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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Treasure of the 'San Philipo' » Chapter VII THE EXPEDITION SETS SAIL
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WE lost no time in preparing the "Fortuna" for her long voyage, for the morning after her arrival at Fowey my father sent for Clemens, the boat-builder, and instructed him to build a sound-proof bulkhead right across the vessel just abaft the two for'ard state-rooms. These two cabins were then thrown into the fo'c'sle, thus providing six additional bunks; while, to meet the requirements of the increased number of the crew, two large fresh-water tanks were placed below the fo'c'sle floor, and connected with the deck by means of a small pump.

In the meantime my uncle had paid a hurried visit to the Midlands, with the result that five heavy packing-cases arrived at our house. The first contained a three-pounder Q.F. gun, with a light mounting, the second a Maxim with both deck and field mountings, two others contained cases of quick-firing and small-arm ammunition, and the last a number of Lee-Enfield rifles, complete with bayonets, save one, a light sporting rifle. "This is a present for you, Reggie," said my father, placing the latter in my hands. "It is a thoroughly good weapon, and I hope you will appreciate and take great care of it. And, remember, a true sportsman never takes life heedlessly."

"But, pater," I exclaimed, "why do we want such a formidable armoury? Sporting guns I can understand the necessity of; but these are for fighting purposes."

"For defensive purposes," corrected my father. "You remember Findlay's description of the islands in the Pacific where the 'San Philipo's' treasure lies—treacherous and bloodthirsty natives —though, of course, it does not necessarily follow that the arms will be required. We hope and pray they may not be. But forewarned is forearmed, and the moral persuasion of these weapons may have a salutary effect upon any treacherously inclined natives we may. happen to meet."

"But I thought the missionaries had tamed the savage instincts of these natives."

"Without wishing to disparage the splendid work done by the missionaries, Reggie, I can safely assert that on hundreds of these islands cannibalism and the savage rites of heathen worship are as rampant as they were two hundred years ago. It seems remarkable to hear the ideas some people have about foreign parts. Some imagine the Pacific to be a veritable paradise of converted natives clad in gowns of Manchester cotton prints; while, on the other hand, I heard of the case of a youngster going to South Africa to Port Elizabeth, in fact—who took with him a revolver to shoot roaming Kaffirs! To change the subject, would you mind going over to Fowey and getting the Record? I've sent an advertisement, and want to make sure that it's in."

In less than an hour I returned with the paper, and this is a copy of my father's announcement—
WANTED.—Twelve ex-naval men to form the crew of an auxiliary yacht about to make a trip round the world. Twelve months' engagement. Must be single men of exemplary character.—Apply by letter, giving full particulars of rating, etc., to Box 1245, office of this paper.

"That's satisfactory," said the pater. "We'll run up to Plymouth to-morrow and call at the Naval and Military Record offices, and get the letters."

"So soon?"

"Aye; there'll be a score of replies in the post by now, if I'm not mistaken."

We went to Plymouth as arranged, and, upon calling at the office, we were handed a large wicker tray crammed full with letters and post-cards.

"All these for me?" asked the pater. "Yes, sir, and almost as many again will be in by to-night's post, I daresay."

"Then please destroy the rest, and insert a notice stating that the vacancies have been filled, for I've no doubt that I can suit my requirements from this budget."

From the newspaper office we went to a large firm of provision merchants, and ordered casks and tins of provisions to be sent round to Fowey for shipment on the "Fortuna," and thence to a sailmaker's, where my father ordered a huge square sail to be made to the design which he had drawn.

"What's that for?" I inquired as we left the sail-loft. "The 'Fortuna' does not carry square yards."

"Not at present," replied my father; "but she will do so ere long. I found that on our run down from Hamble, for with the wind dead aft there is always the danger of a gybe with a fore and aft rig, whereas with a square sail the comfort and freedom from mishap is infinitely greater. In the 'Trades' I have no doubt that the sail will be used for days together."

Then twenty suits of clothing for tropical and home use had to be ordered, together with numerous stores from a ship's chandler's, till, almost worn out with the exertions of the day, we returned home—but not to rest, for the huge budget of applications had to be read and classified.

It was a curious mixture. Some letters were well written, others mere scrawl; but the general tone of the whole batch was a willingness to undergo any hardship rather than starve in England.

"Here are a likely dozen," said my father, after perusing nearly a hundred letters. "Tell Johnston to come here and see if he knows any of them."

Johnston, who was making rapid strides towards recovery, had so impressed us with his quiet and orderly demeanour that we had decided to take him with us, placing him on light duties till capable of doing a regular day's work. In response to the summons he came and read down the list of names my father had jotted down.

"No, sir, I don't think I 'know any of them."

"But do you think any of them might know you? It might be awkward, you know."

"I suppose I must take the risk, sir," he replied. "Besides, I shouldn't like my misfortunes to do another man out of a job."

"Very well, then. Here, Herbert, make yourself useful, and write these twelve names on envelopes."

"But, I say——"


"Why, with Johnston these twelve will make thirteen—horribly unlucky, you know."

"But we also form part of the crew."

"Not as part of a paid crew."

"Well, to be on the safe side, cut down one," he said with a merry laugh.

So that evening notice that their services were accepted were posted to the men, and the crew of the "Fortuna" was as follows:—

Boatswain: PETER WILKINS, late bos'n's mate, R.N.
Quartermaster: TRESCO LORD, late master-at-arms.
Deck hands:—
  ROBERT DALLEY, late armourer, R.N.
  WM. STAINER, late armourer, R.N.
  EDWARD HINKS, late gunner's mate, R.N.
  FREDK MONEY, late gunner's mate, R.N.
  WM. LEWIS, A.B., late seaman diver, R.N.
  GEORGE BURBIDGE, A.B., late seaman diver, R.N.
  ALEC JOHNSTON, A.B. (to act as officers' steward).

In spite of the greatest secrecy on our part, rumours of the object of the voyage began to get about, older people naturally and correctly associating the almost forgotten "San Philipo" treasure with the expedition, greatly to my father's anger. However, we managed to get the arms and ammunition on board, lowering the gun by means of tackle from our garden into a boat which we brought alongside at high water, working as silently as we could in the dead of night.

By Saturday the last of the stores was aboard, including two diving suits from Siebe, Gorman & Co., and all that remained was to fill up the tanks with fresh water and ship the crew.

The latter had been told to assemble at the railway-station at 10 a.m. on Monday, and thither my uncle and I repaired to muster the men and take them to the vessel. To our surprise we found that, long before the arrival of the train, four men were already on the platform, having tramped from Plymouth, over twenty-seven miles of hilly road, for want of sufficient money to pay their railway fares.

The arrival of the train brought the rest of the contingent—not a man was missing—and, led by my uncle and myself, the whole party marched in an orderly manner down the narrow Fore Street, to the undisguised astonishment of the townsfolk. In their civilian clothing the men looked a nondescript lot, some bearded, some clean-shaven, and a few, departing from the naval custom, had grown moustaches, while each man carried either a bundle tied up in a blue handkerchief or else a black ditty-box under his arm. Nevertheless, they were a fine body of active, middle-aged men, and, with their previous training, would soon fall into regular sea-going routine.

Outside the "King of Prussia" the party was joined by my father, who led the men into a room where a well-laid breakfast awaited them. This they did full justice to, the need of a good meal being apparently no stranger to the majority of them.

Then my father addressed them. It was the first time I had heard him speak in public, and the warmth and earnestness of his words astonished me. He began by telling the men plainly that the voyage was to be no mere pleasure-trip, but occasional hard work was required, and even actual danger might have to be faced. On the other hand, the "Fortuna," though small, was exceptionally seaworthy, and everything that could be done for their comfort had been provided. He even hinted at an additional reward for their services should the voyage come up to anticipations, although he stated distinctly, that he gave no definite promise on that account, and finally explained that any man who wished to withdraw could do so, and his fare to and from his home would be paid forthwith.

However, our new crew were unanimous in their choice, and the signing of the men's papers was proceeded with. Then the party marched down to Whitehouse Steps, where the watermen rowed them off to the "Fortuna."

The rest of the day was spent in getting the men accustomed to the vessel. Proper watches were set, the starboard watch under my father and the bos'n, the port watch under Uncle Herbert and the quartermaster, and ship's time took the place of shore time, the hours and half-hours being sounded by the bell.

At four in the afternoon—or eight bells, as I should have expressed it—we went ashore to our home in Polruan. All arrangements had been made for the proper care of the home during our absence, and the remainder of the day was spent in receiving our numerous friends who had come over to bid us farewell and good luck; for, now that the final details had been completed, there was little need to conceal the fact that the "San Philipo" treasure was, as had been conjectured, the object of our voyage.

It was nightfall ere we left the house for the last time for a good many months. At Polruan Quay the gig awaited us, and, urged by the powerful strokes of the rowers, the little craft was soon alongside the "Fortuna." In true nautical style the shrill pipe of the bos'n's whistle was heard, and the crew stood to attention as the yacht's officers came on board. Then, directly the gig was hoisted in the davits, the crew returned to their stand-easy on the fo'c'sle, the dancing beams of the anchor light and the glowing bowls of the men's pipes dimly illuminating the shadowy forms of the seamen, as in low tones they discussed the projects of the voyage or talked reminiscently of bygone commissions.

"I don't think you will ever be dull during the voyage, Reggie," remarked my father, indicating the knot of men with a wave of his hand. "Amongst that little crew there is to be gathered a wealth of adventure from all the five oceans. And some of their yarns are well worth listening to, I can assure you."

At ten o'clock the following morning my father was rowed ashore to obtain the necessary ship's papers from the Custom-house, and half an hour later the "Fortuna" slipped her moorings, and, dipping her ensign as a farewell salute to the Yacht Club, glided swiftly out of Fowey Harbour on her long voyage to the coral islands of the Pacific.

Half an hour later the grim outlines of the Gribben were lost to sight in the mist that overhung the land, and, with every sail drawing, the "Fortuna" rapidly drew away from the shores of dear old England.


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