Nevertheless, it was to Cartagena that they sailed in the middle of March. Volunteers and negroes had brought up the forces directly under M. de Rivarol to twelve hundred men. With these he thought he could keep the buccaneer contingent in order and submissive.
They made up an imposing fleet, led by M. de Rivarol’s flagship, the Victorieuse, a mighty vessel of eighty guns. Each of the four other French ships was at least as powerful as Blood’s Arabella, which was of forty guns. Followed the lesser buccaneer vessels, the Elizabeth, Lachesis, and Atropos, and a dozen frigates laden with stores, besides canoes and small craft in tow.
Narrowly they missed the Jamaica fleet with Colonel Bishop, which sailed north for Tortuga two days after the Baron de Rivarol’s southward passage.
Having crossed the Caribbean in the teeth of contrary winds, it was not until the early days of April that the French fleet hove in sight of Cartagena, and M. de Rivarol summoned a council aboard his flagship to determine the method of assault.
“It is of importance, messieurs,” he told them, “that we take the city by surprise, not only before it can put itself into a state of defence; but before it can remove its treasures inland. I propose to land a force sufficient to achieve this to the north of the city to-night after dark.” And he explained in detail the scheme upon which his wits had laboured.
He was heard respectfully and approvingly by his officers, scornfully by Captain Blood, and indifferently by the other buccaneer captains present. For it must be understood that Blood’s refusal to attend councils had related only to those concerned with determining the nature of the enterprise to be undertaken.
Captain Blood was the only one amongst them who knew exactly what lay ahead. Two years ago he had himself considered a raid upon the place, and he had actually made a survey of it in circumstances which he was presently to disclose.
The Baron’s proposal was one to be expected from a commander whose knowledge of Cartagena was only such as might be derived from maps.
Geographically and strategically considered, it is a curious place. It stands almost four-square, screened east and north by hills, and it may be said to face south upon the inner of two harbours by which it is normally approached. The entrance to the outer harbour, which is in reality a lagoon some three miles across, lies through a neck known as the Boca Chica — or Little Mouth — and defended by a fort. A long strip of densely wooded land to westward acts here as a natural breakwater, and as the inner harbour is approached, another strip of land thrusts across at right angles from the first, towards the mainland on the east. Just short of this it ceases, leaving a deep but very narrow channel, a veritable gateway, into the secure and