Percy F. (Percy Francis) Westerman.

The Treasure of the 'San Philipo' online

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The Fifth Form at St. Dominic's. By Talbot Baines Reed.
My Friend Smith. By Talbot Baines Reed.
A Dog with a Bad Name. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Tom, Dick, and Harry. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Sir Ludar. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Roger Ingleton, Minor. By Talbot Baines Reed.
The Adventures of a Three-Guinea Watch. By Talbot Baines Reed.
The Cock-House at Fellsgarth. By Talbot Baines Reed.
The Master of the Shell. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Reginald Cruden. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Parkhurst Boys. By Talbot Baines Reed.
Geoff. Blake: His Chums and His Foes. By S. S. Pugh.
North Overland with Franklin. By J. Macdonald Oxley.
The Mine Detector. By Frank Elias.









The unsolved cipher.
A magic square.
A bigger magic square.


Chapter I


"REGGIE, my boy, I have a letter from Uncle Herbert."

"What does he say? Has he heard good news about the hidden treasure?

"Yes; but wait till after breakfast and you can read it."

I almost danced with delight at the information, vague as it
appeared, for during the last three months news of my uncle's
progress in search of the mysterious treasure that was to restore the
fortunes of the family had been disappointingly scarce; and, now that
there were indications of a flowing tide in our affairs, it was hard
to realize that success might be within measurable distance.

My story opens in the year 190 - , when I was sixteen years of age,
and during the few years that have since elapsed I may truthfully
say, without boasting, that few boys have ever experienced a greater
amount of peril and adventure than has fallen to my lot in the search
for the "San Philipo" treasure.

My name is Reginald Trevena, and I live at Polruan, in a house that
has been in the possession of our family for centuries; for the
Trevenas are reckoned amongst the oldest stock in all Cornwall. Go
back to the time of the Spanish Armada; or the stirring wars of the
Great Rebellion, when Cornwall was the scene of many a sanguinary
conflict between Cavalier and Roundhead; or the equally exciting
period of the Napoleonic Wars; search the contemporary records of
those days, and I'll warrant you'll find a Trevena plays a
conspicuous and honourable part.

We are of an old seafaring family, and our house contains many
mementoes of our ancestors' prowess. For instance, there is the
silver-mounted sword presented to my great-grandfather, Jasper
Trevena, in recognition of his gallant and successful defence of the
Falmouth packet "Restormel Castle" against a French privateer of
twice its size; and another relic is the silver-braided cocked hat
worn by an ancestor, Humphrey Trevena, at the battle of Vigo Bay in

It is this Humphrey Trevena who is morally responsible for our search
for the "San Philipo" treasure. Briefly, the facts of the case are
these. Humphrey was apparently a rough sea-dog who tempered his
fierce roving spirit with a peculiar spice of superstition, which, at
that period, was rampant in Cornwall. In fact, even at the present
day, dread of the supernatural has a strong hold upon the poorer
classes of the Duchy, although modern education has done much to
banish the firm belief in witchcraft that our forefathers held.

But to return to Humphrey Trevena. From papers in our possession it
appears that in 170 - , this sturdy sea-captain, who commanded the
privateer "Anne," of thirty guns, received orders from Commodore Sir
Charles Wager to make an independent cruise, in company with the
"Leopard," of twenty-four guns, to intercept a Spanish treasure-ship,
the "San Philipo," which was bound from Callao for Cadiz. The
Spaniard had a rich cargo, including fifteen chests of
pieces-of-eight, twenty sows of silver, and gold plate, the total
value being equivalent to £500,000 of our money.

The "San Philipo" arrived at Coquimbo in the month of May of that
year, and left on the following June 1. The "Anne" and her consort
passed through the Straits of Magellan early in the latter month, but
were shortly afterwards overtaken by a furious gale off the Madre de
Dios Archipelago, during which the two vessels lost touch with one
another. The "Leopard" alone rejoined Sir Charles Wager, and nothing
more was seen of the "Anne." Neither did the "San Philipo" reach
Cadiz. As far as information could be obtained from the Admiralty,
the history of the "Anne" comes to an abrupt termination; but we have
in our possession documents which prove conclusively, that Captain
Humphrey Trevena did achieve his purpose and intercept the "San
Philipo," contrary to popular belief.

The log of the "Anne" is before me as I write; scores of musty pages
covered with a crabbed handwriting, made all the more puzzling by
reason of the superfluity of flourishes that characterized the
literary style of the eighteenth century.

Though too lengthy and too complicated to quote in detail, some
portions leave little doubt as to what befell the "San Philipo." For
instance, "perceived the Spaniard well-down on our weather-bow. She
altered her course and stood N.W., we in hot pursuit." For nearly
three weeks this chase continued, during which time the "Anne," in
spite of her inferior size and armament, had driven the "San Philipo"
into the then practically unknown water of the Pacific.

Although to Cook, some seventy years later, belongs the honour of
having made this part of the globe really known to Europeans, there
are proofs that the early Spanish voyagers had navigated these
waters, the first of them being Juan Gaetano, who, in 1542, made the
first voyage of discovery, from New Spain to the coast of Asia.
Therefore, I take it, the captain, of the "San Philipo," unable to
regain the ports of the west coast of South America, tried to shake
off pursuit amongst the numerous coral reefs and islands of the
Pacific Ocean.

However, my ancestor goes on to relate how he effected the capture of
the "San Philipo" after a stubborn resistance. The "Anne" and her
prize made for a lagoon in order to refit; but the reef does not
afford the hoped-for protection, for, a gale springing up, the
treasure-ship sinks with its precious cargo still on board, while the
"Anne," driven south-east by a succession of tempests, is eventually
wrecked upon the desolate Chloe Islands, within a few miles of the
spot where she first sighted the "San Philipo."

Of the entire crew only Humphrey Trevena and two seamen reach the
shore alive, and, after terrible privations, are rescued by a Spanish
ship, and kept in captivity, till the Treaty of Utrecht in 1715
caused universal peace.

Now the mystery deepens. My ancestor describes the position, of the
wrecked treasure-ship in detail, save that he omits an all-important
item. "The island is not more than three leagues in circumference,
and is of irregular form. To the south-east is a hill of about 700
feet in height, its outline likened to a cat's head with its ears
cocked upright. The outer reef extends roughly a mile from the sandy
shore, the opening being visible when two miles from land. The 'San
Philipo' lies with her topmasts showing above water (though 'tis
certain they be not there now), but fifty fathoms from the western
extremity of the entrance, and from it the two headlands on the west
side of the island appear in line, and the highest part - _i.e._ that
which I have likened to a cat's ear - is directly above the mouth of a
vast cave."

This description would doubtless do equally well for a thousand
islands in the Pacific; but here the all-important item is
missing - the actual latitude and longitude.

That Humphrey Trevena fully intended to make an effort to regain the
hidden treasure there can be no possible doubt. Through an excess of
caution he prepared an elaborate cipher, giving the exact latitude
and longitude, and this he invariably carried about his person in a
watertight metal case; but, unfortunately, he met his death through a
fall over the cliffs near the Gribben, and when his body was washed
ashore the cipher was found on him.

In the natural sequence of events the secret should have come into
the possession of his son Gilbert, but, though the latter had the
cipher, neither the key nor the log could be found, though search was
made high and low, and the secret remained a secret. Vague rumours of
the existence of the "San Philipo" treasure floated about, but the
majority of Gilbert's friends regarded the whole business as a myth,
and the interest in the mystery gradually died out.

The box, with its undecipherable contents, still remained as a sort
of heirloom - for, with true Cornish superstition, the bygone members
of the Trevena family kept particular guard over the relic of the
redoubtable Humphrey - until the year 1850, when my father's uncle,
Ross Trevena, having suffered in the general ruin that overtook
Falmouth when steamships displaced the famous sailing packets of that
port, left Polruan and settled in the neighbourhood of Pernambuco, in
Brazil. Here he successfully engaged in coffee-planting, but at
length he dropped out of all communication with his relatives in
Cornwall, and on his death all trace of Humphrey's cipher were lost,
and the faint interest in the "San Philipo" treasure had apparently
flickered out.

But, by a pure accident, a new light was shed upon the mystery, and a
clue furnished which led to my Uncle Herbert's hurried visit to
Pernambuco. Before relating, however, the strange circumstances of
the recovery of the log of the "Anne," I must give some particulars
of the present actors in this stirring drama.

My father, Howard Trevena, is a typical Cornishman. Tall,
broad-shouldered, and possessing an unusual amount of strength, he
has a reputation in this part of the Duchy for manliness, good
nature, and a love of outdoor recreation, his skill as a yachtsman
being well known all along this dangerous coast betwixt the Lizard
and Portland Bill.

To me he appeared more in the light of a companion than that of a
parent, for, from my earliest recollections, I invariably accompanied
him, whether it were, as frequently happened, on a cruise in our
ten-ton cutter "Spray." or on a camping tour along the rock-bound
coast of North Cornwall, or a cycling tour through other counties of
our own country, or even on a ramble afoot amongst the magnificent
hills surrounding our home. Although I fully recognize the respect
due to my father, I am proud of the complete confidence that exists
between us, for he has often expressed the opinion that a parent can
make no greater mistake than to treat his sons as children when they
are fast verging upon manhood.

My mother died when I was but an infant, so that event, in a measure,
accounts for the close companionship between my father and me. And
with us, till within a few months ago, lived my Uncle Herbert. He
resembled my father in several ways; the swarthy complexion, the
close-cut crisp hair, the firm jaw, almost approaching what might be
described as "heavy," the steel-blue eyes - all denoted the strain of
the Trevenas.

Our house, the ancestral home for centuries past, stands a short
distance from the road from Polruan to Lanteglos, on a lofty hill
overlooking Fowey Harbour. It is a long rambling building of Cornish
granite, with the usual stone roof, the mullioned windows being
almost hidden in summer by a wealth of crimson roses. The garden, of
considerable extent, terminates at the edge of a steep declivity, the
foot of which is washed by the tidal waters of the harbour. In one
corner of the garden stood a wooden summer-house, built, so the tale
goes, from the timbers of an old Dutch frigate, which was captured
and brought into Fowey Harbour during the sanguinary sea-fights of
Cromwellian times. In front of this summer-house was erected a white
flag-staff; with crosstrees, gaff, topmast, shrouds, and halliards
complete, from which flew the burgee and blue ensign of the yacht
club to which my father belonged.

You will notice that I used the word "stood" when describing the
summer-house, for it was owing to the fact that the structure ceased
to be that we came into possession of the log, of the illfated

It happened thus: Six months previously, (it was the 5th of November,
as a matter of fact) there was a bonfire and fireworks display in
our village, and, alarmed by the noise, an enormous black cat took
refuge in its terror in our summerhouse. The animal's owner, Mrs.
Penibar, a portly old dame, enlisted our services in its recapture,
and, armed with lanterns, my father, Uncle Herbert, and I made for
its hiding-place.

Right across the summer-house, on a level with the eaves, ran a
massive beam, seemingly out of all proportion to the rest of the
woodwork, and resting on this beam were several short spars, coils of
rope, and other gear belonging to our boat.

Here the cat had taken up its position, and, with arched back and
bristling fur, defied all attempts at pacification, spitting and
growling in its fright. Neither my father nor my uncle had the
inclination to tackle the brute, so the owner, using extraordinary
and ridiculous terms of endearment, placed a short ladder, against
the beam, and ponderously began the ascent.

Even its mistress's blandishments were futile, for the cat, backing
along the beam, still growled defiance. So Mrs. Penibar, mounting to
the fourth rung from the top, leaned sideways along the beam and
attempted to seize her pet.

Suddenly there was an appalling crash, a shriek, and, amid a shower
of dust and plaster, the old lady fell heavily to the ground, and by
the feeble glimmer of our lantern we saw that the massive beam had
broken as cleanly as if shorn by an axe.

Fortunately there were no bones broken, and, by dint of our united
efforts, we managed to extricate the frightened old lady and carry
her to her house.

Next morning I arose early and went to examine the debris of the
summer-house. Only the walls remained; the beam, deceptive in its
apparent solidity, had been hollowed out, and, by natural decay, had
gradually become rotten, till the unusual weight of Mrs. Penibar's
portly frame had caused it to break, bringing down the roof with it.

All at once my quick eye detected some peculiar object that was half
hidden in the heap of rubbish, and, drawing it out, I discovered that
it was an old book, bound in rough leather, that was covered in

Without waiting to examine its contents I hastened back to the house,
meeting my father and Uncle Herbert on the threshold as they were
about to leave for their usual morning swim - a practice they followed
winter and summer alike.

"My word, Reggie! what have you got there?" inquired my father,
taking the book out of my hands. For a few moments he looked at its
contents in silence, turning over a few musty pages; then, so
suddenly that it quite astonished me, he slapped my uncle vigorously
on the back, exclaiming, "My word, Herbert, it is the long-lost log
of the 'Anne'!"

That day, I remember, the morning swim did not take place, and I was
allowed to remain away from the Grammar School at Fowey, and the
whole morning was spent in deciphering Humphrey Trevena's faded
handwriting, and by night we were in possession of the salient facts
concerning the "San Philipo" treasure, though the cipher, giving the
latitude and longitude of the island, was alone wanting to complete
the information necessary for the recovery.

Good news, like bad, seldom comes alone, and our case was no
exception, for next morning my father received a communication asking
him to call upon Rook and Pay, a well-known firm of solicitors in
Plymouth. On paying the requested visit he learned, to his unbounded
astonishment, that his cousin, Ross Trevena's only son, had died
childless at Pernambuco, and that a reputable firm of Brazilian
lawyers had written to the Plymouth firm, requesting that they
should, if possible, find the nearest legal representative of Ross's

"We are the sole surviving descendants of old Humphrey Trevena now,"
I heard my father remark to his brother, on his return from Plymouth,
"and, if it is humanly possible, I mean to have a shot at that
treasure. Old Rook hinted pretty plainly that there are several
heirloom, and the value of the estate, though not abnormal, is worth
having. I think the best thing to be done is for you to run over to
Pernambuco and get the Brazilian lawyers, Sarmientos, to wind up the
estate as quickly as possible. I have little doubt but that you will
be able to lay your hands on Humphrey's cipher, for Ross is certain
never to have left the metal box out of his possession, and if his
son was a chip of the old block, as in all probability is the case,
he will have done likewise."

These were the circumstances under which my uncle set out for Brazil,
and after an interval of three months, my father informed me, as I
have previously mentioned, "Reggie, my boy, I have heard from Uncle

Chapter II


IT was not a long letter that Uncle Herbert wrote; but, on the other
hand, it was to the point -


At last I have had this affair settled, and by the time you receive
this I hope to be on my way home.

Old Humphrey's cipher, together with several other interesting old
documents, is now in my possession, but I am afraid that we are not
out of the wood yet, as the cipher requires a lot of puzzling out.

Chappell, an English mining engineer out here, who has done me good
service as an interpreter, tells me that all sorts of vague rumours
are flying about regarding my presence in Pernambuco, and advises
me to take great care both of myself and the papers while I am
here. I wonder why?

However, there's no need to write more, as I hope to be back again
in dear old Polruan ere long. I've had a draft sent on to the Devon
and Cornwall Bank, representing the cash part of the business, as I
think it's safer.

Love to Reggie, and remembrances to any friends you run across.


With Humphrey Trevena's cipher, as well as the long-lost log, in our
possession, the outlook certainly seemed more hopeful, and both my
father and I looked eagerly forward to my uncle's return. "Just like
him, not to say by what boat he's coming," grumbled my father
good-naturedly. "I suppose he'll turn up like the proverbial bad

A few days after the receipt of my uncle's letter, I went for a
ramble along the cliffs towards Polperro. It was about seven in the
evening when I started. All day a thick white mist had hung over the
sea, but just before I set out on my walk the mist disappeared with
remarkable suddenness, and a strong southerly wind began to send the
heavy rollers thundering against the cliffs. As twilight deepened
into night, I could see the double half-minute flash of the
Eddystone, till a cloudbank obscured the friendly light.

"We're in for a dirty night," I remarked to myself in nautical
parlance, and the dark-brown sails of the fishing-boats, showing
dimly against the white-crested waves as they ran for shelter,
supported my supposition. Before I reached home the storm was at its
height, the wind howling over our chimney-pots in spite of the
comparatively sheltered position of the house.

"Your Uncle Herbert will be having a lively time of it, if he is
anywhere near the Channel," remarked my father, while we were at

"Yes; but it doesn't matter so much on a liner," I replied. "It's the
fishing-boats and small coasters that suffer as a rule in these

"That's true; so long as the navigation lights are visible, steamers
have little to fear. But, my word! Crosbie was bringing his
ten-tonner round from Falmouth to-day. I wonder how he got on. I
suppose you didn't notice her in the harbour as you came across?"

"You mean the 'Dorothy'? No, she wasn't on her moorings at five

"It's too late to make inquiries at the club," replied my father,
consulting his watch. "But I think I'll stroll up to the coastguard
station and ask if she has been seen. Put on your oilskins, Reggie,
and come too - that is, if you don't mind the rain."

Together we toiled up the steep path that led up to the coastguard
look-out hut, and every step towards the hill brought us more exposed
to the howling wind and the biting rain, till we were glad to gain
the shelter of a rough cairn that served as a wind-screen.

Out of the darkness loomed an object that resolved itself into the
coastguard on duty, who, clad in oileys and sou'-wester, kept
faithful watch and ward on this exposed and bleak position.

"Good evening, McCallum."

"Good evening, sir; it blows a bit fresh to-night."

"Anything startling?"

"Not so far as I knows of, sir; all the boats 'ave come in."

"That's something to be thankful for," remarked my father. "But has
anything been seen or heard of Mr. Crosbie's 'Dorothy'? I believe she
is making a passage from Falmouth to-day."

"Mr. Crosbie ain't no mug at the game," replied the man. "Strikes me
he's either put back or run into Mevagissey."

"I hope so, too," rejoined my father; and the conversation, which had
been conducted by sheer strength of lungs, owing to the howling of
the wind, ceased, and we relapsed into complete silence.

From our position we could see both within and without the harbour;
and what a contrast! Within the harbour, though the waves caused a
nasty "lop," the twinkling lights of Fowey, and the oscillating
anchor-lamps of scores of weather-bound vessels in the Pool, caused
quite a glare in the dark, rain-laden sky; while seaward, as far as
the mirk allowed one to see, was one confused tumble of white-crested
waves, which, with a noise that was heard above the singing of the
wind, hurled themselves against the rockbound cliffs, sending up
columns of white spray, that burst in hissing showers over our
shelter, 200 feet above the sea. Not the faintest glimmer of a ship's
light was visible, and only the blinking eye of St. Catherine's gave
out its warning red flash to break the awful desolation of the raging

"Bitterly cold for May," shouted my father into my ear. "We are doing
no good by stopping here."

"Good-night, McCallum," he added, turning towards the coastguardsman;
but at that moment a pale blue light flashed upwards in the darkness.

Instantly the look-out man became the personification of alertness.
With his night-glass bearing in the direction of the light he waited
till the signal was repeated; then, doubling across the open ground
between us and the signal-hut, he proceeded to "ring up" the rest of
the detachment.

"A vessel in distress!" exclaimed my father; and, following the
coastguardsman, we entered the hut to gain further information.

"There's a ship ashore on the Cannis. Message just through from the
Gribben. Mevagissey and Polkerris lifeboats called out, and our men
to patrol the cliffs between Point Neptune and Pridmouth," reported
the man with the abruptness of years of discipline. "If you wants to
see anything of the business, sir, our chaps 'll put you across, for
'tain't likely there'll be any watermen about this sort of night."

"We may as well make a night of it, Reggie," remarked my father,
"though I am afraid we cannot be of much practical use. Run home as

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Online LibraryPercy F. (Percy Francis) WestermanThe Treasure of the 'San Philipo' → online text (page 1 of 14)