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Across the Spanish Main by Harry Collingwood

Two or three seamen made their way to the belfry


Roger,

with Harry and a few more, ran at once up aloft and came out upon the battlements, where with mallet and spike they industriously proceeded to render the guns useless.

Into the touch-hole of every gun a spike nail was driven as far as it would go, thus effectually preventing the possibility of the weapon being fired until the spike was drilled out, which would necessitate the expenditure of at least an hour of hard work.

In a very short time every gun was effectually spiked, and, the capture of the fort being by this time completely accomplished, the men formed up again outside, and descended at the double to the town, which was now thoroughly awakened and alarmed.

The cathedral was to be the next place of call, the object being to remove the gold and silver plate with which it was known to be furnished.

Meanwhile the tocsins were being sounded. The brazen voices of the church bells pealed out high above all the other clamour. To add to the confusion and terror, the English halted, and, fixing their arquebuses, fired a volley into a square where some troops seemed to be mustering.

Immediately upon the crash of the volley came cries and screams from the terrified populace, bearing eloquent witness to the execution wrought by the flying bullets. Then, picking up their weapons, the English flew like fiends

through the town, cutting down all who had the temerity to oppose them.

The cathedral was soon reached, and they entered it.

Lights were glimmering far up the aisles, just lit by the trembling priests, who had come in by ones and twos to find out what all the uproar was about. But the English pressed on, undeterred by their presence, and, moving up the long chancel, reached the altar.

Two or three seamen made their way to the belfry, and, loosing the bell-ropes, in the madness of their excitement began to ring the bells in the steeple; and presently, clang, clang, clang, came from the tower as they hauled on the ropes. Rushing from one bell-rope to another, they started every bell in the steeple ringing, with an effect that was appalling and terrible.

As the bells gained momentum, and swung on their beams, so did the ropes attached to them fly up and down through their appointed holes in the belfry roof, with ever-increasing velocity.

Now they began to twine round each other like living, twisting serpents, and the sailors pulling them had to spring quickly aside to avoid being caught by the flying and coiling ends.

Clang! clang! The sound of the bells now became a mad jangle, and the steeple fairly rocked to their swinging.

Everywhere the people were pouring out of their houses in terror and panic, not knowing whither to turn for safety.

Those who were below in the church were now tearing all the gold and silver ornamentation from the altar, and the communion plate was scattered on the floor of the chancel.

Vainly the frightened priests strove to stay the work of destruction and violation; the seamen were deaf to all entreaty, and cut and tore the silken hangings from the altar, wrapping the costly fabric over their own tarry and soiled clothing. Every man plundered for himself only, and would allow none to rob him of his intended spoil.

Above the altar stood a life-sized figure of the Blessed Virgin Mother, exquisitely modelled in solid gold, and clothed in rich fabric that was adorned with precious stones innumerable. The sailors saw it, and leaped one after another upon the altar, drawing their swords and hacking off the gems, whilst the priests covered their eyes with horror at the desecration and sacrilege.


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