Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies
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“‘When all was done the weight of the box was so great six men could scarcely bear it to the ship’s boat. To me was intrusted the command of these men, who were ordered to row to shore and there bury the box in the earth against the time when we might be able to return for it. This we did and found for the treasure a secure hiding place and buried it at the true sign of the Dragon, which was also His Majesty’s ship, sunk this day, so that we could not mistake it on our return. Our interest was then to proceed speedily to the ship, for we had agreed to weigh anchor and sail away, crippled though we were.
“‘Yet while we floundered our way back to the shore, through well-nigh impassable green growths, infested with loathsome serpents which we slaughtered in numbers, we heard shots and knew that disaster had come upon our ship. So we made haste to gain the shore, but bethought ourselves to hide at the edge of the jungle rather than show ourselves before we had learned the cause of the firing. And we saw a mighty Spanish galleon bearing down on the Dragon and knowing that we could do nothing were compelled to lie where we were and watch the unequal fight between our gallant ship and the great, high-built galleon.
“‘But the Dragon fought on until her masts were beaten overboard and all her tackle cut asunder and her upper work altogether razed, until, in effect, she evened with the water, nothing of her being left overhead either for flight or defense.
“‘Then our captain, who well knew what torture awaited those on board the Dragon when the Spaniard should set foot upon her, must surely have ordered the master gunner to split and sink the ship. This I believe, because suddenly on board the Dragon a terrific explosion took place and she broke in two and sank with all her crew and passengers.
“‘Then those of us who survived because of our errand on shore took counsel among ourselves and there seemed naught to be done save to go deeper into the jungle and hide ourselves until such time as we might be safe to come forth and trust ourselves to the mercy of the sea in our frail boat. For we had bethought ourselves when we landed to carry our boat across the sands and conceal it in the bushes. We were convinced that of the two the sea was possessed of more mercy than the Spaniard.
“‘So we lay for a little and watched the galleon which went not away but hovered near where our ill-fated ship had disappeared beneath the waters. Presently we saw that which gave us sore alarm. We observed the putting down of a boat from the galleon’s side, and we counted ten men, all stoutly armed, who quickly betook themselves over the side and manned this boat as soon as it rode the waters. Then we were of the belief that this galleon had been lurking in the waters behind a small but thickly wooded tongue of land to the north of us, this tongue of land forming one end of a curve in the sands which in shape bore the likeness to a new moon.
“‘We doubted not that the first galleon which we had worsted was in complicity with this second.We were convinced that both these had stolen upon us in the night. Whereas the first had been driven off by us, but with dear loss to ourselves. Those on board the second galleon must surely have observed our plight and thus bided their hour to attack us and complete our destruction. And while they thus waited it is certain they must in some manner have become aware of the lowering of the strong box into our boat and this same boat putting off to shore.
“‘And we knew that we were undone and must seek such refuge as we might find in the jungle. Thereupon we set off in great haste, this time paying no heed to the disgusting serpents which frequently wriggled under our feet and hissed their displeasure of us, though by miracle we were stung by none of them.
“‘Thus we continued to struggle deeper into the jungle with as much speed as we could, and we marveled that we had not yet heard our pursuers behind us. For we were determined to push ever forward until we discovered a fitting place of concealment in the hope that there we might escape being hunted out by them. We were resolved, should they discover us, to fight to the death, for we were well armed.
“‘And after much painful wandering we came into a ravine and found a natural cavern the mouth of which was so overhung with broad-leaved green vines and obscured by bushes as to deceive us at first that aught of a cave was there. And we were overjoyed at this unexpected gain, for we reckoned that even as it had deceived us so it might deceive the Spaniard. Whereupon we severed with exceeding care enough of the vines as would permit us room to pass into the cavern and crept therein, one after another. And by good fortune one of the men had with him a bit of wax candle which we lighted by means of a flint and steel. And we were relieved to find the cave dry and free from scorpions and serpents.
“It is now well past midday and still we are undiscovered. Having naught else to do I have taken my book, which never leaveth my person, and inscribed these facts therein by such dim light as filtereth through a little between our sheltering curtain of vines. If, by the grace of God, I survive this trial I shall ever regard this record as of higher interest than those which I have on divers occasions previous to this derived pleasure in inscribing herein. Should we escape the Spaniard we shall be still in an evil case to procure food, and defend ourselves against wild beasts and savages. These last we have not yet seen, yet I doubt not their presence in this untamed wilderness which now encompasseth us. We are resolved to be of steady courage and good cheer. Our faith reposeth in the Almighty who holdeth us in the hollow of His hand and who will deal with us as He deemeth best. We hold – ’”
Patsy suddenly stopped reading.
“That’s all!” she exclaimed disappointedly. “It breaks off at ‘We hold’ with a long scrawl of the ‘d’ as though Sir John Holden had been suddenly interrupted.”
“It’s wonderful!” Bee drew a long breath. “While Patsy was reading that last entry I imagined I could see those poor men fleeing for their lives through the jungle. The queer part of it is that it must be true. It’s almost as though this Sir John Holden, who lived three hundred years ago, had suddenly come back and spoken to us.”
“Do you suppose the Spaniards found their hiding place and killed them?” asked Eleanor. “Do let me look at the ending of that last entry, Patsy.”
Patsy handed the open book to Eleanor. Peering over her shoulder, Bee, Dolores and Mabel scrutinized it with her. For a time a lively discussion went on among the five girls concerning the book and the amazing narrative it contained. Its abrupt ending pointed to disaster to the fugitive Englishmen.
“I believe the strong box these men buried was the treasure that old Manuel Fereda spent his life hunting for,” finally asserted Bee. “According to description, the place where they went ashore corresponds to the new moon curve of our bathing beach. Don’t you remember how the north end of the curve runs out to a point? The beach goes deep in above there in another shorter curve that makes a natural harbor. I noticed it the other day when we had the race. We swam just a little way past that point.”
“I remember it now,” Patsy looked up, an almost startled expression in her eyes. “It doesn’t seem possible that all this I’ve been reading about ever happened on the very shore we’ve been using for a bathing beach. If it did happen there, then they buried the treasure somewhere in the woods back of it. How did Manuel come by this journal? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“This journal has been handed down from one generation of Feredas to another,” returned Bee promptly. “What about Camillo de Fereda, the portrait cavalier? Judging from his costume in the picture he must have lived at about the same time as this journal was written. Eulalie told Dolores that he was a pirate and a murderer. He might have been on the very galleon that fought the Dragon. He might have been among the Spaniards who went ashore after Sir John and his men. Maybe the Spaniards found them and killed them all and brought back this book to the galleon. I’ve been trying to figure it out and that’s the way I think it was.”
“It sounds very plausible,” agreed Patsy, much impressed. “Isn’t it maddening to find out this much only to realize that we’ll never know the rest? If there’s a treasure no wonder the Feredas could never find it. All Sir John says about it is that they buried it at the true sign of the Dragon. Now what did he mean by that?”
“Well never know, nor will anyone else. If there’s really a treasure buried in the woods behind the beach it will probably stay there forever,” predicted Mabel.
“I guess it will,” agreed Patsy. “I know we’ll never hunt for it. I can imagine Auntie’s face if I proposed digging up those woods to find it. I wonder what she’ll say about this journal? It’s a treasure in itself. It really belongs to you, Bee. You found it.”
“Yes; but in your room,” reminded Beatrice.
Nevertheless she looked rather wistfully at the little sheepskin-covered book. It was indeed a treasure worth having.
“I’ll offer it to Auntie, Bee,” Patsy replied, noting the wistful look in Bee’s eyes. “We ought to consider her first. If she doesn’t care for it, it’s yours.”
“Oh, no, you keep it,” protested Bee. “I couldn’t accept it, really.”
“We’ll settle that later. Oh, I forgot! We haven’t looked at the folded paper yet that fell out of the book.”
Patsy turned to the table and picked up the forgotten paper.
“It’s a letter,” she informed. Then her face clouded. “It’s written in Spanish,” she added disgustedly. “You can read it, Mab, I suppose.”
“Patsy, querida, give me the letter,” eagerly begged Dolores, who as usual had played the silent but always avidly interested listener. “I would read it for you.”
“Why, that’s so! I forgot all about your being Spanish, Dolores,” smiled Patsy.
“Let Dolores read it,” urged Mabel. “She can make a much better translation of it than I.”
“Go ahead, Dolores,” Patsy handed her the letter. Eleanor and Bee also echoed the request.
Shyly delighted at being thus importuned by the girls she so greatly loved and admired, Dolores took the letter and scanned it with knitted brows:
“‘Mi querido hijo,’” she read aloud. “That means, ‘My dear son.’ I will not read more of this in the Spanish, but try to tell you of it in the English as I read it in my own language. This it says:
“It’s the one thing we needed to complete our case.”
It was Bee who shattered the hush that had fallen upon the group.
“Yes. We know now that Don Camillo de Fereda was really a pirate. That he commanded the galleon that finished the Dragon. We know what happened to Sir John Holden and his men and how the book came into the possession of the Feredas,” enumerated Patsy. “The letter and the book have been handed down from generation to generation because none of the Feredas ever found the treasure of Las Golondrinas.”
“That was because of the wickedness of Don Camillo de Fereda,” asserted Dolores. “It was not intended that either he or any of this family should find. Because of it old Manuel died bitter and without faith. To Rosita it brought the madness. I believe that it has the curse laid upon it.”