|Chapter Title||THE SECRET EXPEDITION.|
|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 (tf tiie Pirates; or* ?; DOOM X»IfcI VJElIiT
A. Rorn.an.oe of the End of Ocean Outlawry.*
Bv Col Prentiss Inoraham, Author of 'Merle tbe Mutineer,' &c , &c. ? - ? * ' ' . ? - ?
CHAPTER XV. - THE SECRET EXPEDITION.
When the young mate went on board the Sea Venus, he saw that Sanchez had arrived before him. The senior officer looked as black as a thunder-cloud, and was talking in a low, earnest tone to a group of sea-, men, when Basil went down to the shore and hailed for a boat tn be sent
for him. The moment he set foot upon the deck he perceived that Sanchez was plotting mischief, and so his arrival was opportune, ior some of the wildest spirits of the craft were inclined to lend a willing ear to any act of mutiny and violence. But . Basil acted promptly, called the men aft, and at once ordered Sanchez to be seized. The men hesitated. ^. f It was a critical moment indeed, foi a straw would weight the balance for or against him. 1 Men, that man hired a negro to assassinate me in the woods. But I suspected him and so trapped him. I offered .to settle the grudge he held against me as I did with the Senor Waldo, but Captain Corti refused to meet a cowardly assassin, and gave me my orders and command of this vessel until they are executed. Seize that man, I command you !' The men hesitated no longer. The bold young mate had them under his eye and they obeyed. With bitter oaths Sanchez resisted, and tried to rush upon Basil, but was quickly secured. ' Now rig a noose rope and swing that man up !' This order fairly startled the crew. Again they hesitated, but again came the ringing command : 1 Dogs, do you dare me ?' They shrunk under the fierce gaze turned towards them, and then in a moment, more Sanchez stood with a noose about bis neck, while a seaman was aloft with the other end of the rope passing it over the yard of the huge squaresaiL ' Now, Senor Sanchez, if you dare utter a prayer to Heaven, do so at once.' The Cuban was livid with rage and fear combined. He could not believe that Captain Corti meant he should be hanged, and yet he had a fearful dread that it might be so. The men also seemed to feel that
it was to turn out a farce, for Captain Corti was nowhere to be seen ashore. ' You have two minutes to live, Sanchez, so cease your curses and say your prayers !' cried Basil, who was at once the coolest man upon the deck of the Sea Venus, as he was the most concerned. Then a silence like death fell upon, all. The Cuban ceased his bitter oaths and stood in dread silence, bis head boned. Could it be that it came to him in that awful moment that he was indeed to die ? Who can-tell? But his lips moved and no oath issued from them. . Then the silence, which was appal ling, was broken by the clear, pene trating voice of the young slavei : ' Swing him up !' The men hesitated, hardly believing that it could be so, that a junior officer bad become the executor of his senior. 1 By the skies above! do you refuse ?' The words fairly thundered from the lips of the young slaver, and he walked briskly towards the group of men who held the rope. He had not taken two steps when . op in the air went the form of Sanchez, the Cuban slaver. ' He had uttered no other word, and offered no further resistance, dying in grim silence. ' Make fast i' The order was obeyed promptly and Sanchez was leit swinging in the rigging, while the crew stood gazing alternately at the bold young mate and the dying man above their heads. Ahoy the Sea Venus 1' The voice from the shore broke the spell upon the crew. It was Captain Corti, and he was hailing for a boat. One was quickly sent ashore, and the men wondered if Basil had ex ceeded bis authority. Breathlessly all waited the -coming of the chief. He sprung on board, glanced up at the swinging form, and called out as he advanced towards the young mate : ' Senor Basil, you have done your work well, and I congratulate you !' Then he turned to the crew and continued : ' Men, this gentleman is first mate of this vessel now, and the man who swings yonder at the yard-arm was a cowardly assassin. Gut the body down and throw it into the sea.' Then Captain Corti entered his cabin, motioning Basil to follow him. Without again referring to the tragedy just enacted upon the deck of the vessel, the Spaniard said : Senor Basil, I have just had some unpleasant news.' ' Indeed, senor ?' ' Yes, and we are caught in a trap.' ' How is that, senor ?' 'An American vesselof-war has landed a small party upon the coast below, and their aim is evidently to make a secret march inland towards this point.' 'They will discover the tragedy post, then ?'
'Yes, and the schooner.' ' Is there nothing to prevent it ?' 1 Well, yes, and you are the man to do it.' * ' I will do all in my power, sir.' 'I feel that, Senor Basil. The truth is, the cruiser would not dare send, her boats up the river, fearing they would run into a trap, and so a party has made « secret landing, in tending to come by night across the country and strike the river to see if the rumour is true that a trading-post is at this point. If they discover it, the cruiser herself will come up tbe river, or land a large force to send by land, and the schooner and post will
be burned and the slaves freed, which would ruin us.' ' Certainly, sir.' ' Now there are a band of slave hunters here, as you know, and you have told me that you ride well, an accomplishment that I do not possess, and I wish you to go as their leader, ambush these Americans, and cut them to pieces, for not one shall escape. Then I will send a runner to the cruiser, with a line pretending to come from the officer in command, for tbe vessel to meet them at a point some leagues up the coast, and while the vessel has gone there we can run out of the river in the schooner and escape, for I will at once begin to pack the black cattle on board.' ' Will you do .this, Senor Basil ?' ' I am ready now, sir,' was the reply of the young slaver. An hour after, mounted upon a fine horse, and dressed as a desert robber, Basil rode away from the river trading post at the head of two-score wild horsemen, and a guide directed them to a point where they would head off the invading American sailors, who were reported as being fifteen in number. CHAPTER XVI. THE WARNING ON THE DESERT. A fine-looking American brigof war had been cruising along the coast of Africa for some months, hoping to capture some daring slaver running out of the rivers with its cargo of unfortunate Africans. As the day passed away and no prize was captured, and the com mander had every reason to believe that a slave corral, or trading-post, was some leagues up the river, a gallant
young officer, a former lieutenant, volunteered to make an excursion inland with a small force of men and strike the river at a point where it was believed that the Man-Hunters had their camp. The captain of the brig of-war dared not send bis boats up the river, well knowing that they might be sur rounded and the crew massacred, if there was a corral near, for the Man Hunters fearlessly guarded their captives and fought desperately to save them from capture. Should it be ascertained that there was a corral up the river, the captain of tbe cruiser would boldly sail up there, risking all dangers, to rescue the unfortunates ; but without positive knowledge he could not so take the risk. It seemed to him plausible that a party o( men could make their way across a comparatively deserted country and reconnoitre, and he ac cepted the offer of the daring young lieutenant, Rodney Randolph, without hesitation. 1 You will go by night, halt all day, and press on during the next day, Lieutenant Randolph. When you strike the river, if you find no evi dence that there are corrals upon it, and slavers hiding there, awaiting for cargoes, follow the stream down to the mouth, and thus back to the ship. I will encamp a force ashore, as a sup port, and anchor the brig in the mouth of the river until your return, which I hope will be within four days.' Such were tbe instructipns which Rodney Randolph received, and the next morning a boat put the daring young officer and fourteen men ashore, . to start upon their perilous task. Having mapped out his course, as well as he could from an imperfect knowledge of the river's windings, he set off upon the march across the arid plains bordering the coast just there. Each man carried a knapsack of provisions and all needed for the tramp, and the party had been picked for their powers of endurance. After a march of several miles into the interior they halted until nightfall, not caring to press on by Jaylight for fear of being seen by some of the natives. _ They little dreamed that the tradeis had spies upon the shore, watching the movements of the cruiser, and that already word had gone to the post that a party of fifteen armed men had started inland to strike the river at a point which would surely dis cover to them the corrals. When night came on Lieutenant Rodney Randolph took up his march again, and at a pace which must carry him over the ten leagues between him and the river by daylight. It was just midnight when he halted his little command for rest in a-thicket where there was good water at hand, and the tired men, after a hearty supper, threw themselves down to rest, the young officer telling them that he would stand guard. He walked to the edge - of the thicket and then stood gazing -out over the desolate plain.
Suddenly he parted, for at his side stood a tall form, and he had not heard the footfall of any one ap proaching. 'Hold, sir, I am here as a friend, not a foe !' The voice was deep and musical, the English perfect, and yet the speaker was clad in the full costume of a Desert Robber, ' At first Lieutenant Randolph had supposed it to be one of his men. But at a glance,1 even in the star light, proved that he was mistaken. ' In the name of Heaven, who are you?' and Rodney Randolph's hand was upon his pistol. . ' Your friend, I said, for I, too, am an American,' was the reply. * An American?* asked the surprised officer. ? Yes.' 'And here?' ' Yes.' ' In that garb ?' ' It is all I have, sir. But to ex plain, let me tell you that I am here to warn you.' ' Of what ?' 'Of death.' 'Ah, what have I to fear?' 1 You have heard of the Desert Robbers, also called the Man-Hunters, of this coast ?' 'Who has not?' ' I would warn you that they are the ones you have to fear.' ' I am not alone, and my party are well armed.* 1 You have fourteen men, on foot, well armed, and yet a mete handful to the force of Man-Hunters now lying over yonder ridge, directly in your path.' The officer started in spite of him self, for the words of the stranger told him that his night march was known. The stranger seemed to realize this, and continued : «-^ '*, * You came from tbe American brig-of-war at the mouth of the river, and you are goingsurely to your death .' ' How do you know this ?' 'Ah, sir, spies have been upon you, and I well know the flag of my dear old country when I see it, and I saw the Stars and Stripes waving over
your neck but yesterday.' There was a touch of sadness in the voice of the speaker, and tbe young officer noticed it. 1 Why is it I find you, an American, here in Africa, and in the dress of a Desert Robber ?' 'Ah, sir, my lot is a sad one, for I am a prisoner.' ' A prisoner, and yet free ?' 'Yes, sir, I was captured on tbe coast, with several shipmates, for our vessel was wrecked ' some leagues above here, and we are very closely watched. I came forward to recon noitre, our captors well knowing that I would not escape and leave my comrades in their hands. I came to warn you to at once put back to the coast, while yet there is time, for with the dawn a hundred horsemen will ride you down, and you will be either cut to pieces without mercy, or become captives like my comrades and myself. So I beg you to go, as I have risked my life to warn you.' ' I thank you from my heart, sir, for your warning, and I will at' once heed it, for well I know, as our ex pedition is known, death albne awaits us.1 ' But you must go with us.' ' And leave my poor comrades, sir ?' was the quick reply. 'You can do them no good by remainirg.' 'Oh, yes, for I am with them, and misery loves company, itissaid ;' and the stranger smiled. ' You are a noble fellow, and I pity you while I admire you, and I hate to leave you here in cruel captivity.' ' It cannot be helped, sir. But perhaps, as our band goes from here up to the Red Cliffs, thirty leagues along the coast, my fellow captives and myself might manage to escape if we knew there was a vessel near by we could reach.' ' There shall be, for Captain Porter will be only too glad to go to that point — say two nights from this — and we will have the boats offshore await ing for you. I know the cliffs you speak of, and all you have to do will' be to hail, and some one in the boats will hear you and land.' ' Oh, sir, this is noble of you, and we will make the attempt two nights from this. But now I beg you to go. ' 'One moment.' ' Yes, sir.' ' Are there any slave corrals on the river?' ' There were, sir, but there are none now ; for a slaver carried off a cargo several weeks ago.' ' And we missed her ! It is too bad. But are there no slaver vessels in the river now ?' ' No, sir.' ' I am glad to hear this at least, and ? ' ' I beg you not to delay, sir, as I was sent to see if you were here in (he thicket, and if I delay, they may come after me.' ' I will start at once ; but I wish my men to see you, and know just why we turn back. Come with me.' The lieutenant led the stranger into the thicket and aroused his men, hastily telling them the warning given him. The men were greatly surprised at the sight of the stranger, who hastily repeated his words to the lieutenant, and again urged him to depart. The men were only to anxious, fully realizing their danger, and quickly they got ready for the retreat, forming in line without the order to do so. ' Now, my noble frie*hd, I shall hope to see you two nights from this.' ' I will 'be there with my comrades, sir, if it is in our power to escape. But delay no longer. Go !' ' One question more. Your name ?' . 'Basil Barton, sir ? Hark I I hear footfalls. I fear you have delayed too long I' To Be Continued.