| America First|
|by Lawton B. Evans|
|Collection of one hundred action-packed stories, covering the range of American history, from the first visit of Leif the Lucky to the exploits of Sergeant York in World War I. In relating the long, thrilling story of the trials and triumphs of the pioneers and patriots, the author aims to gratify the love of children for the dramatic and picturesque, to satisfy them with stories that are true, and to make them familiar with the great characters in the history of their own country. Ages 8-12 |
SIR WILLIAM PHIPS AND THE TREASURE SHIP
THIS is the story of a poor boy who lived on a miserable plantation on the Kennebec River, in New England, yet who
ended by becoming a nobleman of Old England. His name was William Phips, and he had twenty brothers and five
sisters. In his early life he tended sheep, and learned the trade of a ship carpenter. He then went to Boston,
where he learned to read and write and, later on, married a good wife. He settled down to hard work, and after
ten years became Captain of one of the King's ships. Little did he know he was about to face the great
adventure of his life, as we shall see.
These were the days when Spanish ships were seeking silver and gold and precious stones on the coast of Peru;
when they were carrying their cargoes back to the old country, if they were fortunate enough to escape the
pirates! Some of these
 cargoes went to the bottom in storms, or ran foul on dangerous reefs. Many were the stories of precious wrecks
along the shores of the Bahamas.
On one of his trips to the Bahamas, Phips heard of a Spanish wreck "wherein was left a mighty treasure" at the
bottom of the sea. He made up his mind to be the discoverer of that ship and to recover that treasure, if it
was possible. Many a man would have laughed at the story, or would have hesitated over the task; but Phips was
not like other men. He was born for great adventure, and herein he saw his chance.
Forthwith he sailed for England, and sought the wealthy people of the realm. He was a comely man, full of
honesty and sincerity, and Royalty at Court listened to his smooth words with apparent confidence. For he came
back to New England, Captain of his King's ship, and with full power to search the seas for silver and gold in
Phips's task was not an easy one. Fifty years had passed since the particular ship of which he had heard had
sunk; hence the exact spot was not easy to find. All that was known was that it was somewhere near the
Bahamas. But men have ventured in search of gold on far less certainty than this, and Phips was not one to be
 He took his crew to the Bahamas, and began his long and discouraging search. He dredged here and there; he
questioned the old inhabitants along every coast; he used every means of information and discovery. But
At length his crew grew mutinous. They wanted to turn pirates, and to set sail for the South Seas.
Accordingly, one day they rose, and marched with drawn swords to the Captain, saying, "We will have no more of
this. Take us to more profitable waters under the black flag, or we will heave you overboard. We will be
pirates henceforth, and will not search the bottom of the sea for ships, when there are plenty to be found on
top of it."
Phips was aghast at this mutiny, and, besides, he was unarmed and helpless. Still he was by far the most
powerful man on board, and was terrible in his wrath. Slowly he approached the ring-leader, as if to parley
with him. Then, with bare hands, he leaped upon him, knocked him down, seized his cutlass, and attacked the
others with fury. So impetuous was the onset that in a short time the deck was strewn with wounded men, while
many others fled in dismay, begging mercy of the infuriated Captain.
Soon after the mutiny, Phips sailed back to Jamaica in order to get a new crew, more disposed
 to do as they were told. The treasure-ship must be somewhere, and its riches haunted him day and night. He
sailed to Hispaniola in search of information. He met a very old Spaniard who said he knew where the ship was
sunk, and who told of the spot on a reef of shoals, a few leagues from Hispaniola, and not far from Port de la
Plata which was so named because of a boat-load of sailors who landed there with plate saved from the sinking
This was enough for our hero. He needed more men and more money, so he bravely returned to England to beg for
both. He had a hard time to convince any one of his story, but Phips was very plausible and the account of how
he quelled the mutiny on his vessel won him many admirers. Such was not an easy task in those days of
adventure. However, it was not long before Captain Phips found himself headed for the lost treasure on the
quarter-deck of a new ship, well manned and equipped.
He reached Port de la Plata in due time. It was now about 1685. He set about getting ready a great canoe,
hollowed out of the trunk of an enormous tree. The point selected by him for search was a terrible reef, known
as "The Boilers," where the sea foamed over a sloping reef—no
 man knew how deep. Phips anchored his ship near the perilous spot, made ready his divers and his diving-bell,
got out the canoe, and set to work with a slow and steady resolve to see the undertaking through or else
Days passed in vain search. The weather was calm and the ship's supplies were abundant. The men did not
complain, but dived down, along the reef, looking everywhere for signs of a lost vessel. One day a boatman,
gazing into the clear water, saw, growing out of what seemed to be a rock, what he thought was a beautiful sea
feather, usually to be found in sea gardens. So an Indian diver went down after it and brought it up in his
"That was not a rock, but a great gun you saw," said the diver to his companions in the boat.
"What do you say? Gun! Gun!" they cried. "It must be what we are seeking! On board, all you divers!" There was
intense excitement in the canoe.
Other Indians were sent down, and one of them came back with a lump of silver in his hands. It was a bar worth
a thousand dollars. "I found it near the gun. There are other guns and other lumps like it,—many, many!"
he explained, his eyes almost starting from their sockets.
The sailors roared with joy. At last the place
 was found! Their search was over! They were masters of the silver-ship! Riches untold were in their
possession! They marked the spot with a buoy, and rowed back to the ship to inform Phips of what they had
found and to show him the bar of silver.
"Thanks be to God, our fortunes are made," cried the Captain, and at once repaired with his men to the spot
marked by the buoy.
There was no indifference now on the part of the crew. Every diver went down and every sailor lent a hand. Bar
after bar was brought up from the ocean's depths, and stored away, as well as cases of silver coin, gold in
large quantities, together with pearls and precious stones. Never was there such treasure dug up from the
bottom of the ocean, where it had lain for half a century. It was worth a million and a half dollars. The work
continued until provisions were exhausted and the men were ill. Though the sunken ship held more, they had to
leave it where it was. Phips sailed to England and showed his treasures to the King, and to his friends. He
was the most honest and generous man of his day, and paid his crew liberally. He gave his patrons a large
share of his fortune, and his employees had nought to complain of. What remained to him after this still left
 very rich man, and for a time he was the most talked of man in England.
As for the King, he was so well pleased with the adventure, and with the admirable manners of Phips, that he
made the latter a knight, which meant that he was called "Sir William" from that time on. And this is the
story of how a plain country boy of New England came, through his manly qualities and his love of adventure,
to belong to the aristocracy of England.
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