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Chapter 6
The Cruise around the Bay.—A quaint and curious Town.—Sleepy Hollow.—A home-like Inn.—A genial and communicative Landlord.—A delicate Manipulation.—Aspotogon and Deep Cove.—Bart enters into an Argument.—The Landlord plunges into the Subject of Captain Kidd.—A wonderful Revelation.—The Treasure of the Seas at last.—The Island of golden Store.

THE cruise around Mahone Bay had thus proved useless, as might have been expected. The search after one island out of hundreds, where the appearance, and even the name, of that island were unknown to them, was certainly an extraordinary piece of folly. Had they allowed themselves to make direct inquiries, they could have found the island without any trouble. But this was the very thing which they were unwilling to do; partly, as has been said, from the fear of drawing attention to their proceedings, and of being interrupted or interfered with in some way; but partly, no doubt, because they found a much greater charm in movements which were thus surrounded by mystery. It was appropriate for the members of the great secret society of the B. O. W. C. to enter upon this new undertaking in secrecy.

But now this had to be given up, and they concluded to go ashore at the chief settlement of the bay, and make inquiries. In these inquiries they resolved still to maintain their secret as far as possible, and not to divulge it unless it was absolutely necessary; they determined to hint, rather than ask, and obtain information indirectly, rather than directly.

The chief settlement of Mahone Bay is the town of Chester, one of the greatest curiosities in America. It is not a settlement. It is a town. It is situated on a peninsula, with a harbor on its front and on its rear. This peninsula is all laid out in streets, which cross one another at right angles, with perfect regularity. At the point where the peninsula terminates, is a spacious place, intended to serve as a promenade; and here there is a narrow shoal running off to another piece of land, which is a peninsula or an island by turns, as the shoal is covered or uncovered by the water.

There is a wonderful quaintness and quiet in Chester. It is the Nova Scotian representative of Sleepy Hollow. The streets, which are so nicely laid out, are all covered with turf, and are as green as the town lots on either side. The houses are all old; the people are all quiet and leisurely, taking the world in the easiest manner possible. The very dogs, affected by the peace and calm around, seem unwilling to bark, except under the strongest possible provocation.

The scenery around this quaint little town may safely be classed among the most beautiful in the world. The wide bay, with its hundreds of islands, forms an almost unequalled place for yachting. Many of the islands have curious names, associated with some curious legend. The waters abound with myriads of shell fish, and sometimes have a marvellous transparency. The winding shore of the bay forms one of the loveliest of drives, and affords perpetual variety of scenery; and the climate in summer time is so genial, that it forms the perfection of a watering-place for those who have to fly from the heat of southern latitudes. And this will one day be the destiny of Chester, when the world knows it; when the rush of parched travellers takes place; when great hotels face its promenade, and the streets, once laid out with so bold a design, are lined with houses and shops. Such changes will one day take place; but whether Chester will be then so altogether lovely as it is now in its Sleepy Hollow epoch, is a matter about which there may well be doubt.

Such was the place, then, in which the boys found themselves; and they all agreed with one opinion, that Chester was, in every respect, worthy of standing here in this lovely bay, in the immediate vicinity of the mysterious Island of the Buccaneers, where lay stored up the treasure of the sea and the plunder of the Spanish Main.

On looking about the place, they came to an inn, which had such an air of comfort and tranquillity, and such a home-like appearance, that they determined to put up at it, and prosecute their investigations in a leisurely fashion. They arrived in time for dinner; and, if there had been any doubt in their minds as to the propriety of deserting the Antelope, it was dispelled at the appearance of the dinner which was served up. For there were salmon and green peas,—delicacies of which, like all good boys, they were particularly fond, and to which they had been strangers for a long time. There, too, were strawberries, the last of the season, with cream of the richest kind; and together with these were the mealiest of potatoes, the whitest of bread, the freshest of butter, and the most immaculate coffee. To all these things their late sea fare afforded a striking contrast, and Solomon’s star declined sadly.

The landlord they found most good-natured, and most genial, like all the inhabitants of this favored spot. He was communicative about himself, proud of his town, proud of the scenery around, and yet not at all inquisitive as to the purposes of his guests. This seemed to them to be the very man whom they might interrogate without endangering their secret; for, while his communicativeness would lead him to tell everything that there was to be told, his lack of curiosity would prevent him from asking any unpleasant questions.

Accordingly, as soon as they could get a convenient chance, they button-holed the landlord, and began a series of questions of a very non-committal character, referring chiefly to the scenery of Mahone Bay, and the places most worthy of a visit. They did not make the remotest reference to the buccaneers or to Captain Kidd, but seemed to have their thoughts occupied with scenery only.

The landlord grew eloquent upon the theme of the scenery of Mahone Bay. He told them about the islands, and mentioned the number very particularly, insisting upon it that their number was exactly three hundred and sixty-five. He spoke of the drive along the shore, of a place called Gold River, where there was excellent fishing, and finally mentioned a place which he called Aspot-ogon. Upon this theme he grew more enthusiastic than ever. Aspotogon, he said, was the highest mountain on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, and the approach to it afforded a view of the most remarkable scenery in the whole bay. This approach lay through a narrow inlet which ran to the base of the mountain, and was called Deep Cove. It was bordered by precipices, for a long way, on either side, and was a wild and romantic spot. It terminated in a circular basin, on one side of which was a deep declivity, by which they could find the shortest ascent to the summit of Aspotogon; and, in addition to this, they could find fishing and bathing to their hearts’ content.

In all this, however, there was no mention made of any island like the one which they wished to find. He mentioned, indeed, the names of several islands, in a casual sort of way, but made no allusion to any legends of the buccaneers. The only reference which he made to treasure, was on the name of that fishing stream which he had described to them. This was Gold River; and the name excited their attention. Bart asked what the name had reference to; and the landlord replied, that it arose from the color of its water. This commonplace derivation of such a name disgusted and disappointed them all, for they hoped to hear of a different origin, and one more in accordance with their present purpose.

The landlord dwelt to a great extent on Aspotogon and Deep Cove, and finally offered to go there with them, if they felt inclined to make a visit to the place. Though the boys were still as eager as ever about the Island of the Buccaneers, yet they were by no means indifferent to the charms of a romantic place like this, nor at all disinclined to roam about the bay farther. The offer of the landlord was also an additional inducement, and they thought that in the intimacy of shipboard they might manage to get something more direct out of him, and learn from him all that there was to be learnt about any existing legends current among the people, such as the governor of Sable Island had mentioned. It was arranged, therefore, that they should go on the following day.

After dinner the boys started off in different directions. Bruce in a boat, Arthur along the shore, Tom and Phil over the hills, while Bart and Pat sauntered about the wharves, catching star-fish, sea-urchins, and jelly-fish, of which there were myriads. Towards evening they returned to the inn, and found the landlord seated on the steps. They seated themselves too, and gradually fell into a conversation.

“This bay must have been a great place in old times,” said Bart, trying to feel his way as easily as possible towards the subject of the buccaneers.

The landlord shook his head with solemn emphasis.

“Tre—mendous!” he slowly ejaculated.

“Such a capital place for hiding from any ship that might be chasing!” said Bart; “so many islands! Why, if a ship once got in here, she could never be found.”

“Best dodging-place in the world,” said the landlord. “Lots of islands, lots of harbors, and deep water too, everywhere.”

“The old French day’s must have been pretty exciting hereabouts,” continued Bart, making a fresh advance. “The English and French used to have it hot and heavy; and I dare say this bay had its share of the fun.”

“Of course, of course,” said the landlord; “and before that too, long before; and worse goings on than fair, stand-up fights. There’s been queer doings in these waters.”

To these words the landlord gave emphasis by a significant shake of his head, which spoke unutterable things, and drove Bart and Pat wild with curiosity.

“What do you mean?” asked Bart.

The landlord looked at him solemnly for a few moments, and then asked,—

“Did you ever happen to hear of Captain Kidd?”

“Captain Kidd?” repeated Bart, in innocent wonder, “Captain Kidd? Hear of him? Of course I’ve heard of him. Everybody knows about him.”

“Well, if that man’s ghost don’t haunt this bay, then I’m a nigger.”

“Haunt this bay? What do you mean? What had Captain Kidd to do with this bay? He was hanged at London.”

“He had a precious lot to do with this bay,” said the landlord, positively.

“Why, I don’t see how that could be,” said Bart, trying to get the landlord excited by contradiction. “I don’t see how he ever could have been here. His story’s a simple enough one; soon told. I’ve heard it often. How he went from New York to London well recommended, and got a commission from the British government to command a ship, for the purpose of putting down pirates in India and the East. But this didn’t suit him quite; so he turned pirate himself. Most of his piracies took place in the East, though. It’s true he returned to America, and made a great panic; but he was captured and sent to England, where he was tried and executed. That was in 1699. I remember the date very well. So I don’t see how he could have done much about here.”

Bart spoke very volubly, and seemed to have the Life of Captain Kidd at his tongue’s end. The landlord listened very attentively. But Bart’s words, instead of shaking his own convictions, only served, as Bart had hoped and intended, to strengthen and confirm them. As Bart spoke, he raised himself up out of the lounging attitude in which he had been sitting, looked full in Bart’s face, and as he ceased,—

“Very well. Grant all that,” said the landlord, with a comprehensive sweep of his hand, which seemed to concede every single statement that Bart had made, in the fullest and frankest manner. “Grant—all—that—every word of it. I don’t doubt it at all—not me. Very well. Now mark me. Captain Kidd did really, and truly, and actually, flourish about here, in this here bay—for he’s left behind him the most—un—mis—tak—able in—di—ca—tions. I’ve seen ’em myself, with my own eyes. I’ve handled ‘em myself, and with my own hands. And besides, that there pirate must have been about over the coast of America a good deal more than you give him credit for, or he wouldn’t have left a name behind, from one end of America to the other; and, at any rate, he must have been here, or else he wouldn’t have left behind what he has left, and what I’ve seen with my own eyes.”

“I didn’t know,” said Bart, “that he had left any traces of himself here. What are they? What kind of traces?”

“What kind of traces?” said the landlord. “Traces that beat everything in the way of traces that any pirate ever made. What do you say, for instance, to a pit so deep that nobody’s ever been able to get to the bottom of it?”

“A pit? What sort of a pit?” asked Bart, full of excitement.

“What do you say to his filling that pit with oaken chests, crammed full of gold and silver ingots, and gold candlesticks, plundered from Catholic churches, and precious stones, such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds—beyond all counting?”

“Gold! silver! precious stones!” repeated Bart, who was so overcome by this astounding information, that he could only utter these words.

“What do you say to his taking the prisoners that had dug his hole, and filled it, and killing them all, to keep his secret?”

“Killing his prisoners!”

“What do you say,” continued the landlord, enjoying with keenest relish the evident excitement of Bart,—“what do you say to his contriving the most extraordinary plans ever heard of to prevent anybody ever getting at that treasure,—by making the hole, in the first place, far down under the level of the sea,—by building a drain, so as to let in the sea water; and then, after killing the prisoners, filling up the hole to the very top? What do you say to all that?”.

“Why, I never heard of this in all my life! How do you know it? Tell me, now. Tell me all about it. Where is the place? Is it here—in this bay?”

“Of course it is. I’ve said as much,” replied the landlord.

“But you didn’t mention it this morning.”

“No, because you only wanted to hear about fine scenery. This place isn’t particularly remarkable for that. It’s a little island, not more than three miles from here, up that way to the right. It’s called Oak Island, because Captain Kidd planted it with acorns, so as to know it when he came back. Well, since his day, the acorns have grown to be oaks—some of them pretty big—though being near the sea, they haven’t grown so big as they would have done if they had been planted farther inland.”

“Oak Island!” repeated Bart, in a tone which expressed the most profound interest,—“Oak Island!”

“That’s the place,” said the landlord. “I wonder you ain’t heard of Oak Island before.”

“Never,” said Bart; “that is, I’ve heard the name mentioned; but never knew that Captain Kidd had anything to do with it.”

“That’s just what he had,” said the landlord. “Everybody in these parts can tell you all about it. People have been full of it ever since Chester was settled. I’ve heard it all my life.”

“But if there’s money there, why don’t they get it?” asked Bart.

“Because they can’t!”

“Can’t?”

“No, can’t. Captain Kidd knowed what he was about, and he made his arrangements so that, from that day to this, nobody’s ever been able to get down to the bottom of that money-hole, and, in my humble opinion, never will.”

“Why not? I don’t understand.”

“Well,” said the landlord, “it’s a long story; but as I’ve got nothing to do just now, I don’t mind telling you about it.”

So saying, the landlord settled himself into an easy, lounging attitude, and began the story of Oak Island.


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