“IT appears that a certain half- breed by the name of Pedro Lascqueles knew about this small fortune in gold coins which was hidden in the home of the Governor-General at Kingston,” narrated Captain George Mason, a grizzled, old sea-rover, “and so he immediately formed a daring plan by which he might obtain it. He was of an evil and cunning disposition, so gathering around him a following of some dozen or more cutthroats, he raided the Governor-General’s home, and knowing the location of the fortune through the duplicity of a well-bribed servant, he was successful in carrying off the money. The stroke had been so well planned, and executed with such amazing recklessness, that the fugitives had a good start before the soldiery were aroused and put upon j their trail. But by this time they had gained their boat, a small, speedy, sailing vessel, and crowding on sail they were off across the Caribbean Sea in a general direction southwest towards the shores of Costa Rica in Central America.”
“But that’s over seven miles away,” observed the young man at the old captain’s left.
“Indeed it was, lad, but the thieving ruffians weren’t bent on covering all that distance. They headed for a lonely little island a hundred miles or better off the southern coast of Jamaica, and here they buried the treasure they’d stolen out of the Governor-General’s mansion at Kingston. It seems that in the bow of their craft they had mounted a small cannon, and when clearing the harbor in making their getaway from Kingston, they’d fired on two government boats that would have intercepted them. This, of course, was an act of piracy, and they were outlawed with a price upon their heads.”
A middle-aged man sitting across the table in the ale house at Havana, Cuba, now spoke up in query.
“And didn’t the British gunboats chase and capture the pirates?"
“Indeed they chased the craft, Mr. Heather, but the little sailer was a fast one, and then, too, during the chase the breeze slackened to a calm, and as the smaller craft was equipped with oars for just such an emergency they sneaked away, leaving the British Jamacian gunboats becalmed.”
“And the pirates got away,” observed the youth, wide eyed.
“They sure did, sonny, and buried the treasure on this little island which is no more than half a mile square, a heap of rocks surrounded by a sand beach. It’s a barren, desolate chunk of land sticking up out of the ocean, and being off the beaten track of sailing vessels in those days no one ever knew where the rascals went.”
“What was the estimated value of the treasure?” asked Mr. Heather.
“Wel-l-l, it’s been over seventy years since it occurred, and most of the details have been handed down as hearsay. It all happened back in 1855, and at the time I was a child of five years, residing in Spanish Town about eighteen miles west of Kingston. [...]olks were English. It [...]ulous amount, but just [...] those days it was a lot [...] still is. It was calculated to be worth around $30,000, a tidy sum. The treasure never was found, and it was easily ten years later before anyone found out where Lascqueles and his pirate band went, or as to what happened to the treasure.”
“ONE day, about ten years after the raid on Governor-General’s mansion, a British convict ship came to anchor in the harbor at Kingston. One of the convicts asked to be allowed to see the governor as he had important news concerning the fortune in gold coins which had been stolen and never retrieved these ten years past, so the poor fellow was taken in chains to the Governor-General who gave him a hearing. It turned out that the convict had been one of Lascqueles crew and had participated in the raid. He told a story of their escape, landing on the lonely isle, how they had buried the treasure to wait until the trouble had blown over, and had then pointed their craft towards Haiti.
It had been a long, tiresome, voyage, the men continually squabbling and fighting so that the lifeless bodies of two of their number had been cast to the sharks in the briny depths of the Caribbean. He then related how the remaining ten banded together under the banner of lawlessness to make a rich living by all sorts of nefarious ways both on sea and land among the West Indian islands. Petty piracy, blockade running from Cuba to the United States during the Civil War, thievery on land, and smuggling had figured largely during their career until a Union vessel put an end to their depredatory lives as well as their blockade running of Southern ports, just before the closing days of the great rebellion. The convict claimed of all the crew he was the only survivor, being picked up by the Union cutter. Later, he was convicted of some minor crime in the Bahamas.
“For his freedom the convict promised to lead the Governor-General’s forces to the island, and show them. where the treasure had been buried, and to this agreement the Governor-General bound himself. When the island was reached, the convict, through the many years of absence from the place, had forgotten the spot, and though the beach was dug up in various locations no treasure was found, and in view of the Governor-General’s ire, the convict, instead of gaining his freedom, had imposed upon him a longer sentence. That’s about all I know concerning the story.”
THROUGHOUT the old sea captain’s narrative both father and son, for the boy and man were such, listened attentively to the tale of romance, piracy, war and adventure of a lurid past.
“It’s a remarkable tale, Captain, but there’s one mistake,” announced Mr. Johnson Heather of New Orleans. “This convict you speak of was not the only one who made his escape when the boat sank. The pirate leader, Lascqueles himself, clung to a bit of wreckage and was picked up by a Confederate sloop on the following morning. I know, because my father was in command of the sloop. He took Lascqueles back to Florida, and on discovering him to be a blockade runner, and not cognizant of the fact that he was also a pirate and cutthroat, intended giving him his liberty, but here Lascqueles contracted a fatal disease which carried him off. Just before he died he gave my father a map of the island and its buried treasure out of gratitude for what he had done for him.
“This was during the last year of the war, and all was hustle and bustle, so that arriving home in New Orleans my father misplaced the map, and for over sixty years it has laid hidden in a secret desk drawer at our plantation home until several months ago my son, John, here, who is a stamp collector, found it while searching for old envelopes. John and I are determined to find this treasure, and we want you to go with us in search of it. Your knowledge of the West Indies and of navigation will prove valuable to us, and in return we shall reward you handsomely.”
To this proposition the rugged old sea captain readily gave his consent, not only because of the monetary recompense, but also through the fact that in his blood was still the call of adventure, and of all adventure what is more exciting than hunting for buried treasure on the Old Spanish Main.
IT was a good long voyage for the passengers of Mr. Heather’s huge motor launch which was made up of Captain Mason, two assistants Mr. Heather had brought from his Louisiana plantation, John Heather, and last of all, Mr. Heather himself. The trip from Havana, around Cape San Antonio by way of the Yucatan Channel, past the Isle of Pines and thru the Caribbean Sea to the island of Jamaica was an enjoyable succession of nights and days beneath tropical mood, tropical stars and tropical sun on the broad surface of the once pirate-infested waters which lazily lapped the shores of the West Indies. At Kingston the little party made a temporary stop before traversing the last hundred mile lap to the island.
Finally the island was reached, and then the five men scanned the map, yellowed with age and grimy from handling, its lines and lettering still visible in spite of the fact.
“Look for the two high points of rock designated on the map,” suggested John. “We can get our bearings from that.”
On the small, treeless expanse the forementioned landmarks stood out vividly, and then the treasure seekers looked for further instructions which announced that by actual measurement the treasure was three hundred feet straight north from the pinnacle of rock nearer the beach. The measuring reel was hastily run out, and the faces of the five registered surprise, for the line ran straight to the water’s edge, and was twenty-five feet short of the required distance.
“It looks like you’d have to wait for the tide to run out,” observed Captain Mason, a twinkle in his eye as he contentedly puffed a pipe stub.
When the tide lowered the level of the water, and more of the beach lay exposed to their view, the little company measured off the remaining distance and commenced digging. It was tedious digging for beneath the sandy beach was a hard clay mixed with pebbles, but they strove patiently with pick and shovel, though all were alive with eagerness and unabated expectancy. Suddenly one of the shovels struck some hard object with a dull thud. Digging around it, the excavators found it to be a human skull, and presently the rest of the skeleton was exposed to view.
“How did that bounder get there,” mused the old sea captain. “That doesn’t fit into the tale at all.”
The digging was resumed, and a few inches deeper the top of a chest came into view. All hands succeeded in dragging it upon the beach where the clinging soil was knocked off to reveal a large, oaken, iron bound affair with a massive lock. The metal was rusted, and the oak partially rotted away. The lock, strange to say, was broken, and it was but a simple matter to turn the lid back upon its rusty hinges. Disclosed to their view within the great oaken chest was a smaller iron one which was securely locked. Mr. Heather forced it with a crowbar, and then brought to view within its interior a great leather sack. The draw strings were cut, and all heads drew to one focal point over the mouth of the pouch to peer within. All that could be seen was a huge bundle of papers, envelopes and documents in the bottom of the sack. Not a drop of treasure did they find, not even one English gold crown, though they dumped the big leather bag bottomside up and scat-
tered its worthless contents. Mr. Heather looked blankly at Captain Mason who nodded his head sadly and ruminatively.
“I guess, one of those pirates sneaked back here unbeknowns to the rest of them during the time they held sway on the sea; probably two of them came and in quarreling over the division one of them was killed. That would explain the skeleton we found buried above the chest.”
“Or else there were two more pirates to survive the sinking of their vessel,” added Mr. Heather. “The gold’s gone, that’s sure, and we’re out all of our time and expenses, not to mention the disappointment.”
AN exclamation from John Heather attracted the others. He was bending over in close inspection of the papers, envelopes and documents on the ground. Especially was he excited over the stamped envelopes which lay scattered in great profusion upon the sand.
“Why, dad, here’s a fortune in old postage stamps! Here’s at least ten envelopes bearing a copy of the 1848 one pence stamp of Mauritius, valued at over $500 each, and there are an equal number of the two pence stamps valued at nearly the same amount! There’s a multitude of valuable old English stamps, and look; here’s a big pack of envelopes from British Guiana dated 1852 worth over $100 each!”
From amazement at the young man’s discovery, the attitude of the four men turned to interest, and they too dropped upon all fours and rummaged among the papers, bringing to light all envelopes and documents bearing stamps for the boy to appraise. There were old stamps from Canada, New South Wales, Cape of Good Hope and nearly all of the British Colonies that issued stamps at this early date. It was plainly evident that the Governor-General at Kingston had certainly carried on a large official correspondence with the various other colonies under the crown of England. The contents of the letters revealed this.
During the raid, when Lascqueles had stolen the gold, he had hurriedly dumped it into this huge leather sack in which the governor kept his old correspondence, and through the many years it had remained buried on this lonely, desert island, secure in its moisture-proof box.
“The greatest treasure of all is right here in these stamps,” exclaimed John Heather as the party of five treasure-hunters were speeding back to Jamaica. I’ve figured up the cash value these stamps will bring us at auction in New York and it is in the neighborhood of $40,000!”
“Why, that’s more than the treasure in gold was worth!” exclaimed Mr. Heather.
“It’s the queerest story of burled treasure I’ve ever come across,” observed Captain Mason, “and I’ve heard a lot of them in my time, with all the treasure that’s been hidden by pirates during tho last four hundred years on the Old Spanish Main.”
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