It Couldn’t Happen — But Don’t You Wish It Would?

ADAM HARLD BROWN September 15 1923


It Couldn’t Happen — But Don’t You Wish It Would?

ADAM HARLD BROWN September 15 1923


It Couldn’t Happen — But Don’t You Wish It Would?


WARING'S plane having "taken off" successfully, his first anxiety was for the girl strapped back there in the tiny cabin "Everything's all right so far, Gloria," he spoke through the tube. "But we may

strike a pocket of air any minute; so don't get frightened if there's a jolt." "Yes, el mio capitan," Donna Gloria's voice was steady enough. That gave him reassurance.

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^HR brought him a copy of a manuscript in Spanish ^ which she translated that its story might be clearer for him. It seemed that about the middle of the last century an old sailor had made his way to San Felipe, and before dying had told a remarkable story. A monk, who was doubtless impressed—or perhaps to humor the dying man wrote out the account.

In 1S10. the sailor had served under Captain Morgan, it of arms if necessary. The people were groang under Zaro's unjust taxation and were ripe for

\! 1 these things Waring had listened to in a halfabstracted manner, bis thoughts really on other things, chief of which was a growing determination to induce Gloria to marry him and leave all this petty intrigue. Matters first smote him seriously when Gloria one evening confided to him that her father and a small company picked from his followers had secretly set out on a small tug for the island of treasure.

"Do you really believe there is buried gold there, Gloria?” he asked.

“Oh. yes, 1 do," she replied. “If there wasn’t, father wouldn’t take all these risks. What I most fear is that Zaro may learn of his absence and start to investigate, which would be very disastrous.” on board the brig, Mary Dear. She had lain in at Calloa Bay when that port and the adjacent city of Lima were the last footholds of Spanish power in South America. Even then this strip of territory was threatened by an advancing republican

army. A great store of treasure was collected in the capital, and the viceroy, seeing no other possible means of saving it appealed to Captain Morgan to hide it for them.

The account told how all the gold and silver in the government treasury, all the moneys in the banks, the bejewelled and golden ornaments belonging to the churches, as well as other priceless relics, after being packed away in chests bearing the great seal of Spain, were placed in charge of Captain Morgan aboard the Mary Dear. He was entreated to put to sea with this valuable cargo and wait until it was safe to return.

But a sudden storm had driven the Mary Dear to the north. Then for some reason unknown to the sailor, the captain had decided to bury the gold on an island far from the trade routes. This small and uninhabited speck on the ocean green, “showed three hills up-pointing,” the manuscript stated, “yet there being no safe harbor, the ship must needs stand off and on.” The Captain had deposited the treasure in a rock-ribbed cave at the base of the centre hill, “not far from the water and facing the morning sun.” All the chests but one were buried in the sands of the cave “So we put the remaining chest back on the ship and c.rried it to Cocos Island, where its later discovery led toathe erroneous notion that the whole treasure had been buried there.”

A PART of the crew, irritated be■DA cause they were not allowed to share in the rich spoils immediately, murdered their captain while he slept, threw his body overboard and set back to regain the treasure chests. But on their way south they were overtaken by a man-of-war, captured after a brisk sea battle and all but three of their number were hanged as pirates. The three who escaped were: Thompson, the mate, a man named Chappelle and the narrator of the account. The latter man had fled inland, and on his deathbed at San Felipe told the first account of the treasure’s location.

“It doesn’t read as though the old monk who wrote it down believed it.” Waring said when Gloria finished.

Gloria drew from her bodice, a copy of a chart to the island. Her father had taken the original with him, she said, but he had had two copies made, one of which he placed in a locked drawer of his desk and the other he had asked his daughter to keep about her person in case that by theft or accident the others were lost.

WARING examined the chart closely. “The island is one of the Galapos group; lying due west from the port of San Jose, called Guyal by the republic.” he commented. "Looks somewhat fishy." Then, at her hurt look: “Still there may be something to it all—you never can tell."

At that moment the deep-toned cathedral clock chimed twelve. Donna Gloria was aghast. Such an hour for her to be alone with Victor—and her father not home! He must hurry away.

It was next night that Gloria had come running to him in frightened tears. Someone most likely a spy of Zaro's had broken into the house while she was away, opened the desk in her father's room and stolen the chart to the island of treasure. Worse, she had learned just now Zaro was fitting up an expedition to go with all haste in a fast boat to capture Don Marcus Martinez and take the treasure from him. Could he, Victor, think of any means by which her father could he saved? She was sure if he were captured by Zaro's cut-throats under Captain Smith he would be immediately done to death and all his followers with him.

Waring's answer had been to inimediately suggest that they start out in his sea-plane to warn Don Martinez and his party of their danger.

For an hour the plane ploughed through the ether with scarcely a word between the man and the girl. Victor Waring’s mind was busy with conjectures. If he should happen to be too late to intercept Zaro He quite well knew what would be the fate of Gloria’s father, treasure or no treasure.

The girl’s voice came to him through the speaking tube. “Victor, are we near the island yet?”

“Not yet,” he laughed back. “But maybe soon. You can look over the rail if you care to,


They swept on and on until they were out of sight of land. Waring had recourse again and again to the chart spread out before him. The Galapos were well out of the trade routes. In olden times they had by turns served as bases for buccaneers and for penal colonies. Providing he found the island with the “three hills upstanding,” the possibility of finding a safe bay in which to anchor his seaplane gave him further worry.

What was that faint tint on the ocean blue to the southwest? Could it be ... ? He veered the machine toward it. His heart gave a jump.

It was an island—no, a whole group of islands.

THE first trembling banners of dawn crept up in the

of gold, throwing into relief the ragged shoreline almost below them, the waterfront and scattered buildings of Guyal. The plane’s nose pointed out over the tranquil, azure sea. Not a craft of any sort was moving on it.

They were not as close together as they at first appeared to be. He swept over them one by one. As he shot toward the fourth a cheer rose involuntarily to his lips. It was smaller than the others, wilder-looking if anything—

He called to Gloria, apprising her of the good news. He could tell by her reply how greatly elated she was. He knew what her feelings must be. Her father’s life perhaps depended on the warning they must get to him in time.

On the further side of the island he noted a faint smudge of smoke. Closer inspection disclosed some little distance out a low-lying, tuglike vessel anchored—and beside it a smaller craft with polished brass railings and white-painted bridge and decks. Undoubtedly the latter was one of Zaro’s government cutters and the larger boat the one which old Marcus Martinez had chartered. His heart sank. The answer was obvious: Zaro and his crew had made Gloria’s father and his men prisoners. He, Waring, had arrived too late.

BUT where were they? Not a sign of life could the airman discern aboard either of the vessels or on the shore nearby. He said nothing to Gloria. He must land as quietly as possible on the other side of the island and reconnoitre.

He dropped into a tiny shallow bay within twenty feet or so of the beach. Cautioning the girl to silence, he put .to shore with her in the plane’s tiny collapsible boat.

It was then that Waring realized they were at the base of the three towerlike hills and on the shore “facing the morning sun.” According to the pirate’s chart, it was here somewhere that the cave holding the treasure must be located. Treasure—bah! Of what use could that be now, even if it did exist, with Gloria’s father in the hands of his enemies? It had only served as a snare for the old man’s undoing.

and three hills which looked oddly like castle towers pointed aloft. It tallied with the dead pirate’s description! Up to the crown of the centre hill an almost obliterated trail wound along the edge of a sheer precipice. Along this Waring and Gloria set out, the girl eager, the man secretly gloomy with forebodings.

Three-parts of the way up this trail, Waring wa3 helping the almost exhausted girl along the steep incline when from nearby there came a chorus of wild, exultant yells, and six soldiers sprang from their ambush. Gloria was wrenched from Waring’s grasp and before he could draw his automatic a gleaming bayonet was reaching for

his breast. Automatically, he flung out an arm to ward off the death-thrust. He leaped backward—and into space, his last recollection being the gloating face of Captain Smith as he seized the arm of Gloria.

Waring could not have lost consciousness for more than a few moments at most. At first he was at a loss to imagine where he was or why his injuries amounted to no more than a few bruises and scratches. A hurried investigation proved he had fallen into the mouth of a cave halfway down the side of the cliff and the thick screen of trees and vegetation on the jutting ledge at its mouth had effectually broken his fall.

Waring drew his flashlight and started back at what its broad ray of white light disclosed. On the sandy floor of the cave were piled seven great iron chests. Owing to its exposure rust had eaten away almost the entire lid of the nearest. He cleared away enough of the debris on the top to glimpse the contents—gold in bars, golden vessels, gem-studded ornaments!

Here then was the cunningly concealed cache of Captain Morgan which the ill-fated Martinez had set out to locate. Waring was quick to perceive that the chests must have been hoisted up to the cave by means of the now rotten coils of rope that lay near the entrance—but how, how did Morgan’s men climb up in the first place? He was longer in discovering niches cut into the face of the cliff below, each one apart from the other about the distance of ordinary ladder rungs, but so cunningly cut in a curve of the cliff’s face that they would be undiscernible from the shore below.

WARING delayed no longer. Gone were thoughts of the treasure at speculation of what Gloria must now be suffering in the hands of Captain Smith and Zaro’s men. Ke commenced a speedy descent by means of the ladder cut into the rock. At the base he found he must make a sheer drop of twenty feet, for that distance from the ground the niches in the rock ceased, the sailors evidently using a ladder to the point where they cut the first footholds.

Waring landed in the soft sand on his feet unhurt. He did not attempt to follow the trail up into the hills again. Instead, he raced along the shoreline, certain that Gloria would be taken down to the point where he had seen the two ships anchored out at sea. Though he had to follow the many intricate convolutions of the beach, the distance proved shorter than he had anticipated.

JUST as he rounded a rocky peninsula a paralyzing scene met his view. On the beach, lined up with their backs to the sea were Marcus Martinez and six of his followers. Before them was a service machine gun, with a soldier ready to send the death-spray into that white-faced waiting line. Waring could see their lips moving in last supplications.

Some little distance to the right stood the German, Captain Smith, holding in an outstretched hand a white handkerchief whose drop would mean the signal for the cold-blooded slaughter of the unfortunate seven lined up on the beach. Back of him stood a squad of soldiers with bayonets fixed and a little to one side was the implacable Zaro—and Gloria kneeling at his feet praying vainly for her father’s life.

Only by a herculean effort of will could Waring refrain from rushing forward, but instead he crept rapidly forward in thesereen of foliage to a point back of the machine-gun operator.

“Un!” sang out the throaty voice of Captain Smith on the sunlit morning air. He was taking his time about the matter and enjoying the mental pain of the doomed wretches awaiting his signal to be hurled into Eternity.

Waring, unseen, writhed across the intervening stretch of sand. The butt of his automatic smote the machine gun operator behind the left ear and he sank without a groan.

Donna Gloria collapsed as she ran in a faint. Captain Smith with two quick ejaculations dropped the handkerchief.

Gloria sprang to her feet and rushed across the intervening space toward her father.

writhed the

TT WAS the signal for his own destruction. The machine gun, in Waring’s hands, swung round and spat its messages of death at those who would have destroyed. Smith and his squad of soldiers went to the ground like so many hit pins on a bowling alley.

Zaro, alone alive, stood with hands held above his head.

There arose a joyful cry from the men lined up on the beach. Old Marcus Martinez rushed with Waring to pick up Gloria, now recovering from her faint. His men seized Zaro and bound him.

Thus was ushered in the beginning of a new regime in the distant republic to which Zaro was to be taken back a prisoner, forestalling the need of a revolution. That evening in the moonlight, Gloria and Waring sat on the deck of the government cutter, the while he again related to her his experience after he dropped over the cliff.

“To think,” she said, “that the cave was so discovered to you. It seems almost as though Providence had so willed it the secret hiding-place of the treasure should be found.”

“There is only one treasure I am interested in, Gloria.” he replied as he drew her to him.