Pass Christian





Senhor Vineiro, a Portuguese, having wedded Julia Regalea, a Spaniard, in

South America, found it needful to his fortunes to leave Montevideo, for

a revolution was breeding, and no less needful to his happiness to take

his wife with him from that city, for he was old and she was young. But

he chose the wrong ship to sail on, for Captain Dane, of the Nightingale,

was also young, presentable, and well schooled, but heartless. On the

voyage to New Orleans he not only won the affection of the wife, but slew

the husband and flung his body overboard. Vainly the wife tried to

repress the risings of remorse, and vainly, too, she urged Dane to seek

absolution from her church. She had never loved her husband, and she had

loved Dane from the first, but she was not at heart a bad woman and her

peace was gone. The captain was disturbed and suspicious. His sailors

glanced at him out of the corners of their eyes in a way that he did not

like. Had the woman in some unintentional remark betrayed him? Could he

conceal his crime, save with a larger one?



Pass Christian was a village then. On a winter night its people saw a

glare in the sky, and hurrying to their doors found a ship burning in the

gulf. Smacks and row-boats put off to the rescue, but hardly were they

under way ere the ship disappeared as suddenly as if the sea had

swallowed it. As the night was thick the boats returned, but next morning

five men were encountered on the shore-all that were left of the crew of

the Nightingale. Captain Dane was so hospitably received by the people of

the district, and seemed to take so great a liking for the place, that he

resolved to live there. He bought a plantation with a roomy old house

upon it and took his fellow-survivors there to live, as he hoped, an easy

life. That was not to be. Yellow fever struck down all the men but Dane,

and one of them, in dying, raved to his negro nurse that Dane had taken

all the treasure from the ship and put it into a boat, after serving grog

enough to intoxicate all save the trusted ones of the crew; that he and

his four associates fired the ship and rowed away, leaving an unhappy

woman to a horrible fate. Senhora Vineiro was pale but composed when she

saw the manner of death she was to die. She brought from her cabin a harp

which had been a solace of her husband and herself and began to play and

sing an air that some of the listeners remembered. It was an Ave Maria,

and the sound of it was so plaintive that even Dane stopped rowing; but

he set his teeth when his shoe touched the box of gold at his feet and

ordered the men to row on. There was an explosion and the vessel

disappeared. On reaching shore the treasure was buried at the foot of a

large oak.



This story was repeated by the nurse, but she was ignorant, she had no

proofs, so it was not generally believed; yet there was a perceptible

difference in the treatment of Dane by his neighbors, and among the

superstitious negroes it was declared that he had sold himself to the

devil. If he had, was it an air from hell that sounded in his ears when

he was alone?--the Ave Maria of a sinning but repentant woman. The

coldness and suspicion were more than he could stand. Besides, who could

tell? Evidence might be found against him. He would dig up his treasure

and fly the country. It was a year from the night when he had fired his

ship. Going out after dark, that none might see him, he stole to the tree

and began to dig. Presently a red light grew through the air, and looking

up he saw a flaming vessel advancing over the sea. It stopped, and he

could see men clambering into a boat at its side. They rowed toward him

with such miraculous speed that the ocean seemed to steam with a blue

light as they advanced. He stood like a stone, for now he could see the

faces of the rowers, and every one was the face of a corpse--a corpse

that had been left on board of that vessel and had been in the bottom of

the sea for the last twelvemonth. They sprang on shore and rushed upon

him. Next morning Dane's body was found beneath the oak with his hands

filled with gems and gold.





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