Captain Blood HTML version

7. Spaniards
The stately ship that had been allowed to sail so leisurely into Carlisle Bay under her
false colours was a Spanish privateer, coming to pay off some of the heavy debt piled
up by the predaceous Brethren of the Coast, and the recent defeat by the Pride of
Devon of two treasure galleons bound for Cadiz. It happened that the galleon which
escaped in a more or less crippled condition was commanded by Don Diego de
Espinosa y Valdez, who was own brother to the Spanish Admiral Don Miguel de
Espinosa, and who was also a very hasty, proud, and hot-tempered gentleman.
Galled by his defeat, and choosing to forget that his own conduct had invited it, he had
sworn to teach the English a sharp lesson which they should remember. He would take
a leaf out of the book of Morgan and those other robbers of the sea, and make a
punitive raid upon an English settlement. Unfortunately for himself and for many others,
his brother the Admiral was not at hand to restrain him when for this purpose he fitted
out the Cinco Llagas at San Juan de Porto Rico. He chose for his objective the island of
Barbados, whose natural strength was apt to render her defenders careless. He chose it
also because thither had the Pride of Devon been tracked by his scouts, and he desired
a measure of poetic justice to invest his vengeance. And he chose a moment when
there were no ships of war at anchor in Carlisle Bay.
He had succeeded so well in his intentions that he had aroused no suspicion until he
saluted the fort at short range with a broadside of twenty guns.
And now the four gaping watchers in the stockade on the headland beheld the great
ship creep forward under the rising cloud of smoke, her mainsail unfurled to increase
her steering way, and go about close-hauled to bring her larboard guns to bear upon the
unready fort.
With the crashing roar of that second broadside, Colonel Bishop awoke from
stupefaction to a recollection of where his duty lay. In the town below drums were
beating frantically, and a trumpet was bleating, as if the peril needed further advertising.
As commander of the Barbados Militia, the place of Colonel Bishop was at the head of
his scanty troops, in that fort which the Spanish guns were pounding into rubble.
Remembering it, he went off at the double, despite his bulk and the heat, his negroes
trotting after him.
Mr. Blood turned to Jeremy Pitt. He laughed grimly. "Now that," said he, "is what I call a
timely interruption. Though what'll come of it," he added as an afterthought, "the devil
himself knows."
As a third broadside was thundering forth, he picked up the palmetto leaf and carefully
replaced it on the back of his fellow-slave.