Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer - A Romance of the Spanish Main
by Cyrus Townsend Brady
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A messenger came staggering toward them across the woods.

"Master Hornigold," he cried.

"Ay, ay."

"We've taken the town. The Captain wants you and your prisoners. You'll find him in the guard room. Oh, ho, there's merry times to-night in La Guayra! All hell's let loose, and we are devils." He laughed boisterously and drunkenly as he spoke and lurched backward over the sands.

"We must be gone," said Hornigold. "Rise, mistress. Come, sir."

"But this lady," urged Alvarado—his lips could scarcely form the unfamiliar word "mother"—"and the good priest? You will not leave them here?"

"The rising tide will bear them out to sea."

"A moment—by your leave," said Alvarado, stepping toward the dead. Assisted by Mercedes, for he was still bound, he stooped down and touched his lips to those of the dead woman, whispering a prayer as he did so. Rising to his feet he cried:

"But my father—who is he—who was he?"

"We shall find that out."

"But his name?"

"I'm not sure, I can not tell now," answered Hornigold evasively; "but with this clew the rest should be easy. Trust me, and when we can discuss this matter undisturbed——"

"But I would know now!"

"You forget, young sir, that you are a prisoner, and must suit your will to my pleasure. Forward!"

But the soul of the old buccaneer was filled with fierce joy. He thought he knew the secret of the crucifix now. The Spanish captain's mother lay dead upon the sands, but his father lived. He was sure of it. He would free Alvarado and bring him down upon Morgan. He chuckled with fiendish delight as he limped along. He had his revenge now; it lay in the hollow of his hand, and 'twas a rare one indeed. Mercedes being bound again, the little party marched across the beach and the bodies of the priest and the nun were left alone while the night tide came rippling up the strand.

Scarcely had the party disappeared within the gate of the fort when the priest slowly and painfully lifted himself on his hands and crawled toward the woman. While the buccaneer had talked with the abbess he had returned to consciousness and had listened. Bit by bit he gathered the details of her story, and in truth he knew it of old. By turning his head he had seen the crucifix on the young man's breast and he also had recognized it. He lay still and silent, however, feigning death, for to have discovered himself would have resulted in his instant despatch. When they had gone he painfully crawled over to the body of the poor nun.

"Isabella," he murmured, giving her her birth name, "thou didst suffer. Thou tookest thine own life, but the loving God will forgive thee. I am glad that I had strength and courage to absolve thee before I fell. And I did not know thee. 'Tis so many years since. Thy son, that brave young captain—I will see thee righted. I wonder——"

He moved nearer to her, scrutinizing her carefully, and then, with an apology even to the dead, the old man opened the front of her gown.

"Ay, ay, I thought so," he said, as his eye caught a glimpse of a gold chain against her white neck. Gently he lifted it, unclasped it, drew it forth. There was a locket upon it. Jewels sparkled upon its surface. She had worn it all these years.

"O, vanitas vanitatum!" murmured the priest, yet compassionately. "What is it that passes the love of woman?"

He slipped it quietly within the breast of his habit and then fell prostrate on the sand, faint from pain and loss of blood. Long the two figures lay there in the moonlight while the rising tide lipped the shining sands. The cool water at last restored consciousness to one of the still forms, but though they laved the beautiful face of the other with tender caresses they could not call back the troubled life that had passed into peaceful eternity. Painfully the old priest raised himself upon his hands and looked about him.

"O God!" he murmured, "give me strength to live until I can tell the story. Sister Maria Christina—Isabella that was—thou were brave and thou wert beautiful; thou hast served our Holy Church long and well. If I could only lay thee in some consecrated ground—but soul like to thine makes holy e'en the sea which shall bear thee away. Shriven thou wert, buried thou shalt be."

The man struggled to his knees, clasped his hands before him, and began the burial service of his ancient Church.

"We therefore commit her body into the great deep," he said, "looking for the general resurrection in the last day, and the life of the world to come——"

The water was washing around him ere he finished his mournful task, and with one long look of benison and farewell he rose to his feet and staggered along the road down the beach. Slowly he went, but presently he reached the turn where began the ascent of the mountain. Before he proceeded he halted and looked long toward the flaming, shrieking, ruined town. The flooding tide was in now and the breakers were beating and thundering far across the sands. The body of the abbess was gone.

The old man drew himself up, lifted his trembling hands and prayed; he prayed again for the soul of the woman; he prayed for the young man, that he might learn the truth; he prayed for the beautiful damsel who loved him; he prayed for the people, the hapless people of the doomed town, the helpless, outraged women, the bereft mothers, the tortured men, the murdered children, and as he prayed he called down the curse of God upon those who had wrought such ruin.

"Slay them, O God! Strike and spare not! Cut them off root and branch who have despoiled thy people Israel. They have taken the sword and may they perish by it as was promised of old!"

A gray, grim, gaunt figure, bloodstained, pale, he stood there in that ghastly light, invoking the judgment of God upon Morgan and his men ere he turned away and was lost in the darkness of the mountain.



The clock on the wall was striking eleven as Hornigold forced his prisoners into the guardroom of the first fort that had been captured, which, as it was the larger of the two, Morgan had selected as his head quarters. Mercedes' soul had turned to stone at the sights and sounds which met her as she passed through the town where the hellish revelry was now in full blast. The things she witnessed and heard were enough to appall the stoutest heart that ever beat within the rudest breast. She forgot her own danger in her sympathy for the suffering inhabitants of the devoted town. Ghastly pale and sick with horror, she tottered and staggered as she entered the room. As for the Senora Agapida, she had collapsed long since, and for the last one hundred yards of the journey had been dragged helplessly along by two of her captors, who threw her in a senseless heap on the stone flagging of the great vaulted chamber.

The agony and suffering, the torture and death, the shame and dishonor of his people affected Alvarado differently. His soul flamed within his breast with pity for the one, rage for the other. He lusted and thirsted to break away and single-handed rush upon the human wolves and tigers, who were despoiling women, torturing men, murdering children, as if they had been devils. The desire mastered him, and he writhed and struggled in his bonds, but unavailingly.

It was a haggard, distracted pair, therefore, which was brought before the chief buccaneer. Morgan sat at the head of the guardroom, on a platform, a table before him strewn with reckless prodigality with vessels of gold and silver stolen from altar and sideboard indifferently, some piled high with food, others brimming with a variety of liquors, from the rich old wines of Xeres to the fiery native rum. On one side of the captain was a woman. Pale as a ghost, the young and beautiful widow of a slaughtered officer, in her disordered array she shrank terrified beneath his hand. L'Ollonois, Teach and de Lussan were also in the room. By each one cowered another woman prisoner. Teach was roaring out a song, that song of London town, with its rollicking chorus:

"Though life now is pleasant and sweet to the sense, We'll be damnably moldy a hundred years hence."

The room was full of plunder of one sort and another, and the buccaneers were being served by frightened negro slaves, their footsteps quickened and their obedience enforced by the sight of a dead black in one corner, whom de Lussan had knifed a short time since because he had been slow in coming to his call. The smell of spilled liquor, of burnt powder, and of blood, indescribable and sickening, hung in the close, hot air. Lamps and candles were flaring and spluttering in the room but the greater illumination came through the open casements from the roaring fires of burning houses outside. The temptation to join in the sack of the town had been too much for Hornigold's remaining men, consequently he and those conveying Senora Agapida alone attended the prisoners. These last, after throwing the duenna recklessly upon the floor, hurried out after the rest, leaving the officers and women alone.

"Silence!" roared Morgan, as his eye fell upon the group entering the lower end of the great hall. "Pipe down, thou bellowing bull!" he shouted, throwing a silver cup that Cellini might have chased, at the head of the half drunken Teach. "Who's there? Scuttle me, 'tis our spitfire and the gallant captain, with that worthy seaman Hornigold! Advance, friends. Thou art welcome to our cheer. Drive them forward, Hornigold," he cried, as he saw Mercedes and Alvarado made no attempt to move.

"Advance quickly," whispered Hornigold to Alvarado; "to cross him now were death."

Seizing them with a great show of force he shoved them down the hall to the foot of the platform, in front of the revellers.

"I welcome thee to our court, fair lady, and you, brave sir. What say ye, gentles all? Rum for the noble captain, here, and wine for the lady," called out Morgan, bowing over the table in malicious mockery.

"I drink with no murderer," said Alvarado firmly, thrusting the negro, who proffered him a glass, violently aside with his shoulder, causing him to topple over, drenching himself with the liquor.

"Ha! Is it so?" laughed Morgan in a terrible manner. "Hark'ee, my young cock, thou shalt crave and beg and pray for another drink at my hand presently—and get it not. But there is another cup thou shalt drink, ay, and that to the dregs. Back, you! I would speak with the lady. Well, Donna Mercedes," he continued, "art still in that prideful mood?"

Silence. The girl stood erect, disdainfully looking him full in the face.

"I shall break thee yet, proud wench!" he shouted.

"Perhaps the demoiselle is jealous of thy present companion, Sir Captain," sneered de Lussan smoothly in his courtliest manner.

"Scuttle me! That's well thought on," laughed Morgan. "And I'll add fuel to the fire."

As he spoke he clasped the terrified woman on his right around the waist, and though she struggled and drew away from him in horror and disgust, he kissed her full upon the lips. The woman shuddered loathingly when he released her, put her face down in her hands and sobbed low and bitterly.

"What sayest thou to that, sweet Mercedes?"

"I say may God have mercy on the soul of yon poor woman," answered Mercedes disdainfully.

"Best pray for thine own soul, madam," he roared. "Come hither! What, you move not? Black Dog, Black Dog, I say!"

The huge maroon lurched from behind his master's chair, where he had lain half-drunken.

"Fetch me that woman!"

Mercedes was bound and could not at first release her hands, but as the maroon shambled toward her she sprang back struggling.

"Alvarado, Alvarado!" she screamed. "Help me, save me!"

Like a maddened bull, though his hands were bound also, Alvarado threw himself upon the negro. The force with which he struck him hurled him backward and the two fell to the floor, the maroon beneath. His head struck a corner of the step with a force that would have killed a white man. In an instant, however, the unbound negro was on his feet. He whipped out his dagger and would have plunged it into the breast of the prostrate Spaniard had not Mercedes, lightly bound, for being a woman they thought it not necessary to be unusually severe in her lashings, wrenched free her hands and caught the half-breed's upraised arm.

"Mercy!" she screamed, while struggling to divert the blow, looking toward Morgan.

"Hold your hand, Black Dog," answered that worthy. "Leave the man and come hither. This is thy first appeal, lady. You know my power at last, eh? Down on your knees and beg for his life!"

Instantly Mercedes sank to her knees and stretched out her hands, a piteous, appealing, lovely figure.

"Spare him, spare him!" she cried.

"What would you do for him?"

"My life for his," she answered bravely.

"Nay, Mercedes," interposed Alvarado, "let him work his will on me."

"There are worse places, thou seest, lady, than by my side," sneered Morgan. "By heaven, 'twas a pretty play, was it not, mates? I spare him, but remember, 'tis for you. Harry Morgan's way. Now reward me. Hither, I say! Go, you woman!" he struck the woman he had kissed a fierce blow with his naked fist—"Away from me! Your place is needed for your betters. Here lady——"

"Captain Morgan," cried Hornigold, suddenly interrupting him. "I bethink me you should send men to seize the mountain pass that leads to Caracas at once, else we may have troops upon us in the morning."

It was a bold diversion and yet it succeeded. There could be no safe feasting in La Guayra with that open road. Morgan had overlooked it, but the boatswain's words recalled it to him; for the moment he forgot the prisoners and the women. Safety was a paramount consideration.

"I forgot it," he answered. "Curse me, how can I? The villains are too drunk with rum and blood and fury to be despatched."

"A force must be assembled at once," urged Hornigold, insistently, "lest some have escaped who would bring word to the Viceroy. He would be upon us in a day with an army too great for resistance. If you intend not to rot here in La Guayra, or be caught in a death trap, we must be up to the mountain top beforehand. Once they seize the pass, we are helpless."

"That's well said, Hornigold," cried Morgan, who was not so drunk that he could not realize the practical value of Hornigold's suggestion and the great danger of disregarding his advice. "The pass must be seized at all hazard. With that in our possession we may bide our time. I thought to wait until to-morrow, but you're right. We've feasted and drunk enough for the night. To-morrow Donna de Lara! Guards for the pass now—But how to get them?"

He rose to his feet as he spoke and came down the hall.

"Teach and L'Ollonois, follow me!" he cried. "Gather up fifty of the soberest men and lead them up the mountain road till you reach the pass, and then hold it till I come. Nay, no hesitation," he roared. "Canst not see the necessity? Unless we are masters of that pass we are caught like rats in a trap here in La Guayra. To-morrow or the next day we shall march up toward Caracas. Your share of the treasure and your women shall be held safe. You shall have first consideration on the other side of the mountains. Nay, I will have it so!" He stamped his foot in furious rage. "We've all had too much drink already," he continued, "now we must make things secure. Hornigold, take charge of this fort. I leave the prisoners with you. Guard them well. Treat the lady well also. Do what you like with the other, only keep him alive. One of you send Braziliano to me. He shall have the other fort. And you and I, Monsieur de Lussan, will take account of the men here in the town and bring them into such order as we can."

Although Teach and L'Ollonois had no mind to leave the pleasures open to them in La Guayra, yet they were both men of intelligence and could easily see the absolute necessity for the precaution suggested by Hornigold and accepted by their captain. If they held the passage over the mountains, and fifty men could hold it against a thousand, no Spaniard could come at them. So the little group, leaving the wretched women, the two prisoners, and Hornigold, sallied out into the infernal night. It was a difficult thing for them to find a sufficient number of sober pirates, but by persuading, threatening, and compelling they at last gathered a force of the least drunken knaves, with which they set forth on the road.

The fires which had been wantonly kindled in different places by the buccaneers were making such headway that Morgan instantly saw that especial efforts would be needed to prevent the complete destruction of the town. He wanted La Guayra for his base of supplies for the present, and with tremendous energy, seconded by de Lussan and some of the soberer men, he routed out the buccaneers and set them to work.

"You have saved me for the moment," said Mercedes, gratefully, turning to Hornigold as he led her away from the hall.

"'Twas not for care of you," hissed out the old man, malevolently, "but that I'd fain balk him in every desire he cherishes, even of possessing you."

"Whatever it was, I am thankful, senor. You have my prayers——"

"Prayers," laughed the old sailor, "it hath been sixty years since I heard those canting Puritans, my mother and father, pray. I want no prayers. But come, I must put you in ward. There should be strong-rooms in this castle."

He summoned a slave and found what he wanted. Mercedes, and Senora Agapida, who was fetched by other slaves, were locked in one room, Alvarado was thrust into another. As soon as he could do so, after making some provision for the comfort of the woman, Hornigold came down to him.

"Senor," he said, "the band is drunk and helpless. One hundred resolute men could master them. Morgan means to march to Caracas to-morrow. He can not get his men in shape to do so as long as liquor flows in La Guayra. If I set you free, what can you do?"

"There is a way over the mountains," answered Alvarado. "A secret way, known only to the Indians."

"Know you this path?"

"It has been pointed out to me."

"Is it a practicable way?"

"It has been abandoned for fifty years, but I could follow it to Caracas."

"And once there, what then?"

"There, if the Viceroy be not gone, and I do not believe he has yet departed, are one thousand soldiers to re-take the city."

"And if they be gone?"

"I'll raise the citizens, the household guards, the savages, and the slaves!"

"Can you do it?"

"Free me and see," answered Alvarado, with such resolution that he convinced the sailor. "The men of Caracas love the daughter of the Viceroy. They are not inexperienced in arms. I will lead them. The advantage of numbers will be with us. If you free me, I take it we will have a friend within the walls. Success is certain. We have too much to revenge," he added, his face flushing with rage at the thought of it all.

"That's well," answered Hornigold. "If I free you what reward shall I have?"

"I will cover you with treasure."

"And guarantee my life and liberty?"

"They shall be held inviolate."

"We captured the Porto Bello plate ship, and were wrecked two days ago a league or so to the westward——"

"I saw the ship the day of the storm, but marked it not," interrupted the officer.

"Ay. We buried the treasure. Shall I have my share?"

"All that thou canst take, if the honor of the lady be preserved. I answer for the Viceroy."

"Will you swear it?"


"By your mother's cross?"

"By my mother's cross, I swear. I will keep my faith with you, so help me God!"

"I believe in no God, but you do, and that suffices. You shall go," cried the buccaneer, all his objections satisfied. "But as you love the woman, lose no time. I'll be at the west gate under the rocks at ten o'clock to-morrow night. You know it?"

"Yes, go on."

"I'll open the gate for you and leave the rest to you. You must be there with your force. Now, go."

"I shall be there. But I can not leave without Donna Mercedes."

"And you can't go with her. Think! Could she make her way over the mountains?"

"No, no, but——"

"I'll watch over her with my life," urged the One-Eyed. "My share of the treasure depends upon her safety, you said."

"But Morgan——"

"I hate him with a hatred greater than thine."

"He is thy captain."

"He betrayed me, and I swore to take such vengeance as was never heard before, to make him suffer such torments by my hand as were never felt outside of hell."

"You would betray him?"

"It was for that I came with him! for that I live. He craves and covets the Donna Mercedes. He shall not have her. Trust me to interpose at the last moment."

"Is this true? Can I believe you?"

"Else why should I jeopard my life by freeing you? I hate him, I tell you. Remember! The west gate! There are not three hundred men here. The best fifty have gone with Teach and L'Ollonois, the rest are drunken and cowards. Here are weapons. Wrap yourself in this cloak, and come. Say no word to any one on the way. By Satan, as you love the wench, lose no time!"

As he spoke, the old man cut the bonds of Alvarado, belted upon him dagger and sword, thrust a charged pistol in his hand, covered his head with a steel cap, and threw a long cloak around him. The two then went forth into the night. Avoiding the notice of others, they hastened along the deserted parapet, for there were none to keep watch or guard, until they came to one of the ladders by which the buccaneers had entered the town. Down it Alvarado, first swearing again on the cross, on his honor, to respect his agreement with Hornigold and again receiving the man's assurance, dropped hastily to the ground.

There was no one to look, and he dashed recklessly across the narrow strip of sand to the shadow of the cliffs, along which he ran until he came opposite the place of his mother's death. The white water was rolling and crashing on the beach, and the body was gone. With a hasty petition for the repose of her soul, he ran on until he reached the turn of the road. There, like the priest, he made another prayer, and it was a prayer not different from that which had been voiced so short a time before.

But his petitions were soon over. It was a time for work, not prayer. No moment could be lost. He girded up his loins and turned away on the run. Unlike the priest, however, he did not pursue the mountain road, but, after going a short distance, he left the way and plunged to the right through the trees directly up the side of the hill.

His face was cut and slashed by Morgan's dagger; his soul had been racked and torn by the scenes he had gone through; the plight of Mercedes stirred him to the very depths; his heart yearned over the slaughtered garrison, the ruined town, but with a strength superhuman he plunged at the hill, in spite of the forest, groping about in the darkness with frantic energy until he found the traces of a slender, rocky path which led over the mountains.





The day after the sack of the town had been a busy one for the buccaneers. First of all, Morgan had striven, and with some success, to restore some sort of order within the walls. By the aid of his officers and some of the soberest men he had confiscated all of the liquor that he could come at, and had stored it under a strong guard in the west fort, which he selected as his headquarters. The Governor's palace on the hill above was a more fitting and luxurious residence and it had been promptly seized, the few defenders having fled, in the morning; but for the present Morgan deemed it best to remain in the city and in close touch with his men.

The Spanish soldiery had been cut down to a man the night before, and the majority of the hapless citizens had been killed, wounded or tortured. The unfortunates who were yet alive were driven into the church of San Lorenzo, where they were kept without food, water, or attention.

There were some children, also, who had survived the night, for the buccaneers, frenzied with slaughter and inflamed with rum, had tossed many of them on their sword-points when they came across them in the streets. By Morgan's orders the living were collected in the store-house and barracks of the Guinea Trading Company, a corporation which supplied slaves to the South American countries, and which had branches in every city on the Caribbean. He did order food and water to be given these helpless unfortunates, so their condition was not quite so deplorable as that of the rest. It was bad enough, however, and the old barracks which had echoed with the sound of many a bitter cry from the forlorn lips of wretched slaves, now resounded with the wailing of these terrified little ones.

The condition of the women of the city was beyond description. They, too, were herded together in another building, an ancient convent, but were plentifully supplied with every necessary they could ask for. Death, in lieu of the fate that had come upon them, would have been welcomed by many a high-born dame and her humbler sister as well, but they were all carefully searched and deprived of everything that might serve as a weapon. They were crowded together indiscriminately, high and low, rich and poor, black or white or red, in all states of disorder and disarray, just as they had been seized the night before, some of them having been dragged from their very beds by the brutal ruffians.

Some of the women, maddened to frenzy by the treatment they had received, screamed and raved; but most of them were filled with still misery, overwhelmed by silent despair—waiting hopelessly for they knew not what bitter, degrading end. One night had changed them from happy wives, honored mothers, light-hearted, innocent girls, to wrecks of womanhood. The light of life was dead in them. They were dumb and unprotesting. The worst had come upon them; there was nothing of sorrow and shame they had not tasted. What mattered anything else? Their husbands, fathers, children, lovers had gone. Homes were broken up; their property was wasted, and not even honor was left. They prayed to die. It was all that was left to them.

The gates of the town and forts were closed and some slight attempt was made to institute a patrol of the walls, although the guard that was kept was negligent to the point of contempt. As no enemy was apprehended Morgan did not rigorously insist upon strict watch. Many of the buccaneers were still sodden with liquor and could be of no service until they were sobered. They were dragged to the barracks, drenched with water, and left to recover as best they could.

Fortune favored them in one other matter, too, in that late in the afternoon a handsome frigate bringing despatches from Carthagena, ran in and anchored in the roadstead. Her officers at once came ashore to pay their respects to the Commandante of the port and forward their papers to the Viceroy. Before they suspected anything, they were seized and ruthlessly murdered. To take possession of the frigate thereafter was a work of no special difficulty. The crew were disposed of as their officers had been, and the buccaneers rejoiced greatly at the good luck that had brought them so fine a ship. On the next morning Morgan intended to march toward Caracas, whence, after plundering that town and exacting a huge ransom for the lives of those he spared, he would lead his band back to La Guayra, embark on the frigate, and then bear away for the Isthmus.

During the day, Hornigold, whose wound incapacitated him from active movement, remained in command of the fort with special instructions to look after Mercedes. By Morgan's orders she and her companion were removed to the best room in the fort and luxuriously provided for. He had not discovered the escape of Alvarado, partly because he took no manner of interest in that young man and only kept him alive to influence the girl, and partly because Hornigold had assured him that the prisoner was taking his confinement very hardly, that he was mad with anger, in a raging fever of disappointment and anxiety, and was constantly begging to see the captain. The boatswain cunningly suggested that it would be just as well to let Alvarado remain in solitude, without food or water until the next day, by which time, the boatswain argued, he would be reduced to a proper condition of humility and servitude. Morgan found this advice good. It was quite in consonance with his desires and his practices. He would have killed Alvarado out of hand had he not considered him the most favorable card with which to play the game he was waging with Mercedes for her consent to marry him.

So far as he was capable of a genuine affection, he loved the proud Spanish maiden. He would fain persuade her willingly to come to his arms rather than enforce her consent or overcome her scruples by brute strength. There would be something of a triumph in winning her, and this vain, bloodstained old brute fancied that he had sufficient attractiveness for the opposite sex to render him invincible if he set about his wooing in the right way. He thought he knew the way, too. At any rate he was disposed to try it. Here again Hornigold, upon whom in the absence of Teach he depended more and more, and in whom he confided as of old, advised him.

"I know women," said that worthy, and indeed no man had more knowledge of the class which stood for women in his mind than he, "and all you want is to give her time. Wait until she knows what's happened to the rest of them, and sees only you have power to protect her, and she will come to heel right enough. Besides, you haven't given her half a chance. She's only seen you weapon in hand. She doesn't know what a man you are, Captain. Sink me, if I'd your looks instead of this old, scarred, one-eyed face, there'd be no man I'd give way to and no woman I'd not win! Steer her along gently with an easy helm. Don't jam her up into the wind all of a sudden. Women have to be coaxed. Leave the girl alone a watch. Don't go near her; let her think what she pleases. Don't let anybody go near her unless it's me, and she won't get anything out of me, you can depend upon that! She'll be so anxious to talk to you in the morning that you can make her do anything. Then if you can starve that Spanish dog and break his spirit, so that she'll see him crawling at your feet, she'll sicken of him and turn to a man."

"Scuttle me," laughed Morgan, "your advice is good! I didn't know you knew so much about the sex."

"I've mixed up considerable with them in sixty years, Captain," leered the old man. "What I don't know about them ain't worth knowing."

"It seems so. Well, I'll stay away from her till the morning. I shall be busy anyway trying to straighten out these drunken sots, and do you put the screws on that captain and leave the lady alone—but see that she lacks nothing."

"Ay, ay, trust me for them both."

Hornigold found means during the day—and it was a matter of no little difficulty to elude the guards he himself had placed there—to inform Mercedes of the escape of Alvarado, and to advise her that he expected the return of that young man with the troops of the Viceroy at ten o'clock that night. He bade her be of good cheer, that he did not think it likely that Morgan would think of calling upon her or of sending for her until morning, when it would be too late. He promised that he would watch over her and do what he could to protect her; that he would never leave the fort except for a few moments before ten that night, when he went to admit Alvarado. What was better earnest of his purpose was that he furnished her with a keen dagger, small enough to conceal in the bosom of her dress, and advised her if worst came to worst, and there was no other way, to use it. He impressed on her that on no account was she to allow Morgan to get the slightest inkling of his communication to her, for if the chief buccaneer found this out Hornigold's life would not be worth a moment's thought, and Alvarado would be balked in his plans of rescue.

Mercedes most thankfully received the weapon and promised to respect the confidence. She was grateful beyond measure, and he found it necessary harshly to admonish her that he only assisted her because he had promised Alvarado that she should receive no harm, and that his own safety depended upon hers. He did not say so, but under other circumstances he would have as ruthlessly appropriated her for himself as Morgan intended to do, and without the shadow of a scruple.

As far as creature comforts were concerned the two women fared well. Indeed, they were sumptuously, lavishly, prodigally provided for. Senora Agapida was still in a state of complete prostration. She lay helpless on a couch in the apartment and ministering to her distracted the poor girl's mind, yet such a day as Mercedes de Lara passed she prayed she might never again experience. The town was filled with the shouts and cries of the buccaneers wandering to and fro, singing drunken choruses, now and again routing out hidden fugitives from places of fancied security and torturing them with ready ingenuity whenever they were taken. The confusion was increased and the noise diversified by the shrieks and groans of these miserable wretches. Sometimes the voices that came through the high windows were those of women, and the sound of their screams made the heart of the brave girl sink like lead in her breast.

For the rest, she did not understand Hornigold's position. She did not know whether to believe him or not, but of one thing was she certain. Whereas she had been defenceless now she had a weapon, and she could use it if necessary. With that in hand she was mistress at least of her own fate.

As evening drew on, every thing having been attended to, Morgan began to tire of his isolation, and time hung heavy on his hands. He was weary of the women whom he had hitherto consorted with; the other officers, between whom and himself there was no sort of friendship, were busy with their own nefarious wickednesses in the different parts of the fort or town, and he sat a long time alone in the guardroom, drinking, Black Dog, as usual, pouring at his side. The liquor inflamed his imagination and he craved companionship. Summoning Hornigold at last, he bade him bring Donna Mercedes before him. The old man attempted to expostulate, but Morgan's mood had changed and he brooked no hesitation in obeying any order given by him. There was nothing for the boatswain to do but to comply.

Once more Mercedes, therefore, found herself in the guardroom of the fort in the presence of the man she loathed and feared above all others in creation. Her situation, however, was vastly different from what it had been. On the first occasion there had appeared no hope. Now Alvarado was free and she had a weapon. She glanced at the clock, a recent importation from Spain hanging upon the wall, as she entered, and saw that it was half-after nine. Ten was the hour Hornigold had appointed to meet Alvarado at the gate. She hoped that he would be early rather than late; and, if she could withstand the buccaneer by persuasion, seeming compliance, or by force, for a short space, all would be well. For she never doubted that her lover would come for her. Even if he had to come single-handed and alone to fight for her, she knew he would be there. Therefore, with every nerve strained almost to the breaking point to ward off his advances and to delay any action he might contemplate, she faced the buccaneer.

He was dressed with barbaric magnificence in the riches and plunder he had appropriated, and he had adorned his person with a profusion of silver and gold, and stolen gems. He had been seated at the table while served by the maroon, but, as she entered, with unusual complaisance he arose and bowed to her with something of the grace of a gentleman.

"Madam," he said, endeavoring to make soft and agreeable his harsh voice, "I trust you have been well treated since in my charge."

He had been drinking heavily she saw, but as he spoke her fair she would answer him accordingly. To treat him well, to temporize, and not to inflame his latent passion by unnecessarily crossing him, would be her best policy, she instantly divined, although she hated and despised him none the less. On his part, he had determined to try the gentler arts of persuasion, and though his face still bore the welts made by her riding whip the night before he strove to forget it and play the gentleman. He had some qualities, as a buccaneer, that might entitle him to a certain respect, but when he essayed the gentleman his performance was so futile that had it not been so terrible it would have been ludicrous. She answered his question calmly without exhibiting resentment or annoyance.

"We have been comfortably lodged and provided with food and drink in sufficiency, senor."

"And what more would you have, Donna Mercedes?"

"Liberty, sir!"

"That shall be yours. Saving only my will, when you are married to me, you shall be as free as air. A free sailor and his free wife, lady. But will you not sit down?"

In compliance with his request, she seated herself on a chair which happened to be near where she stood; she noted with relief that the table was between them.

"Nay, not there," said the Captain instantly. "Here, madam, here, at my side."

"Not yet, senor capitan; it were not fit that a prisoner should occupy so high a seat of honor. Wait until——"

"Until what, pray?" he cried, leaning forward.

"Until that—until I—until we——"

In spite of her efforts she could not force her lips to admit the possibility of the realization of his desire.

"Until you are Lady Morgan?" he cried, his face flaming.

She buried her face in her hands at his suggestion, for she feared her horror in the thought would show too plainly there; and then because she dare not lose sight of him, she constrained herself to look at him once more. Her cheeks were burning with shame, her eyes flashing with indignation, though she forced her lips into the semblance of a smile.

"That surprises you, does it?" continued the man with boasting condescension. "You did not think I designed so to honor you after last night, madam? Scuttle me, these"—pointing to his face—"are fierce love taps, but I fancy a strong will—when I can break it to mine own," he muttered, "and I have yet to see that in man or woman that could resist mine."

She noted with painful fascination the powerful movements of his lean fingers as he spoke, for his sinewy right hand, wrinkled and hideous, lay stretched out on the table before him, and he clasped and unclasped it unconsciously as he made his threat.

"I like you none the less for your spirit, ma'am. 'Fore God, it runs with your beauty. You are silent," he continued, staring at her with red-eyed, drunken suspicion. "You do not answer?"

"My lord," cried Mercedes, "I know not what to say."

"Say, 'Harry Morgan, I love you and I am yours.'"

"There is another present, senor."

"Where? Another? Who has dared—" roared the buccaneer glaring about him.

"Thy servant—the negro."

"Oh," he laughed, "he is nothing. Black Dog, we call him. He is my slave, my shadow, my protection. He is always by."

An idea had swiftly flashed into the young girl's mind. If she could get rid of the slave she could deal more easily with the master. She was tall, strong, and Morgan, it appeared, was not in full possession of his faculties or his strength from the liquor he had imbibed.

"Still," she urged, "I do not like to be wooed in the presence of another, even though he be a slave. 'Tis not a Spanish maiden's way, sir."

"Your will now, lady," said the buccaneer, with a hideous attempt at gallantry, "is my law. Afterwards—'twill be another matter. Out, Carib, but be within call. Now, madam, we are alone. Speak you the English tongue?"

The conversation had been carried on in Spanish heretofore.

"Indifferently, senor."

"Well, I'll teach it you. The lesson may as well begin now. Say after me, 'Harry'—I permit that though I am a belted knight of England, made so by His Merry Majesty, King Charles, God rest him. Drink to the repose of the king!" he cried, shoving a cup across the table toward her.

Resisting a powerful temptation to throw it at him, and divining that the stimulant might be of assistance to her in the trying crisis in which she found herself, the girl lifted the cup to her lips, bowed to him, and swallowed a portion of the contents.

"Give it back to me!" he shouted. "You have tasted it, I drain it. Now the lesson. Say after me, 'Harry Morgan'——"

"Harry Morgan," gasped the girl.

"'I love thee.'"

With a swift inward prayer she uttered the lying words.

"You have learned well, and art an apt pupil indeed," he cried, leering upon her in approbation and lustful desire—- his very gaze was pollution to her. "D'ye know there are few women who can resist me when I try to be agreeable? Harry Morgan's way!" he laughed again. "There be some that I have won and many I have forced. None like you. So you love me? Scuttle me, I thought so. Ben Hornigold was right. Woo a woman, let her be clipped willingly in arms—yet there's a pleasure in breaking in the jades, after all. Still, I'm glad that you are in a better mood and have forgot that cursed Spaniard rotting in the dungeons below, in favor of a better man, Harry—no, I'll say, Sir Henry—Morgan—on this occasion, at your service," he cried, rising again and bowing to her as before.

She looked desperately at the clock. The hour was close at hand. So great was the strain under which she was laboring that she felt she could not continue five minutes longer. Would Alvarado never come? Would anybody come? She sat motionless and white as marble, while the chieftain stared at her in the pauses of his monologue.

"Now, madam, since you have spoke the words perhaps you will further wipe out the recollection of this caress—" he pointed to his cheek again. "Curse me!" he cried in sudden heat, "you are the only human being that ever struck Harry Morgan on the face and lived to see the mark. I'd thought to wait until to-morrow and fetch some starveling priest to play his mummery, but why do so? We are alone here—together. There is none to disturb us. Black Dog watches. You love me, do you not?"

"I—I—" she gasped out, brokenly praying for strength, and fighting for time.

"You said it once, that's enough. Come, lady, let's have happiness while we may. Seal the bargain and kiss away the blows."

He came around the table and approached her. Notwithstanding the quantity of liquor he had taken he was physically master of himself, she noticed with a sinking heart. As he drew near, she sprang to her feet also and backed away from him, throwing out her left hand to ward him off, at the same time thrusting her right hand into her bosom.

"Not now," she cried, finding voice and word in the imminence of the peril. "Oh, for God's sake——"

"Tis useless to call on God in Harry Morgan's presence, mistress, for he is the only God that hears. Come and kiss me, thou black beauty—and then—"

"To-morrow, for Christ's sake!" cried the girl. "I am a Christian—I must have a priest—not now—to-morrow!"

She was backed against the wall and could go no further.

"To-night," chuckled the buccaneer.

He was right upon her now. She thrust him, unsuspicious and unprepared, violently from her, whipped out the dagger that Hornigold had given her, and faced him boldly.

It was ten o'clock and no one had yet appeared. The struck hour reverberated through the empty room. Would Alvarado never come? Had it not been that she hoped for him she would have driven the tiny weapon into her heart at once, but for his sake she would wait a little longer.

"Nay, come no nearer!" she cried resolutely. "If you do, you will take a dead woman in your arms. Back, I say!" menacing herself with the point.

And the man noted that the hand holding the weapon did not tremble in the least.

"Thinkest thou that I could love such a man as thou?" she retorted, trembling with indignation, all the loathing and contempt she had striven to repress finding vent in her voice. "I'd rather be torn limb from limb than feel even the touch of thy polluting hand!"

"Death and fury!" shouted Morgan, struggling between rage and mortification, "thou hast lied to me then?"

"A thousand times—yes! Had I a whip I'd mark you again. Come within reach and I will drive the weapon home!"

She lifted it high in the air and shook it in defiance as she spoke.

It was a frightful imprudence, for which she paid dearly, however, for the hangings parted and Carib, who had heard what had gone on, entered the room—indeed, the voices of the man and woman filled with passion fairly rang through the hall. His quick eye took in the situation at once. He carried at his belt a long, heavy knife. Without saying a word, he pulled it out and threw it with a skill born of long practice, which made him a master at the game, fairly at the woman's uplifted hand. Before either Morgan or Mercedes were aware of his presence they heard the whistle of the heavy blade through the air. At the same moment the missile struck the blade of the dagger close to the palm of the woman and dashed it from her hand. Both weapons rebounded from the wall from the violence of the blow and fell at Morgan's feet.

Mercedes was helpless.

"Well done, Carib!" cried Morgan exultantly. "Never has that old trick of thine served me better. Now, you she-devil—I have you in my power. Didst prefer death to Harry Morgan? Thou shalt have it, and thy lover, too. I'll tear him limb from limb and in thy presence, too, but not until after——"

"Oh, God! oh, God!" shrieked Mercedes, flattening herself against the wall, shrinking from him with wide outstretched arms as he approached her. "Mercy!"

"I know not that word. Wouldst cozen me? Hast another weapon in thy bodice? I'll look."

Before she could prevent him he seized her dress at the collar with both hands and, in spite of her efforts, by a violent wrench tore it open.

"No weapon there," he cried. "Ha! That brings at last the color to your pale cheek!" he added, as the rich red crimsoned the ivory of her neck and cheek at this outrage.

"Help, help!" she screamed. Her voice rang high through the apartment with indignant and terrified appeal.

"Call again," laughed Morgan.

"Kill me, kill me!" she begged.

"Nay, you must live to love me! Ho! ho!" he answered, taking her in his arms.

"Mercy! Help!" she cried in frenzy, all the woman in her in arms against the outrage, though she knew her appeal was vain, when, wonder of wonders——

"I heard a lady's voice," broke upon her ears from the other end of the room.

"De Lussan!" roared Morgan, releasing her and turning toward the intruder. "Here's no place for you. How came you here? I'd chosen this room for myself, I wish to be private. Out of it, and thank me for your life!"

"I know not why you should have Donna de Lara against her will, and when better men are here," answered the Frenchman, staring with bold, cruel glances at her, beautiful in her disarray, "and if you keep her you must fight for her. Mademoiselle," he continued, baring his sword gracefully and saluting her, "will you have me for your champion?"

His air was as gallant as if he had been a gentleman and bound in honor to rescue a lady in dire peril of life and honor, instead of another ruffian inflamed by her beauty and desirous to possess her himself.

"Save me! Save me," she cried, "from this man!"

She did not realize the meaning of de Lussan's words, she only saw a deliverer for the present. It was ten minutes past the hour now. She welcomed any respite; her lover might come at any moment.

"I will fight the both of you for her," cried the Frenchman; "you, Black Dog, and you, Master Morgan. Draw, unless you are a coward."

"I ought to have you hanged, you mutinous hound!" shouted Morgan, "and hanged you shall be, but not until I have proved myself your master with the sword, as in all other things. Watch the woman, Carib, and keep out of this fray. Lay hand on her at your peril! Remember, she is mine."

"Or it may be mine," answered de Lussan, as Morgan dashed at him.

They engaged without hesitation and the room was filled with the sound of ringing, grating steel. First pulling the pins from her glorious hair, Mercedes shook it down around her bare shoulders, and then stood, fascinated, watching the fencers. She could make no movement from the wall as the negro stood at her arm. For a space neither of the fighters had any advantage. De Lussan's skill was marvelous, but the chief buccaneer was more than his match. Presently the strength and capacity of the older and more experienced swordsman began to give him a slight advantage. Hard pressed, the Frenchman, still keeping an inexorable guard, slowly retreated up the room.

Both men had been so intensely occupied with the fierce play that they had not heard the sound of many feet outside, a sudden tumult in the street. The keen ear of the half-breed, however, detected that something was wrong.

"Master," he cried, "some one comes. I hear shouts in the night air. A shot! Shrieks—groans! There! The clash of arms! Lower your weapons, sirs!" he cried again, as Spanish war cries filled the air. "We are betrayed; the enemy is on us!"

Instantly Morgan and de Lussan broke away from each other.

"To-morrow," cried the buccaneer captain.

"As you will," returned the other.

But now, Mercedes, staking all upon her hope, lifted her voice, and with tremendous power begot by fear and hope sent ringing through the air that name which to her meant salvation—

"Alvarado! Alvarado!"



The highway between La Guayra and Venezuela was exceedingly rough and difficult, and at best barely practicable for the stoutest wagons. The road wound around the mountains for a distance of perhaps twenty-five miles, although as the crow flies it was not more than five miles between the two cities. Between them, however, the tremendous ridge of mountains rose to a height of nearly ten thousand feet. Starting from the very level of the sea, the road crossed the divide through a depression at an altitude of about six thousand feet and descended thence some three thousand feet to the valley in which lay Caracas.

This was the road over which Alvarado and Mercedes had come and on the lower end of which they had been captured. It was now barred for the young soldier by the detachment of buccaneers under young Teach and L'Ollonois, who were instructed to hold the pass where the road crossed through, or over, the mountains. Owing to the configuration of the pass, that fifty could hold it against a thousand. It was not probable that news of the sack of La Guayra would reach Caracas before Morgan descended upon it, but to prevent the possibility, or to check any movement of troops toward the shore, it was necessary to hold that road. The man who held it was in position to protect or strike either city at will. It was, in fact, the key to the position.

Morgan, of course, counted upon surprising the unfortified capital as he had the seaport town. It was the boast of the Spaniards that they needed no walls about Caracas, since nature had provided them with the mighty rampart of the mountain range, which could not be surmounted save in that one place. With that one place in the buccaneer's possession, Caracas could only rely upon the number and valor of her defenders. To Morgan's onslaught could only be opposed a rampart of blades and hearts. Had there been a state of war in existence it is probable that the Viceroy would have fortified and garrisoned the pass, but under present conditions nothing had been done. As soon as a messenger from Teach informed Morgan that the pass had been occupied and that all seemed quiet in Caracas, a fact which had been learned by some bold scouting on the farther side of the mountain, he was perfectly easy as to the work of the morrow. He would fall upon the unwalled town at night and carry everything by a coup de main.

Fortunately for the Spaniards in this instance, it happened that there was another way of access to the valley of Caracas from La Guayra. Directly up and over the mountain there ran a narrow and difficult trail, known first to the savages and afterwards to wandering smugglers or masterless outlaws. Originally, and until the Spaniards made the wagon road, it had been the only way of communication between the two towns. But the path was so difficult and so dangerous that it had long since been abandoned, even by the classes which had first discovered and traveled it. These vagabonds had formerly kept it in such a state of repair that it was fairly passable, but no work had been done on it for nearly one hundred years. Indeed, in some places, the way had been designedly obliterated by the Spanish Government about a century since, after one of the most daring exploits that ever took place in the new world.

Ninety years before this incursion by the buccaneers, a bold English naval officer, Sir Amyas Preston, after seizing La Guayra, had captured Caracas by means of this path. The Spaniards, apprised of his descent upon their coasts, had fortified the mountain pass but had neglected this mountain trail, as a thing impracticable for any force. Preston, however, adroitly concealing his movements, had actually forced his men to ascend the trail. The ancient chroniclers tell of the terrific nature of the climb, how the exhausted and frightened English sailors dropped upon the rocks, appalled by their dangers and worn out by their hardships, how Preston and his officers forced them up at the point of the sword until finally they gained the crest and descended into the valley. They found the town unprotected, for all its defenders were in the pass, seized it, held it for ransom, then, sallying forth, took the surprised Spanish troops in the pass in the rear and swept them away.

After this exploit some desultory efforts had been made by the Spaniards to render the trail still more impracticable with such success as has been stated, and it gradually fell into entire disuse. By nearly all the inhabitants its very existence had been forgotten.

It was this trail that Alvarado determined to ascend. The difficulties in his way, even under the most favorable circumstances, might well have appalled the stoutest-hearted mountaineer. In the darkness they would be increased a thousand-fold. He had not done a great deal of mountain climbing, although every one who lived in Venezuela was more or less familiar with the practice; but he was possessed of a cool head, an unshakable nerve, a resolute determination, and unbounded strength, which now stood him in good stead. And he had back of him, to urge him, every incentive in the shape of love and duty that could move humanity to godlike deed.

Along the base of the mountain the trail was not difficult although it was pitch-dark under the trees which, except where the mighty cliffs rose sheer in the air like huge buttresses of the range, covered the mountains for the whole expanse of their great altitude, therefore he made his way upward without trouble or accident at first. The moon's rays could not pierce the density of the tropic foliage, of course, but Alvarado was very familiar with this easier portion of the way, for he had often traversed it on hunting expeditions, and he made good progress for several hours in spite of the obscurity.

It had been long past midnight when he started, and it was not until daybreak that he passed above the familiar and not untrodden way and entered upon the most perilous part of his journey. The gray dawn revealed to him the appalling dangers he must face.

Sometimes clinging with iron grasp to pinnacles of rock, he swung himself along the side of some terrific precipice, where the slightest misstep meant a rush into eternity upon the rocks a thousand feet below. Sometimes he had to spring far across great gorges in the mountains that had once been bridged by mighty trunks of trees, long since moldered away. Sometimes there was nothing for him to do but to scramble down the steep sides of some dark canyon and force himself through cold torrential mountain streams that almost swept him from his feet. Again his path lay over cliffs green with moss and wet with spray, which afforded most precarious support to his grasping hands or slipping feet. Sometimes he had to force a way through thick tropic undergrowth that tore his clothing into rags.

Had he undertaken the ascent in a mere spirit of adventure he would have turned back long since from the dangers he met and surmounted with such hardship and difficulty; but he was sustained by the thought of the dreadful peril of the woman he loved, the remembrance of the sufferings of the hapless townspeople, and a consuming desire for revenge upon the man who had wrought this ruin on the shore. With the pale, beautiful face of Mercedes to lead him, and by contrast the hateful, cruel countenance of Morgan to force him, ever before his vision, the man plunged upward with unnatural strength, braving dangers, taking chances, doing the impossible—and Providence watched over him.

It was perhaps nine o'clock in the morning when he reached the summit—breathless, exhausted, unhelmed, weaponless, coatless, in rags; torn, bruised, bleeding, but unharmed—and looked down on the white city of Caracas set in its verdant environment like a handful of pearls in a goblet of emerald. He had wondered if he would be in time to intercept the Viceroy, and his strained heart leaped in his tired breast when he saw, a few miles beyond the town on the road winding toward the Orinoco country, a body of men. The sunlight blazing from polished helms or pointed lance tips proclaimed that they were soldiers. He would be in time, thank God!

With renewed vigor, he scrambled down the side of the mountain—and this descent fortunately happened to be gentle and easy—and running with headlong speed, he soon drew near the gate of the palace. He dashed into it with reckless haste, indifferent to the protests of the guard, who did not at first recognize in the tattered, bloody, wounded, soiled specimen of humanity his gay and gallant commander. He made himself known at once, and was confirmed in his surmise that the Viceroy had set forth with his troops early in the morning and was still in reaching distance on the road.

Directing the best horse in the stables to be brought to him, after snatching a hasty meal while it was being saddled, and not even taking time to re-clothe himself, he mounted and galloped after. An hour later he burst through the ranks of the little army and reined in his horse before the astonished Viceroy, who did not recognize in this sorry cavalier his favorite officer, and stern words of reproof for the unceremonious interruption of the horseman broke from his lips until they were checked by the first word from the young captain.

"The buccaneers have taken La Guayra and sacked it!" gasped Alvarado hoarsely.

"Alvarado!" cried the Viceroy, recognizing him as he spoke. "Are you mad?"

"Would God I were, my lord."

"The buccaneers?"

"Morgan—all Spain hates him with reason—led them!"

"Morgan! That accursed scourge again in arms? Impossible! I don't understand!"

"The very same! 'Tis true! 'tis true! Oh, your Excellency——"

"And my daughter——"

"A prisoner! For God's love turn back the men!"

"Instantly!" cried the Viceroy.

He was burning with anxiety to hear more, but he was too good a soldier to hesitate as to the first thing to be done. Raising himself in his stirrups he gave a few sharp commands and the little army, which had halted when he had, faced about and began the return march to Caracas at full speed. As soon as their manoeuvres had been completed and they moved off, the Viceroy, who rode at the head with Alvarado and the gentlemen of his suite, broke into anxious questioning.

"Now, Captain, but that thou art a skilled soldier I could not believe thy tale."

"My lord, I swear it is true!"

"And you left Donna Mercedes a prisoner?" interrupted de Tobar, who had been consumed with anxiety even greater than that of the Viceroy.

"Alas, 'tis so."

"How can that be when you are free, senor?"

"Let me question my own officer, de Tobar," resumed the Viceroy peremptorily, "and silence, all, else we learn nothing. Now, Alvarado. What is this strange tale of thine?"

"My lord, after we left you yesterday morning we made the passage safely down the mountain. Toward evening as we approached La Guayra, just before the point where the road turns into the strand, we were set upon by men in ambush. The soldiers and attendants were without exception slain. Although I fought and beat down one or two of our assailants, they struck me to the earth and took me alive. The two ladies and I alone escaped. No indignity was offered them. I was bound and we were led along the road to a camp. There appeared to be some three hundred and fifty men under the leadership of a man who claimed to be Sir Henry Morgan, sometime pirate and robber, later Vice-Governor of Jamaica, now, as I gathered, in rebellion against his king and in arms against us. They captured the plate galleon with lading from Porto Bello and Peru, and were wrecked on this coast to the westward of La Guayra. They had determined upon the capture of that town, whence they expected to move on Caracas."

"And Mercedes?" again interrupted the impetuous and impassioned de Tobar.

"Let him tell his tale!" commanded the Viceroy, sternly. "It behooves us, gentlemen, to think first of the cities of our King."

"They had captured a band of holy nuns and priests. These were forced, especially the women, by threats you can imagine, to plant scaling ladders against the walls, and, although the troops made a brave defense, the buccaneers mastered them. They carried the place by storm and sacked it. When I left it was burning in several places and turned into a hell."

"My God!" ejaculated the old man, amid the cries and oaths of his fierce, infuriated men. "And now tell me about Mercedes."

"Morgan—who met her, you remember, when we stopped at Jamaica on our return from Madrid?"

"Yes, yes!"

"He is in love with her. He wanted to make her his wife. Therefore he kept her from the soldiery."

In his eagerness the Viceroy reined in his horse, and the officers and men, even the soldiers, stopped also and crowded around the narrator.

"Did he—did he—O Holy Mother have pity upon me!" groaned the Viceroy.

"He did her no violence save to kiss her, while I was by."

"And you suffered it!" shouted de Tobar, beside himself with rage.

"What did she then?" asked the old man, waving his hand for silence.

"She struck him in the face again and again with her riding-whip. I was bound, senors. I broke my bonds, struck down one of the guards, wrested a sword from another, and sprang to defend her. But they overpowered me. Indeed, they seized the lady and swore to kill her unless I dropped my weapon."

"Death," cried de Lara, "would have been perhaps a fitting end for her. What more?"

"We were conveyed into the city after the sack. He insulted her again with his compliments and propositions. He sent a slave to fetch her, but, bound as I was, I sprang upon him and beat him down."

"And then?"

"Then one of his men, an ancient, one-eyed sailor, interfered and bade him look to the town, else it would be burned over his head, and urged him to secure the pass. In this exigency the pirate desisted from his plan against the lady. He sent Donna Mercedes to a dungeon, me to another."

"How came you here, sir, and alone?" asked de Tobar, again interrupting, and this time the Viceroy, pitying the agony of the lover, permitted the question. "Did you, a Spanish officer, leave the lady defenseless amid those human tigers?"

"There was nothing else to do, Don Felipe. The sailor who interfered, he set me free. I did refuse to leave without the senorita. He told me I must go without her or not at all. He promised to protect her honor or to kill her—at least to furnish her with a weapon. To go, to reach you, your Excellency, was the only chance for her. Going, I might save her; staying, I could only die."

"You did rightly. I commend you," answered the veteran. "Go on."

"My lord, I thank you. The way over the road was barred by the party that had seized the pass."

"And how came you?"

"Straight over the mountain, sir."

"What! The Indian trail? The English way?"

"The same."

"What next?"

"At ten to-night, the sailor who released me will open the city gate, the west gate, beneath the shadow of the cliffs—we must be there!"

"But how? Can we take the pass? It is strongly held, you say."

"My lord, give me fifty brave men who will volunteer to follow me. I will lead them back over the trail and we will get to the rear of the men holding the pass. Do you make a feint at engaging them in force in front and when their attention is distracted elsewhere we will fall on and drive them into your arms. By this means we open the way. Then we will post down the mountains with speed and may arrive in time. Nay, we must arrive in time! Hornigold, the sailor, would guarantee nothing beyond to-night. The buccaneers are drunk with liquor; tired out with slaughter. They will suspect nothing. We can master the whole three hundred and fifty of them with five score men."

"Alvarado," cried the Viceroy, "thou hast done well. I thank thee. Let us but rescue my daughter and defeat these buccaneers and thou mayest ask anything at my hands—saving one thing. Gentlemen and soldiers, you have heard the plan of the young captain. Who will volunteer to go over the mountains with him?"

Brandishing their swords and shouting with loud acclaim the great body of troopers pressed forward to the service. Alvarado, who knew them all, rapidly selected the requisite number, and they fell in advance of the others. Over them the young captain placed his friend de Tobar as his second in command.

"'Tis bravely done!" cried the Viceroy. "Now prick forward to the city, all. We'll refresh ourselves in view of the arduous work before us and then make our further dispositions."

The streets of Caracas were soon full of armed men preparing for their venture. As soon as the plight of La Guayra and the Viceroy's daughter became known there was scarcely a civilian, even, who did not offer himself for the rescue. The Viceroy, however, would take only mounted men, and of these only tried soldiers. Alvarado, whom excitement and emotion kept from realizing his fatigue, was provided with fresh apparel, after which he requested a private audience for a moment or two with the Viceroy, and together they repaired to the little cabinet which had been the scene of the happenings the night before.

"Your Excellency," began the young man, slowly, painfully, "I could not wait even the hoped-for happy issue of our plans to place my sword and my life in your hands."

"What have you done?" asked the old man, instantly perceiving the seriousness of the situation from the anguish in his officer's look and voice.

"I have broken my word—forfeited my life."


"I love the Donna Mercedes——"

"You promised to say nothing—to do nothing."

"That promise I did not keep."


"There is nothing to explain. I was weak—it was beyond my strength. I offer no excuse."

"You urge nothing in extenuation?"


"'Twas deliberately done?"

"Nay, not that; but I——"

"S'death! What did you?"

"I told her that I loved her, again——"

"Shame! Shame!"

"I took her into my arms once more——"

"Thou double traitor! And she——"

"My lord, condemn her not. She is young—a woman."

"I do not consider Captain Alvarado, a dishonored soldier, my proper mentor. I shall know how to treat my daughter. What more?"

"Nothing more. We abandoned ourselves to our dream, and at the first possible moment I am come to tell you all—to submit——"

"Hast no plea to urge?" persisted the old man.


"But your reason? By God's death, why do you tell me these things? If thou art base enough to fall, why not base enough to conceal?"

"I could not do so, your Excellency. I am not master of myself when she is by—'tis only when away from her I see things in their proper light. She blinds me. No, sir," cried the unhappy Alvarado, seeing a look of contempt on the grim face of the old general, "I do not urge this in defense, but you wanted explanation."

"Nothing can explain the falsehood of a gentleman, the betrayal of a friend, the treachery of a soldier."

"Nothing—hence I am here."

"Perhaps I have estimated you too highly," went on the old man musingly. "I had hoped you were gentle—but base blood must run in your veins."

"It may be," answered the young man brokenly, and then he added, as one detail not yet told, "I have found my mother, sir."

"Thy mother? What is her condition?" cried the Viceroy, in curious and interested surprise that made him forget his wrath and contempt for the moment.

"She was an abbess of our Holy Church. She died upon the sands of La Guayra by her own hand rather than surrender her honor or lend aid to the sack of the town."

"That was noble," interrupted the old de Lara. "I may be mistaken after all. Yet 'twere well she died, for she will not see——"

He paused significantly.

"My shame?" asked Alvarado.

"Thy death, senor, for what you have done. No other punishment is meet. Did Donna Mercedes send any message to me?"

Alvarado could not trust himself to speak. He bowed deeply.

"What was it?"

The young man stood silent before him.

"Well, I will learn from her own lips if she be alive when we come to the city. I doubt not it will excuse thee."

"I seek not to shelter myself behind a woman."

"That's well," said the old man. "But now, what is to be done with thee?"

"My lord, give me a chance, not to live, but to die honestly. Let me play my part this day as becomes a man, and when Donna Mercedes is restored to your arms——"

"Thou wilt plead for life?"

"Nay, as God hears me, I will not live dishonored. Life is naught to me without the lady. I swear to thee——"

"You have given me your word before, sir," said the old man sternly.

"On this cross—it was my mother's," he pulled from his doublet the silver crucifix and held it up. "I will yield my life into your hands without question then, and acclaim before the world that you are justified in taking it. Believe me——"

"Thou didst betray me once."

"But not this time. Before God—by Christ, His Mother, by my own mother, dead upon the sands, by all that I have hoped for, by my salvation, I swear if I survive the day I will go gladly to my death at your command!"

"I will trust you once more, thus far. Say naught of this to any one. Leave me!"

"Your Excellency," cried the young man, kneeling before him, "may God reward you!"

He strove to take the hand of the old man, but the latter drew it away.

"Even the touch of forsworn lips is degradation. You have your orders. Go!"

Alvarado buried his face in his hands, groaned bitterly, and turned away without another word.



It was nearing eleven o'clock in the morning when, after a hurried conference in the patio with the Viceroy and the others, Alvarado and de Tobar marched out with their fifty men. They had discarded all superfluous clothing; they were unarmored and carried no weapons but swords and pistols. In view of the hard climb before them and the haste that was required, they wished to be burdened as lightly as possible. Their horses were brought along in the train of the Viceroy's party which moved out upon the open road to the pass at the same time. These last went forward with great ostentation, the forlorn hope secretly, lest some from the buccaneers might be watching.

The fifty volunteers were to ascend the mountain with all speed, make their way along the crest as best they could, until they came within striking distance of the camp of the pirates. Then they were to conceal themselves in the woods there and when the Viceroy made a feigned attack with the main body of his troops from the other side of the mountain, they were to leave their hiding-place and fall furiously upon the rear of the party. Fortunately, they were not required to ascend such a path as that Alvarado had traversed on the other side, for there were not fifty men in all Venezuela who could have performed that tremendous feat of mountaineering. The way to the summit of the range and thence to the pass was difficult, but not impossible, and they succeeded after an hour or two of hard climbing in reaching their appointed station, where they concealed themselves in the woods, unobserved by Teach's men.

The Viceroy carried out his part of the programme with the promptness of a soldier. Alvarado's men had scarcely settled themselves in the thick undergrowth beneath the trees whence they could overlook the buccaneers in camp on the road below them, before a shot from the pirate sentry who had been posted toward Caracas called the fierce marauders to arms. They ran to the rude barricade they had erected covering the pass and made preparation for battle. Soon the wood was ringing with shouts and cries and the sound of musketry.

Although Teach was a natural soldier and L'Ollonois an experienced and prudent commander, they took no precaution whatever to cover their rear, for such a thing as an assault from that direction was not even dreamed of.

Alvarado and de Tobar, therefore, led their men forward without the slightest opposition. Even the noise they made crashing through the undergrowth was lost in the sound of the battle, and attracted no attention from the enemy. It was not until they burst out into the open road and charged forward, cheering madly, that the buccaneers realized their danger. Some of them faced about, only to be met by a murderous discharge from the pistols of the forlorn hope, and the next moment the Spaniards were upon them. The party holding the pass were the picked men, veterans, among the marauders. They met the onset with tremendous courage and crossed blades in the smoke like men, but at the same instant the advance guard of the main army sprang at the barricade and assaulted them vigorously from the other side. The odds were too much for the buccaneers, and after a wild melee in which they lost heavily, the survivors gave ground.

The road immediately below the pass opened on a little plateau, back of which rose a precipitous wall of rock. Thither such of the buccaneers as were left alive hastily retreated. There were perhaps a dozen men able to use their weapons; among them Teach was the only officer. L'Ollonois had been cut down by de Tobar in the first charge. The Spaniards burst through the pass and surrounded the buccaneers. The firearms on both sides had all been discharged, and in the excitement no one thought of reloading; indeed, with the cumbersome and complicated weapons then in vogue there was no time, and the Spaniards, who had paid dearly for their victory, so desperate had been the defence of the pirates, were fain to finish this detachment in short order.

"Yield!" cried Alvarado, as usual in the front ranks of his own men. "You are hopelessly overmatched," pointing with dripping blade to his own and the Viceroy's soldiers as he spoke.

"Shall we get good quarter?" called out Teach.

A splendid specimen he looked of an Englishman at bay, in spite of his wicked calling, standing with his back against the towering rock, his bare and bloody sword extended menacingly before him, the bright sunlight blazing upon his sunny hair, his blue eyes sparkling with battle-lust and determined courage. Quite the best of the pirates, he!

"You shall be hung like the dogs you are," answered Alvarado sternly.

"We'd rather die sword in hand, eh, lads?"

"Ay, ay."

"Come on, then, senors," laughed the Englishman gallantly, saluting with his sword, "and see how bravely we English can die when the game is played and we have lost."

Though his cause was bad and his life also, his courage was magnificent. Under other circumstances it would have evoked the appreciation of Alvarado and some consideration at his hands. Possibly he might even have granted life to the man, but memory of the sights of the night before in that devastated town six thousand feet below their feet, and the deadly peril of his sweetheart banished pity from his soul. This man had been the right hand of Morgan; he was, after the captain, the ablest man among the buccaneers. He must die, and it would be a mercy to kill him out of hand, anyway.

"Forward, gentlemen!" he cried, and instantly the whole mass closed in on the pirates. Such a fight as Teach and his men made was marvellous. For each life the Spaniards took the pirates exacted a high price, but the odds were too great for any human valor, however splendid, to withstand, and in a brief space the last of the buccaneers lay dying on the hill.

Teach was game to the last. Pierced with a dozen wounds, his sword broken to pieces, he lifted himself on his elbow, and with a smile of defiance gasped out the brave chorus of the song of the poet of London town:

"Though life now is pleasant and sweet to the sense, We'll be damnably mouldy a hundred years hence."

"Tell Morgan," he faltered, "we did not betray—faithful to the end——"

And so he died as he had lived.

"A brave man!" exclaimed de Tobar with some feeling in his voice.

"But a black-hearted scoundrel, nevertheless," answered Alvarado sternly. "Had you seen him last night——"

"Ye have been successful, I see, gentlemen," cried the Viceroy, riding up with the main body. "Where is Alvarado?"

"I am here, your Excellency."

"You are yet alive, senor?"

"My work is not yet complete," answered the soldier, "and I can not die until—I—Donna Mer—"

"Bring up the led horses," interrupted the Viceroy curtly. "Mount these gentlemen. Let the chirurgeons look to the Spanish wounded."

"And if there be any buccaneers yet alive?" asked one of the officers.

"Toss them over the cliff," answered the Viceroy; "throw the bodies of all the carrion over, living or dead. They pollute the air. Form up, gentlemen! We have fully twenty-five miles between us and the town which we must reach at ten of the clock. 'Twill be hard riding. Alvarado, assemble your men and you and de Tobar lead the way, I will stay farther back and keep the main body from scattering. We have struck a brave blow first, and may God and St. Jago defend us further. Forward!"



Old Hornigold had kept his promise, and Alvarado had kept his as well. It was a few minutes before ten when the first Spanish horsemen sprang from their jaded steeds at the end of the road. In that wild race down the mountains, Alvarado had ridden first with de Tobar ever by his side. None had been able to pass these two. The Viceroy had fallen some distance behind. For one reason, he was an old man, and the pace set by the lovers was killing. For another and a better, as he had said, he thought it desirable to stay somewhat in the rear to keep the men closed up; but the pace even of the last and slowest had been a tremendous one. Sparing neither themselves nor their horses, they had raced down the perilous way. Some of them had gone over the cliffs to instant destruction; others had been heavily thrown by the stumbling horses. Some of the horses had given out under the awful gallop and had fallen exhausted, but when the riders were unhurt they had joined the foot soldiers marching after the troopers as fast they could.

Alvarado's soldierly instincts had caused him to halt where the road opened upon the sand, for he and de Tobar and the two or three who kept near them could do nothing alone. They were forced to wait until a sufficient force had assembled to begin the attack. He would have been there before the appointed time had it not been for this imperative delay, which demonstrated his capacity more than almost anything else could have done, for he was burning to rush to the rescue of Mercedes.

Indeed, he had been compelled to restrain by force the impetuous and undisciplined de Tobar, who thought of nothing but the peril of the woman he adored. There had been a fierce altercation between the two young men before the latter could be persuaded that Alvarado was right. Each moment, however, added to the number of the party. There was no great distance between the first and last, and after a wait of perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, some one hundred and fifty horsemen were assembled. The Viceroy had not come up with the rest, but they were sure he would be along presently, and Alvarado would wait no longer.

Bidding the men dismount lest they should be observed on horseback, and stationing one to acquaint the Viceroy with his plans, he divided his troop into three companies, he and de Tobar taking command of one and choosing the nearest fort as their objective point. Captain Agramonte, a veteran soldier, was directed to scour the town, and Lieutenant Nunez, another trusted officer, was ordered to master the eastern fort on the other side. They were directed to kill every man whom they saw at large in the city, shooting or cutting down every man abroad without hesitation, for Alvarado rightly divined that all the inhabitants would be penned up in some prison or other and that none would be on the streets except the buccaneers. There were still enough pirates in the city greatly to outnumber his force, but many of them were drunk and all of them, the Spaniard counted, would be unprepared. The advantage of the surprise would be with his own men. If he could hold them in play for twenty minutes the Viceroy with another detachment would arrive, and thereafter the end would be certain. They could take prisoners then and reserve them for torture and death—some meet punishment for their crimes.

Those necessary preparations were made with the greatest speed, the men were told off in their respective companies, and then, keeping close under the shadow of the cliff for fear of a possible watcher, they started forward.

Since ten old Ben Hornigold had been hidden in an arched recess of the gateway waiting their arrival. He had thought, as the slow minutes dragged by, that Alvarado had failed, and he began to contrive some way by which he could account for his escape to Morgan in the morning, when the captain would ask to have him produced, but the arrival of the Spaniards relieved his growing anxiety.

"Donna Mercedes?" asked Alvarado of the old boatswain, as he entered the gate.

"Safe when I left her in the guardroom with Morgan—and armed. If you would see her alive——"

"This way——" cried Alvarado, dashing madly along the street toward the fort.

Every man had his weapons in hand, and the little party had scarcely gone ten steps before they met a buccaneer. He had been asleep when he should have watched, and had just been awakened by the sound of their approach. He opened his mouth to cry out, but Alvarado thrust his sword through him before he could utter a sound. The moonlight made the street as light as day, and before they had gone twenty steps farther, turning the corner, they came upon a little party of the pirates. An immediate alarm was given by them. The Spaniards brushed them aside by the impetuosity of their onset, but on this occasion pistols were brought in play. Screams and cries followed the shots, and calls to arms rang through the town.

But by this time the other companies were in the city, and they were making terrible havoc as they ran to their appointed stations. The buccaneers came pouring from the houses, most of them arms in hand. It could not be denied that they were ready men. But the three attacks simultaneously delivered bewildered them. The streets in all directions seemed full of foes. The advantage of the surprise was with the Spanish. The pirates were without leadership for the moment and ran aimlessly to and fro, not knowing where to rally; yet little bands did gather together instinctively, and these began to make some headway against the Spanish soldiery. Even the cowards fought desperately, for around every neck was already the feel of a halter.

Alvarado and de Tobar soon found themselves detached from their company. Indeed, as the time progressed and the buccaneers began to perceive the situation they put up a more and more stubborn and successful opposition. They rallied in larger parties and offered a stout resistance to the Spanish charges. Disregarding their isolation, the two young officers ran to the fort. Fortunately the way in that direction was not barred. The solitary sentry at the gateway attempted to check them, but they cut him down in an instant. As they mounted the stair they heard, above the shrieks and cries and shots of the tumult that came blowing in the casement with the night wind, the sound of a woman's screams.

"Mercedes!" cried de Tobar. "It is she!"

They bounded up the stairs, overthrowing one or two startled men who would have intercepted them, and darted to the guardroom. They tore the heavy hangings aside and found themselves in a blaze of light in the long apartment. Two men confronted them. Back of the two, against the wall, in a piteous state of disorder and terror, stood the woman they both loved. In front of her, knife in hand, towered the half-breed.

"Treason, treason!" shouted Morgan furiously. "We are betrayed! At them, de Lussan!"

As he spoke the four men crossed swords. De Tobar was not the master of the weapon that the others were. After a few rapid parries and lunges the Frenchman had the measure of his brave young opponent. Then, with a laugh of evil intent, by a clever play he beat down the Spaniard's guard, shattering his weapon, and with a thrust as powerful as it was skilful, he drove the blade up to the hilt in poor de Tobar's bosom. The gallant but unfortunate gentleman dropped his own sword as he fell, and clasped his hands by a convulsive effort around the blade of de Lussan. Such was the violence of his grasp that he fairly hugged the sword to his breast, and when he fell backward upon the point the blade snapped. He was done for.

Morgan and Alvarado, on the other hand, were more equally matched. Neither had gained an advantage, although both fought with energy and fury. Alvarado was silent, but Morgan made the air ring with shouts and cries for his men. As the swords clashed, Carib raised his hand to fling his knife at Alvarado, but, just as the weapon left his fingers, Mercedes threw herself upon him. The whizzing blade went wild. With a savage oath he seized a pistol and ran toward the Spaniard, who was at last getting the better of the Captain. A cry from Mercedes warned Alvarado of this new danger. Disengaging suddenly, he found himself at sword's point with de Lussan, who had withdrawn his broken weapon from de Tobar's body and was menacing him with it. With three opponents before him he backed up against the wall and at last gave tongue.

"To me!" he cried loudly, hoping some of his men were within call. "Alvarado!"

As he spoke Morgan closed with him once more, shouting:

"On him, de Lussan! Let him have it, Black Dog! We've disposed of one!"

As the blades crossed again, the desperate Spaniard, who was a swordsman of swordsmen, put forth all his power. There was a quick interchange of thrust and parry, and the weapon went whirling from the hand of the chief buccaneer. Quick as thought Alvarado shortened his arm and drove home the stroke. Morgan's life trembled in the balance. The maroon, however, who had been seeking a chance to fire, threw himself between the two men and received the force of the thrust full in the heart. His pistol was discharged harmlessly. He fell dead at his master's feet without even a groan. No more would Black Dog watch behind the old man's chair. He had been faithful to his hideous leader and his hideous creed. Before Alvarado could recover his guard, de Lussan struck him with his broken sword. The blow was parried by arm and dagger, but the force of it sent the Spaniard reeling against the wall. At the same instant Morgan seized a pistol and snapped it full in his face. The weapon missed fire, but the buccaneer, clutching the barrel, beat him down with a fierce blow.

"So much for these two," he roared. "Let's to the street."

De Lussan seized Alvarado's sword, throwing away his own. Morgan picked up his own blade again, and the two ran from the room.

A stern fight was being waged in the square, whither all the combatants had congregated, the buccaneers driven there, the Spaniards following. The disciplined valor and determination of the Spanish, however, were slowly causing the buccaneers to give ground. No Spanish soldiers that ever lived could have defeated the old-time buccaneers, but these were different, and their best men had been killed with Teach and L'Ollonois. The opportune arrival of Morgan and de Lussan, however, put heart in their men. Under the direction of these two redoubtable champions they began to make stouter resistance.

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