The important intelligence received by Mr Brett, which he was so anxious to communicate to the commodore, he had learnt from one John Williams, an Irishman, whom he found in the prize, and which was confirmed by examination of the other prisoners. Williams was a papist, who had worked his passage from Cadiz, and had travelled over the whole of the kingdom of Mexico as a pedlar. He pretended that, by this business, he had at one time cleared four or five thousand dollars, but at length got entangled by the priests, who knew he had money, and was stripped of every thing. At present he was all in rags, having just got out of Payto gaol, where he had been confined for some misdemeanour. He expressed great joy in thus meeting his countrymen, and immediately informed them, that a vessel had come into Payta, only a few days before, the master of which had informed the governor, that he had been chased in the offing by a very large ship, which he was persuaded, from her size and the colour of her sails, must be one of the English squadron. This we conjectured to have been the Gloucester, as we found afterwards was the case. On examining the master, and being fully satisfied of his account, the governor sent off an express with all expedition to the viceroy at Lima; and the royal officer residing at Payta, apprehensive of a visit from the English, had been busily employed, from his first hearing of this news, in removing the king’s treasure and his own to Piura, a town in the interior, about fourteen leagues distant. We learnt farther, from our prisoners, that there was at this time a considerable sum of money in the custom-house of Payta, belonging to some merchants of Lima, which was intended to be shipped on board a vessel, then in the harbour of Payta, and was preparing to sail for the bay of Sansonnate, on the coast of Mexico, in order to purchase a part of the cargo of the Manilla ship.
[Footnote 4: San Migual de Piura is about 50 English miles E. by S. from Payta, and nearly the same distance from the mouth of the Piura river.—E.]
As the vessel in which this money was to be shipped was reckoned a prime sailer, and had just received a new coat of tallow on her bottom, and might, in the opinion of the prisoners, be able to sail the succeeding morning, we had little reason to expect that our ship, which had been nearly two years in the water, could have any chance to get up with her, if she were once allowed to escape from the port. Wherefore, and as we were now discovered, and the whole coast would soon be alarmed, and as our continuing to cruise any longer in these parts would now answer no purpose, the commodore determined to endeavour to take Payta by surprise, having in the first place informed himself minutely of its strength and condition, by examining the prisoners, and being fully satisfied that there was little danger of losing many of our men in the attempt.