STORMING THE CASTLE AND CONVENT
 THE first intimation the Spaniards of Porto Bello had of our coming was the scurrying back to
harbor of divers fishing craft which were engaged off shore, and which, despite the
endeavors of our admiral to intercept them, warned the governor of the city, so that he
closed the city gates and shut himself up in his castle before we arrived under the walls.
All endeavors to negotiate with him were fruitless, for well he knew the desperate men he
had then to contend with, and opened a cannon fire upon us at once we were within range.,
But the Spaniards are and always were notoriously poor marksmen, and our admiral had for
them such contempt that he paid no attention to their
 fire, but ordered out the small boats at once, and all the available men at arms rowed to
By a strange chance, one of the Spanish cannon balls did strike a galleon of the fleet
'twixt wind and water, and, stranger still, caused it to sink; but that mishap by no means
dismayed us, nor greatly delayed the landing of our men. We had a few less, that was all,
to assist at the reduction of the castle, and, as doubtless there would be still fewer
after the battle was over, we should not need so many vessels to carry us back to Tortuga,
By rowing up a narrow channel and around an angle of the sea-walls, we found a
landing-place without the range of Spanish cannon, and there we formed in columns and
marched forward to the assault. We had brought scaling ladders with us, which were carried
in the van and quickly planted against the walls. They reached scarcely to the parapets,
and even those that did were quickly thrown back upon our
 heads, together with pots of boiling pitch and caldrons of hot water, which the governor
of the castle had prepared as soon as warned of our approach. Then ensued a pandemonium of
oaths and cries from the wounded and the scalded pirates, a fusilade from muskets and
arquebuses, and the throwing of hand-grenades; but all to no purpose.
By this our ships had brought their cannon into fire, and it was not long before a breach
was made in the wall that surrounded the city, though the castle seemed impregnable. Quick
to avail himself of this advantage, our leader ordered the breach to be stormed at once,
and soon it was swarming with a motley throng of pirates, in the foremost front being Eli
and myself. I had resolved, inasmuch as I should be regarded with suspicion peradventure I
hung back and refused to fight, to throw myself into the very van of all, and by loud
cries and flourishing of my cutlass to create the impression that I was fighting
desperately. This was by Eli's advice, who saw
 how sore my conscience was regarding the company I was in.
So then, see us both storming the breach at the head of half a thousand men, more or less,
shouting fit to split our lungs and piercing the air with sundry and divers stabs until
such as saw us could not but admire us for our valor—as we had intended. What I
should do if perchance I met a Spaniard I dreaded much to think; for it would have gone
against the grain to have lopped his head off merely because he was engaged in defending
his home. But fortunately for me no Spaniard gave me a chance to engage him at close
quarters, for all who saw us ran as if, forsooth, the evil one himself were at his heels.
And who could blame them for acting the coward, with a host of fiends in view, come
without warning to ravage their homes and deprive them of their lives?
I have never run from mortal man as yet, but, methinks, I would have at least waited till
 I got my back against a wall before making stand against such a horde of ruffians as ours.
We gained the city streets, but only to find them silent and deserted of all human beings.
The massive stone houses on either side the chief streets were closed and apparently
abandoned, for all the people who could do so had fled to the castle, where the governor
had shut himself up and in fancied security bade us defiance, in sooth. The enraged
pirates sacked the houses, recovering much treasures in silver and gold, and even spared
not the church, robbing the altar of its massive golden ornaments, and then turned
themselves to yet more reprehensible deeds.
At the seaward end of the city was the castle; at the landward end the great buildings of
a convent, towards which, after our bands of cut-throats had slaked their thirst in
Spanish wines, the which also inflamed their sinful lusts, they turned with loud shouts
and brandishing of arms. Mansvelt—to his credit let it be recorded—refused to
lead his men against the convent,
 filled, as he knew it to be, with women and children; but Morgan overruled him in this,
and himself stepped forward and harangued the men to do this devilish deed.
I heard with horror the order to march forward and carry the walls of the convent, and I
would have held back had not the eye of Morgan been upon me. And again Eli whispered to
me: "Remember what the Don said: His daughter is here, perchance, and if we are foremost,
who knows but that we can save her!"
Thus on we went, pell-mell, cutlasses in air and again in the van of that howling,
scoundrelly horde. We made short work of the convent barricades, and eftsoon were pouring
through the corridors and into the patios, or inner courts, of the immense structure, like
wolves in a sheep cote seeking for lambs. And we found them, too, all huddled together in
the chapel, more than fifty women and girls listening to the prayers that were being
offered by their instructors in religion. They had evidently
 been told to prepare for the worst, and in the main were calm with the desperation born of
despair; yet some few could not but shriek at the appearance of the ruffianly horde,
shaggy and unkempt, some brandishing blood-stained weapons, others their faces smeared
with blood and all leering like hyenas at their prospective prey.
The voice of prayer was drowned in the shouts and cursings of the pirates, who for a
moment held aloof, some even of these depraved monsters feeling compunction at advancing
upon this assemblage of defenceless females. At this juncture a nun with saintly face
stepped forward, holding in her hands a casket containing gold and silver trinkets,
jewels, pearls, gems—the despoiling of those maidens there assembled, which she
offered our leader, telling him they represented their entire possessions and entreating
him to take them and depart.
But no, Morgan the monster had other plans in view. He indeed took the offering, passing
 it to his lieutenant; but he then said, in his loud and uncouth voice: "Form yourselves
into ranks and pass out into the street. Men, fall back and allow these ladies to pass.
Go, now, and stand not here another moment. Go hence!
The trembling females did as he directed, and marched quietly out through the corridors,
twelve stately women leading more than forty maidens quivering with fright and weeping
silently. We parted ranks, and they passed out into the street, where they were ordered to
march without halting directly for the drawbridge at the castle gate. Then we saw the full
and horrible purport, of Morgan's intention: It was to compel the female captives to lead
the way with scaling ladders, which they were ordered to place against the walls!
Behind this barricade of virtue and innocence the pirates were to advance and assault the
castle, unless indeed the governor should shrink from killing his own friends some of them
per-  chance his own relatives, and consent to parley. Never, perhaps, was any other man offered
such a terrible alternative, and it must have torn the governors heartstrings sorely to
decide: whether to fire upon those innocents, mingled as they were with the thronging
pirates, or consent to surrender the castle and all it contained to the treacherous
villains in whose word he could by no means place dependence. That alternative was offered
him, and not hours, but minutes, given him to decide. The nun with saintly face called in
clear bell-like voice to the governor not to betray his trust, for if her life and' the
lives of her companions could save him and all the castle contained, she and they were
ready for the sacrifice. At which, with a curse on his lips, that devil Morgan leaped upon
and ran her through with his sword. She fell bleeding amid the throng of white-faced,
shrieking girls and scowling men, and would have been trampled on had not Eli and myself,
as with one impulse, leaped forward and taken her in our arms.
 "Drop her! Drop that drab, and go back to the ranks!" shouted Morgan, fairly foaming at
the mouth. "Men, sieze those scoundrels and off with their heads!"
I whispered to Eli, "Bear her back gently, while I hold them back. Perchance I fall, it
cannot be worse." He nodded, and I released my hold of the woman, and, without giving my
enemies time to oppose themselves against me, sprang like a tiger full at Morgan's throat.
The impact of my spring bore him to the earth, and betime his myrmidons had reached me he
was black in the face from the grip I gave him on the throat, for my fingers clenched
themselves like steel upon his sinewy neck, and but another moment would have been his
last! I knew my time was short, and strove not only to choke him but to break his neck if
possible; and I think I should have succeeded had we not been torn apart so rudely. But
for all the rescue he was unconscious, and for most of that day was
 surely out of the fight, despite the attempts of our chirurgeon to bring him round again.
His men fell upon me, many at a time, and it would have gone ill with me had it not been
for Mansvelt, who commanded them not only to unloose me but to return my cutlass, which
had dropped to the ground in the affray.
"Go, now," he said, and he pressed my hand in a way that had in it approval for my act.
"Go, now, and assist thy chum in recovering the wounded nun. They have taken the direction
of the convent."
I hesitated, for my blood was boiling, and I greatly desired to complete the work I had so
well begun. But Mansvelt laughed, as if fully comprehending my desire, and' said: "Not
now; thou hast done enough for a beginning. Doubtless he will let thee have it out with
him another day!"
THE MAN OF BLOOD SHALL DIE.
My reason returning in a measure then, I did as he had commanded, and, wending my way
between the disordered ranks, sought the convent,
 where in sooth I found, not only Eli and the captive nun, but another with them who,
despite my disordered fancy, at the time, suggested to me some familiar face. In short,
the girl attendant upon the nun, I felt sure at first glance, was none other than the
younger daughter of the Don! She had the same black eyes and hair, round cheeks, ruby-red
lips, with such delicious curves in them, as had her sister, and withal a shapely,
lithesome figure. She was rather above the common height of girls of her age—which
the Don had intimated was about fifteen—and had about her an air of maturity not
derived from years.
All these details I noticed, as it were, unwittingly, and almost at a glance; for there
was, sooth, no time for idle curiosity. I doubt if the girl then gave me a single thought,
except to reason that here was but another pirate, one the more or less being all the same
to her, since all were in league against her life. She merely glanced at me, then, being
absorbed up in her
 charge, the saintly nun, who was reclining on a cot supported by the young girl with an
arm under her head.
That the nun was wounded unto death I knew at first view of her, the pallor on her pure
face was such; but I said nothing. The blood still flowed from the wound in her side,
staining her white robe and the cot upon which she lay; her breath came in quick, short
gasps, except for which there was no sign of life. Standing near the foot of the cot, in
the little room scarcely more than a cell, with its bare, white walls, was my comrade, and
with him old Jaques, but for whose assistance surely the nun could not have been borne out
from that noisome throng to this quiet sanctuary. The veteran pressed my hand as I
entered, and Eli linked an arm in mine, and we stood silent there, with bared heads,
knowing in our souls that we were in the presence of death.
Whether it were better to go or stay we knew not, but, feeling our unfitness for such a
place, were about to steal softly out when the dying
 woman opened her eyes, raised herself to a sitting posture, and, pointing with the
extended finger, of one hand at poor Jaques, said in a clear, distinct voice: "The man of
blood shall die!" Then she gasped once or twice, fell back and died.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics