Part 7 out of 7
He was menacing on that. "For the moment I must accept what I find.
It remains for you, monsieur, who have experience of these savage
by-ways, to advise me out of that experience how to act."
"M. le Baron, it was a folly to have arrested the buccaneer captain.
It would be madness to persist. We have not the forces to meet
"In that case, monsieur, perhaps you will tell me what we are to
do with regard to the future. Am I to submit at every turn to the
dictates of this man Blood? Is the enterprise upon which we are
embarked to be conducted as he decrees? Am I, in short, the King's
representative in America, to be at the mercy of these rascals?"
"Oh, by no means. I am enrolling volunteers here in Hispaniola,
and I am raising a corps of negroes. I compute that when this is
done we shall have a force of a thousand men, the buccaneers apart."
"But in that case why not dispense with them?"
"Because they will always remain the sharp edge of any weapon that
we forge. In the class of warfare that lies before us they are so
skilled that what Captain Blood has just said is not an overstatement.
A buccaneer is equal to three soldiers of the line. At the same
time we shall have a sufficient force to keep them in control. For
the rest, monsieur, they have certain notions of honour. They will
stand by their articles, and so that we deal justly with them, they
will deal justly with us, and give no trouble. I have experience
of them, and I pledge you my word for that."
M. de Rivarol condescended to be mollified. It was necessary that
he should save his face, and in a degree the Governor afforded him
the means to do so, as well as a certain guarantee for the future
in the further force he was raising.
"Very well," he said. "Be so good as to recall this Captain Blood."
The Captain came in, assured and very dignified. M. de Rivarol
found him detestable; but dissembled it.
"M. le Capitaine, I have taken counsel with M. le Gouverneur. From
what he tells me, it is possible that a mistake has been committed.
Justice, you may be sure, shall be done. To ensure it, I shall
myself preside over a council to be composed of two of my senior
officers, yourself and an officer of yours. This council shall
hold at once an impartial investigation into the affair, and the
offender, the man guilty of having given provocation, shall be
Captain Blood bowed. It was not his wish to be extreme. "Perfectly,
M. le Baron. And now, sir, you have had the night for reflection
in this matter of the articles. Am I to understand that you confirm
or that you repudiate them?"
M. de Rivarol's eyes narrowed. His mind was full of what M. de Cussy
had said - that these buccaneers must prove the sharp edge of any
weapon he might forge. He could not dispense with them. He
perceived that he had blundered tactically in attempting to reduce
the agreed share. Withdrawal from a position of that kind is ever
fraught with loss of dignity. But there were those volunteers that
M. de Cussy was enrolling to strengthen the hand of the King's
General. Their presence might admit anon of the reopening of this
question. Meanwhile he must retire in the best order possible.
"I have considered that, too," he announced. "And whilst my opinion
remains unaltered, I must confess that since M. de Cussy has pledged
us, it is for us to fulfil the pledges. The articles are confirmed,
Captain Blood bowed again. In vain M. de Rivarol looked searchingly
for the least trace of a smile of triumph on those firm lips. The
buccaneer's face remained of the utmost gravity.
Wolverstone was set at liberty that afternoon, and his assailant
sentenced to two months' detention. Thus harmony was restored.
But it had been an unpromising beginning, and there was more to
follow shortly of a similar discordant kind.
Blood and his officers were summoned a week later to a council which
sat to determine their operations against Spain. M. de Rivarol laid
before them a project for a raid upon the wealthy Spanish town of
Cartagena. Captain Blood professed astonishment. Sourly invited by
M. de Rivarol to state his grounds for it, he did so with the utmost
"Were I General of the King's Armies in America," said he, "I should
have no doubt or hesitation as to the best way in which to serve my
Royal master and the French nation. That which I think will be
obvious to M. de Cussy, as it is to me, is that we should at once
invade Spanish Hispaniola and reduce the whole of this fruitful and
splendid island into the possession of the King of France."
"That may follow," said M. de Rivarol. "It is my wish that we begin
"You mean, sir, that we are to sail across the Caribbean on an
adventurous expedition, neglecting that which lies here at our very
door. In our absence, a Spanish invasion of French Hispaniola is
possible. If we begin by reducing the Spaniards here, that
possibility will be removed. We shall have added to the Crown of
France the most coveted possession in the West Indies. The
enterprise offers no particular difficulty; it may be speedily
accomplished, and once accomplished, it would be time to look
farther afield. That would seem the logical order in which this
campaign should proceed."
He ceased, and there was silence. M. de Rivarol sat back in his
chair, the feathered end of a quill between his teeth. Presently
he cleared his throat and asked a question.
"Is there anybody else who shares Captain Blood's opinion?"
None answered him. His own officers were overawed by him; Blood's
followers naturally preferred Cartagena, because offering the
greater chance of loot. Loyalty to their leader kept them silent.
"You seem to be alone in your opinion," said the Baron with his
Captain Blood laughed outright. He had suddenly read the Baron's
mind. His airs and graces and haughtiness had so imposed upon Blood
that it was only now that at last he saw through them, into the
fellow's peddling spirit. Therefore he laughed; there was really
nothing else to do. But his laughter was charged with more anger
even than contempt. He had been deluding himself that he had done
with piracy. The conviction that this French service was free of
any taint of that was the only consideration that had induced him
to accept it. Yet here was this haughty, supercilious gentleman,
who dubbed himself General of the Armies of France, proposing a
plundering, thieving raid which, when stripped of its mean,
transparent mask of legitimate warfare, was revealed as piracy of
the most flagrant.
M. de Rivarol, intrigued by his mirth, scowled upon him
"Why do you laugh, monsieur?"
"Because I discover here an irony that is supremely droll. You, M.
le Baron, General of the King's Armies by Land and Sea in America,
propose an enterprise of a purely buccaneering character; whilst
I, the buccaneer, am urging one that is more concerned with upholding
the honour of France. You perceive how droll it is."
M. de Rivarol perceived nothing of the kind. M. de Rivarol in fact
was extremely angry. He bounded to his feet, and every man in the
room rose with him - save only M. de Cussy, who sat on with a grim
smile on his lips. He, too, now read the Baron like an open book,
and reading him despised him.
"M. le filibustier," cried Rivarol in a thick voice, "it seems that
I must again remind you that I am your superior officer."
"My superior officer! You! Lord of the World! Why, you are just
a common pirate! But you shall hear the truth for once, and that
before all these gentlemen who have the honour to serve the King
of France. It is for me, a buccaneer, a sea-robber, to stand here
and tell you what is in the interest of French honour and the
French Crown. Whilst you, the French King's appointed General,
neglecting this, are for spending the King's resources against an
outlying settlement of no account, shedding French blood in seizing
a place that cannot be held, only because it has been reported to
you that there is much gold in Cartagena, and that the plunder of
it will enrich you. It is worthy of the huckster who sought to
haggle with us about our share, and to beat us down after the
articles pledging you were already signed. If I am wrong - let
M. de Cussy say so. If I am wrong, let me be proven wrong, and I
will beg your pardon. Meanwhile, monsieur, I withdraw from this
council. I will have no further part in your deliberations. I
accepted the service of the King of France with intent to honour
that service. I cannot honour that service by lending countenance
to a waste of life and resources in raids upon unimportant
settlements, with plunder for their only object. The responsibility
for such decisions must rest with you, and with you alone. I desire
M. de Cussy to report me to the Ministers of France. For the rest,
monsieur, it merely remains for you to give me your orders. I await
them aboard my ship - and anything else, of a personal nature, that
you may feel I have provoked by the terms I have felt compelled to
use in this council. M. le Baron, I have the honour to wish you
He stalked out, and his three captains - although they thought him
mad - rolled after him in loyal silence.
M. de Rivarol was gasping like a landed fish. The stark truth had
robbed him of speech. When he recovered, it was to thank Heaven
vigorously that the council was relieved by Captain Blood's own act
of that gentleman's further participation in its deliberations.
Inwardly M. de Rivarol burned with shame and rage. The mask had been
plucked from him, and he had been held up to scorn - he, the General
of the King's Armies by Sea and Land in America.
Nevertheless, it was to Cartagena that they sailed in the middle of
March. Volunteers and negroes had brought up the forces directly
under M. de Rivarol to twelve hundred men. With these he thought
he could keep the buccaneer contingent in order and submissive.
They made up an imposing fleet, led by M. de Rivarol's flagship, the
Victorieuse, a mighty vessel of eighty guns. Each of the four other
French ships was at least as powerful as Blood's Arabella, which
was of forty guns. Followed the lesser buccaneer vessels, the
Elizabeth, Lachesis, and Atropos, and a dozen frigates laden with
stores, besides canoes and small craft in tow.
Narrowly they missed the Jamaica fleet with Colonel Bishop, which
sailed north for Tortuga two days after the Baron de Rivarol's
Having crossed the Caribbean in the teeth of contrary winds, it was
not until the early days of April that the French fleet hove in sight
of Cartagena, and M. de Rivarol summoned a council aboard his
flagship to determine the method of assault.
"It is of importance, messieurs," he told them, "that we take the
city by surprise, not only before it can put itself into a state of
defence; but before it can remove its treasures inland. I propose
to land a force sufficient to achieve this to the north of the city
to-night after dark." And he explained in detail the scheme upon
which his wits had laboured.
He was heard respectfully and approvingly by his officers, scornfully
by Captain Blood, and indifferently by the other buccaneer captains
present. For it must be understood that Blood's refusal to attend
councils had related only to those concerned with determining the
nature of the enterprise to he undertaken.
Captain Blood was the only one amongst them who knew exactly what
lay ahead. Two years ago he had himself considered a raid upon the
place, and he had actually made a survey of it in circumstances
which he was presently to disclose.
The Baron's proposal was one to be expected from a commander whose
knowledge of Cartagena was only such as might be derived from maps.
Geographically and strategically considered, it is a curious place.
It stands almost four-square, screened east and north by hills, and
it may be said to face south upon the inner of two harbours by which
it is normally approached. The entrance to the outer harbour, which
is in reality a lagoon some three miles across, lies through a neck
known as the Boca Chica - or Little Mouth - and defended by a fort.
A long strip of densely wooded land to westward acts here as a
natural breakwater, and as the inner harbour is approached, another
strip of land thrusts across at right angles from the first, towards
the mainland on the east. Just short of this it ceases, leaving a
deep but very narrow channel, a veritable gateway, into the secure
and sheltered inner harbour. Another fort defends this second
passage. East and north of Cartagena lies the mainland, which may
be left out of account. But to the west and northwest this city,
so well guarded on every other side, lies directly open to the sea.
It stands back beyond a half-mile of beach, and besides this and
the stout Walls which fortify it, would appear to have no other
defences. But those appearances are deceptive, and they had
utterly deceived M. de Rivarol, when he devised his plan.
It remained for Captain Blood to explain the difficulties when M.
de Rivarol informed him that the honour of opening the assault in
the manner which he prescribed was to be accorded to the buccaneers.
Captain Blood smiled sardonic appreciation of the honour reserved
for his men. It was precisely what he would have expected. For
the buccaneers the dangers; for M. de Rivarol the honour, glory and
profit of the enterprise.
"It is an honour which I must decline," said he quite coldly.
Wolverstone grunted approval and Hagthorpe nodded. Yberville, who
as much as any of them resented the superciliousness of his noble
compatriot, never wavered in loyalty to Captain Blood. The French
officers - there were six of them present - stared their haughty
surprise at the buccaneer leader, whilst the Baron challengingly
fired a question at him.
"How? You decline it, 'sir? You decline to obey orders, do you say?"
"I understood, M. le Baron, that you summoned us to deliberate upon
the means to be adopted."
"Then you understood amiss, M. le Capitaine. You are here to receive
my commands. I have already deliberated, and I have decided. I hope
"Oh, I understand," laughed Blood. "But, I ask myself, do you?"
And without giving the Baron time to set the angry question that
was bubbling to his lips, he swept on: "You have deliberated, you
say, and you have decided. But unless your decision rests upon a
wish to destroy my buccaneers, you will alter it when I tell you
something of which I have knowledge. This city of Cartagena looks
very vulnerable on the northern side, all open to the sea as it
apparently stands. Ask yourself, M. le Baron, how came the Spaniards
who built it where it is to have been at such trouble to fortify it
to the south, if from the north it is so easily assailable."
That gave M. de Rivarol pause.
"The Spaniards," Blood pursued, "are not quite the fools you are
supposing them. Let me tell you, messieurs, that two years ago I made
a survey of Cartagena as a preliminary to raiding it. I came hither
with some friendly trading Indians, myself disguised as an Indian,
and in that guise I spent a week in the city and studied carefully
all its approaches. On the side of the sea where it looks so
temptingly open to assault, there is shoal water for over half a
mile out - far enough out, I assure you, to ensure that no ship
shall come within bombarding range of it. It is not safe to venture
nearer land than three quarters of a mile."
"But our landing will be effected in canoes and piraguas and open
boats," cried an officer impatiently.
"In the calmest season of the year, the surf will hinder any such
operation. And you will also bear in mind that if landing were
possible as you are suggesting, that landing could not be covered by
the ships' guns. In fact, it is the landing parties would be in
danger from their own artillery."
"If the attack is made by night, as I propose, covering will be
unnecessary. You should be ashore in force before the Spaniards are
aware of the intent."
"You are assuming that Cartagena is a city of the blind, that at
this very moment they are not conning our sails and asking themselves
who we are and what we intend."
"But if they feel themselves secure from the north, as you suggest,"
cried the Baron impatiently, "that very security will lull them."
"Perhaps. But, then, they are secure. Any attempt to land on this
side is doomed to failure at the hands of Nature."
"Nevertheless, we make the attempt," said the obstinate Baron, whose
haughtiness would not allow him to yield before his officers.
"If you still choose to do so after what I have said, you are,
of course, the person to decide. But I do not lead my men into
"If I command you..." the Baron was beginning. But Blood
unceremoniously interrupted him.
"M. le Baron, when M. de Cussy engaged us on your behalf, it was as
much on account of our knowledge and experience of this class of
warfare as on account of our strength. I have placed my own
knowledge and experience in this particular matter at your disposal.
I will add that I abandoned my own project of raiding Cartagena, not
being in sufficient strength at the time to force the entrance of the
harbour, which is the only way into the city. The strength which you
now command is ample for that purpose."
"But whilst we are doing that, the Spaniards will have time to
remove great part of the wealth this city holds. We must take them
Captain Blood shrugged. "If this is a mere pirating raid, that, of
course, is a prime consideration. It was with me. But if you are
concerned to abate the pride of Spain and plant the Lilies of France
on the forts of this settlement, the loss of some treasure should
not really weigh for much."
M. de Rivarol bit his lip in chagrin. His gloomy eye smouldered as
it considered the self-contained buccaneer.
"But if I command you to go - to make the attempt?" he asked.
"Answer me, monsieur, let us know once for all where we stand,
and who commands this expedition."
"Positively, I find you tiresome," said Captain Blood, and he
swung to M. de Cussy, who sat there gnawing his lip, intensely
uncomfortable. "I appeal to you, monsieur, to justify me to the
M. de Cussy started out of his gloomy abstraction. He cleared his
throat. He was extremely nervous.
"In view of what Captain Blood has submitted...."
"Oh, to the devil with that!" snapped Rivarol. "It seems that I am
followed by poltroons. Look you, M. le Capitaine, since you are
afraid to undertake this thing, I will myself undertake it. The
weather is calm, and I count upon making good my landing. If I do
so, I shall have proved you wrong, and I shall have a word to say to
you to-morrow which you may not like. I am being very generous with
you, sir. He waved his hand regally. "You have leave to go."
It was sheer obstinacy and empty pride that drove him, and he
received the lesson he deserved. The fleet stood in during the
afternoon to within a mile of the coast, and under cover of darkness
three hundred men, of whom two hundred were negroes - the whole of
the negro contingent having been pressed into the undertaking - were
pulled away for the shore in the canoes, piraguas, and ships' boats.
Rivarol's pride compelled him, however much he may have disliked
the venture, to lead them in person.
The first six boats were caught in the surf, and pounded into
fragments before their occupants could extricate themselves. The
thunder of the breakers and the cries of the shipwrecked warned
those who followed, and thereby saved them from sharing the same
fate. By the Baron's urgent orders they pulled away again out of
danger, and stood about to pick up such survivors as contrived to
battle towards them. Close upon fifty lives were lost in the
adventure, together with half-a-dozen boats stored with ammunition
and light guns.
The Baron went back to his flagship an infuriated, but by no means
a wiser man. Wisdom - not even the pungent wisdom experience
thrusts upon us - is not for such as M. de Rivarol. His anger
embraced all things, but focussed chiefly upon Captain Blood.
In some warped process of reasoning he held the buccaneer chiefly
responsible for this misadventure. He went to bed considering
furiously what he should say to Captain Blood upon the morrow.
He was awakened at dawn by the rolling thunder of guns. Emerging
upon the poop in nightcap and slippers, he beheld a sight that
increased his unreasonable and unreasoning fury. The four buccaneer
ships under canvas were going through extraordinary manoeuvre half
a mile off the Boca Chica and little more than half a mile away
from the remainder of the fleet, and from their flanks flame and
smoke were belching each time they swung broadside to the great
round fort that guarded that narrow entrance. The fort was
returning the fire vigorously and viciously. But the buccaneers
timed their broadsides with extraordinary judgment to catch the
defending ordnance reloading; then as they drew the Spaniards'
fire, they swung away again not only taking care to be ever moving
targets, but, further, to present no more than bow or stern to the
fort, their masts in line, when the heaviest cannonades were to be
Gibbering and cursing, M. de Rivarol stood there and watched this
action, so presumptuously undertaken by Blood on his own
responsibility. The officers of the Victorieuse crowded round him,
but it was not until M. de Cussy came to join the group that he
opened the sluices of his rage. And M. de Cussy himself invited the
deluge that now caught him. He had come up rubbing his hands and
taking a proper satisfaction in the energy of the men whom he had
"Aha, M. de Rivarol!" he laughed. "He understands his business, eh,
this Captain Blood. He'll plant the Lilies of France on that fort
The Baron swung upon him snarling. "He understands his business,
eh? His business, let me tell you, M. de Cussy, is to obey my
orders, and I have not ordered this. Par la Mordieu! When this
is over I'll deal with him for his damned insubordination."
"Surely, M. le Baron, he will have justified it if he succeeds."
"Justified it! Ah, parbleu! Can a soldier ever justify acting
without orders?" He raved on furiously, his officers supporting
him out of their detestation of Captain Blood.
Meanwhile the fight went merrily on. The fort was suffering badly.
Yet for all their manoeuvring the buccaneers were not escaping
punishment. The starboard gunwale of the Atropos had been hammered
into splinters, and a shot had caught her astern in the coach. The
Elizabeth was badly battered about the forecastle, and the Arabella's
maintop had been shot away, whilst' towards the end of that
engagement the Lachesis came reeling out of the fight with a
shattered rudder, steering herself by sweeps.
The absurd Baron's fierce eyes positively gleamed with satisfaction.
"I pray Heaven they may sink all his infernal ships!" he cried in
But Heaven didn't hear him. Scarcely had he spoken than there was
a terrific explosion, and half the fort went up in fragments. A
lucky shot from the buccaneers had found the powder magazine.
It may have been a couple of hours later, when Captain Blood, as
spruce and cool as if he had just come from a levee, stepped upon
the quarter-deck of the Victoriense, to confront M. de Rivarol,
still in bedgown and nightcap.
"I have to report, M. le Baron, that we are in possession of the
fort on Boca Chica. The standard of France is flying from what
remains of its tower, and the way into the outer harbour is open
to your fleet."
M. de Rivarol was compelled to swallow his fury, though it choked
him. The jubilation among his officers had been such that he could
not continue as he had begun. Yet his eyes were malevolent, his
face pale with anger.
"You are fortunate, M. Blood, that you succeeded," he said. "It
would have gone very ill with you had you failed. Another time be
so good as to await my orders, lest you should afterwards lack the
justification which your good fortune has procured you this morning."
Blood smiled with a flash of white teeth, and bowed. "I shall be
glad of your orders now, General, for pursuing our advantage. You
realize that speed in striking is the first essential."
Rivarol was left gaping a moment. Absorbed in his ridiculous anger,
he had considered nothing. But he made a quick recovery. "To my
cabin, if you please," he commanded peremptorily, and was turning
to lead the way, when Blood arrested him.
"With submission, my General, we shall be better here. You behold
there the scene of our coming action. It is spread before you like
a map." He waved his hand towards the lagoon, the country flanking
it and the considerable city standing back from the beach. "If it
is not a presumption in me to offer a suggestion...." He paused.
M. de Rivarol looked at him sharply, suspecting irony. But the
swarthy face was bland, the keen eyes steady.
"Let us hear your suggestion," he consented.
Blood pointed out the fort at the mouth of the inner harbour, which
was just barely visible above the waving palms on the intervening
tongue of land. He announced that its armament was less formidable
than that of the outer fort, which they had reduced; but on the
other hand, the passage was very much narrower than the Boca Chica,
and before they could attempt to make it in any case, they must
dispose of those defences. He proposed that the French ships should
enter the outer harbour, and proceed at once to bombardment.
Meanwhile, he would land three hundred buccaneers and some artillery
on the eastern side of the lagoon, beyond the fragrant garden islands
dense with richly bearing fruit-trees, and proceed simultaneously to
storm the fort in the rear. Thus beset on both sides at once, and
demoralized by the fate of the much stronger outer fort, he did not
think the Spaniards would offer a very long resistance. Then it
would be for M. de Rivarol to garrison the fort, whilst Captain
Blood would sweep on with his men, and seize the Church of Nuestra
Senora de la Poupa, plainly visible on its hill immediately eastward
of the town. Not only did that eminence afford them a valuable and
obvious strategic advantage, but it commanded the only road that
led from Cartagena to the interior, and once it were held there
would be no further question of the Spaniards attempting to remove
the wealth of the city.
That to M. de Rivarol was - as Captain Blood had judged that it
would be - the crowning argument. Supercilious until that moment,
and disposed for his own pride's sake to treat the buccaneer's
suggestions with cavalier criticism, M. de Rivarol's manner suddenly
changed. He became alert and brisk, went so far as tolerantly to
commend Captain Blood's plan, and issued orders that action might
be taken upon it at once.
It is not necessary to follow that action step by step. Blunders
on the part of the French marred its smooth execution, and the
indifferent handling of their ships led to the sinking of two of
them in the course of the afternoon by the fort's gunfire. But
by evening, owing largely to the irresistible fury with which the
buccaneers stormed the place from the landward side, the fort had
surrendered, and before dusk Blood and his men with some ordnance
hauled thither by mules dominated the city from the heights of
Nuestra Senora de la Poupa.
At noon on the morrow, shorn of defences and threatened with
bombardment, Cartagena sent offers of surrender to M. de Rivarol.
Swollen with pride by a victory for which he took the entire credit
to himself, the Baron dictated his terms. He demanded that all
public effects and office accounts be delivered up; that the
merchants surrender all moneys and goods held by them for their
correspondents; the inhabitants could choose whether they would
remain in the city or depart; but those who went must first deliver
up all their property, and those who elected to remain must surrender
half, and become the subjects of France; religious houses and
churches should be spared, but they must render accounts of all
moneys and valuables in their possession.
Cartagena agreed, having no choice in the matter, and on the next
day, which was the 5th of April, M. de Rivarol entered the city and
proclaimed it now a French colony, appointing M. de Cussy its
Governor. Thereafter he proceeded to the Cathedral, where very
properly a Te Deum was sung in honour of the conquest. This by way
of grace, whereafter M. de Rivarol proceeded to devour the city.
The only detail in which the French conquest of Cartagena differed
from an ordinary buccaneering raid was that under the severest
penalties no soldier was to enter the house of any inhabitant.
But this apparent respect for the persons and property of the
conquered was based in reality upon M. de Rivarol's anxiety lest a
doubloon should be abstracted from all the wealth that was pouring
into the treasury opened by the Baron in the name of the King of
France. Once the golden stream had ceased, he removed all
restrictions and left the city in prey to his men, who proceeded
further to pillage it of that part of their property which the
inhabitants who became French subjects had been assured should
remain inviolate. The plunder was enormous. In the course of four
days over a hundred mules laden with gold went out of the city and
down to the boats waiting at the beach to convey the treasure aboard
THE HONOUR OF M. DE RIVAROL
During the capitulation and for some time after, Captain Blood and
the greater portion of his buccaneers had been at their post on the
heights of Nuestra Senora de la Poupa, utterly in ignorance of what
was taking place. Blood, although the man chiefly, if not solely,
responsible for the swift reduction of the city, which was proving
a veritable treasure-house, was not even shown the consideration
of being called to the council of officers which with M. de Rivarol
determined the terms of the capitulation.
This was a slight that at another time Captain Blood would not have
borne for a moment. But at present, in his odd frame of mind, and
its divorcement from piracy, he was content to smile his utter
contempt of the French General. Not so, however, his captains, and
still less his men. Resentment smouldered amongst them for a while,
to flame out violently at the end of that week in Cartagena. It was
only by undertaking to voice their grievance to the Baron that their
captain was able for the moment to pacify them. That done, he went
at once in quest of M. de Rivarol.
He found him in the offices which the Baron had set up in the town,
with a staff of clerks to register the treasure brought in and to
cast up the surrendered account-books, with a view to ascertaining
precisely what were the sums yet to be delivered up. The Baron
sat there scrutinizing ledgers, like a city merchant, and checking
figures to make sure that all was correct to the last peso. A
choice occupation this for the General of the King's Armies by
Sea and Land. He looked up irritated by the interruption which
Captain Blood's advent occasioned.
"M. le Baron," the latter greeted him. "I must speak frankly; and
you must suffer it. My men are on the point of mutiny."
M. de Rivarol considered him with a faint lift of the eyebrows.
"Captain Blood, I, too, will speak frankly; and you, too, must
suffer it. If there is a mutiny, you and your captains shall be
held personally responsible. The mistake you make is in assuming
with me the tone of an ally, whereas I have given you clearly to
understand from the first that you are simply in the position of
having accepted service under me. Your proper apprehension of
that fact will save the waste of a deal of words."
Blood contained himself with difficulty. One of these fine days,
he felt, that for the sake of humanity he must slit the comb of
this supercilious, arrogant cockerel.
"You may define our positions as you please," said he. "But I'll
remind you that the nature of a thing is not changed by the name
you give it. I am concerned with facts; chiefly with the fact
that we entered into definite articles with you. Those articles
provide for a certain distribution of the spoil. My men demand it.
They are not satisfied."
"Of what are they not satisfied?" demanded the Baron.
"Of your honesty, M. de Rivarol."
A blow in the face could scarcely have taken the Frenchman more
aback. He stiffened, and drew himself up, his eyes blazing, his
face of a deathly pallor. The clerks at the tables laid down their
pens, and awaited the explosion in a sort of terror.
For a long moment there was silence. Then the great gentleman
delivered himself in a voice of concentrated anger. "Do you really
dare so much, you and the dirty thieves that follow you? God's
Blood! You shall answer to me for that word, though it entail
a yet worse dishonour to meet you. Faugh!"
"I will remind you," said Blood, "that I am speaking not for myself,
but for my men. It is they who are not satisfied, they who threaten
that unless satisfaction is afforded them, and promptly, they will
"Take it?" said Rivarol, trembling in his rage. "Let them attempt
"Now don't be rash. My men are within their rights, as you are
aware. They demand to know when this sharing of the spoil is to
take place, and when they are to receive the fifth for which their
"God give me patience! How can we share the spoil before it has
been completely gathered?"
"My men have reason to believe that it is gathered; and, anyway,
they view with mistrust that it should all be housed aboard your
ships, and remain in your possession. They say that hereafter
there will be no ascertaining what the spoil really amounts to."
"But - name of Heaven! - I have kept books. They are there for
all to see."
"They do not wish to see account-books. Few of them can read.
They want to view the treasure itself. They know - you compel me
to be blunt - that the accounts have been falsified. Your books
show the spoil of Cartagena to amount to some ten million livres.
The men know - and they are very skilled in these computations -
that it exceeds the enormous total of forty millions. They insist
that the treasure itself be produced and weighed in their presence,
as is the custom among the Brethren of the Coast."
"I know nothing of filibuster customs." The gentleman was
"But you are learning quickly."
"What do you mean, you rogue? I am a leader of armies, not of
"Oh, but of course!" Blood's irony laughed in his eyes. "Yet,
whatever you may be, I warn you that unless you yield to a demand
that I consider just and therefore uphold, you may look for trouble,
and it would not surprise me if you never leave Cartagena at all,
nor convey a single gold piece home to France."
"Ah, pardieu! Am I to understand that you are threatening me?"
"Come, come, M. le Baron! I warn you of the trouble that a little
prudence may avert. You do not know on what a volcano you are
sitting. You do not know the ways of buccaneers. If you persist,
Cartagena will be drenched in blood, and whatever the outcome the
King of France will not have been well served."
That shifted the basis of the argument to less hostile ground.
Awhile yet it continued, to be concluded at last by an ungracious
undertaking from M. de Rivarol to submit to the demands of the
buccaneers. He gave it with an extreme ill-grace, and only
because Blood made him realize at last that to withhold it longer
would be dangerous. In an engagement, he might conceivably defeat
Blood's followers. But conceivably he might not. And even if he
succeeded, the effort would be so costly to him in men that he
might not thereafter find himself in sufficient strength to
maintain his hold of what he had seized.
The end of it all was that he gave a promise at once to make the
necessary preparations, and if Captain Blood and his officers would
wait upon him on board the Victorieuse to-morrow morning, the
treasure should be produced, weighed in their presence, and their
fifth share surrendered there and then into their own keeping.
Among the buccaneers that night there was hilarity over the sudden
abatement of M. de Rivarol's monstrous pride. But when the next
dawn broke over Cartagena, they had the explanation of it. The
only ships to be seen in the harbour were the Arabella and the
Elizabeth riding at anchor, and the Atropos and the Lachesis
careened on the beach for repair of the damage sustained in the
bombardment. The French ships were gone. They had been quietly
and secretly warped out of the harbour under cover of night, and
three sails, faint and small, on the horizon to westward was all
that remained to be seen of them. The absconding M. de Rivarol
had gone off with the treasure, taking with him the troops and
mariners he had brought from France. He had left behind him at
Cartagena not only the empty-handed buccaneers, whom he had
swindled, but also M. de Cussy and the volunteers and negroes
from Hispaniola, whom he had swindled no less.
The two parties were fused into one by their common fury, and
before the exhibition of it the inhabitants of that ill-fated
town were stricken with deeper terror than they had yet known
since the coming of this expedition.
Captain Blood alone kept his head, setting a curb upon his deep
chagrin. He had promised himself that before parting from M. de
Rivarol he would present a reckoning for all the petty affronts
and insults to which that unspeakable fellow - now proved a
scoundrel - had subjected him.
"We must follow," he declared. "Follow and punish."
At first that was the general cry. Then came the consideration
that only two of the buccaneer ships were seaworthy - and these
could not accommodate the whole force, particularly being at the
moment indifferently victualled for a long voyage. The crews of
the Lachesis and Atropos and with them their captains, Wolverstone
and Yberville, renounced the intention. After all, there would be
a deal of treasure still hidden in Cartagena. They would remain
behind to extort it whilst fitting their ships for sea. Let Blood
and Hagthorpe and those who sailed with them do as they pleased.
Then only did Blood realize the rashness of his proposal, and in
attempting to draw back he almost precipitated a battle between
the two parties into which that same proposal had now divided the
buccaneers. And meanwhile those French sails on the horizon were
growing less and less. Blood was reduced to despair. If he went
off now, Heaven knew what would happen to the town, the temper of
those whom he was leaving being what it was. Yet if he remained,
it would simply mean that his own and Hagthorpe's crews would
join in the saturnalia and increase the hideousness of events now
inevitable. Unable to reach a decision, his own men and Hagthorpe's
took the matter off his hands, eager to give chase to Rivarol. Not
only was a dastardly cheat to be punished but an enormous treasure
to be won by treating as an enemy this French commander who, himself,
had so villainously broken the alliance.
When Blood, torn as he was between conflicting considerations, still
hesitated, they bore him almost by main force aboard the Arabella.
Within an hour, the water-casks at least replenished and stowed
aboard, the Arabella and the Elizabeth put to sea upon that angry
"When we were well at sea, and the Arabella's course was laid,"
writes Pitt, in his log, "I went to seek the Captain, knowing him
to be in great trouble of mind over these events. I found him
sitting alone in his cabin, his head in his hands, torment in the
eyes that stared straight before him, seeing nothing."
"What now, Peter?" cried the young Somerset mariner. "Lord, man,
what is there here to fret you? Surely 't isn't the thought of
"No," said Blood thickly. And for once he was communicative. It
may well be that he must vent the thing that oppressed him or be
driven mad by it. And Pitt, after all, was his friend and loved
him, and, so, a proper man for confidences. "But if she knew! If
she knew! 0 God! I had thought to have done with piracy; thought
to have done with it for ever. Yet here have I been committed by
this scoundrel to the worst piracy that ever I was guilty of.
Think of Cartagena! Think of the hell those devils will be making
of it now! And I must have that on my soul!"
"Nay, Peter- 't isn't on your soul; but on Rivarol's. It is that
dirty thief who has brought all this about. What could you have
done to prevent it?"
"I would have stayed if it could have availed."
"It could not, and you know it. So why repine?"
"There is more than that to it," groaned Blood. "What now? What
remains? Loyal service with the English was made impossible for me.
Loyal service with France has led to this; and that is equally
impossible hereafter. What to live clean, I believe the only thing
is to go and offer my sword to the King of Spain."
But something remained - the last thing that he could have expected
- something towards which they were rapidly sailing over the
tropical, sunlit sea. All this against which he now inveighed so
bitterly was but a necessary stage in the shaping of his odd destiny.
Setting a course for Hispaniola, since they judged that thither
must Rivarol go to refit before attempting to cross to France,
the Arabella and the Elizabeth ploughed briskly northward with a
moderately favourable wind for two days and nights without ever
catching a glimpse of their quarry. The third dawn brought with
it a haze which circumscribed their range of vision to something
between two and three miles, and deepened their growing vexation
and their apprehension that M. de Rivarol might escape them
Their position then - according to Pitt's log - was approximately
75 deg. 30' W. Long. by 17 deg. 45' N. Lat., so that they had Jamaica
on their larboard beam some thirty miles to westward, and, indeed,
away to the northwest, faintly visible as a bank of clouds, appeared
the great ridge of the Blue Mountains whose peaks were thrust into
the clear upper air above the low-lying haze. The wind, to which
they were sailing very close, was westerly, and it bore to their ears
a booming sound which in less experienced ears might have passed for
the breaking of surf upon a lee shore.
"Guns!" said Pitt, who stood with Blood upon the quarter-deck.
Blood nodded, listening.
"Ten miles away, perhaps fifteen - somewhere off Port Royal, I should
judge," Pitt added. Then he looked at his captain. "Does it concern
us?" he asked.
"Guns off Port Royal... that should argue Colonel Bishop at work.
And against whom should he be in action but against friends of ours
I think it may concern us. Anyway, we'll stand in to investigate.
Bid them put the helm over."
Close-hauled they tacked aweather, guided by the sound of combat,
which grew in volume and definition as they approached it. Thus
for an hour, perhaps. Then, as, telescope to his eye, Blood raked
the haze, expecting at any moment to behold the battling ships,
the guns abruptly ceased.
They held to their course, nevertheless, with all hands on deck,
eagerly, anxiously scanning the sea ahead. And presently an object
loomed into view, which soon defined itself for a great ship on
fire. As the Arabella with the Elizabeth following closely raced
nearer on their north-westerly tack, the outlines of the blazing
vessel grew clearer. Presently her masts stood out sharp and black
above the smoke and flames, and through his telescope Blood made out
plainly the pennon of St. George fluttering from her maintop.
"An English ship!" he cried.
He scanned the seas for the conqueror in the battle of which this
grim evidence was added to that of the sounds they had heard, and
when at last, as they drew closer to the doomed vessel, they made
out the shadowy outlines of three tall ships, some three or four
miles away, standing in toward Port Royal, the first and natural
assumption was that these ships must belong to the Jamaica fleet,
and that the burning vessel was a defeated buccaneer, and because
of this they sped on to pick up the three boats that were standing
away from the blazing hulk. But Pitt, who through the telescope
was examining the receding squadron, observed things apparent
only to the eye of the trained mariner, and made the incredible
announcement that the largest of these three vessels was Rivarol's
They took in sail and hove to as they came up with the drifting
boats, laden to capacity with survivors. And there were others
adrift on some of the spars and wreckage with which the sea was
strewn, who must be rescued.
THE SERVICE OF KING WILLIAM
One of the boats bumped alongside the Arabella, and up the entrance
ladder came first a slight, spruce little gentleman in a coat of
mulberry satin laced with gold, whose wizened, yellow, rather
peevish face was framed in a heavy black periwig. His modish and
costly apparel had nowise suffered by the adventure through which
he had passed, and he carried himself with the easy assurance of
a man of rank. Here, quite clearly, was no buccaneer. He was
closely followed by one who in every particular, save that of
age, was his physical opposite, corpulent in a brawny, vigorous
way, with a full, round, weather-beaten face whose mouth was
humourous and whose eyes were blue and twinkling. He was well
dressed without fripperies, and bore with him an air of vigorous
As the little man stepped from the ladder into the waist, whither
Captain Blood had gone to receive him, his sharp, ferrety dark
eyes swept the uncouth ranks of the assembled crew of the Arabella.
"And where the devil may I be now?" he demanded irritably. "Are you
English, or what the devil are you?"
"Myself, I have the honour to be Irish, sir. My name is Blood
- Captain Peter Blood, and this is my ship the Arabella, all very
much at your service.
"Blood!" shrilled the little man. "0 'Sblood! A pirate!" He swung
to the Colossus who followed him - "A damned pirate, van der Kuylen.
Rend my vitals, but we're come from Scylla to Charybdis."
"So?" said the other gutturally, and again, "So?" Then the humour
of it took him, and he yielded to it.
"Damme! What's to laugh at, you porpoise?" spluttered mulberry-coat.
"A fine tale this'll make at home! Admiral van der Kuylen first
loses his fleet in the night, then has his flagship fired under him
by a French squadron, and ends all by being captured by a pirate.
I'm glad you find it matter for laughter. Since for my sins I
happen to be with you, I'm damned if I do."
"There's a misapprehension, if I may make so bold as to point it
out," put in Blood quietly. "You are not captured, gentlemen; you
are rescued. When you realize it, perhaps it will occur to you to
acknowledge the hospitality I am offering you. It may be poor, but
it is the best at my disposal."
The fierce little gentleman stared at him. "Damme! Do you permit
yourself to be ironical?" he disapproved him, and possibly with a
view to correcting any such tendency, proceeded to introduce himself.
"I am Lord Willoughby, King William's Governor-General of the West
Indies, and this is Admiral van der Kuylen, commander of His
Majesty's West Indian fleet, at present mislaid somewhere in this
damned Caribbean Sea."
"King William?" quoth Blood, and he was conscious that Pitt and
Dyke, who were behind him, now came edging nearer, sharing his own
wonder. "And who may be King William, and of what may he be King?"
"What's that?" In a wonder greater than his own, Lord Willoughby
stared back at him. At last: "I am alluding to His Majesty King
William III - William of Orange - who, with Queen Mary, has been
ruling England for two months and more."
There was a moment's silence, until Blood realized what he was
"D'ye mean, sir, that they've roused themselves at home, and kicked
out that scoundrel James and his gang of ruffians?"
Admiral van der Kuylen nudged his lordship, a humourous twinkle in
his blue eyes.
"His bolitics are fery sound, I dink," he growled.
His lordship's smile brought lines like gashes into his leathery
cheeks. "'Slife! hadn't you heard? Where the devil have you
been at all?"
"Out of touch with the world for the last three months," said Blood.
"Stab me! You must have been. And in that three months the world
has undergone some changes." Briefly he added an account of them.
King James was fled to France, and living under the protection of
King Louis, wherefore, and for other reasons, England had joined
the league against her, and was now at war with France. That was
how it happened that the Dutch Admiral's flagship had been
attacked by M. de Rivarol's fleet that morning, from which it
clearly followed that in his voyage from Cartagena, the Frenchman
must have spoken some ship that gave him the news.
After that, with renewed assurances that aboard his ship they
should be honourably entreated, Captain Blood led the
Governor-General and the Admiral to his cabin, what time the work
of rescue went on. The news he had received had set Blood's mind
in a turmoil. If King James was dethroned and banished, there was
an end to his own outlawry for his alleged share in an earlier
attempt to drive out that tyrant. It became possible for him to
return home and take up his life again at the point where it was
so unfortunately interrupted four years ago. He was dazzled by
the prospect so abruptly opened out to him. The thing so filled
his mind, moved him so deeply, that he must afford it expression.
In doing so, he revealed of himself more than he knew or intended
to the astute little gentleman who watched him so keenly the while.
"Go home, if you will," said his lordship, when Blood paused.
"You may be sure that none will harass you on the score of your
piracy, considering what it was that drove you to it. But why be
in haste? We have heard of you, to be sure, and we know of what
you are capable upon the seas. Here is a great chance for you,
since you declare yourself sick of piracy. Should you choose to
serve King William out here during this war, your knowledge of
the West Indies should render you a very valuable servant to His
Majesty's Government, which you would not find ungrateful. You
should consider it. Damme, sir, I repeat: it is a great chance
you are given.
"That your lordship gives me," Blood amended, "I am very grateful.
But at the moment, I confess, I can consider nothing but this great
news. It alters the shape of the world. I must accustom myself
to view it as it now is, before I can determine my own place in it."
Pitt came in to report that the work of rescue was at an end, and
the men picked up - some forty-five in all - safe aboard the two
buccaneer ships. He asked for orders. Blood rose.
"I am negligent of your lordship's concerns in my consideration
of my own. You'll be wishing me to land you at Port Royal."
"At Port Royal?" The little man squirmed wrathfully on his seat.
Wrathfully and at length he informed Blood that they had put into
Port Royal last evening to find its Deputy-Governor absent. "He
had gone on some wild-goose chase to Tortuga after buccaneers,
taking the whole of the fleet with him."
Blood stared in surprise a moment; then yielded to laughter.
"He went, I suppose, before news reached him of the change of
government at home, and the war with France?"
"He did not," snapped Willoughby. "He was informed of both, and
also of my coming before he set out."
"So I should have thought. But I have the information from a Major
Mallard whom I found in Port Royal, apparently governing in this
"But is he mad, to leave his post at such a time?" Blood was amazed.
"Taking the whole fleet with him, pray remember, and leaving the
place open to French attack. That is the sort of Deputy-Governor
that the late Government thought fit to appoint: an epitome of its
misrule, damme! He leaves Port Royal unguarded save by a ramshackle
fort that can be reduced to rubble in an hour. Stab me! It's
The lingering smile faded from Blood's face. "Is Rivarol aware of
this?" he cried sharply.
It was the Dutch Admiral who answered him. "Vould he go dere if
he were not? M. de Rivarol he take some of our men prisoners.
Berhabs dey dell him. Berhabs he make dem tell. Id is a great
His lordship snarled like a mountain-cat. "That rascal Bishop shall
answer for it with his head if there's any mischief done through
this desertion of his post. What if it were deliberate, eh? What
if he is more knave than fool? What if this is his way of serving
King James, from whom he held his office?"
Captain Blood was generous. "Hardly so much. It was just
vindictiveness that urged him. It's myself he's hunting at Tortuga,
my lord. But, I'm thinking that while he's about it, I'd best be
looking after Jamaica for King William." He laughed, with more mirth
than he had used in the last two months.
"Set a course for Port Royal, Jeremy, and make all speed. We'll be
level yet with M. de Rivarol, and wipe off some other scores at the
Both Lord Willoughby and the Admiral were on their feet.
"But you are not equal to it, damme!" cried his lordship. "Any one
of the Frenchman's three ships is a match for both yours, my man."
"In guns - aye," said Blood, and he smiled. "But there's more than
guns that matter in these affairs. If your lordship would like to
see an action fought at sea as an action should be fought, this is
Both stared at him. "But the odds!" his lordship insisted.
"Id is imbossible," said van der Kuylen, shaking his great head.
"Seamanship is imbordand. Bud guns is guns."
"If I can't defeat him, I can sink my own ships in the channel, and
block him in until Bishop gets back from his wild-goose chase with
his squadron, or until your own fleet turns up."
"And what good will that be, pray?" demanded Willoughby.
"I'll be after telling you. Rivarol is a fool to take this chance,
considering what he's got aboard. He carried in his hold the
treasure plundered from Cartagena, amounting to forty million
livres." They jumped at the mention of that colossal sum. "He
has gone into Port Royal with it. Whether he defeats me or not,
he doesn't come out of Port Royal with it again, and sooner or
later that treasure shall find its way into King William's coffers,
after, say, one fifth share shall have been paid to my buccaneers.
Is that agreed, Lord Willoughby?"
His lordship stood up, and shaking back the cloud of lace from his
wrist, held out a delicate white hand.
"Captain Blood, I discover greatness in you," said he.
"Sure it's your lordship has the fine sight to perceive it," laughed
"Yes, yes! Bud how vill you do id?" growled van der Kuylen.
"Come on deck, and it's a demonstration I'll be giving you before
the day's much older."
THE LAST FIGHT OF THE ARABELLA
"VHY do you vait, my friend?" growled van der Kuylen.
"Aye - in God's name!" snapped Willoughby.
It was the afternoon of that same day, and the two buccaneer ships
rocked gently with idly flapping sails under the lee of the long
spit of land forming the great natural harbour of Port Royal, and
less than a mile from the straits leading into it, which the fort
commanded. It was two hours and more since they had brought up
thereabouts, having crept thither unobserved by the city and by M.
de Rivarol's ships, and all the time the air had been aquiver with
the roar of guns from sea and land, announcing that battle was
joined between the French and the defenders of Port Royal. That
long, inactive waiting was straining the nerves of both Lord
Willoughby and van der Kuylen.
"You said you vould show us zome vine dings. Vhere are dese vine
Blood faced them, smiling confidently. He was arrayed for battle,
in back-and-breast of black steel. "I'll not be trying your
patience much longer. Indeed, I notice already a slackening in
the fire. But it's this way, now: there's nothing at all to be
gained by precipitancy, and a deal to be gained by delaying, as
I shall show you, I hope."
Lord Willoughby eyed him suspiciously. "Ye think that in the
meantime Bishop may come back or Admiral van der Kuylen's fleet
"Sure, now, I'm thinking nothing of the kind. What I'm thinking
is that in this engagement with the fort M. de Rivarol, who's a
lubberly fellow, as I've reason to know, will be taking some damage
that may make the odds a trifle more even. Sure, it'll be time
enough to go forward when the fort has shot its bolt."
"Aye, aye!" The sharp approval came like a cough from the little
Governor-General. "I perceive your object, and I believe ye're
entirely right. Ye have the qualities of a great commander, Captain
Blood. I beg your pardon for having misunderstood you."
"And that's very handsome of your lordship. Ye see, I have some
experience of this kind of action, and whilst I'll take any risk
that I must, I'll take none that I needn't. But...." He broke off
to listen. "Aye, I was right. The fire's slackening. It'll mean
the end of Mallard's resistance in the fort. Ho there, Jeremy!"
He leaned on the carved rail and issued orders crisply. The
bo'sun's pipe shrilled out, and in a moment the ship that had
seemed to slumber there, awoke to life. Came the padding of feet
along the decks, the creaking of blocks and the hoisting of sail.
The helm was put over hard, and in a moment they were moving, the
Elizabeth following, ever in obedience to the signals from the
Arabella, whilst Ogle the gunner, whom he had summoned, was
receiving Blood's final instructions before plunging down to his
station on the main deck.
Within a quarter of an hour they had rounded the head, and stood
in to the harbour mouth, within saker shot of Rivarol's three
ships, to which they now abruptly disclosed themselves.
Where the fort had stood they now beheld a smoking rubbish heap,
and the victorious Frenchman with the lily standard trailing
from his mastheads was sweeping forward to snatch the rich prize
whose defences he had shattered.
Blood scanned the French ships, and chuckled. The Victorieuse and
the Medusa appeared to have taken no more than a few scars; but
the third ship, the Baleine, listing heavily to larboard so as
to keep the great gash in her starboard well above water, was
out of account.
"You see!" he cried to van der Kuylen, and without waiting for
the Dutchman's approving grunt, he shouted an order: "Helm,
The sight of that great red ship with her gilt beak-head and open
ports swinging broadside on must have given check to Rivarol's
soaring exultation. Yet before he could move to give an order,
before he could well resolve what order to give, a volcano of
fire and metal burst upon him from the buccaneers, and his decks
were swept by the murderous scythe of the broadside. The Arabella
held to her course, giving place to the Elizabeth, which, following
closely, executed the same manoeuver. And then whilst still the
Frenchmen were confused, panic-stricken by an attack that took them
so utterly by surprise, the Arabella had gone about, and was
returning in her tracks, presenting now her larboard guns, and
loosing her second broadside in the wake of the first. Came yet
another broadside from the Elizabeth and then the Arabella's
trumpeter sent a call across the water, which Hagthorpe perfectly
"On, now, Jeremy!" cried Blood. "Straight into them before they
recover their wits. Stand by, there! Prepare to board! Hayton
... the grapnels! And pass the word to the gunner in the prow
to fire as fast as he can load."
He discarded his feathered hat, and covered himself with a steel
head-piece, which a negro lad brought him. He meant to lead this
boarding-party in person. Briskly he explained himself to his
two guests. "Boarding is our only chance here. We are too
Of this the fullest demonstration followed quickly. The Frenchmen
having recovered their wits at last, both ships swung broadside on,
and concentrating upon the Arabella as the nearer and heavier and
therefore more immediately dangerous of their two opponents,
volleyed upon her jointly at almost the same moment.
Unlike the buccaneers, who had fired high to cripple their enemies
above decks, the French fifed low to smash the hull of their
assailant. The Arabella rocked and staggered under that terrific
hammering, although Pitt kept her headed towards the French so that
she should offer the narrowest target. For a moment she seemed to
hesitate, then she plunged forward again, her beak-head in splinters,
her forecastle smashed, and a gaping hole forward, that was only
just above the water-line. Indeed, to make her safe from bilging,
Blood ordered a prompt jettisoning of the forward guns, anchors,
and water-casks and whatever else was moveable.
Meanwhile, the Frenchmen going about, gave the like reception to
the Elizabeth. The Arabella, indifferently served by the wind,
pressed forward to come to grips. But before she could accomplish
her object, the Victorieuse had loaded her starboard guns again,
and pounded her advancing enemy with a second broadside at close
quarters. Amid the thunder of cannon, the rending of timbers, and
the screams of maimed men, the half-necked Arabella plunged and
reeled into the cloud of smoke that concealed her prey, and then
from Hayton went up the cry that she was going down by the head.
Blood's heart stood still. And then in that very moment of his
despair, the blue and gold flank of the Victorieuse loomed through
the smoke. But even as he caught that enheartening glimpse he
perceived, too, how sluggish now was their advance, and how with
every second it grew more sluggish. They must sink before they
Thus, with an oath, opined the Dutch Admiral, and from Lord
Willoughby there was a word of blame for Blood's seamanship in
having risked all upon this gambler's throw of boarding.
"There was no other chance!" cried Blood, in broken-hearted frenzy.
"If ye say it was desperate and foolhardy, why, so it was; but the
occasion and the means demanded nothing less. I fail within an
ace of victory."
But they had not yet completely failed. Hayton himself, and a
score of sturdy rogues whom his whistle had summoned, were
crouching for shelter amid the wreckage of the forecastle with
grapnels ready. Within seven or eight yards of the Victorieuse,
when their way seemed spent, and their forward deck already awash
under the eyes of the jeering, cheering Frenchmen, those men
leapt up and forward, and hurled their grapnels across the chasm.
Of the four they flung, two reached the Frenchman's decks, and
fastened there. Swift as thought itself, was then the action of
those sturdy, experienced buccaneers. Unhesitatingly all threw
themselves upon the chain of one of those grapnels, neglecting
the other, and heaved upon it with all their might to warp the
ships together. Blood, watching from his own quarter-deck, sent
out his voice in a clarion call:
"Musketeers to the prow!"
The musketeers, at their station at the waist, obeyed him with
the speed of men who know that in obedience is the only hope of
life. Fifty of them dashed forward instantly, and from the ruins
of the forecastle they blazed over the heads of Hayton's men,
mowing down the French soldiers who, unable to dislodge the irons,
firmly held where they had deeply bitten into the timbers of the
Victorieuse, were themselves preparing to fire upon the grapnel
Starboard to starboard the two ships swung against each other with
a jarring thud. By then Blood was down in the waist, judging and
acting with the hurricane speed the occasion demanded. Sail had
been lowered by slashing away the ropes that held the yards. The
advance guard of boarders, a hundred strong, was ordered to the
poop, and his grapnel-men were posted, and prompt to obey his
command at the very moment of impact. As a result, the foundering
Arabella was literally kept afloat by the half-dozen grapnels that
in an instant moored her firmly to the Victorieuse.
Willoughby and van der Kuylen on the poop had watched in breathless
amazement the speed and precision with which Blood and his desperate
crew had gone to work. And now he came racing up, his bugler
sounding the charge, the main host of the buccaneers following him,
whilst the vanguard, led by the gunner Ogle, who had been driven
from his guns by water in the gun-deck, leapt shouting to the prow
of the Victorieuse, to whose level the high poop of the water-logged
Arabella had sunk. Led now by Blood himself, they launched
themselves upon the French like hounds upon the stag they have
brought to bay. After them went others, until all had gone, and
none but Willoughby and the Dutchman were left to watch the fight
from the quarter-deck of the abandoned Arabella.
For fully half-an-hour that battle raged aboard the Frenchman.
Beginning in the prow, it surged through the forecastle to the waist,
where it reached a climax of fury. The French resisted stubbornly,
and they had the advantage of numbers to encourage them. But for
all their stubborn valour, they ended by being pressed back and back
across the decks that were dangerously canted to starboard by the
pull of the water-logged Arabella. The buccaneers fought with the
desperate fury of men who know that retreat is impossible, for there
was no ship to which they could retreat, and here they must prevail
and make the Victorieuse their own, or perish.
And their own they made her in the end, and at a cost of nearly half
their numbers. Driven to the quarter-deck, the surviving defenders,
urged on by the infuriated Rivarol, maintained awhile their desperate
resistance. But in the end, Rivarol went down with a bullet in his
head, and the French remnant, numbering scarcely a score of whole men,
called for quarter.
Even then the labours of Blood's men were not at an end. The
Elizabeth and the Medusa were tight-locked, and Hagthorpe's
followers were being driven back aboard their own ship for the
second time. Prompt measures were demanded. Whilst Pitt and his
seamen bore their part with the sails, and Ogle went below with a
gun-crew, Blood ordered the grapnels to be loosed at once. Lord
Willoughby and the Admiral were already aboard the Victorieuse.
As they swung off to the rescue of Hagthorpe, Blood, from the
quarter-deck of the conquered vessel, looked his last upon the
ship that had served him so well, the ship that had become to him
almost as a part of himself. A moment she rocked after her release,
then slowly and gradually settled down, the water gurgling and
eddying about her topmasts, all that remained visible to mark the
spot where she had met her death.
As he stood there, above the ghastly shambles in the waist of the
Victorieuse, some one spoke behind him. "I think, Captain Blood,
that it is necessary I should beg your pardon for the second time.
Never before have I seen the impossible made possible by resource
and valour, or victory so gallantly snatched from defeat,"
He turned, and presented to Lord Willoughby a formidable front.
His head-piece was gone, his breastplate dinted, his right sleeve
a rag hanging from his shoulder about a naked arm. He was splashed
from head to foot with blood, and there was blood from a scalp-wound
that he had taken matting his hair and mixing with the grime of
powder on his face to render him unrecognizable.
But from that horrible mask two vivid eyes looked out preternaturally
bright, and from those eyes two tears had ploughed each a furrow
through the filth of his cheeks.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR
When the cost of that victory came to be counted, it was found that
of three hundred and twenty buccaneers who had left Cartagena with
Captain Blood, a bare hundred remained sound and whole. The
Elizabeth had suffered so seriously that it was doubtful if she
could ever again be rendered seaworthy, and Hagthorpe, who had so
gallantly commanded her in that last action, was dead. Against this,
on the other side of the account, stood the facts that, with a far
inferior force and by sheer skill and desperate valour, Blood's
buccaneers had saved Jamaica from bombardment and pillage, and they
had captured the fleet of M. de Rivarol, and seized for the benefit
of King William the splendid treasure which she carried.
It was not until the evening of the following day that van der
Kuylen's truant fleet of nine ships came to anchor in the harbour
of Port Royal, and its officers, Dutch and English, were made
acquainted with their Admiral's true opinion of their worth.
Six ships of that fleet were instantly refitted for sea. There
were other West Indian settlements demanding the visit of inspection
of the new Governor-General, and Lord Willoughby was in haste to
sail for the Antilles.
"And meanwhile," he complained to his Admiral, "I am detained here
by the absence of this fool of a Deputy-Governor."
"So?" said van der Kuylen. "But vhy should dad dedam you?"
"That I may break the dog as he deserves, and appoint his successor
in some man gifted with a sense of where his duty lies, and with
the ability to perform it."
"Aha! But id is not necessary you remain for dat. And he vill
require no insdrucshons, dis one. He vill know how to make Port
Royal safe, bedder nor you or me."
"You mean Blood?"
"Of gourse. Could any man be bedder? You haf seen vhad he can do."
"You think so, too, eh? Egad! I had thought of it; and, rip me,
why not? He's a better man than Morgan, and Morgan was made
Blood was sent for. He came, spruce and debonair once more, having
exploited the resources of Port Royal so to render himself. He was
a trifle dazzled by the honour proposed to him, when Lord Willoughby
made it known. It was so far beyond anything that he had dreamed,
and he was assailed by doubts of his capacity to undertake so
onerous a charge.
"Damme!" snapped Willoughby, "Should I offer it unless I were
satisfied of your capacity? If that's your only objection...."
"It is not, my lord. I had counted upon going home, so I had.
I am hungry for the green lanes of England." He sighed. "There
will be apple-blossoms in the orchards of Somerset. "
"Apple-blossoms!" His lordship's voice shot up like a rocket, and
cracked on the word. "What the devil...? Apple-blossoms!" He
looked at van der Kuylen.
The Admiral raised his brows and pursed his heavy lips. His eyes
twinkled humourously in his great face.
"So!" he said. "Fery boedical!"
My lord wheeled fiercely upon Captain Blood. "You've a past score
to wipe out, my man!" he admonished him. "You've done something
towards it, I confess; and you've shown your quality in doing it.
That's why I offer you the governorship of Jamaica in His Majesty's
name - because I account you the fittest man for the office that I
Blood bowed low. "Your lordship is very good. But...."
"Tchah! There's no 'but' to it. If you want your past forgotten,
and your future assured, this is your chance. And you are not to
treat it lightly on account of apple-blossoms or any other damned
sentimental nonsense. Your duty lies here, at least for as long
as the war lasts. When the war's over, you may get back to Somerset
and cider or your native Ireland and its potheen; but until then
you'll make the best of Jamaica and rum."
Van der Kuylen exploded into laughter. But from Blood the
pleasantry elicited no smile. He remained solemn to the point of
glumness. His thoughts were on Miss Bishop, who was somewhere here
in this very house in which they stood, but whom he had not seen
since his arrival. Had she but shown him some compassion....
And then the rasping voice of Willoughby cut in again, upbraiding
him for his hesitation, pointing out to him his incredible stupidity
in trifling with such a golden opportunity as this. He stiffened
"My lord, you are in the right. I am a fool. But don't be
accounting me an ingrate as well. If I have hesitated, it is
because there are considerations with which I will not trouble
"Apple-blossoms, I suppose?" sniffed his lordship.
This time Blood laughed, but there was still a lingering wistfulness
in his eyes.
"It shall be as you wish - and very gratefully, let me assure your
lordship. I shall know how to earn His Majesty's approbation. You
may depend upon my loyal service.
"If I didn't, I shouldn't offer you this governorship."
Thus it was settled. Blood's commission was made out and sealed
in the presence of Mallard, the Commandant, and the other officers
of the garrison, who looked on in round-eyed astonishment, but kept
their thoughts to themselves.
"Now ve can aboud our business go," said van der Kuylen.
"We sail to-morrow morning," his lordship announced.
Blood was startled.
"And Colonel Bishop?" he asked.
"He becomes your affair. You are now the Governor. You will deal
with him as you think proper on his return. Hang him from his own
yardarm. He deserves it."
"Isn't the task a trifle invidious?" wondered Blood.
"Very well. I'll leave a letter for him. I hope he'll like it."
Captain Blood took up his duties at once. There was much to be done
to place Port Royal in a proper state of defence, after what had
happened there. He made an inspection of the ruined fort, and
issued instructions for the work upon it, which was to be started
immediately. Next he ordered the careening of the three French
vessels that they might be rendered seaworthy once more. Finally,
with the sanction of Lord Willoughby, he marshalled his buccaneers
and surrendered to them one fifth of the captured treasure, leaving
it to their choice thereafter either to depart or to enrol themselves
in the service of King William,
A score of them elected to remain, and amongst these were Jeremy
Pitt, Ogle, and Dyke, whose outlawry, like Blood's, had come to an
end with the downfall of King James. They were - saving old
Wolverstone, who had been left behind at Cartagena - the only
survivors of that band of rebels-convict who had left Barbados over
three years ago in the Cinco Llagas.
On the following morning, whilst van der Kuylen's fleet was making
finally ready for sea, Blood sat in the spacious whitewashed room
that was the Governor's office, when Major Mallard brought him word
that Bishop's homing squadron was in sight.
"That is very well," said Blood. "I am glad he comes before Lord
Willoughby's departure. The orders, Major, are that you place him
under arrest the moment he steps ashore. Then bring him here to me.
A moment." He wrote a hurried note. "That to Lord Willoughby
aboard Admiral van der Kuylen's flagship."
Major Mallard saluted and departed. Peter Blood sat back in his
chair and stared at the ceiling, frowning. Time moved on. Came
a tap at the door, and an elderly negro slave presented himself.
Would his excellency receive Miss Bishop?
His excellency changed colour. He sat quite still, staring at the
negro a moment, conscious that his pulses were drumming in a manner
wholly unusual to them. Then quietly he assented.
He rose when she entered, and if he was not as pale as she was, it
was because his tan dissembled it. For a moment there was silence
between them, as they stood looking each at the other. Then she
moved forward, and began at last to speak, haltingly, in an
unsteady voice, amazing in one usually so calm and deliberate.
"I... I... Major Mallard has just told me...."
"Major Mallard exceeded his duty," said Blood, and because of the
effort he made to steady his voice it sounded harsh and unduly loud.
He saw her start, and stop, and instantly made amends. "You alarm
yourself without reason, Miss Bishop. Whatever may lie between me
and your uncle, you may be sure that I shall not follow the example
he has set me. I shall not abuse my position to prosecute a private
vengeance. On the contrary, I shall abuse it to protect him. Lord
Willoughby's recommendation to me is that I shall treat him without
mercy. My own intention is to send him back to his plantation in
She came slowly forward now. "I... I am glad that you will do that.
Glad, above all, for your own sake." She held out her hand to him.
He considered it critically. Then he bowed over it. "I'll not
presume to take it in the hand of a thief and a pirate," said he
"You are no longer that," she said, and strove to smile.
"Yet I owe no thanks to you that I am not," he answered. "I think
there's no more to be said, unless it be to add the assurance that
Lord Julian Wade has also nothing to apprehend from me. That, no
doubt, will be the assurance that your peace of mind requires?"
"For your own sake - yes. But for your own sake only. I would
not have you do anything mean or dishonouring."
"Thief and pirate though I be?"
She clenched her hand, and made a little gesture of despair and
"Will you never forgive me those words?"
"I'm finding it a trifle hard, I confess. But what does it matter,
when all is said?"
Her clear hazel eyes considered him a moment wistfully. Then she
put out her hand again.
"I am going, Captain Blood. Since you are so generous to my uncle,
I shall be returning to Barbados with him. We are not like to meet
again - ever. Is it impossible that we should part friends? Once
I wronged you, I know. And I have said that I am sorry. Won't
you... won't you say 'good-bye'?"
He seemed to rouse himself, to shake off a mantle of deliberate
harshness. He took the hand she proffered. Retaining it, he spoke,
his eyes sombrely, wistfully considering her.
"You are returning to Barbados?" he said slowly. "Will Lord Julian
be going with you?"
"Why do you ask me that?" she confronted him quite fearlessly.
"Sure, now, didn't he give you my message, or did he bungle it?"
"No. He didn't bungle it. He gave it me in your own words. It
touched me very deeply. It made me see clearly my error and my
injustice. I owe it to you that I should say this by way of amend.
I judged too harshly where it was a presumption to judge at all."
He was still holding her hand. "And Lord Julian, then?" he asked,
his eyes watching her, bright as sapphires in that copper-coloured
"Lord Julian will no doubt be going home to England. There is
nothing more for him to do out here."
"But didn't he ask you to go with him?"
"He did. I forgive you the impertinence."
A wild hope leapt to life within him.
"And you? Glory be, ye'll not be telling me ye refused to become
my lady, when...."
"Oh! You are insufferable!" She tore her hand free and backed
away from him. "I should not have come. Good-bye!" She was
speeding to the door.
He sprang after her, and caught her. Her face flamed, and her eyes
stabbed him like daggers. "These are pirate's ways, I think!
"Arabella!" he cried on a note of pleading. "Are ye meaning it?
Must I release ye? Must I let ye go and never set eyes on ye again?
Or will ye stay and make this exile endurable until we can go home
together? Och, ye're crying now! What have I said to make ye
cry, my dear?"
"I... I thought you'd never say it," she mocked him through her
"Well, now, ye see there was Lord Julian, a fine figure of a...."
"There was never, never anybody but you, Peter."
They had, of course, a deal to say thereafter, so much, indeed,
that they sat down to say it, whilst time sped on, and Governor
Blood forgot the duties of his office. He had reached home at
last. His odyssey was ended.
And meanwhile Colonel Bishop's fleet had come to anchor, and the
Colonel had landed on the mole, a disgruntled man to be disgruntled
further yet. He was accompanied ashore by Lord Julian Wade.
A corporal's guard was drawn up to receive him, and in advance of
this stood Major Mallard and two others who were unknown to the
Deputy-Governor: one slight and elegant, the other big and brawny.
Major Mallard advanced. "Colonel Bishop, I have orders to arrest
you. Your sword, sir!"
"By order of the Governor of Jamaica," said the elegant little
man behind Major Mallard. Bishop swung to him.
"The Governor? Ye're mad!" He looked from one to the other.
"I am the Governor."
"You were," said the little man dryly. "But we've changed that in
your absence. You're broke for abandoning your post without due
cause, and thereby imperiling the settlement over which you had
charge. It's a serious matter, Colonel Bishop, as you may find.
Considering that you held your office from the Government of King
James, it is even possible that a charge of treason might lie
against you. It rests with your successor entirely whether ye're
hanged or not."
Bishop rapped out an oath, and then, shaken by a sudden fear: "Who
the devil may you be?" he asked.
"I am Lord Willoughby, Governor General of His Majesty's colonies
in the West Indies. You were informed, I think, of my coming."
The remains of Bishop's anger fell from him like a cloak. He broke
into a sweat of fear. Behind him Lord Julian looked on, his handsome
face suddenly white and drawn.
"But, my lord..." began the Colonel.
"Sir, I am not concerned to hear your reasons," his lordship
interrupted him harshly. "I am on the point of sailing and I have
not the time. The Governor will hear you, and no doubt deal justly
by you." He waved to Major Mallard, and Bishop, a crumpled,
broken man, allowed himself to be led away.
To Lord Julian, who went with him, since none deterred him, Bishop
expressed himself when presently he had sufficiently recovered.
"This is one more item to the account of that scoundrel Blood," he
said, through his teeth. "My God, what a reckoning there will be
when we meet!"
Major Mallard turned away his face that he might conceal his smile,
and without further words led him a prisoner to the Governor's
house, the house that so long had been Colonel Bishop's own
residence. He was left to wait under guard in the hall, whilst
Major Mallard went ahead to announce him.
Miss Bishop was still with Peter Blood when Major Mallard entered.
His announcement startled them back to realities.
"You will be merciful with him. You will spare him all you can for
my sake, Peter," she pleaded.
"To be sure I will," said Blood. "But I'm afraid the circumstances
She effaced herself, escaping into the garden, and Major Mallard
fetched the Colonel.
"His excellency the Governor will see you now," said he, and threw
wide the door.
Colonel Bishop staggered in, and stood waiting.
At the table sat a man of whom nothing was visible but the top of
a carefully curled black head. Then this head was raised, and a
pair of blue eyes solemnly regarded the prisoner. Colonel Bishop
made a noise in his throat, and, paralyzed by amazement, stared
into the face of his excellency the Deputy-Governor of Jamaica,
which was the face of the man he had been hunting in Tortuga to
his present undoing.
The situation was best expressed to Lord Willoughby by van der
Kuylen as the pair stepped aboard the Admiral's flagship.
"Id is fery boedigal!" he said, his blue eyes twinkling. "Cabdain
Blood is fond of boedry - you remember de abble-blossoms. So?