The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas - L. Frank Baum - ebook

The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas written by L. Frank Baum who was an American author chiefly famous for his children's books. This book is one of many works by him. It has already Published in 1911 Now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.

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The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas


L. Frank Baum

Table of Contents






















“There’s one thing certain,” said my uncle, Naboth Perkins, banging his fist on the table for emphasis. “If we don’t manage get a cargo in ten days we’ll up anchor an’ quit this bloomin’ island.”

My father the skipper, leaning back in his easy-chair with his legs—one of them cork—stretched upon the table and his pipe in his mouth, nodded assent as he replied:

“Very good.”

“Here it is five weeks since we finished unloadin’ that machinery,” went on Uncle Naboth, “an’ since then the Seagull’s been floatin’ like a swan in the waters o’ Port Phillip an’ lettin’ the barnacles nip her. There ain’t a shipper in Melbourne as’ll give us an ounce o’ cargo; an’ why? Jest because we’re American an’ float the Stars an’ Stripes—that’s why. There’s a deep-seated conspiracy agin American shipping in Australia, an’ what little truck they’ve got to send to America goes in British ships or it don’t go at all.”

Again Captain Steele nodded.

“S’pose we try Adelaide,” suggested big Ned Britton, our first mate.

“That’s jest as bad,” declared Uncle Naboth. “It’s an off season, they say; but the fact is, Australia sends mighty little to the United States, an’ those that ship anything prefer English bottoms to ours. Everything’s been contracted for months ahead, and the only chance the Seagull has of going home freighted is to grab some emergency deal—where time counts—an’ load an’ skip before any Britisher comes into port.”

“Well?” said my father, inquiringly.

“Well, that’s what we’ve been waitin’ for, an’ I’m gettin’ desprit tired o’ the job. So now I’ll give these folks jest ten days to rustle up a cargo for us, an’ if they don’t do it, away we goes in ballast.”

I laughed at his earnestness.

“Why, Uncle Naboth, it won’t hurt us to go home without freight,” said I. “In fact, we’ll make better time, and for my part I see no use in waiting ten days longer for such a ghostly chance.”

“Don’t be foolish, Sam,” returned my uncle, impatiently. “Boys never have any business instincts, anyhow. It’s our business to carry cargoes, so to make the long voyage back home light-waisted is a howlin’ shame—that’s what it is!”

“We were paid so much for the cargo we brought that we can well afford to run home in ballast,” I remarked.

“There you go—jest like a boy. You’ve got a fat bank account, Sam Steele; an’ so hev I; an’ so’s the Cap’n, your father. An’ we three own the Seagull an’ can do as we blame please with her. But business is business, as Shylock says to the lawyers. We’re runnin’ this schooner to make money—not one way, but both ways—an’ our business is to see that every league she travels counts in dollars an’ cents. Nice merchantmen we’d be to float off home in ballast, jest ’cause we got a big lump fer bringin’ a load of farm machinery here; wouldn’t we, now?”

“Oh, I don’t object to your trying for a cargo, Uncle Naboth. That’s your part of the business, and if any man could make a contract you can do so; but I see no use in getting annoyed or worried in case we find it impossible to secure a consignment of freight.”

Uncle Naboth smiled grimly.

“I ain’t worried, Sam,” he said more mildly. “I’m only tellin’ you an’ the Cap’n what my sentiments is.”

We were seated in our pleasant sitting-room at the Radley Arms, one of the cosiest inns I ever stopped at. It was a place much patronized by mariners of the better class and Mrs. Wimp, our landlady, was certainly a wonderful cook. Joe Herring, my chum and a lad who, although only about my own age, served as second mate of the Seagull, had aroused my uncle to speech by remarking that as far as he was concerned he wouldn’t mind boarding all winter at the Radley Arms. But Joe was a silent fellow, as was my father Captain Steele, and having evoked the above tirade he said nothing further. Uncle Naboth had a perfect right to issue his ultimatum concerning our freight, being supercargo and part owner, and as our recent voyages had been fairly prosperous and we were already amply paid for our present trip to Australia we were all in a mood to take things philosophically.

I think Ned Britton, the mate, was the most uneasy of our party, but that was because he disliked the land and was only comfortable when afloat. Ned even now lived on shipboard and kept everything taut and in running order, while my father, Uncle Naboth and I had rooms at Mrs. Wimp’s admirable inn. I am free to confess that I like a bit of land loafing now and then, while poor Ned is never happy unless he knows the water is sliding under the keel.

Joe and I had ransacked sleepy old Melbourne pretty well by this time and had enjoyed every day of the five weeks we had been ashore. There wasn’t a great deal of excitement in town, but we managed to have a good time and to keep amused. Our little group had sat in silent meditation for a few moments following my uncle’s last remark, when Mrs. Wimp stuck her head in the door and said:

“’Ow’d yer loike to see a gent as wants to see yer?”

We looked at one another inquiringly.

“Who is it?” demanded Uncle Naboth.

“’E didn’t say.”

“Didn’t say what, Mrs. Wimp?”

“Didn’t say ’oo ’e were.”

“Did he say who he wanted to see?”

“No sir.”

“Then never mind. Tell him to call again, Mrs. Wimp,” I ventured to say, amused at the landlady’s noncommittal manner.

“No, no!” exclaimed my uncle. “It may be somethin’ about a cargo. Who did he ask for, Mrs. Wimp?”

“’E jus’ dropped in an’ said: ‘Is the Seagull people stoppin’ ’ere?’ ‘They is,’ says I. ‘Then I wants to see ’em,’ says ’e. So I comes up to see if it’s agreeable.”

“It is, Mrs. Wimp,” asserted Uncle Naboth. “Be kind enough to show the gentleman up.”

Thereat Mrs. Wimp withdrew her head and closed the door. My father filled his pipe anew and relighted it. Joe looked thoughtfully out of the window into the alley below. I turned over a newspaper that lay upon the table, while Ned and my uncle indulged in a few remarks about the repairs recently made to the ship’s engines. Not one of us realized that the next few minutes were destined to alter the trend of all our lives.

Then came the visitor. He silently opened the door, closed it swiftly behind him and stood with his back to it shrewdly eyeing us each one in turn.

The man’s stature was quite short and he was of slight build. His hair, coarse in texture, sprinkled with gray and cropped close, stood straight up on his forehead like a scrubbing brush. His eyes were black and piercing in expression; his nose rather too fat; his chin square and firm; his face long and lean, and his skin of the dusky olive hue peculiar to natives of southern climes. His apparel was magnificent. The velvet coat had gold buttons; he sported a loud checked vest of purple and orange, and his cravat was a broad bow of soft white ribbon with gold fringe at the edges.

At once I began speculating whether he was a vaudeville actor or a circus barker; but either idea was dispelled when I noticed his diamonds. These were enormous, and had a luster that defied imitation. His shirt buttons were diamonds as big around as my little finger nail; he had another monster in the center of his bow tie and his fingers fairly glittered with gems of the same character. Every link of a huge watch guard was set with diamonds, and his cuff buttons were evidently worth a small fortune.

The appearance of this small but gorgeous individual in our dingy sitting-room produced an incongruous effect. The air was fogged with tobacco smoke; my father still lazily rested his legs across the table-top; the rest of us lounged in unconventional attitudes. However, being Americans we were more astonished than impressed by the vision that burst upon us and did not rise nor alter our positions in any way.

“Which it is the gentleman who the ship Seagull owns?” demanded the stranger, mixing his English in his agitation, although he spoke it very clearly for a foreigner.

Uncle Naboth became our spokesman.

“There are three owners,” said he.

“Ah! Where they are?”

“All in this room,” replied my uncle.

“Excellent!” exclaimed our visitor, evidently pleased. He glanced around him, drew a chair to the table and sat down. My father moved his wooden leg a bit to give the stranger more room.

“What is price?” he inquired, looking at Mr. Perkins, whom he faced.

“Price for what, sir?”

“Ship,” said the man.

“Oh, you want to buy the ship?” gasped my uncle, fairly staggered by the suggestion.

“If you please, if you like; if it is rais—rais—raison—a—ble.”

Uncle Naboth stared at him. My father coolly filled his pipe again. The man’s quick eye caught Joe and I exchanging smiling glances, and he frowned slightly.

“At what price you hold your ship?” he persisted, turning again to my uncle.

“My dear sir,” was the perplexed reply, “we’ve never figured on selling the Seagull. We built it to keep—to have for our own use. We’re seamen, and it’s our home. If you’d ask us offhand what we’d sell our ears for, we’d know just as well what to answer.”

The man nodded, looking thoughtful.

“What the ship cost?” he asked.

“Something over two hundred thousand dollars.”

“United State America dollars?”

“Of course.”

Our visitor drew an envelope from his pocket; laid it on the table and scribbled some figures upon the back.

“Ver’ well,” he said, presently; “I take him at two hunder thousan’ dollar, American.”


“It is bargain. What your terms?”

“Cash!” snapped Uncle Naboth, laughing at the man’s obstinacy.

The diamond-bedecked man leaned his elbow on the table and his head on his hand in a reflective pose. Then he straightened up and nodded his head vigorously.

“Why not?” he exclaimed. “Of course it must the cash be. You will know, sir, that a gentleman does not carry two hunder’ thousan’ dollar about his person, and although I have had more than that sum on deposit in Bank of Melbourne, it have been expend in recent purchases. However, nevertheless, in spite of, I may say, I have ample fund in Bogota. I will make you draft on my bank there, and you may sail with me in my ship and collect the money in gold when we arrive. That is cash payment, Señor; is not?”

“Bogota!” remarked my uncle, by this time thoroughly bewildered. “That is a long way off.”

“Merely across Pacific,” said the other easily. “There is direct route to it through the South Seas.”

My father nodded in confirmation of this statement. He knew his charts by heart.

“Sir,” said Uncle Naboth, sitting up and heaving a deep sigh, “I have not the honor of knowing who the blazes you are.”

The stranger cast a stealthy glance around the room. Then he leaned forward and said in a low voice:

“I am Jiminez.”

This impressive statement failed to enlighten my uncle.

“Jiminez who?” he inquired.

For an instant the man seemed offended. Then he smiled condescendingly.

“To be sure!” he replied. “You are of United State and have no interest in South American affairs. It is natural you have ignorance regarding our politics. In Bogota the name of De Jiminez stands for reform; and reform stands for—” He hesitated.

“What?” asked my uncle.


“That’s only nat’ral,” observed Mr. Perkins complacently. “I hear revolutions are your reg’lar diet down in South America. If there didn’t happen to be a revolution on tap your people wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.”

Señor de Jiminez frowned at this.

“We will not politic discuss, if you please,” he rejoined stiffly. “We will discuss ship.”

“We don’t want to sell,” said my uncle positively.

De Jiminez looked at him speculatively.

“I tell you with frankness, I must have ship,” said he.

“What for?”

“I will tell you that—but in more privacy,” with a wave of his hand toward our interested group.

“Oh, these are all Seagull men,” announced Uncle Naboth. “I’ll introduce you, Mr. Yim—Him—Jim—”

“Jiminez.” He pronounced it “He-ma-noth” now, in Spanish fashion.

“This is Captain Steele, our skipper and part owner,” continued my uncle. “This young man is Sam Steele, his son, and also part owner. Sam is purser and assistant supercargo of the Seagull. I’m supercargo, the third owner, and uncle to Sam an’ brother-in-law to the Cap’n. Is that all clear to you?”

De Jiminez bowed.

“Here is Ned Britton, our first mate; and also Joe Herring, our second mate. Both are trusted comrades and always know as much as we know. So what you say, stranger, is as private before these people as if you spoke to but one of us. Therefore, fire ahead.”

The man considered a moment; then he said slowly:

“You must know there are spies upon me here in Melbourne, as there are everywhere, whichever I go; so I cannot too careful be. You ask me why I want ship. I answer: to carry supplies of war to Colombia—arms and ammunition for the Cause—all of which I have successful purchase here in Australia.”

“Oh; you’re going to start something, are you?” inquired Uncle Naboth.

“It is already start, sir,” was the dignified response. “I am to complete the revolution. As you do not understan’ ver’ well, I will the explanation make that my country is rule by a bad president—a dictator—an autocrat! We call ourselves republic, Señor Americaine; but see! We are not now a republic; we are under despotism. My belove people are all slave to tyrant, who heeds no law but his own evil desire. Is it not my duty to break his power—to free my country?”

“Perhaps,” answered Mr. Perkins, his calmness in sharp contrast to the other’s agitation. “But I can’t see as it’s any of our bread-and-butter. It’s your country, sir, but you must remember it’s not ours; and to tell you the cold fact, we don’t propose to sell the Seagull.”

At this Señor de Jiminez looked a bit worried. But the little Spaniard was game, and did not give up easily.

“I must have ship!” he asserted. “I am rich—have much money entrusted to me for the Cause—my estate is ver’ large. The best families of Colombia are all with me; now and always, whatever I do. See, Señor; it was my ancestor who discover South America! Who discover the River Orinoco! Who was first governor of my country under the Queen of Spain! Yes, yes. I am descend direct from the great navigator Gonzalo Quesada de Jiminez, of whom you read in history.”

“I congratulate you,” said Uncle Naboth dryly.

“I have here in Melbourne congregate the means to carry on the war, which is now languish for want of arms and ammunition. It is all ready to send to Bogota. Therefore, you see, I must really have ship.”

“But why buy one?” asked my uncle. “Why not send your stuff as freight?”

“Impossible!” exclaimed the other. “You are United State. Well, United State forbid any merchant ship to carry arms to friendly state for starting revolution. If I hire you to do so I get you in trouble, and myself in trouble. I want no quarrel with United State, for when I am myself President of Colombia I must stand well with other powers. So it is same with every nation. I cannot hire a ship. I must buy one and take responsibility myself.”

This frank and friendly explanation led me to regard the flashy little man more kindly than before. I had been busy thinking, knowing that Uncle Naboth had set his heart on making some money on the return voyage. So, during the pause that followed the speech of Señor de Jiminez, I turned the matter over in my mind and said:

“Tell me, sir, what you propose doing with the ship after you get to Colombia with it?”

He stared at me a moment.

“It is of little use then,” said he, “unless I could put some cannon on board and use him for gunboat.”

“Have you ever been aboard the Seagull?” I continued.

He shook his head.

“I have inquire about every ship now in Port Phillip,” he said. “Not one is available but yours that is big enough to carry my cargo—all others are owned in foreign lands and cannot be bought. But I see your ship, and it look like a good ship; I inquire and am told by my friends here it is famous for speed and safety.”

“It is all that,” agreed my uncle heartily.

“We have a couple of guns on board already,” I continued; “for sometimes we sail in seas where it is necessary for us to protect ourselves. But as a matter of fact the Seagull would make a poor gunboat, because she has no protective armor. So it seems all you could use her for would be to carry your revolutionary supplies to Colombia and land them secretly.”

“That is all that I require!” he said quickly, giving me a keen look.

“Sam,” said my uncle, “you’re goin’ to make a durn fool of yourself; I kin see it in your eye!”


By this time all eyes were upon my face, and realizing that I was about to suggest a bold undertaking I was a little embarrassed how to continue.

“For our part, sir,” said I, addressing Señor de Jiminez and keeping my gaze averted from the others, “it is our intention to sail for America presently, and we would like to carry a good paying cargo with us. So it strikes me we ought to find a way to get together. Have you spent all your funds here in purchases, or have you some left?”

He figured on the envelope again—eagerly now, for his quick brain had already grasped my forthcoming proposition.

“I have still in bank here equal to nine thousan’ dollar United State money,” said he.

“Very well,” I rejoined. “Now suppose you purchase from us the Seagull for two hundred thousand dollars, and pay down nine thousand in cash, agreeing to resell the ship to us as soon as we are free of the cargo for the sum of one hundred and ninety-one thousand dollars, accepting your own draft, which you are to give us, in full payment. In that way the thing might be arranged.”

He had brightened up wonderfully during my speech and was about to reply when Uncle Naboth, who had been shaking his head discontentedly, broke in with:

“No, Sam, it won’t do. It ain’t enough by half. Your scheme is jest a makeshift an’ I kin see where we might get into a peck o’ trouble aidin’ an’ abettin’ a rebellion agin a friendly country. Moreover, you don’t take into account the fact that we’ve got to operate the ship across the South Seas, an’ the salaries an’ wages fer such a long voyage amounts to considerable.”

I have respect for Uncle Naboth’s judgment, so was rather crestfallen at his disapproval. But Señor de Jiminez, who was alert to every phase of the argument, said quickly:

“It is true. Nine thousan’ dollar is too much for an ordinary voyage, and too little for such voyage as I propose. I will pay fifteen thousan’ dollar.”

“You haven’t the cash,” remarked my uncle, “and revolutions are uncertain things.”

Jiminez took time to muse over the problem, evidently considering his dilemma from every viewpoint. Then he began to shed his diamonds. He took out his jeweled cuff buttons, his studs, pin and watch guard, and laid them on the table.

“Here,” said he, “are twenty thousan’ dollar worth of jewels—the finest and purest diamonds in all the world. I offer them as security. You take my nine thousan’ dollar in gold, and my personal note for six thousan’, which I pay as soon as in Colombia we land. If I do not, you keep the diamonds, which bring you much more in your own country. You see, gentlemen, I trust you. You are honest, but you make a hard bargain—hard for the man who must use you in spite of difficulty. But I have no complaint. I am in emergency; I must pay liberally to accomplish my great purpose. So then, what is result? Do I purchase the ship as Señor Sam Steele he describe?”

Uncle Naboth hesitated and looked at my father, who had listened with his usual composure to all this but said not a word. Now he removed his pipe, cleared his throat and said:

“I’m agree’ble. Colombia ain’t so blame much out’n our way, Naboth. An’ the pay’s lib’ral enough.”

“What do you think, Ned?” asked my uncle.

“The Cap’n’s said it,” answered the mate, briefly.


Joe started and looked around at being thus appealed to. He was only a boy; but Uncle Naboth knew from experience that Joe never spoke without thinking and that his thoughts were fairly logical ones.

“The deal looks all right on the face of it, sir,” said he. “But before you sign a contract I’d know something more of this gentleman and his prospects of landing his arms in safety, so we can get away from Colombia without a fight. Let Sam find out all he can about this revolution and its justice, and get posted thoroughly. Then, if it still seems a safe proposition, go ahead, for the terms are fair enough.”

“Of course,” answered Uncle Naboth, “we don’t mean to jump before we look. Other things bein’ equal an’ satisfaction guaranteed, I’ll say to you, Mr. Jim—Yim—Jiminez, that I b’lieve we can strike a bargain.”

The little man’s face had seemed careworn as he listened intently to this exchange of ideas. Evidently he was desperately anxious to get the Seagull to deliver his contraband goods. But he offered no objection to Joe’s cautious suggestion. Instead he turned to me, after a little thought, and said:

“Time is with me very precious. I must get to Bogota as soon as possible—to the patriots awaiting me. So to satisfy your doubts I will quickly try. It is my request, Señor Sam, that you accompany me to my hotel, and the evening spend in my society—you and your friend Señor Joe. Then to-morrow morning we will sign the papers and begin to load at once the ship. Do you then accept my hospitality?”

I turned to Uncle Naboth.

“Do you think you can trust Joe and me?” I asked.

“Guess so,” he responded. “Your jedgment’s as good as mine in this deal, which is a gamble anyway you put it. Go with Mr. Jiminez, if you like, and find out all he’ll let you. Mostly about him, though; nobody knows anything about a revolution.”

“Very well, Uncle,” I answered. Then I turned to the Colombian. “Sir,” said I, “we cordially accept your invitation. You seem fair and just in your dealings and for the present, at least, I’m glad to have formed your acquaintance. Keep your diamonds until we ask for the security. As you sail in our company you may as well wear them until circumstances require us to demand them of you.”

He bowed and restored the gems to their former places. Then he rose and took his hat.

“You will return with me to my apartments?”

“If you desire it,” said I.

“Then, Señors, I am at your service.”

Joe quietly left his seat, saying: “I’ll be ready in a jiffy, Sam,” and started for his room—a room we shared together. After a moment’s hesitation I followed him.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Slick up a bit and pack my toothbrush. Didn’t you hear De Jiminez speak of his ‘apartments’ at the hotel? And we’re to stay all night it seems.”

“True enough,” I exclaimed. “We must look decent, old man,” and I quickly changed my clothing and threw into a small grip such articles as I thought might be needed. Joe was ready before me, and I saw him quietly slip a revolver into his hip pocket; so I did the same, smiling at the incongruity of going armed to make a semisocial visit.

We found Señor de Jiminez slightly impatient when we returned to the sitting-room, so we merely said good-bye to our friends and followed him out to the street. The Radley Arms was situated in a retired and very quiet district, and our exit seemed entirely unobserved except by our curious landlady. A sleepy beggar was sitting on the corner, and before him the Colombian paused and said in a calm tone:

“What will your report be, then? That I have visited the Radley Arms? Well, let me give you help. I had friends there—these young gentlemen—who are returning with me to my hotel. You will find us there this evening and until morning. Will such information assist you, my good spy?”

The beggar grinned and replied:

“You’re a rare one, De Jiminez. But don’t blame me; I’m only earnin’ my grub.”