Part 3 out of 7
if it hadn't been for the Spaniards maybe it's dead he'd be by now,
and maybe myself with him."
Hagthorpe lounged forward. He was a fairly tall, vigorous man
with a clear-cut, attractive face which in itself announced his
"Why will you be wasting words on the hog?" wondered that sometime
officer in the Royal Navy. "Fling him overboard and have done with
The Colonel's eyes bulged in his head. "What the devil do you mean?"
"It's the lucky man ye are entirely, Colonel, though ye don't guess
the source of your good fortune."
And now another intervened - the brawny, one-eyed Wolverstone, less
mercifully disposed than his more gentlemanly fellow-convict.
"String him up from the yardarm," he cried, his deep voice harsh and
angry, and more than one of the slaves standing to their arms made
Colonel Bishop trembled. Mr. Blood turned. He was quite calm.
"If you please, Wolverstone," said he, "I conduct affairs in my own
way. That is the pact. You'll please to remember it." His eyes
looked along the ranks, making it plain that he addressed them all.
"I desire that Colonel Bishop should have his life. One reason is
that I require him as a hostage. If ye insist on hanging him, ye'll
have to hang me with him, or in the alternative I'll go ashore."
He paused. There was no answer. But they stood hang-dog and
half-mutinous before him, save Hagthorpe, who shrugged and smiled
Mr. Blood resumed: "Ye'll please to understand that aboard a ship
there is one captain. So." He swung again to the startled Colonel.
"Though I promise you your life, I must - as you've heard - keep
you aboard as a hostage for the good behaviour of Governor Steed
and what's left of the fort until we put to sea."
"Until you..." Horror prevented Colonel Bishop from echoing the
remainder of that incredible speech.
"Just so," said Peter Blood, and he turned to the officers who had
accompanied the Colonel. "The boat is waiting, gentlemen. You'll
have heard what I said. Convey it with my compliments to his
"But, sir..." one of them began.
"There is no more to be said, gentlemen. My name is Blood - Captain
Blood, if you please, of this ship the Cinco Llagas, taken as a
prize of war from Don Diego de Espinosa y Valdez, who is my prisoner
aboard. You are to understand that I have turned the tables on more
than the Spaniards. There's the ladder. You'll find it more
convenient than being heaved over the side, which is what'll happen
if you linger.
They went, though not without some hustling, regardless of the
bellowings of Colonel Bishop, whose monstrous rage was fanned by
terror at finding himself at the mercy of these men of whose cause
to hate him he was very fully conscious.
A half-dozen of them, apart from Jeremy Pitt, who was utterly
incapacitated for the present, possessed a superficial knowledge
of seamanship. Hagthorpe, although he had been a fighting officer,
untrained in navigation, knew how to handle a ship, and under his
directions they set about getting under way.
The anchor catted, and the mainsail unfurled, they stood out for
the open before a gentle breeze, without interference from the fort.
As they were running close to the headland east of the bay, Peter
Blood returned to the Colonel, who, under guard and panic-stricken,
had dejectedly resumed his seat on the coamings of the main batch.
"Can ye swim, Colonel?"
Colonel Bishop looked up. His great face was yellow and seemed in
that moment of a preternatural flabbiness; his beady eyes were
beadier than ever.
"As your doctor, now, I prescribe a swim to cool the excessive heat
of your humours." Blood delivered the explanation pleasantly, and,
receiving still no answer from the Colonel, continued: "It's a mercy
for you I'm not by nature as bloodthirsty as some of my friends here.
And it's the devil's own labour I've had to prevail upon them not
to be vindictive. I doubt if ye're worth the pains I've taken for
He was lying. He had no doubt at all. Had he followed his own
wishes and instincts, he would certainly have strung the Colonel up,
and accounted it a meritorious deed. It was the thought of Arabella
Bishop that had urged him to mercy, and had led him to oppose the
natural vindictiveness of his fellow-slaves until he had been in
danger of precipitating a mutiny. It was entirely to the fact that
the Colonel was her uncle, although he did not even begin to suspect
such a cause, that he owed such mercy as was now being shown him.
"You shall have a chance to swim for it," Peter Blood continued.
"It's not above a quarter of a mile to the headland yonder, and with
ordinary luck ye should manage it. Faith, you're fat enough to
float. Come on! Now, don't be hesitating or it's a long voyage
ye'll be going with us, and the devil knows what may happen to you.
You're not loved any more than you deserve."
Colonel Bishop mastered himself, and rose. A merciless despot, who
had never known the need for restraint in all these years, he was
doomed by ironic fate to practise restraint in the very moment when
his feelings had reached their most violent intensity.
Peter Blood gave an order. A plank was run out over the gunwale,
and lashed down.
"If you please, Colonel," said he, with a graceful flourish of
The Colonel looked at him, and there was hell in his glance. Then,
taking his resolve, and putting the best face upon it, since no
other could help him here, he kicked off his shoes, peeled off his
fine coat of biscuit-coloured taffetas, and climbed upon the plank.
A moment he paused, steadied by a hand that clutched the ratlines,
looking down in terror at the green water rushing past some
five-and-twenty feet below.
"Just take a little walk, Colonel, darling," said a smooth, mocking
voice behind him.
Still clinging, Colonel Bishop looked round in hesitation, and saw
the bulwarks lined with swarthy faces - the faces of men that as
lately as yesterday would have turned pale under his frown, faces
that were now all wickedly agrin.
For a moment rage stamped out his fear. He cursed them aloud
venomously and incoherently, then loosed his hold and stepped out
upon the plank. Three steps he took before he lost his balance and
went tumbling into the green depths below.
When he came to the surface again, gasping for air, the Cinco Llagas
was already some furlongs to leeward. But the roaring cheer of
mocking valediction from the rebels-convict reached him across the
water, to drive the iron of impotent rage deeper into his soul.
Don Diego de Espinosa y Valdez awoke, and with languid eyes in
aching head, he looked round the cabin, which was flooded with
sunlight from the square windows astern. Then he uttered a moan,
and closed his eyes again, impelled to this by the monstrous ache
in his head. Lying thus, he attempted to think, to locate himself
in time and space. But between the pain in his head and the
confusion in his mind, he found coherent thought impossible.
An indefinite sense of alarm drove him to open his eyes again, and
once more to consider his surroundings.
There could be no doubt that he lay in the great cabin of his own
ship, the Cinco Llagas, so that his vague disquiet must be, surely,
ill-founded. And yet, stirrings of memory coming now to the
assistance of reflection, compelled him uneasily to insist that
here something was not as it should be. The low position of the
sun, flooding the cabin with golden light from those square ports
astern, suggested to him at first that it was early morning, on
the assumption that the vessel was headed westward. Then the
alternative occurred to him. They might be sailing eastward, in
which case the time of day would be late afternoon. That they
were sailing he could feel from the gentle forward heave of the
vessel under him. But how did they come to be sailing, and he,
the master, not to know whether their course lay east or west, not
to be able to recollect whither they were bound?
His mind went back over the adventure of yesterday, if of yesterday
it was. He was clear on the matter of the easily successful raid
upon the Island of Barbados; every detail stood vividly in his
memory up to the moment at which, returning aboard, he had stepped
on to his own deck again. There memory abruptly and inexplicably
He was beginning to torture his mind with conjecture, when the door
opened, and to Don Diego's increasing mystification he beheld his
best suit of clothes step into the cabin. It was a singularly
elegant and characteristically Spanish suit of black taffetas with
silver lace that had been made for him a year ago in Cadiz, and he
knew each detail of it so well that it was impossible he could now
The suit paused to close the door, then advanced towards the couch
on which Don Diego was extended, and inside the suit came a tall,
slender gentleman of about Don Diego's own height and shape. Seeing
the wide, startled eyes of the Spaniard upon him, the gentleman
lengthened his stride.
"Awake, eh?" said he in Spanish.
The recumbent man looked up bewildered into a pair of light-blue
eyes that regarded him out of a tawny, sardonic face set in a
cluster of black ringlets. But he was too bewildered to make any
The stranger's fingers touched the top of Don Diego's head,
whereupon Don Diego winced and cried out in pain.
"Tender, eh?" said the stranger. He took Don Diego's wrist between
thumb and second finger. And then, at last, the intrigued Spaniard
"Are you a doctor?"
"Among other things." The swarthy gentleman continued his study of
the patient's pulse. "Firm and regular," he announced at last, and
dropped the wrist. "You've taken no great harm."
Don Diego struggled up into a sitting position on the red velvet
"Who the devil are you?" he asked. "And what the devil are you
doing in my clothes and aboard my ship?"
The level black eyebrows went up, a faint smile curled the lips of
the long mouth.
"You are still delirious, I fear. This is not your ship. This is
my ship, and these are my clothes."
"Your ship?" quoth the other, aghast, and still more aghast he added:
"Your clothes? But... then...." Wildly his eyes looked about him.
They scanned the cabin once again, scrutinizing each familiar object.
"Am I mad?" he asked at last. "Surely this ship is the Cinco Llagas?"
"The Cinco Llagas it is."
"Then...." The Spaniard broke off. His glance grew still more
troubled. "Valga me Dios!" he cried out, like a man in anguish.
"Will you tell me also that you are Don Diego de Espinosa?"
"Oh, no, my name is Blood - Captain Peter Blood. This ship, like
this handsome suit of clothes, is mine by right of conquest. Just
as you, Don Diego, are my prisoner."
Startling as was the explanation, yet it proved soothing to Don
Diego, being so much less startling than the things he was beginning
"But... Are you not Spanish, then?"
"You flatter my Castilian accent. I have the honour to be Irish.
You were thinking that a miracle had happened. So it has - a
miracle wrought by my genius, which is considerable."
Succinctly now Captain Blood dispelled the mystery by a relation of
the facts. It was a narrative that painted red and white by turns
the Spaniard's countenance. He put a hand to the back of his head,
and there discovered, in confirmation of the story, a lump as large
as a pigeon's egg. Lastly, he stared wild-eyed at the sardonic
"And my son? What of my son?" he cried out. "He was in the boat
that brought me aboard."
"Your son is safe; he and the boat's crew together with your gunner
and his men are snugly in irons under hatches."
Don Diego sank back on the couch, his glittering dark eyes fixed
upon the tawny face above him. He composed himself. After all, he
possessed the stoicism proper to his desperate trade. The dice had
fallen against him in this venture. The tables had been turned upon
him in the very moment of success. He accepted the situation with
the fortitude of a fatalist.
With the utmost calm he enquired:
"And now, Senior Capitan?"
"And now," said Captain Blood - to give him the title he had assumed
- "being a humane man, I am sorry to find that ye're not dead from
the tap we gave you. For it means that you'll be put to the trouble
of dying all over again."
"Ah!" Don Diego drew a deep breath. "But is that necessary?" he
asked, without apparent perturbation.
Captain Blood's blue eyes approved his bearing. "Ask yourself," said
he. "Tell me, as an experienced and bloody pirate, what in my place
would you do, yourself?"
"Ah, but there is a difference." Don Diego sat up to argue the
matter. "It lies in the fact that you boast yourself a humane man."
Captain Blood perched himself on the edge of the long oak table.
"But I am not a fool," said he, "and I'll not allow a natural Irish
sentimentality to stand in the way of my doing what is necessary
and proper. You and your ten surviving scoundrels are a menace on
this ship. More than that, she is none so well found in water and
provisions. True, we are fortunately a small number, but you and
your party inconveniently increase it. So that on every hand, you
see, prudence suggests to us that we should deny ourselves the
pleasure of your company, and, steeling our soft hearts to the
inevitable, invite you to be so obliging as to step over the side."
"I see," said the Spaniard pensively. He swung his legs from the
couch, and sat now upon the edge of it, his elbows on his knees. He
had taken the measure of his man, and met him with a mock-urbanity
and a suave detachment that matched his own. "I confess," he
admitted, "that there is much force in what you say."
"You take a load from my mind," said Captain Blood. "I would not
appear unnecessarily harsh, especially since I and my friends owe
you so very much. For, whatever it may have been to others, to us
your raid upon Barbados was most opportune. I am glad, therefore,
that you agree the I have no choice."
"But, my friend, I did not agree so much."
"If there is any alternative that you can suggest, I shall be most
happy to consider it."
Don Diego stroked his pointed black beard.
"Can you give me until morning for reflection? My head aches so
damnably that I am incapable of thought. And this, you will admit,
is a matter that asks serious thought."
Captain Blood stood up. From a shelf he took a half-hour glass,
reversed it so that the bulb containing the red sand was uppermost,
and stood it on the table.
"I am sorry to press you in such a matter, Don Diego, but one glass
is all that I can give you. If by the time those sands have run
out you can propose no acceptable alternative, I shall most
reluctantly be driven to ask you to go over the side with your
Captain Blood bowed, went out, and locked the door. Elbows on his
knees and face in his hands, Don Diego sat watching the rusty sands
as they filtered from the upper to the lower bulb. And what time
he watched, the lines in his lean brown face grew deeper. Punctually
as the last grains ran out, the door reopened.
The Spaniard sighed, and sat upright to face the returning Captain
Blood with the answer for which he came.
"I have thought of an alternative, sir captain; but it depends upon
your charity. It is that you put us ashore on one of the islands
of this pestilent archipelago, and leave us to shift for ourselves."
Captain Blood pursed his lips. "It has its difficulties," said he
"I feared it would be so." Don Diego sighed again, and stood up.
"Let us say no more."
The light-blue eyes played over him like points of steel.
"You are not afraid to die, Don Diego?"
The Spaniard threw back his head, a frown between his eyes.
"The question is offensive, sir."
"Then let me put it in another way - perhaps more happily: You do
not desire to live?"
"Ah, that I can answer. I do desire to live; and even more do I
desire that my son may live. But the desire shall not make a coward
of me for your amusement, master mocker." It was the first sign he
had shown of the least heat or resentment.
Captain Blood did not directly answer. As before he perched himself
on the corner of the table.
"Would you be willing, sir, to earn life and liberty - for yourself,
your son, and the other Spaniards who are on board?"
"To earn it?" said Don Diego, and the watchful blue eyes did not
miss the quiver that ran through him. "To earn it, do you say?
Why, if the service you would propose is one that cannot hurt my
"Could I be guilty of that?" protested the Captain. "I realize that
even a pirate has his honour." And forthwith he propounded his
offer. "If you will look from those windows, Don Diego, you will
see what appears to be a cloud on the horizon. That is the island
of Barbados well astern. All day we have been sailing east before
the wind with but one intent - to set as great a distance between
Barbados and ourselves as possible. But now, almost out of sight
of land, we are in a difficulty. The only man among us schooled in
the art of navigation is fevered, delirious, in fact, as a result
of certain ill-treatment he received ashore before we carried him
away with us. I can handle a ship in action, and there are one or
two men aboard who can assist me; but of the higher mysteries of
seamanship and of the art of finding a way over the trackless wastes
of ocean, we know nothing. To hug the land, and go blundering about
what you so aptly call this pestilent archipelago, is for us to court
disaster, as you can perhaps conceive. And so it comes to this: We
desire to make for the Dutch settlement of Curacao as straightly as
possible. Will you pledge me your honour, if I release you upon
parole, that you will navigate us thither? If so, we will release
you and your surviving men upon arrival there."
Don Diego bowed his head upon his breast, and strode away in thought
to the stern windows. There he stood looking out upon the sunlit sea
and the dead water in the great ship's wake - his ship, which these
English dogs had wrested from him; his ship, which he was asked to
bring safely into a port where she would be completely lost to him
and refitted perhaps to make war upon his kin. That was in one scale;
in the other were the lives of sixteen men. Fourteen of them mattered
little to him, but the remaining two were his own and his son's.
He turned at length, and his back being to the light, the Captain
could not see how pale his face had grown.
"I accept," he said.
By virtue of the pledge he had given, Don Diego de Espinosa enjoyed
the freedom of the ship that had been his, and the navigation which
he had undertaken was left entirely in his hands. And because those
who manned her were new to the seas of the Spanish Main, and because
even the things that had happened in Bridgetown were not enough to
teach them to regard every Spaniard as a treacherous, cruel dog to
be slain at sight, they used him with the civility which his own
suave urbanity invited. He took his meals in the great cabin with
Blood and the three officers elected to support him: Hagthorpe,
Wolverstone, and Dyke.
They found Don Diego an agreeable, even an amusing companion, and
their friendly feeling towards him was fostered by his fortitude and
brave equanimity in this adversity.
That Don Diego was not playing fair it was impossible to suspect.
Moreover, there was no conceivable reason why he should not. And
he had been of the utmost frankness with them. He had denounced
their mistake in sailing before the wind upon leaving Barbados.
They should have left the island to leeward, heading into the
Caribbean and away from the archipelago. As it was, they would now
be forced to pass through this archipelago again so as to make
Curacao, and this passage was not to be accomplished without some
measure of risk to themselves. At any point between the islands
they might come upon an equal or superior craft; whether she were
Spanish or English would be equally bad for them, and being
undermanned they were in no case to fight. To lessen this risk
as far as possible, Don Diego directed at first a southerly and
then a westerly course; and so, taking a line midway between
the islands of Tobago and Grenada, they won safely through the
danger-zone and came into the comparative security of the Caribbean
"If this wind holds," he told them that night at supper, after he
had announced to them their position, "we should reach Curacao
inside three days."
For three days the wind held, indeed it freshened a little on the
second, and yet when the third night descended upon them they had
still made no landfall. The Cinco Llagas was ploughing through a
sea contained on every side by the blue bowl of heaven. Captain
Blood uneasily mentioned it to Don Diego.
"It will be for to-morrow morning," he was answered with calm
"By all the saints, it is always 'to-morrow morning' with you
Spaniards; and to-morrow never comes, my friend."
But this to-morrow is coming, rest assured. However early you may
be astir, you shall see land ahead, Don Pedro."
Captain Blood passed on, content, and went to visit Jerry Pitt, his
patient, to whose condition Don Diego owed his chance of life. For
twenty-four hours now the fever had left the sufferer, and under
Peter Blood's dressings, his lacerated back was beginning to heal
satisfactorily. So far, indeed, was he recovered that he complained
of his confinement, of the heat in his cabin. To indulge him Captain
Blood consented that he should take the air on deck, and so, as the
last of the daylight was fading from the sky, Jeremy Pitt came forth
upon the Captain's arm.
Seated on the hatch-coamings, the Somersetshire lad gratefully
filled his lungs with the cool night air, and professed himself
revived thereby. Then with the seaman's instinct his eyes wandered
to the darkling vault of heaven, spangled already with a myriad
golden points of light. Awhile he scanned it idly, vacantly; then,
his attention became sharply fixed. He looked round and up at
Captain Blood, who stood beside him.
"D'ye know anything of astronomy, Peter?" quoth he.
"Astronomy, is it? Faith, now, I couldn't tell the Belt of Orion
from the Girdle of Venus."
"Ah! And I suppose all the others of this lubberly crew share
"It would be more amiable of you to suppose that they exceed it."
Jeremy pointed ahead to a spot of light in the heavens over the
starboard bow. "That is the North Star," said he.
"Is it now? Glory be, I wonder ye can pick it out from the rest."
"And the North Star ahead almost over your starboard bow means that
we're steering a course, north, northwest, or maybe north by west,
for I doubt if we are standing more than ten degrees westward."
"And why shouldn't we?" wondered Captain Blood.
"You told me - didn't you? - that we came west of the archipelago
between Tobago and Grenada, steering for Curacao. If that were
our present course, we should have the North Star abeam, out yonder."
On the instant Mr. Blood shed his laziness. He stiffened with
apprehension, and was about to speak when a shaft of light clove
the gloom above their heads, coming from the door of the poop cabin
which had just been opened. It closed again, and presently there
was a step on the companion. Don Diego was approaching. Captain
Blood's fingers pressed Jerry's shoulder with significance. Then he
called the Don, and spoke to him in English as had become his custom
when others were present.
"Will ye settle a slight dispute for us, Don Diego?" said he lightly.
"We are arguing, Mr. Pitt and I, as to which is the North Star."
"So?" The Spaniard's tone was easy; there was almost a suggestion
that laughter lurked behind it, and the reason for this was yielded
by his next sentence. "But you tell me Mr. Pitt he is your navigant?"
"For lack of a better," laughed the Captain, good-humouredly
contemptuous. "Now I am ready to wager him a hundred pieces of eight
that that is the North Star." And he flung out an arm towards a
point of light in the heavens straight abeam. He afterwards told
Pitt that had Don Diego confirmed him, he would have run him through
upon that instant. Far from that, however, the Spaniard freely
expressed his scorn.
"You have the assurance that is of ignorance, Don Pedro; and you lose.
The North Star is this one." And he indicated it.
"You are sure?"
"But my dear Don Pedro!" The Spaniard's tone was one of amused
protest. "But is it possible that I mistake? Besides, is there
not the compass? Come to the binnacle and see there what course we
His utter frankness, and the easy manner of one who has nothing to
conceal resolved at once the doubt that had leapt so suddenly in
the mind of Captain Blood. Pitt was satisfied less easily.
"In that case, Don Diego, will you tell me, since Curacao is our
destination, why our course is what it is?"
Again there was no faintest hesitation on Don Diego's part. "You
have reason to ask," said he, and sighed. "I had hope' it would not
be observe'. I have been careless - oh, of a carelessness very
culpable. I neglect observation. Always it is my way. I make too
sure. I count too much on dead reckoning. And so to-day I find
when at last I take out the quadrant that we do come by a half-degree
too much south, so that Curacao is now almost due north. That is
what cause the delay. But we will be there to-morrow."
The explanation, so completely satisfactory, and so readily and
candidly forthcoming, left no room for further doubt that Don Diego
should have been false to his parole. And when presently Don Diego
had withdrawn again, Captain Blood confessed to Pitt that it was
absurd to have suspected him. Whatever his antecedents, he had
proved his quality when he announced himself ready to die sooner
than enter into any undertaking that could hurt his honour or his
New to the seas of the Spanish Main and to the ways of the
adventurers who sailed it, Captain Blood still entertained
illusions. But the next dawn was to shatter them rudely and for
Coming on deck before the sun was up, he saw land ahead, as the
Spaniard had promised them last night. Some ten miles ahead it lay,
a long coast-line filling the horizon east and west, with a massive
headland jutting forward straight before them. Staring at it, he
frowned. He had not conceived that Curacao was of such considerable
dimensions. Indeed, this looked less like an island than the main
Beating out aweather, against the gentle landward breeze he beheld
a great ship on their starboard bow, that he conceived to be some
three or four miles off, and - as well as he could judge her at
that distance - of a tonnage equal if not superior to their own.
Even as he watched her she altered her course, and going about came
heading towards them, close-hauled.
A dozen of his fellows were astir on the forecastle, looking
eagerly ahead, and the sound of their voices and laughter reached
him across the length of the stately Cinco Llagas.
"There," said a soft voice behind him in liquid Spanish, "is the
Promised Land, Don Pedro."
It was something in that voice, a muffled note of exultation, that
awoke suspicion in him, and made whole the half-doubt he had been
entertaining. He turned sharply to face Don Diego, so sharply that
the sly smile was not effaced from the Spaniard's countenance
before Captain Blood's eyes had flashed upon it.
"You find an odd satisfaction in the sight of it - all things
considered," said Mr. Blood.
"Of course." The Spaniard rubbed his hands, and Mr. Blood observed
that they were unsteady. "The satisfaction of a mariner."
"Or of a traitor - which?" Blood asked him quietly. And as the
Spaniard fell back before him with suddenly altered countenance
that confirmed his every suspicion, he flung an arm out in the
direction of the distant shore. "What land is that?" he demanded.
"Will you have the effrontery to tell me that is the coast of
He advanced upon Don Diego suddenly, and Don Diego, step by step,
fell back. "Shall I tell you what land it is? Shall I?" His fierce
assumption of knowledge seemed to dazzle and daze the Spaniard. For
still Don Diego made no answer. And then Captain Blood drew a bow
at a venture - or not quite at a venture. Such a coast-line as that,
if not of the main itself, and the main he knew it could not be,
must belong to either Cuba or Hispaniola. Now knowing Cuba to lie
farther north and west of the two, it followed, he reasoned swiftly,
that if Don Diego meant betrayal he would steer for the nearer of
these Spanish territories. "That land, you treacherous, forsworn
Spanish dog, is the island of Hispaniola."
Having said it, he closely watched the swarthy face now overspread
with pallor, to see the truth or falsehood of his guess reflected
there. But now the retreating Spaniard had come to the middle of
the quarter-deck, where the mizzen sail made a screen to shut them
off from the eyes of the Englishmen below. His lips writhed in a
"Ah, perro ingles! You know too much," he said under his breath,
and sprang for the Captain's throat.
Tight-locked in each other's arms, they swayed a moment, then
together went down upon the deck, the Spaniard's feet jerked from
under him by the right leg of Captain Blood. The Spaniard had
depended upon his strength, which was considerable. But it proved
no match for the steady muscles of the Irishman, tempered of late
by the vicissitudes of slavery. He had depended upon choking
the life out of Blood, and so gaining the half-hour that might be
necessary to bring up that fine ship that was beating towards them
- a Spanish ship, perforce, since none other would be so boldly
cruising in these Spanish waters off Hispaniola. But all that Don
Diego had accomplished was to betray himself completely, and to no
purpose. This he realized when he found himself upon his back,
pinned down by Blood, who was kneeling on his chest, whilst the
men summoned by their Captain's shout came clattering up the
"Will I say a prayer for your dirty soul now, whilst I am in this
position?" Captain Blood was furiously mocking him.
But the Spaniard, though defeated, now beyond hope for himself,
forced his lips to smile, and gave back mockery for mockery.
"Who will pray for your soul, I wonder, when that galleon comes to
lie board and board with you?"
"That galleon!" echoed Captain Blood with sudden and awful
realization that already it was too late to avoid the consequences
of Don Diego's betrayal of them.
"That galleon," Don Diego repeated, and added with a deepening sneer:
"Do you know what ship it is? I will tell you. It is the
Encarnacion, the flagship of Don Miguel de Espinosa, the Lord Admiral
of Castile, and Don Miguel is my brother. It is a very fortunate
encounter. The Almighty, you see, watches over the destinies of
There was no trace of humour or urbanity now in Captain Blood. His
light eyes blazed: his face was set.
He rose, relinquishing the Spaniard to his men. "Make him fast,"
he bade them. "Truss him, wrist and heel, but don't hurt him - not
so much as a hair of his precious head."
The injunction was very necessary. Frenzied by the thought that
they were likely to exchange the slavery from which they had so
lately escaped for a slavery still worse, they would have torn the
Spaniard limb from limb upon the spot. And if they now obeyed
their Captain and refrained, it was only because the sudden steely
note in his voice promised for Don Diego Valdez something far more
exquisite than death.
"You scum! You dirty pirate! You man of honour!" Captain Blood
apostrophized his prisoner.
But Don Diego looked up at him and laughed.
"You underrated me." He spoke English, so that all might hear.
"I tell you that I was not fear death, and I show you that I was
not fear it. You no understand. You just an English dog."
"Irish, if you please," Captain Blood corrected him. "And your
parole, you tyke of Spain?"
"You think I give my parole to leave you sons of filth with this
beautiful Spanish ship, to go make war upon other Spaniards! Ha!"
Don Diego laughed in his throat. "You fool! You can kill me.
Pish! It is very well. I die with my work well done. In less
than an hour you will be the prisoners of Spain, and the Cinco
Llagas will go belong to Spain again."
Captain Blood regarded him steadily out of a face which, if
impassive, had paled under its deep tan. About the prisoner,
clamant, infuriated, ferocious, the rebels-convict surged, almost
literally "athirst for his blood."
"Wait," Captain Blood imperiously commanded, and turning on his
heel, he went aside to the rail. As he stood there deep in thought,
he was joined by Hagthorpe, Wolverstone, and Ogle the gunner. In
silence they stared with him across the water at that other ship.
She had veered a point away from the wind, and was running now on
a line that must in the end converge with that of the Cinco Llagas.
"In less than half-an-hour," said Blood presently, "we shall have
her athwart our hawse, sweeping our decks with her guns."
"We can fight," said the one-eyed giant with an oath.
"Fight!" sneered Blood. "Undermanned as we are, mustering a bare
twenty men, in what case are we to fight? No, there would be only
one way. To persuade her that all is well aboard, that we are
Spaniards, so that she may leave us to continue on our course."
"And how is that possible?" Hagthorpe asked.
"It isn't possible," said Blood. "If it...." And then he broke off,
and stood musing, his eyes upon the green water. Ogle, with a bent
for sarcasm, interposed a suggestion bitterly.
"We might send Don Diego de Espinosa in a boat manned by his
Spaniards to assure his brother the Admiral that we are all loyal
subjects of his Catholic Majesty."
The Captain swung round, and for an instant looked as if he would
have struck the gunner. Then his expression changed: the light of
inspiration Was in his glance.
"Bedad! ye've said it. He doesn't fear death, this damned pirate;
but his son may take a different view. Filial piety's mighty
strong in Spain." He swung on his heel abruptly, and strode back
to the knot of men about his prisoner. "Here!" he shouted to them.
"Bring him below." And he led the way down to the waist, and thence
by the booby hatch to the gloom of the 'tween-decks, where the air
was rank with the smell of tar and spun yarn. Going aft he threw
open the door of the spacious wardroom, and went in followed by a
dozen of the hands with the pinioned Spaniard. Every man aboard
would have followed him but for his sharp command to some of them
to remain on deck with Hagthorpe.
In the ward-room the three stern chasers were in position, loaded,
their muzzles thrusting through the open ports, precisely as the
Spanish gunners had left them.
"Here, Ogle, is work for you," said Blood, and as the burly gunner
came thrusting forward through the little throng of gaping men,
Blood pointed to the middle chaser; "Have that gun hauled back,"
When this was done, Blood beckoned those who held Don Diego.
"Lash him across the mouth of it," he bade them, and whilst, assisted
by another two, they made haste to obey, he turned to the others.
"To the roundhouse, some of you, and fetch the Spanish prisoners.
And you, Dyke, go up and bid them set the flag of Spain aloft."
Don Diego, with his body stretched in an arc across the cannon's
mouth, legs and arms lashed to the carriage on either side of it,
eyeballs rolling in his head, glared maniacally at Captain Blood.
A man may not fear to die, and yet be appalled by the form in which
death comes to him.
From frothing lips he hurled blasphemies and insults at his tormentor.
"Foul barbarian! Inhuman savage! Accursed heretic! Will it not
content you to kill me in some Christian fashion?" Captain Blood
vouchsafed him a malignant smile, before he turned to meet the
fifteen manacled Spanish prisoners, who were thrust into his presence.
Approaching, they had heard Don Diego's outcries; at close quarters
now they beheld with horror-stricken eyes his plight. From amongst
them a comely, olive-skinned stripling, distinguished in bearing and
apparel from his companions, started forward with an anguished cry
Writhing in the arms that made haste to seize and hold him, he
called upon heaven and hell to avert this horror, and lastly,
addressed to Captain Blood an appeal for mercy that was at once
fierce and piteous. Considering him, Captain Blood thought with
satisfaction that he displayed the proper degree of filial piety.
He afterwards confessed that for a moment he was in danger of
weakening, that for a moment his mind rebelled against the pitiless
thing it had planned. But to correct the sentiment he evoked a
memory of what these Spaniards had performed in Bridgetown. Again
he saw the white face of that child Mary Traill as she fled in
horror before the jeering ruffian whom he had slain, and other
things even more unspeakable seen on that dreadful evening rose
now before the eyes of his memory to stiffen his faltering purpose.
The Spaniards had shown themselves without mercy or sentiment or
decency of any kind; stuffed with religion, they were without a
spark of that Christianity, the Symbol of which was mounted on
the mainmast of the approaching ship. A moment ago this cruel,
vicious Don Diego had insulted the Almighty by his assumption that
He kept a specially benevolent watch over the destinies of Catholic
Spain. Don Diego should be taught his error.
Recovering the cynicism in which he had approached his task, the
cynicism essential to its proper performance, he commanded Ogle
to kindle a match and remove the leaden apron from the touch-hole
of the gun that bore Don Diego. Then, as the younger Espinosa
broke into fresh intercessions mingled with imprecations, he
wheeled upon him sharply.
"Peace!" he snapped. "Peace, and listen! It is no part of my
intention to blow your father to hell as he deserves, or indeed
to take his life at all."
Having surprised the lad into silence by that promise - a promise
surprising enough in all the circumstances - he proceeded to
explain his aims in that faultless and elegant Castilian of which
he was fortunately master - as fortunately for Don Diego as for
"It is your father's treachery that has brought us into this plight
and deliberately into risk of capture and death aboard that ship of
Spain. Just as your father recognized his brother's flagship, so
will his brother have recognized the Cinco Llagas. So far, then,
all is well. But presently the Encarnacion will be sufficiently
close to perceive that here all is not as it should be. Sooner or
later, she must guess or discover what is wrong, and then she will
open fire or lay us board and board. Now, we are in no case to
fight, as your father knew when he ran us into this trap. But
fight we will, if we are driven to it. We make no tame surrender
to the ferocity of Spain."
He laid his hand on the breech of the gun that bore Don Diego.
"Understand this clearly: to the first shot from the Encarnacion
this gun will fire the answer. I make myself clear, I hope?"
White-faced and trembling, young Espinosa stared into the pitiless
blue eyes that so steadily regarded him.
"If it is clear?" he faltered, breaking the utter silence in which
all were standing. "But, name of God, how should it be clear?
How should I understand? Can you avert the fight? If you know a
way, and if I, or these, can help you to it - if that is what you
mean - in Heaven's name let me hear it."
"A fight would be averted if Don Diego de Espinosa were to go aboard
his brother's ship, and by his presence and assurances inform the
Admiral that all is well with the Cinco Llagas, that she is indeed
still a ship of Spain as her flag now announces. But of course
Don Diego cannot go in person, because he is... otherwise engaged.
He has a slight touch of fever - shall we say? - that detains him
in his cabin. But you, his son, may convey all this and some other
matters together with his homage to your uncle. You shall go in a
boat manned by six of these Spanish prisoners, and I - a
distinguished Spaniard delivered from captivity in Barbados by your
recent raid - will accompany you to keep you in countenance. If I
return alive, and without accident of any kind to hinder our free
sailing hence, Don Diego shall have his life, as shall every one of
you. But if there is the least misadventure, be it from treachery
or ill-fortune - I care not which - the battle, as I have had the
honour to explain, will be opened on our side by this gun, and your
father will be the first victim of the conflict."
He paused a moment. There was a hum of approval from his comrades,
an anxious stirring among the Spanish prisoners. Young Espinosa
stood before him, the colour ebbing and flowing in his cheeks. He
waited for some direction from his father. But none came. Don
Diego's courage, it seemed, had sadly waned under that rude test.
He hung limply in his fearful bonds, and was silent. Evidently he
dared not encourage his son to defiance, and presumably was ashamed
to urge him to yield. Thus, he left decision entirely with the
"Come," said Blood. "I have been clear enough, I think. What do
Don Esteban moistened his parched lips, and with the back of his
hand mopped the anguish-sweat from his brow. His eyes gazed
wildly a moment upon the shoulders of his father, as if beseeching
guidance. But his father remained silent. Something like a sob
escaped the boy.
"I... I accept," he answered at last, and swung to the Spaniards.
"And you - you will accept too," he insisted passionately. "For
Don Diego's sake and for your own - for all our sakes. If you do
not, this man will butcher us all without mercy."
Since he yielded, and their leader himself counselled no resistance,
why should they encompass their own destruction by a gesture of
futile heroism? They answered without much hesitation that they
would do as was required of them.
Blood turned, and advanced to Don Diego.
"I am sorry to inconvenience you in this fashion, but... For a
second he checked and frowned as his eyes intently observed the
prisoner. Then, after that scarcely perceptible pause, he
continued, "but I do not think that you have anything beyond
this inconvenience to apprehend, and you may depend upon me to
shorten it as far as possible." Don Diego made him no answer.
Peter Blood waited a moment, observing him; then he bowed and
DON PEDRO SANGRE
The Cinco Llagas and the Encarnacion, after a proper exchange of
signals, lay hove to within a quarter of a mile of each other, and
across the intervening space of gently heaving, sunlit waters sped
a boat from the former, manned by six Spanish seamen and bearing
in her stern sheets Don Esteban de Espinosa and Captain Peter Blood.
She also bore two treasure-chests containing fifty thousand pieces
of eight. Gold has at all times been considered the best of
testimonies of good faith, and Blood was determined that in all
respects appearances should be entirely on his side. His followers
had accounted this a supererogation of pretence. But Blood's will
in the matter had prevailed. He carried further a bulky package
addressed to a grande of Spain, heavily sealed with the arms of
Espinosa - another piece of evidence hastily manufactured in the
cabin of the Cinco Llagas - and he was spending these last moments
in completing his instructions to his young companion.
Don Esteban expressed his last lingering uneasiness:
"But if you should betray yourself?" he cried.
"It will be unfortunate for everybody. I advised your father to
say a prayer for our success. I depend upon you to help me more
"1 will do my best. God knows I will do my best," the boy protested.
Blood nodded thoughtfully, and no more was said until they bumped
alongside the towering mass of the Encarnadon. Up the ladder went
Don Esteban closely followed by Captain Blood. ln the waist stood
the Admiral himself to receive them, a handsome, self-sufficient
man, very tall and stiff, a little older and greyer than Don Diego,
whom he closely resembled. He was supported by four officers and a
friar in the black and white habit of St. Dominic.
Don Miguel opened his arms to his nephew, whose lingering panic he
mistook for pleasurable excitement, and having enfolded him to his
bosom turned to greet Don Esteban's companion.
Peter Blood bowed gracefully, entirely at his ease, so far as might
be judged from appearances.
"I am," he announced, making a literal translation of his name,
"Don Pedro Sangre, an unfortunate gentleman of Leon, lately
delivered from captivity by Don Esteban's most gallant father."
And in a few words he sketched the imagined conditions of his
capture by, and deliverance from, those accursed heretics who
held the island of Barbados. "Benedicamus Domino," said the
friar to his tale.
"Ex hoc nunc et usque in seculum," replied Blood, the occasional
papist, with lowered eyes.
The Admiral and his attending officers gave him a sympathetic
hearing and a cordial welcome. Then came the dreaded question.
"But where is my brother? Why has he not come, himself, to
It was young Espinosa who answered this:
"My father is afflicted at denying himself that honour and pleasure.
But unfortunately, sir uncle, he is a little indisposed - oh,
nothing grave; merely sufficient to make him keep his cabin. It is
a little fever, the result of a slight wound taken in the recent
raid upon Barbados, which resulted in this gentleman's happy
"Nay, nephew, nay," Don Miguel protested with ironic repudiation.
"I can have no knowledge of these things. I have the honour to
represent upon the seas His Catholic Majesty, who is at peace with
the King of England. Already you have told me more than it is good
for me to know. I will endeavour to forget it, and I will ask you,
sirs," he added, glancing at his officers, "to forget it also." But
he winked into the twinkling eyes of Captain Blood; then added
matter that at once extinguished that twinkle. "But since Diego
cannot come to me, why, I will go across to him."
For a moment Don Esteban's face was a mask of pallid fear. Then
Blood was speaking in a lowered, confidential voice that admirably
blended suavity, impressiveness, and sly mockery.
"If you please, Don Miguel, but that is the very thing you must not
do - the very thing Don Diego does not wish you to do. You must not
see him until his wounds are healed. That is his own wish. That
is the real reason why he is not here. For the truth is that his
wounds are not so grave as to have prevented his coming. It was
his consideration of himself and the false position in which you
would be placed if you had direct word from him of what has happened.
As your excellency has said, there is peace between His Catholic
Majesty and the King of England, and your brother Don Diego...."
He paused a moment. "I am sure that I need say no more. What you
hear from us is no more than a mere rumour. Your excellency
His excellency frowned thoughtfully. "I understand... in part,"
Captain Blood had a moment's uneasiness. Did the Spaniard doubt
his bona fides? Yet in dress and speech he knew himself to be
impeccably Spanish, and was not Don Esteban there to confirm him?
He swept on to afford further confirmation before the Admiral
could say another word.
"And we have in the boat below two chests containing fifty thousand
pieces of eight, which we are to deliver to your excellency."
His excellency jumped; there was a sudden stir among his officers.
"They are the ransom extracted by Don Diego from the Governor
"Not another word, in the name of Heaven!" cried the Admiral in
alarm. "My brother wishes me to assume charge of this money, to
carry it to Spain for him? Well, that is a family matter between
my brother and myself. So, it can be done. But I must not
know...." He broke off. "Hum! A glass of Malaga in my cabin,
if you please," he invited them, "whilst the chests are being
He gave his orders touching the embarkation of these chests, then
led the way to his regally appointed cabin, his four officers and
the friar following by particular invitation.
Seated at table there, with the tawny wine before them, and the
servant who had poured it withdrawn, Don Miguel laughed and
stroked his pointed, grizzled beard.
Virgen santisima! That brother of mine has a mind that thinks of
everything. Left to myself, I might have committed a fine
indiscretion by venturing aboard his ship at such a moment. I
might have seen things which as Admiral of Spain it would be
difficult for me to ignore."
Both Esteban and Blood made haste to agree with him, and then
Blood raised his glass, and drank to the glory of Spain and the
damnation of the besotted James who occupied the throne of England.
The latter part of his toast was at least sincere.
The Admiral laughed.
"Sir, sir, you need my brother here to curb your imprudences. You
should remember that His Catholic Majesty and the King of England
are very good friends. That is not a toast to propose in this
cabin. But since it has been proposed, and by one who has such
particular personal cause to hate these English hounds, why, we
will honour it - but unofficially."
They laughed, and drank the damnation of King James - quite
unofficially, but the more fervently on that account. Then Don
Esteban, uneasy on the score of his father, and remembering that
the agony of Don Diego was being protracted with every moment that
they left him in his dreadful position, rose and announced that
they must be returning.
"My father," he explained, "is in haste to reach San Domingo. He
desired me to stay no longer than necessary to embrace you. If
you will give us leave, then, sir uncle."
In the circumstances "sir uncle" did not insist.
As they returned to the ship's side, Blood's eyes anxiously scanned
the line of seamen leaning over the bulwarks in idle talk with the
Spaniards in the cock-boat that waited at the ladder's foot. But
their manner showed him that there was no ground for his anxiety.
The boat's crew had been wisely reticent.
The Admiral took leave of them - of Esteban affectionately, of
"I regret to lose you so soon, Don Pedro. I wish that you could
have made a longer visit to the Encarnacion."
"I am indeed unfortunate," said Captain Blood politely.
"But I hope that we may meet again."
"That is to flatter me beyond all that I deserve."
They reached the boat; and she cast off from the great ship. As
they were pulling away, the Admiral waving to them from the taffrail,
they heard the shrill whistle of the bo'sun piping the hands to
their stations, and before they had reached the Cinco Llagas, they
beheld the Encarnacion go about under sail. She dipped her flag to
them, and from her poop a gun fired a salute.
Aboard the Cinco Llagas some one - it proved afterwards to be
Hagthorpe - had the wit to reply in the same fashion. The comedy
was ended. Yet there was something else to follow as an epilogue,
a thing that added a grim ironic flavour to the whole.
As they stepped into the waist of the Cinco Llagas, Hagthorpe
advanced to receive them. Blood observed the set, almost scared
expression on his face.
"I see that you've found it," he said quietly.
Hagthorpe's eyes looked a question. But his mind dismissed whatever
thought it held.
"Don Diego..." he was beginning, and then stopped, and looked
curiously at Blood.
Noting the pause and the look, Esteban bounded forward, his face
"Have you broken faith, you curs? Has he come to harm?" he cried
- and the six Spaniards behind him grew clamorous with furious
"We do not break faith," said Hagthorpe firmly, so firmly that he
quieted them. "And in this case there was not the need. Don Diego
died in his bonds before ever you reached the Encarnacion."
Peter Blood said nothing.
"Died?" screamed Esteban. "You killed him, you mean. Of what did
Hagthorpe looked at the boy. "If I am a judge," he said, "Don Diego
died of fear."
Don Esteban struck Hagthorpe across the face at that, and Hagthorpe
would have struck back, but that Blood got between, whilst his
followers seized the lad.
"Let be," said Blood. "You provoked the boy by your insult to his
"I was not concerned to insult," said Hagthorpe, nursing his cheek.
"It is what has happened. Come and look."
"I have seen," said Blood. "He died before I left the Cinco Llagas.
He was hanging dead in his bonds when I spoke to him before leaving."
"What are you saying?" cried Esteban.
Blood looked at him gravely. Yet for all his gravity he seemed
almost to smile, though without mirth.
"If you had known that, eh?" he asked at last. For a moment Don
Esteban stared at him wide-eyed, incredulous. "I don't believe
you," he said at last.
"Yet you may. I am a doctor, and I know death when I see it."
Again there came a pause, whilst conviction sank into the lad's mind.
"If I had known that," he said at last in a thick voice, "you would
be hanging from the yardarm of the Encarnacion at this moment."
"I know," said Blood. "I am considering it - the profit that a man
may find in the ignorance of others."
"But you'll hang there yet," the boy raved.
Captain Blood shrugged, and turned on his heel. But he did not on
that account disregard the words, nor did Hagthorpe, nor yet the
others who overheard them, as they showed at a council held that
night in the cabin.
This council was met to determine what should be done with the
Spanish prisoners. Considering that Curacao now lay beyond their
reach, as they were running short of water and provisions, and also
that Pitt was hardly yet in case to undertake the navigation of the
vessel, it had been decided that, going east of Hispaniola, and
then sailing along its northern coast, they should make for Tortuga,
that haven of the buccaneers, in which lawless port they had at
least no danger of recapture to apprehend. It was now a question
whether they should convey the Spaniards thither with them, or turn
them off in a boat to make the best of their way to the coast of
Hispaniola, which was but ten miles off. This was the course urged
by Blood himself.
"There's nothing else to be done," he insisted. "In Tortuga they
would be flayed alive."
"Which is less than the swine deserve," growled Wolverstone.
"And you'll remember, Peter," put in Hagthorpe, "that boy's threat
to you this morning. If he escapes, and carries word of all this
to his uncle, the Admiral, the execution of that threat will become
more than possible."
It says much for Peter Blood that the argument should have left him
unmoved. It is a little thing, perhaps, but in a narrative in which
there is so much that tells against him, I cannot - since my story
is in the nature of a brief for the defence - afford to slur a
circumstance that is so strongly in his favour, a circumstance
revealing that the cynicism attributed to him proceeded from his
reason and from a brooding over wrongs rather than from any natural
instincts. "I care nothing for his threats."
"You should," said Wolverstone. "The wise thing'd be to hang him,
along o' all the rest."
"It is not human to be wise," said Blood. "It is much more human
to err, though perhaps exceptional to err on the side of mercy.
We'll be exceptional. Oh, faugh! I've no stomach for cold-blooded
killing. At daybreak pack the Spaniards into a boat with a keg of
water and a sack of dumplings, and let them go to the devil."
That was his last word on the subject, and it prevailed by virtue
of the authority they had vested in him, and of which he had taken
so firm a grip. At daybreak Don Esteban and his followers were
put off in a boat.
Two days later, the Cinco Llagas sailed into the rock-bound bay of
Cayona, which Nature seemed to have designed for the stronghold of
those who had appropriated it.
It is time fully to disclose the fact that the survival of the story
of Captain Blood's exploits is due entirely to the industry of Jeremy
Pitt, the Somersetshire shipmaster. In addition to his ability as
a navigator, this amiable young man appears to have wielded an
indefatigable pen, and to have been inspired to indulge its fluency
by the affection he very obviously bore to Peter Blood.
He kept the log of the forty-gun frigate Arabella, on which he
served as master, or, as we should say to-day, navigating officer,
as no log that I have seen was ever kept. It runs into some
twenty-odd volumes of assorted sizes, some of which are missing
altogether and others of which are so sadly depleted of leaves as
to be of little use. But if at times in the laborious perusal of
them - they are preserved in the library of Mr. James Speke of
Comerton - I have inveighed against these lacunae, at others I have
been equally troubled by the excessive prolixity of what remains
and the difficulty of disintegrating from the confused whole the
really essential parts.
I have a suspicion that Esquemeling - though how or where I can
make no surmise - must have obtained access to these records, and
that he plucked from them the brilliant feathers of several exploits
to stick them into the tail of his own hero, Captain Morgan. But
that is by the way. I mention it chiefly as a warning, for when
presently I come to relate the affair of Maracaybo, those of you
who have read Esquemeling may be in danger of supposing that Henry
Morgan really performed those things which here are veraciously
attributed to Peter Blood. I think, however, that when you come to
weigh the motives actuating both Blood and the Spanish Admiral, in
that affair, and when you consider how integrally the event is a
part of Blood's history - whilst merely a detached incident in
Morgan's - you will reach my own conclusion as to which is the real
The first of these logs of Pitt's is taken up almost entirely with
a retrospective narrative of the events up to the time of Blood's
first coming to Tortuga. This and the Tannatt Collection of State
Trials are the chief - though not the only - sources of my history
Pitt lays great stress upon the fact that it was the circumstances
upon which I have dwelt, and these alone, that drove Peter Blood to
seek an anchorage at Tortuga. He insists at considerable length,
and with a vehemence which in itself makes it plain that an opposite
opinion was held in some quarters, that it was no part of the design
of Blood or of any of his companions in misfortune to join hands
with the buccaneers who, under a semi-official French protection,
made of Tortuga a lair whence they could sally out to drive their
merciless piratical trade chiefly at the expense of Spain.
It was, Pitt tells us, Blood's original intention to make his way
to France or Holland. But in the long weeks of waiting for a ship
to convey him to one or the other of these countries, his resources
dwindled and finally vanished. Also, his chronicler thinks that he
detected signs of some secret trouble in his friend, and he
attributes to this the abuses of the potent West Indian spirit of
which Blood became guilty in those days of inaction, thereby sinking
to the level of the wild adventurers with whom ashore he associated.
I do not think that Pitt is guilty in this merely of special
pleading, that he is putting forward excuses for his hero. I think
that in those days there was a good deal to oppress Peter Blood.
There was the thought of Arabella Bishop - and that this thought
loomed large in his mind we are not permitted to doubt. He was
maddened by the tormenting lure of the unattainable. He desired
Arabella, yet knew her beyond his reach irrevocably and for all time.
Also, whilst he may have desired to go to France or Holland, he had
no clear purpose to accomplish when he reached one or the other of
these countries. He was, when all is said, an escaped slave, an
outlaw in his own land and a homeless outcast in any other. There
remained the sea, which is free to all, and particularly alluring
to those who feel themselves at war with humanity. And so,
considering the adventurous spirit that once already had sent him
a-roving for the sheer love of it, considering that this spirit was
heightened now by a recklessness begotten of his outlawry, that his
training and skill in militant seamanship clamorously supported the
temptations that were put before him, can you wonder, or dare you
blame him, that in the end he succumbed? And remember that these
temptations proceeded not only from adventurous buccaneering
acquaintances in the taverns of that evil haven of Tortuga, but even
from M. d'Ogeron, the governor of the island, who levied as his
harbour dues a percentage of one tenth of all spoils brought into
the bay, and who profited further by commissions upon money which
he was desired to convert into bills of exchange upon France.
A trade that might have worn a repellent aspect when urged by
greasy, half-drunken adventurers, boucan-hunters, lumbermen,
beach-combers, English, French, and Dutch, became a dignified,
almost official form of privateering when advocated by the courtly,
middle-aged gentleman who in representing the French West India
Company seemed to represent France herself.
Moreover, to a man - not excluding Jeremy Pitt himself, in whose
blood the call of the sea was insistent and imperative - those who
had escaped with Peter Blood from the Barbados plantations, and
who, consequently, like himself, knew not whither to turn, were
all resolved upon joining the great Brotherhood of the Coast, as
those rovers called themselves. And they united theirs to the
other voices that were persuading Blood, demanding that he should
continue now in the leadership which he had enjoyed since they had
left Barbados, and swearing to follow him loyally whithersoever he
should lead them.
And so, to condense all that Jeremy has recorded in the matter,
Blood ended by yielding to external and internal pressure, abandoned
himself to the stream of Destiny. "Fata viam invenerunt," is his
own expression of it.
If he resisted so long, it was, I think, the thought of Arabella
Bishop that restrained him. That they should be destined never to
meet again did not weigh at first, or, indeed, ever. He conceived
the scorn with which she would come to hear of his having turned
pirate, and the scorn, though as yet no more than imagined, hurt
him as if it were already a reality. And even when he conquered
this, still the thought of her was ever present. He compromised
with the conscience that her memory kept so disconcertingly active.
He vowed that the thought of her should continue ever before him
to help him keep his hands as clean as a man might in this desperate
trade upon which he was embarking. And so, although he might
entertain no delusive hope of ever winning her for his own, of ever
even seeing her again, yet the memory of her was to abide in his
soul as a bitter-sweet, purifying influence. The love that is never
to be realized will often remain a man's guiding ideal. The resolve
being taken, he went actively to work. Ogeron, most accommodating
of governors, advanced him money for the proper equipment of his
ship the Cinco Llagas, which he renamed the Arabella. This after
some little hesitation, fearful of thus setting his heart upon his
sleeve. But his Barbados friends accounted it merely an expression
of the ever-ready irony in which their leader dealt.
To the score of followers he already possessed, he added threescore
more, picking his men with caution and discrimination - and he was
an exceptional judge of men - from amongst the adventurers of
Tortuga. With them all he entered into the articles usual among the
Brethren of the Coast under which each man was to be paid by a share
in the prizes captured. In other respects, however, the articles
were different. Aboard the Arabella there was to be none of the
ruffianly indiscipline that normally prevailed in buccaneering
vessels. Those who shipped with him undertook obedience and
submission in all things to himself and to the officers appointed
by election. Any to whom this clause in the articles was distasteful
might follow some other leader.
Towards the end of December, when the hurricane season had blown
itself out, he put to sea in his well-found, well-manned ship, and
before he returned in the following May from a protracted and
adventurous cruise, the fame of Captain Peter Blood had run like
ripples before the breeze across the face of the Caribbean Sea.
There was a fight in the Windward Passage at the outset with a
Spanish galleon, which had resulted in the gutting and finally the
sinking of the Spaniard. There was a daring raid effected by means
of several appropriated piraguas upon a Spanish pearl fleet in the
Rio de la Hacha, from which they had taken a particularly rich haul
of pearls. There was an overland expedition to the goldfields of
Santa Maria, on the Main, the full tale of which is hardly credible,
and there were lesser adventures through all of which the crew of
the Arabella came with credit and profit if not entirely unscathed.
And so it happened that before the Arabella came homing to Tortuga
in the following May to refit and repair - for she was not without
scars, as you conceive - the fame of her and of Peter Blood her
captain had swept from the Bahamas to the Windward Isles, from New
Providence to Trinidad.
An echo of it had reached Europe, and at the Court of St. James's
angry representations were made by the Ambassador of Spain, to whom
it was answered that it must not be supposed that this Captain Blood
held any commission from the King of England; that he was, in fact,
a proscribed rebel, an escaped slave, and that any measures against
him by His Catholic Majesty would receive the cordial approbation
of King James II.
Don Miguel de Espinosa, the Admiral of Spain in the West Indies, and
his nephew Don Esteban who sailed with him, did not lack the will to
bring the adventurer to the yardarm. With them this business of
capturing Blood, which was now an international affair, was also a
Spain, through the mouth of Don Miguel, did not spare her threats.
The report of them reached Tortuga, and with it the assurance that
Don Miguel had behind him not only the authority of his own nation,
but that of the English King as well.
It was a brutum fulmen that inspired no terrors in Captain Blood.
Nor was he likely, on account of it, to allow himself to run to rust
in the security of Tortuga. For what he had suffered at the hands
of Man he had chosen to make Spain the scapegoat. Thus he accounted
that he served a twofold purpose: he took compensation and at the
same time served, not indeed the Stuart King, whom he despised, but
England and, for that matter, all the rest of civilized mankind
which cruel, treacherous, greedy, bigoted Castile sought to exclude
from intercourse with the New World.
One day as he sat with Hagthorpe and Wolverstone over a pipe and a
bottle of rum in the stifling reek of tar and stale tobacco of a
waterside tavern, he was accosted by a splendid ruffian in a
gold-laced coat of dark-blue satin with a crimson sash, a foot wide,
about the waist.
"C'est, vous qu'on appelle Le Sang?" the fellow hailed him.
Captain Blood looked up to consider the questioner before replying.
The man was tall and built on lines of agile strength, with a
swarthy, aquiline face that was brutally handsome. A diamond of
great price flamed on the indifferently clean hand resting on the
pummel of his long rapier, and there were gold rings in his ears,
half-concealed by long ringlets of oily chestnut hair.
Captain Blood took the pipe-stem from between his lips.
"My name," he said, "is Peter Blood. The Spaniards know me for Don
Pedro Sangre and a Frenchman may call me Le Sang if he pleases."
"Good," said the gaudy adventurer in English, and without further
invitation he drew up a stool and sat down at that greasy table.
"My name," he informed the three men, two of whom at least were
eyeing him askance, "it is Levasseur. You may have heard of me."
They had, indeed. He commanded a privateer of twenty guns that had
dropped anchor in the bay a week ago, manned by a crew mainly
composed of French boucanhunters from Northern Hispaniola, men who
had good cause to hate the Spaniard with an intensity exceeding that
of the English. Levasseur had brought them back to Tortuga from an
indifferently successful cruise. It would need more, however, than
lack of success to abate the fellow's monstrous vanity. A roaring,
quarrelsome, hard-drinking, hard-gaming scoundrel, his reputation as
a buccaneer stood high among the wild Brethren of the Coast. He
enjoyed also a reputation of another sort. There was about his
gaudy, swaggering raffishness something that the women found
singularly alluring. That he should boast openly of his bonnes
fortunes did not seem strange to Captain Blood; what he might have
found strange was that there appeared to be some measure of
justification for these boasts.
It was current gossip that even Mademoiselle d'Ogeron, the Governor's
daughter, had been caught in the snare of his wild attractiveness,
and that Levasseur had gone the length of audacity of asking her
hand in marriage of her father. M. d'Ogeron had made him the only
possible answer. He had shown him the door. Levasseur had departed
in a rage, swearing that he would make mademoiselle his wife in the
teeth of all the fathers in Christendom, and that M. d'Ogeron should
bitterly rue the affront he had put upon him.
This was the man who now thrust himself upon Captain Blood with a
proposal of association, offering him not only his sword, but his
ship and the men who sailed in her.
A dozen years ago, as a lad of barely twenty, Levasseur had sailed
with that monster of cruelty L'Ollonais, and his own subsequent
exploits bore witness and did credit to the school in which he had
been reared. I doubt if in his day there was a greater scoundrel
among the Brethren of the Coast than this Levasseur. And yet,
repulsive though he found him, Captain Blood could not deny that the
fellow's proposals displayed boldness, imagination, and resource,
and he was forced to admit that jointly they could undertake
operations of a greater magnitude than was possible singly to either
of them. The climax of Levasseur's project was to be a raid upon
the wealthy mainland city of Maracaybo; but for this, he admitted,
six hundred men at the very least would be required, and six hundred
men were not to be conveyed in the two bottoms they now commanded.
Preliminary cruises must take place, having for one of their objects
the capture of further ships.
Because he disliked the man, Captain Blood would not commit himself
at once. But because he liked the proposal he consented to consider
it. Being afterwards pressed by both Hagthorpe and Wolverstone, who
did not share his own personal dislike of the Frenchman, the end of
the matter was that within a week articles were drawn up between
Levasseur and Blood, and signed by them and - as was usual - by the
chosen representatives of their followers.
These articles contained, inter alia, the common provisions that,
should the two vessels separate, a strict account must afterwards
be rendered of all prizes severally taken, whilst the vessel taking
a prize should retain three fifths of its value, surrendering two
fifths to its associate. These shares were subsequently to be
subdivided among the crew of each vessel, in accordance with the
articles already obtaining between each captain and his own men.
For the rest, the articles contained all the clauses that were usual,
among which was the clause that any man found guilty of abstracting
or concealing any part of a prize, be it of the value of no more
than a peso, should be summarily hanged from the yardarm.
All being now settled they made ready for sea, and on the very eve
of sailing, Levasseur narrowly escaped being shot in a romantic
attempt to scale the wall of the Governor's garden, with the object
of taking passionate leave of the infatuated Mademoiselle d'Ogeron.
He desisted after having been twice fired upon from a fragrant
ambush of pimento trees where the Governor's guards were posted,
and he departed vowing to take different and very definite measures
on his return.
That night he slept on board his ship, which with characteristic
flamboyance he had named La Foudre, and there on the following day
he received a visit from Captain Blood, whom he greeted
half-mockingly as his admiral. The Irishman came to settle certain
final details of which all that need concern us is an understanding
that, in the event of the two vessels becoming separated by accident
or design, they should rejoin each other as soon as might be at
Thereafter Levasseur entertained his admiral to dinner, and jointly
they drank success to the expedition, so copiously on the part of
Levasseur that when the time came to separate he was as nearly drunk
as it seemed possible for him to be and yet retain his understanding.
Finally, towards evening, Captain Blood went over the side and was
rowed back to his great ship with her red bulwarks and gilded ports,
touched into a lovely thing of flame by the setting sun.
He was a little heavy-hearted. I have said that he was a judge of
men, and his judgment of Levasseur filled him with misgivings which
were growing heavier in a measure as the hour of departure
He expressed it to Wolverstone, who met him as he stepped aboard
"You over persuaded me into those articles, you blackguard; and it'll
surprise me if any good comes of this association."
The giant rolled his single bloodthirsty eye, and sneered, thrusting
out his heavy jaw. "We'll wring the dog's neck if there's any
"So we will - if we are there to wring it by then." And on that,
dismissing the matter: "We sail in the morning, on the first of the
ebb," he announced, and went off to his cabin.
It would be somewhere about ten o'clock on the following morning,
a full hour before the time appointed for sailing, when a canoe
brought up alongside La Foudre, and a half-caste Indian stepped out
of her and went up the ladder. He was clad in drawers of hairy,
untanned hide, and a red blanket served him for a cloak. He was
the bearer of a folded scrap of paper for Captain Levasseur.
The Captain unfolded the letter, sadly soiled and crumpled by
contact with the half-caste's person. Its contents may be
roughly translated thus:
"My well-beloved - I am in the Dutch brig Jongvrouw, which is
about to sail. Resolved to separate us for ever, my cruel father
is sending me to Europe in my brother's charge. I implore you,
come to my rescue. Deliver me, my well-beloved hero! - Your
desolated Madeleine, who loves you."
The well-beloved hero was moved to the soul of him by that
passionate appeal. His scowling glance swept the bay for the
Dutch brig, which he knew had been due to sail for Amsterdam with
a cargo of hides and tobacco.
She was nowhere to be seen among the shipping in that narrow,
rock-bound harbour. He roared out the question in his mind.
In answer the half-caste pointed out beyond the frothing surf that
marked the position of the reef constituting one of the stronghold's
main defences. Away beyond it, a mile or so distant, a sail was
standing out to sea. "There she go," he said.
"There!" The Frenchman gazed and stared, his face growing white.
The man's wicked temper awoke, and turned to vent itself upon the
messenger. "And where have you been that you come here only now
with this? Answer me!"
The half-caste shrank terrified before his fury. His explanation,
if he had one, was paralyzed by fear. Levasseur took him by the
throat, shook him twice, snarling the while, then hurled him into
the scuppers. The man's head struck the gunwale as he fell, and he
lay there, quite still, a trickle of blood issuing from his mouth.
Levasseur dashed one hand against the other, as if dusting them.
"Heave that muck overboard," he ordered some of those who stood
idling in the waist. "Then up anchor, and let us after the
"Steady, Captain. What's that?" There was a restraining hand
upon his shoulder, and the broad face of his lieutenant Cahusac,
a burly, callous Breton scoundrel, was stolidly confronting him.
Levasseur made clear his purpose with a deal of unnecessary
Cahusac shook his head. "A Dutch brig!" said he. "Impossible!
We should never be allowed."
"And who the devil will deny us?" Levasseur was between amazement
"For one thing, there's your own crew will be none too willing. For
another there's Captain Blood."
"I care nothing for Captain Blood...."
"But it is necessary that you should. He has the power, the weight
of metal and of men, and if I know him at all he'll sink us before
he'll suffer interference with the Dutch. He has his own views of
privateering, this Captain Blood, as I warned you."
"Ah!" said Levasseur, showing his teeth. But his eyes, riveted
upon that distant sail, were gloomily thoughtful. Not for long.
The imagination and resource which Captain Blood had detected in
the fellow soon suggested a course.
Cursing in his soul, and even before the anchor was weighed, the
association into which he had entered, he was already studying ways
of evasion. What Cahusac implied was true: Blood would never suffer
violence to be done in his presence to a Dutchman; but it might be
done in his absence; and, being done, Blood must perforce condone
it, since it would then be too late to protest.
Within the hour the Arabella and La Foudre were beating out to sea
together. Without understanding the change of plan involved,
Captain Blood, nevertheless, accepted it, and weighed anchor before
the appointed time upon perceiving his associate to do so.
All day the Dutch brig was in sight, though by evening she had
dwindled to the merest speck on the northern horizon. The course
prescribed for Blood and Levasseur lay eastward along the northern
shores of Hispaniola. To that course the Arabella continued to
hold steadily throughout the night. When day broke again, she was
alone. La Foudre under cover of the darkness had struck away to
The northeast with every rag of canvas on her yards.
Cahusac had attempted yet again to protest against this.
"The devil take you!" Levasseur had answered him. "A ship's a
ship, be she Dutch or Spanish, and ships are our present need.
That will suffice for the men."
His lieutenant said no more. But from his glimpse of the letter,
knowing that a girl and not a ship was his captain's real objective,
he gloomily shook his head as he rolled away on his bowed legs to
give the necessary orders.
Dawn found La Foudre close on the Dutchman's heels, not a mile
astern, and the sight of her very evidently flustered the Jongvrow.
No doubt mademoiselle's brother recognizing Levasseur's ship would
be responsible for the Dutch uneasiness. They saw the Jongvrouw
crowding canvas in a futile endeavour to outsail them, whereupon
they stood off to starboard and raced on until they were in a
position whence they could send a warning shot across her bow.
The Jongvrow veered, showed them her rudder, and opened fire with
her stern chasers. The small shot went whistling through La
Foudre's shrouds with some slight damage to her canvas. Followed
a brief running fight in the course of which the Dutchman let fly
Five minutes after that they were board and board, the Jongvrow held
tight in the clutches of La Foudre's grapnels, and the buccaneers
pouring noisily into her waist.
The Dutchman's master, purple in the face, stood forward to beard
the pirate, followed closely by an elegant, pale-faced young
gentleman in whom Levasseur recognized his brother-in-law elect.
"Captain Levasseur, this is an outrage for which you shall be made
to answer. What do you seek aboard my ship?"
"At first I sought only that which belongs to me, something of
which I am being robbed. But since you chose war and opened fire
on me with some damage to my ship and loss of life to five of my
men, why, war it is, and your ship a prize of war."
From the quarter rail Mademoiselle d'Ogeron looked down with glowing
eyes in breathless wonder upon her well-beloved hero. Gloriously
heroic he seemed as he stood towering there, masterful, audacious,
beautiful. He saw her, and with a glad shout sprang towards her.
The Dutch master got in his way with hands upheld to arrest his
progress. Levasseur did not stay to argue with him: he was too
impatient to reach his mistress. He swung the poleaxe that he
carried, and the Dutchman went down in blood with a cloven skull.
The eager lover stepped across the body and came on, his countenance
But mademoiselle was shrinking now, in horror. She was a girl upon
the threshold of glorious womanhood, of a fine height and nobly
moulded, with heavy coils of glossy black hair above and about a face
that was of the colour of old ivory. Her countenance was cast in
lines of arrogance, stressed by the low lids of her full dark eyes.
In a bound her well-beloved was beside her, flinging away his bloody
poleaxe, he opened wide his arms to enfold her. But she still shrank
even within his embrace, which would not be denied; a look of dread
had come to temper the normal arrogance of her almost perfect face.
"Mine, mine at last, and in spite of all!" he cried exultantly,
theatrically, truly heroic.
But she, endeavouring to thrust him back, her hands against his
breast, could only falter: "Why, why did you kill him?"
He laughed, as a hero should; and answered her heroically, with the
tolerance of a god for the mortal to whom he condescends: "He stood
between us. Let his death be a symbol, a warning. Let all who
would stand between us mark it and beware."
It was so splendidly terrific, the gesture of it was so broad and
fine and his magnetism so compelling, that she cast her silly
tremors and yielded herself freely, intoxicated, to his fond embrace.
Thereafter he swung her to his shoulder, and stepping with ease
beneath that burden, bore her in a sort of triumph, lustily cheered
by his men, to the deck of his own ship. Her inconsiderate brother
might have ruined that romantic scene but for the watchful Cahusac,
who quietly tripped him up, and then trussed him like a fowl.
Thereafter, what time the Captain languished in his lady's smile
within the cabin, Cahusac was dealing with the spoils of war. The
Dutch crew was ordered into the longboat, and bidden go to the devil.
Fortunately, as they numbered fewer than thirty, the longboat,
though perilously overcrowded, could yet contain them. Next,
Cahusac having inspected the cargo, put a quartermaster and a score
of men aboard the Jongvrow, and left her to follow La Fondre, which
he now headed south for the Leeward Islands.
Cahusac was disposed to be ill-humoured. The risk they had run in
taking the Dutch brig and doing violence to members of the family
of the Governor of Tortuga, was out of all proportion to the value
of their prize. He said so, sullenly, to Levasseur.
"You'll keep that opinion to yourself," the Captain answered him.
"Don't think I am the man to thrust my neck into a noose, without
knowing how I am going to take it out again. I shall send an offer
of terms to the Governor of Tortuga that he will be forced to accept.
Set a course for the Virgen Magra. We'll go ashore, and settle
things from there. And tell them to fetch that milksop Ogeron to
Levasseur went back to the adoring lady.
Thither, too, the lady's brother was presently conducted. The
Captain rose to receive him, bending his stalwart height to avoid
striking the cabin roof with his head. Mademoiselle rose too.
"Why this?" she asked Levasseur, pointing to her brother's pinioned
wrists - the remains of Cahusac's precautions.
"I deplore it," said he. "I desire it to end. Let M. d'Ogeron
give me his parole...."
"I give you nothing," flashed the white-faced youth, who did not
lack for spirit.
"You see." Levasseur shrugged his deep regret, and mademoiselle
turned protesting to her brother.
"Henri, this is foolish! You are not behaving as my friend.
"Little fool," her brother answered her - and the "little" was out
of place; she was the taller of the twain. "Little fool, do you
think I should be acting as your friend to make terms with this
"Steady, my young cockerel!" Levasseur laughed. But his laugh was
"Don't you perceive your wicked folly in the harm it has brought
already? Lives have been lost - men have died - that this monster
might overtake you. And don't you yet realize where you stand - in
the power of this beast, of this cur born in a kennel and bred in
thieving and murder?"
He might have said more but that Levasseur struck him across the
mouth. Levasseur, you see, cared as little as another to hear the
truth about himself.
Mademoiselle suppressed a scream, as the youth staggered back under
the blow. He came to rest against a bulkhead, and leaned there
with bleeding lips. But his spirit was unquenched, and there was
a ghastly smile on his white face as his eyes sought his sister's.
"You see," he said simply. "He strikes a man whose hands are bound."
The simple words, and, more than the words, their tone of ineffable
disdain, aroused the passion that never slumbered deeply in
"And what should you do, puppy, if your hands were unbound?" He
took his prisoner by the breast of his doublet and shook him.
"Answer me! What should you do? Tchah! You empty windbag!
You...." And then came a torrent of words unknown to mademoiselle,
yet of whose foulness her intuitions made her conscious.
With blanched cheeks she stood by the cabin table, and cried out
to Levasseur to stop. To obey her, he opened the door, and flung
her brother through it.
"Put that rubbish under hatches until I call for it again," he
roared, and shut the door.
Composing himself, he turned to the girl again with a deprecatory
smile. But no smile answered him from her set face. She had seen
her beloved hero's nature in curl-papers, as it were, and she found
the spectacle disgusting and terrifying. It recalled the brutal
slaughter of the Dutch captain, and suddenly she realized that what
her brother had just said of this man was no more than true. Fear
growing to panic was written on her face, as she stood there leaning
for support against the table.
"Why, sweetheart, what is this?" Levasseur moved towards her. She
recoiled before him. There was a smile on his face, a glitter in
his eyes that fetched her heart into her throat.
He caught her, as she reached the uttermost limits of the cabin,
seized her in his long arms and pulled her to him.
"No, no!" she panted.
"Yes, yes," he mocked her, and his mockery was the most terrible
thing of all. He crushed her to him brutally, deliberately hurtful
because she resisted, and kissed her whilst she writhed in his
embrace. Then, his passion mounting, he grew angry and stripped
off the last rag of hero's mask that still may have hung upon his
face. "Little fool, did you not hear your brother say that you
are in my power? Remember it, and remember that of your own free
will you came. I am not the man with whom a woman can play fast
and loose. So get sense, my girl, and accept what you have invited."
He kissed her again, almost contemptuously, and flung her off.
"No more scowls," he said. "You'll be sorry else."
Some one knocked. Cursing the interruption, Levasseur strode off
to open. Cahusac stood before him. The Breton's face was grave.
He came to report that they had sprung a leak between wind and
water, the consequence of damage sustained from one of the Dutchman's
shots. In alarm Levasseur went off with him. The leakage was not
serious so long as the weather kept fine; but should a storm overtake
them it might speedily become so. A man was slung overboard to make
a partial stoppage with a sail-cloth, and the pumps were got to work.
Ahead of them a low cloud showed on the horizon, which Cahusac
pronounced one of the northernmost of the Virgin Islands.
"We must run for shelter there, and careen her," said Levasseur.
"I do not trust this oppressive heat. A storm may catch us
before we make land."
"A storm or something else," said Cahusac grimly. "Have you
noticed that?" He pointed away to starboard.
Levasseur looked, and caught his breath. Two ships that at the
distance seemed of considerable burden were heading towards them
some five miles away.
"If they follow us what is to happen?" demanded Cahusac.
"We'll fight whether we're in case to do so or not," swore Levasseur.
"Counsels of despair." Cahusac was contemptuous. To mark it he
spat upon the deck. "This comes of going to sea with a lovesick
madman. Now, keep your temper, Captain, for the hands will be at
the end of theirs if we have trouble as a result of this Dutchman
For the remainder of that day Levasseur's thoughts were of anything
but love. He remained on deck, his eyes now upon the land, now
upon those two slowly gaining ships. To run for the open could
avail him nothing, and in his leaky condition would provide an
additional danger. He must stand at bay and fight. And then,
towards evening, when within three miles of shore and when he was
about to give the order to strip for battle, he almost fainted from
relief to hear a voice from the crow's-nest above announce that the
larger of the two ships was the Arabella. Her companion was
presumably a prize.
But the pessimism of Cahusac abated nothing.
"That is but the lesser evil," he growled. "What will Blood say
about this Dutchman?"
"Let him say what he pleases." Levasseur laughed in the immensity
of his relief.
"And what about the children of the Governor of Tortuga?"
"He must not know."
"He'll come to know in the end."
"Aye, but by then, morbleu, the matter will be settled. I shall
have made my peace with the Governor. I tell you I know the way
to compel Ogeron to come to terms."
Presently the four vessels lay to off the northern coast of La
Virgen Magra, a narrow little island arid and treeless, some twelve
miles by three, uninhabited save by birds and turtles and
unproductive of anything but salt, of which there were considerable
ponds to the south.
Levasseur put off in a boat accompanied by Cahusac and two other
officers, and went to visit Captain Blood aboard the Arabella.
"Our brief separation has been mighty profitable," was Captain
Blood's greeting. "It's a busy morning we've both had." He was
in high good-humour as he led the way to the great cabin for a
rendering of accounts.
The tall ship that accompanied the Arabella was a Spanish vessel
of twenty-six guns, the Santiago from Puerto Rico with a hundred
and twenty thousand weight of cacao, forty thousand pieces of eight,
and the value of ten thousand more in jewels. A rich capture of
which two fifths under the articles went to Levasseur and his crew.
Of the money and jewels a division was made on the spot. The cacao
it was agreed should be taken to Tortuga to be sold.
Then it was the turn of Levasseur, and black grew the brow of
Captain Blood as the Frenchman's tale was unfolded. At the end
he roundly expressed his disapproval. The Dutch were a friendly
people whom it was a folly to alienate, particularly for so paltry
a matter as these hides and tobacco, which at most would fetch a
bare twenty thousand pieces.
But Levasseur answered him, as he had answered Cahusac, that a ship
was a ship, and it was ships they needed against their projected
enterprise. Perhaps because things had gone well with him that
day, Blood ended by shrugging the matter aside. Thereupon Levasseur
proposed that the Arabella and her prize should return to Tortuga
there to unload the cacao and enlist the further adventurers that
could now be shipped. Levasseur meanwhile would effect certain
necessary repairs, and then proceeding south, await his admiral at
Saltatudos, an island conveniently situated - in the latitude of
11 deg. 11' N. - for their enterprise against Maracaybo.
To Levasseur's relief, Captain Blood not only agreed, but pronounced
himself ready to set sail at once.
No sooner had the Arabella departed than Levasseur brought his ships
into the lagoon, and set his crew to work upon the erection of
temporary quarters ashore for himself, his men, and his enforced
guests during the careening and repairing of La Foudre.
At sunset that evening the wind freshened; it grew to a gale, and
from that to such a hurricane that Levasseur was thankful to find
himself ashore and his ships in safe shelter. He wondered a little
how it might be faring with Captain Blood out there at the mercy
of that terrific storm; but he did not permit concern to trouble