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Chapter 4
The Buccaneers.—The Traditions of Mahone Bay.—The Spanish Galleon.—The buried Treasure of the Buccaneers.—The Plunder of the Spanish Main.—The lost Ship.—The Arms of the royal House of Spain.—Convincing Proof.—Further Wanderings.—Undisciplined Ponies.—A last Farewell.—The Antelope departs.—The Plan of the Boys.—Corbet grieves, but yields.—Out of the Reach of Danger.

|[YOU must be aware, in the first place,” said the governor, “that over the whole Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia there are traditions of the buccaneers. There is one place, however, where these traditions seem to have a centre, and that is Mahone Bay. The people there have handed these traditions on from father to son ever since the country was settled; and the belief at this time, is as strong as ever, if not stronger. The only change that they have made is in the name. They do not speak of the buccaneers but of one certain man, whose name all over America seems to have lent itself to every tradition that the past has handed down about pirates and piracy. This is Captain Kidd. So at Mahone Bay the traditions all refer to him.

“Now I don’t believe that these traditions originated in nothing, but that they grew out of actual facts. The buccaneers, when they infested the Spanish Main, needed some place in which to store their plunder. They wanted a place which was at once safe from pursuit, and so remote that the Spaniards would never think of following them. Well, this they could gain by sailing far enough to the north, and Nova Scotia naturally seemed the best stopping-place; first, because it seemed to them like the last point of the coast of the main land, and secondly, because it was convenient for a run over to Europe. Besides, Nova Scotia afforded a greater number of first-rate harbors than could be found in any part, not only of America, but of the world. It was therefore out of the way of pursuit and discovery, and the best place that they could wish to have.

“Well, now, among all the harbors that line the coast of Nova Scotia, there isn’t any that can be compared to Mahone Bay for the purposes of the buccaneers. Once in it, and discovery or capture is next to impossible. The bay is spacious and deep, without shoals or currents, and, above all, dotted with three hundred and sixty-five islands of every sort and size. Among these a hiding-place could be found, that for safety and seclusion could not be equalled anywhere else. And what are the facts? Why, the tradition of the country ever since asserts that this very bay was a chosen haunt of pirates in the old piratical days.

“And what’s more,” continued the governor, “this tradition isn’t vague and general, but it’s direct and specific. It points to some one place there,—one of those islands in particular that is distinguished from all the other islands. I don’t know the name of it; I don’t know that I ever heard it; but I do know that there is such an island,—one of those three hundred and sixty-five, that is pointed out and well known as the place frequented by the buccaneers. Everybody says, that on this island they lived, and that in this island, deep down,—under the level of the sea, in fact,—the buccaneers buried the plunder of the Spanish Main.

“Of course, as I said, they don’t speak of the buccaneers, but of Captain Kidd. They call it Kidd’s treasure. But it’s all the same. The fact remains whatever changes mere names may undergo. Now, mind you, I don’t say that there’s any treasure there now,—it may have been all dug up by the very men who buried it, or by others who knew about it. It’s a long time since it was buried, and Mahone Bay had no settlements for generations. At the same time it’s quite probable that it may be there still; and I, for my part, shouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear at any time that some lucky fellow has got hold of it all.”

“I suppose you never went to Mahone Bay yourself,” said Bart.

“Well, no,” said the governor. “The fact is, I never thought much about it until lately, after the old galleon set me speculating about it; and then I remembered old things that I had heard. Go there?—O, no!—I’m too old. If I were a young man, without a family, I’d make a dash at it; but now it’s impossible. I’d have to give up my situation. O. no! I dare say somebody’ll make his fortune there one day; but that’ll never be my luck. And as for treasure, I believe that there’s lots of it deep under these sands, all about, if one only knew where to dig—but that’s the difficulty.

“And so, you see, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to—putting this and that together. This is a Spanish galleon. Here she is,—ever so far out of the course which the treasure ships of the Indies usually followed,—up here in these seas, in close proximity to the most notorious haunt of the old buccaneers. Do you suppose they had nothing to do with this? Of course they had—everything. In those days no ship in these waters could have escaped their eyes, much less a big Spanish ship full of gold and silver. Mark my words. As I said at first, they captured her, brought her here, unloaded her, buried her gold and her silver in Mahone Bay somewhere—on that island that I spoke of, and then let the ship go.”

This notion of the governor’s might have been critically examined and utterly disproved by a competent person; but for such a task the boys were too ignorant and inexperienced. The firm belief of the governor in his extraordinary theory affected every one of the boys most profoundly; nor could any of them see a reason why it should not be perfectly true in every particular. Every word that he had uttered sank deep into their souls, and every one of them felt himself filled with an irresistible desire to hurry off at once to Mahone Bay, and seek for the island where the buccaneers had buried the plunder of the Spanish Main.

On the present occasion they poured upon him a torrent of questions of all sorts, every one of which showed how attentively they had listened to his story, and how eager the curiosity was which they all felt. The governor answered everything with the minuteness and the exactness that characterize a man when he finds that his own particular hobby meets with respectful appreciation from others.

At length they turned back to the house, talking all the way about Spanish galleons, treasure ships, the buccaneers, gold, silver, diamonds, the Spanish Main, and the various haunts of the old marauders—subjects fascinating above all things to these boys, as they are to all boys, so fascinating indeed, that they were sorry when they came back to the house. Here, however, another pleasure awaited them, for the governor showed them the very gun that he had found on the old ship, and pointed with respectful pride to certain marks upon it. The gun was terribly rusty, and the marks had been so effaced that they were capable of being interpreted to mean anything; but the governor assured them that they were the escutcheon of the Royal House of Spain, and the boys believed it implicitly. Other and more critical inquirers would have asked what the governor meant by the arms of the Royal House of Spain, and inquired whether he meant the house of Arragon, or of Hapsburg, or of Bourbon. To the boys, however, such a question never occurred.

The water was still calm; but Sable Island is a place where no one can stay long. The governor therefore hurried up the venerable Corbet,—who, on this as on other occasions, seemed to give indications of a dilatory disposition,—and furnished him with some sails, which, with a little alteration, would suit the Antelope very well. Upon this Corbet returned in his boat to the schooner, carrying the sails with him, and one of the Sable Islanders to help him rig the sails. The boys were to be put aboard by the governor later in the day.

They then went off with their genial host to other parts of the island. This journey was made on ponies which had been broken, yet not so much but that they retained a very fair share of their original wildness. The riding was not very conducive to speed. All of the boys were thrown, but none of them were hurt on the sandy soil, and the governor made himself merry over their horsemanship. As to scenery, there was nothing different from what they had already encountered, except numerous wild fowl that frequented the lake.

By the time that they returned they saw the Antelope with her sails filled, and a boat drawn up on the beach to convey them aboard. The governor shook hands with them all most heartily on bidding them good by.

“Good by, my lads,” said he. “I’m the most unhappy of men in one way. Although I keep shipwrecked guests an immense time, I dare not be hospitable to visitors. I would press you to stay all night, but I’m afraid to. If you had a better craft, and a better captain, I might venture to do it; but even then it wouldn’t be safe. As it is, it would be madness, and my only parting word to you is, to hurry away as fast as you can, and get away as far as possible from Sable Island.”

The boys got on board; the sturdy Sable Islanders bent to their oars, and soon their vigorous strokes drove the boat far out to sea. But all the way the boys could see the little group on the shore watching them. On reaching the Antelope, they found all ready for a start. The Sable Islander who had accompanied Captain Corbet returned with his companions; and as the Antelope moved away, the flag of the B. O. W. C. went up and down rapidly, and three ringing cheers burst forth from the boys.

So ended their very remarkable and eventful visit to the most fearful and dangerous of all the islands of the sea. Few, indeed, are the vessels which, having drifted upon this perilous coast, are able to leave it so safely, and so pleasantly. For Sable Island generally surrounds itself with destroying terrors for those who chance upon it; and more than Anticosti, more, indeed, than any other place, deserves the dread name of—“the graveyard of ships and sailors.”

In turning away, there was now but one thought in the minds of all the boys, and that was, of course, Mahone Bay. In any case they would sail straight for the coast of Nova Scotia; and Mahone Bay was the only place at which they were willing to land. There was now no further difficulty about making their way, for the governor, in addition to the sails, had furnished a compass also.

“The Nova Scotia coast,” said Captain Corbet, “air doo north by west, an it ain’t more’n a hundred mile. The wind’s fair, an we ought to sight it before—well, before three days.”

“O, we’ll do it long before that,” said Bart, “if this wind lasts. But why can’t you head due west for Mahone Bay?”

“Wal,” said Captain Corbet, “there air severial reasons why: fust an furmost, because, ef I sail west, I’ll have to coast along this here shore, which is the very thing I don’t want to do. I want to get as far away as I kin, an as quick as I kin. Second, I don’t want to go in the dark no longer. I want to sight the Nova Scotia coast, and then to keep it in sight till I die. Never agin do I want to git out o’ sight o’ Nova Scotia. Then, third, I don’t want to stop at no more places, but to contennew along my windin way, till I git to Minas. An, fourthly, I don’t want to go to Mahone Bay at all.”

“Not go to Mahone Bay!” cried Bruce. “Why not? Why, we want to hunt up that island that the buccaneers buried the treasure in.”

Captain Corbet looked at all the boys with an expression of solemn regret, mingled with mild reproach upon his venerable face. Then shaking his head mournfully, he slowly ejaculated,—

“O, boys, boys!”

“Well, why not?” asked Tom.

“O, boys! O, boys!” continued the captain, in a dismal tone. “An has it come to this? Air this the end an the melankilly result of the bitter teachins that you’ve ben an had by sea an land?”

“Bitter teachings?” said Bart; “what bitter teachings?”

“The teachins, an the warnins, an the experiences,” said Captain Corbet, “that’s ben a heaped upon you’s all. Why this thirst for perishable treasures? Why this yearnin for money-holes? Hain’t you had enough of treasures, and dreams of wealth? Look aime, boys. Behold this wretched victuim of Avarice. Think how the demon of Avarice got possession of me in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an drawed me away captive to his chariot wheels. Think how he tempted me to desert you, an leave you in tremenjous danger. Bar all this in mind, I humbly beg, and then desist. Say no more. Temp me not. Leave the aged Corbet be. Don’t inflame this beaten heart. Be wise in time. You’ll only suffer for it ef you don’t. That thar treasure is onhallowed. Didn’t we try diggin for buried treasures once afore? Answer me that. We did. An what was the result? I pause for a reply.”

“O, but this is different,” said Bart. “That money-hole on the hill was all nonsense; and, besides, what was it then frightened us, except a miserable little donkey? This is a different matter. There ought to be something there, out of all the plunder of the Spanish Main.

“Don’t talk about plunder, and the Spanish Main,” said the captain. “The way that that governor had of rollin out them words of his was somethin that made a man feel a tinglin all over. It’s the thirst for gold, boys; don’t kindle it up to a flame; don’t temp me agin my better natur: don’t, don’t.”

“O, see here now, captain,” said Bart; “don’t look at things in that way. When you left us on the ship, it wasn’t Avarice; it was because you hadn’t any idea that we were in danger.”

Captain Corbet shook his head. “No,” said he,

“It was Avarice, the Demon of Gold—-nothing else. It blinded my eye, an hardened my heart. It’s the way it allus does.”

“Well, I don’t see how you can call it Avarice. You only wanted money for your baby—you know.”

At the mention of his tender offspring, Captain Corbet’s face changed; a mild and mellow light beamed in his aged eye, and a tender parental fondness was visible in the expression of his venerable face.

“Terew!” said he; “terew—as gospel!”

“Well, then, you must feel as anxious about him now as you were then. You failed that time; perhaps this time you’ll succeed. And only think how jolly it would be, if you could make his fortune, and give him a college education.”

At this crafty allusion to Captain Corbet’s fondest hope, the aged navigator was overcome. His eyes became moistened with tears; a gentle sigh escaped him; he said no more, and all the boys saw that his silence meant consent.

The Antelope was heading towards the nearest point on the Nova Scotia shore. That shore lay almost north, or north by west, and it was about a hundred miles distant. The wind was fair; there was no prospect whatever of a change for the worse; and so the Antelope walked the waters, as usual, like a thing of life, while the boys amused themselves with recalling the strange story of the governor of Sable Island, and in speculating about the probable appearance of that island of the buccaneers, which, according to him, had been the deposit and the burial-place of the plunder of the Spanish Main.

The Antelope did her best. The wind was not very strong, yet it bore her along as fast as she was capable of going; no very great rate of speed, to be sure, yet fast enough to assure them, by sunset, that they were already far enough away from Sable Island to be out of the reach of danger; out of the grasp of its far-reaching arms, and in a pathway which brought them every moment nearer to a friendly shore.


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