Tuesday, 26 November 2013

They Found Gold -Ch 13 to 15

1936, BY G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, New York

Chapter XIII.
The treasure found through a dream. The treasure that bought a department store. The treasure of the old cannon. The hog's treasure trove.

Chapter XIV.
The strange story of the SANTA MARGARITA. The salvaged treasure that was hijacked.

Chapter XV.
How the author was guided to the long sought lost mine.

Truth That Is Stranger Than Fiction

THE well known miners' slogan, that gold is where you find it, is equally applicable to buried or hidden treasures. And just as many of the world's richest mines have been located through chance or accident, so many, I might even say most, treasures found, have been discovered by mere chance.
Very often, too, the stories of the finding of these treasures, and the strange chain of events, the unusual occurrences or the incidents which led to their discovery, sound far more like fiction than fact For that matter it would be a hard job for fiction writers to invent tales or plots to equal the reality, and if any author introduced in his yarns, some of the incidents, coincidences and mystical happenings which have actually taken place and have resulted in treasure being found, they would be scoffed at as incredible and impossible. Where, for example, could one find a pulp magazine story to equal that of:

The Treasure Found Through a Dream
Probably no part of the United States is so replete with tales of lost, hidden and sunken treasures as is Florida. And I doubt if in any other portion of our country so many lost and hidden treasures actually have been found. There are very good reasons for this. Florida, before it was purchased from Spain by the United States, was a sparsely settled, almost unknown territory outside of the few larger towns. Its cays, coasts, bayous, swamps and rivers were the haunt of smugglers and pirates, and the frequent Indian wars and the raids by pirates and other gentlemen of fortune caused many a well-to-do Spaniard to bury or secrete his valuables. Even for years after Florida became a part of the Union, pirates found safe and secure refuges along its coast. In another chapter I have told the story of Billy Bowlegs' treasure. Then there is the treasure of Jose Gaspar, or Gasparilla, the king of the pirates, whose treasure-filled ship was sent to the bottom off Gasparilla Island by an American sloop of war in 1821. Near the mouth of the Suwanee River a schooner carrying five millions in gold, the indemnity to Spanish citizens paid by the United States, went to the bottom during a storm in 1820. Off Long Key a fleet of Spanish plate ships went down in a hurricane in 1715, and all along the coasts are other authentic treasure-filled wrecks. Considering all this, and the fact that for fifty years or more the inhabitants of Key West made not only their living but goodly fortunes by wrecking, it is not surprising that Florida should be the treasure state of our Union.
Moreover, many a man in Florida has a tidy fortune derived from some treasure trove he has found, although as a rule the finders have little to say as to where and how they found the hoards or the value of the same. This is the case with the man who found a fortune through a dream. Only he knows how much was obtained, but as he gave his son $75,000 in cash with which to buy a garage, we can safely assume that it was no small treasure that he secured in one of the most incredible, and in fact mystical ways, ever recorded. And as he is a well known, respected and strictly honest gentleman, and holds a government position, there is no reason to discredit his story.
Oddly enough, too, he was not a hidden treasure fan nor had he ever, as far as is known, taken any interest in treasure hunting. Yet on a certain night a year or two ago, he had a most vivid dream of hidden treasure. Not far from Ft. Myers, on the Gulf coast of Florida, is an old stone dwelling known as Braden's Castle, which, during the time of war in days gone by, served as a refuge for the people for miles about. On the night I mention, the man dreamed of being in this building and of seeing a Spanish gentleman, dressed in old fashioned garments, descending a flight of stone stairs. Reaching the bottom, the wraith of the Don lifted a stone slab and vanished in a subterranean chamber. Presently he reappeared carrying a sack filled with gold, and exclaiming, "All the rest is yours," he vanished.
Mr. Carney, as we may call the dreamer, thought nothing of the matter, but when, two nights later, the same dream was repeated, he mentioned it to a friend who suggested that he should consult a clairvoyant. Mr. Carney, however, was a practical man and had no faith in mind-readers, fortune tellers or dreams and he scoffed at the idea.
Then, twice more he dreamed of the old Spaniard and the treasure, and just to satisfy himself that there was "nothing in it," as he expressed it, he decided to visit the old "castle" to see if there was a staircase such as he had visualized in his sleep. To his astonishment the place was exactly as he had seen it in his dreams, and descending the stairs, he recognized the stone slab which the ghostly Spaniard had lifted. Almost in a daze Carney grasped the stone and tugged, and to his utter amazement the slab moved to disclose a narrow flight of stone stairs leading into a vault below. Feeling as if he were still in a dream he descended and fairly gasped. Revealed by the light of his electric torch were chests and rotten sacks filled with ancient gold and silver coins!
For a space he could not credit the evidence of his own senses. It seemed too impossible, too incredible to be true. But the pieces of eight, the doubloons and castellanos, were real enough, even though their presence had been revealed by a dream. Neither he nor any one else can account for it. Why should a man dream of a hidden treasure in a spot miles from his own home, in a place he had never visited? And why should he dream, not once but repeatedly, of the Spaniard's ghost and the secret stone trap door? Call it coincidence, telepathy, chance, spiritualism or what you will, it still remains an inexplicable mystery.
But there was nothing mysterious about another treasure found in Florida, although it was mere chance that led to its discovery, even if Lady Luck was aided and abetted by a man's inherent laziness.

The Treasure That Bought a Department Store
The negro laborer, digging a drainage ditch across a patch of cleared land on a big estate, straightened his back and stretched his arms. Behind him the ditch ran straight and true, but a few feet ahead, a big pitch-pine stump was directly in line with the trench. The man shook his grizzled head dubiously and contemplated the charred butt of the tree.
"Yo' shooly is a hard gent'man," he apostrophised it. "'Pears like Ah gwine have a tough job movin' you' outen mah way. Yass, sah, gwine be plenty wo'k." Then, rubbing his chin: "Reckon Ah'll res' a spell an' tek consid'ation of tha bes'est manner fo' doin' it."
Seating himself on a nearby log, he filled his blackened pipe and puffed contentedly, as he pondered on the work before him. It would be a tough job to cut and dig the trench through the roots of the old tree, and, after all, he argued to himself, why should the trench be straight? If it were dug around the stump it would serve its purpose just as well, he decided, and his tobacco having burned out, he rose reluctantly, picked up his shovel and again bent to his task.
Presently, as he dug to one side of the old tree, his spade struck something solid and an exclamation of disgust and disappointment came from his thick lips. He hadn't expected the tree's roots to extend so far from the stump. Still, it must be a root, for there were no stones in the black, mucky soil. Bending over, the negro commenced scraping away the dirt in an endeavor to determine the size of the supposed root preparatory to cutting through it. The next instant he cast aside his shovel, dropped to his knees and began pawing furiously at the dirt, for the impediment he had struck was no root but a blackened wooden chest bound with rusty iron bands.
Feverishly he worked. Never before had he exerted himself as he did now, while half-forgotten tales of buried treasure on the estate flashed through his mind. In a few moments he had cleared away the soil over the entire top of the ancient chest, and inserting his shovel blade below the lid, he pried upward. With a splintering of rotten wood the cover gave way, and the negro's jaw gaped and his eyes rolled wildly as he stared, dumbfounded, too amazed even to utter an ejaculation of wonder, at the gold and silver coins half-filling the old chest. Treasure! A fortune!
Nervously, apprehensively, he glanced about. Had any one seen him? Had one of the other laborers noticed his actions? Apparently not. All were working steadily, paying no attention to him. But, he realized, at any moment one of his fellows might approach and see the treasure chest. Also, he realized, he could not by any possibility transfer that mass of old coins to the pockets in his ragged overalls. Shaking with nervousness, in a blind terror of some one learning his secret, he seized his shovel and refilled the cavity with earth, not even stopping to take a single coin of the hoard he had found through his disinclination to work. Then, with the chest once more hidden he fell to attacking the old pine stump with an energy and vigor utterly foreign to his nature.
Borrowing a neighbor's handcart he returned late that night to the spot and safely transferred his treasure chest and its contents to his shack where he reinterred it beneath the floor. For a negro laborer he was an uncommonly shrewd and sensible chap, and early the next morning, donning his best clothes, he journeyed to Miami and paid a visit to a reliable lawyer. To him the lucky fellow told the entire story, exhibited several of the coins to prove his amazing tale, and asked legal advice as to how to dispose of the treasure-trove and how best to invest the proceeds.
For once the finder of a buried treasure did not go half-mad with the acquisition of sudden wealth and spend it recklessly. Instead, he invested his quarter of a million by purchasing a large block of stock in one of Miami's leading department stores, and, like the heroes of fairy tales, he has lived happily and in affluence ever since.
This treasure, literally the reward of laziness, was not, however, the only Florida treasure which had been wisely invested by its finders.
Some years ago a cache of buried pirates' loot was discovered quite by accident at Pensacola, and the finder made use of his lucky strike by employing the thousands he had found to erect the Thesian Building, one of the largest business and office buildings in Pensacola. Found by a more remarkable chance than the discovery of the chest of gold and silver by the black ditch digger, and perhaps the strangest of treasures, as far as its hiding place was concerned, was:

The Treasure of the Ancient Cannon
As I have said, the inhabitants of Key West and the other Florida cays made an excellent living by salvaging wrecks in days past, and throughout the long line of reefs and cays that stretch in a great semi-circle from the tip of the Florida peninsula to Key West, countless skeletons of foundered vessels rest upon the ocean floor. And often, gazing down through the crystal clear water, one may see the massive timbers of long-lost ships, or rusty anchors or corroded cannon, lying amid the sea-fans and coral growths. No doubt some of these old wrecks contain valuables, but the majority were merchant ships and long since were stripped of all their cargoes and fittings of any worth. But old-fashioned cannon, especially if of bronze, are worth salvaging, and when, a short time ago, a couple of fishermen discovered two ancient bronze guns caught among the coral on a reef not far from shore, they decided to get them up and add a few score dollars to their meager incomes.
It was not a difficult job; the cannon were lightered ashore, and the men proceeded to chip and clean away the encrustation of lime, coral, sea-weed and marine growths which covered them. This accomplished, they set to work to dig out the muck, sand, dead shells and other material which filled the bores to the muzzles. With knives and crowbars they dug into the tightly packed mass when, to their utter amazement, out came dozens of corroded, blackened silver coins! Each of the old guns was packed full of coins, mostly silver, but with many of gold, and by the time the bores of the cannon had been completely cleaned the lucky fishermen were the richer by some one hundred thousand dollars—surely a goodly reward for the fishing up of a couple of old bronze guns.

The Hog's Treasure Trove
Remarkable and unexpected as it was to find a goodly treasure packed into bores of ancient cannon, it was no stranger or more surprising a discovery than that made by a resident of the Isle of Pines a short time ago. In the first place, when one finds old, corroded guns lying on the bottom of the sea one may reasonably suspect that there has been a wreck in the immediate vicinity and that valuables may be near at hand. And in the second place, the lucky finders of the cannon with their loads of coins, were, in a way, treasure seekers, for they expected to realize a few dollars for salvaging the guns. But the man to whom I refer was no treasure hunter, he had no reason whatsoever to expect that there were valuables in the vicinity, and he was not planning to make money when Fate literally thrust a treasure upon him. On the contrary, he was engaged in the wholly unromantic and uninteresting task of finding a strayed hog. Discovering that the porker had managed to escape from its enclosure and had taken to the bush, the owner set out on the hog's trail. It was not a difficult trail to follow, for the boar, proceeding leisurely and with no definite objective in view, had stopped to root about and regale himself on roots and tubers, thus leaving most obvious evidences of his passing.
As the beast's owner pushed onward through the brush, stopping now and again to listen for the grunts and sounds of the slobbering jaws of his quarry, he came to a little open glade where the miniature hills and hollows of freshly-turned earth showed evidences of the hog having made a very thorough job of it. And as he glanced at the mucky soil he stood staring open-mouthed, scarcely able to believe the evidence of his own eyes, for there, exposed by the pig's rooting, was an overturned, cracked earthen oil jar or "garafon" filled with dull, yellow golden coins. Instantly the potential ham and bacon was forgotten, and falling on his knees, the excited man began scooping up the coins so strangely found and chuckling with delight as he chinked them in his hands. Then came another and if anything a greater surprise. Close to the first jar he discovered the top of a second, and as he feverishly dug and scraped away the mucky soil he came upon another and another, until at last he had disinterred five "garafons" filled to the brims with old Spanish doubloons, pieces of eight and objects of solid gold. No longer would he be compelled to farm and raise hogs for a livelihood. He was rich, not a millionaire, but possessing enough gold to make him independent if he invested it wisely. And he owed his amazing good fortune to a runaway hog! Let us hope that he was duly grateful to the porcine treasure finder, although in all probability he was not. But if ever a pig deserved to be glorified and honored this one did. In fact it would have been no more than the beast deserved if he had been housed in a marble pen, with the finest of viands to eat, with a valet to scrub and care for him; with a golden ring in his nose and with manicured and tinted hoofs for as long as he lived, and with a bronze casket and a mausoleum to perpetuate his memory when he died.
But to the lucky, suddenly-enriched man, pigs were pigs; the hog who was responsible for his amazing good fortune met the customary fate of all swine, and it is safe to assume that those who consumed his well-smoked hams or devoured his luscious bacon, never dreamed that they were dining on the flesh of a treasure hunter who actually found a treasure.

The Treasure Ship That Vanished

IN the old days when hardy and daring adventurers were busily exploring and conquering the New World, and

"Plate skips high, with purple sails,
Taut to the trade-wind's strain,
Buried their bows in tumbling seas
On the homeward voyage to Spain,"

it was a most perilous and uncertain undertaking to sail American waters.
No one had surveyed or charted the reefs, shoals, bars, rocks and coasts of the mainland and the islands of the western world. Mariners knew nothing of the various currents, the winds and tides of the oceans, seas, gulfs, and bays on this side of the Atlantic, and what maps had been made were inaccurate, incomplete and almost worse than nothing as far as serving as guides was concerned. Navigation, also, was by no means the exact science it is today. The ships' captains' instruments were of the crudest sort, their compasses were not corrected for magnetic variation, and if an observation—followed by long and laborious calculations, located the vessel within a radius of twenty miles, it was considered amazingly accurate navigation. For that matter comparatively few of the captains or "pilots," as the navigators were called, relied upon "shooting the sun," but preferred to work out their positions by means of dead reckoning, which was usually a far more accurate and dependable method than by taking observations. And some of the feats accomplished by dead reckoning were almost incredible. For example, when Captain Sharp, the buccaneer, was ravishing the west coast of South and Central America in the captured Spanish flagship Most Blessed Trinity, the ship was navigated by Basil Ringrose as "pilot" who had no knowledge of taking observations but depended wholly upon his dead reckoning corrected by landfalls from time to time. When, after two years of sailing up and down and back and forth along the coasts, the buccaneers decided to return to the West Indies by sailing around South America via the Straits of Magellan, Ringrose undertook to carry the battered old ship safely on her long voyage by means of dead reckoning alone. And he succeeded. More, they missed the Straits altogether, rounded Cape Horn and never sighted land from the time they left the coast of Chile until they reached the West Indies. Most amazing and incredible of all, so accurate were Ringrose's calculations that when, on a certain day, he ordered men aloft to keep a lookout for Barbados, they sighted that little island only eight miles off their course!
But this was of course an exceptional case, and, moreover, the buccaneers were by all odds the most skillful mariners in the entire world at that time. But considering the ignorance of reefs, currents, winds and shoals in those old days, as well as the clumsy, slow-sailing, high-pooped, pot-bellied ships utterly incapable of sailing anywhere near the wind, it is remarkable that so many vessels ever reached their destinations, rather than that so many left their timbers among the coral reefs and sand bars of the West Indies and adjacent waters.
No one will ever know how many vessels sailed from Europe for the New World, or squared away from America for home, and were never heard from again. Records were carelessly kept in those days. If a ship foundered far from land the crew were usually lost to the last man and the vessel merely disappeared. But the treasure-laden galleons and the plate ships of Spain were a different matter. Strict accounts were kept of the riches in gold, silver, dye woods, pearls, emeralds and other valuables that were sent from Mexico, Central and South America and the West Indies to Spain. And if, as often happened, a treasure ship was lost, the Spaniards recorded the fact. To be sure, it was sometimes unknown whether a missing plate ship had struck a reef, had been sunk by a hurricane or had fallen to buccaneers, pirates or war vessels of Spain's enemies. But, on the other hand, the fate of the majority of these treasure carrying ships was well known. If the buccaneers took a fine and valuable prize they were not the type to keep quiet about it, but boasted of their deeds. And as many of the lost galleons were driven onto reefs or ashore within comparatively easy reach of land, and there were survivors of the tragedies, the exact locations of the wrecks were known. Also, after the buccaneers had played such havoc with the Spanish shipping that a single vessel, no matter how heavily armed, had little chance of running the gauntlet of the Caribbean, the Spaniards strove to safeguard their treasures by having their galleons sail in fleets convoyed by heavily-armed, heavily-manned, swift frigates. While this method did prevent the ships from falling to the freebooters, for even the hardiest of buccaneers would scarcely dare attack a fleet of a dozen or more galleons re├źnforced by two or three great frigates, yet it was no protection from reefs or hurricanes, both of which took heavy toll of Spain's gorgeously-painted and gilded plate ships.
Today our mariners receive warnings of hurricanes when the tropical storms are hundreds of miles distant. They know from hour to hour the exact position of the hurricane's center, the speed and direction in which it is moving, and its intensity, and they can thus make port, or steam out of the track of the storm. But in the days of Spanish treasure flotillas no one possessed the least knowledge of hurricanes. Not until the terrific storms burst upon them with all their destructive fury were the mariners aware of their approach, and then it was too late to do anything. It was one of these fearful West Indian hurricanes that drove the fleet of sixteen galleons, carrying over sixty millions in treasures, upon the Silver Shoals, and it was another hurricane that, in the year 1595, burst upon the Spanish plate ship, Santa Margarita, just after she had passed through the Florida Straits carrying silver bullion worth at present prices about seven million dollars, as her cargo.
She was a stout, seaworthy ship, her captain was a skilled and brave, as well as an experienced man, and realizing that a hurricane was upon him he shortened sail to the limit and headed northward hoping to outrun the worst of the storm. Perhaps, had he stood farther out to sea, he might have saved his ship and her great treasure. But instead, he hugged the Florida coast too closely and his ship was driven with terrific force upon a bar off the present site of Palm Beach. Battered and stove, with masts carried away by her impact, with many of her crew swept overboard and with her rudder disabled, the Santa Margarita was carried over the reef by a tremendous sea and sank like a plummet with her millions in bullion.
Three centuries passed and the Santa Margarita and her treasure were almost forgotten incidents of history. Along the sandy shore where there had been only dense untrodden jungle when the ship had gone down, palatial homes and thriving towns stood amid the groves of waving palm trees. Upon the beach, scores of bathers lolled on the sand or frolicked in the tepid water all unaware of the millions in silver lying upon the bottom almost within stone's throw. Great steamships churned back and forth above the skeleton of the old galleon, and close to where her battered hulk rested a telegraph cable had been laid upon the ocean's floor.
In all probability had it not been for the cable all memory of the Santa Margarita would have been lost and the only record of her ill-fated voyage and her cargo of treasure would have been the time-yellowed documents in the musty files of the archives of the Spanish Admiralty. But one day the cable failed to function. A break was located near Palm Beach, and a diver was sent down to find and repair it. As he moved about, following the cable that stretched like a gigantic serpent along the sandy bottom, he noticed a bulky mass looming dimly through the misty-green of the sea. Curious to learn what the object could be he moved nearer and to his surprise discovered it was the shell and weed-encrusted wreck of a ship.
Hidden as it was by the accumulation of sea-growths, and half-buried in the sand, yet, as the diver examined the hulk more closely, he knew it to be the remains of a very ancient ship, a ship such as he had never seen except in pictures, a vessel whose rotted broken timbers still showed traces of a lofty stern-castle and high bluff bows. And as he poked about he came upon two shell-covered ornate bronze cannon. There was no doubt that he had stumbled upon the wreck of a Spanish galleon, and half-forgotten traditions of a lost treasure ship off the coast flashed through his mind. Tearing away the masses of weeds and barnacles upon the timbers, he crawled between the massive ribs of the wreck and with bar and hands dug away the sand that half-filled the old hulk. And there, buried under a few inches of the fine shell sand, were tiers upon tiers of squarish metal bars, corroded and black from centuries of immersion in salt water, but showing the bright gleam of silver when the exultant diver scratched them with his knife. He had found a fortune. By mere chance he had discovered a treasure worth millions. He alone knew the secret of the lost galleon. But, he realized, he was there to repair a broken cable, not to salvage treasure, and consoling himself with the thought that as the wrecked galleon had remained there undiscovered for centuries it was not likely to vanish in a few weeks or months more, the diver moved from the wreck and busied himself at repairing the cable.
Being a practical and experienced man familiar with salvage work, the diver knew that it was not a one-man job to recover hundreds of tons of silver from the bottom of the sea. A wrecking barge or vessel with proper equipment and a reliable crew would be needed, and to secure these ample funds were required. But it was not such a simple matter to secure the necessary capital as he had confidently supposed, and two years passed before he succeeded in finding some one to finance his treasure hunt. There was no difficulty in relocating the wreck of the long lost Santa Margarita. He had taken accurate bearings when he had come to the surface after his discovery of the treasure, and soon the salvage barge was moored above the sunken galleon and preparations were made to begin recovering the tons of silver.
But fickle Fortune, or the jinx which ever seems to guard lost treasures, had other plans. Though passing centuries had wrought great changes on the land, Old Devil Sea had remained as treacherous and uncertain as in the days when the Santa Margarita had gone down, and roaring up from the Caribbean came just such a hurricane as had sent the galleon to her doom. Howling with demoniacal glee it overwhelmed the salvage ship and snuffed out the lives of a number of her crew. The diver and a few others barely escaped with their lives, but the entire equipment that had cost so much time and money was a total loss. But the worst was yet to come. When, after the storm had passed and the sea again stretched blue and calm beneath, a sunny sky, the diver descended to the ocean floor on the chance of salvaging some portion of his lost gear, he could find no trace of the wrecked galleon. On every side the bottom extended smooth and unbroken. The terrific seas raised by the hurricane had completely changed the topography of the bottom and had buried the wreck and her treasure under many feet of shifting sand. Although they searched for weeks no trace of the sunken galleon could be found, and at last all efforts to relocate the treasure hulk were abandoned. Perhaps, by now, the ever-changing bottom of the sea has been so altered by hurricane-lashed waves and currents that the skeleton of the Santa Margarita lies fully exposed above the ocean floor, or on the other hand, she may rest deep beneath countless thousands of tons of sand, her millions in bullion buried far out of reach of all treasure seekers.
Bitterly disappointing and disheartening as it must have been for the diver and his partners to have lost a vast fortune just as it seemed within their grasp, yet Fate played an even worse trick on another party of treasure hunters in Florida.
Over one hundred years had passed since the Santa Margarita had been lost, but the perils of the sea that beset the treasure-laden ships of Spain had not lessened. On the contrary they were greater than ever, for added to the dangers of hurricanes and uncharted shoals and reefs and treacherous currents there had been the buccaneers. No matter how heavily manned and armed a galleon might be these dare-devil, reckless freebooters would attack and take the Spanish ships, and to safeguard the riches that flowed in a steady stream from the New World to Spain, the Spaniards no longer depended upon single ships to transport their treasures but arranged for whole fleets of galleons to sail forth convoyed by swift frigates, and it was such a flotilla that was gathered in the harbor of Havana in June, 1715. From the various ports of Mexico, Central and South America they had come. There were ships from Campeche and Vera Cruz laden with gold and silver bullion, logwood and spices; ships from Porto Bello and from Cartagena bearing fortunes in gold and emeralds in their strong rooms; vessels from Maracaibo and La Guayra, from Cumana and Hispaniola, and a single galleon from Margarita carrying the island's yearly shipment of priceless pearls. Fifteen fine staunch Spanish ships, with cargoes totaling over fifty million dollars in value in their holds and strong rooms; fifteen ships fairly bursting with treasure, bristling with guns and heavily manned, for although the dreaded buccaneers were a thing of the past, pirates still haunted the seas, and with Spain and England at loggerheads as usual, there was the added danger of cruising British frigates to be met. But with such a large and powerful fleet the Spaniards felt little fear of either pirates or British war vessels, and on the twenty-eighth of June, 1715, windlasses were manned, anchors were hoisted, sails were set, and with a thunder of saluting guns the fifteen stately galleons sailed out from Havana's harbor, and passing the Morro, curtseyed to the swell of the open sea.
Across the Straits of Florida they sailed. Far to the westward the shadowy outlines of Key West and the chain of palm-crowned cays shimmered upon the horizon. But the very clearness of the air, the brassiness of the sky, the puffs of hot wind that ruffled the oily sea should have warned the Spanish captains of what was in store for them. Any experienced seaman of modern times would have read in these signs the approach of a hurricane. But, the Spanish mariners must have been woefully lacking in weather-wisdom or else felt such supreme confidence in themselves and their ships that they had no dread of any storm which might arise, for instead of putting back to port they kept steadily on their course. And when the hurricane burst upon them the ships were in a most perilous position with the jagged reefs and coral-heads of the Florida Keys on their lee. With sails torn from their bolt-ropes, with spars carried away; battered and smashed by the terrific seas, the doomed ships were driven inexorably toward the foaming line of breakers. One by one they struck, and with timbers shattered and planking pierced by the coral fangs the ships went down off Cayo Largo. Of all the fifteen galleons only one escaped. A smaller, better sailer than the others, better handled and having been farther out from the lee shore when the storm roared down upon the fleet, this one vessel remained afloat By some miracle she had not been dismasted; with rags of sail which withstood the fury of the hurricane her captain and crew managed to claw off shore, and with bulwarks smashed, with rigging half carried away, and leaking badly, she came limping into port with news of the loss of the fourteen treasure ships.
Had such a catastrophe taken place a century earlier the Spaniards would doubtless have taken the loss as an act of God and let it go at that, making no attempt to recover the millions in the wrecked ships. But the maritime world had advanced greatly since the day when sixteen galleons went down on Silver Shoals. Diving gear, although crude and unreliable, had been invented, and Spain decided to have a try at salvaging the treasure of the lost ships. A year after the fleet had gone down the salvage ship with its crew and divers arrived on the scene and a camp was established on a little palm-fringed cay within a short distance of the reef on which the galleons had been wrecked. There was no difficulty in finding their battered hulks. The water was not deep, it was as clear as glass, and only a year had passed, so that no growth of coral, shell or weeds had concealed the timbers and the hulls lying conspicuously between the reefs. But it was slow work salvaging the treasure. With the crude equipment of that era it was a difficult job breaking into the wrecks which, despite the terrible punishment they had received, were still fairly intact. But time was of no particular object, and surely if slowly the bullion was hoisted to the surface and was stored on the neighboring cay. And as the accumulation of gold and silver grew until the salvaged treasure amounted to over a million dollars in value, fifty men were put ashore as a guard. Not that the salvors expected any one to steal the bullion they had wrested from the sea. There was no fear of that, for the coast was uninhabited and they were far off the track of ships which gave the treacherous coast a wide berth. The only danger, the officers felt, was from their own men, for a million dollars in bullion was a big temptation, and it was to safeguard the salvaged treasure from the crew that the guard was placed on the cay. And when, one day, a dingy little turtling sloop hove in sight, and when the sunblackened, shirtless crew of two stared curiously at the salvagers, and tacking close inshore, skirted the island with its store of silver, the Spaniards thought nothing of it, for what possible danger could lurk in a weather-beaten turtle boat and a couple of half-naked fishermen?
As it happened, however, the sloop and its occupants hailed from Jamaica and her tatterdemalion skipper was a certain Captain Jennings who was more of a pirate than fisherman. Having discovered what the Spaniards were about, and more particularly the fact that they had a goodly treasure conveniently piled on the islet with only fifty easy-going men to guard it, Captain Jennings shifted his course and as soon as he was out of sight of the Spaniards, crowded on all sail for Jamaica where he duly reported what he had seen.
Although Port Royal, the famous stronghold of the buccaneers, had been destroyed and submerged by an earthquake for a quarter of a century, piratical instincts still survived in the hearts of the islanders whose forbears had been Brethren of the Main and had sailed "on the account" with Morgan, L'Ollonois, Sharp and many another famed buccaneer chieftain. Moreover, the Spaniards were legitimate prey and enemies of His Britannic Majesty, and Captain Jennings' news was received with almost delirious joy. To pirate—or as we would express it, hijack—the salvors was an undertaking exactly to the Jamaicans' liking; just such an adventure as would have delighted Sir Harry Morgan or any of his compeers, and within a few hours of Jennings' arrival an armed brig, swarming with three hundred men as reckless and dare-devilish as ever trod the decks of a buccaneers' ship, set sail for the Florida Keys.
The result was just what might have been expected. Fifty Spaniards equipped only with side-arms were wholly incapable of offering any resistance to three hundred determined, heavily-armed rascals, not to mention the ship's cannon. And fully realizing this, and being sensible fellows, the Dons decided that saving their lives was preferable to attempting to save treasure which wasn't their own property but belonged to the King of Spain who could well afford to lose it. So guards and salvors hurriedly deserted the accumulated silver, and retreating to the security of the jungle left the British to help themselves to the store of salvaged bullion.
Quite naturally the Spaniards felt that it was not only a thankless but a dangerous task to recover treasure from the wrecked galleons, only to be set upon and robbed by their British foes. So as soon as the triumphant hijackers had vanished below the horizon, they packed their belongings upon the salvage ship, hoisted anchors and sailed away for Spain, leaving the sunken galleons and their unsalvaged millions at the bottom of the sea where they still remain.

The Lost Mine of Tisingal

SOMEWHERE within the wild, unmapped, jungle-covered mountainous country along the boundary between Panama and Costa Rica is the famous "lost" mine of Tisingal. Of all the fabulously rich gold mines worked by the old Spaniards in America, Tisingal was the richest. And of all the lost mines it has, perhaps, the most romantic history.
Cacique Polu
Clad in their steel armor, the Spanish conquerors came to the New World, ruthless, cruel, mad with the lust for gold and their fanatical determination to force their religion upon the Indians. But Christianity was scarcely more than a cloak with which to cover their inhuman deeds and hide their bloody swords, and acceptance of the so-called True Faith never saved the hapless aborigines from death and slavery, for those who were "converted" or were friendly were forced to labor like beasts or worse to enrich their "civilized" masters, while those who resisted the Cross or the invasion were tortured, put to death without mercy, and thereby met a more merciful fate.
Human mind can scarcely conceive of what those ruthless, cruel Dons endured in order to secure gold. Through jungles they hewed their way, over mountains they toiled, and in cumbersome, makeshift craft they conquered rivers and rapids, until at last they found Indians who possessed gold. Tropical sun, pestilential insects, venomous serpents, hostile tribes, torrential rains, starvation and fever, poisoned darts or stone-tipped arrows, meant nothing to them in their insatiable thirst for gold. Thus they forced their way into the fastnesses of the mighty, forest-covered ranges of what they later called Costa Rica (Rich Coast) because of the incredible quantities of gold in the land, until they reached a remote tribe of Indians wearing countless ornaments and objects of virgin gold. Innocent of the white men's purpose, regarding the mail-clad strangers as semi-deities, the Indians gladly revealed the source of the precious metal, and riches beyond belief came to the adventurous Spaniards. What mattered it to them that the great veins of brown, rotten quartz fairly bursting with gold lay many weary leagues from the sea? What mattered it if the jungle hemmed them in on all sides, if savages lurked in the forests? It was a simple matter to kill off all the tribesmen who resisted, and the others, cowed, starved, chained and enslaved, were forced to toil ceaselessly, hewing a trail through the jungles to the nearest navigable river, laying a corduroy road, hauling great logs to build stockades; dragging boulders from the rivers' beds and blocks of stone from the mountainsides to erect forts and bridge abutments; carrying on their shoulders enormous loads through the wilderness; burrowing like human moles into the gold-riddled earth.
By countless hundreds they died from ill-treatment, abuse and lack of food. But the supply of human cattle appeared inexhaustible, and slaves were always to be had for the taking.
Slowly the rough road was completed, forts and walls were built, and the mine with its winches and buckets, its crude mill and machinery came into existence. Houses, barracks, even a church arose in the heart of the wilderness, and to guard the richest of Spanish mines from possible invaders, such as the buccaneers, bronze cannon were hauled over miles of rough trails from the distant port and were mounted with their grim muzzles commanding the narrow pass that led to the mine whence, for many years, a steady stream of gold flowed overseas to Spain.
But at last came the day of retribution, when, unable to endure their burdens longer, to submit to the cruel lash and the tortures inflicted by the Spaniards, the Indians rose en masse. Taken completely by surprise, grown careless by years of the Indians' apparently brute-like submission, and vastly outnumbered by their erstwhile slaves and the still free savages of the forest, the Spaniards were massacred to the last man. Then, to prevent any other white men from reopening the mine which had been the cause of all their years of suffering and misery, the Indians burned the buildings to the ground, tore down the stone walls and forts and wrecked the machinery. For days, weeks, they toiled at the willing labor, until not a vestige of the mine remained, until the bridges had been destroyed, until even the roadway had been obliterated. Then again the forest swallowed the Indians, and the jungle soon hid all scars of man's occupancy. But for long months thereafter skulking naked figures maintained a constant vigil beside the trail and no white man lived to reach the ruins of the mine and carry back news of its fate to the settlements on the coast. And thus, in time, Tisingal became only a memory, a "lost" mine, with its exact location unknown to the world.
Years, centuries later, a Spaniard was taken prisoner by a tribe of Indians of the district, and the daughter of the chief, falling in love with the white captive, agreed to release him and guide him back to his friends and fellow Spaniards. As the two fugitives passed through the forest, they came upon the jungle-covered remains of ancient stone works and the Spaniard, remembering tales of Tisingal, realized that he had stumbled upon the lost mine. But death overtook him before he could profit by his knowledge. Avenging tribesmen killed the Indian girl and wounded her companion who, suffering untold agonies and near to death, struggled into a rubber-gatherers' camp, babbled a few incoherent words, and expired. Clutched in his fingers the chicleros found a lump of almost solid gold.
Since then many attempts have been made to find the ancient mine. But all have come to nothing, for the Indians saw to it that the searchers' bones were added to those of the butchered Spaniards and the fleeing princess. Dozens, scores of men have defied death, lured on by the records of fabulous wealth lying somewhere in the forests, but no man who has ever found the mine has lived to tell of it or to profit by his discovery. No one can even guess how many lives have paid the penalty of seeking for Tisingal; no one can say what toll the Indians have taken, for the silent jungle tells no tales and never gives up its dead.
Long had I been familiar with the story and history of the famous lost mine, and then, on one of my scientific expeditions, I found myself in the district where it was supposed to be. I was not searching for lost mines, however, but was engaged in making ethnological collections and securing data from remote Indian tribes, and at the time I was living in the house of the cacique of a little known tribe—the Shayshans. They were friendly enough, I had won a measure of their confidence, and Chief Polu and I were on the best of terms. But when I asked him about other tribes who were supposed to inhabit the inaccessible mountains, Polu was evasive and professed the greatest fear of them, although claiming that the Shayshans were at peace with all other Indians.
And when I proposed visiting the Doraks, as they were called, the chief and his fellows showed the greatest concern. They insisted it would mean my certain death, explaining that while a Shayshan might enter the Dorak country no white man would be permitted to set foot beyond the invisible boundaries of the Shayshan territory.
Somehow, from the chief's manner, I felt positive that he was trying to conceal something from me. As I puzzled over this I began to wonder if the Shayshans held the secret of the Tisingal mine. Was it possible? Could it be that the wily cacique was trying to avoid any possibility of my stumbling upon the secret? Was I, as they say in the game of "Hunt the Thimble," getting warm?
It was a rather fascinating, I might even say, amazing idea, and it was by no means impossible or improbable that the fabulously rich Tisingal might be very near to Polu's village. But I had no intentions of searching for treasure, either in lost mines or elsewhere. I was engaged in scientific work and Indians and their customs interested me more than old Spanish mines and traditional riches. Also, I realized that to show any deep interest in the matter might well result in arousing the suspicions or even resentment of the Shayshans, provided they did know of the ancient mine and its history, and the failure of my mission. Nevertheless, the romantic aspect of the matter appealed to me; my exploring instinct had been aroused, and well, I doubt if there is any one who would not be thrilled at the thought of being within bow-shot of a long-lost, incredibly rich mine which countless men had sought in vain, and whose history was one of tragedy, drama, bloodshed and mystery.
But the most carefully framed, guarded and adroit questioning failed to draw any definite information from Polu and his fellows, even though I felt sure I had convinced them that I was not searching for gold.
Perhaps, I decided, it might be that, as they said, the Doraks knew of the mine. That they themselves only knew what had been handed down in traditions for centuries. That they had heard from their fathers who had heard it from their fathers, that long ago the Spaniards had a mine somewhere in the mountains and that the Dons had forced the Indians to labor as slaves, until they had risen and killed the white men. But, so they declared, they knew nothing; they had no knowledge of gold (it was a fact that not one wore an ornament of the precious metal) that it was valueless to them, and that if they knew where the mine was they would gladly tell me, for I was their friend, I had given them presents, lived with them like a brother, and dwelt in their cacique's house.
So, deciding that my imagination had overridden my common sense, and that in all probability the Shayshans were as ignorant of Tisingal as myself, I busied myself with my notes and specimens and forgot all about the lost mine. Then, as so often happens, Fate intervened and opened the sealed lips of the cacique. His daughter, a chubby brown princess of eight, was seized with an agonizing but far from dangerous fit of colic, the result of eating far too many oily piva-palm nuts.
Her screams and shrieks in the middle of the night aroused every one, and the Indians, firmly believing some evil spirit of the darkness had taken possession of her, added their wails, lamentations and incantations to the uproar.
At first Polu and his copper-colored queen would have none of the white man's medicine. But when the most potent charms and "medicine," the beating of drums, the slaying of a fowl, and the application of "magic" wood and fungus failed to exorcise the "devil," the Indians, as a last resort, appealed to me.
Very promptly the little princess' tummy responded to proper treatment, her screams of agony changed to sobs, the sobs to whimpers, and soon she was sleeping soundly and quietly on her mat of pounded bark-cloth beside the queen.
I doubt if Polu slept again that night. When I crawled into my hammock he was sitting motionless, staring fixedly into the black night, and when I awoke at dawn he was in precisely the same position, immobile as a bronze statue, his mind evidently concentrated on some very deep and important matter. In fact I could almost believe his spirit had left him and was wandering far away, and that only the shell of his body was seated there in the hammock.
Not until the invariable chocolate was passed to him did he return to earth. Then, having gulped down the steaming drink, he rose, took down a long powerful bow and a sheaf of wicked-looking arrows, and very carefully examined each one in turn. Evidently, I thought, the was preparing to go on a hunt. And then, to my astonishment, he requested me to accompany him.
For a time he walked in silence. Not until we had passed beyond sight and hearing of the house did he speak. Then, halting, he turned, beckoned me to his side and grinned. His Spanish was limited and rather crude, and my recently acquired knowledge of the Shayshan dialect was even more rudimentary. But we always got on famously and there was no possibility of misunderstanding. Rubbing his stomach, he twisted his face into an expression of agony. "Wasit" (child), he exclaimed, "mala, mucho mala!" (sick, very sick). Then he closed his eyes and sighed contentedly. "Mekano shabi wasit bueno" (I am grateful, you were good to my child), he declared in his mixture of Shayshan and Spanish.
"Oron" (yes), I replied. "Wasit kaba warang" (I am glad the child is well), I continued, anxious to please him by using his own language.
Polu squinted his eyes and the half-quizzical expression I had often noted, an expression suggestive of crafty shrewdness, like the look in an elephant's eyes, came over his face. For fully a minute he studied me. Then he turned abruptly and pointed towards the green, forested mountains still streaked with shreds of morning mist, their shadows purple, mysterious, fathomless.
"Batagoa!" (come), he ejaculated. "Tisingal!"
I could scarcely believe my ears. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Polu did know the secret of the lost mine! He was about to reveal it to me, was taking me to it as proof of his gratitude for curing his daughter! For hours we climbed the mountains through a misty, penetrating drizzle. Mile after mile I followed the cacique through the shadows of the vast forest. I completely lost all sense of direction, I was drenched to the skin, and was becoming heartily sick of it all, when the chief suddenly halted and beckoned me to his side. Carefully parting the drooping ferns and interlaced creepers, he pointed to a pile of rotting-moss-grown masonry rent asunder by the snake-like, twisted roots of great trees, and almost hidden in the accumulation of decaying vegetation.
Here, buried in jungle, was the ages-old handiwork of civilized men, and, unquestionably, as proved by the mortar, of Europeans. Polu walked a few yards farther, and stepping aside, showed me a stretch of roughly-paved roadway beside which were the almost vanished hardwood logs of what once, centuries before, might have been a massive gate or a stockade.
My mind was a chaos of sensations, for I was convinced that I actually was gazing at the remains of the approaches to Tisingal. And if so, then very near at hand, was the long-lost, fabulously rich mine, the mine which so many men had sought for only to die, which no living white man had ever seen!
The cacique, looking about with furtive glances, as though desecrating a tomb, bent low, and pressing through a thicket, halted among the trees. Before him lay two large cylindrical objects half-buried in the earth. At first glance I thought them merely moss-covered logs, and then, with fast-beating heart, I bent over them. There was no doubt about it; they were cannon!
Bronze guns; ancient and with small bores, ornately-ringed, bell-mouthed and thick with the verdigris of centuries.
Carefully scraping away the corrosion and the growth upon them, I revealed letters and figures cut into the metal. Some were almost wholly obliterated, but here and there a letter or a number was decipherable, and the date, 1515, was clear and distinct upon one of the guns.
I had thought that lost mines, either real or imaginary, held only a passing interest, a mere curiosity for me. Yet, as I knelt there beside those centuries-old Spanish cannon in the heart of the jungle, I felt a thrill of excitement and exultation such as I seldom have known. Tired muscles, aching limbs, the weary tramp, reeking wet garments and countless intolerable ticks were forgotten. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I was looking at objects which many a man would have given half his life, thousands of dollars to behold—the very guns that once guarded the way to the richest mine in the New World, long-lost almost mythical Tisingal! Strangest of all, I had been shown the relics by one of the tribesmen whose ancestors had risen in their despair and had destroyed all traces of the mine. And by some inscrutable whim of Fate, the open sesame had been an Indian youngster's tummy ache.
Had I dared to enter that section of the jungle alone, a silent arrow might have ended my curiosity and my scientific expedition then and there. But with Polu I was safe, and as I stood there in the dark ominous forest with the yelping barks of toucans and the chattering parrots breaking the oppressive silence, I was thankful that the secret of the mine had been and still was so effectively guarded. Gold and the white man's lust for wealth have always been the curse of the Indians, and had the location of Tisingal become known it would have spelled the doom of my friends, the Shayshans, and their neighbors.
Then I noticed that Polu appeared nervous. He was impatiently urging me to move on, speaking in whispers, peering about, searching the dense jungle growths as if in imminent fear of stealthy, hostile savages. It may have been my imagination, or possibly the cacique's fears were a bit contagious. At any rate I felt that we were being watched, that unseen eyes were fixed upon us, and that I was standing very close indeed to death.
So with a final glance at the mute guardians of Tisingal, I turned, and following in Polu's footsteps, threaded my way along the almost invisible trail that led to the domains of my silent companion.
At last we came forth from the jungle with the king's house in view, and instantly I halted in amazement. Gathered in a group before the thatched hut were half a dozen wild-looking, naked savages!
Had the hostile Doraks swept down upon the Shayshan village to demand retribution for betraying the secret of the lost mine to a white man? But before I could frame a question, the savages had seen us and, in the twinkling of an eye, had vanished.
Oddly enough, as it seemed to me, the cacique did not appear either disturbed or surprised at the presence of the shock-headed, feather-bedecked strangers. He could not or would not understand my questions, but merely grinned amiably as we hurried across the few rods of open grassland to his home. Then I understood. Seated in the house were the wild-looking savages, but now all wore ragged shirts and patched trousers. At sight of the white man they had hurriedly transformed themselves from savages to semi-civilized Indians at least outwardly. But it was not until days later that I learned the whole truth. Not until I was preparing to leave for my long and thrilling journey down the river, did Polu, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, reveal the secret. Then, quite frankly, he informed me that the Doraks and the Shayshans were identical—a Jekyll and Hyde tribe, peaceful and friendly and with an external veneer of civilization, or wild, savage, hostile as conditions demanded. But in either case the sole guardians of the lost mine. 
Link to They Found Gold Ch 16 to End

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.