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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Treasure of the 'San Philipo' » Chapter I THE LOG OF THE PRIVATEER "ANNE"
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"REGGIE, my boy, I have a letter from Uncle Herbert."

"What does he say? Has he heard good news about the hidden treasure?

"Yes; but wait till after breakfast and you can read it."

I almost danced with delight at the information, vague as it appeared, for during the last three months news of my uncle's progress in search of the mysterious treasure that was to restore the fortunes of the family had been disappointingly scarce; and, now that there were indications of a flowing tide in our affairs, it was hard to realize that success might be within measurable distance.

My story opens in the year 190—, when I was sixteen years of age, and during the few years that have since elapsed I may truthfully say, without boasting, that few boys have ever experienced a greater amount of peril and adventure than has fallen to my lot in the search for the "San Philipo" treasure.

My name is Reginald Trevena, and I live at Polruan, in a house that has been in the possession of our family for centuries; for the Trevenas are reckoned amongst the oldest stock in all Cornwall. Go back to the time of the Spanish Armada; or the stirring wars of the Great Rebellion, when Cornwall was the scene of many a sanguinary conflict between Cavalier and Roundhead; or the equally exciting period of the Napoleonic Wars; search the contemporary records of those days, and I'll warrant you'll find a Trevena plays a conspicuous and honourable part.

We are of an old seafaring family, and our house contains many mementoes of our ancestors' prowess. For instance, there is the silver-mounted sword presented to my great-grandfather, Jasper Trevena, in recognition of his gallant and successful defence of the Falmouth packet "Restormel Castle" against a French privateer of twice its size; and another relic is the silver-braided cocked hat worn by an ancestor, Humphrey Trevena, at the battle of Vigo Bay in 1702.

It is this Humphrey Trevena who is morally responsible for our search for the "San Philipo" treasure. Briefly, the facts of the case are these. Humphrey was apparently a rough sea-dog who tempered his fierce roving spirit with a peculiar spice of superstition, which, at that period, was rampant in Cornwall. In fact, even at the present day, dread of the supernatural has a strong hold upon the poorer classes of the Duchy, although modern education has done much to banish the firm belief in witchcraft that our forefathers held.

But to return to Humphrey Trevena. From papers in our possession it appears that in 170—, this sturdy sea-captain, who commanded the privateer "Anne," of thirty guns, received orders from Commodore Sir Charles Wager to make an independent cruise, in company with the "Leopard," of twenty-four guns, to intercept a Spanish treasure-ship, the "San Philipo," which was bound from Callao for Cadiz. The Spaniard had a rich cargo, including fifteen chests of pieces-of-eight, twenty sows of silver, and gold plate, the total value being equivalent to £500,000 of our money.

The "San Philipo" arrived at Coquimbo in the month of May of that year, and left on the following June 1. The "Anne" and her consort passed through the Straits of Magellan early in the latter month, but were shortly afterwards overtaken by a furious gale off the Madre de Dios Archipelago, during which the two vessels lost touch with one another. The "Leopard" alone rejoined Sir Charles Wager, and nothing more was seen of the "Anne." Neither did the "San Philipo" reach Cadiz. As far as information could be obtained from the Admiralty, the history of the "Anne" comes to an abrupt termination; but we have in our possession documents which prove conclusively, that Captain Humphrey Trevena did achieve his purpose and intercept the "San Philipo," contrary to popular belief.

The log of the "Anne" is before me as I write; scores of musty pages covered with a crabbed handwriting, made all the more puzzling by reason of the superfluity of flourishes that characterized the literary style of the eighteenth century.

Though too lengthy and too complicated to quote in detail, some portions leave little doubt as to what befell the "San Philipo." For instance, "perceived the Spaniard well-down on our weather-bow. She altered her course and stood N.W., we in hot pursuit." For nearly three weeks this chase continued, during which time the "Anne," in spite of her inferior size and armament, had driven the "San Philipo" into the then practically unknown water of the Pacific.

Although to Cook, some seventy years later, belongs the honour of having made this part of the globe really known to Europeans, there are proofs that the early Spanish voyagers had navigated these waters, the first of them being Juan Gaetano, who, in 1542, made the first voyage of discovery, from New Spain to the coast of Asia. Therefore, I take it, the captain, of the "San Philipo," unable to regain the ports of the west coast of South America, tried to shake off pursuit amongst the numerous coral reefs and islands of the Pacific Ocean.

However, my ancestor goes on to relate how he effected the capture of the "San Philipo" after a stubborn resistance. The "Anne" and her prize made for a lagoon in order to refit; but the reef does not afford the hoped-for protection, for, a gale springing up, the treasure-ship sinks with its precious cargo still on board, while the "Anne," driven south-east by a succession of tempests, is eventually wrecked upon the desolate Chloe Islands, within a few miles of the spot where she first sighted the "San Philipo."

Of the entire crew only Humphrey Trevena and two seamen reach the shore alive, and, after terrible privations, are rescued by a Spanish ship, and kept in captivity, till the Treaty of Utrecht in 1715 caused universal peace.

Now the mystery deepens. My ancestor describes the position, of the wrecked treasure-ship in detail, save that he omits an all-important item. "The island is not more than three leagues in circumference, and is of irregular form. To the south-east is a hill of about 700 feet in height, its outline likened to a cat's head with its ears cocked upright. The outer reef extends roughly a mile from the sandy shore, the opening being visible when two miles from land. The 'San Philipo' lies with her topmasts showing above water (though 'tis certain they be not there now), but fifty fathoms from the western extremity of the entrance, and from it the two headlands on the west side of the island appear in line, and the highest part—i.e. that which I have likened to a cat's ear—is directly above the mouth of a vast cave."

This description would doubtless do equally well for a thousand islands in the Pacific; but here the all-important item is missing—the actual latitude and longitude.

That Humphrey Trevena fully intended to make an effort to regain the hidden treasure there can be no possible doubt. Through an excess of caution he prepared an elaborate cipher, giving the exact latitude and longitude, and this he invariably carried about his person in a watertight metal case; but, unfortunately, he met his death through a fall over the cliffs near the Gribben, and when his body was washed ashore the cipher was found on him.

In the natural sequence of events the secret should have come into the possession of his son Gilbert, but, though the latter had the cipher, neither the key nor the log could be found, though search was made high and low, and the secret remained a secret. Vague rumours of the existence of the "San Philipo" treasure floated about, but the majority of Gilbert's friends regarded the whole business as a myth, and the interest in the mystery gradually died out.

The box, with its undecipherable contents, still remained as a sort of heirloom—for, with true Cornish superstition, the bygone members of the Trevena family kept particular guard over the relic of the redoubtable Humphrey—until the year 1850, when my father's uncle, Ross Trevena, having suffered in the general ruin that overtook Falmouth when steamships displaced the famous sailing packets of that port, left Polruan and settled in the neighbourhood of Pernambuco, in Brazil. Here he successfully engaged in coffee-planting, but at length he dropped out of all communication with his relatives in Cornwall, and on his death all trace of Humphrey's cipher were lost, and the faint interest in the "San Philipo" treasure had apparently flickered out.

But, by a pure accident, a new light was shed upon the mystery, and a clue furnished which led to my Uncle Herbert's hurried visit to Pernambuco. Before relating, however, the strange circumstances of the recovery of the log of the "Anne," I must give some particulars of the present actors in this stirring drama.

My father, Howard Trevena, is a typical Cornishman. Tall, broad-shouldered, and possessing an unusual amount of strength, he has a reputation in this part of the Duchy for manliness, good nature, and a love of outdoor recreation, his skill as a yachtsman being well known all along this dangerous coast betwixt the Lizard and Portland Bill.

To me he appeared more in the light of a companion than that of a parent, for, from my earliest recollections, I invariably accompanied him, whether it were, as frequently happened, on a cruise in our ten-ton cutter "Spray." or on a camping tour along the rock-bound coast of North Cornwall, or a cycling tour through other counties of our own country, or even on a ramble afoot amongst the magnificent hills surrounding our home. Although I fully recognize the respect due to my father, I am proud of the complete confidence that exists between us, for he has often expressed the opinion that a parent can make no greater mistake than to treat his sons as children when they are fast verging upon manhood.

My mother died when I was but an infant, so that event, in a measure, accounts for the close companionship between my father and me. And with us, till within a few months ago, lived my Uncle Herbert. He resembled my father in several ways; the swarthy complexion, the close-cut crisp hair, the firm jaw, almost approaching what might be described as "heavy," the steel-blue eyes—all denoted the strain of the Trevenas.

Our house, the ancestral home for centuries past, stands a short distance from the road from Polruan to Lanteglos, on a lofty hill overlooking Fowey Harbour. It is a long rambling building of Cornish granite, with the usual stone roof, the mullioned windows being almost hidden in summer by a wealth of crimson roses. The garden, of considerable extent, terminates at the edge of a steep declivity, the foot of which is washed by the tidal waters of the harbour. In one corner of the garden stood a wooden summer-house, built, so the tale goes, from the timbers of an old Dutch frigate, which was captured and brought into Fowey Harbour during the sanguinary sea-fights of Cromwellian times. In front of this summer-house was erected a white flag-staff; with crosstrees, gaff, topmast, shrouds, and halliards complete, from which flew the burgee and blue ensign of the yacht club to which my father belonged.

You will notice that I used the word "stood" when describing the summer-house, for it was owing to the fact that the structure ceased to be that we came into possession of the log, of the illfated "Anne."

It happened thus: Six months previously, (it was the 5th of November, as a matter of fact) there was a bonfire and fireworks display in our village, and, alarmed by the noise, an enormous black cat took refuge in its terror in our summerhouse. The animal's owner, Mrs. Penibar, a portly old dame, enlisted our services in its recapture, and, armed with lanterns, my father, Uncle Herbert, and I made for its hiding-place.

Right across the summer-house, on a level with the eaves, ran a massive beam, seemingly out of all proportion to the rest of the woodwork, and resting on this beam were several short spars, coils of rope, and other gear belonging to our boat.

Here the cat had taken up its position, and, with arched back and bristling fur, defied all attempts at pacification, spitting and growling in its fright. Neither my father nor my uncle had the inclination to tackle the brute, so the owner, using extraordinary and ridiculous terms of endearment, placed a short ladder, against the beam, and ponderously began the ascent.

Even its mistress's blandishments were futile, for the cat, backing along the beam, still growled defiance. So Mrs. Penibar, mounting to the fourth rung from the top, leaned sideways along the beam and attempted to seize her pet.

Suddenly there was an appalling crash, a shriek, and, amid a shower of dust and plaster, the old lady fell heavily to the ground, and by the feeble glimmer of our lantern we saw that the massive beam had broken as cleanly as if shorn by an axe.

Fortunately there were no bones broken, and, by dint of our united efforts, we managed to extricate the frightened old lady and carry her to her house.

Next morning I arose early and went to examine the debris of the summer-house. Only the walls remained; the beam, deceptive in its apparent solidity, had been hollowed out, and, by natural decay, had gradually become rotten, till the unusual weight of Mrs. Penibar's portly frame had caused it to break, bringing down the roof with it.

All at once my quick eye detected some peculiar object that was half hidden in the heap of rubbish, and, drawing it out, I discovered that it was an old book, bound in rough leather, that was covered in mildew.

Without waiting to examine its contents I hastened back to the house, meeting my father and Uncle Herbert on the threshold as they were about to leave for their usual morning swim—a practice they followed winter and summer alike.

"My word, Reggie! what have you got there?" inquired my father, taking the book out of my hands. For a few moments he looked at its contents in silence, turning over a few musty pages; then, so suddenly that it quite astonished me, he slapped my uncle vigorously on the back, exclaiming, "My word, Herbert, it is the long-lost log of the 'Anne'!"

That day, I remember, the morning swim did not take place, and I was allowed to remain away from the Grammar School at Fowey, and the whole morning was spent in deciphering Humphrey Trevena's faded handwriting, and by night we were in possession of the salient facts concerning the "San Philipo" treasure, though the cipher, giving the latitude and longitude of the island, was alone wanting to complete the information necessary for the recovery.

Good news, like bad, seldom comes alone, and our case was no exception, for next morning my father received a communication asking him to call upon Rook and Pay, a well-known firm of solicitors in Plymouth. On paying the requested visit he learned, to his unbounded astonishment, that his cousin, Ross Trevena's only son, had died childless at Pernambuco, and that a reputable firm of Brazilian lawyers had written to the Plymouth firm, requesting that they should, if possible, find the nearest legal representative of Ross's son.

"We are the sole surviving descendants of old Humphrey Trevena now," I heard my father remark to his brother, on his return from Plymouth, "and, if it is humanly possible, I mean to have a shot at that treasure. Old Rook hinted pretty plainly that there are several heirloom, and the value of the estate, though not abnormal, is worth having. I think the best thing to be done is for you to run over to Pernambuco and get the Brazilian lawyers, Sarmientos, to wind up the estate as quickly as possible. I have little doubt but that you will be able to lay your hands on Humphrey's cipher, for Ross is certain never to have left the metal box out of his possession, and if his son was a chip of the old block, as in all probability is the case, he will have done likewise."

These were the circumstances under which my uncle set out for Brazil, and after an interval of three months, my father informed me, as I have previously mentioned, "Reggie, my boy, I have heard from Uncle Herbert."


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