' most pleasant fellows, and they treated
us with the greatest hospitality. They ransacked their private stores
for our delectation, and promised to give us a supply of biscuit, some
flour, books, and tobacco to take ashore with us on the following
morning. They even said, jokingly, that they were sure the 'Alerte'
had gone to the bottom, and that, if we were tired of digging on the
island, they would give us a passage to Montevideo as distressed
British subjects. They appeared greatly interested in the story we
told of the origin of the treasure and the account of our voyage and
subsequent adventures. In return, they gave us all the latest news. We
learnt that there had been a revolution in Brazil, which had broken
out on the day after we had sailed from Bahia, and we speculated as to
whether it would cause any delay to our shipmates who had gone to
Brazil marketing. We also heard that Lord Salisbury had despatched a
fleet to demonstrate on the west coast of Africa. We were told that
the 'Bramble' was to form part of the expedition sent to observe the
eclipse of the sun. They had, in short, plenty of news to impart, and
it was so long since we had had any opportunity of hearing what was
going on in the world that we talked like a vestry meeting till dinner
time.

All our shore-going clothes were on board the yacht, and we were clad
in our rough working clothes, with only one coat between us; so I
fancy our appearance at mess was a source of great amusement to the
wardroom servants. Indeed, all the time we were on board we were
evidently objects of considerable interest to the crew; the men seemed
hardly to know what to make of us, and to wonder what manner of people
we could be who chose for a residence this desolate spot.

After dinner we went on deck, and Captain Langdon produced some
excellent cigars, which we thoroughly enjoyed, while listening to a
selection of music performed for our benefit by the ship's volunteer
fife-and-drum band--a capital one.

We slept on board the vessel, and the next morning our first thought
was about landing; we went on deck to have a look at the shore. We saw
that the surf was breaking very heavily, and that it would be
impossible to beach a boat without running considerable risk of
smashing her up. However, get on shore we must, as the 'Bramble' could
not delay any longer, and had to be off.

So, after breakfast, the books, flour, and other things were handed up
in a cask and lowered into a boat, together with a tin of biscuit,
and, having bidden good-bye to our generous hosts, we started off
under the command of Captain Langdon. As soon as we were near the
breakers it was seen that to beach the boat was impossible, so, after
a little consultation Powell determined to try and swim ashore with
the end of a rope. We pulled in as close as we could with safety, and
then he jumped overboard, with the end of a grass line fastened to his
arm, and made for the shore. He got on all right at first, though the
strong current had a tendency to set him on the dangerous rocks on the
left of the open channel. As soon as he got into the breaking rollers
it was evident that he could not take the rope on shore. He struggled
bravely on, being dashed on the beach by each wave, and then sucked
back into the next wave by the irresistible back-wash.

By this time the two black men on shore had seen him, and they rushed
into the water to render assistance. Then Powell, almost exhausted,
handed them the rope and just managed to struggle ashore, and he lay
down on the sand for a while, dead beat. But we were by no means out
of the wood yet. The two men to whom Powell had given the rope were
themselves carried off their feet by the big breakers and were washed
out to sea. They both let go the rope and tried in vain to get on
shore again, for they were much impeded by their clothes. At last
Theodosius managed to cling to a rock and hold on to it till a
recoiling wave had passed him; then he made a rush for it and
succeeded in reaching the land. But Joe could make no way and was
carried further out. He was for some time in great danger of drowning,
and his cries for help were piteous. But we could not with safety take
the boat any nearer to him than we were, for she would have been stove
in by the sunken rocks; and, as we could not make him understand that
his proper course was, instead of attempting to land through the
breakers in his exhausted condition, to turn and swim out to us, the
doctor and myself went out to him, and towed him to the boat on a
barrel.

We were now no better off than when we had started, for we still had
three of our party in the boat and two on shore. It was clear that it
was more than a man could do to swim to land with a rope; so we
decided to go to the western end of the bay, where a large rock, on
which Powell sometimes fished, stood out some way into the sea, and
endeavour to throw a line on to it. So we pulled off there, the two
men on the shore following us over the rocks. Powell and the coloured
man clambered on to this natural pier, and, after several attempts, I
managed to throw to them the end of a light line to which a bolt had
been attached; we then bent the end of the grass rope on to this and
they hauled it on shore.

But now we found that the sea was breaking with such great violence
that it would be extremely perilous for a man to attempt to get on
shore by hauling himself along the rope: he would most probably be
beaten to death on the coral rocks. We therefore attempted to work the
line to the eastward for a distance of about half a mile, to where the
sandy beach afforded a safer landing-place. Powell and Theodosius
carried their end of the rope along the shore, while we pulled in a
direction parallel to theirs with our end. We progressed but
gradually, having to stop frequently to jerk the bight of the rope
over the rocks in which it caught.

After about three-quarters of an hour of this work we had nearly got
to our journey's end and were beginning to think that our troubles
were over, when the rope got foul of a sharp piece of coral and parted
in the middle like a bit of pack-thread. Captain Langdon used no bad
language when this happened, but he looked all sorts of imprecations
at this inaccessible home of ours. It was now one o'clock, and we had
been trying in vain to land for four hours, and, moreover, had lost a
kedge anchor and the greater portion of the grass rope; so Captain
Langdon decided to return to the 'Bramble' to change the boat's crew
and get a fresh supply of rope.

We had some lunch and then set off again with two boats, another kedge
and grass rope, a light cod-line and a large rocket. We pulled in till
we were near the breakers, then one boat let go her anchor, and, the
other boat having her painter fast to her, the first was backed in
towards the shore until she was right on the top of the rollers, just
before they broke. Then the cod-line was fixed on to the rocket, and,
as there was no proper rocket apparatus on board, the rocket was held
in the hand, while the gunner, who had come with us, applied a match
to it. In consequence of some accident the rocket, instead of flying
on shore and taking the cod-line with it, fizzed away in the boat,
burning off the gunner's moustache and beard before he had time to
move his head aside, and then dropped overboard and expended its force
in the water. So we had failed again.

The wind, however, had changed by this time, and for a couple of hours
had been blowing off shore, instead of on shore, from the south, so
that the violence of the sea had abated considerably, and Cloete-Smith
decided to have one more try at swimming on shore. He very nearly
succeeded in doing so; but the current caught him, and swept him down
on the rocks, so he had to return. Then I made another attempt, but
with no better success, and we were at our wits' end and were getting
worn out with our efforts, when we saw Powell preparing to swim off to
us with the end of that portion of the broken grass rope which had
remained on shore.

He waited for his opportunity, then dashed into the surf, dived
through the breakers, and managed to get out into the deep water
safely. We swam off to meet him with the end of another rope, bent
them together and swam back to the boat. The rest was easy. We had now
got a connection with the shore; for the farther end of the rope was
safely secured to a rock. One by one we made our way along the rope to
dry land, then hauled the stores off with another light line, and,
making the shore end of the grass rope fast to a turtle we had caught
two days before, we sent it off as a present to the 'Bramble.'

It was a relief to find ourselves all safe on shore at last. We went
up to the tents in a fairly exhausted condition for a much needed tot
of rum. The boats pulled back to the ship and were hoisted up. 'Wish
you good luck' was run up to the peak; we gave her a parting volley
from our rifles, and then the gallant vessel steamed away--as it
turned out, to take part in another revolution in Buenos Ayres--and we
were alone once more.

On the following day we settled down to work again, cheered and
refreshed. We had now got a supply of biscuit and flour which we hoped
would last us until the return of the yacht, so we were much more
comfortable in our minds than before the arrival of the 'Bramble.' We
resumed our life of monotonous digging, and the only event of
importance about this time was an accident which nearly proved fatal
to Powell. He was fishing one afternoon on the big rock mentioned
above, when one of the large waves which sometimes roll in
unexpectedly here washed him off his perch into the sea. He was dashed
violently on the rocks, and it was only by a piece of wonderful luck
that he managed to clamber up again before he was stunned. He was much
bruised, and lost his rod, his pipe, and hat--everything, in fact,
except his life.

Day by day the work went on, and, as each morning broke, we hoped it
would bring our missing vessel; but when another week went by and
still she had not appeared, things began to look serious. She had now
been away nearly five weeks, and we feared that some mischance had
befallen her. Our stores were getting exhausted, and the weather
seemed to have broken up, for there was now always so much surf that
the turtle could not come up the sands, and fishing was generally
impossible.

Our stores would not last much longer, so the doctor had two days'
provisions and a breaker of water put aside, and decided that, if the
yacht did not return within a few days, we would put to sea in the
whale-boat and stand out into the track of passing vessels, in the
hope of being picked up. Friday and Saturday passed and no yacht
arrived. We spent Sunday in getting the boat ready for sea. Monday
morning broke with half a gale of wind blowing and a terrific surf on
the beach, so that it would have been impossible to launch the
whale-boat, and about midday, just as we had given up all hope of
seeing her again, the good old 'Alerte' came round the corner, rolling
and pitching in the heavy sea under a close-reefed mainsail, small
jib, and reefed foresail.

Next morning we ran the boat down to the water's edge and tried to
launch her. Two of us got into her and made ready to pull, while the
others shoved her off. Then the others jumped in and we pulled five or
six strokes, when a huge breaker caught her, lifted her up and turned
her right over, rolling us all in a heap on to the beach. We tried
again, with the same result, and then gave the attempt up, and went
back to our morning's dig, hoping for better luck in the afternoon.

Day after day we tried and always failed. It seemed as if the sea
would never go down. Our stores were now all but exhausted, and we
lived chiefly on the wild sea-birds. Every morning we would climb to a
ravine where the birds are in great quantities, and pluck the young,
unfledged ones from their nests, their mothers circling round us,
striking at us with beaks and wings, uttering hoarse cries, and even
spitting morsels of fish at us in their fury. We then took our victims
down to the camp, cooked and ate them. The old birds are inedible, and
even the flesh of the young ones is, without exception, the most
horrible kind of food I have ever tasted.

At last, on February 5, after a week of this sort of thing, we could
stand it no longer, and determined to get off somehow. Three times we
tried, and each time were swamped and driven back; the fourth time we
waited for a lull, ran the boat out, jumped in, and pulled away with
all our strength. A huge breaker rolled up. The boat stood up on end,
hesitated for an instant; one mighty tug at the oars, she righted, and
before another wave could catch us we were out of danger, soon reached
the 'Alerte,' and our imprisonment was at an end.

I cannot close this account of our life on the island without saying a
word in praise of the two coloured seamen who were left with us.
Always willing to work hard, and always cheerful and obliging, they
tried to make our life as comfortable for us as possible. When the
provisions ran short, they would have lived, had we allowed them, on
nothing but a few handfuls of rice or cassava, saying:--'You gentlemen
eat the meat; me and George, we used to anything, even starving--you
gentlemen not. We don't want meat--you do.' In saying this, I do not
wish it to be thought that I am making any invidious comparison
between these two men and the two white sailors whom Knight had with
him on board at this time. They also were good men and capable
sailors, and had they been ashore with us would, I know, have done
their duty well and willingly. They deserved thoroughly the good
discharge which Knight gave them on parting.



CHAPTER XXI.

WE ABANDON THE SEARCH.


The five men I had left on the island had certainly done their work
well. The doctor had made an excellent leader, and had organised all
the operations capitally. They had toiled hard, and had kept up their
spirits all the while, and, what is really wonderful under
circumstances so calculated to try the temper and wear out patience,
they had got on exceedingly well with each other, and there had been
no quarrelling or ill-feeling of any sort.

The ravine had been very thoroughly explored, and we felt that there
was but little chance of our finding the treasure. It was highly
improbable that the massive golden candlesticks of the Cathedral of
Lima would ornament our homes in England. It was decided, however,
that, if the weather permitted, we should stay here another three
weeks or so, and--as we were satisfied that the treasure could not be
at the first bend of the ravine--that we should dig in such other
spots as appeared suitable hiding-places, and would be naturally
selected for the purpose by a party of men landing in this bay.

The shore-party were glad of a holiday on the yacht after all their
labours and privations, and no attempt was made to take the whale-boat
through the surf again that day. All hands stayed on board for the
night, and on the following morning, as the sea was still breaking too
heavily on the beach of South-west Bay to permit of a landing, I
proposed to my companions that we should take another holiday and go
for a picnic on the water. The cook, was, therefore, instructed to
prepare an especially good dinner, and, after shaking the reefs out of
our mainsail, we proceeded to circumnavigate the island, keeping as
close to the shore as we were able, so that we could have a good view
of the scenery.

We sailed by the different points which we now knew so well--the Ness,
the Pier, the Ninepin--and at last doubled North Point. This extremity
of the island is extremely wild and desolate, and is utterly
inaccessible. Many of the sharp pinnacles which cap the mountains are
out of the perpendicular, and lean threateningly over the sea. I have
already explained that the different species of birds occupy different
portions of the island; the crags by North Point are inhabited by the
frigate-birds and sea-hawks.

We coasted along the weather side of the island, and when we were
nearly opposite to the Portuguese settlement the wind dropped and we
had to man the whale-boat and tow the yacht seaward; for we found that
she was gradually sagging before the swell towards the reefs, on which
the sea was breaking heavily. We could not get round the island, so
sailed back, before a very light wind, to South-west Bay, and hove to
as usual for the night.

Work was resumed the next day, and a boat-load of stores was sent on
shore. The newly-formed sandbank which I have mentioned appeared to
increase and become a more serious obstacle to landing every day. On
this occasion the boat again drove her stem into the sand as she
crossed this shoal, and the next wave swamped and capsized her, so
that boat, men, and stores were tumbling about in the deep water
between the sandbank and the shore.

They managed to haul the boat safely up, and, by diving in the surf,
recovered a good many of the tins of food. Then the boat returned to
the yacht, Joe being left alone in the camp. He did not relish this at
all, for, like most black men, he was very afraid of ghosts, and had
come to the conclusion that Trinidad was a place more than usually
haunted by unsettled spirits. He told us that if he were left alone on
shore for the night his only course would be to light a ring of fires
and sit in the middle, with a tight bandage round his head, keeping
awake till dawn. If he failed to take these precautions he would most
certainly be torn to pieces, or otherwise seriously damaged, by the
spirits. We took compassion on him and did not leave him to face the
terrors of the darkness alone. In the afternoon the whale-boat
returned to the bay, and Pollock swam on shore to remain with him.

A description of what happened for the next few days would be merely a
repetition of what has gone before. The yacht was hove to at night,
and sailed about the mouth of the bay all day. The surf was always
breaking dangerously on the sands, so that it was impossible to beach
the boat, and the men had to swim to and fro from whale-boat to shore,
or haul themselves along a line which we had rigged up for the
purpose, and which was carried from a rock on shore to a buoy moored
with the ship's kedge outside the breakers. We used also to haul the
provisions on shore with a line, having lashed them to the bamboo
rafts which we had constructed for this purpose.

The weather became so unsettled and the surf was so invariably high
that, after a few days, we came to the conclusion that the sooner we
left the island the better, and we decided to take the first
favourable opportunity for bringing off our property from the shore.
The bad season was approaching--if it had not already commenced--and
if we waited much longer we might find it impossible, for months at a
time, to carry off stores or men. The yacht only remained hove to for
eleven days after the shore-party had first boarded us, and during
that time the men with me on the vessel were employed in setting up
the rigging, rattling down the shrouds, and effecting all necessary
repairs.

There was nearly always a high swell running now, which was especially
uncomfortable when there was no wind, for then we would often roll
scuppers under. For nearly a week it was quite impossible to beach the
boat, and all communication with the shore had to be effected in the
way I have described above. At last, on February 13, luckily for us,
it was exceptionally calm in South-west Bay, so that it would be very
easy to carry off our stores.

Such a chance was not to be lost. In the morning all hands went off in
the boats, with the exception of myself and Wright, who stayed on
board to work the vessel. A landing was effected without any
difficulty, and the boats returned with heavy loads, bringing off the
hydraulic jack, the guns, the bedding, and other articles.

I, of course, wished to see what work had been done, before giving my
final decision as to the continuance or abandonment of our
exploration--not that there was any doubt as to what that decision
would be, after I had heard the doctor's report. In the afternoon I
went off in the whale-boat, and landed on the island for the first
time for forty-eight days, leaving the doctor in charge of the yacht
while she lay hove to outside the bay. I had not put foot on shore
here for so long that I was astonished at the aspect of the ravine,
which had been completely changed in my absence by the labours of my
comrades.

I stood and contemplated the melancholy scene--the great trenches, the
piled-up mounds of earth, the uprooted rocks, with broken wheelbarrows
and blocks, worn out tools, and other relics of our three months' work
strewed over the ground; and it was sad to think that all the energy
of these men had been spent in vain. They well deserved to succeed,
and all the more so because they bore their disappointment with such
philosophic cheeriness.

It was, obviously, quite useless to persevere any further in this vain
search, especially as the difficulties of landing had so increased of
late that our operations could only be conducted at a great risk to
life. So the fiat went forth--the expedition was to be abandoned; we
were to clear out of Trinidad, bag and baggage, as quickly as we
could.

We returned to the yacht with a good load of stores, the condensing
apparatus, and the faithful Jacko. After dinner we sailed round to the
cascade and hove to off it. I remained on board with Wright while all
the other hands went off in the boats and obtained six casks of water
to replenish the ship's now nearly empty tanks. This was altogether a
most satisfactory day's work, and we were very well pleased with
ourselves when we hove to at sunset and drifted out to the ocean for
our well-deserved night's rest.

On the following morning--Friday, 14th--we tacked to the north of
South-west Bay, and found that, though there was more surf than on the
previous day, landing was feasible. The boat went off under the
doctor's charge, and the tents and all the remaining stores were
brought safely on board. Nothing of any value was left; we not only
carried off our own tools, but also the picks that had been used by
Mr. A----'s expedition. Only broken wheelbarrows and such like useless
articles remained in the ravine. From the vessel the only sign of our
late camp that could be seen was Powell's disabled armchair, which he
had left standing, a melancholy object, on the top of the beach.

We stowed the heavier tools and stores under the saloon floor and then
sailed again to the cascade. The whale-boat went off to the pier and a
quantity of water was brought on board, so that we had a sufficient
supply--but not much to spare--for the voyage we now contemplated.

When the watering-party returned we had done with Trinidad; so both
boats were hoisted on deck, and a melancholy ceremony was performed:
our very ancient dinghy, which was too rotten to bear any further
patching, and was not worth the room she used to take up on deck, was
broken up and handed over to the cook as firewood.

A tot of rum was served out to each hand, we bade farewell to
Trinidad, the foresail was allowed to draw, and we sailed away.

It had long since been decided that, whether the treasure was
discovered or not, we should sail from our desert island to its
wealthy namesake, Trinidad in the West Indies--a very different sort
of a place. The distance between the two Trinidads is, roughly, 2,900
miles; but we knew that the voyage before us was not likely to be a
lengthy one, for everything is in favour of a vessel bound the way we
were going. In the first place, it was very unlikely that we should
encounter head winds between our islet and Cape St. Roque, and from
that point we should most probably have the wind right aft for the
rest of the way, as the trade-winds blow regularly along the coasts of
north Brazil and the Guianas. In the next place, by sailing at a
certain distance from the land, we could keep our vessel in the full
strength of the south equatorial current, which runs at the rate of
two or three miles an hour in the direction of our course. We had, it
is true, to cross the line once more, with its belt of doldrums; but
we knew that we should not be much delayed by these tedious equatorial
calms, as they do not prevail on the coast of Brazil to anything like
the extent they do in mid-Atlantic; besides which, the favourable
current would be carrying us along with it across the belt, and enable
us to travel fifty miles or so a day, even in a flat calm.

This kindly current would, indeed, carry us straight to our port, for
it sweeps through the Gulf of Paria as well as by the east side of
Trinidad, and, as every schoolboy knows in these enlightened days,
thence flows round the Caribbean Sea and ultimately emerges from it
under another and better-known title--the Gulf Stream.

With the old 'Falcon' I had sailed over a portion of this route,
accomplishing the voyage from Pernambuco to Georgetown, Demerara--a
distance of about 2,000 miles--in ten days, thus keeping up an average
of 200 miles a day. At this rate the 'Alerte' ought to get to Trinidad
in fifteen days; but we were not fated to have such luck as that.



CHAPTER XXII.

HOMEWARD BOUND.


We had bidden farewell to the wild spot that had been our home for
three months, but we did not lose sight of Trinidad for upwards of
thirty hours.

We had got under weigh at sunset on February 14. A slight draught from
the hills carried us a mile or so outside North Point, when we were
becalmed and made no progress at all for many hours; and when at last
the north-east breeze sprang up, it was so very light that at eight on
the following morning the island was not more than twelve miles astern
of us.

Throughout the day calms and light airs succeeded to each other, and
at sunset the high peaks were still visible. The same weather
continued during our second night at sea, and at daybreak on February
16, we could just distinguish one faint blue mountain summit behind
us, the rest of the islet being below the horizon. But the wind now
freshened and all signs of the land soon disappeared, and once again
there was nothing to be seen round us but ocean.

It was evident that we were not to be favoured with the smart voyage I
had anticipated. We had fair winds, it is true, and a fair current,
but it was rare that we had fresh breezes, while long spells of calm
were frequent, so that we did not double Cape St. Roque till February
22.

Our best day's run up to this point was on the 19th, when we made 182
miles in the twenty-four hours--nothing much to boast of, seeing that
the difference between our distance, according to our dead reckoning
and that calculated by observation of the sun, showed that we had a
two-knot current under us all the while.

At 9 a.m. on February 22, having passed between Cape St. Roque and the
Rocas islets--not sighting either--we altered our course from
north-by-east to north-west, so as to sail parallel to the mainland,
at a distance of about 120 miles from it, and thus benefit by the full
strength of the current. Having doubled the cape we encountered, as we
had expected, south-east wind, and were thus able to set our
spinnaker.

As we approached the Equator we experienced the usual unpleasant
weather of this region: the sky was almost always overcast, the calms
were only broken by heavy squalls, and no night passed without vivid
lightning; but, so far, there was little rain. It was very close in
our cabins, and even on deck the men were languid with the oppressive,
muggy heat.

We crossed the line on February 26. We now had a few days of drifting
over a calm sea, under a soft drizzling rain, and we were unable to
take any sights of the sun. On March 1, the wind veered round to the
north for a change, so that we were close-hauled on the starboard
tack. This wind, being in the opposite direction to the regular
trades, was caused by some local disturbance, and only lasted for
twelve hours. This was our sixteenth day out, and we were still nearly
1,200 miles from our destination, which we might have made by this
time had our luck been good.

If we only progressed at this rate, our water could not hold out to
Trinidad; and though this was no cause for anxiety, as we could easily
sail for one of the ports on the mainland--Cayenne or Surinam, for
instance--I was particularly anxious not to call anywhere on the way;
so the order was given that all hands should be put on rations of
water. Our usual rule was to allow the men to use as much water as
they pleased, without waste; though all washing had, of course to be
done with salt water.

This order brought us luck, for not an hour after it had been given
the whole sky was covered over with one vast cloud, so dense that,
though it was midday, it became as dark on the ocean as when dusk is
deepening into night. Then it began to rain. Hitherto there had only
been drizzle or short showers, which did not afford an opportunity for
collecting water; but now it was very different--it poured steadily
down as it only can in the tropics, so that, by merely collecting the
water in the hollow of the whale-boat cover, we soon filled up every
tank and breaker on board, and had a sufficient supply to have lasted
us to Southampton, had we been bound there. The order as to rations
was at once countermanded, and even washing with fresh water was
permitted on this extravagant day.

Delighted as we had been to get all this water, we soon wearied of
such excessively unpleasant weather, for not only did it rain in
torrents, but every now and again a violent squall would sweep over
the sea, so that 'Scandalise the mainsail, and down foresail' was a
frequent order.

'It looks like breakers ahead, sir,' sang out Ted in the afternoon,
and we quite suddenly entered into a tract of very disturbed water.
The swell was unaccountably high, and the seas were curling over each
other and breaking all round us just as if we were in a tide-race or
overfall. The water, too, which had up till now been of the usual dark
deep ocean tint, became yellowish brown, and, when a bucket of it was
brought up on deck, it was found to be full of a fine powder, like the
seed of some grass. As we had not been able to take any sights for
some days, I thought we might be somewhat nearer the shoals on the
coast than I supposed; so hove to and took soundings, but found no
bottom. On tasting the water, it was quite salty, so that these
phenomena could scarcely have been caused by the violent stream of the
Amazon, which often makes itself felt and sweetens the water far out
to sea. It is possible that all this commotion was produced by some
volcanic eruption at the bottom of the ocean far beneath us--not an
uncommon event in this portion of the South Atlantic. As we sailed
through this confused water we found that the vessel steered wildly,
as if eddies and contrary currents were driving her first in one
direction then in another, while the tops of the steep waves kept
tumbling down upon our decks, compelling us to keep all skylights
closed; this made still more objectionable the atmosphere of our
already unpleasantly reeking cabins, where the wet clothes which we
had no means of drying had been accumulating for days. The oppressive
closeness of this equatorial climate is spoken of with horror even by
those who go to sea on big ships; but it is far worse on a little
fore-and-after.

Another peculiarity of this tract of broken water--out of which we
soon emerged as quickly as we had got into it--was that it swarmed
with fish and other forms of life. Shoals of small fish were dashing
about merrily in the spray, while fleets of large pink Portuguese
men-of-war--as the sailors call the Nautilus--were floating on the
surface. Until we had got into this curious portion of the ocean we
had seen very few fish.

After some days of similar uncomfortable weather, we drifted or
sailed--when the squalls allowed--into a respectable climate again,
and ran before the trade-wind at a fair pace. Our best day's run was
on March 6, when we made 192 miles. On this day we got into soundings,
the colour of the deep ocean changing to the dark green of
comparatively shallow water; for we were nearing the coast, so as to
make the entrance of the Gulf of Paria. We sighted the mountains of
Trinidad right ahead of us at daybreak of March 8, about two leagues
distant. We ran, before a light wind, between Galeota Point and Baja
Point. The sun now blazed down out of a cloudless sky, the morning
mists lifted and disclosed the scenery around us, which was of a very
different nature from that we had left on the desert Trinidad.

We were no longer tumbling about on the great transparent green
rollers that perpetually break upon the coasts of our Treasure Island,
but sailing on the smooth, muddy water of a shallow inland sea. On our
left were the low shores of Venezuela--a long line of dreary mangrove
swamps that form the delta of the Orinoco; the peculiar, and, I should
say, somewhat malarious, odour of the steaming mud being plainly
perceptible for leagues out to sea.

On our right were the shores of Trinidad--one of the fairest islands
of the Caribbean Sea. The sandy beaches were fringed with cocoanut
palms, and behind rose gently swelling mountains, covered with fine
forests, the lordly palmistes towering above all the lesser
foliage--forests in which the trees were of various forms and tints,
presenting a beautiful appearance, the feathery bamboos and the
scarlet and purple blossoms of bougainvillea and other flowering trees
relieving the dark green slopes of dense vegetation. On the plains
that lay under the mountains, and in the broad valleys that clove
them, could be seen the pale green spreads of the sugar-cane
plantations, with the tall chimneys of the boiling-houses rising above
them, and the darker clumps of the cacao groves.

When we were near Point Icacos we saw a school of whales, but, not
having the whale-boat or gun ready, we did not go in chase.

We passed through the narrow Serpent's Mouth, and were inside the Gulf
of Paria; from here we coasted along the shores of Trinidad by many a
landmark familiar to myself, and still more so to our two coloured
men, who became quite excited when they once more beheld their native
islands after an absence of two years and more. We sailed by Cedros
Point; by the curious row of rocks that are known as the Serpent's
Teeth; by the village of Brea, off which several vessels were lying at
anchor, loading with the bitumen that is dug out of the famous Pitch
Lake about a mile in shore.

We did not reach Port of Spain this day, for the wind fell away, and
we had to come to an anchor off St. Fernando for the night; but on the
following day, March 9, we completed our voyage, and let go our anchor
off Port of Spain early in the afternoon, having been twenty-two days
out from our desert island.

We were anchored at about two-thirds of a mile from the jetty, and
there was only eight feet of water under us at low tide. As the
draught of the 'Alerte' is ten feet, she then sank two feet into the
mud. This is quite the proper way to do things at Port of Spain.
Sailing-vessels bound here with timber are in the habit of running as
high up as they can into the mud, knowing that when they have
discharged their cargo they will easily float off again. The mud
deposited in the Gulf of Paria by the outflow of the Orinoco and its
tributaries is the softest possible, and is very deep, so that a
vessel can suffer no injury by lying in it, even when the sea is
rough. So shallow is the water in this roadstead that at a mile and a
half from the shore the depth is only three fathoms, while a ship's
boat cannot approach the end of the jetty at low water.

I had visited Trinidad before, and had many friends here, so was at
once at home on shore, as, too, were, very soon, my companions. We
were made honorary members of the pleasant Port of Spain Club, and
were treated everywhere with that hearty hospitality for which the
West Indies have always been noted.

Our voyage was now over, and though most of my companions were anxious
to sail away with me in search of any other treasure we might hear of
on West Indian cays--or to turn our vessel's head southward again, and
make for Demerara, to travel inland to the gold districts of Upper
Guiana on the Venezuelan frontier--or, in short, set sail for any part
of the world that promised adventure and possible profit (I believe
they would have turned filibusters if the chance had presented
itself)--and though I had four paid hands on board also willing to
have gone anywhere we should choose to lead them--still, I could not
see my way to extending the voyage any further for the present, and
decided to lay up the 'Alerte' at Port of Spain.

It was with reluctance that I made up my mind to do this; for the men
we did not want had been weeded out, and I had round me a compact crew
of seven, tested and trained by their seven months' travels and
hardships, and I also had the right vessel for any adventure. I had
several reasons for laying up the yacht in the West Indies, instead of
sailing her home. I had no use for her in England, and should I
undertake another voyage similar to the last, Port of Spain would be a
most convenient place to start from; besides, stores are cheap there,
and an excellent coloured crew, well adapted for work in the unhealthy
tropics, can be readily procured. Moreover, if I decided to sell the
yacht, I was certain to get a better price for her in the West Indies,
or on the Spanish Main, where there is a demand for this sort of
craft, than at home, where the market is glutted with second-hand
yachts.

Before leaving Trinidad--that cosmopolitan island of Britons,
Frenchmen, Spaniards, East Indiamen, Chinamen, and negroes--we
undertook several pleasant little voyages with the yacht in the
neighbourhood of Port of Spain, taking with us several friends from
the shore. One of these voyages took place in the Easter holidays,
which are properly observed on this island. We had a merry party on
board, and visited several of the beautiful bays on the islands that
divide the Bocas, or northern entrances to the Gulf of Paria. Our crew
had by that time been reduced to myself, Mr. Pursell, and John Wright:
for my companions took opportunities of returning home as they
occurred.

When the old vessel was dismantled and laid up, we last remaining
three took passage on the Royal Mail Steamer 'Dee,' which, being an
extra-cargo boat, was bound on a sort of roving commission round the
West Indies, in search of bags of cacao to complete her cargo. This
was a most enjoyable voyage, thanks to the officers of the 'Dee.'
Pursell and myself were the only passengers. We visited several of the
Windward Islands--old friends of mine, most of them--before sailing
across the Atlantic to Havre, and thence to London Docks.

Thus ended our treasure-hunting expedition--a vain search; but, as I
have already said, my companions bore their disappointment well. It
was amusing to hear them argue, like the grape-loving fox in the
fable, but in a more good-natured way, that we were far better off
without the treasure. I remember one favourite argument to this
effect. It had been decided that, if the treasure was found, we should
not return to England in the yacht, but insure our wealth and go home
in the biggest mail steamer we could find. That was our great
difficulty--how to find a suitable vessel. As we were now, we cared
not much what sort of a craft we sailed in; but, once wealthy, how
terribly valuable would our lives become! In anticipation even of it
we became nervous. Would any vessel be large and safe enough for us
then that we were millionaires? Well, indeed, was it for us that we
had not found the pirates' gold; for we seemed happy enough as we
were, and if possessed of this hoard our lives would of a certainty
have become a burden to us. We should be too precious to be
comfortable. We should degenerate into miserable, fearsome
hypochondriacs, careful of our means of transit, dreadfully anxious
about what we ate or drank, miserably cautious about everything,
'Better far, no doubt,' exclaimed these cheerful philosophers, 'to
remain the careless, happy paupers that we are.'

'Do you still believe in the existence of the treasure?' is a question
that has been often put to me since my return. Knowing all I do, I
have very little doubt that the story of the Russian Finn is
substantially true--that the treasures of Lima were hidden on
Trinidad; but whether they have been taken away, or whether they are
still there and we failed to find them because we were not in
possession of one link in the directions, I am unable to say.


THE END.



ESTABLISHED 1798

T. NELSON

AND SONS

PRINTERS AND

PUBLISHERS


FAMOUS MODERN BATTLES.             Captain Atteridge.

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