Sharp, with 330 buccaneers, had left the West Indies in April, 1760. They landed on the mainland, and, crossing the isthmus, made for Panama. Having secured canoes, they attacked the Spanish fleet lying at Perico, an island off Panama City, and, after one of the most desperate fights recorded in the annals of piracy, they took all the ships, including the Most Blessed Trinity. Then followed a long record of successful piracy, of battle, murder and sudden death, of mutiny and slaughter grim and great. Sharp, who, with all his crimes, was as good a navigator as he was reckless a fighter, sailed the Most Blessed Trinity with his crew of desperadoes the whole length of South America, rounded the Horn and, after eighteen months of adventure, peril and hardship, reached the West Indies again.
"The log of the voyage," writes Treves, "affords lurid reading. It records how they landed and took towns, how they filled the little market squares with corpses, how they pillaged the churches, ransacked the houses and then committed the trembling places to the flames.
"It tells how they tortured frenzied men until, in their agony, they told of hiding places where gold was buried; how they spent an unholy Christmas at Juan Fernandez; how, in a little island cove, they fished with a greasy lead for golden pieces which Drake is believed to have thrown overboard for want of carrying room. It gives account of a cargo of sugar and wine, of tallow and hides, of bars of silver and pieces of eight, of altar chalices and ladies' trinkets, of scented laces, and of rings torn from the clenched and still warm fingers of the dead.
"The 'valiant commander' had lost many of his company on the dangerous voyage. Some had died in battle; others had mumbled out their lives in the delirium of fever, sunstroke or drink; certain poor souls, with racked joints and bleeding backs, were crouching in Spanish prisons; one had been marooned on a desert island in the Southern Pacific Ocean." At the last, Sharp turned over the ship to the remainder of his crew and set sail, rich and respected (!) for England.
On the way from St. Kitts to St. Thomas, Stuart passed the two strange islands of St. Eustatius and Saba, remnants of the once great Dutch power in the West Indies. Statia, as the first island is generally called, is a decadent spot, its commerce fallen to nothing, the warehouses along the sea-front of its only town, in ruins. Yet once, strange as it may seem, for a few brief months, Statia became the scene of a wild commercial orgy, and the place where once was held "the most stupendous auction in the history of the universe."
It happened thus: When the American Revolulutionary War broke out, England being already at war with France, commercial affairs in the West Indies became complicated by the fact that the Spanish, the French and the English, all enacted trading restrictions so stringent that practically every port in the West Indies was closed. The Dutch, seizing the opportunity, made Statia a free port. Immediately, the whole of French, English, Spanish, Dutch and American trade was thrown upon the tiny beach of Fort Oranje.
More than that, Statia became the center for contraband of war. All the other islands took advantage of this. Statia became a huge arsenal. American privateers and blockade-runners were convoyed by Dutch men-of-war, which, of course, could not be attacked. Smugglers were amply provided with Dutch papers. Goods poured in from Europe every day in the week. Rich owners of neighboring islands, not knowing how the French-English strife might turn out, sent their valuables to Statia for safe keeping. The little island became a treasure-house.
At times more than a hundred merchant vessels could be seen swinging to their anchors in the roadstead. A mushroom town appeared as by magic. Warehouses rose by scores. The beach was hidden by piles of boxes, bags and bales for which no storeroom could be found. Merchants came from all ports, especially the Jews and Levantines, who, since the beginning of time, have been the trade-rovers of the sea. Neither by day nor by night did the Babel of commerce cease. Unlike other West Indian towns, where such a condition led to gaiety and pleasure, Fort Oranje retained its Dutch character. It was a hysteria, but a hysteria of buying and selling alone.
Then, one fine day, February 3, 1781, Rodney came down with a British fleet and captured Fort Oranje and all that it contained. There were political complications involved, but Rodney bothered little about that. Fort Oranje was a menace to British power. Rodney took it without remorse, appropriated the more than $20,000,000 worth of goods lying on the beach and the warehouses, and the 150 merchantmen, which, on that day, were lying in the bay. Jews and Levantines were stripped to the skin and sent packing. The Dutch surrendered and took their medicine phlegmatically. The French, as open enemies, were allowed to depart with courtesy.
Then came the great auction. Without reserve, without remorse, over $20,000,000 worth of goods were put up for what they would fetch. Boxes, crates, bales and bags melted away like snow before the sun. Warehouses bursting with goods became but empty shells. Traders' booths were abandoned, one by one. Just for a few months the commercial debauch lasted, then Rodney sailed away. Since then, the selling on the beach of Statia has been confined to a little sugar and a few yams.
For the United States, the little fort above Fort Oranje has a historic memory. From the old cannon, still in position on that fort, was fired the first foreign salute to the Stars and Stripes, the first salute which recognized the United States as a sovereign nation.
It was on the 16th of November, 1776, that the brig Andrea Doria, fourteen guns, third of the infant American navy of five vessels, under the command of Josiah Robinson, sailed into the open roadstead of St. Eustatius, and dropped anchor almost under the guns of Fort Oranje.
"She could have chosen no more fitting name," writes Fenger, "than that of the famous townsman of Columbus.... The Andrea Doria may have attracted but little attention as she appeared in the offing ... but, with the quick eyes of seafarers, the guests of Howard's Tavern had probably left their rum for a moment to have their first glimpse of a strange flag which they all knew must be that of the new republic.
"Abraham Ravene, commandant of the fort, lowered the red-white-and-blue flag of Holland in recognition of the American ship. In return, the Andrea Doria fired a salute.
"This put the commandant in a quandary. Anchored not far from the Andrea Doria was a British ship. The enmity of the British for Holland, and especially against Statia, was no secret.
"In order to shift the responsibility, Ravene went to consult De Graeff, the governor. De Graeff had already seen the Andrea Doria, for Ravene met him in the streets of the Upper Town. A clever lawyer and a keen business man, the governor had already made up his mind when Ravene spoke.
"'Two guns less than the national salute,'" was the order.
"And, so, the United States was for the first time recognized as a nation by this salute of eleven guns.
"For this act, De Graeff was subsequently recalled to Holland, but he was reinstated as Governor of Statia, and held that position when the island was taken by Rodney in 1781. The Dutch made no apology to England."
Saba, which lies close to Statia, depends for its interest on its location. It is but an old volcanic crater, sticking up out of the sea, in the interior of which a town has been built. As a writer describes it, "if the citizens of this town—which is most fitly called Bottom—wish to look at the sea, they must climb to the rim of the crater, as flies would crawl to the edge of a tea-cup, and look over. They will see the ocean directly below them at the foot of a precipice some 1,300 feet high. To go down to the sea it is necessary to take a path with a slope like the roof of a house, and to descend the Ladder, an appalling stair on the side of a cliff marked at the steepest part by steps cut out of the face of the rock."
This strange town of Bottom is built with a heavy wall all round it, to save it from the torrents which stream down the inside slopes of the crater during a rain. Its population is mainly white, flaxen-haired descendants of the Dutch.
More amazing than all, most of the inhabitants are shipbuilders, but the ships, when built, have to be let down by ropes over the side of the cliff. These fishing smacks are not only built in a crater, but on an island which has neither beach, harbor, landing stage nor safe anchoring ground, where no timber is produced, where no iron is to be found, and where cordage is not made. The island has no more facilities for the shipbuilding trade than a lighthouse on a rock in the middle of the sea.
Passing Saba, the steamer went on to her next port of call, St. Thomas. Here was seen the influence of another European power. Barbados and Trinidad are English; Martinique, French; Statia and Saba, Dutch; but St. Thomas is Danish. It is the chief of the Virgin Islands, and rejoices in a saintlier name than many of its companions which are known as "Rum Island," "Dead Man's Chest," "Drowned Island," "Money Rock," "Cutlass Isle" and so forth, the naming of which shows buccaneer authorship. Even in the town of Charlotte Amalia, the capital of St. Thomas, the stamp of the pirate is strong, for two of the hills above the city are marked by the ruins of old stone buildings, one of which is called "Bluebeard's Castle," and "Blackbeard's Castle," the other. It was once, no doubt, one of the many ports of call of that Nero of pirates, Blackbeard Edward Teach.
Cecil's description of the buccaneers had greatly stimulated Stuart's interest in pirate stories, and, rightly thinking that he could sell a story to his paper by new photographs of "Blackbeard's Castle" and by a retelling of the last fight of that savage scoundrel, he set himself to find out what was known of this career of this "Chiefest and Most Unlovely of all the Pyrates" as he is called in a volume written by one of his contemporaries.
In appearance he was as fierce and repulsive as in character. He was of large size, powerfully built, hairy, with a mane-like beard which, black as his heart, grew up to his very eyes. This beard he twisted into four long tails, tied with ribbons, two of which he tucked behind his outstanding ears, and two over his shoulders. His hair was like a mat and grew low over his forehead. In fact, little of the skin of his face was visible, his fierce eyes glaring from a visage like that of a baboon. In fighting, it was his custom to stick lighted fuses under his hat, the glare of which, reflected in his jet-like eyes, greatly increased the ferocity of his appearance.
Teach was an execrable rascal, who ruled his ship by terror. The worst of his crew admitted him master of horror as well as of men. It was his custom ever and anon to shoot a member of his crew, whenever the fancy pleased him, in order that they should remember that he was captain.
Blackbeard is famous in the annals of piracy for his idea of a pleasant entertainment. One afternoon, when his ship was lying becalmed, the pirates found the time pass heavily. They had polished their weapons till they shone like silver. They had gambled until one-half of the company was swollen with plunder and the other half, penniless and savage. They had fought until there was nothing left to fight about, and it was too hot to sleep.
At this, Teach, hatless and shoeless, and, says his biographer, "a little flushed with drink"—as a man might be who spent most of his waking hours swigging pure rum—stumbled up on deck and made a proposal to his bored companions.
"I'm a better man than any o' you alive, an' I'll be a better man when we all go below. Here's for proving it!"
At which he routed up half a dozen of the most hardened of the crew, kicked them down into the hold, joined them himself and closed the hatches. There in the close, hot hold, smelling of a thousand odors, they set fire to "several pots full of brimstone and other inflammable matters" and did their best to reproduce what they thought to be the atmosphere of the Pit.
One by one, the rest gave in and burst for the comparatively free air of the deck, but Teach's ugly head was the last to come up the hatch, and his pride thereon was inordinate. It was the surest road to the Captain's good favors to remind him of his prowess in that stench-hole on a tropic afternoon.
Teach's death was worthy of his life. Lieutenant Maynard of H. M. S. Pearl learned that Teach was resting in a quiet cove near Okracoke Inlet, not far from Hatteras, N. C. He followed the pirate in a small sloop. Teach ran his craft ashore.
Maynard was determined to get alongside the pirate, so with desperate haste he began to throw his ballast overboard. More than that, he staved in every water cask, until, feeling that he had enough freeboard, he slipped his anchor, set his mainsail and jib, and bore down upon the stranded sea robber.
As he came on, Teach, with fuses glowing under his hat, hailed him, and, standing on the taffrail, defied him and drank to his bloody end in a goblet of rum.... Teach, surrounded by his sullen and villainous gang, shrieked out the chorus of a sea song as the sloop drew near and, when she had drifted close enough, he pelted her deck with grenades.
At this moment, the two vessels touched, whereupon Teach and his crew, with hideous yells, and a great gleam of cutlass blades, leapt upon the sloop's deck. Through the smoke cloud the awful figure of the pirate emerged, making for Maynard. At the same time, the men hidden in the sloop scrambled up from below, and the riot of the fight began.
As Teach and Maynard met, they both fired at each other, point blank. The lieutenant dodged, but the robber was hit in the face, and the blood was soon dripping from his beard, the ends of which were, as usual, tucked up over his ears.
There was no time to fumble with pistols now. So they fought with cutlasses. Teach, spitting the blood from his mouth, swore that he would hack Maynard's soul from his body, but his opponent was too fine an adept with the sword to be easily disposed of. It was a fearful duel, a trial of the robber's immense strength against the officer's deftness.
They chased each other about the deck, stumbling across dead bodies, knocking down snarling men, who, clutched together, were fighting with knives. Ever through the mirk could be seen the pirate's grinning teeth and his evil eyes lighted by the burning and smoking fuses on either side of them, ever above the groans of the wounded and the hoarse shouts of ruffians and jack tars, rose Teach's murderous war cry.
At last, Maynard, defending himself from a terrific blow, had his sword blade broken off at the hilt. Now was the pirate's chance. He aimed a slash at Maynard. The lieutenant put up the remnant of his sword and Teach's blow hacked off his fingers. Had the fight been left to the duel between the two, Maynard had not a second to live. But, just as the pirate's blow fell, one of the navy men brought his cutlass down upon the back of the pirate's neck, half severing it. Teach, too enraged to realize it was his death blow, turned on the man and cut him to the deck.
The current of the fight changed. From all sides the jack tars, who dared not close with the pirate chief, fired pistols at him. The decks were slippery with blood. Still fighting, Teach kicked off his shoes, to get a better hold of the planks. His back was to the bulwarks. Six men were attacking him at once.
Panting horribly, and roaring curses still, Teach, with his dripping cutlass, kept them all at bay. He had received twenty-five wounds, five of which were from bullets. His whole body was red. The half-severed head could not be held straight, but some incredible will power enabled him to twist his chin upwards, so that, to the last, his eyes glared with the fierce joy of battle, and the lips, already stiffening, smiled defiantly.
The six men drew back, aghast that a creature so wounded could still live and move, but Teach drew a pistol and was cocking it, when his eyelids closed slowly, as though he were going to sleep, and he fell back on the railing, dead.
So, in fitting manner, perished the last of the great pirates of the Spanish Main.
THE HUNGRY SHARK
"Hyar, sah! Please don' you go t'rowin' nuffin to de sharks, not 'roun' dese waters, anyhow."
"Why?" asked Stuart in return, smiling at the grave face of the negro steward on board the steamer taking him from Porto Rico to Jamaica. His stay at Porto Rico had been brief, for he found a telegram awaiting him from Fergus, bidding him hurry at once to Kingston.
"No, sah," repeated the negro, "dar witch-sharks in dese waters, debbil-sharks, too. Folks do say dem ol' buccaneers, when dey died, was so bad dat eben de Bad Place couldn't take 'em. Now, dey's sharks, a-swimmin' to an' fro, an' lookin' for gol', like dem yar pirates used ter do."
"Oh, come, Sam, you don't believe that!" protested the boy. "What could a shark do with gold, if he had it?"
"Sho's you livin', Sah," came the response, "I done see two gol' rings an' a purse taken out'n the inside of a shark. An' you know how, right in dese hyar waters, a shark swallowed some papers, an' it was the findin' o' dose papers what stopped a lot o' trouble between Great Britain an' the United States, yes, Sah!"
The gift of silver crossing a palm has other powers besides that of inspiring a fortune-teller. It can inspire a story-teller, as well. Stuart, scenting a story which he could send to the paper from Kingston, put half-a-crown where he thought it would do most good, namely, in the steward's palm and heard the strange (and absolutely true and authentic) story of the shark's papers.
"Yes, Sah," he began, "I know jes' how that was, 'cause my gran'pap, he was a porter in de Jamaica Institute, an' when I was a small shaver I used to go wid him in the mornin's when he was sweepin' up, and I used to help him dust de cases. Yes, Sah. Bime by, when I got big enough to read, I got a lot o' my eddication from dose cases, yes, Sah!
"This hyar story begins dis way. On July 3, 1799—I remember de dates persackly—a brig, called de Nancy, lef' Baltimore for Curacao. Her owners were Germans, but 'Merican citizens, yes, Sah. Her cargo was s'posed to be dry goods, provisions an' lumber, but dere was a good deal more aboard her, guns, powder an' what they call contraband, ef you know jes' what that is. I don't rightly."
"I do," agreed Stuart. "Go ahead."
"Well, Sah, dis hyar brig Nancy, havin' stopped at Port-au-Prince, started on down de coast, when, strikin' a heavy blow, she los' her maintopmast. She was makin' for a little island, not far 'way, to make some repairs, when she was captured by H.M.S. Sparrow, a cutter belongin' to H.M.S. Abergavenny, de British flagship stationed at Port Royal. De Sparrow was commanded by Lieutenant Hugh Wylie, and dis hyar Wylie sent her in with anoder prize, a Spanish one, to Port Royal. So, naterally, Wylie brings a suit for salvage against de Nancy, bein' an enemy vessel."
"But where does the shark come in?" queried Stuart, growing impatient.
"Jes' you wait a minute, Sah!" the negro responded, "I bring um in de shark pretty quick. De owners of de Nancy, dey come to court an' show papers that de Nancy never was no 'Merican ship at all, an' dat Lieutenant Wylie, he make one great big mistake in capturin' dis hyar brig.
"But, what you t'ink, Sah? Right at dat moment, up steps in de court-room, Lieutenant Fitton, of H.M.S. Ferret, another cutter belongin' to the Abergavenny an' hands the judge some papers.
"'Your Honor,' he says, 'these are the true papers of the brig Nancy. Those you have before you are false.'
"'Where did you find these papers?' ask de judge.
"'In the belly of a shark, My Lord,' answers Lieutenant Fitton, clear an' loud.
"For de sake, Sah, dem Germans must ha' turn green! In de belly ob a shark, Yah, ha-ha!" And the steward roared in white-toothed laughter.
"But how were they found there?" came the boy's next question.
"Yes, Sah, I was jes' comin' to that. Dis hyar Fitton, wid one cutter, was a-cruisin' together wid Wylie, in de other cutter, when Wylie broke away to take de Nancy.
"Bein' nigh breakfast time, Fitton signals to Wylie to come to breakfast. Wylie, he right busy wid Nancy an' can't come right away. Fitton, fishin' while he waitin' for Wylie, catch a small shark. Dey cut him open, jes' to see what he got inside, an' dar, right smack in de belly, dey see a bundle o' papers.
"'Hi!' says Fitton, 'dat somet'ing important!' and he keep de papers an' tow de shark to Port Royal."
"I suppose," said Stuart, "the captain of the Nancy must have thrown the papers overboard. But why should the shark swallow them? I know sharks will turn over and make ready to swallow most things, but they don't take them in, as a rule, unless they're eatable."
"Yes, Sah, quite right, Sah, but dar was a reason. De papers, Sah, had been hidden in a pork barrel on board de Nancy, an' de shark must ha' t'ought dey smelt good. When Fitton showed dese hyar papers in court, de experts what were called in on de case said dat dere was grease on 'em what wouldn't come from no shark's stomach. No, Sah.
"Dey figured, right den an' dar, dat de grease must ha' been on de papers, fust. So dey started lookin' on board de Nancy an', for de sake, dey found, right in a pork barrel, a lot more papers, all written in German an' showin' a reg'lar plot for privateerin' against the United States.
"Dose papers, Sah, dey're right thar in de Institute in Jamaica, wid a letter from de official, who was in charge ob de case, ober a hundred years ago. In de United Service Museum, in London, is de head of de shark what swallowed de papers. I reckon, Sah, dat was de fust time dat a shark ever was a witness in a court!"
And, with a loud laugh, the steward went to respond to the call of another of the passengers.
Strange as was the story of the shark swallowing the papers and being forced to give them up again, still stranger was the story that Stuart heard from one of the passengers. This tale, equally authentic, was of an occurrence that happened even earlier, in that famous town of Port Royal, which, in the long ago days, was the English buccaneer center, even as Tortugas was the center of the French sea-rovers.
This was the story of Lewis Galdy, a merchant of Port Royal, French-born and a man of substance, who went through one of the most extraordinary experiences that has ever happened to a human being.
He was walking down the narrow street of that buccaneer town, on June 7, 1692, when the whole city and countryside was shaken by a terrific earthquake shock. The earth opened under the merchant's feet and he dropped into the abyss. He lost consciousness, yet, in a semi-comatose state, felt a second great wrenching of the earth, which heaved him upwards. Water roared about his ears, and he was at the point of drowning, when, suddenly, he found himself swimming in the sea, half-a-mile from land.
As the place where he had been walking was fully three hundred yards inland, he had been carried in the bowels of the earth three-quarters of a mile before being thrown forth. A boat picked him up, and he lived for forty-seven years after his extraordinary escape.
Jamaica, indeed, has been the prey of earthquakes, the most serious of which wrecked the city of Kingston, in 1907. The shocks lasted ten seconds, and the town of 46,000 inhabitants was a ruin. The death list reached nearly a thousand. From this shock, however, as Stuart found, the city has recovered bravely, largely due to the lighter system of building common to British islands, and all places which have an American impress, while in French, Dutch and Danish islands, buildings are more solidly constructed. Frame houses, however, are less damaged by earthquake than are stone structures.
There was, however, little opportunity for Stuart to make tours in Jamaica or to work out any articles for his "Color Question" series. A registered letter from the paper awaited the boy in Kingston, the reading of which he concluded with a long, low whistle.
That night, without attracting attention, Stuart left the city on foot, taking neither tramway nor railroad, and made a long night march. The roads were steep, but the cool air compensated for that difficulty, and having spent a long time on board ship the boy was glad to stretch his legs. On the further side of Spanish Town he saw what he sought, a rickety automobile under a lean-to-shed.
He hurried to the negro owner, who was lolling on the verandah.
"I want to go to Buff Bay," he said. "How soon can you get me there?"
"De road ain' none too good, Sah," the Jamaican answered, "your bes' way is to take de train f'm Spanish Town. Dat'll land you right in Buff Bay."
"I don't want to," answered Stuart, making up the first excuse that came to mind, "I get train-sick. Can't your car make it?"
The boy knew that there is nothing in the world that so much touches a man's pride as to have his car slighted, no matter whether it be the craziest kettle on wheels or a powerful racer.
"Make it? Yes, Sah!" The exclamation was emphatic. "I can have you in thar by noon."
Business arrangements were rapidly concluded, and in a few minutes they started out, Stuart having borrowed an old straw hat from the driver, in order, as he said, that he could take a good sleep under it, which indeed, he did. But his main reason was disguise.
The negro looked back at his passenger once or twice, and muttered,
"Train-sick? Huh! Looks more like ter me he's in pickle wid de police! Wonder if I didn't ought to say somet'ing?"
Then a remembrance of some of his own earlier days came to him, and he chuckled.
"Fo' de sake!" he said. "I wouldn' want to tell all I ever did!"
And he drove on through Linfield, without summoning the guardians of the law.
Stuart, unconscious how near he had been to an unpleasant delay, slept on. Questioning would have been awkward, search would have been worse, for, in the pocket of his jacket, was Fergus's letter he had received in Kingston, which closed with the words,
"Get to the Mole St. Nicholas with utmost speed! Spare no expense, but go secretly!"
That this bore some new development in the Great Plot, there was no doubting, and the letter had told him to be sure to leave Kingston without letting Cecil catch a glimpse of him. That meant that Cecil was still in Kingston. In that case, what could the other conspirators be doing without him?
Towards noon, a whiff of salt air wakened Stuart. He stirred, rubbed his eyes and looked round.
"The north shore, eh!" he exclaimed on seeing the sea.
"Yes, Sah! Annotta Bay, Sah!"
"Do you know anyone around these parts?"
"Fo' de sake, yes, Sah! I was born in dese parts. I jes' went to Spanish Town a few years ago, when my wife's folks died."
"Do you know anyone who has a motor boat?"
"You want to buy one?"
"Not unless I have to. Do you happen to know of any?"
"Well, Sah," said the negro cautiously, "thar's a preacher here what has one, but—but—he's a mighty careful man is Brother Fliss, an'——"
Stuart, refreshed from his sleep, grasped the hitch at once.
"You think I'm in trouble and running from the police, eh? Not a bit of it! Here, run up to this preacher's. I'll convince him, in a minute."
A little further on, the machine turned to the left, and just as it turned off, a racing car flashed by. Something about one of the figures was familiar.
"Whose car was that?"
The driver turned and stared at the cloud of dust.
"I didn't rightly see, it might ha' been——" He stopped. "I'll tell you whar you can get a boat, Sah!" he suggested. "Mr. Cecil, he keeps one down at his place a bit down de road."
"Cecil!" Stuart had to control himself to keep from shouting the name. "Has he a place on this coast?"
"Yes, Sah; fine place, Sah, pretty place. Awful nice man, Mr. Cecil. He'll lend you de boat, for nuffin', likely. Brother Fliss, good man, you un'erstand, but he stick close to de money."
"Let's go there, just the same," said Stuart, "I don't want to be under obligations. I'd rather pay my way."
The negro shrugged his shoulders and, in a few minutes, the car stopped at the preacher's house.
As the driver had suggested, Brother Fliss "stick close to de money" and his charge was high. He was an intensely loyal British subject, and an even more loyal Jamaican, and when Stuart showed his card from the paper and at the same suggested that he needed this help in order to trace up a plot against Jamaica, the preacher was so willing that he would almost—but not quite—have lent the boat free.
Being afraid that the automobile driver might talk, if he returned to Spanish Town, and thus overset all the secrecy that Stuart flattered himself he had so far maintained, the boy suggested that the negro come along in the boat. This suggestion was at once accepted, for the mystery of the affair had greatly excited the Jamaican's curiosity.
The preacher, himself, received the suggestion with approval. Usually—for the craft, though, sturdy, was a small one—he was his own steersman and engineer. Now, he could enjoy the luxury of a crew, and the driver, who was a fairly good mechanic, was quite competent to handle the small two-cylinder engine.
So far as the boy was concerned, he had another reason. The quest might be dangerous. Undoubtedly Cesar Leborge and Manuel Polliovo would be there. Equally certainly, Guy Cecil, who had protected him before, would not. A companion would be of aid in a pinch.
And it was all so dark, so mysterious, so incomprehensible! He had learned nothing new about the plot. He had no documents with which to confront the conspirators. He had no protection against these two men, one of whom, he knew, had vowed to kill him.
The motor boat glided out on the waters north of Jamaica, on her way to that grim passage-way between Cuba and Haiti, that key to the Caribbean, which is guarded by the Mole St. Nicholas.
Yet, withal, Stuart had one protector. Behind him stood the power of a New York newspaper, and, with that, he felt he had the power of the United States. There is no flinching, no desertion in the great army of news-gatherers. There should be none in him.
With no support but that, with nothing to guide him but his faith in the paper that sent him forth, Stuart set his face to the shore of that semi-savage land, on the beach of which he expected to find his foes awaiting him.
All that night the little motor boat chugged on. She was small for so long a sea-passage, but the preacher knew her ways well. Many a journey had he taken to the Caymans and other Jamaican possessions in the interests of his faith.
In the night-watches, Stuart grew to have a strong respect for him, for the preacher was one in whom the missionary spirit burned strongly, and he was as sincere as he was simple. Each of the three on board took turns to sleep, leaving two to manage the boat. Stuart got a double dose of sleep, for the preacher, seeing that the boy was tired, ran the craft alone during the second part of his watch.
Dawn found them in the Windward Passage, with the Mole of St. Nicholas on the starboard bow. They slowed down for a wash and a bite of breakfast, and then the preacher, with a manner which showed it to be habitual, offered a morning prayer.
The Mole St. Nicholas, at its southern end, has some small settlements, but Stuart felt sure that it could not be here that he was to land. They cruised along the shore a while, and, on an isolated point, saw an old half-ruined jetty, with four figures standing there. As the boat drew nearer, Stuart recognized them as Manuel Polliovo, Cesar Leborge and two Cacos guerillas, armed with rifles and machetes.
"Are you afraid to follow me?" queried Stuart to the negro who had driven the automobile.
"'Fraid of dem Haiti niggers? No, Sah. I'm a Jamaican!"
This pride of race among certain negroes—not always rightly valued among the whites—had struck Stuart before. Indeed, he had done a special article on the subject during the voyage on the steamer.
Reaching the wharf, Stuart sprang ashore. The Jamaican at once sought to follow him, but the two Cacos tribesmen stepped forward with uplifted machetes. The odds were too great and Stuart's ally fell back.
"It is very kind of you to come and pay us a visit!" mocked Manuel, as Stuart stepped upon the wharf. "We prefer, however, to have you alone. We do not know your guests."
"You know me, then?"
"I knew the ragged horse-boy to be Stuart Garfield, all the way on the road to Millot and the Citadel," the Cuban purred. "I cannot congratulate you on your cleverness. The disguise was very poor."
Stuart thrust forward his chin aggressively, but no retort came to mind.
"I missed you, on the return journey," Manuel continued.
"Yes," the boy answered. "I came down another way."
"Perhaps you borrowed a pair of wings from the Englishman?"
Stuart made no reply.
But this ironic fencing was not to Leborge's taste. He broke in, abruptly,
"You spy on us once, Yes! You spy on us again, Yes! You spy no more, No!"
He made a rough gesture, at which one of the Cacos dashed upon the boy, pinned his arms to his sides and harshly, but deftly, tied him securely with a rope. This done, the Haitian took the boy's small revolver from his pocket and cast it contemptuously on the ground.
"The white carries a pistol, Yes! But he does not even know how to shoot it!"
The phrase irritated Stuart, but he had sense enough to keep still. As a matter of fact, he was a fairly good shot, but, with four to one against him, any attempt at violence would be useless. Besides, Stuart had not lost heart. He had landed, in the very teeth of his foes, confident that Fergus would never have directed him to go to the Mole St. Nicholas, unless the editor had cause. The boy's only cue was to await developments.
At this juncture, the Jamaican preacher, with a good deal of courage, as well as dignity, rose in the boat. He thrust aside, as unimportant, the machete of the Caco who threatened him, and the assumption of authority took the guerilla aback. Quietly, and with perfect coolness, he walked up to the Haitian general. A little to Stuart's surprise, he spoke the Haitian dialect perfectly.
"You're goin' to untie de ropes 'round dat boy, Yes!" he declared, "an' if you're wise, you do it quick. De Good Book say—'Dose who slay by de sword, shall be slain by de sword, demselbes,' Yes! I tell you, dose dat ties oders up, is goin' to be tied up demselbes, Yes!"
"What are you doin' here?" demanded Leborge, with an oath.
"I's a minister ob de gospel," said the preacher, standing his ground without a quaver, in face of the threatening aspect of the giant Haitian, "an' I tell you"—he pointed a finger accusingly—"dat, for ebery oath you make hyar in de face ob de sun, you is goin' to pay, an' pay heabily, before dat sun go down!
"You's a big nigger," the preacher went on, his voice taking the high drone of prophetic utterance, "an' you's all cobered wit' gol' lace. De Good Book say—'Hab no respec' for dem dat wears fine apparel.' No! 'Deir garments shall be mof-eaten, deir gol' an' silver shall be cankered, an' de worm'—hear, you nigger!—'de worm, shall hab 'em'!"
Leborge, superstitious like all the Haitian negroes, cowered before the preacher who advanced on him with shaking finger.
But Manuel was of another stripe.
He strode forward, put a lean but sinewy hand on the preacher's shoulder and twisted him round, with a gesture as though he would hurl him into the water, when there came a sharp,
The Cuban's hat leaped from his head and fluttered slowly to the ground, a bullet-hole through the crown.
Manuel stared at it, his jaw dropping.
"White man——" the preacher began.
The Cuban took no heed. The shot, he figured, could have come from no one but the negro in the boat, and he wheeled on him, flashing his revolver. As he turned to the sea, however, he saw a motor boat coming at terrific speed into the harbor. He took one glance at it.
"We've got to get rid of the boy before he comes!" he cried.
Leborge, with a wide grin, gave a nod of approval, and Manuel's gun came slowly to the shoulder, for cat-like, he wanted to torture the boy before he fired.
Quicker than his grave manner would have seemed to forecast, the preacher stepped fairly between the Cuban and his victim.
"De Good Book say——" he began, but Manuel gave him a push. There was a slight struggle and a flash.
The preacher fell.
Manuel turned on Stuart, who had tried to catch the falling man, forgetting for the instant that his hands were tied. He stumbled, and the pistol centered on his heart.
A shrill scream rang out. Manuel's gun fell to the ground, suddenly reddened with blood. The Cuban's hand had been shot through.
Clumsily kneeling, Stuart put his ear to the wounded man's heart. It was beating strongly. The bullet seemed to have struck the collar bone and glanced off, stunning the nerves, but not doing serious injury.
For a moment, the four men stood dazed.
Whence came these bullets that made no sound? Could the Englishman be shooting? They stared out to sea.
The "chug-chug" of the motor boat was deafening, now. It stopped, suddenly, and, standing in the bow, the figure of Cecil could be plainly seen. He held no gun in his hand, however.
Never was the Englishman's quiet power more strongly shown than in the fact that, in this tense moment, the conspirators waited till he landed. Leborge shuffled his feet uneasily. Manuel, his face twisted with pain, and holding his wounded arm, glared at his fellow-conspirator, undauntedly.
"My friend," said Cecil to him, calmly, "I have many times instructed you that nothing is to be done until I give the word."
The Cuban cursed, but made no other answer.
"As for you," the Englishman continued, turning to Leborge, "I have told you before that the time to quarrel about the sharing of the spoils was after the spoils were won. Why have you posted men to murder Manuel and me, in the granadilla wood, between here and Cap Haitien?"
The giant would have liked to lie, but Cecil's determined gaze was full on him, and he flinched beneath it, as a wild beast flinches before its tamer.
"If you had waited for me," the calm voice went on, "I might have helped you to escape, but now——"
He raised his hat and passed his hand over his hair, as though the sun had given him a headache.
At the same moment, as though this gesture had been a signal, from the low bushes a hundred yards away burst a squad of a dozen men, rifles at the "ready," in the uniform of American marines.
Manuel and Leborge cast wild glances around, seeking some place to flee, but there was none. They were cut off.
"Quick, Cecil!" they cried, together. And Leborge added, "Your boat! She is fast!"
"Not as fast as a rifle bullet," was the quiet answer.
At the double the Marines came over the scrubby ground, and, running beside the officer in command was a figure that Stuart recognized—his father!
The officer of the Marines came up.
"Seize them!" he said briefly.
The boys in blue disarmed and bound the four, one of the Marines freeing Stuart's arms the while. The second he was free, Stuart sprang forward and grasped his father's hand with a squeeze that made the older man wince.
"Father!" he cried. "It's really you!"
The American official clapped the boy on the shoulder with praise and a look of pride.
"Reckon that high-powered air rifle came in handy, eh?" he answered.
"Was it you, Father, who did the shooting?"
"No, not me. Wish I could shoot like that! We brought along the crack sharp-shooter of the camp."
One of the Marines looked up and grinned.
"This chap," the official continued, "could hit the hind leg of a fly that's scratching himself on a post fifty yards away!"
Then, to Stuart's enormous surprise, he turned to the prisoners with an air of authority.
"In the name of the United States," he said, "you are arrested. You, Cesar Leborge, for having plotted against American authority in Haiti, while holding rank in the Haitian Army; also for having accepted a bribe from other Haitian officials for betraying your fellow-conspirator; also for having given money and issued orders to a band of Cacos to post themselves in ambush with the purpose and intent of murdering Haitian and American citizens.
"You, Manuel Polliovo," he continued, turning to the second prisoner, "are arrested on a Cuban warrant for the murder of one Gonzales Elivo, a guard at the prison from which you escaped two years ago; also upon a charge of assault and attempted murder against this negro minister, for which there are several witnesses present; also on a charge of attempted murder of Stuart Garfield, son of an American citizen; also on a Haitian warrant for conspiring against the peace of the Republic."
Stuart stood with wide-open eyes, watching the denouement. He stepped back, and waited to see what would be said to Cecil, who, so far, had remained motionless.
The Marines, at a word from their officer, turned to go, taking the prisoners with them.
"And Cecil, Father?" the boy asked, in a low voice.
"Mr. Guy Cecil, my son," replied the American official, "is my very good friend, as well as yours, and the very good friend of the United States. No man knows more of the inner workings of affairs in the West Indies, and he has the confidence of his Government.
"It was through him that I was first advised of this plot to seize the northern peninsula of Haiti, from the Citadel of La Ferriere to the Mole St. Nicholas, to make of this stretch a small republic as was done at Panama, and to sell the Mole St. Nicholas, as a naval base, to a certain European power which is seeking to regain its lost prestige.
"It was a pretty plot, and your investigations, my boy, will help to bring the criminals to judgment.
"Also, I think, Mr. Cecil will release you from your promise not to tell the secret, and you can write your story to the press. It will be a scoop! Only——" he smiled—"don't say too much about the crimes of the arch-conspirator, Guy Cecil!"
"Then he's not a conspirator, at all!" cried Stuart, half-sorry and half-glad.
"Rather, an ally," his father answered, "an ally with me, just as his government is in alliance with our government, an alliance among the English-speaking peoples to keep the peace of the world."
[Transcriber's Note: Several typographical errors in the original edition have been corrected. The following sentences are as they originally appeared, with corrections noted in brackets.]
"But, it is you, Yes!" he cried, using the Haitian idom [idiom] with its perpetual recurrence of "Yes" and "No," and went on, "and where is Monsieur your father?"
To the Cafe [Cafe] de l'Opera. Go down the street and keep a few steps in front."
Manuel turned into the Cafe [Cafe] de l'Opera, a tumble-down frame shack with a corrugated iron roof, to order a cooling drink and to puzzle out this utterly baffling mystery.
The Cacos may be described as Haitian patriots or revolutionists, devotees of serpent and voodoo worship, loosely organized into a secret guerille [guerilla] army.
["]A privateer on the Caribbean and the Spanish Main, in those days, was a man who had sufficient money or sufficient reputation to secure a ship and a crew with which to wage war against the enemies of his country.
["]What happens? I can tell you what happens in this province of Oriente.
It had not occured [occurred] to him that the consular official would not be as excited as himself. He spluttered exclamations.
The greater part of the island seemed, to the boy, uttterly [utterly] unlike any place he had seen in the tropics.
Spech [Speech] again became impossible.
There are many more little houses and thatched huts tucked into corner [corners] of the ruins than appear at first sight, and a hotel has been built for the tourists who visit the strange spot.