J. Thomas Warren is unknown.
American Tales. Nos. 8, 14, 16, 28, 30, 33
American Library (London). No. 57
Starr's American Novels. Nos. 146, 195, 198, 200, 212, 217
SPECIMEN OF J. THOMAS WARREN'S STYLE
"The Oronoco Chief; or, The Fortunes of a Diamond Locket." American Tales No. 8.
. . . A group of soldiers were gathered around him, whom, contrary to ship regulations, he was entertaining with various stories and jokes.
"Come," said I to Lieutenant Haversham, an intimate friend of mine, and a capital good fellow, "let's hear what the chap has to say."
We approached the small group. At this time the vessel was just abreast of the ruins of a small fortification, that stood upon the left bank of the stream, and to which the pilot called our attention.
"D'ye see yon ruins, senors?" he asked, addressing Haversham and myself. "Well, captain, that's where I saw my first fight," continued the pilot, "and a right handsome little scrimmage it was, too; and, moreover, it was just yonder that the patriots found out that they could have their independence, if they wanted it."
"Some time ago, I judge?" said I.
"Si, senor, a matter of some ten years or so. We captured that fort, and afterward, with our cavalry, we took a gunboat too."
"Oh, blathers!" ejaculated Haversham, as he burst into an incredulous laugh, "took a gunboat with cavalry! Tell that to the marines."
"Senor, it is true, por Dios," returned the pilot, evidently much disconcerted at Haversham's disbelief.
"By St. George," said Haversham, with another hearty laugh, and evidently enjoying the pilot's confusion, "that's either a mighty tough yarn, or else you have a confounded queer way of fighting in this heathen country."
"Caramba, senor captain," added the pilot, fiercely, "we are not heathen, but honest Christians."
"Honest Christians!" returned Haversham with a smile. "Lucky you told us, else we had never suspected it."
"May be, senor, if you heard my story, you would believe me."
"Well, drive ahead, senor pilot, and we'll listen."
"You see, senor captain," began the pilot, stowing away a fresh quid in the corner of his capacious mouth, and gradually recovering his good humor, "the thing happened in this way: Some dozen years ago, there were stationed in yon fort a company of the king's soldiers, Diabolus take them all, under the command of one Captain Oviedo. A rich old Spaniard, by the name of Don Hermoso, owned a fine plantation a few miles inland. The Don, in addition to his fat purse, had a very pretty daughter, called Olivia. Now, it soon came to pass that Captain Oviedo fell in love with Donna Olivia, or, it matters little which, with her father's yellow onsas, and proceeded to pay assiduous attention to her.
"Neither she nor the Don, however, received these visits with favor, for the captain was a brainless, conceited fellow, with an immense thirst for aguardiente, and, as rumor saith, could beat Satanas himself at cards and dice. So the old man forbade him the house. This was regarded by the captain as a mortal insult, and he laid his plans for revenge. Taking advantage of Don Hermoso's temporary absence, he, with a squad of his soldiers, assailed the hacienda, and carried off Donna Olivia. The old Don returned the next day, and was in high dudgeon over the affair. He raved like a mad bull, swore a string of oaths as long as a bower-cable, and vowed by all the saints in the calendar that he would hang every soul concerned in the outrage. He armed his servants, and, aided by his neighbors, who made common cause with him, surprised the fort that night, and at daybreak the corpses of Captain Oviedo and twenty of his men were dangling from the ramparts.
"News of these troubles reaching head-quarters, a gunboat was dispatched down the river to retake the fort. The haughty old Don rejected all terms of surrender, when the gunboat opened fire. A few minutes' fight convinced the Don that the place was getting uncomfortably hot. He soon evacuated the fort, with colors flying, however. The Royalist at once took possession of the works again.
"Now, Don Hermoso had a son, Fernando, who was a reckless, dare-devil sort of a blade. This scion of a noble house groaned in spirit over the discomfiture of his illustrious father. He determined, therefore, to retrieve the reputation of the family. For this purpose he assembled all the kindred spirits within his reach, mounted them upon smart nags, and, under cover of night, reached the river, where the boat lay at anchor in the middle of the stream, "We (for I was one of the party, senors) dashed right into the water, and urged our beasts toward the boat. The occupants, few in number, and unprepared for a night attack, were speedily overpowered, and at daylight we in turn banged away at the fort. The garrison, poor devils, were frightened to death at being fired upon by their own friends, as they supposed, and succumbed at once."
"Well, blow me," exclaimed Haversham, "that Fernando was a trump, anyhow."
"How did the matter end?" I inquired.
"Oh, senor captain," said the pilot, with a chuckle, "it's not ended yet. Ha, ha! but maybe you'll live to see the end some day—at least, por Dios, I hope so."
"Did the Government submit to this outrage upon its dignity?" I asked, with some curiosity.
"Caramba, no, senor. They sent another gunboat down, and a regiment of lancers, who recaptured the fort and the lost boat."
"What became of Fernando?" asked Haversham.
"Poor fellow, he fell upon the deck of his prize, fighting bravely even to the last," replied the pilot, with a sigh.
"And Don Hermoso?" I queried.
"Oh, he was thrown into prison, and his property all confiscated to the Crown.
"Their rebellion was cut short, then?" I added.
"Diabola, senors, the affair set people to thinking, and when they thought a while, por Dios, they took up arms, and the abduction of Donna Olivia bids fair to result in our independence." The pilot's story was ended.