BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

A Paraguayan treasure

by Alexander Francis Baillie


Negotiations were carried on for some days, during which he matured his project. A large piroga, or native boat, was purchased and prepared for the voyage, and a crew for navigating her was made over from the Talisman. The sailors, as already mentioned, were chiefly Indians, natives of the mainland, but, in addition, there were several islanders of different nationalities, who had no other ties to Colombia than their own interests. These the Captain selected for El Descubridor (the Discovery) as the new boat was called, and the boatswain, the only Englishman under his command, was placed in charge of her. The Talisman's complement was made up with Indians of Cartagena.

Meanwhile it had been necessary for the Admiral to discuss the whole business with his colleagues in the Government, and it soon became apparent that they were as jealous and suspicious of him, as he was of his subordinate, the Captain.

Ultimately it was decided to send a Commission, composed of the Admiral and two other officials, who represented different parties in the Cabinet, and who, while supposed to be in the employment of the State, was each of them to act for the benefit of his respective clique.

But further additions to the expedition had still to be made. The Captain pointed out that if, as he hoped, wealth, to a considerable extent, should be discovered, there was a danger that had to be considered, namely, that which might arise from his own crew. They bore no very high character at any time, and there was a large element of thieves and murderers among them; for it was an usual custom to ship an incorrigible scoundrel on board the State man-ofwar, partly in the hope of improving him by strict discipline, but chiefly in order to get rid of him. One member of the commission suggested that a company of soldiers should be taken to counteract the sailors. To this the Captain demurred, on the grounds that the soldiers were no better than the sailors; that probably they would all combine, and that there was no room for them on board. He recommended another plan namely, that, before the Talisman and her consort set sail, a certain portion of any treasure that might be found, should be assigned to the crew, another to the State, and a third to himself; and that the portion accruing to each should be ascertained, and delivered to its owner, on the bank itself. By this means, he pointed out, that each individual would have an interest in the cargo; and that if a mutiny should occur, the crew would, to a great extent, be divided amongst themselves. This recommendation was adopted, and, after a great deal of haggling, terms were arranged. The property, of whatever it might consist, was to be divided into five parts, one of which was to be the portion of the crew, one to belong to the captain, and the remaining three-fifths were to be held by the commissioners, for the State or for their own benefit, according as their conscience and honour might lead them to decide. Contracts and documents setting forth this arrangement were duly signed, and a number of tasadores, or prize-agents, were selected, and added to the ship's company, whose duties were to estimate the value of any treasure that might be recovered.

And so at length the Captain, in command of the Talisman, with the Descubridor in close proximity, set forth on his last venture, after a great deal of cannon-firing and other noisy demonstrations.

Although the sea was calm, the Admiral and several of his party were confined to their berths for the first two days, and during that period the Captain tried the sailing powers of the Descubridor. Her performance gave him the greatest satisfaction, for he found that she could hold her own against the Talisman.

When the Admiral made his appearance on deck, it was in a gorgeous uniform of gold, picked out with blue, the epaulets being so large, and the braiding on the breast, arms, and pockets so heavy, that the cloth seemed to be hidden under the bullion. The upper man wore the dress of a naval officer of the period, but the legs were cased in white leathers, terminating in Napoleon boots and spurs, to represent his dignity of a General in the armies of Colombia.

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