|Chapter Title||A FATEFUL VOYAGE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Macleay Chronicle (Kempsey, NSW : 1899 - 1952)|
|Trove Title||The Last of the Pirates; Or Doom Driven. A Romance of the End of Ocean Outlawry|
The Last of the Pirates; OB, doom naiVxiia-.
A. Romance of the End of Ocean Outlawry,*
By Col. Prentiss Insraham, Author of ?« Merle the Mutineer,' &c, &&
CHAPTER XXI. A FATEFUlr VOYAGE.
One pleasant afternoon, some two years after the flight oi the Sea Venus from the coast of Africa pursued by the American brig-of-war, there were two vessels sailing swiftly over the waters only a dozen leagues from the roast of Cuba.
The leading vessel was none other than the slaver, Sea Venus, and she was using every effort to escape from a Spanish cruiser that was in hot pursuit Like any other man who finds it hard to break off from an evit life, Captain Corti had not kept his promise made two years before and done so. He had made half-a-dozen success ful voyages to the African coast, and fortune seemed to smile upon his wicked life, as he had been successful each time in bringing a cargo of unfortunate blacks to Cuba. He had amassed a vast fortune, and each time was wont to say that it would be his last cruise, and that he would turn over his vessel to Basil Barton, who still remained his mate. On this last voyage, however, sick ness had broken out among his crew, who were the men who had shipped when Basii did, and still clung to the fortunes of the Spanish slaver. The fever had spread from the crew to the blacks cooped up below, and their sufferings were horrible. A dozen of the crew died and were thrown overboard, and then each day following a score of blacks would die and be tossed into the sea. Storms beset the slaver also, and it was the most fearful voyage which any one on board had ever known or heard of in the history of the slave trade. But at last the fever wore itself out, clear skiea and fresh breezes came, and the Island of Cuba was but a few days' sail away. But another danger then threatened the little vessel, as a fleet Spanish cruiser was sighted at dawn and gave chase. All day the chase lasted, and her fire, for she was within range, killed several of the crew, damaged the rigging and hull, and killed many a poor black in the crowded hold where they were huddled together in mortal terror and despair. Had not the elements and night come to the rescue of the daring but wicked man, the fate of Captain Corti and his crew would have been quickly sealed. But the storm swept over the sea,' night fell,- and in the darkness the Sea Venus eluded her pursuer, and two hours after was landing her cargo of slaves upon the Cuban coast. An agent was there to receive them, the slaver received his draft on Havana for the two hundred unfortunates, all that remained of six hundred that had been shipped on the African coast, and then he returned on board his vessel. As he entered his cabin he called on Basil to follow him. The face of the Spaniard, Basil noted, was clouded, and he expected bad news. I Be seated, senor.' The American dropped into a chair near him. ' How many in crew have we, Senor Basil?' 'Just twenty-one men, Captain Corti, and some of these are unfit for service, not having fully recovered from the effects of the fever.' - And the schooner is in very bad shape ?' 'Yes, senor, the carpenter reports the water rising in her hold quite rapidly.' ' Well, senor, we will leave her, and in her place I shall have another vessel built for you, as an appreciation ot your valuable services to me.' I 1 am amply able, Captain Oorti, to build a vessel, as I have saved up quite a snug fortune.' ' No, I desire to make you a present of a craft fully equipped and armed, for I am a very rich man, Senor Basil — a very rich man.' ' I do not doubt it, Captain Corti.' ' It is true that I have lost the value of some four hundred slaves on this last voyage, but I can afford it. But I wish you to go with me to Havana, when I will transfer my riches to the United States, and while there order your vessel for you, such a one as you may desire. I wish you then, while she is being built, to accompany me to Spain and visit me, while there is a special service I wish you to perform for me after arrival there.' . 1 You are very kind, Senor Corti, have ever been most kind to me, and I will do as you wish with pleasure. I have not liked the slave trade, I Irankly admit, for it seems cowardly ; but I have stuck to it on your account, and now, as you intend to retire, I shall give it up.' 'Ah, and the new schooner?1 ' I shall make a pirate craft of ber, 'I guess,1 was the cool response of Basil Batton. ' Ah 1 ever reckless, my dear Senor Basil ; but you will make a dashing free rover, my word for jt, and I wish -you every success. I will watch your career with interest, and keep your secret faithfully. But now to ' our crew.' ?Well, sir?'
1 1 wish to give them a little blow out, so shall invite them into the cabin to have wine witb me. Then 1 shall tell them that I shall let the schooner go, as she is about useless, and I dare not put to sea in her. And you I wish, Senor Basil, to get your traps together, go ashore in the gig, rowing yourself, and await me at the Vandela Plantation, whose owner you visited with me upon our last voyage.' 1 1 will do so, senor.' * And go at once, Senor Basil, for I will join you there within the hour. But bid the men visit me here in the cabin as you go on deck on your way ashore' Basil bowed and departed. He felt that the Spaniard was up to some deep game, but just what he could not make out. He hastily gathered his traps together and went on deck. Ordering the gig alongside and the men to go to the cabin, Basil went ashore. The Vandela Plantation was near the shore of the little bay in which the Sea Venus was hiding, and the mansion was but half a mile away. Senor Vandela was an old bachelor dwelling there alone, excepting several old slavers, and his plantation was never cultivated. Secretly he was the agent ot the slavers, and yet be was not suspected ol being such by his nearest neigh bours. While Basil was making his way to the Vandela Plantation wondering what Captain Corti was intending to do in the way of deviltry, that worthy was on board his vessel planning a most diabolical plot, the nature of which the next chapter will make known. CHAPTER XXII. DOOMED TO DEATH. After the departure of the young American mate from the Sea Venus, the crew, obeying the order given them, began to assemble in the cabin of the slaver. Captain Corti sat there by the table, the cabin-lamp shining full upon his handsome face, cruel though it was in expression, and he greeted the men pleasantly as they entered. ' Come in, lads, come in, for this is our last night together,' he said. The men were a hard lot. Nearly all of them had served with him for years, and every sensibility of their manhood had been blunted by the cruelties they had perpetrated Jipon.the dpfenceless negro enpuves and the horrors they had witnessed. There was not one among the lot who had a heart that could be moved by any anguish or sorrow. They were callous to the bone. But they were good sailors, if bad men, and they admired their dashing commander, and liked him, for he bad given them bounteously from his ill-gotten gains. ' Well, men, I wish to say to you that you are to make your way to Havana, and report to me there at the Punta Tavern, for I will be there.' ' You wisely allowed me to bank a part of your pay for you, and I nil! have a handsome sum to pay each one of you. ' I will be there for a month, as I intend to look about for a planta tion, for I shall turn planter, and I will be ever glad to see any of the lads there who have served me so faithfully. ' Senor Basil has gone ashore to the Vandela Plantation, and there I am to join him, while you, Norcross, will act as captain, and run the Sea Venus to the Isle of Pines, where a lugger will await you to carry you to Havana, as I dare not take the schooner into that port. ' Now, lads, I have set out some of my best wines here, as you see, with which to drink your health and fortune, so fill up.' Never before bad the crew seen their captain in such an excellent humour, and they hastily obeyed, delighted at the chance to ' fill up,' The goblets were quickly tilled and emptied, the slaver captain urging the men to d'ink as deep as they wished, and it was not long before the effects became evident. The men grew boisterous. Some laughed and joked their captain, others sung merrily, and * few let what grievances they had against their fellows crop out, for liquor will bring out a man's true nature. Captain Corti sat still, smiling, and seeming to enjoy the scene. But it did not last long, as the men had imbibed loo freely, and they were soon so deeply under the influence as to become stupid. - One or two, in quarrelsome humour, shot a fellow whom they had a grudge against, another drove a knife into the back of NorcroGs, and all seemed to enjoy the cruel tragedies, while Cap tain Corti never moved from his chair, and, making no effort to stay the murderous bands, looked smilingly on. At last one man fell in his tracks, completely overcome. Another soon sank down to sleep, and it was but a short while before all were stretched about the cabin floor, as motionless as the two men who had been slain. ' Ah !' said Captain Corti, as he
rose quickly and glanced down upon the scene. 1 Better so,* he added : and then he went upon deck. Going forward, he entered the fore castle hatch, and was gone for quite a while. Then he returned, and secured the hatch firmly, .._--?. The amidships hatch was also fastened down, and, walking aft, the slaver once more entered the cabin, 'They sleep^ wellil hfe said, as *? .sneer curled tits lips. Then 'he gathered some papers from his private desk, and, collecting his various traps, returned to the deck. There was a boat alongside, fast by the painter to the starboard gangway. Into this the slaver captain put his traps, and then went back to the cabin companionway. ' Farewell, lads,' he said in the same sneering tone ; and then the com panionway was firmly closed. Back to the boat he went, descended into it, cast off, and seizing the oars pulled a ship's length away. 'She feels it,' he muttered, as he saw the schooner moving. Watching her closely, he saw that she was rapidly getting lower in the water. * She is going down well,' he ob served, in his quiet way. Still watching her, he saw the water reach her scuppers, then flow upon her decks, and reeling, trembling, she seemed to be fighting for life, until, with a mighty plunge, . she sunk beneath the waters.
me waves came rusning towards his boat, causing it to dance about, and he pulled hard at the oars to pre vent being drawn into the foaming vortex. ' I was too near,' he said. He shuddered as he spoke at his escape, and then glanced over the moonlit waters. Not a vestige of the beautiful but ill fated craft was visible. 4 The bay is deep enough to hide her until eternity. I have done well.' So saying, he pulled leisurely for the shore.
CHAPTER XXIII. 'DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES.' Basil Barton was having a giass of wine and a little supper with Senor Vandela, the old Cuban, when Cap tain Corti entered the half-tumbled down mansion. Senor Vandela had already ordered a chair and plate for his expected guest, and the latter sat down and dashed off a glass of wine with evident relish. 1 Senor Basil, I decided to send the schooner at once to the Isle of Pines, so saw her set sail belore I left the shore,' said Corti. ' Basil simply bowed, making no reply. 'As soon as we have had somr. supper, if Senor Vandela will let his man drive us on our way, I shall be thankful.' 1 All that my poor house possesses, senor, you have commands I will at once order Pedro to get the horses ready ;' and Senor Vandela called to a slave and ordered the volante brought to the door with all baste. Soon after the Spaniard and Basil bade the old Cuban adios and drove away, a slave going as driver,, to bring the volante back. Captain Corti seemed disinclined to talk, and leaning back on the ragged cushions of the vehicle appeared to be asleep. But Basil remained awake and enjoyed the drive by night. The horses were good ones, and Pedro was a good driver, so they went along at a rapid pace. Shortly after dawn Corti awoke, just as a country inn became visible ahead. Here breakfast was obtained, and a fresh team, Pedro being sent back with a handsome souvenir in gold for his services. . Late in the afternoon the two slaveys reached Havana, having changed horses several times and driven rapidly. They drove at once to the Punta Tavern, a place well known to Senor Corti, and they were soon resting in large, well-futnished rooms that com municated. 'They know you here, senor,' said Basil, referring to the greeting which the landlord had given Corti. 1 As Don Andrea Cortez, a Spanish planter in Cuba only, Senor Bisil,' was the reply. 1 You certainly cover up your tracks well.1 Corti laughed heartily. 1 Well, it is a life of peril you lead, and you need to.' 'My dear senor, even our friend Senor Vandela does not know me.1 1 Indeed, senor !' ' He knows me as Captain Corti, a slaver, wd he is the agent for men in Havana who buy the slaves. Vandela pays me by draft, as you saw, upon the banks in Havana, and I draw the money here. I have other funds in the banks, and am supposed to be a wealthy Spaniard, planting in Cuba somewhere, and other of the West India Islands. Now, let me cut off my beard and hair, change my attire, and who would know me ?' ' I confess it would make a com plete metamorphosis in you, senor.' ' Now, the three servants you saw at Senor Vandela's, and whom you supposed to be an old negress and two men, are the wife and sons of the Cuban, who is not so old as he pro fesses to be* or bis white wig shows.' ' You surprise me, senor !' 1 His wife and sons are blackened up by a pencil preparation which he invented, and wear wool wigs, for he would not dare trust negroes in the perilous life he leads there as agent for slavers. '? ?He professes to be an eccentric
old planter, who has lost his mom y j and allows his place to go to min; but when be has made a fortune to j suit his avaricious ideas, he will move away and enjoy* his riches elsewhere. ?Ah, senor, this slave trade has many peculiar features in it, for 1 could tell you that prominent mer chants in Havana here are owners of some of the 'vessels, and act secretly througbagents.' ; i. Jewell, senor, you have been ^ery fortunate in escaping recognition thus far; but you might some day meet one of your old crew who would recognise you.' ?;.?? ' ' Dead men tell no tales,' senor, is an old saying, and a truthful one,' was the laconic response. ' But your crew are not dead,' The Spaniard laughed. ' Do you mean that I shall believe that they are?' 'Yes, senor.' * But how — when V , My dear Senor Basil, my crew, if any one could, would recognise me. 'Now they were a bad lot, faithful when it was their interest to be so) treacherous as snakes otherwise. 'Now I have too much at stake, Senor Basil, to risk recognition, and I tell you Irankly you are the only man I trust, -and who knows me as I am. ? ? 'After a short stay in Havana we sail for the United States, order your vessel, then go to Spain, and I will show you how a Spanish Don can live who has the wealth to back up his luxurious inclinations. ' After a visit with me, as long as you desire to remain, and you have rendered me a certain service, you may go your way and I shall go mine, each keeping the other's secret. ' But, by the way, Senor Basil, I am now Don Andrea De Costa, for such is my real name.' ' I shall so call you, Don Andrea De Costa.' * And you are Senor Basila Bartons, a Cuban planter, for your Spanish accent is perfect, amigo.' Basil bowed, and then said very thoughtfully : ' The name suits me, senor, and it is but adding a letter to my own. But let me ask you about the crevt of the Sea Venus ?' ' They are at the bottom of the sea, Senor Basila.' ?Dead?1 4 Every one of them.1 ' But how ?' ' Well, the schooner was in bad condition, and I wished to have the men stick to their ship. ?The Venus was sinking slowly, and so 1 gave the crew a treat. ' I feasted them on the best wine I had on board and made them happy — very happy. ' Some showed their ugly nature and quarrelled, and one was shot to death and another stabbed to the heart. 1 But I let them have their fun, for it was their last. ' At last the drug I had put in their wine took effect, and they laid down uDon the cabin Qaor to sleep.. * It was their last sleep, Senor Basila, for I fastened them in their cabin, went below, bored holes into the hull, and then came on deck and took my boat.' ' You scuttled the schooner, Cap tain Corti— at least I mean Don Andrea De Costa?1 ' I did senor.' * And all on board went down with her, senor ?' 1 Not one escaped, I pledge you my word.' ?This was horrible I' said the amazed American. ' ' Dead men tell no tales,* senor,1 was the smiling response of the cruel Spaniard. To Be Continued