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Title: Daring Deeds of Famous Pirates - True stories of the stirring adventures, bravery and resource of pirates, filibusters & buccaneers
Author: Chatterton, E. Keble (Edward Keble)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: A FIERCE DUEL

After exchanging shots, when Teach (Blackbeard) was wounded they drew
their swords and fiercely attacked each other. Maynard’s sword broke
in his hand and had it not been for one of his own men, who wounded
Blackbeard in the throat, the duel would have ended then.]



                              DARING DEEDS
                                   OF
                             FAMOUS PIRATES

                TRUE STORIES OF THE STIRRING ADVENTURES,
                    BRAVERY AND RESOURCE OF PIRATES,
                        FILIBUSTERS & BUCCANEERS

                                   BY
                  LT.-COM. E. KEBLE CHATTERTON, R.N.V.R
                              B.A. (OXON.),
           AUTHOR OF “THE ROMANCE OF THE SHIP” “FORE AND AFT”
                     “SAILING SHIPS AND THEIR STORY”
                              _&c. &c. &c._

                      WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOURS

                                 LONDON
                      SEELEY, SERVICE & CO. LIMITED
                         196 SHAFTESBURY AVENUE
                               MDCCCCXXIX



CONTENTS


     CHAP.                                                   PAGE

        I. THE EARLIEST PIRATES                                17

       II. THE NORTH SEA PIRATES                               29

      III. PIRACY IN THE EARLY TUDOR TIMES                     37

       IV. THE CORSAIRS OF THE SOUTH                           48

        V. THE WASPS AT WORK                                   60

       VI. GALLEYS AND GALLANTRY                               70

      VII. PIRACY IN ELIZABETHAN TIMES                         79

     VIII. ELIZABETHAN SEAMEN AND TURKISH PIRATES              89

       IX. THE STUART NAVY GOES FORTH AGAINST THE “PYRATS”    101

        X. THE GOOD SHIP _EXCHANGE_ OF BRISTOL                114

       XI. A WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT                            126

      XII. THE GREAT SIR HENRY MORGAN                         136

     XIII. “BLACK BEARD” TEACH                                151

      XIV. THE STORY OF CAPTAIN KIDD                          162

       XV. THE EXPLOITS OF CAPTAIN AVERY                      172

      XVI. A “GENTLEMAN” OF FORTUNE                           183

     XVII. PAUL JONES, PIRATE AND PRIVATEER                   196

    XVIII. A NOTORIOUS AMERICAN PIRATE                        210

      XIX. THE LAST OF THE ALGERINE CORSAIRS                  217

       XX. PIRATES OF THE PERSIAN GULF                        224

      XXI. THE STORY OF AARON SMITH                           235



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    A FIERCE DUEL                                   _Frontispiece_

                                                      FACING PAGE

    A DARING ATTACK                                            54

    GALLEY SLAVES                                              76

    GALLANTRY AGAINST ODDS                                     90

    BLIGHTED HOPES                                            104

    BOMBARDMENT OF ALGIERS                                    220

    ATTACKING A PIRATE STRONGHOLD                             232


NOTE

The contents of this book have been taken from Lieutenant Keble
Chatterton’s larger and more expensive volume entitled The Romance of
Piracy.



THE ROMANCE OF PIRACY



CHAPTER I

THE EARLIEST PIRATES


I suppose there are few words in use which at once suggest so much
romantic adventure as the words pirate and piracy. You instantly conjure
up in your mind a wealth of excitement, a clashing of lawless wills, and
there pass before your eyes a number of desperate dare-devils whose life
and occupation are inseparably connected with the sea.

The very meaning of the word, as you will find on referring to a Greek
dictionary, indicates one who _attempts_ to rob. In classical times there
was a species of Mediterranean craft which was a light, swift vessel
called a _myoparo_ because it was chiefly used by pirates. Since the
Greek verb _peirao_ means literally “to attempt,” so it had the secondary
meaning of “to try one’s fortune in thieving on sea.” Hence a _peirates_
(in Greek) and _pirata_ (in Latin) signified afloat the counterpart
of a brigand or highwayman on land. To many minds piracy conjures up
visions that go back no further than the seventeenth century: but though
it is true that during that period piracy attained unheard-of heights
in certain seas, yet the avocation of sea-robbery dates back very much
further.

Robbery by sea is certainly one of the oldest professions in the world.
I use the word profession advisedly, for the reason that in the earliest
days to be a pirate was not the equivalent of being a pariah and an
outcast. It was deemed just as honourable then to belong to a company of
pirates as it is to-day to belong to the navy of any recognised power.
It is an amusing fact that if in those days two strange ships met on
the high seas, and one of them, hailing the other, inquired if she were
a pirate or a trader, the inquiry was neither intended nor accepted as
an insult, but a correct answer would follow. It is a little difficult
in these modern days of regular steamship routes and powerful liners
which have little to fear beyond fog and exceptionally heavy weather,
to realise that every merchant ship sailed the seas with fear and
trepidation. When she set forth from her port of lading there was little
certainty that even if the ship herself reached the port of destination,
her cargo would ever be delivered to the rightful receivers. The ship
might be jogging along comfortably, heading well up towards her destined
port, when out from the distance came a much faster and lighter vessel
of smaller displacement and finer lines. In a few hours the latter would
have overhauled the former, the scanty crew of the merchantman would have
been thrown into the sea or pressed into the pirate’s service, or else
taken ashore to the pirate’s haunt and sold as slaves. The rich cargo of
merchandise could be sold or bartered when the land was reached, and the
merchant ship sunk or left to wallow in the Mediterranean swell.

It is obvious that because the freight ship had to be big-bellied to
carry the maximum cargo she was in most instances unable to run away from
the swift-moving pirate except in heavy weather. But in order to possess
some means of defence it was not unusual for these peaceful craft to be
provided with turrets of great height, from which heavy missiles could
be dropped on to the attacking pirate. In the bows, in the stern and
amidships these erections could easily be placed and as quickly removed.
And as a further aid oars would be got out in an endeavour to accelerate
the ship’s speed. For whilst the pirate relied primarily on oars, the
trader relied principally on sail power. Therefore in fine settled
weather, with a smooth sea, the low-lying piratical craft was at its
best. It could be manœuvred quickly, it could dart in and out of little
bays, it could shelter close in to the shore under the lee of a friendly
reef, and it was, because of its low freeboard, not easy to discern at
any great distance, unless the sea was literally smooth. But all through
history this type of vessel has been shown to be at a disadvantage as
soon as it comes on to blow and the unruffled surface gives way to high
crest and deep furrows.

It is as impossible to explain the growth of piracy as it is to define
precisely the call of the sea. A man is born with a bias in favour of
the sea or he is not: there is no possibility of putting that instinct
into him if already he has not been endowed with that attitude. So also
we know from our own personal experience, every one of us, that whilst
some of our own friends fret and waste in sedentary pursuits, yet from
the time they take to the sea or become explorers or colonisers they
find their true _métier_. The call of the sea is the call of adventure
in a specialised form. It has been said, with no little truth, that
many of the yachtsmen of to-day, if they had been living in other ages,
would have gone afloat as pirates or privateers. And so, if we want to
find an explanation for the amazing historical fact that for century
after century, in spite of all the efforts which many a nation made
to suppress piracy, it revived and prospered, we can only answer that,
quite apart from the lust of wealth, there was at the back of it all that
love of adventure, that desire for exciting incident, that hatred of
monotonous security which one finds in so many natures. A distinguished
British admiral remarked the other day that it was his experience
that the best naval officers were usually those who as boys were most
frequently getting into disfavour for their adventurous escapades. It is,
at any rate, still true that unless the man or boy has in him the real
spirit of adventure, the sea, whether as a sport or profession, can have
but little fascination for him.

International law and the growth of navies have practically put an end to
the profession of piracy, though privateering would doubtless reassert
itself in the next great naval war. But if you look through history you
will find that, certainly up to the nineteenth century, wherever there
was a seafaring nation there too had flourished a band of pirates. Piracy
went on for decade after decade in the Mediterranean till at length it
became unbearable, and Rome had to take the most serious steps and use
the most drastic measures to stamp out the nests of hornets. A little
later you find another generation of sea-robbers growing up and acting
precisely as their forefathers. Still further on in history you find the
Barbarian corsairs and their descendants being an irrepressible menace to
Mediterranean shipping. For four or five hundred years galleys waylaid
ships of the great European nations, attacked them, murdered their crews
and plundered the Levantine cargoes. Time after time were these corsairs
punished: time after time they rose again. In vain did the fleets of
southern Christian Europe or the ships of Elizabeth or the Jacobean navy
go forth to quell them. Algiers and Tunis were veritable plague-spots
in regard to piracy. Right on through time the northern coast of Africa
was the hotbed of pirates. Not till Admiral Lord Exmouth, in the year
1816, was sent to quell Algiers did Mediterranean piracy receive its
death-blow, though it lingered on for some little time later.

But piracy is not confined to any particular nation nor to any particular
sea, any more than the spirit of adventure is the exclusive endowment
of any particular race. There have been notorious pirates in the North
Sea as in the Mediterranean, there have been European pirates in the
Orient just as there have been Moorish pirates in the English Channel.
There have been British pirates on the waters of the West Indies as there
have been of Madagascar. There have flourished pirates in the North,
in the South, in the East and the West—in China, Japan, off the coast
of Malabar, Borneo, America and so on. The species of ships are often
different, the racial characteristics of the sea-rovers are equally
distinct, yet there is still the same determined clashing of wills, the
same desperate nature of the contests, the same exciting adventure; and
in the following pages it will be manifest that in spite of differences
of time and place the romance of piratical incident lives on for the
reason that human nature, at its basis, is very much alike the whole
world over.

But we must make a distinction between isolated and collected pirates.
There is a great dissimilarity, for instance, between a pickpocket and
a band of brigands. The latter work on a grander, bolder system. So it
has always been with the robbers of the sea. Some have been brigands,
some have been mere pickpockets. The “grand” pirates set to work on a
big scale. It was not enough to lie in wait for single merchant ships:
they swooped down on to seaside towns and villages, carried off by sheer
force the inhabitants and sold them into slavery. Whatever else of value
might attract their fancy they also took away. If any important force
were sent against them, the contest resolved itself not so much into a
punitive expedition as a piratical war. There was nothing petty in piracy
on these lines. It had its proper rules, its own grades of officers and
drill. _Lestarches_ was the Greek name for the captain of a band of
pirates, and it was their splendid organisation, their consummate skill
as fighters, that made them so difficult to quell.

I have said that piracy was regarded as an honourable profession. In
the earliest times this is true. The occupation of a pirate was deemed
no less worthy than a man who gained his living by fishing on the sea
or hunting on land. Just as in the Elizabethan age we find the sons of
some of the best English families going to sea on a roving expedition to
capture Spanish treasure ships, so in classical times the Mediterranean
pirates attracted to their ships adventurous spirits from all classes of
society, from the most patrician to the most plebeian: the summons of
the sea was as irresistible then as later on. But there were definite
arrangements made for the purpose of sharing in any piratical success, so
there was an incentive other than that of mere adventure which prompted
men to become pirates.

To-day, if the navies of the great nations were to be withdrawn, and
the policing of the seas to cease, it is pretty certain that those so
disposed would presently revive piracy. Nothing is so inimical to piracy
as settled peace and good government. But nothing is so encouraging
to piracy as prolonged unsettlement in international affairs and weak
administration. So it was that the incessant Mediterranean wars acted
as a keen incentive to piracy. War breeds war, and the spirit of unrest
on sea affected the pirate no less than the regular fighting man.
Sea-brigandage was rampant. These daring robbers went roving over the sea
wherever they wished, they waxed strong, they defied opposition.

And there were special territories which these pirates preferred to
others. The Liparian Isles—from about 580 B.C. to the time of the Roman
Conquest—were practically a republic of Greek corsairs. Similarly the
Ionians and the Lycians were notorious for piratical activities. After
the period of Thucydides, Corinth endeavoured to put down piracy, but in
vain. The irregularity went on until the conquest of Asia by the Romans,
in spite of all the precautions that were taken. The Ægean Sea, the
Pontus, the Adriatic were the happy cruising-grounds for the corsairs.
The pirate-admiral or, as he was designated, _archipeirates_, with his
organised fleet of assorted craft, was a deadly foe to encounter. Under
his command were the myoparones, already mentioned—light and swift they
darted across the sea; then there were, too, the hemiolia, which were so
called because they were rowed with one and a half banks of oars; next
came the two-banked biremes and the three-banked triremes, and with these
four classes of ships the admiral was ready for any craft that might
cross his wake. Merchantmen fled before him, warships by him were sent to
the bottom: wherever he coasted there spread panic through the sea-girt
towns. Even Athens itself felt the thrill of fear.

Notorious, too, were the Cretan pirates, and for a long time the Etruscan
corsairs were a great worry to the Greeks of Sicily. The inhabitants
of the Balearic Islands were especially famous for their piratical
depredations and for their skilful methods of fighting. Wherever a fleet
was sent to attack them they were able to inflict great slaughter by
hurling vast quantities of stones with their slings. It was only when
they came to close quarters with their aggressors the Romans, and the
latter’s sharp javelins began to take effect, that these islanders
met their match and were compelled to flee in haste to the shelter of
their coves. At the period which preceded the subversion of the Roman
commonwealth by Julius Cæsar, there was an exceedingly strong community
of pirates at the extreme eastern end of the Mediterranean. They
hailed from that territory which is just in the bend of Asia Minor and
designated Cilicia. Here lived—when ashore—one of the most dangerous body
of sea-rovers recorded in the pages of history. It is amazing to find
how powerful these Cilicians became, and as they prospered in piracy so
their numbers were increased by fellow-corsairs from their neighbours the
Syrians and Pamphylians, as well as by many who came down from the shores
of the Black Sea and from Cyprus. So powerful indeed became these rovers
that they controlled practically the whole of the Mediterranean from east
to west. They made it impossible for peaceful trading craft to venture
forth, and they even defeated several Roman officers who had been sent
with ships against them.

And so it went on until Rome realised that piracy had long since ceased
to be anything else but a most serious evil that needed firm and instant
suppression. It was the ruin of overseas trade and a terrible menace to
her own territory. But the matter was at last taken in hand. M. Antonius,
proprætor, was sent with a powerful fleet against these Cilician pirates;
they were crushed thoroughly, and the importance of this may be gathered
from the fact that on his return to Rome the conqueror was given an
ovation.

In the wars between Rome and Mithradates the Cilician pirates rendered
the latter excellent service. The long continuance of these wars and
the civil war between Marius and Sylla afforded the Cilicians a fine
opportunity to increase both in numbers and strength. To give some idea
of their power it is only necessary to state that not only did they take
and rob all the Roman ships which they encountered, but they also voyaged
among the islands and maritime provinces and plundered no fewer than 400
cities. They carried their depredations even to the mouth of the Tiber
and actually took away from thence several vessels laden with corn. Bear
in mind, too, that the Cilician piratical fleet was no scratch squadron
of a few antique ships. It consisted of a thousand vessels, which were of
great speed and very light. They were well manned by most able seamen,
and fought by trained soldiers, and commanded by expert officers.
They carried an abundance of arms, and neither men nor officers were
lacking in daring and prowess. When again it became expedient that these
Cilicians should be dealt with, it took no less a person than Pompey,
assisted by fifteen admirals, to tackle them; but finally, after a few
months, he was able to have the sea once more cleared of these rovers.

We can well sympathise with the merchant seamen of those days. The perils
of wind and wave were as nothing compared with the fear of falling into
the hands of powerful desperadoes, who not merely were all-powerful
afloat but in their strong fortresses on shore were most difficult to
deal with. With the Balearic Islanders in the west, the Cilicians in the
east, the Carthaginians in the south, the Illyrians along the Adriatic in
their low, handy liburnian galleys, there were pirates ready to encircle
the whole of the Mediterranean Sea. It is worth noting—for he who reads
naval history must often be struck with the fact that an existing navy
prevents war, but the absence of a navy brings war about—that as long
as Rome maintained a strong navy piracy died down: but so soon as she
neglected her sea-service piracy grew up again, commerce was interrupted
both east and west, numerous illustrious Romans were captured and
either ransomed or put to death, though some others were pressed into
the service of the pirates themselves. By means of prisoners to work at
the oars, by the addition of piratical neighbours and by mercenaries as
well, a huge piratical community with a strong military and political
organisation continued to prevent the development of overseas trade. This
piracy was only thwarted by keeping permanent Roman squadrons always
ready.

Of course there were pirates in these early times in waters other than
the Mediterranean. On the west coast of Gaul the Veneti had become very
powerful pirates, and you will recollect how severely they tried Cæsar,
giving him more trouble than all the rest of Gaul put together. They
owned such stalwart ships and were such able seamen that they proved most
able enemies. During the time of the Roman Empire piracy continued also
on the Black Sea and North Sea, though the Mediterranean was now for the
most part safe for merchant ships. But when the power of Rome declined,
so proportionately did the pirates reappear in their new strength. There
was no fearful navy to oppose them, and so once more they were able to
do pretty much as they liked. But we must not forget that long before
this they had ceased to be regarded as the equivalent of hunters and
fishermen. They were, by common agreement, what Cicero had designated
“enemies of the human race”: and so they continued till the nineteenth
century, with only temporary intervals of inactivity.

The thousand ships which the Cilician pirates employed were disposed
in separate squadrons. In different places they had their own naval
magazines located, and during that period already mentioned, when they
were driven off the sea, they resisted capture by retreating ashore to
their mountain fastnesses until such time as it was safe for them to
renew their ventures afloat. When Pompey defeated them he had under him a
fleet of 270 ships. As the inscription, carried in the celebration of his
triumph on his return to Rome, narrated, he cleared the maritime coasts
of pirates and restored the dominion of the sea to the Roman people. But
the pirates could always boast of having captured two Roman prætors, and
Julius Cæsar, when a youth on his way to Rhodes to pursue his studies,
also fell into their hands. However, he was more lucky than many another
Roman who, when captured, was hung up to the yard-arm, and the pirate
ship went proudly on her way.

In the declining years of the Roman Empire the Goths came down from
the north to the Mediterranean, where they got together fleets, became
very powerful and crossed to Africa, made piratical raids on the coast
and carried on long wars with the Romans. Presently the Saxons in the
northern waters of Europe made piratical descents on to the coasts of
France, Flanders and Britain. Meanwhile, in the south, the Saracens
descended upon Cyprus and Rhodes, which they took, seized many islands
in the Archipelago, and thence proceeded to Sicily to capture Syracuse,
and finally overran the whole of Barbary from Egypt in the east to the
Straits of Gibraltar in the west. From there they crossed to Spain and
reduced the greater part thereof, until under Ferdinand and Isabella
these Moors were driven out of Spain and compelled to settle once more
on the north coast of Africa. They established themselves notably at
Algiers, took to the sea, built themselves galleys and, after living
a civilised life in Spain for seven hundred years, became for the next
three centuries a scourge of the Mediterranean, a terror to ships and
men, inflicted all the cruelties which the fanaticism of the Moslem
race is capable of, and cast thousands of Christians into the bonds
of slavery. In many ways these terrifying Moorish pirates—of which to
this day some still go afloat in their craft off the north coast of
Africa—became the successors of those Cilician and other corsairs of
the classical age. In due course we shall return to note the kind of
piratical warfare which these expatriated Moors waged for most of three
hundred years. But before we come to that period let us examine into an
epoch that preceded this.



CHAPTER II

THE NORTH SEA PIRATES


I am anxious to emphasise the fact that piracy is nearly as old as the
ship herself. It is extremely improbable that the Egyptians were ever
pirates, for the reason that, excepting the expedition to Punt, they
confined their navigation practically to the Nile only. But as soon as
men built sea-going vessels, then the instinct to rob and pillage on sea
became as irresistible as on land. Might was right, and the weakest went
to the bottom.

Bearing this in mind, and remembering that there was always a good deal
of trade from the Continent up the Thames to London, especially in corn,
and that there was considerable traffic between Gaul and Britain across
the English Channel, it was but natural that the sea-rovers of the north
should exist no less than in the south. After Rome had occupied Britain
she established a navy which she called the “Classis Britannica,” and
it cannot have failed to be effective in policing the narrow seas and
protecting commerce from wandering corsairs. We know very well that
after Rome had evacuated Britain, and there was no navy to protect our
shores, came the Angles and Saxons and Jutes. We may permissibly regard
these Northmen, who pillaged and plundered till the time of William the
Conqueror and after, as pirates. In the sense that a pirate is one who
not merely commits robbery on the high seas but also makes descents on
the coast for the purpose of pillage, we may call the Viking seamen
pirates. But, strictly speaking, they were a great deal more than this,
and the object of this book is concerned rather with the incidents of the
sea than the incursions into the land. Although the Vikings did certainly
commit piracy both in their own waters and off the coasts of Britain,
yet their depredations in this respect, even if we could obtain adequate
information thereof, would sink into insignificance before their greater
conquests. For a race of men who first swoop down on to a strange coast,
vanquish the inhabitants and then settle down to live among them, are
rather different from a body of men who lie in wait to capture ships as
they proceed on their voyages.

The growth of piracy in English waters certainly owed much to the Cinque
Ports. In these havens dwelt a privileged class of seamen, who certainly
for centuries were a very much favoured community. It was their privilege
to do that which in the Mediterranean Cicero had regarded with so much
disfavour. These men of the Cinque Ports, according to Matthew of Paris,
were commissioned to plunder as they pleased all the merchant ships as
they passed up and down the English Channel. This was to be without any
regard to nationality, with the exception that English ships were not
to be molested. But French, Genoese, Venetian, Spanish or any others
could be attacked at the will of the Cinque Port seamen. Some persons
might call this sort of thing by the title of privateering, yet it was
really piracy and nothing else. You can readily imagine that with this
impetus thus given to a class of men who were not particularly prone to
lawfulness, the practice of piracy on the waters that wash Great Britain
grew at a great rate. Thus in the thirteenth century the French, the
Scotch, Irish and Welsh fitted out ships, hung about the narrow seas till
they were able to capture a well-laden merchantman as their fat reward.
So, before long, the English Channel was swarming with pirates, and
during the reign of Henry III. their numbers grew to an alarming extent.
The net result was that it was a grave risk for commodities to be brought
across the Channel, and so, therefore, the price of these goods rose.
The only means of remedy was to increase the English fleet, and this at
length was done in order to cope with the evil.

But matters were scarcely better in the North Sea, and English merchant
ships sailed in perpetual fear of capture. During the Middle Ages pirates
were always hovering about for any likely ship, and the wool trade
especially was interfered with. Matters became somewhat complicated when,
as happened in the reign of Edward II., peaceable English ships were
arrested by Norway for having been suspected—erroneously—of slaughtering
a Norwegian knight, whereas the latter had been actually put to death
by pirates. “We marvell not a little,” wrote Edward II. in complaint to
Haquinus, King of Norway, “and are much disquieted in our cogitations,
considering the greevances and oppressions, which (as wee have beene
informed by pitifull complaints) are at this present, more than in times
past, without any reasonable cause inflicted upon our subjects, which doe
usually resort unto your kingdome for traffiques sake.” For the fact was
that one nation was as bad as the other, but that whenever the one had
suffered then the other would lay violent hands on a ship that was merely
suspected of having acted piratically. Angered at the loss to their own
countrymen they were prompted by revenge on alien seamen found in their
own waters and even lying quietly in their own havens with their cargoes
of herrings.

As an attempt to make the North Sea more possible for the innocent
trading ships, the kings of England at different dates came to treaties
with those in authority on the other side. Richard II., for example,
made an agreement with the King of Prussia. In 1403 “full restitution
and recompense” were demanded by the Chancellor of England from the
Master-General of Prussia for the “sundry piracies and molestations
offered of late upon the sea.” Henry IV., writing to the Prussian
Master-General, admitted that “as well our as your marchants ... have,
by occasion of pirates, roving up and downe the sea” sustained grievous
loss. Finally it was agreed that all English merchant ships should be
allowed liberty to enter Prussian ports without molestation. But it
was further decided that if in the future any Prussian cargoes should
be captured on the North Sea by English pirates, and this merchandise
taken into an English port, then the harbour-master or “governour”
was, if he suspected piracy, to have these goods promptly taken out of
the English ship and placed in safe keeping. Between Henry IV. and the
Hanseatic towns a similar agreement was also made which bound the cities
of Lubec, Bremen, Hamburg, Sund and Gripeswold “that convenient, just
and reasonable satisfaction and recompense” might be made “unto the
injured and endamaged parties” “for all injuries, damages, grievances,
and drownings or manslaughters done and committed” by the pirates in the
narrow seas.

It would be futile to weary the reader with a complete list of all
these piratical attacks, but a few of them may here be instanced.
About Easter-time in the year 1394 a Hanseatic ship was hovering about
the North Sea when she fell in with an English merchantman from
Newcastle-on-Tyne. The latter’s name was the _Godezere_ and belonged
to a quartette of owners. She was, for those days, quite a big craft,
having a burden of 200 tons. Her value, together with that of her sails
and tackle, amounted to the sum of £400. She was loaded with a cargo of
woollen cloth and red wine, being bound for Prussia. The value of this
cargo, plus some gold and certain sums of money found aboard, aggregated
200 marks. The Hanseatic ship was able to overpower the _Godezere_, slew
two of her crew, captured ship and contents and imprisoned the rest of
the crew for the space of three whole years.

A Hull craft belonging to one Richard Horuse, and named the _Shipper
Berline of Prussia_, was in the same year also attacked and robbed by
Hanseatic pirates, goods to the value of 160 nobles being taken away.
The following year a ship named the _John Tutteburie_ was attacked by
Hanseatics when off the coast of Norway, and goods consisting of wax and
other commodities to the value of 476 nobles were captured. A year later
and pirates of the same federation captured a ship belonging to William
Terry of Hull called the _Cogge_, with thirty woollen broad cloths and a
thousand narrow cloths, to the value of £200. In 1398 the _Trinity_ of
Hull, laden with wax, oil and other goods, was captured by the same class
of men off Norway. Dutch ships, merchant craft from the port of London,
fishing vessels, Prussian traders, Zealand, Yarmouth and other ships were
constantly being attacked, pillaged and captured.

In the month of September, of the year 1398, a number of Hanseatic
pirates waylaid a Prussian ship whose skipper was named Rorebek. She
carried a valuable cargo of woollen cloth which was the property of
various merchants in Colchester. This the pirates took away with them,
together with five Englishmen, whom they found on board. The latter
they thrust into prison as soon as they got them ashore, and of these
two were ransomed subsequently for the sum of 20 English nobles, while
another became blind owing to the rigours of his imprisonment. In 1394
another Prussian ship, containing a number of merchants from Yarmouth
and Norwich, was also captured off the Norwegian coast with a cargo of
woollen goods and taken off by the Hanseatic pirates. The merchants were
cast into prison and not allowed their liberty until the sum of 100 marks
had been paid for their ransom. Another vessel, laden with the hides of
oxen and sheep, with butter, masts and spars and other commodities to the
value of 100 marks, was taken in Longsound, Norway.

In June 1395 another English ship, laden with salt fish, was taken
off the coast of Denmark, the value of her hull, inventory and cargo
amounting to £170. The crew consisted of a master and twenty-five
mariners, whom the pirates slew. There was also a lad found on board,
and him they carried into Wismar with them. The most notorious of
these Hanseatic pirates were two men, named respectively Godekins and
Stertebeker, whose efforts were as untiring as they were successful.
There is scarcely an instance of North Sea piracy at this time in which
these two men or their accomplices do not figure. And it was these same
men who attacked a ship named the _Dogger_. The latter was skippered by
a man named Gervase Cat, and she was lying at anchor while her crew were
engaged fishing. The Hanseatic pirates, however, swept down on them, took
away with them a valuable cargo of fish, beat and wounded the master and
crew of the _Dogger_ and caused the latter to lose their fishing for that
year, “being endamaged thereby to the summe of 200 nobles.”

In the year 1402 other Hanseatic corsairs, while cruising about near
Plymouth, captured a Yarmouth barge named the _Michael_, the master of
which was one Robert Rigweys. She had a cargo of salt and a thousand
canvas cloths. The ship and goods being captured, the owner, a man named
Hugh ap Fen, complained that he was the loser to the extent of 800
nobles: and the master and mariners assessed the loss of wages, canvas
and “armour” at 200 nobles. But there was no end to the daring of these
corsairs of the North. In the spring of 1394 they proceeded with a large
fleet of ships to the town of Norbern in Norway, and having taken the
place by assault, they captured all the merchants therein, together with
their “goods and cattels,” burnt their houses and put their persons up to
ransom. Twenty-one houses, to the value of 440 nobles, were destroyed,
and goods to the value of £1815 were taken from the merchants. With
all this lawlessness on the sea and the consequent injury to overseas
commerce, it was none too soon that Henry IV. took steps to put down a
most serious evil.

We cannot but feel sorry for the long-suffering North Sea fishermen, who,
in addition to having to ride out bad weather in clumsy leaky craft, and
having to work very hard for their living, were liable at any time to see
a pirate ship approaching them over the top of the waves. You remember
the famous Dogger Bank incident a few years ago when one night the North
Sea trawlers found themselves being shelled by the Russian Baltic fleet.
Well, in much the same way were the mediæval ancestors of these hardy
fishermen surprised by pirates when least expecting them and when most
busily occupied in pursuing their legitimate calling. The fisherman was
like a magnet to the pirates, because his catch of fish had only to be
taken to the nearest port and sold. That was the reason why, in 1295,
Edward had been induced to send three ships of Yarmouth across the North
Sea to protect the herring-ships of Holland and Zealand.

The following incident well illustrates the statement that, in spite of
all the efforts which were made to repress piracy, yet it was almost
impossible to attain such an object. The month is July, and the year
1327, the scene being the English Channel. Picture to your mind a beamy,
big-bellied, clumsy ship with one mast and one great square sail. She
has come from Waterford in Ireland, where she has taken on board a rich
cargo, consisting of wool, hides and general merchandise. She has safely
crossed the turbulent Irish Sea, she has wallowed her way through the
Atlantic swell round Land’s End and found herself making good headway
up the English Channel in the summer breeze. Her port of destination
is Bruges, but she will never get there. For from the eastward have
come the famous pirates of the Cinque Ports, and off the Isle of Wight
they fall in with the merchant ship. The rovers soon sight her, come up
alongside, board her and relieve her of forty-two sacks of wool, twelve
dickers of hides, three pipes of salmon, two pipes of cheese, one bale of
cloth, to say nothing of such valuable articles as silver plate, mazer
cups, jewels, sparrow-hawks and other goods of the total value of £600.
Presently the pirates bring their spoil into the Downs below Sandwich and
dispose of it as they prefer.



CHAPTER III

PIRACY IN THE EARLY TUDOR TIMES


The kind of man who devotes his life to robbery at sea is not the species
of humanity who readily subjects himself to laws and ordinances. You may
threaten him with terrible punishments, but it is not by these means that
you will break his spirit. He is like the gipsy or the vagrant: he has
in him an overwhelming longing for wandering and adventure. It is not so
much the greed for gain which prompts the pirate, any more than the land
tramp finds his long marches inspired by wealth. But some impelling blind
force is at work within, and so not all the treaties and agreements, not
all the menaces of death could avail to keep these men from pursuing the
occupation which their fathers and grandfathers had for many years been
employed in.

Therefore piracy was quite as bad in the sixteenth century as it had
been in the Middle Ages. The dwellers on either side of the English
Channel were ever ready to pillage each other’s ships and property. About
the first and second decade of the sixteenth century the Scots rose to
some importance in the art of sea-robbery, and some were promptly taken
and executed. In vain did Henry VIII. write to Francis I. saying that
complaints had been made by English merchants that their ships had been
pirated by Frenchmen pretending to be Scots, for which redress could
not be obtained in France. In 1531 matters had become so bad, and piracy
was so prevalent, that commissioners were appointed to make inquisitions
concerning this illegal warfare round our coasts. Viscount Lisle,
Vice-Admiral of England, and others were appointed to see to the problem.
So cunning had these rovers become that it was no easy affair to capture
them. But in this same year a notorious pirate named Kellwanton was taken
in the Isle of Man; while another, De Melton by name, who was one of his
accomplices, fled with the rest of the crew in the ship to Grimsby.

Sometimes the very ships which had been sent by the king against the
pirates actually engaged in pillage themselves. There was at least one
instance about this time of some royal ships being unable to resist the
temptation to plunder the richly laden Flemish ships. But after complaint
was made the royal reply came that the Flemings should be compensated
and the plunderers punished. It was all very well to set a thief to
catch a thief, but there were few English seamen of any experience who
had not done some piracy at some time of their career, and when they at
last formed the crews of preventive ships and got wearied of waiting for
pirate craft to come along, it was too much to expect them to remain idle
on the seas when a rich merchantman went sailing past.

Sometimes the pirates would waylay a whole merchant fleet, and if the
latter were sailing light, would relieve the fleet of their victuals,
their clothes, their anchors and cables and sails. But it was not merely
to the North Sea nor to the English Channel that the English pirates
confined themselves. In October 1533 they captured a Biscayan ship
off the coast of Ireland. And during the reign of Henry VIII. there
was an interesting incident connected with a ship named the _Santa
Maria Desaie_. This craft belonged to one Peter Alves, a Portingale,
who hired a mariner, William Phelipp, to pilot his ship from Tenby to
Bastabill Haven. But whilst off the Welsh coast a piratical bark named
the _Furtuskewys_, containing thirty-five desperate corsairs, attacked
the _Santa Maria_ and completely overpowered her. Alves they promptly
got rid of by putting him ashore somewhere on the Welsh coast, and they
then proceeded to sail the ship to Cork, where they sold her to the mayor
and others, the value of the captured craft and goods being 1524 crowns.
Alves did not take this assault with any resignation, but naturally used
his best endeavours to have the matter set right. From the King’s Council
he obtained a command to the Mayor of Cork for restitution, but such was
the lawlessness of the time that this was of no avail. The mayor, whose
name was Richard Gowllys, protested that the pirates told him they had
captured the ship from the Scots and not from the Portingale, and he
added that he would spend £100 rather than make restitution.

But stricter vigilance caused the arrest of some of these pirates. Six of
them were sentenced to death in the Admiralty Court at Boulogne, eleven
others were condemned to death in the Guildhall, London: and in 1537 a
ship was lying at Winchelsea “in gage to Bell the mayor” for £35 for the
piracies committed in her, for she had been captured after having robbed
a Gascon merchantman of a cargo of wines.

The finest of the French sailors for many a century until even the
present day have ever been the Bretons. And just as in the eighteenth
century the most expert sailormen on our coasts were the greatest
smugglers, so in Tudor times the pick of all seamen were sea-rovers.
About the time of Lent, 1537, a couple of Breton pirate ships caused a
great deal of anxiety to our west-country men. One of the two had robbed
an English ship off the Cornish coast and pillaged his cargo of wine.
From Easter-time till August these rovers hung about the Welsh coast,
sometimes coming ashore for provisions and most probably also to sell
their ill-gotten cargoes, but for the most part remaining at sea. It
would seem from the historical records that originally there had been
only one Breton ship that had sailed from St. Malo; but having the good
fortune to capture a fishing craft belonging to Milford Haven, the crew
had been split up into two. Presently the numbers of these French pirates
increased till there was quite a fleet of them cruising about the Welsh
coast. A merchant ship that had loaded a fine cargo at Bristol, bound
across the Bay of Biscay, had been boarded before the voyage had been
little more than begun. For week after week these men robbed every ship
that came past them. But especially were they biding their time waiting
for the English, Irish and Welsh ships who were wont about this period of
the year to come to St. James’s Fair at Bristol.

However, in the meanwhile, the men of the west were becoming much more
alert, and were ready for any chance that might occur. And a Bristol man
named Bowen, after fourteen Breton pirates had come ashore near Tenby
to obtain victuals, acted with such smartness that he was able to have
the whole lot captured and put into prison. And John Wynter, another
Bristolian, knowing that the pirates were hovering about for those ships
bound for the fair, promptly manned a ship, embarked fifty soldiers, as
well as the able seamen, and cruised about ready to swoop down on the
first pirate ship which showed up on the horizon. The full details of
these men and what they did would make interesting reading if they were
obtainable; but we know that of the above-mentioned fourteen, one, John
du Laerquerac, was captain of the Breton craft. On being arrested he
stoutly denied that he had ever “spoiled” English ships. That was most
certainly a bare-faced lie, and presently Peter Dromyowe, one of his own
mariners, confessed that he himself had robbed one Englishman; whereupon
Laerquerac made a confession that, as a matter of fact, he had taken
ships’ ropes, sailors’ wearing apparel, five pieces of wine, a quantity
of fish, a gold crown in money and eleven silver halfpence or pence, as
well as four daggers and a “couverture”!

It was because the English merchants complained that they lost so much
of their imports and exports by depredations from the ships of war
belonging to Biscay, Spain, the Low Countries, Normandy, Brittany and
elsewhere, that Henry VIII. had been prevailed upon to send Sir John
Dudley, his Vice-Admiral, to sea with a small fleet of good ships.
Dudley’s orders were to cruise between the Downs on the east and St.
Michael’s Mount on the west—in other words, the whole length of the
English Channel—according as the wind should serve. In addition, he was
to stand off and on between Ushant and Scilly and so guard the entrance
to the Channel. Furthermore, he was to look in at the Isle of Lundy in
the Bristol Channel—for both Lundy and the Scillies were famous pirate
haunts—and after having so done he was to return and keep the narrow
seas. Dudley was especially admonished to be on the look out to succour
any English merchant ships, and should he meet with any foreign merchant
craft which, under the pretence of trading, were actually robbing the
King’s subjects, he was to have these foreigners treated as absolute
pirates and punished accordingly.

For the state of piracy had become so bad that the King “can no longer
suffer it.” So also Sir Thomas Dudley, as well as Sir John, was busily
employed in the same preventive work. On the 10th of August of that same
year, 1537, he wrote to Cromwell that he had at Harwich arrested a couple
of Frenchmen who two years previously had robbed a poor English skipper’s
craft off the coast of Normandy, and this Englishman had in vain sued
in France for a remedy, since the pirates could never be captured. But
there were so many of these corsairs being now taken that it was a grave
problem as to how they should be dealt with. “If they were all committed
to ward,” wrote Sir Thomas, “as your letters direct, they would fill
the gaol.” Then he adds: “They would fain go and leave the ship behind
them, which only contains ordnance, and no goods or victuals to find
themselves with. If they go to gaol, they are like to perish of hunger,
for Englishmen will do no charity to them. They are as proud naves as I
have talked with.”

Eleven days later came the report from Sir John Dudley of his experiences
in the Channel. He stated that while on his way home he encountered a
couple of Breton ships in the vicinity of St. Helen’s, Isle of Wight,
where he believed they were lying in wait for two Cornish ships “that
were within Porchemouthe haven, laden with tin to the value of £3000.”
Portsmouth is, of course, just opposite St. Helen’s, and on more than one
occasion in naval history was the latter found a convenient anchorage
by hostile ships waiting for English craft to issue forth from the
mainland. But when these Breton pirates espied Dudley’s ships coming
along under sail, they “made in with Porchemouthe,” where Dudley’s men
promptly boarded them and placed them under arrest, with the intention
of bringing them presently to the Thames. Dudley had no doubt whatever
that these were pirates, but at a later date the French ambassador
endeavoured to show that there was no foundation for such a suspicion.
These two French crafts, he sought to persuade, were genuine merchantmen
who had discharged their cargo at “St. Wallerie’s” (that is to say,
St. Valery-sur-Somme), but had been driven to the Isle of Wight by bad
weather, adding, doubtless as a subtle hint, that they had actually
rescued an Englishman chased by a Spaniard. It is possible that the
Frenchmen were telling the truth, though unless the wind had come
southerly and so made it impossible for these bluff-bowed craft to beat
into their port, it is difficult to believe that they could not have run
into one of their own havens. At any rate, it was a yarn which Dudley’s
sailors found not easy to accept.

This was no isolated instance of the capture of Breton craft. In the
year 1532 a Breton ship named the _Mychell_, whose owner was one Hayman
Gillard, her master being Nicholas Barbe of St. Malo, was encountered by
a crew of English seamen who entertained no doubts whatsoever as to her
being anything else than a pirate. Their suspicions were made doubly sure
when they found her company to consist of nine Bretons and five Scots.
They arrested her at sea, and when examined she was found well laden with
wool, cloth and salt hides. Some French pirate ships even went so far as
to wear the English flag of St. George, with the red cross on a white
ground. This not unnaturally infuriated English seamen, especially when
it was discovered that the Bretons had also carried Englishmen as their
pilots and chief mariners, and were training them to become experts in
piracy.

But there were times when English seamen and merchants were able to “get
their own back” with interest, as the following incident will show. At
the beginning of June, in the year 1538, an English merchant, Henry
Davy, freighted a London ship named the _Clement_, which was owned
by one Grenebury, who lived in Thames Street, and dispatched her with
orders to proceed to the “Bay in Breteyne.” She set forth under the
command of a man named Lyllyk, the ship’s purser being William Scarlet,
a London clothworker. Seven men formed her crew, but when off Margate
they took on board nine more. They then proceeded down Channel and took
on board another four from the shore, but espying a Flemish ship of war
they deemed it prudent to get hold of the coast of Normandy as soon as
possible. In the “mayne” sea—by which I understand the English Channel
near the mainland of the Continent—they descried coming over the waves
three ships, and these were found to be Breton merchantmen.

This caused some discussion on board the _Clement_, and Davy, the
charterer, who had come with the ship, remarked to the skipper Lyllyk
that they had lost as much as £60 in goods, which had been captured by
Breton pirates at an earlier date, and had never been able to obtain
compensation in France in spite of all their endeavours. Any one who has
any imagination and a knowledge of seafaring human nature, can easily
picture Lyllyk and his crew cordially agreeing with Davy’s point of
view, and showing more than a mere passive sympathy. The upshot of the
discussion was that they resolved to take the law into their own hands
and capture one of these three ships.

The resolution was put into effect, so that before long they had become
possessed of the craft. The Breton crew were rowed ashore in a boat and
left there, and after collecting the goods left behind, the Englishmen
stowed them in the hold of the _Clement_. A prize crew, consisting of a
man whose name was Comelys, and four seamen, were placed in charge of
the captured ship, which now got under way. The _Clement_, too, resumed
her voyage, and made for Peryn in Cornwall, where she was able to sell,
at a good price, the goods taken out of the Breton. The gross amount
obtained was divided up among the captors, and though the figures may not
seem very large, yet the sum represented the equivalent of what would
be to-day about ten times that amount of money. Henry Davy, being the
charterer, received £17; the master, the mate, the quarter-master and
the purser received each thirty shillings, while the mariners got twenty
shillings apiece. Lyllyk and nine of the crew then departed, while Davy,
Scarlet, Leveret the carpenter and two others got the ship under way,
sailed up Channel and brought the _Clement_ back to the Thames, where
they delivered her to the wife of the owner.

But Englishmen were not always so fortunate, and the North Sea pirates
were still active, in spite of the efforts which had been made by English
kings in previous centuries. In 1538 the cargo ship _George Modye_ put to
sea with goods belonging to a company of English merchant adventurers,
consisting of Sir Ralph Waryn, “good Mr. Lock and Rowland Hyll” and
others. She never reached her port of destination, however, for the
Norwegian pirates pillaged her and caused a loss to the adventurers of
£10,000, whereupon, after complaint had been made, Cromwell was invoked
to obtain letters from Henry VIII. to the kings of Denmark, France and
Scotland that search might be duly made. There was, in fact, a good
deal of luck, even yet, as to whether a ship would ever get to the
harbour whither she was sent. In September 1538 we find Walter Herbart
complaining that twice since Candlemas he had been robbed by Breton
pirates. But, a week later, it is recorded that some pirates, who had
robbed peaceable ships bound from Iceland, had been chased by John
Chaderton and others of Portsmouth and captured about this time.

And it was not always that Englishmen dealt with these foreigners in any
merciful manner, regardless of right or wrong. I have already emphasised
the fact that, as regards the question of legality, there was little
to choose between the seamen of any maritime nation. Rather it was a
question of opportunity, and the very men who to-day complained bitterly
of the robbery of their ships and cargoes might to-morrow be found
performing piracy themselves. A kind of sea-vendetta went on, and in the
minds of the mariners the only sin was that of being found out. So we
notice that, in the spring of 1539, an instance of a Breton ship being
captured by English corsairs who, according to the recognised custom of
the sea, forthwith threw overboard the French sailors. These were all
drowned except one who, “as if by a miracle, swam six miles to shore.”
So says the ancient record, though it is difficult to believe that even
a strong swimmer could last out so long after being badly knocked about.
The Bretons had their revenge this time, for complaint was made to the
chief justices, who within fifteen days had the culprits arrested and
condemned, and six of them were executed on the 19th of May. Before
the end of the month Francis I. wrote to thank the English king for so
promptly dealing with the culprits.

Bearing in mind the interest which Henry VIII. took in nautical matters
and in the welfare of his country generally; recollecting, too, the
determination with which he pursued any project to the end when once
his mind had been made up, we need not be surprised to find that a few
months later in that year this resolute monarch again sent ships—this
time a couple of barks of 120 and 90 tons respectively—“well manned and
ordnanced” to scour the seas for these pirate pests that inflicted so
many serious losses on the Tudor merchants.

A little earlier in that year Vaughan had written to Cromwell that he had
spoken with one who lately had been a “common passenger” in hoys between
London and Antwerp and knew of certain pirates who intended to capture
the merchant ships plying between those two ports. Valuable warning was
given concerning one of these roving craft. She belonged to Hans van
Meghlyn, who had fitted out a ship of the “portage” of 20 lasts and 45
tons burthen. She was manned by a crew of thirty, her hull was painted
black with pitch, she had no “foresprit,” and her foremast leaned forward
like a “lodeman’s” boat. (“Lodeman” was the olden word for pilot—the man
who hove the lead.) Cromwell was advised that this craft would proceed
first to Orfordness (the natural landfall for a vessel to make when bound
across the North Sea from the Schelde), and thence she would proceed
south and lie in wait for ships at the mouth of the Thames. In order to
be ready to pillage either the inward or outward bound craft which traded
with London, this pirate would hover about off White Staple (Whitstable).
Vaughan’s informant thought that sometimes, however, she would change
her locality to the Melton shore in order to avoid suspicion, and he
advised that it would be best to capture her by means of three or four
well-manned oyster boats. There was also another “Easterling” (that is,
one from the east of Germany or the Baltic) pirate who had received his
commission from the Grave of Odenburg. This rover was named Francis Beme
and was now at Canfyre with his ship, waiting for the Grave of Odenburg’s
return from Brussels with money. But the warning news came in time, and
in order to prevent the English merchant ships from falling into the
sea-rovers’ hands, the former were ordered by proclamation to remain in
Antwerp from Ash Wednesday till Easter.



CHAPTER IV

THE CORSAIRS OF THE SOUTH


When, in the year 1516, Hadrian, Cardinal St. Chryogon, wrote to Wolsey
bitterly lamenting that from Taracina right away to Pisa pirates,
consisting of Turks and African Moors, were swarming the sea, he was
scarcely guilty of any exaggeration. Multifarious and murderous though
the pirates of Northern Europe had long since shown themselves, yet it is
the Mediterranean which, throughout history, and more especially during
the sixteenth century, has earned the distinction of being the favourite
and most eventful sphere of robbery by sea.

You may ask how this came about. It was no longer the case of the old
Cilicians or the Balearic Islanders coming into activity once more. On
the contrary, the last-mentioned people, far from being pirates in the
sixteenth century, were actually pillaged than pillagers. A new element
had now been introduced, and we enter upon a totally different sphere
of the piratical history. Before we seek to inquire into the origin and
development of this new force which comes across the pages of history,
let us bear in mind the change which had come over the Mediterranean.
During the classical times piracy was indeed bad enough, because, among
other things, it interfered so seriously with the corn ships which
carried the means of sustenance. But in those days the number of freight
ships of any kind was infinitesimal compared with the enormous number of
fighting craft that were built by the Mediterranean nations. And however
much Greece and Rome laboured to develop the warlike galley, yet the
evolution of the merchant ship was sadly neglected, partly, no doubt,
because of the risks which a merchant ship ran and partly because the
centuries of fighting evoked little encouragement for a ship of commerce.

During the centuries which followed the downfall of the Roman Empire
it must not be supposed that the sea was bereft of pirates. As we have
already seen, the decay of Rome was commensurate with the revival
of piracy. But with the gradual spread of southern civilisation the
importance of and the demand for commercial ships, as differentiated from
fighting craft, increased to an unheard-of extent. No one requires to be
reminded of the rise to great power of Venice and Genoa and Spain. They
became great overseas traders within limits, and this postulated the
ships in which goods could be carried. So it came to this that crossing
and recrossing the Mediterranean there were more big-bellied ships
full of richer cargoes and traversing the sea with greater regularity
than ever had been in the history of the world. And as there will
always be robbers when given the opportunity, either by sea or by land,
irrespective of race or time, so when this amount of wealth was now
afloat the sea-robber had every incentive to get rich quickly by a means
that appealed in the strongest terms to an adventurous temperament.

In Italy the purely warlike ship had become so obsolete that, in the
opinion of some authorities, it was not till about the middle of the
ninth century that these began to be built, at any rate as regards
that great maritime power, Venice. She had been too concerned with the
production and exchange of wealth to centre her attention on any species
of ship other than those which would carry freights. But so many defeats
had she endured at the hands of the Saracens and pirates that ships
specially suitable for combat had, from the year 841, to be built. The
Saracens hailed from Arabia, and it is notable that at that time the
Arabian sailors who used to sail across the Indian Ocean were far and
away the most scientific navigators in the whole world, many of their
Arabic terms still surviving in nautical terminology to this day. Indeed,
the modern mariner who relies so much on nautical instruments scarcely
realises how much he owes to these early seamen. Just as the Cilicians
and others had in olden times harassed the shores of the Mediterranean,
so now the Saracens made frequent incursions into Sardinia, Corsica,
Sicily, as well as intercepting the ships of the Adriatic.

Let us remember that both in the north and south of Europe the sailing
seasons for century after century were limited to that period which is
roughly indicated between the months of April and the end of September.
Therefore the pirate knew that if he confined his attentions to that
period and within certain sea-areas, he would be able to encompass
practically the whole of the world’s sea-borne trade. These sailing
periods were no arbitrary arrangement: they were part of the maritime
legislation, and only the most daring and, at the same time, most lawless
merchant skippers ventured forth in the off-season.

Realising that the mariner had in any lengthy voyage to contend not
merely with bad weather but probably with pirates, the merchant pilots
were instructed to know how to avoid them. For instance, their main
object should be to make the merchant ship as little conspicuous on the
horizon as possible. Thus, after getting clear of the land, the white
sail should be lowered and a black one hoisted instead. They were warned
that it was especially risky to change sail at break of day when the
rising sun might make this action easily observable. A man was to be sent
aloft to scan the sea, looking for these rovers and keep a good look
out. That black sail was called the “wolf,” because it had the colour
and cunning of such an animal. At night, too, similar precautions were
employed against any danger of piratical attack, strict silence being
absolutely enforced, so that the boatswain was not even allowed to use
his whistle, nor the ship’s bell to be sounded. Every one knows how
easily a sound carries on the sea, especially by night, so the utmost
care was to be exercised lest a pirate hovering about might have the rich
merchant ship’s presence betrayed to her avaricious ears.

But the Saracens, whose origin I have just mentioned, must not be
confused with the Barbarian corsairs. It is with the latter—the grand
pirates of the South—that I pass on now to deal. So powerful did they
become that it took the efforts of the great maritime powers of Europe
till the first quarter of the nineteenth century before they could
exterminate this scourge: and even to-day, in this highly civilised
century, if you were to be becalmed off the coast of North Africa in
a sailing yacht, you would soon find some of the descendants of these
Barbarian corsairs coming out with their historic tendency to kill you
and pillage your ship. If this statement should seem to any reader
somewhat incredible, I would refer him to the captain of any modern
steamship who habitually passes that coast: and I would beg also to call
to his attention the incident a few years ago that occurred to the famous
English racing yacht _Ailsa_, which was lying becalmed somewhere between
Spain and Africa. But for a lucky breeze springing up, her would-be
assailants might have captured a very fine prize.

I shall use the word Moslem to mean Mussulman, or Mohammedan, or Moor,
and I shall ask the reader to carry his mind back to the time when
Ferdinand and Isabella turned the Moors out from Spain, and sent them
across the straits of Gibraltar back to Africa. For seven hundred years
these Moors had lived in the Iberian peninsula. It must be admitted in
fairness that these Moors were exceedingly gifted intellectually, and
there are ample evidences in Spain to this day of their accomplishments.
On the other hand, it is perfectly easy to appreciate the desire of a
Christian Government to banish these Mohammedans from a Catholic country.
Equally comprehensible is the bitter hatred which these Moors for ever
after manifested against all Christians of any nation, but against the
Spanish more especially.

What were these Spanish Moors, now expatriated, to do? They spread
themselves along the North African coast, but it was not immediately that
they took to the sea; when, however, they did so accustom themselves it
was not as traders but as pirates of the worst and most cruel kind. The
date of their expulsion from Granada was 1492, and within a few years of
this they had set to work to become avenged. The type of craft which they
favoured was of the galley species, a vessel that was of great length, in
proportion to her extreme shallowness, and was manned by a considerable
number of oarsmen. Sail power was employed but only as auxiliary rather
than of main reliance. Such a craft was light, easily and quickly
manœuvred, could float in creeks and bays close in to the shore, or could
be drawn up the beach if necessary. In all essential respects she was
the direct lineal descendant of the old fighting galleys of Greece and
Rome. From about the beginning of the sixteenth century till the battle
of Lepanto in 1571 the Moslem corsair was at his best as a sea-rover and
a powerful racial force. And if he was still a pest to shipping after
that date, yet his activities were more of a desultory nature. Along
the Barbarian coast at different dates he made himself strong, though
of these strongholds Algiers remained for the longest time the most
notorious.

In considering these Moslem corsairs one must think of men who were as
brutal as they were clever, who became the greatest galley-tacticians
which the world has ever seen. Their greed and lust for power and
property were commensurate with their ability to obtain these. Let it not
be supposed for one moment that during the grand period these Moorish
pirate leaders were a mere ignorant and uncultured number of men. On
the contrary, they possessed all the instincts of a clever diplomatist,
united to the ability of a great admiral and an autocratic monarch.
Dominating their very existence was their bitter hatred of Christians
either individually or as nations. And though a careful distinction must
be made between these Barbarian corsairs and the Turks, who were often
confused in the sixteenth-century accounts of these rovers, yet from a
very early stage the Moorish pirates and the Turks assisted each other.
You have only to remember that they were both Moslems; to remind yourself
that the downfall of Constantinople in 1453 gave an even keener incentive
to harass Christians; and to recollect that though the Turks were great
fighters by land yet they were not seamen. They had an almost illimitable
quantity of men to draw upon, and for this as well as other reasons it
was to the Moors’ interests that there should be a close association with
them.

During the fifteenth and especially the sixteenth centuries there was
in general European use a particular word which instantly suggested a
certain character that would stink in the nostrils of any Christian,
be he under the domination of Elizabeth or Charles V. This word was
“renegade,” which, of course, is derived from the Latin _nego_, I deny.
“Renegade,” or, as the Elizabethan sailors often used it, “renegado”
signifies an apostate from the faith—a deserter or turncoat. But it was
applied in those days almost exclusively to the Christian who had so far
betrayed his religion as to become a Moslem. In the fifteenth century a
certain Balkan renegade was exiled from Constantinople by the Grand Turk.
From there he proceeded to the south-west, took up his habitation in the
island of Lesbos in the Ægean Sea, married a Christian widow and became
the father of two sons, named respectively Uruj and Kheyr-ed-din. The
renegade, being a seaman, it was but natural that the two sons should be
brought up to the same avocation.

Having regard to the ancestry of these two men, and bearing in mind that
Lesbos had long been notorious for its piratical inhabitants, the reader
will in no wise be surprised to learn that these two sons resolved to
become pirates too. They were presently to reach a state of notoriety
which time can never expunge from the pages of historical criminals.
For the present let us devote our attention to the elder brother, Uruj.
We have little space to deal with the events of his full life, but this
brief sketch may suffice. The connection of these two brothers with the
banished Moors is that of organisers and leaders of a potential force of
pirates. Uruj, having heard of the successes which the Moorish galleys
were now attaining, of the wonderful prizes which they had carried off
from the face of the sea, felt the impulse of ambition and responded to
the call of the wild. So we come to the year 1504, and we find him in
the Mediterranean longing for a suitable base whence he could operate;
where, too, he could haul his galleys ashore during the winter and refit.

[Illustration: A DARING ATTACK

Uruj with his one craft attacked the two galleys of Pope Julius II
laden with goods from Genoa. His officers remonstrated with Uruj on the
desperate venture, but to enforce his commands and prevent any chance of
flight he had the oars thrown overboard. He then attacked and overcame
the galleys.]

For a time Tunis seemed to be the most alluring spot in every way:
and strategically it was ideal for the purpose of rushing out and
intercepting the traffic passing between Italy and Africa. He came to
terms with the Sultan of Tunis, and, in return for one-fifth of the booty
obtained, Uruj was permitted to use this as his headquarters, and from
here he began with great success to capture Italian galleys, bringing
back to Tunis both booty and aristocratic prisoners for perpetual exile.
The women were cast into the Sultan’s harem, the men were chained to the
benches of the galleys.

One incident alone would well illustrate the daring of Uruj, who had now
been joined by his brother. The story is told by Mr. Stanley Lane Poole
in his history of the Barbarian corsairs, that one day, when off Elba,
two galleys belonging to Pope Julius II. were coming along laden with
goods from Genoa for Civita Vecchia. The disparity and the daring may
be realised when we state that each of these galleys was twice the size
of Uruj’s craft. The Papal galleys had become separated, and this made
matters easier for the corsair. In spite of the difference in size, he
was determined to attack. His Turkish crew, however, remonstrated and
thought it madness, but Uruj answered this protestation by hurling most
of the oars overboard, thus making escape impossible: they had to fight
or die.

This was the first time that Turkish corsairs had been seen off Elba,
and as the Papal galley came on and saw the turbaned heads, a spirit
of consternation spread throughout the ship. The corsair galley came
alongside, there was a volley of firing, the Turkish men leapt aboard,
and before long the ship and the Christians were captured. The
Christians were sent below, and the Papal ship was now manned by Turks
who disguised themselves in the Christians’ clothes. And now they were
off to pursue the second galley. As they came up to her the latter had no
suspicion, but a shower of arrows and shot, followed by another short,
sharp attack, made her also a captive. Into Tunis came the ships, and the
capture amazed both Barbarian corsair and the whole of Christendom alike.
The fame of Uruj spread, and along the whole coast of North Africa he
was regarded with a wonder mingled with the utmost admiration. He became
known by the name Barbarossa, owing to his own physical appearance, the
Italian word _rossa_ signifying red, and _barba_ meaning a beard. He
followed up this success by capturing next year a Spanish ship with 500
soldiers. And there were other successes, so that in five years he had
eight vessels. But Tunis now became too small for him, so for a time he
moved to the island of Jerba, on the east coast of Tunis, and from there
he again harassed Italy.

Such was the fame of Barbarossa that he was invited to help the Moors. It
chanced that the Moslem king of Bujeya had been driven out of his city
by the Spaniards, and the exile appealed to Barbarossa to assist him
in regaining his own. The reward offered to the Turk was that, in the
event of victory, Barbarossa should henceforth be allowed the free use
of Bujeya, the strategic advantage of this port being that it commanded
the Spanish sea. The Turk accepted the invitation on these terms, and
having now a dozen galleys, with ample armament, in addition to 1000
Turkish soldiers, as well as a number of renegades and Moors, he landed
before the town in August of 1512. Here he found the King ready with
his 3000 troops, and they proceeded to storm the bastion, in which an
all too weak Spanish garrison had been left. Still, for eight days the
Spaniards held out, and then when a breach was made and a fierce assault
was being carried out, Barbarossa had the misfortune to have his left arm
amputated, so, Bujeya being now left alone, Barbarossa and his brother
put to sea again. They had not won the victory, but they had captured a
rich Genoese galley full of merchandise. Barbarossa took her back with
him to his headquarters, and while he recovered from his wounds his
brother Kheyr-ed-din acted in his stead.

Not unnaturally the Genoese were angered at the loss of their fine
galliot and sent forth Andrea Doria, the greatest Christian admiral, with
a dozen galleys to punish the Turks. The Christians landed before Tunis,
drove Kheyr-ed-din back into Tunis, and took away to Genoa one-half
of Barbarossa’s ships. Kheyr-ed-din now proceeded to Jerba to build
other ships as fast as possible, and as soon as his wounds allowed him,
Barbarossa here joined him. Meanwhile the Moors were still chafing at
their inability to get even with the Spaniards, and once more an attempt
was made to take Bujeya, though unsuccessfully, and the corsair’s ships
were burnt lest they might fall into the hands of the enemy.

At length the Barbarossas resolved to quit Tunis and Jerba, for they
had now chosen to settle at Jijil, sixty miles to the east of Bujeya.
Their fame had come before them; the inhabitants were proud to welcome
the brother corsairs who had done many wonderful things by land and sea,
and before long the elder Barbarossa was chosen as their Sultan. In 1516
died Ferdinand, and about this time the Algerine Moors declined any
longer to pay tribute to Spain. To Barbarossa came an invitation to aid
these inhabitants of Algiers in driving the Spanish garrison from their
fort. The invitation was accepted, 6000 men and sixteen galliots were
got together. Arrived before the fortress of Algiers, Barbarossa offered
a safe conduct to the garrison if they would surrender, but the latter’s
reply was merely to remind the corsair of Bujeya. Then for twenty days
Barbarossa battered away at the fortress, but without making a breach,
and meanwhile the Moors began to regret that they had asked the red beard
to aid them. But it would be less easy to turn them out now that once
these dare-devils had set foot on their territory. Barbarossa knew this
and waxed insolent. The Algerines made common cause with the soldiers in
the fortress, and a general rising against the red beard was planned. But
they had reckoned without their guest. For Barbarossa had spies at work
and became informed of this plot.

Whilst at prayers one Friday in the mosque, Barbarossa had the gates
closed, the conspirators brought before him one by one, and then after
twenty-two of them had been put to death there was an end to this
plotting against the corsair of Lesbos. Barbarossa increased in power,
in the number of his galleys, in the extent of his territory and in the
number of his subjects, so that by now he had become Sultan of Middle
Barbary. Practically the whole of that territory marked on our modern
maps of Algeria was under his sway. Step by step, leaping from one
success to another, ignoring his occasional reverses, he had risen from
a mere common pirate to the rank of a powerful Sultan. So potent had he
become, in fact, that he was able to make treaties with other Barbarian
Sultans, and all the summer season his galleys were scouring the seas
bringing back increased wealth and more unfortunate Christian prisoners.
Richly laden merchant ships from Genoa, from Naples, from Venice, from
Spain set forth from home, and neither the ships nor their contents were
ever permitted to return or to reach their ports of destination.

However, the time came when the Christian States could no longer endure
this terrible condition of affairs. And Charles V. was moved to send a
strong force to deal with the evil. Ten thousand seasoned troops were
sent in a large fleet of galleys to Northern Africa, and at last the
wasp was killed. For Barbarossa, with his 1500 men, was defeated, and he
himself was slain while fighting boldly. Unfortunately the matter ended
there, and the troops, instead of pressing home their victory and wiping
the Barbarian coast clean of this Moorish dirt, left Algiers severely
alone and returned to their homes. Had they, instead, ruthlessly sought
out this lawless piratical brood, the troublesome scourge of the next
three centuries would probably never have caused so many European ships
and so many English and foreign sailors and others to end their days
under the lash of tyrannical monsters.



CHAPTER V

THE WASPS AT WORK


But if Barbarossa was dead, his sagacious brother Kheyr-ed-din was ready
to take up his work, and he proceeded on more scientific principles. He
began by sending an ambassador to Constantinople, and begged protection
for the province of Algiers. This, having been granted, he was appointed
officially, in 1519, Governor of Algiers. His next step was to reinforce
his garrisons at different parts of the coast and so secure his territory
from attacks by sea. And in order to make for safety on the southern or
landward side, he entered into alliances with the leading Arabian tribes
up-country.

He was thus about as secure as it was possible for human diplomacy and
organisation to achieve. His ships could still go on their piratical
cruises and return with little enough risk. In vain did the Spaniards
send an Armada against him. The men indeed landed, but they were driven
back, and a storm springing up did the rest. Gradually more and more
seaports fell into the net of this corsair, so there were plenty of
harbours to run for, plenty of safe shelters whither to bring the
valuable prizes. It was not merely the middle or the eastern end of the
Mediterranean which was now harassed, but the west end. Those were the
days, you will remember, when Spain was developing the rich resources
of the New World, so there was a great opportunity for the Barbarian
pirates to go out some little distance into the Atlantic and capture the
West Indiamen homeward bound for Cadiz with gold and other treasures.
And in addition to these prizes, no less than the merchantmen of Italy,
Kheyr-ed-din occasionally made raids on the Spanish coast or even carried
off slaves from the Balearic Islands. From end to end these Algerine
corsairs were thus masters of the Mediterranean. No commercial ship could
pass on her voyages in any safety—even Spanish flagships found themselves
being brought captive into Algiers.

True, the small Spanish garrison still remained in Algiers, and because
it was immured within a very strong fortress it held out. The time now
came for this to be attacked with great vigour. For a period of fifteen
days it was bombarded, and at length, after a most stubborn resistance,
it was overcome. The stronghold was then pulled down, and Christian
prisoners who in the summer season had rowed chained to their seats in
the corsair galleys, were in the off-season employed to build with these
stones the great mole to protect the harbour of Algiers from the western
side. It was a stupendous undertaking, and seven thousand of these
unhappy creatures accomplished the work in most of two years.

Nothing succeeds like success, and the corsair prospered in power and
possession to such an extent that he was pre-eminent. This naturally
attracted to his dominion many thousands of other followers, and there
was thus established not a mere small colony of pirates, but a grand
corsair kingdom where the industry of sea-robbery was well organised with
its foundries and dockyards, and with every assistance to agriculture,
and a firm, hard government to keep the land in fit and proper
cultivation.

And now yet another invitation came to Kheyr-ed-din. Andrea Doria had
defeated the Turks at Patras and in the Dardanelles. Like the policy
of the corsairs, after each victory the Christian admiral employed the
infidel captives to work at the oars of his galleys. Thus it was that the
Sultan of Turkey—Solyman the Magnificent—realising that the Christian
admiral was draining the best Turkish seafaring men, determined to invite
Kheyr-ed-din to help him against Andrea Doria. So one of the Sultan’s
personal guard was dispatched to Algiers requesting Barbarossa to come
to Constantinople and place himself at the head of the Ottoman navy.
Barbarossa accepted this as he had accepted other invitations, seeing
that it was to his own interest, and in August 1533 left Algiers with
seven galleys and eleven other craft. On the way he was joined by sixteen
more craft belonging to a pirate named Delizuff, but before they had got
to the end of the voyage Delizuff was killed in an attack on a small
island named Biba. There followed some friction between the men of the
deceased pirate and those of Barbarossa, and finally one dark night the
ships of Delizuff stole away from Barbarossa’s fleet.

Eventually this Sultan of Algiers, with his ships, arrived at
Constantinople. The case stood thus. The Ottoman subject was an excellent
man to fight battles by land, but not by sea. Barbarossa was a true
fighting seaman: therefore let him do for us that which we ourselves
cannot do. He was only three years short of becoming an octogenarian,
yet this veteran corsair was as able as he was wicked, and so, after the
Ottoman dockyards in the following year had provided him with additional
ships, Barbarossa set forth from Constantinople and began by sacking
Reggio, burning Christian ships and carrying off their crews. Thence he
laid waste the coast until he came to Naples, and altogether made 11,000
Christians prisoners, and returned to the Bosphorus with an abundance
of spoil and slaves. Sardinia, too, was depleted of wealth and humanity
till it was almost bereft of both, and at last the fleet arrived before
Tunis, to the amazement of the inhabitants. To condense a long story it
may be said at once that, after some fighting, Tunis found itself now in
submission to him who was also Sultan of Algiers and commander-in-chief
of the Ottoman fleet. But trouble was brewing.

Again Christendom was moved to action. The successes of this
all-conquering King of Corsairs were endangering the world, so the great
Charles V. set on foot most elaborate preparations to cope with the
evil. The preparations were indeed slow, but they were sure and they
were extensive. But there was just one disappointing fact. When Francis
the First, King of France, was invited to take his share in this great
Christian expedition it is as true as it is regrettable to have to record
the fact, that not only did he decline, but he actually betrayed the news
of these impending activities to Barbarossa. This news was not welcome
even to such a hardened old pirate, but he set to work in order to be
ready for the foe, employed the Christian prisoners in repairing the
fortifications of Tunis, summoned help to his standard from all sides,
all united in the one desire to defeat and crush utterly any Christian
force that might be sent against the followers of Mahomet. Spies kept him
informed of the latest developments, and from Algiers came all the men
that could possibly be spared. And finally, when all preparations had
been made, there was on the one side the mightiest Christian expedition
about to meet the greatest aggregation of Moslems. By the middle of June
the invaders reached the African coast and found themselves before Tunis.
It was to be a contest of Christian forces against infidels: it was to
represent an attempt once and for all to settle with the greatest pirate
even the Mediterranean had ever witnessed. It was, if possible, to set
free the hordes of brother-Christians from the tyrannous cruelty of a
despotic corsair. Of those who now came over the sea, many had lost wife,
or sister, or father, or son, or brother at the hands of these heathens.
For once, at last, this great Christian Armada had the sea to itself: the
wasps had retreated into their nest.

So the attack began simultaneously from the land and from the sea. The
men on shore and those in the galleys realised they were battling in
no ordinary contest but in a veritable crusade. Twenty-five thousand
infantry and six hundred lancers, with their horses, had been brought
across the sea in sixty-two galleys, a hundred and fifty transports,
as well as a large number of other craft.[1] The Moslems had received
assistance from along the African coast and from the inland tribes.
Twenty thousand horsemen, as well as a large quantity of infantry, were
ready to meet the Christians. The Emperor Charles V. was himself present,
and Andrea Doria, the greatest Christian admiral, was there opposed to
the greatest admiral of the Moslems.

Needless to say the fight was fierce, but at last the Christians were
able to make a breach in the walls not once but in several places, and
the fortress had to be vacated. Tunis was destined to fall into Christian
hands. Barbarossa realised this now full well. What hurt him most was
that he was beaten at his own game: his own beloved galleys were to fall
into the enemies’ hands. Presently the corsairs were routed utterly,
and Barbarossa with only about three thousand of his followers escaped
by land. Now inside Tunis were no fewer than 20,000 Christian prisoners.
These now succeeded in freeing themselves of their fetters, opened the
gates to the victorious army, and the latter, unable to be controlled,
massacred the people they had been sent against right and left. The
20,000 Christians were rescued, the victory had been won, the corsair
had been put to flight, and Muley Hassan, a mere puppet, was restored
to his kingdom of Tunis by Charles V. on conditions, amongst which it
was stipulated that Muley Hassan should liberate all Christian captives
who might be in his realm, give them a free passage to their homes, and
no corsair should be allowed again to use his ports for any purpose
whatsoever.

This was the biggest blow which Barbarossa had ever received. But brute
though he was, cruel tyrant that he had shown himself, enemy of the human
race though he undoubtedly must be reckoned, yet his was a great mind,
his was a spirit which was only impelled and not depressed by disasters.
At the end of a pitiful flight, he arrived farther along the African
coast at the port of Bona, where there remained just fifteen galleys
which he had kept in reserve. All else that was his had gone—ships,
arsenal, men. But the sea being his natural element, and piracy his
natural profession, he began at once to embark. But just then there
arrived fifteen of the Christian galleys, so Barbarossa, not caring for
conflict, drew up his galleys under the fort of Bona, and the enemy
deemed it prudent to let the corsair alone, and withdrew. Soon after
Barbarossa put to sea and disappeared, when Andrea Doria with forty
galleys arrived on the scene too late.

Just as on an earlier occasion already narrated, the Christian expedition
made the mistake of not pressing home their victory and so settling
matters with the pirates for good and all. Algiers had been drained so
thoroughly of men that it was really too weak to resist an attack. But
no; the Christians left that alone, although they took Bona. About the
middle of August Charles re-embarked his men and, satisfied with the
thrashing he had given these pirates, returned home. But Barbarossa
proceeded to Algiers, where he got together a number of galleys and
waited till his former followers—or as many as had survived battle and
the African desert—returned to him. If Moslem piracy had been severely
crushed, it was not unable to revive, and, before long, Barbarossa with
his veterans was afloat again, looting ships at sea, and carrying off
more prisoners to Algiers. For this piracy was like a highly infectious
disease. You might think for a time that it was stamped out, that the
world had been cleansed of it, but in a short time it would be manifest
that the evil was as prevalent as ever.

Once more he was summoned to visit Soliman the Magnificent; once more
the arch-corsair sped to Constantinople to receive instructions to
deal with the conquering Christians. Andrea Doria was at sea, burning
Turkish ships, and only this Sultan of Algiers could deal with him. So
away Barbarossa went in his customary fashion, raiding the Adriatic
towns, sweeping the islands of the Archipelago, and soon he returned to
Constantinople with 18,000 slaves, to say nothing of material prizes.
Money was obtained as easily as human lives, and the world marvelled
that this corsair admiral, this scourge of the sea, this enemy of the
Christian race, should, after a crushing defeat, be able to go about his
dastardly work, terrifying towns and ships as though the expedition of
Charles V. had never been sent forth.

But matters were again working up to a crisis. If the corsair admiral
was still afloat, so was Andrea Doria, the great Christian admiral. At
the extreme south-west corner of the Epirus, on the Balkan side of the
Adriatic, and almost opposite the heel of Italy, lies Prevesa. Hither
in 1569 came the fleets of the Cross and the Crescent respectively. The
Christian ships had been gathered together at the Island of Corfu, which
is thirty or forty miles to the north-west of Prevesa. Barbarossa came,
assisted by all the great pirate captains of the day, and among them must
be mentioned Dragut, about whom we shall have more to say later.

But Prevesa, from a spectacular standpoint, was disappointing. It was too
scientific, too clearly marked by strategy and too little distinguished
by fighting. If the reader has ever been present at any athletic contest
where there has been more skill than sport, he will know just what I
mean. It is the spirit of the crowd at a cricket match when the batsman
is all on the defensive and no runs are being scored. It is manifested in
the spectators’ indignation at a boxing match when neither party gets in
a good blow, when there is an excess of science, when both contestants,
fairly matched and perhaps overtrained and nervous of the other’s
prowess, hesitate to go in for hard-hitting, so that in the end the match
ends in a draw.

It was exactly on this wise at Prevesa. Andrea Doria and Barbarossa
were the two great champions of the ring. Neither was young; both had
been trained by years of long fighting. They were as fairly matched
as it was possible to find a couple of great admirals. Each realised
the other’s value; both knew that for spectators they had the whole
of Europe—both Christian and Moslem. Victory to the one would mean
downfall to the other, and unless a lucky escape intervened, one of the
two great admirals would spend the rest of his life rowing his heart out
as a galley-slave. Certainly it was enough to make the boxers nervous
and hesitating. They were a long time getting to blows, and there was
but little actually accomplished. There was an unlucky calm on the sea,
and the _Galleon of Venice_ was the centre of the fighting which took
place. It was the splendid discipline on board this big craft, it was
the excellence of her commander and the unique character of her great
guns which made such an impression on Barbarossa’s fleet that although
the _Galleon_ was severely damaged, yet at the critical time when
the corsairs might have rushed on board and stormed her as night was
approaching, for once in his life the great nerve of the corsair king
deserted him. No one was more surprised than the Venetians when they
found the pirate not pressing home his attack. True, the latter had
captured a few of the Christian ships, but these were a mere handful and
out of all proportion to the importance of the battle. He had been sent
forth to crush Andrea Doria and the Christian fleet; he had failed so to
do.

Next day, with a fair wind, Andrea Doria made away. The honour of the
battle belonged to the _Galleon of Venice_, but for Barbarossa it was
a triumph because, with an inferior force, he had put the Christian
admiral to flight. Doria’s ship had not been so much as touched, and yet
Barbarossa had not been taken prisoner. That was the last great event in
the career of Kheyr-ed-din, and he died in 1548 at Constantinople as one
of the wickedest and cruellest murderers of history, the greatest pirate
that has ever lived, and one of the cleverest tacticians and strategists
the Mediterranean ever bore on its waters. There has rarely lived a
human being so bereft of the quality of mercy, and his death was received
by Christian Europe with a sigh of the greatest relief.

In the whole history of piracy there figure some remarkably clever and
consummate seamen. Like many another criminal they had such tremendous
natural endowments that one cannot but regret that they began badly
and continued. The bitterest critic of this Moslem monster cannot but
admire his abnormal courage, resource; his powers of organisation and his
untameable determination. The pity of it all is that all this should have
been wasted in bringing misery to tens of thousands, in dealing death and
robbery and pillage.



CHAPTER VI

GALLEYS AND GALLANTRY


But there was a third great Barbarian corsair to complete this terrible
trio. Uruj and Kheyr-ed-din we have known. There is yet to be mentioned
Dragut, who succeeded to the latter. He too was a Moslem who had been
born in a coast village of Asia Minor, opposite the island of Rhodes. His
early life is that of most pirates. He went to sea when quite young, was
devoted to his profession, was filled with ambition, became an expert
pilot and later became a skipper of his own craft. Then, feeling the call
of the wild, he devoted himself to piracy and rose to notoriety.

But the turning-point in his career came when he joined himself to the
service of Kheyr-ed-din, who appointed Dragut to the entire command of a
dozen of the corsair king’s galleys. Henceforward his life was that of
his master, ravaging the Italian coasts, pillaging Mediterranean ships
and dragging thousands of lives away into slavery. Two years after the
battle of Prevesa, Dragut was in fame second only to Kheyr-ed-din, and
another Doria—the nephew of Andrea—was sent forth to capture this new
wasp of the sea. Doria succeeded in throwing his net so well that off
the Corsican coast he was able to bring back Dragut as prisoner, and
for the next four years the ex-corsair was condemned to row as a slave
in a Christian galley, until on a day his late master Kheyr-ed-din came
sailing into Genoa. During his active, pillaging life he had obtained
plenty of riches, so it was nothing for him to pay 3000 ducats and thus
redeem from slavery a man who had been particularly useful to his own
schemes.

And from this day until Dragut fell fighting in 1565, he followed in
the footsteps of the man who brought him his release. When Kheyr-ed-din
died, the Turkish Sultan appointed Dragut as admiral of the Ottoman
fleet. Like Barbarossa, Dragut’s first object was to obtain a base in
Northern Africa, and eventually he was able to capture the town of
“Africa” or Mehedia, to the east of Tunis. His next proceeding was to
fortify this place. The news came to the ears of Charles V. that this had
happened. The two Barbarossas were dead, but there was another almost as
pernicious. Was this pestilence of piracy never to cease? Andrea Doria
was an old man now, but he was bidden by Charles to go after Dragut,
and he went. Nor was he sorry for an opportunity of wiping out his own
undistinguished action at Prevesa. Dragut was away harrying the coasts
of Spain, and his nephew Aisa was left in charge of “Africa.” Meanwhile
Doria searched for him along the African coast, came to “Africa,” but
after losing some men and with great damage to his own ship, Doria, as
the season was getting late, returned home.

But the following June, Doria with his fleet arrived off Mehedia,
besieged the city, and, after an expenditure of great effort, took it,
capturing Aisa.

Mehedia was lost, but Dragut was still at large. He repaired to
Constantinople and thence to Jerbah, the island off the east coast of
Tunis. Hither also came Andrea Doria and hemmed the corsair in. At last
the pirate was in a trap, but like many another clever rascal he found
a way out with consummate cleverness. What he did may briefly be summed
up as follows: Outside were the waiting Christian fleet, which was merely
amused by the sight of a new fort becoming daily greater. But these
earthworks were just so much bluff. For Dragut, by means of these, was
able to conceal what was being done on the other side. With marvellous
ingenuity he had caused a road to be made across the island to the sea on
the other side; he had laid down a surface of well-greased planks, and
under the further cover of darkness had made his men drag his galleys
across till they were launched into the sea on the opposite coast. The
rest was easy, and the corsair fleet once more escaped, having fooled
Dorea in a manner that amazed him. To add impudence to insult, Dragut at
once captured a Sicilian galley on its way to Dorea, containing Muley
Hassan, Sultan of Tunis. The latter was promptly sent as a present to the
Sultan of Turkey, who allowed him to end his days in prison.

Of the rest of the acts of this corsair we have but little space to
speak. It is sufficient if we say that he well bore the mantle which
had fallen to him from the shoulders of Barbarossa. He continued his
scourging of the seas, he fought gallantly, he laid waste and he
captured prisoners for slavery. Power and dominion came to him as to
his predecessors, and before long he was the ruler of Tripoli and more
than ever the enemy of the Christian race. Finally he died at the siege
of Malta, but he in turn was succeeded by Ali Basha of Algiers, who
conquered the kingdom of Tunis, captured Maltese galleys, and showed that
the old corsair spirit was still alive.

But the day of reckoning was at hand, and there was to be settled in
one of the most momentous events of history a debt that had long been
owing to the Christians. Of all the decisive battles of the world few
stand out more conspicuously than the battle of Lepanto. In spite of all
the great maritime expeditions which had been sent to put down piracy
in the Mediterranean, the evil had recurred again and again. There were
two reasons why Christian Europe was determined to beat these corsairs:
firstly, the latter were natural enemies because they were Moslems;
but, secondly, they were the worst type of pirates. All the losses of
Christian lives, goods and ships merely increased the natural hatred
of these Mohammedans. And in Lepanto we see the last great contest in
which these truculent corsairs fought as a mighty force. Thereafter
there were repeated piratical attacks by these men, but they of a more
individualistic nature than proceeding from an enormous organisation.

Lepanto was fought sixteen years before the Elizabethans defeated the
Armada. Before we say anything of the contest itself it is necessary to
remind the reader that whereas in the contest which took place in the
waters that wash England, the bulk of the ships were sail-propelled and
had high freeboard (with some exceptions), yet at Lepanto it was the
reverse. The fighting ship of the Mediterranean from the very earliest
times had always been of the galley type, even though it contained
variations of species. And never was this characteristic more clearly
manifested than at the battle of which we are now to speak. There were
galleys and galleasses, but though the former were certainly somewhat big
craft, yet the latter were practically only big editions of the galley.

The value of Lepanto is twofold. It proved to the world that the great
Ottoman Empire was not invincible on sea. It showed also that in
spite of all that the cleverest corsair seamen could do, there were
sufficient unity and seamanlike ability in Christian Europe to defeat
the combined efforts of organised piracy and Mohammedanism. No one can
deny that Ali Basha distinguished himself as a fine admiral at this
battle, yet he was not on the side of victory. When he found himself
defeated there fell simultaneously the greatest blow which organised
piracy had received since it established itself along the southern shores
of the Mediterranean. Lepanto was no mere isolated event; it was the
logical outcome of the conflict between Christianity on the one hand
and Mohammedanism with piracy on the other. It is as unfair to omit the
consideration of Moslemism from the cause of this battle as it were to
leave out the fact of piracy.

The solidarity of the Christian expedition was formed by what was called
the Holy League, embracing the ships of the Papal States, Spain and
Venice. The unity of the opposing side was ensured by the fidelity of
the Barbarian corsairs to the Sultan of Turkey. In supreme command of
the former was Don John of Austria, son of that Charles V. who had done
so much to oust these corsair wasps. The Christian fleet numbered about
three hundred, of which two-thirds were galleys, and they collected
at Messina. The scene where the battle was to take place was already
historic. It was practically identical with that of Prevesa, of which we
have already spoken, and with that of the classical Actium in 31 B.C.,
though exactly it was a little to the south of where Prevesa had been
fought. Just as in the latter Kheyr-ed-din had fought against Andrea
Doria, so now Dragut was to fight against John Andrea Doria. The Moslem
strength may be gauged from the statement that it contained 250 galleys
plus a number of smaller ships. But just as Prevesa had been marked
by little fighting but much manœuvring, so Lepanto was distinguished
by an absence of strategy and a prevalence of desperate, hard hitting.
Whatever strategy was displayed belonged to Ali Basha. The galleasses
of the Christian side dealt wholesale death into the Moslems, though
Andrea’s own flagship suffered severely in the fight. Spanish, Venetian
and Maltese galleys fought most gallantly, but Ali Basha, after capturing
the chief of the Maltese craft, was obliged to relinquish towing her, and
himself compelled to escape from the battle. At least 5000 Christians
perished at Lepanto, but six times that amount were slaughtered of the
Moslems, together with 200 of the latter’s ships. The corsairs had
rendered the finest assistance, but they had failed with distinction.

Christian craft had won the great day, and never since that autumn day in
1571 have the pirates of Barbary attained to their previous dominion and
organised power. Ali returned to Constantinople, and even the next year
was again anxious to fight his late enemies, though no actual fighting
took place. Still another year later Tunis was taken from the Turks by
Don John of Austria. For nine years after the event of Lepanto, Ali Basha
lived on, and, like his predecessors, spent much of his time harrying the
Christian coastline of southern Italy. There were many pirates for long
years after his death, but with the decease of Ali Basha closed the grand
period of the Moslem corsairs. It had been a century marked by the most
amazing impudence on the part of self-made kings and tyrants. But if it
showed nothing else, it made perfectly clear what enormous possibilities
the sea offered to any man who had enough daring and self-confidence
in addition to that essential quality of sea-sense. From mere common
sailormen these four great corsairs—the two Barbarossas, Dragut and
Ali Basha—rose to the position of autocrats and admirals. Mere robbers
and bandits though they were, yet the very mention of their names sent
a shudder through Christendom. And it was only the repeated and supreme
efforts of the great European powers which could reduce these pirate
kings into such a condition that honest ships could pursue their voyages
with any hope of reaching their destined ports. Surely, in the whole
history of lawlessness, there never were malefactors that prospered for
so long and to such an extent!

We have spoken in this chapter of galleys and galleasses. Before we
close, let us add a few words of explanation to facilitate the reader’s
vision. Bearing in mind the interesting survival of the galley type
throughout Mediterranean warfare, it must not be forgotten that in detail
this type of craft varied in subsequent centuries. There remained,
however, the prevailing fact that she relied primarily on oars, and
that she drew comparatively little water and had but little freeboard
in proportion to the caravels, caracks and ocean-going ships of war and
commerce. The great virtue of the galley consisted in her mobility.
Her greatest defect lay in her lack of sea-keeping qualities. For the
galley’s work was concerned with operations within a limited sphere with
the land not far away; in other words, she was suited for conditions the
exact opposite of that kind of craft which could sail to the West Indies
or go round Cape Horn.

[Illustration: GALLEY SLAVES

The life of a galley slave was one of dreadful hardship. They were
chained five or six to an oar, fed on the scantiest of food, and a
boatswain walked up and down a gangway in the centre wielding his
terrible lash on those who incurred his anger.]

The amazing feature of these galleys was the large number of oarsmen
required; but this was an age when human life was regarded more cheaply
than to-day. Slaves could be had by raiding towns or capturing ships.
The work of pulling at the oar was healthy if terribly hard. A minimum
of food and the stern lash of the boatswain as he walked up and down
the gangway that ran fore-and-aft down the centre of the ship kept the
men at their duty, and their shackles prevented them from deserting. But
when their poor, wearied bodies became weak, they were thrown overboard
before their last breath had left them. The prints, which are still
in existence, show that the number of oarsmen in a sixteenth-century
galley ran into hundreds—two or three hundred of these galley-slaves
would be no rare occurrence in one craft. They retained the beak and
the arrangement of the yards from the time of the Romans. At the stern
sat the commander with his officers. When these craft carried cannon
the armament was placed in the bows. By the sixteenth, or at any rate
the seventeenth, century, the galley had reached her climax, and it was
not thought remarkable that her length should be about 170 feet and her
breadth only about 20 feet. She may be easily studied by the reader on
referring to an accompanying illustration. Whether used by Christian or
corsair, by Maltese knights or Moslem Turks, they were not very different
from the picture which is here presented. With five men to each heavy
oar, with seamen to handle the sails when employed, with soldiers to
fight the ship, she was practically a curious kind of raft or floating
platform. Irrespective of religion or race, it was customary for the
sixteenth-century nations to condemn their prisoners to row chained to
these benches. Thus, for example, when the Spaniards captured Elizabethan
seamen, the latter were thus employed, just as Venetian prisoners were
made to row in Moslem galleys. Convicted criminals were also punished by
this means.

The difference between the old and new was never better seen than in
the late sixteenth century, when the big-bellied man-of-war with sails
and guns were beginning to discard the old boarding tactics. It was
the gun and not the sword on which they were now relying. But the
galley was dependent less on her gunnery than on boarding. It was her
aim to fight not at a distance but at close quarters—to get right close
alongside and then pour her soldiers on to the other ship and obtain
possession. The galeass of the Mediterranean, although the word was
somewhat largely used, signified an attempt to combine the sea-qualities
of the big-bellied ship with the mobility of the galley. Compromises
are, however, but rarely successful, and though the galleass was a much
more potent fighting unit, yet she was less mobile, if a better sea
craft. She began by being practically a big galley with forecastle and
sterncastle and another deck; she ended in being little less clumsy than
the contemporary ship of the line which relied on sails and guns. Anyone
who cares to examine the contemporary pictures of the Spanish galleasses
used by the Armada against England in the reign of Elizabeth can see
this for himself. It is true that even as far north as Amsterdam in the
seventeenth century the galley was employed, and there are many instances
when she fought English ships in the Channel, off Portsmouth and
elsewhere. For a time some lingered on in the British Navy, but they were
totally unsuited for the waters of the North Sea and English Channel, and
gave way to the sail-propelled ships of larger displacement.



CHAPTER VII

PIRACY IN ELIZABETHAN TIMES


But although the Mediterranean was the sphere of the Barbarian corsairs,
yet this sea lawlessness was not confided to that area. The Narrow
Seas were just about as bad as they had been in the Middle Ages. And
Elizabeth, with the determination for which she was famous, took the
matter in hand.

As early as the year 1564 she commanded Sir Peter Carew to fit out an
expedition to clear the seas of any pirates and rovers that haunted the
coasts of Devonshire and Cornwall; yet it was an almost impossible task.
For the men of these parts especially had gotten the sea-fever. Fishing
was less profitable than it might be, but to capture ships instead of
fish was a very paying industry and had just that amount of adventure
which appealed to the Elizabethans. And bear in mind that, as in the
case of the later smugglers, these men had at their backs for financial
support the rich land-owners, who found the investment tempting.

It was because the colonies in the New World were yielding such wondrous
treasure that the English pirates found the Spanish ships so well worth
waiting for and pillaging. Again and again did Philip make demands to
Elizabeth that this nuisance should be stopped, insisting that in no
case should a convicted English pirate be pardoned. He requested that
Her Majesty’s officers in the west of England ports should cease from
allowing these marauders to take stores aboard or even frequent these
harbours. Rewards, he begged, should even be offered for their capture,
and all persons on shore who aided these miscreants should be punished
severely.

It was because of Philip’s complaint, no less than of the complaint of
her own merchants, that the Queen was compelled to adopt severe measures.
She despatched more ships to police the seas, but with what advantage?
Up came a ship bound from Flanders to Spain with a cargo of tapestry,
clocks and various other articles for Philip. The English pirates could
not let such a prize go past, so they stopped the ship and plundered her.
The Queen’s next effort was to cause strict inquiries to be made along
the coast in order to discover the haunts of these Northern corsairs.
Harbour commissioners were appointed, says Lindsay, to inquire and report
on all vessels leaving or entering port, and all landed proprietors who
had encouraged the pirates were threatened with penalties. But it was
an impossible task, as I will explain. First of all, consider the fact
that after centuries of this free sea-roving, no government, no amount of
threats, could possibly transform the character of the English seaman.
If, for instance, to-morrow, Parliament were to make it law forbidding
the North Sea fishermen to proceed in their industry, nothing but shells
from men-of-war would prevent the men putting to sea. Years of occupation
would be too strong to resist.

So it was with the seamen in the Elizabethan age. It began by that hatred
of their French neighbours; it was encouraged by the privileges which the
Cinque Ports enjoyed, though it was in the blood of the English seamen
quite apart from any royal permission. But there was in the time of
Elizabeth still a further difficulty. Those privateers whom the law had
permitted to go forth sea-roving had become too strong to be suppressed.
Privateering strictly consists of a private ship or ships having a
commission to seize or plunder the ships of an enemy; in effect it
amounts to legalised piracy, and any one can realise that in a none too
law-abiding age, such as the sixteenth century, the dividing line between
piracy and privateering was so very fine that it was almost impossible to
say which pillaging was legal and which was unjustifiable. That alone was
sufficient reason for the frequent releases of alleged pirates at this
time.

True, the Crown allowed privateering, though the commissions were limited
only to the attacks on our acknowledged enemies, yet it was futile to
expect that these rude Devonshire seamen would have any respect to legal
_finesse_. To control these men adequately was too much to expect.
French and Spanish and Flemish merchantmen, regardless of nationality,
were alike liable to fall into the English pirates’ hands. Some of the
backers were making quite a handsome income, and who shall say that some
of those fine Elizabethan mansions in our country were not built out of
such illegal proceeds? The Mayor of Dover, for instance, with some of the
leading inhabitants of that port, had captured over 600 prizes from the
French, to say nothing of the number of neutrals which he had pillaged.
This was in the year 1563, and already he had plundered sixty-one Spanish
ships. And there was the valuable trade passing to and from Antwerp and
London, which was a steady source of revenue for the pirates of this
time. You cannot be surprised, then, at that important incident in 1564,
that did so much to enrage the English seamen and help matters forward
to the climax in the form of the Spanish Armada; for what happened?
Philip, seeing how little Elizabeth was doing to put down this series
of attacks on his treasure ships, had, in the year mentioned, suddenly
issued an order arresting every English ship and all the English crews
that happened to be found within his own harbours. It was a drastic
measure, but we can quite understand the impetuous and furious Spaniard
acting on this wise.

During Elizabeth’s reign there were of course some pirates who had the
bad fortune to be arrested. One little batch suspected included a Captain
Heidon, Richard Deigle and a man named Corbet. Included in the same gang
were Robert Hitchins, Philip Readhead, Roger Shaster and others. The
first three mentioned succeeded in fleeing away beyond capture, but the
remainder admitted their guilt. Hitchins was a man about fifty years old
and a native of Devonshire, but both he and his companions protested that
they had been deceived by Heidon and Deigle; they had undertaken a voyage
to Rochelle presumably in a merchant ship, whereas the trip turned out to
be nothing else than a piratical expedition.

Their version of the incident was that in June 1564 they captured a
Flemish ship, and to her were transferred thirteen Scots who were forming
part of this supposedly merchant ship. The Flemish ship with the Scots on
board now sailed away, as there was some disagreement with the rest of
the party. They proceeded to Ireland, where their skipper joined them,
and they also committed robberies on the coast of Spain. Having captured
a ship with a cargo of wine they proceeded to that extreme south-west
corner of Ireland which, even in this twentieth century, is still a wild,
lonely spot and rarely visited by any craft excepting the British Navy,
an occasional cable-laying ship and sometimes a coaster or two. Berehaven
is a mighty fjord which goes out of Bantry Bay. On the one side rise
high, rocky hills; on the other lies the island of Bere. It is a safe,
clear anchorage and a wild, inaccessible spot.

Here the captured ship was taken and the wines sold. An arrangement was
made with the Lord O’Sullivan by which the pirates could rely on his
assistance. For Corbet with one ship, and a man named Lusingham, who
had charge of another ship, were prevented by O’Sullivan from falling
into the hands of Elizabeth’s ships that had been sent to capture them.
Lusingham, however, had been slain by “a piece of ordnance,” as he was
in the act of waving his cap towards the Queen’s ships at Berehaven, but
Corbet was yet alive. It was alleged that Heidon and Corbet had agreed
jointly to fit out the _John of Sandwich_, giving her all the necessary
guns with the hope of being able to capture a good ship wherewith to
provide Corbet. But whilst in the English Channel a storm had sprung up
and the ship had sprung a leak. They were therefore forced into Alderney,
where the vessel became a wreck, and Heidon, Corbet, Deigle, as well as
fourteen others, made their escape in a small pinnace.

It was discovered that Robert Hitchins had been all his life given to
piracy, so, after having been arrested in the Channel Isles, he was
executed at low-water mark near St. Martin’s Point, Guernsey, and there
his body was left in chains as a warning to others. The rest of the
prisoners were afterwards ordered by Elizabeth to be set free, “after
a good and sharp admonition to beware hereafter to fall again into the
damage of our laws.” They were bidden to return to their native places
and to get their living by honest labour. It is a proof that the Crown
really valued her seamen by an interesting proclamation that was made
in 1572 when there was a likeliness of war. The Queen went so far as
to promise pardon for all piracies hitherto committed by any mariners
who should now put their ships into her naval service, and we must not
forget that, at a later date, the first tidings of the Armada’s advent
were brought into Plymouth by a patriotic English pirate named Fleming.
“Fleming,” wrote John Smith, the great Elizabethan traveller and founder
of the English colony of Virginia, “was as expert and as much sought
for” as any other pirates of the Queen’s reign, “yet such a friend to
his Country, that discovering the Spanish Armado, he voluntarily came
to Plymouth, yeelded himselfe freely to my Lord Admirall, and gave him
notice of the Spaniards comming; which good warning came so happily and
unexpectedly, that he had his pardon, and a good reward.”

“As in all lands,” writes this delightful Elizabethan, “where there are
many people, there are some theeves, so in all seas much frequented,
there are some pirates; the most ancient within the memory of threescore
yeares was one Callis, who most refreshed himselfe upon the Coast of
Wales; Clinton and Pursser his companions, who grew famous, till Queene
Elizabeth of blessed memory, hanged them at Wapping.” Now this John
Callis or Calles, after his arrest, wrote a letter of repentance to
Walsyngham saying: “I bewail my former wicked life, and beseech God and
Her Majesty to forgive me. If she will spare my life and use me in her
service by sea, with those she can trust best, either to clear the coasts
of other wicked pirates or otherwise, as I know their haunts, roads,
creeks, and maintainers so well, I can do more therein than if she sent
ships abroad and spent £20,000.”

Thinking thereby to obtain pardon, Calles accordingly forwarded
particulars of his fellow pirates, their “maintainers and victuallers
of me and my companies.” This list contained the names and addresses of
the purchasers and receivers of goods which had been pillaged from two
Portuguese, one French, a Spanish and a Scotch ship, which Calles and a
Captain Sturges of Rochelle had pirated. If he were given his liberty,
this loquacious corsair further promised that he would also bring in a
Danish ship, which he had pirated. He promised also to warn Walsyngham to
take care that Sulivan Bere of Berehaven “does not practise any treason”
towards Her Majesty there, as he alleged that Sulivan had told Calles in
the former’s castle at Berehaven that James Fitzmorris and a number of
Frenchmen were determined to land there if they could obtain pilots to
guide them thither. The old pirate further alleged that they had tried
to persuade himself to join them and become their guide, promising him
“large gifts.” “But I would not join any rebel of Her Majesty,” he wrote
grandiloquently, “hoping her mercy in time to come.”

Last March, he went on, while he was riding at anchor at Torbay, he met a
Frenchman, commanded by Captain Molloner, who came aboard Calles’s ship
and sought information regarding the Irish coast and the best harbours.
Calles informed him the best were Cork and Kinsale. His inquirers then
asked whether Berehaven and Dingell were not good places where to land.
“They told me if I would go over with them to France, I need not fear the
Queen for any offence I had done.” The French King would pardon him for
anything Calles had done against His Majesty’s subjects, and would give
him 3000 crowns to become his subject and be sworn his man, as well as
a yearly fee during life. “I asked him why his master wanted to use me,
and he said his master shortly meant to do some service on the coast of
Ireland, and wanted pilots.” Calles protested that he had declined this
invitation, to which the other man was reported to have replied that he
would never have such a chance of preferment offered him in England. But
though this made a very fine yarn, the authorities were too well aware of
Calles’s past history to give it too much credence.

“The misery of a Pirate (although many are as sufficient Seamen as any)
yet in regard of his superfluity,” wrote the founder of Virginia, “you
shall finde it such, that any wise man would rather live amongst wilde
beasts than them: therefore let all unadvised persons take heed, how they
entertaine that quality: and I could wish Merchants, Gentlemen, and all
setters forth of ships, not to bee sparing of a competent pay, nor true
payment, for neither Souldiers nor Seamen can live without meanes, but
necessity will force them to steale: and when they are once entered into
that trade, they are hardly reclaimed.”

Poverty as well as the love of adventure and the lust for gain had
certainly to be reckoned among the incentives to this life. So steadily
had the evil grown that on 7th August 1579, Yorke complained to Lord
Burghley that the sea had never been so full of pirates, and a Plymouth
ship which had set out from St. Malo bound for Dartmouth had been robbed
and chased on to the rocks. None the less, the “persons of credit” who
had been appointed in every haven, creek or other landing-place round the
coast, in order to deal with the evil, were doing their best, and three
notable pirates had some time before been arrested and placed in York
Castle together with other pirates.

But the practice of piracy, as we have seen, was the peculiar failing
of no country exclusively, though in certain parts of the world and in
certain centuries pirates were more prevalent than elsewhere. The very
men who in the English Channel might have attained disgrace and wealth as
sea-robbers might, also, when he went into the Mediterranean, be himself
pillaged by those Barbarian corsairs of whom we spoke just now. Many an
exciting brush did the mariners of England encounter with these men, and
many were the sad tales which reached England of the cruelties of these
Moslem tyrants. An interesting account of such an adventure is related by
Master Roger Bodenham. The incident really happened seven years before
Elizabeth came to the throne, but it may not be out of place here to deal
with it.

After having set forth from Gravesend in the “great barke _Aucher_” bound
for the islands of Candia and Chio in the Levant, the ship arrived at
Messina in Sicily. But it was made known that a good many Moslem galleys
were in the Levant and the rest of the voyage would be more than risky.
The _Aucher’s_ crew got to know of this, so that Bodenham was not likely
to get farther on his way and deliver his cargo at Chio. “Then,” he
writes, “I had no small businesse to cause my mariners to venture with
the ship in such a manifest danger. Neverthelesse I wan them to goe with
me, except three which I set on land.” But these presently begged to
come aboard again and were taken, and the ship got under way. A Greek
pilot was taken on board, and when off Chio three Turkish pirates were
suddenly espied. These were giving chase to a number of small boats
which were sailing rigged with a lateen-sail. It happened that in one
of the latter was the son of the pilot, and at this Greek’s request
Bodenham steered towards the Turks and caused the _Aucher’s_ gunner to
fire a demi-culverin at the chaser that was just about to board one of
the boats. This was such a good shot that the Turk dropped astern.
Presently all the little boats came and begged that they might be allowed
to hang on to the _Aucher’s_ stern till daylight. After clearing from
Chio, Bodenham took his ship to Candia and Messina. But whilst on the way
thither and in the very waters where the battle of Lepanto was presently
to be fought, he found some of the Turkish galleots pirating some
Venetian ships laden with muscatels, and, good Samaritan that he was,
Bodenham succeeded in driving off the Moslem aggressors and rescuing the
merchantmen. “I rescued them,” he writes briefly, “and had but a barrell
of wine for my powder and shot.”



CHAPTER VIII

ELIZABETHAN SEAMEN AND TURKISH PIRATES


But a much more adventurous voyage was that of a ship called _The Three
Half Moones_, which, with a crew of thirty-eight men and well found
in arms—“the better to encounter their enemies withall”—set out from
Portsmouth in the year 1563.

In some ways the story reads like mere romance, but it has been so
thoroughly well-vouched for that there is not a particle of suspicion
connected with it. Having set forth bound for the south of Spain they
arrived near the Straits of Gibraltar, when they found themselves
surrounded by eight Turkish galleys. (It should be mentioned that the
Elizabethans used the word Turk somewhat loosely to mean Moslems.) It
was rapidly made clear that only two alternatives were possible. Flight
was out of the question, and either the _Aucher_ must fight to a finish
or she must be sunk. But being English and a gallant crew, they decided
to fight. Now, amongst those on board were the owner, the master, the
master’s mate, the boatswain, the purser and the gunner as officers.

When their desperate situation was realised, the owner exhorted his men
to behave valiantly, to be brave, and to bear a reverse with resignation.
Then, falling on their knees, they all commended themselves to God and
prepared for the fight. “Then stood up one Grove, the master, being
a comely man, with his sword and target, holding them up in defiance
against his enemies. So likewise stood up the Owner, the Master’s mate,
Boatswaine, Purser, and every man well appointed. Nowe likewise sounded
up the drums, trumpets and flutes, which would have encouraged any man,
had he never so litle heart or courage in him.” But next let us introduce
to the reader John Foxe, the ship’s gunner, a man of marvellous resource,
as we will see presently. Foxe saw that the guns were arranged to the
best effect and that the Turks were receiving a hot fire. But three times
as fast as the English shot came the infidel’s fire, and the fight raged
furiously with eight galleys to one big ship. The Turks advanced, and
then came the time for the English bowmen to let fly their arrows, which
fell thickly among the rowers. Simultaneously the English poured out from
their guns a hotter fire than ever, and the Turks fell like ninepins. But
meanwhile the _Aucher_ was receiving serious damage below her waterline,
and this the Turks seeing, the infidels endeavoured now to board the
ship. As they leapt on board many of them fell never again to rise, the
others engaging in a tremendous conflict on the _Aucher’s_ deck. “For
the Englishmen,” writes the narrator in fine, robustous Elizabethan
language, “shewed themselves men in deed, in working manfully with their
browne bills and halbardes: where the owner, master, boateswaine, and
their company stoode to it lustily, that the Turkes were halfe dismaied.
But chiefly the boateswaine shewed himself valiant above the rest: for
he fared amongst the Turkes like a wood Lion: for there was none of them
that either could or durst stand in his face, till at the last there came
a shot from the Turkes, which brake his whistle asunder, and smote him
on the brest, so that he fell downe, bidding them farewell, and to be of
good comfort, encouraging them likewise to winne praise by death, rather
than to live captives in misery and shame.”

[Illustration: GALLANTRY AGAINST ODDS

The Englishmen showed themselves men indeed against the Moors, especially
the boatswain, who was brought down by a bullet in his chest. But
overcome by numbers the brave crew were overwhelmed, and the survivors
condemned to the oars.]

Such was the fine gallantry of these brave men, but they were fighting
against heavy odds. The Turks pressed them sorely, and not one of the
company but behaved as a man, except the master’s mate “who shrunke from
the skirmish, like a notable coward, esteeming neither the valure of his
name, nor accounting of the present example of his fellowes, nor having
respect to the miseries, whereunto he should be put.” The rest of the
crew covered themselves with glory, but at length it was of no avail,
for the Turks won the day. Then, in accordance with the historic custom
of the sea, the crew of the _Aucher_ were placed in the galleys, set to
row at the oars “and they were no sooner in them, but their garments were
pulled over their eares, and torne from their backes,” for the galley
slave was always condemned to row stark naked.

At length the galleys reached their stronghold at the port of Alexandria,
which was well protected in those days by means of fortifications. The
reader will recollect that it was stated some time back that the sailing
season was confined only to the late spring and summer, and that in
the winter the ships were laid up. The close time now approaching, the
Christian prisoners were brought ashore at Alexandria and cast into
prison until the time came round again for the season of piracy. At this
port, says the Elizabethan chronicler, “the Turkes doe customably bring
their gallies on shoare every yeere, in the winter season, and there doe
trimme them, and lay them up against the spring time. In which road there
is a prison, wherein the captives and such prisoners as serve in the
gallies, are put for all that time, untill the seas be calme and passable
for the gallies, every prisoner being most grievously laden with irons on
their legges, to their great paine.”

So the voyage of the _Aucher_ had come to a tragic ending. But after a
time the news of this incident evidently reached England, for both the
master and the owner were ransomed by their friends from their prison.
The rest had to bear their ill-treatment and semi-starvation as best they
would. But he who bore it all with wonderful endurance was the gunner
John Foxe and “being somewhat skilfull in the craft of a Barbour, by
reason thereof made great shift in helping his fare now and then with a
good meale.” In the course of time the keeper of the prison became rather
fond of him and allowed him special privileges, so that he could walk as
far as the sea and back when he liked, but he was warned always to return
by night, and he was never allowed to go about without his shackles
on his legs. Later on, six more of the prisoners were allowed a like
privilege.

The life sped wearily on, and now, for fourteen sorry years, this durance
vile had continued. It was the year 1577, and the winter season had come
round again and the galleys drawn up the beach. The masts and sails
thereof were brought ashore and properly housed till once more the spring
should return, and the Turkish masters and mariners were now “nested in
their own homes,” as the narrative quaintly words it. The galley-slaves
had again resumed their long bondage ashore, and now there were no fewer
than 268 wretched Christians there, languishing in captivity, having been
captured from sixteen different nations. It was then that John Foxe,
man of resource that he was, resolved that escape must be made and his
fellow-prisoners also released. If you consider such a project as the
release of nearly 300 prisoners from the hands of these Turkish pirates,
the idea seems entirely impracticable and utterly visionary.

To John Foxe, however, it seemed otherwise, and this is how he set to
work. After pondering over a method for a very long time and saying many
prayers that his scheme might be successful, he betook himself to a
fellow-prisoner—a Spanish Christian—named Peter Unticaro, who had been in
captivity no less than thirty years. This man was lodged in “a certaine
victualling house” near the roadstead. He had never attempted escape
during all those years, so was treated with less suspicion and trusted.
Foxe and Unticaro had often discussed their bondage, however, and at last
the Englishman took the risk of making him his confidant, and also one
other fellow-prisoner. These three men put their heads together, and Foxe
unfolded a method of escape. Their chances of meeting were but few and
short, but at the end of seven weeks they had been able to agree on a
definite plan. Five more prisoners were now taken into their confidence
whom they thought they could safely trust.

The last day of the old year came round, and these eight men agreed to
meet in the prison and inform the rest of the prisoners of the plan.
On the 31st of December, then, this was done. It needed but little
persuasion to cause these two hundred odd to join in the scheme, and
Foxe having “delivered unto them a sort of files, which he had gathered
together for this purpose, by the meanes of Peter Unticaro,” admonished
them to be ready at eight o’clock the next night with their fetters filed
through. So on the next day Foxe, with his six companions, resorted to
the house of Peter Unticaro. In order to prevent any suspicions of a
dark deed, they spent the time in mirth till the night came on and the
hour of eight drew nigh. Foxe then sent Unticaro to the keeper of the
road, pretending that he had been sent by one of the Turkish officials,
ordering him to come at once. The keeper promptly came, and before doing
so, told the warders not to bar the gate as he should not be long away.

In the meantime the other seven prisoners had been able to arm themselves
with the best weapons they could find in the house of the Spaniard, and
John Foxe was able to lay his hands on a rusty old sword blade “without
either hilt or pomell,” but he managed to make it effective. By now the
keeper had arrived, but as soon as he came to the house and saw it silent
and in darkness he began to be suspicious. John Foxe was ready for him,
and before the keeper had retraced his steps more than a few yards, the
Englishman sprang out, and, calling him a villain and “a bloodsucker
of many a Christian’s blood, lift up his bright shining sword of tenne
yeeres rust” and killed him on the spot. They then marched quietly in
the direction of the warders of the road and quickly dispatched these
six officials. Foxe then barred the gate and put a cannon against it to
prevent pursuit. So far all had worked with remarkable smoothness. They
next proceeded to the gaoler’s lodge, where they found the keys of the
fortress and prison by his bedside. They also found some better weapons
than the arms they were using. But there was also a chest full of ducats.
To three of the party this wonderful sight proved irresistible. Foxe
would not have anything to do with the money for “that it was his and
their libertie which he sought for, to the honour of his God, and not to
make a marte of the wicked treasure of the Infidels.” But Unticaro and
two others helped themselves liberally, and concealed the money between
their skin and their shirt.

These eight men, armed with the keys, now came to the prison, whose doors
they opened. The captives were ready and waiting. Foxe called on them to
do their share, and the whole band—between two and three hundred—poured
forth. To each section did Foxe bestow some duty. The eight prison
warders were put to death, but some of the prisoners Foxe had wisely sent
down to the water, where they got ready for sea the best galley, called
the _Captain of Alexandria_. Whilst some were getting her launched,
others were rushing about bringing her masts and sails and oars and the
rest of her inventory from the winter quarters. The whole place was
seething with suppressed excitement. Meanwhile there was a warm contest
going on at the prison before all the warders were slain. The latter had
fled to the top of the prison, and Foxe with his companions went after
them with ladders. Blood and slaughter were all round them. Three times
was Foxe shot, but by a miracle the shot only passed through his clothing
on each occasion. But, as if by way of punishment for their greed,
Unticaro and his two companions who had taken the ducats were killed
outright, being “not able to weild themselves, being so pestered with the
weight and uneasie carrying of the wicked and prophane treasure.”

In this conflict one of the Turks was run through with a sword and,
not yet dead, fell from the top of the prison wall to the ground. Such
a noise did he then begin to make that the alarm was raised, and the
authorities were amazed to find the Christian prisoners were “paying
their ransoms” by dealing death to their late masters. Alexandria was
now roused, and both a certain castle as well as a strong fortress were
bestirring themselves to action. It seemed as if the prisoners, after
all their years of suffering, after having brought about so gallant an
escape, were now to fail just as victory was well in sight. It was
a saddening thought. But there was one road of escape and one only.
Whilst some of the prisoners were still running down to the sea carrying
munitions, some additional oars, victuals and whatever else were required
for the galleys, others were getting ready for pushing off. The last of
the Christians leapt aboard, the final touch was given to the gear, and
up went the yards and the sails were unloosed. There was a good breeze
and this, the swiftest and best of all Alexandria’s ships, was speeding
on at a good pace. But ashore the Turks have already got to their guns,
and the roar of cannon is heard from both the castle and fortress. The
sea is splashing everywhere with Turkish ball and the smoke is swept by
the breeze off the shore. Five and forty times did these guns fire and
never once did a shot so much as graze the galley, although she could see
the splashes all around her.

On and still on sailed this long, lean galley, increasing her speed all
the time, till at length, by God’s mercy, she, with her long-suffering
crew, who by years of involuntary training had learnt to handle her to
perfection, were at last out of range of any Turkish cannon. In the
distance they could see their late masters coming down to the beach “like
unto a swarme of bees,” and bustling about in a futile endeavour to
get their other galleys ready for the sea. But it was of little avail.
The Christians had long been preparing for flight in the _Captain_, so
the Turks found it took an unbearable time in seeing out the oars and
masts, and cables and everything else necessary to a galley’s inventory
lying hidden away in winter quarters. They had never suspected such a
well-planned escape as this. Nothing was ready; all was confusion. And
even when the galleys were at last launched and rigged, the weather was
so boisterous, there was such a strong wind that no man cared about
taking charge of these fine-weather craft just at that time.

So the escaping galley got right away, and then, as soon as they were
a safe distance away, Foxe summoned his men to do what Nelson was to
perform less than three centuries later at almost this very spot. You
remember how, after the glorious battle of the Nile, when the British
fleet had obtained such a grand victory over the French, Nelson sent
orders through the fleet to return thanksgiving to Almighty God for the
result of the battle. All work was stopped, and men who had spent the
whole night risking death and fighting for their lives, dishevelled and
dirty with sweat and grime, now stood bareheaded and rendered their
thanks. So it was now on the galley _Captain_. Foxe “called to them all,
willing them to be thankfull unto Almighty God for their deliverie, and
most humbly to fall downe upon their knees, beseeching Him to aide them
unto their friends’ land, and not to bring them into an other daunger,
sith Hee had most mightily delivered them from so great a thraldome and
bondage.” It must have been a momentous occasion. Men who, after being
prisoners for thirty years and less, men who had just come through a
night of wild excitement, men who had fought with their arms and sweated
hard to get their galley ready for sea, men who even at the last minute
had barely escaped being blown into eternity by the Turkish cannon, now
halted in their work and made their thanksgiving, whilst most of them
hardly could realise that at length they were free men and the time of
their tribulation was at an end.

And then they resumed their rowing, and instead of working till they
dropped for faintness, each man helped his neighbour when weariness was
stealing over the oarsmen. Never did a more united ship’s company put to
sea. One object alone did they all possess—to come to some Christian
land with the least possible delay. They had no charts, but Foxe and his
English fellow-seamen knew something about astronomy, and by studying the
stars in the heavens they roughly guessed the direction in which they
ought to steer.

With such haphazard navigation, however, they soon lost their position
when variable winds sprang up. Those light-draught ships made a good deal
of leeway, and as the wind had been from so many points of the compass
“they were now in a new maze.” But troubles do not come singly: they were
further troubled by their victuals giving out, so that it seemed as if
they had escaped from one form of punishment only to fall into a worse
kind of hardship. As many as eight died of starvation, but at last, on
the twenty-ninth day after leaving Alexandria, the others picked up the
land again and found it was the island of Candia. Their distance made
good had thus been about 350 miles north-west, which works out at about
twelve miles a day. But though this is ridiculously small it must be
borne in mind that their courses were many and devious, that to row for
twenty-nine consecutive days was a terrible trial for human endurance,
and latterly they were rowing with empty stomachs. They came at length
to Gallipoli in Candia and landed. Here the good abbot and monks of the
Convent of Amerciates received them with welcome and treated them with
every Christian hospitality. They refreshed these poor voyagers and
attended to their wants until well enough to resume their travels. Two
hundred and fifty-eight had survived, and good nourishment, with kindly
treatment on land, restored their health and vigour.

We need not attempt to suggest the warmth of the welcome which these poor
prisoners received and the congratulations which were showered upon
them in having escaped from the hands of the Turks. It was in itself a
remarkable achievement that so many had come out alive. As a token and
remembrance of this miraculous escape Foxe left behind as a present to
the monks the sword with which the Englishman had slain the keeper of
the prison. Esteeming it a precious jewel it remained hanging up in a
place of honour in the monastery. When the time came for the _Captain_
to get under way again, she coasted till she arrived at Tarento (in the
heel of Italy) and so concluded their voyage. They were once again in a
Christian land and away from their oppressors. The galley they sold at
this port and immediately started to walk on foot to Naples. Yes, they
had escaped, but by how little may be gathered from the fact that the
Christians having started their long walk in the morning, there arrived
that self-same night seven Turkish galleys. But the latter were too late:
their captives were now inland.

Having reached Naples without further adventure, the Christians separated
and, according to his nationality, made for their distant homes. But
Foxe proceeded first to Rome, arriving there one Easter Eve, where he
was well entertained by an Englishman who brought the news of this
wonderful escape to the notice of the Pope. Foxe was without any means
of livelihood, and it was a long way to walk to the English Channel,
so he determined to try his luck in Spain. The Pope treated the poor
man with every consideration, and sent him on his journey with a letter
to the King of Spain. “We, in his behalf, do in the bowels of Christ
desire you,” wrote His Holiness, “that, taking compassion of his former
captivity and present penury, you do not only suffer him freely to
pass throughout your cities and towns, but also succour him with your
charitable alms, the reward whereof you shall hereafter most assuredly
receive.”

Leaving Rome in April 1577, Foxe arrived in Spain apparently the
following August. The Spanish king appointed him to the office of gunner
in the royal galleys at a salary of eight ducats a month. Here he
remained for about two years, and then, feeling homesick, returned to
England in 1579. “Who being come into England,” as we read in Hakluyt,
“went unto the Court, and shewed all his travell unto the Councell: who,
considering of the state of this man, in that hee had spent and lost a
great part of his youth in thraldome and bondage, extended to him their
liberalitie, to helpe to maintaine him now in age, to their right honour,
and to the incouragement of all true heartied Christians.”

Such, then, was the happy ending to Foxe’s travels sixteen years after
his ship had set forth from Portsmouth. He had shown himself not merely
to be a man of exceptional physical endurance, but a man of considerable
resource and a born leader of men in times of crisis and despair We may
well relish the memory of such a fine character.



CHAPTER IX

THE STUART NAVY GOES FORTH AGAINST THE “PYRATS”


After the death of Queen Elizabeth and the respite from the Anglo-Spanish
naval fighting there was little employment for those hundreds of our
countrymen who had taken to the sea during the time of Drake. Fighting
the Spaniards or lying in wait for treasure ships bound from the West
Indies to Cadiz was just the life that appealed to them. But now that
these hostilities had passed, they felt that their means of livelihood
were gone. After the exciting sea life with Drake and others, after
the prolonged Armada-fighting, it would be too tame for them to settle
down to life ashore. Fishing was not very profitable, and there was not
sufficient demand for all the men to ship on board merchant ships.

So numbers of these English seamen unfortunately took to piracy. Some of
them, it would be more truthful to say, _resumed_ piracy and found their
occupation haunting the English Channel, the Scillies being a notorious
nest for pirates. Notwithstanding the number of these robbers of the sea
who were always on the look out, yet, says our friend Smith of Virginia,
“it is incredible how many great and rich prizes the little barques of
the West Country daily brought home, in regard of their small charge.”

But the strenuous measures which were being now taken in the narrow
seas by the North European governments made piracy in this district
less remunerative than hitherto. In the Mediterranean these unemployed
seamen knew that piracy was a much better paid industry. They knew that
the Moors would be glad to avail themselves of the services of such
experienced seamen, so they betook themselves to Barbary. At first, be it
remembered, these Englishmen had established themselves as North African
pirates “on their own” without any connection with the Moors. Smith
mentions that Ward, “a poore English sailor,” and Dansker, a Dutchman,
here began some time before the Moors scarcely knew how to sail a ship.
An Englishman named Easton made such a profit that he became, says Smith,
a “Marquesse in Savoy,” and Ward “lived like a Bashaw in Barbary.” From
these men the Moors learnt how to become good sea-fighters. Besides
Englishmen there came also French and Dutch adventurers to join them,
attracted by this mode of life, but very few Spaniards or Italians ever
joined their throng. After a time, however, disagreements arose and the
inevitable dissensions followed.

They then became so split up and disunited that the Moors and Turks began
to obtain the upper hand over them and to compel them to be their slaves.
Furthermore, they made these expert European sailors teach themselves
how to become distinguished in the nautical arts. This “many an accursed
runnagado, or Christian turned Turke, did, till they have made those
Sally men, or Moores of Barbary, so powerfull as they be, to the terror
of all the Straights.” Other English pirates hovered about off the Irish
coasts, and three men, named respectively Gennings, Harris and Thompson,
in addition to some others, were captured and hanged at Wapping. A number
of others were captured and pardoned by James I.

A contemporary account of rowing in a Barbarian galley in the time of
Elizabeth has been preserved to us, written by one Thomas Sanders. “I and
sixe more of my fellowes,” he writes, “together with fourescore Italians
and Spaniards were sent foorth in a Galeot to take a Greekish Carmosell,
which came into Africa to steale Negroes, and went out of Tripolis unto
that place, which was two hundred and fourtie leagues thence, but wee
were chained three and three to an oare, and wee rowed naked above the
girdle, and the Boteswaine of the Galley walked abaft the maste, and his
Mate afore the maste ... and when their develish choller rose, they would
strike the Christians for no cause. And they allowed us but halfe a pound
of bread a man in a day without any other kinde of sustenance, water
excepted ... we were then also cruelly manackled in such sort, that we
could not put our hands the length of one foote asunder the one from the
other, and every night they searched our chaines three times, to see if
they were fast riveted.”

And the same man related the unhappy experience of a Venetian and
seventeen captives who, after enduring slavery for some time at the hands
of the Sultan of Tripoli, succeeded in getting a boat and got right away
to sea. Away they sped to the northward, and at length they sighted
Malta. Their hopes ran high: their confidence was now undoubted. On they
came, nearer and nearer to the land, and now they were within only a mile
of the shore. It was beautifully fine weather, and one of them remarked,
“_In dispetto de Dio adesso venio a pittiar terra_”—“In the despite of
God I shall now fetch the shoare.” But the man had spoken with an excess
of confidence. For presently a violent storm sprang up, so that they
were forced to up-helm and to run right before the gale, which was now
blowing right on to the Tripolitan coast. Arrived off there they were
heart-broken to find that they were compelled to row up and down the
very coastline which they had imagined they had escaped from. For three
weeks they held out as best they could, but the weather being absolutely
against them, and their slender victuals being at length exhausted, they
were compelled to come ashore, hoping to be able to steal some sheep. The
Barbarian Moores, however, were on the watch and knew that these unlucky
men would be bound to land for supplies. Therefore a band of sixty
horsemen were dispatched who secreted themselves behind a sandhill near
the sea. There they waited till the Christians had got well inland a good
half mile. Then, by a smart movement, the horsemen cut off all retreat
to the sea, whilst others pursued the starving voyagers and soon came
back with them. They were brought back to the place whence they had so
recently escaped. The Sultan ordered that the fugitives should, some of
them, have their ears cut off, whilst others were most cruelly thrashed.

[Illustration: BLIGHTED HOPES

The seamen had escaped from Tripoli and were within sight of Malta when a
violent storm drove them back to the Moorish coast. Compelled by hunger
to land, they were cut off by a party of horsemen, and again thrown into
captivity to be most barbarously treated.]

The enterprising voyages of the English ships to the Levant in the
sixteenth century had been grievously interfered with by the Algerine
galleys roving about the Mediterranean, especially in proximity to the
Straits of Gibraltar. They would set out from England with goods to
deliver and then return with Mediterranean fruits and other commodities.
But so often were these valuable ships and cargoes captured by the
hateful infidels that the English merchants who had dispatched the
goods became seriously at a loss and were compelled to invoke the aid
of Elizabeth, who endeavoured, by means of diplomacy, to obtain the
release of these ships and to prevent such awkward incidents recurring.
To give the names of a few such ships, and to indicate the loss in regard
to ships’ freights and of men held captive in slavery we have only to
mention the following: The _Salomon_ of Plymouth had been captured with
a load of salt and a crew of thirty-six men. The _Elizabeth_ of Guernsey
was seized with ten Englishmen and a number of Bretons, her value being
2000 florins. The _Maria Martin_, under the command of Thomas More, with
a crew of thirty-five, had been taken while returning from Patrasso in
Morea. Her value was 1400 florins. The _Elizabeth Stokes_ of London,
under the command of David Fillie of London, whilst bound for Patrasso,
had been also captured, but her value was 20,000 or 30,000 florins. The
_Nicolas_ of London, under the command of Thomas Foster, had also been
seized, at a loss of about 5000 florins. So also in like manner could be
mentioned the _Judith_ of London, the _Jesus_ of London, the _Swallow_ of
London.

But England, of course, was not the only country which suffered by these
piratical acts. In 1617 France was moved to take serious action, and
sent a fleet of fifty ships against these Barbarian corsairs. Off St.
Tropez they captured one of these roving craft, and later on met another
which was captured by a French renegado of Rochelle. The latter defended
himself fiercely for some time, but at length, seeing that the day was
going against him, he sunk his ship and was drowned, together with the
whole of his crew, rather than be captured by the Christians. And from
now onwards, right up to the nineteenth century, there were at different
dates successive expeditions sent against these rovers by the chief
European powers.

Many of these expeditions were of little value, some were practically
useless, while others did only ephemeral good. Thus, you will remember,
the only active service which the navy of our James I. ever saw was
in 1620, when it was sent against the pirates of Algiers. But they
had become so successful and so daring that they were not easily to
be tackled. Not content now with roving over the Mediterranean, not
satisfied with those occasional voyages out through the Gibraltar Straits
into the Atlantic, they now, if you please, had the temerity to cross
the Bay of Biscay and to cruise about the approaches of the English
Channel. These Algerine pirates actually sailed as far north as the south
of Ireland, where they acted just as they had for generations along
the Mediterranean: that is to say, they landed on the Munster shore,
committed frightful atrocities and carried away men, women and children
into the harsh slavery which was so brutally enforced in their Barbarian
territory. What good did the Jacobean expedition which we sent out, you
may naturally ask? The answer may be given in the fewest words. Although
the fleet contained six of our royal ships and a dozen merchantmen, yet
it returned home with no practical benefit, the whole affair having been
a hopeless muddle.

In 1655, Blake, the great admiral of Cromwell’s time, was sent to tackle
these pirate pests. It was a big job, but there was no one at that time
better suited for an occasion that required determination. Tunis was a
very plague-spot by its piratical colony and its captives made slaves.
It had to be humbled to the dust, and Blake, with all the austerity
and thoroughness of a Puritan officer, was resolved to do his duty to
Christendom. But Tunis was invulnerable, so it was a most difficult
undertaking. He spent the early spring of this year cruising about the
neighbourhood, biding his time and being put to great inconvenience
by foul winds and tempestuous weather. He found that these Tunis
pirates were obstinate and wilful: they were unprepared to listen to
any reason. Intractable and insolent, it was impossible to treat with
them: force was the only word to which they could be made to hearken.
“These barbarous provocations,” wrote Blake in giving an account of his
activities here, “did so far work upon our spirits that we judged it
necessary, for the honour of the fleet, our nation and religion, seeing
they would not deal with us as friends, to make them feel us as enemies”;
and it was thereupon resolved, at a council of war, to endeavour the
firing their ships in Porto Farina.

Tunis, itself, being invulnerable, Blake entered the neighbouring
harbour, this Porto Farina, very early in the morning. The singular thing
was that he was favoured with amazingly good luck—a fair wind in and a
fair wind out. But let me tell the story in the Admiral’s own words:
“Accordingly, the next morning very early, we entered with the fleet into
the harbour, and anchored before their castles, the Lord being pleased
to favour us with a gentle gale off the sea, which cast all the smoke
upon them, and made our work the more easy. After some hours’ dispute we
set on fire all their ships, which were in number nine; and, the same
favourable gale still continuing, we retreated out again into the road.
We had twenty-five men slain, and about forty besides hurt, with very
little other loss. It was also remarkable by us that, shortly after our
getting forth, the wind and weather changed, and continued very stormy
for many days, so that we could not have effected the business, had not
the Lord afforded that nick of time in which it was done.”

But these attacks by the powers were regarded by the pirates as mere
pin-pricks. For it was nothing to them that even all their galleys
should be burnt. Such craft were easily built again, and there was an
overwhelming amount of slave-labour and plenty of captive seamen to rig
these ships as soon as finished. So the evil continued and the epidemic
spread as before. In 1658, these Barbarian corsairs attacked a ship
called the _Diamond_, homeward bound from Lisbon to Venice. She was laden
with a valuable cargo, and her captain saw that he would not be able to
defend his ship against three galleys, so, rather than let her fall into
piratical hands, he determined to destroy her. He placed an adequate
quantity of powder, and then laying a match to the same, he jumped into
his long-boat, from which presently he had the pleasure of seeing his
enemies blown into space by the terrific explosion just as these infidels
were in the act of boarding the _Diamond_.

Ten years later Sir Thomas Allen was sent during the summer with a
squadron once more to repress Algerine piracy. He arrived before Algiers,
and was so successful that he compelled the release of all the English
captives which had been accumulating there. Indeed, it is amazing to
count up so many of these expeditions from England alone. Thus, in
the early spring of 1671, we find Sir Edward Spragge sent out to the
Mediterranean for the same purpose. The following account is condensed
from his own dispatch and is of no ordinary interest. On the 20th of
April, Spragge was cruising in his flagship the _Revenge_, about fifteen
or twenty miles off Algiers, when he met his other ships, the _Mary_,
_Hampshire_, _Portsmouth_ and the _Advice_, which were all frigates.
These informed him that several Algerine war-craft were at Bougie. He
called a council of war, at which it was agreed that Spragge should make
the best of his way there with the _Mary_, the _Portsmouth_ pink and his
fireships, and he should endeavour to destroy these corsairs in their
own lair. The _Hampshire_ and the _Portsmouth_ were left to cruise off
Algiers till further orders should reach them.

The wind was now easterly, and one of his ships, named the _Dragon_, had
been gone five days, as she was busy chasing a couple of Algerine corsair
craft: but as the wind for some days had been from the south-west,
Spragge was in hopes that the chase would have carried the ships to the
eastward and thus force the Algerines into Bougie. And so, on the 23rd
of April, the _Dragon_ returned to Spragge, having been engaged for two
days in fighting the two Algerine craft. Unfortunately her commander,
Captain Herbert (whom the reader will remember by his later title when
he became the Earl of Torrington), had been shot in the face by a musket
shot, and nine of his men had also been wounded with small shot. The wind
continued easterly until 28th April, but at eight o’clock that night it
flew round to south-west and the weather became very gusty and rainy.
This caused Spragge’s _Little Eagle_ fireship to become disabled, and
she was dismasted by the wind. But, on the last day of April, Spragge
got her fitted with masts again and re-rigged, for luckily he had with
him a corn ship captured from the corsairs, and her spars, together with
some topmasts and other spars, caused the fireship to be ready again
for service. Unfortunately the same bad weather caused the _Warwick_
to spring her mast—an accident that frequently befell the ships of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—so she “bore away to the Christian
shore: my Brigantine at the same time bore away, and as yet I have no
news of her.”

The same day this admiral arrived in Bougie Bay, but here again he had
bad luck. Just as he was within half a shot of the enemy’s castles and
forts the wind dropped and it fell a flat calm. Then the breeze sprang
up, but it blew off shore. So the time passed. On the 2nd of May the
winds were still very fluky, and after twice in vain attempting to do
anything with these varied puffs, Spragge resolved to attack by night
with his ships’ boats and his smallest fireship. The water close to the
forts was very shallow, and the English fireship could be rowed almost
as well as a ship’s long-boat. So about midnight he dispatched all the
boats he could, as well as the _Eagle_ fireship, under the command of “my
eldest Lieutenant, Master Nugent.” It was a dark night, and the high land
was very useful for its obscuring effects.

Nugent, leaving one of the long-boats with the fireship, in addition to
the fireship’s own boat, now rowed off to reconnoitre the enemy, having
first given the fireship’s captain orders to continue approaching until
he should find himself in shoal water: he was then immediately to anchor.
Nugent had then rowed off and had scarcely left the fireship one minute
when, after proceeding but a little way over the leaden waters, he found
himself quite close to where the English squadron was anchored. He had
thus lost his bearings in the dark and at once steered off again to find
the fireship, when, to his great amazement, he suddenly saw the latter
burst out into a sheet of flame. That, of course, was another piece
of ill-luck, for it entirely upset all the carefully laid plans and
instantly alarmed the enemy. It would have been useless to have attempted
a boat attack that night, so the effort was postponed. What had happened
was this: the little fireship had been all ready when, by an accident,
the gunner had fired off his pistol. This had caused the ignition, and
so the ship had been lost without any good being done. It was a thousand
pities as, owing to her shallow draught, she had been relied upon for
getting right close in.

With this warning the enemy the next day unrigged their ships, which lay
in their harbour, then gathered together all the yards, the topmasts and
spars generally off these ships, together with their cables. All this
they made into a boom, which was buoyed up by means of casks. Spragge
and his fleet watched this being done, for there was no wind, or, as he
expressed it, we had “no opportunity of wind to do anything upon them.”
On the 8th of May they noticed that the corsairs ashore were reinforced
by the arrival of horse-as well as foot-soldiers, which the Englishmen
suspected rightly had come from Algiers. The Bougie corsairs greeted this
arrival with wild cheering and by firing of the guns in their ships and
castles, as well as by the display of colours.

About noon, just as Spragge was anxious to reopen operations, he was
harassed by a flat calm. Luckily, however, at 2 p.m. a nice breeze
sprang up, and the _Revenge_, _Dragon_, _Advice_ and _Mary_ advanced and
let go in 3½ fathoms nearer in, mooring stem and stern so that their
broadsides might face Bougie’s fortifications. The position was roughly
thus. Looking towards Bougie, Spragge’s six ships were moored roughly in
a half-circle in the following order from left to right. First came the
_Portsmouth_, then the _Garland_, the _Dragon_, the _Mary_, the _Advice_
and finally the _Revenge_ flagship. These were all, so to speak, in the
foreground of the picture. In the background were the enemy’s ships on
the left, whilst on the right were the castles and fortifications. In
the middle distance on the left was the boom defence already noted. The
_Revenge_ was in 4 fathoms, being close up to the castles and walls, and
the fight began. For two hours these ships bombarded Bougie’s ships and
fortresses.

Spragge then decided to make a boat attack, his ships still remaining at
anchor. He therefore sent away his pinnace, under the command of a man
named Harman, “a Reformado seaman of mine.” A “reformado,” by the way,
was a volunteer serving with the fleet without a commission yet with the
rank of an officer. Harman was sent because Spragge’s second lieutenant
had been hurt by a splinter in the leg. Lieutenant Pin was sent in
command of the _Mary’s_ boat, and Lieutenant Pierce had charge of the
_Dragon’s_ boat. The project was to cut the boom, and this was bravely
done by these three boats, though not without some casualties. Eight of
the _Mary’s_ boat’s crew and her lieutenant were wounded with small shot.
In the Admiral’s pinnace seven were killed outright, and all the rest
were wounded excepting Harman. Of the _Dragon’s_ boat’s crew ten were
wounded as well as her lieutenant, and one was killed.

But the boom had been cut, and that was the essential point. That being
done, the Admiral then signalled to his one remaining fireship, the
little _Victory_, to do her work. She obeyed and got in so well through
the boom that she brought up athwart the enemy’s “bolt-sprits, their
ships being aground and fast to the castles.” The _Victory_ burnt very
well indeed, and destroyed all the enemy’s shipping, ten in all. Of these
ten, seven were the best ships of the Algerine fleet, and of the three
others one was a Genoese prize and the other had been a ship the pirates
had captured from an English crew. The commander, the master’s mate,
the gunner and one seaman of the fireship had been wounded badly in the
fight, but the victory was complete and undoubted. On the 10th of May a
Dutchman who had been captive with the corsairs for three years escaped
by swimming off to the _Revenge_, and Spragge had him taken on board.
The Dutchman informed the English Admiral that the enemy admitted that
at least 360 Turkish soldiers had lost their lives in this engagement by
fire and gunshot, as they could not get ashore from the ships. There were
in all about 1900 men in addition to those 300 who came that morning
from Algiers. The Dutchman, for himself, thought the losses far exceeded
the number assessed by the enemy.

He stated that the castles and the town itself had been badly damaged,
and as all their medicine-chests were on the ships and so burnt, it was
impossible for the enemy to dress the wounds of their injured. “Old
Treky, their Admiral, is likewise wounded,” wrote Spragge. Among the
enemy’s killed was Dansker, a renegado, and our losses consisted only of
17 killed and 41 wounded.



CHAPTER X

THE GOOD SHIP _EXCHANGE_ OF BRISTOL


A satirical English gentleman who lived in the reign of Charles II. and
described himself as formerly “a servant in England’s Navie,” published
a pamphlet in 1648 in which he complained bitterly of the inability of
“the present Government,” even in spite of the expense of vast quantities
of money, “to clear England’s seas of Ireland’s Pyrates.” The latter
belonged at this time especially to Waterford and Wexford. A large
amount of money, he bewailed, had been and was still being spent “to
reduce half a dozen inconsiderable Pyrates,” but yet the “pyrates are
not reduced, neither are the seas guarded.” One of these “pyrates” had
in February 1647 in one day taken three small ships and one pinnace of a
total value of £9000. One of these ships, whilst defending herself, had
lost her master and one of her mates, as well as five mariners, besides
other members of her crew wounded. And this author of _A Cordiall for
the Calenture_ asks if the present Government, with such an expenditure,
cannot reduce half a dozen pirates, “how will England’s Commonwealth be
wasted if the French, the Danes, the Dutch, or all of them shall infest
England’s Seas.”

Well, we know now that in time England’s navy did actually defeat each of
these—the Dutch, French and Danes. And although the pirates were a real
and lasting trouble, both in the narrow seas and in the Mediterranean,
yet, as the reader has now seen, it was no easy matter to crush them
more than for a short period. In 1675 we find Sir John Narborough with a
squadron sent to chastise the pirates of Tripoli which were interrupting
our overseas trade. At dead of night he arrived before Tripoli, manned
his ships’ boats and sent them into the port under his lieutenant, Mr.
Cloudesly Shovell, who in later times was to achieve such naval fame.
The latter in the present instance seized the enemy’s guard-boat,
and so was able to get right in undiscovered. He then surprised four
Tripolitan ships, which were all that happened to be in port, and having
burnt these, he returned to Narborough’s squadron, having successfully
accomplished that which he was sent to perform without the loss of a man.

France, too, at this time having risen to the status of a great naval
power, was performing her share in putting down this perpetual nuisance.
In 1681, as the Barbarian corsairs had for some time interrupted the
French trade across the Mediterranean, Du Quesne was sent with a fleet
against them. He was able to destroy eight galleys in the Port of Scio in
the Archipelago, and threw in so many bombs that at length he subjected
the corsairs to terms. Finally, in 1684, he had obtained from them all
the French captives and had caused the pirates to pay 500,000 crowns for
the prizes they had taken. And in 1682 Admiral Herbert had again been
sent out by England against the Algerine pirates.

And now, before we leave this period, I want to put before the reader
the interesting story which centres round the Bristol ship named the
_Exchange_, which was so happily rescued from the Algerine pirates.

The story begins on the 1st of November 1621, when two ships were sent
on their voyage from Plymouth. The larger of these was the _George
Bonaventure_, about 70 tons burthen. The smaller of the two was the
_Nicholas_, of 40 tons burthen, and her skipper’s name was John Rawlins,
of whom we shall have much to say. These two vessels, after being
freighted by Plymouth merchants, proceeded down Channel, past Ushant and,
after a fair passage, found themselves across the Bay, round the Spanish
coast and off Trafalgar by the 18th of November. But the next morning,
just as they were getting into the Straits of Gibraltar, the watch
descried five ships under sail coming towards them as fast as they could.

In a moment the English ships rightly guessed these were pirate craft,
and immediately began to escape. But in spite of all their efforts, the
pirates came the more quickly. There were five of them in all, and the
first came right to windward of the English craft, the second came “up on
our luff,” and presently the remainder also came along. Their Admiral was
one Callfater, whose ship was described as “having upon her main topsail
two topgallant sails, one above another.” For of these five ships two
were prizes, one being a small London ship, and the other a west-country
ship which, homeward bound with a cargo of figs and other goods, had had
the misfortune to fall into the hands of these rovers.

So the _George Bonaventure_ was taken and the Turkish Vice-Admiral,
whose name was Villa Rise, now called upon the _Nicholas_ to strike
sail also, and Rawlins, seeing it was useless to do otherwise, obeyed.
The same day, before nightfall, the Turkish Admiral sent twelve of the
_George Bonaventure’s_ crew ashore, together with some other Englishmen
whom he had taken prisoners from another previous ship. The Admiral
was doubtless nervous lest with so many English seamen a mutiny might
break out. So some were set upon a strange land to fare as best they
might. Villa Rise, the Vice-Admiral, ordered Rawlins and five of his
company to go aboard Villa Rise’s ship, leaving three men and a boy
on the _Nicholas_. To the latter were sent thirteen Turks and Moors—a
right proportion to overmaster the other four, in case mutiny should be
meditated. The ships then set a course for Algiers.

But the next night a heavy gale sprang up, so that they lost sight
of the _Nicholas_, and the pirates were afraid their own ships would
likewise perish. On the 22nd of November Rawlins arrived at Algiers, but
the _Nicholas_ had not yet come into port. In this piratical stronghold
he found numerous Englishmen now as slaves, and there were a hundred
“handsome English youths” who had been compelled to turn Turks. For
these inhuman Moslems, these vipers of Africa, these monsters of the
sea, having caught a Christian in their net would next set about trying
to make him change his Christianity for Mohammedanism. If he refused, he
would be tortured without mercy, until some of them, unable to endure
these terrible sufferings any longer, yielded and declared they would
become Turks, being yet Christians at heart. These poor, ill-treated
English slaves, though bowed down with their own troubles, welcomed this
latest batch and, says the contemporary narrator, “like good Christians,
they bade us ‘Be of good cheer! and comfort ourselves in this! That God’s
trials were gentle purgations; and these crosses were but to cleanse the
dross from the gold, and bring us out of the fire again more clear and
lovely.’”

But if these Algerine pirates and taskmasters were ordinarily cruel
towards English seamen they were now the more embittered than ever, for
they were still smarting from the injury they had received in May of
that year when Sir Robert Mansell’s fleet had attempted to fire their
ships in the Mole. Tortures and all manner of cruelties were dealt out
to them by the infuriated Moslems, and there was but little respect for
the dignity of humanity. Some of these men from the _George Bonaventure_
and the _Nicholas_ were sold by auction to the highest bidder, and the
bargainers would assemble and look the sailormen over critically as if
they were at a horse fair, for the _Nicholas_ had arrived safely on the
26th of November. The Bashaw was allowed to take one of these prisoners
for himself, the rest being sold. Rawlins was the last to be put up for
sale, as he had “a lame hand.” He was eventually bought by Villa Rise for
the sum which in the equivalent of English money amounted to £7, 10s. The
_Nicholas’_ carpenter was also bought at the same time.

These and other slaves were then sent into Villa Rise’s ship to do the
work of shipwrights and to start rigging her. But some of these Algerines
became exceedingly angry when they found Rawlins, because of his “lame”
hand, could not do as much work as the other slaves. There was a loud
complaint, and they threatened to send him up-country far into Africa,
where “he should never see Christendom again” and be banished for life.
In the meanwhile there lay at Algiers a ship called the _Exchange_ of
Bristol, which had some time previously been seized by the pirates.
Here she “lay unrigged in the harbour, till, at last, one John Goodale,
an English Turk, with his confederates (understanding she was a good
sailer, and might be made a proper man-of-war) bought her from the Turks
that took her” and got her ready for sea. Now the overseer happened be
an English renegado named Rammetham Rise, but his real name was Henry
Chandler, and it was through him that Goodale became master of the
_Nicholas_. They resolved that as there were so many English prisoners
they should have only English slaves for their crew and only English
and Dutch renegadoes as their gunners, but for soldiers they took also
Moslems on board.

One of the saddest aspects of this Turkish piracy is the not infrequent
mention of men who either from fear or from love of adventure had denied
their religion and nationality to become renegades. It is easy enough to
criticise those who were made so to act by compulsion and heartrending
tortures, such as placing a man flat on the ground and then piling
weights on to the top of his body till life’s breath was almost crushed
out of him: or thrashing him without mercy till he would consent to
become a Moslem. The ideal man, of course, will in every instance prefer
martyrdom to saving his life by the sacrifice of principles. But when the
matter is pressed home to us as individuals we may well begin to wonder
whether we should have played the man, as some of our ancestors did, or
whether we should, after much torturing, have succumbed to the temptation
of clinging to life at the critical moment. Of those renegades some were
undoubtedly thorough-paced rascals, who were no credit to any community,
but mere worthless men without a spark of honour. Such as these would as
soon become Moslems as Christians, provided it suited their mode of life.
But it was the knowledge of the sufferings of the other English prisoners
which, with the loss of ships and merchandise, caused the Government
repeatedly to send out those punitive expeditions. One would have thought
that the only effective remedy would have been to have left a permanent
Mediterranean squadron to patrol the North African coast and to chase
the corsairs throughout at least the entire summer season. But there
were many reasons which prevented this. The ships could not be spared;
there were the long-drawn-out Anglo-Dutch wars, and it was not English
ships and seamen exclusively that were the objects of these attacks.
But, if by any means some continuous arrangement between the Christian
powers had been possible whereby the North African coast could have been
systematically patrolled, there is little doubt but that endless effort,
time, money, lives, ships, commerce and human suffering might have been
saved. To-day, for instance, if piracy along that shore were ever to
break out again in a serious manner with ships such as might harass the
great European liners trading to the Mediterranean, the matter would
speedily be settled, if not by the British Mediterranean squadron, at
least by some international naval force, as the Boxer troubles in China
were dealt with.

Nine English slaves and one Frenchman worked away refitting the
_Exchange_, and in this they were assisted by two of Rawlins’ own seamen,
named respectively Roe and Davies. The former hailed from Plymouth, the
latter from Foy (or, as we spell it nowadays, Fowey). Now both Rammetham
Rise (_alias_ Chandler), the captain, and Goodale, the master, were both
west-country men, so they were naturally somewhat favourably disposed to
Roe and Davies, and promised them “good usage” if they did their duty
efficiently. For these men were to go in the _Exchange_ as soon as she
was ready for sea-roving. Let us remind the reader that the position
of the captain in those days was not quite analogous to what we are
accustomed to-day. Rather he was the supreme authority aboard for keeping
discipline. He was a soldier rather than a sailor, and usually was
ignorant of seamanship and navigation. He told the master where he wished
the ship to go, and the latter saw that the sailors did their work in
trimming sheets, steering the ship and so on. But the navigator was known
as the pilot. So, too, the master gunner was responsible for all the
guns, shot, powder, matches and the like.

Rammetham Rise (the captain) and Goodale (the master), now busying
themselves getting together a crew for this square-rigged _Exchange_,
had to find the right kind of men to handle her. What they needed most
was a good pilot or navigator who was also an expert seaman, for neither
Rammetham Rise nor Goodale were fit to be entrusted with such a task
as soon as the ship should get beyond the Straits of Gibraltar and out
of sight of land. They therefore asked Davies if he knew among these
hundreds of prisoners of any Englishman who could be purchased to serve
in the capacity of pilot. Davies naturally thought of his former skipper,
and after searching for him some time found him, and informed his two
new taskmasters that he understood that Villa Rise would be glad to sell
Rawlins, “and for all he had a lame hand,” continued Davies, “yet had he
a sound heart and noble courage for any attempt or adventure.” So at last
Rawlins was bought for the sum of £10, and he was sent to supervise the
fitting out of the _Exchange_, especially to look after the sails.

By the 7th of January 1622, the _Exchange_, with her twelve good cannon,
her munitions and provisions, was ready for sea, and the same day she was
hauled out of the Mole. In her went a full ship’s company, consisting
of sixty-three Turks and Moors as soldiers, nine English slaves, one
Frenchman, four Hollanders and two English soldiers as gunners, as
well as one English and one Dutch renegado. The good ship, with this
miscellaneous crew, put to sea. It was better than slaving away ashore,
but it was galling to John Rawlins, a fine specimen of an English sailor,
to have to serve under these dogs. Rawlins, you must understand, was
one of those hot-tempered, blunt and daring seamen such as had made
England what she was in the time of Elizabeth. Forceful, direct, a man of
simple piety, of great national pride, he was also a sailor possessing
considerable powers of resource and organisation, as we shall presently
see.

The _Exchange_ was as fine and handsome a ship as England had built
during the Elizabethan or early Stuart period. As she began to curtsey
to the swell of the Mediterranean Sea, the slaves were at work looking
after the guns and so on. Rawlins, in his brusque, fierce manner which
is so typical of Drake and many another sailor of the late sixteenth
or early seventeenth century, was working and raging at the same time.
While he was busying himself among his fellow-countrymen, pulling ropes
and looking after the cannon, he complained in no measured terms of the
indignity of having to work merely to keep these Moslem brutes in a life
of wickedness. He broke out into a torrent of complaint, as the other
slaves besought him to be quiet “least they should all fare the worse
for his distemperature.” However, he had firmly resolved to effect an
escape from all this, and after mentioning the matter cautiously to his
fellow-slaves he found they were similarly minded.

From now onwards there follows one of the best yarns in the history
of piracy, and the story is as true as it is exciting. On the 15th of
January the morning tide had brought the _Exchange_ near to Cape de
Gatte, and they were joined by a small Moslem ship which had followed
them out of Algiers the day after. This craft now gave information that
she had sighted seven small vessels in the distance, six of them being
sattees. (A sattee was a very fast, decked species of galley, with a
long, sharp prow and two or three masts, each setting a lateen sail.) The
seventh craft was a polacca, a three-masted type of Mediterranean ship
which usually carried square sails on her mainmast, but lateen sails on
her fore and mizzen, though some of these vessels had square sails on all
three masts.

Before long the _Exchange_ also sighted these seven and made towards
them. But when she had separated the polacca from the rest, this craft,
rather than surrender to the infidels, ran herself ashore and split
herself on the rocks, and her crew made their way inland. As near as she
dare go the _Exchange_ followed in-shore and let go anchor when in the
shallows. Both she and the other Moslem ship sent out boats with many
musketeers and some English and Dutch renegades who, rowing off to the
stranded polacca, boarded her without opposition. Seven guns were found
on board, but after these had been hurled into the sea the polacca was so
lightened that she was floated safely off. She was found to have a good
cargo of hides and logwood, the latter to be used for dyeing purposes.

In the pillaging of this craft there arose a certain amount of dissension
among the pirates, and eventually it was decided to send her and the
Moslem ship which had joined them back to Algiers. Nine Turks and one
English slave were accordingly taken out of the _Exchange_ and six out
of the Moslem craft to man the polacca till she reached Algiers. The
_Exchange_, now alone, with a fair wind proceeded through the Straits
into the Atlantic, which the Turks were wont to speak of as the “Marr
Granada.” Notwithstanding anything which has been said in this book so
far, it must be borne in mind that the Turk was essentially not a seaman:
he had no bias that way. He was certainly a most expert fighter, however.
It was not till the renegade English, Dutch and other sailors settled
among them—notably those Barbarossas and other Levantine sailors—that the
Moslems learnt how to use the sea. Had it not been for these teachers
they would have continued like the Ottomans, strong as land-fighters but
disappointing afloat. These Algerine corsairs in the _Exchange_ had no
sea-sense and they did not relish going beyond the Gibraltar Straits.
So long as they were within sight of land and in their oared galleys
they were—given such able seamanlike leaders as the Barbarossas—able to
acquit themselves well in any fighting. But to embark in an ocean-going,
full-rigged ship, such as the _Exchange_, and to voyage therein beyond
their familiar landmarks was to place them in a state of grave concern.

These Moslems never went to sea without their Hoshea or wizard, and this
person would, by his charlatanism, persuade these incapable mariners what
to do and how to act. Every second or third night, after arriving at the
open sea, this wizard would go through various ceremonies, consult his
book of wizardry, and from this he would advise the captain as to what
sails ought to be taken in, or what sail to be set. The whole idea was
thoroughly ludicrous to the rude, common-sense Devonshire seamen, who
marvelled that these infidels could be so foolish.

The _Exchange_ was wallowing on her way when there suddenly went up
the cry, “A sail! A sail!” Presently, however, it was found only to be
another of these Moslem corsairs making towards the _Exchange_. After
speaking each other the ships parted, the _Exchange_ now going north,
past Cape St. Vincent, on the look out for the well-laden ships which
passed between the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar. All this
time the English slaves were being subjected to the usual insults and
maltreatment. The desire to capture the _Exchange_ positively obsessed
John Rawlins, and his active brain was busy devising some practical
scheme. He resolved to provide ropes with “broad specks of iron” so that
he might be able to close up the hatchways, gratings and cabins. Roughly
his plan was to shut up the captain and his colleagues and then, on a
signal being given, the Englishmen, being masters of the “gunner-room”
with the cannon and powder, would blow up the ship or kill their
taskmasters one by one if they should open their cabins.

It was a daring plan and worthy of a man like Rawlins. But in all
attempts at mutiny it is one thing to conceive a plan and it is another
matter to know whom to entrust with the secret. In this respect Rawlins
was as cautious as he was enterprising, and he felt his way so slowly and
carefully that nothing was done hastily or impetuously or with excess of
confidence.



CHAPTER XI

A WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT


Rawlins knew he could rely on his fellow-countrymen, but at first he
hesitated to say anything to the four Hollanders. At last, however, he
found them anxious to join in with the scheme, and his next effort was
equally successful, for he “undermined” the English renegado-gunner and
three more, his associates. Last of all, the Dutch renegadoes of the
“gunner-room” were won over and persuaded by the four Hollanders.

The secret had been well kept, and Rawlins resolved that during the
captain’s morning watch he would make the attempt. Now where the English
slaves lay in the gunroom there were always four or five crowbars of iron
hanging up. When the time was approaching when the mutiny should take
place, Rawlins was in the act of taking down his iron crowbar when he had
the misfortune to make such a noise with it that it woke up the Turkish
soldiers, and they, in alarm, roused the other Moslems. Everything was in
pitch darkness and it was uncertain as to what would happen. Presently
the Turkish boatswain came below with a candle and searched all the parts
of the ship where the slaves were lying, but he found nothing suspicious
other than the crowbar, which had apparently slipped down. He then went
and informed the captain, who merely remarked that there was nothing to
cause uneasiness, as the crowbar not infrequently slipped down.

But with this unlucky beginning Rawlins deemed it best to postpone
the undertaking for the present. He had intended, with the aid of his
friends, knife in hand, to press upon the gunner’s breast and the other
English renegadoes, and either force them to help, or else to cut their
throats. “Die or consent”—this was to be the prevailing force, and
the watchword was to be, “For God and King James, and St. George for
England.” In the meantime the _Exchange_ continued on her northerly
voyage, farther and farther away from the coast of Barbary. Still
cautious but keen, Rawlins went about the ship’s company, and now had
persuaded the gunners and the other English renegades to fall in with
his project. This was one of the riskiest moments of his enterprise, but
it resulted that there were “reciprocal oaths taken, and hands given”
to preserve loyalty to each other: yet once again was Rawlins to be
disappointed.

For after the renegado gunner had solemnly sworn secrecy, he went up
the hatchway on deck for a quarter of an hour, after which he returned
to Rawlins in the “gunner-room.” Then, to Rawlins’ surprise, in came an
infuriated Turk with his knife drawn. This he presented in a menacing
manner to Rawlins’ body. The latter, cleverly feigning innocence,
inquired what was the matter, and whether it was the Turk’s intention to
kill him. To this the Turk answered, “No, master. Be not afraid: I think
he doth but jest.” But it was clear to Rawlins that the other man had
broken his compact and rounded on him. So, drawing back, Rawlins drew
out his own knife and also stepped towards the gunner’s side, so that
he was able to snatch the knife from the gunner’s sheath. The Turk,
seeing that now the Englishman had two knives to his one, threw down his
weapon, protesting that all the time he had been joking. The gunner also
whispered in Rawlins’ ear that he had never betrayed the plan nor would
he do such a thing. However, Rawlins thought otherwise and kept the two
knives with him all the night.

Very ingenious was the way in which this Rawlins was weaving his net
gradually but surely around the ship. He succeeded in persuading the
captain to head for Cape Finisterre, pretending that thereabouts they
would be likely to come upon a ship to be pillaged. This was perfectly
true, though the Englishman’s intention was to get the _Exchange_ farther
and farther from the Straits of Gibraltar, so that it became less and
less likely that the corsairs would send out reinforcements. On the
6th of February, when about thirty-six miles off the Cape, a sail was
descried. The _Exchange_ gave chase and came up with her, “making her
strike all her sails: whereby we knew her to be a bark belonging to
Torbay, near Dartmouth.” She was laden with a cargo of salt, and her
crew consisted of nine men and a boy. But it came on bad weather, so the
_Exchange_ did not then launch her boat, but ordered the Torbay ship to
let down her boat. Her master, with five men and the boy, now rowed off
to the _Exchange_, leaving behind his mate and two men in the bark. The
Turkish captain now sent ten Moslems to man her. Now among these ten were
two Dutch and one English renegadoes “who were of our confederacy.”

Just as the latter were about to hoist out their boat from the
_Exchange_, Rawlins was able to have a hurried conversation with them.
He quickly warned them it was his intention that night or the next to
put his plan into action, and he advised these men to inform the mate
and two men of the Torbay bark of this plot and then make for England,
“bearing up the helm, whiles the Turks slept and suspected no such
matter.” Rawlins reminded them that in his first watch, about midnight,
he would show them a light by which the men on the bark might know
that the plan was already in action. So the boat was let down from the
_Exchange_ and rowed off to the Torbay bark. The confederates then told
the mate of their intention, and he entirely approved of the plan, though
at first amazed by its ingenuity.

The fact was that the idea was really much simpler than was at first
apparent. Being sailors the English “had the helm of the ship,” for the
Turks, being only soldiers and ignorant of sea affairs, could not say
whether their vessel were sailing in the direction of Algiers or in the
opposite direction. They knew nothing of navigation and practically
nothing of seamanship, so they were, in spite of all their brutality,
more at the mercy of the Christians than they had realised. But, resolved
the plotters, if by any chance these Moslems should guess that the ship
was sailing away from Algiers then they would at once cut the Turks’
throats, and then throw their bodies overboard. It will be remembered
that the master and some of the Torbay bark’s crew were now in the
_Exchange_, and Rawlins made it his business to approach these men
tactfully and ask them to share in the plan. This they resolved to do.

So far so good. Now the number of Turks had been gradually diminishing
since the beginning of the cruise. For, first of all, nine Turks and one
English slave had been sent back to Algiers with the polacca prize; and
now some more had been sent off to the Torbay bark. Had the _Exchange’s_
captain fully realised how seriously he was diminishing the strength
of his own force, he could scarcely have done such a foolish thing.
But throughout the whole plot he was, without ever suspecting it, being
fooled by a clever schemer. Rawlins had all the tact and foresight of
a diplomatist combined with the ability to know when to strike and the
power to strike hard. And all this time, while the captain himself was
diminishing the number of Moslems and simultaneously adding to the number
of Englishmen by the arrival of the Torbay ship, Rawlins, in the most
impudent manner, was going about the ship winning every one except the
Turkish soldiers over to his side. One knows not which to admire most:
his wonderful courage or his consummate skill. For had he made one
single error in reposing confidence in the wrong man, the death of the
Englishman would have been both certain and cruel.

And the following step in Rawlins’ diplomatic advance was even more
interesting still. When morning came again—it was now the 7th of
February—the Torbay prize was quite out of sight. This annoyed the
captain of the _Exchange_ intensely, and he began both to storm and to
swear. He commanded Rawlins to search the seas up and down; but there was
not a vestige of the bark. She was beyond the horizon. In course of time
the captain abated his wrath and remarked that no doubt he would see her
again in Algiers and that all would be well. This remark rather worried
Rawlins, as he began to fear the captain would order the _Exchange_ to
return to the Straits of Gibraltar. But Rawlins did not allow himself to
worry long, and proceeded below down into the hold. Here he found that
there was a good deal of water in the bilges which could not be sucked
up by the pump. He came on deck and informed the captain. The latter
naturally asked how this had come about that the pump would not discharge
this, and Rawlins explained that the ship was too much down by the head
and needed to have more weight aft to raise her bows more out of the
water.

He therefore ordered Rawlins to get the ship trimmed properly. The
captain was swallowing the bait most beautifully; presently he would be
hooked. Rawlins explained that “We must quit our cables and bring four
pieces of ordnance” further aft, and that would cause the water to flow
to the pump. The captain, being quite ignorant of the ways of a ship,
ordered these suggestions to become orders, and so two of the guns which
usually were forward were now brought with their mouths right before the
binnacle. In the ship were three decks. Rawlins and his mates of the
“gunner-room” were warned to be ready to break up the lower deck; and
the English slaves, who always lay in the middle deck, were likewise
told to watch the hatchways. Rawlins himself persuaded the gunner to let
him have as much powder as would prime the guns, and quietly warned his
confederates to begin the mutiny as soon as ever the gun was fired, when
they were to give a wild shout and hand on the password.

The time appointed for the crisis was 2 p.m., and about that time Rawlins
advised the master-gunner to speak to the captain that the soldiers might
come on the poop deck and so bring the ship’s bows more out of the water
and cause the pump to work better. To this suggestion the captain readily
agreed, so twenty Turkish soldiers came aft to the poop, while five or
six of the confederates stole into the captain’s cabin and brought away
various weapons and shields. After that Rawlins and his assistants began
to pump the water. Later on, having made every preparation and considered
all details, in order to avoid suspicion the members of the “gunner-room”
went below and the slaves in the middle deck went about their work in
the usual way. Then the nine English slaves and John Rawlins, the five
men and one boy from the Torbay bark, the four English renegades, the
two Dutch and the four Hollanders “lifting up our hearts and thanks to
God for the success of the business” set to work on the final act of the
cleverly conceived plot.

About noon Roe and Davis were ordered by Rawlins to prepare their
matches, while most of the Turks were on the poop weighing down the
stern to bring the water to the pump. The two men came with the matches,
and at the appointed time Roe fired one of the guns, which caused a
terrific explosion. Immediately this was followed by wild cheering on
the part of the confederates. The explosion broke down the binnacle and
compasses, and the soldiers were amazed by the cheering of the Christian
slaves. And then they realised what had happened—that there had been a
mutiny, that the ship had been surprised. The Turks were mad with fury
and indignation. Calling the mutineers “Dogs,” they began to tear up
planks of the ship and to attack the confederates with hammers, hatchets,
knives, boat’s oars, boat-hook and whatever came into their hands. Even
the stones and bricks of the “cook-room,” or galley, were picked up and
hurled at Rawlins’ party.

But the carefully arranged plot was working out perfectly. Below, the
slaves had cleared the decks of all the Turks and Moors, and Rawlins now
sent a guard to protect the powder, and the confederates charged their
muskets against the remaining Turks, killing some of them on the spot.
The Moslems, who had been such tyrannical taskmasters, now actually
called for Rawlins, so he, guarded by some of his adherents, went to
them. The latter fell on their knees and begged for mercy, who had shown
no mercy to others. Rawlins knew what he was about, and after these
tyrants had been taken one by one, he caused them to be killed, while
other Turks leapt overboard, remarking that “it was the chance of war.”
Others were manacled and then hurled overboard. Some more had yet to be
killed outright, and then at length the victory and annihilation were
complete. By careful plotting and good organisation and a firmness at the
proper time, the whole scheme had been an entire success.

It happened that when the explosion had taken place, the captain was
in his cabin writing, and at once rushed out. But when he saw the
confederates and how matters stood and that the ship was already in
other hands, he at once surrendered and begged for his life. He reminded
Rawlins “how he had redeemed him from Villa Rise,” and that he had since
treated him with great consideration. Rawlins had to admit that this was
so, so he agreed to spare the captain his life. As before mentioned the
captain was an English renegade whose real name was Henry Chandler, he
being the son of a chandler in Southwark. So this man was brought back to
England, as well as John Goodale; Richard Clarke, gunner (_alias_ Jafar
in Turkish); George Cook, gunner’s mate (_alias_ Ramedam in Turkish);
John Browne (_alias_ Mamme in Turkish); and William Winter, ship’s
carpenter (_alias_ Mustapha in Turkish); “besides all the slaves and
Hollanders, with other renegadoes, who were willing to be reconciled to
their true Saviour, as being formerly seduced with the hopes of riches,
honour, preferment, and suchlike devilish baits to catch the souls of
mortal men and entangle frailty in the tarriers of horrible abuses and
imposturing deceit.”

The Englishmen now set to work and cleared the ship of the dead Moslem
bodies, and then Rawlins assembled his men and gave praise to God “using
the accustomed Service on shipboard; and, for want of books, lifted
up their voices to God, as He put into their hearts or renewed their
memories.” And after having sung a psalm, they embraced each other “for
playing the men in such a deliverance.” The same night they washed the
ship of the carnage, put every thing in order, repaired the broken
quarter which had been damaged by the explosion, set up the binnacle
again and made for England. On the 13th February the _Exchange_ arrived
at Plymouth, where they “were welcomed like the recovery of the lost
sheep, or as you read of a loving mother that runneth with embraces to
entertain her son from a long voyage and escape of many dangers.”

As for the Torbay bark, she too had got back to England, having arrived
at Penzance two days before. Her story is brief but not less interesting.
The mate had been informed of Rawlins’ plan, and he and his friends had
agreed. But the carrying out of this had been a far simpler and neater
matter than that which had taken place on the _Exchange_. For once again
mere landsmen had been fooled at the hands of seamen. It happened on this
wise. They made the Turks believe that the wind had now come fair and
that the prize was being sailed back to Algiers. This they believed until
they sighted the English shore, when one of the Turks remarked that “that
land is not like Cape St. Vincent.” To this the man at the helm replied
very neatly, “Yes; and if you will be contented and go down into the
hold, and turn the salt over to windward, whereby the ship may bear full
sail, you shall know and see more to-morrow.”

Suspecting nothing the five Turks then went quietly down. But as soon as
they had gone below into the hold, the renegadoes, with the help of two
Englishmen, nailed down the hatches and kept the rascals there till they
reached Penzance. But one of the other Turks was on deck, and at this
incident he broke out into great rage. This was but short-lived, for an
Englishman stepped up to him, dashed out his brains and threw his body
overboard.

All the other prisoners were brought safely to England and lodged either
in Plymouth gaol or Exeter, “either to be arraigned according to the
punishment of delinquents in that kind, or disposed of as the king
and council shall think meet.” We need not stop to imagine the joy of
welcoming back men who had been lost in slavery. We need not try to
guess the delight of the west-countrymen that at last some of these
renegadoes had been brought back to be punished in England. There is
not the slightest doubt of this story of the _Exchange_ being true, but
it shows that even in that rather disappointing age which followed on
immediately after the defeat of the Armada, there were, at a time when
maritime matters were under a cloud, not wanting English seamen of the
right stamp, men of courage and action, men who could fight and navigate
a ship as in the spacious days of Queen Elizabeth. Happily the type of
man which includes such sailor characters as Rawlins is not yet dead; the
Anglo-Saxon race still rears many of his calibre, and it needs only the
opportunity to display such nerve, daring enterprise and tactful action.



CHAPTER XII

THE GREAT SIR HENRY MORGAN


About the year 1636 a certain London mariner, named Dunton, had an
experience somewhat similar to that which we related in the last chapter
concerning Rawlins. Dunton had the bad luck to be taken by the Sallee
pirates, who then sent him out as master and pilot of a Sallee pirate
ship containing twenty-one Moors and five Flemish renegadoes. The
instructions were that Dunton should sail to the English coast and there
capture Christian prisoners. He had arrived from Barbary in the English
Channel and was off Hurst Castle by the Needles, Isle of Wight, when he
was promptly arrested as a pirate and sent to Winchester to be tried by
law. He was given his release at a later date, but his ten-year-old boy
was still a slave with the Algerines.

Now about the year when this was taking place, there was born into the
world Henry Morgan, who has become celebrated in history and fiction as
one of the greatest sea-rovers who ever stepped aboard a ship. His career
is one of continual success, of cruelties and amassing of wealth. He was
a buccaneer, and a remarkably clever fellow who rose to the position
of Governor-General of one of our most important colonial possessions.
Adventures are to the adventurous, and if ever there was a Britisher
who longed for and obtained a life of excitement, here you have it in
the story of Henry Morgan. It would be easy enough to fill the whole
of this book and more with his activities afloat, but as our space is
limited, and there are still many other pirates of different seas to be
considered, it is necessary to confine ourselves to the main facts of his
career.

The date of his birth is not quite certain, but it is generally supposed
to belong to the year 1635. He first saw light in Glamorganshire, and his
existence was tinged with adventure almost from the first. For whilst
he was a mere boy, he was kidnapped and sold as a servant at Barbados.
Thus it was that he was thrust on to the region of the West Indies,
and in this corner of the world, so rich in romance, so historic for
its association with Spanish treasure-ships of Elizabethan times, so
reminiscent of Drake and others, he was to perform deeds of daring which
as such are not unworthy to be ranked alongside the achievements of the
great Elizabethan seamen. But he differed from Drake in one important
respect. The Elizabethan was severe even to harshness, but he was a more
humane being than Morgan. All the wonderful things which the Welshman
performed are overshadowed by his cruel, brutish atrocities. In a cruel,
inhuman age Morgan unhappily stands out as one of the wickedest sailors
of his time. And yet, although we live in an epoch which is somewhat
prone to white-washing the world’s most notorious criminals, yet we
must modify the popular judgment which prevails in regard to Morgan. To
say that he was a pirate and nothing else is not accurate. At heart he
certainly was this. But as Sir John Laughton, our greatest modern naval
historian has already pointed out, he attacked only those who were the
recognised enemies of England.

I admit that in practice, especially in the case of men of such
piratical character as Henry Morgan, the difference between privateering
and piracy is very slight. The mere possession of a permission to
capture the ships belonging to other people is nothing compared to a
real sea-robbing intention. Morgan was lucky in having been required for
a series of certain peculiar emergencies. His help happened at the time
to be indispensable, and so he was able to do legally what otherwise
he would have done illegally. All those seizures were legalised by the
commission which he was granted at various times. But this is not to say
that without those commissions he would not have acted in a somewhat
similar manner.

We are accustomed to speak of Morgan and his associates as buccaneers.
Now let us understand at once the meaning of this term. Originally the
word meant one who dried and smoked meat on a “boucan.” A “boucan” was a
hurdle made of sticks on which strips of beef newly salted were smoked
by the West Indians. But the name of buccaneers was first given to the
French hunters of S. Domingo, who prepared their meat according to this
Indian custom. From the fact that these men who so prepared the flesh
of oxen and wild boars were also known for another characteristic,
namely, piracy, the name was applied in its widest sense to those English
and French sea-rovers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who
employed their time in depredating Spanish ships and territory of the
Caribbean Sea. Hence from signifying a man who treated his food in a
certain fashion, the word buccaneer came to mean nothing more or less
than a robber of the sea.

After young Morgan had finished his time in service at Barbados, he
joined himself to these buccaneer-robbers after arriving at Jamaica. It
should be added that Morgan’s uncle, Colonel Edward Morgan, went out
from England in 1664 to become Governor-General of Jamaica, but his
death occurred in the following year. There are gaps in Morgan’s life,
and there has been some confusion caused by others possessing the same
surname. But it appears pretty certain now that in the year 1663 Henry
Morgan was at sea in command of a privateer. Even by this time he had
begun to be an expert in depredation and in sacking some of the Caribbean
towns, and striking terror into the hearts of the wretched inhabitants.
We may pass over these minor events and come to the time when, his
uncle having died, Sir Thomas Modyford was sent out from England as
Lieutenant-Governor. Bear in mind that intense hatred of the Spanish
prevailing at this time, and which had not been by any means quenched
by the defeat of the Armada. To put it mildly, the Caribbean Sea was an
Anglo-Spanish cockpit where many and many a fight had taken, and was
still to take, place. Modyford wanted the island of Curaçoa to be taken,
and there was then no better man to do the job than a very celebrated
buccaneer named Edward Mansfield. Sir Thomas therefore commissioned
Mansfield to seize this island. He got together a strong naval expedition
and accomplished the task early in the year 1666, Henry Morgan being in
command of one of Mansfield’s ships.

Off the Nicaraguan coast lies an island which has been called at
different times Santa Catalina or Providence Island. This had been
taken from the English by the Spaniards more than twenty years before,
and Morgan was also present when Mansfield now recaptured it. A small
garrison was left to occupy it, and Mansfield returned with his ships to
Jamaica. But before long Santa Catalina fell again into the hands of the
Spaniards, and Mansfield died. It is now that Morgan’s career begins to
come into the limelight. For after Mansfield’s decease the buccaneers,
bereft of their leader, thought the matter over and decided to make
Morgan his successor, and the commissions which Mansfield had been
accustomed to receive from Modyford now fell to the Welshman.

The first of these duties occurred when Modyford became aware of a
rumour that the Spaniards were contemplating an invasion of Jamaica. It
was nothing more than a rumour, but, as governor, he desired to find
out the truth. He therefore despatched Morgan to ascertain the facts.
He was directed to get ten ships together and to carry 500 men in this
fleet. The ships gathered on the south side of Cuba and then, having
accomplished their voyage, Morgan landed his men and found that the
people had fled from the coast, driving all their cattle away. Morgan
marched inland, plundered the town of Puerto Principe, and then was able
to send information to Modyford that considerable forces were being
collected and that an expedition against Jamaica was, in truth, being
planned. He had fulfilled his commission as instructed.

His next big achievement occurred when he sailed to the mainland in order
to attack Porto Bello, where levies were being made to attack Jamaica.
Several Englishmen were known also to be confined here in grim dungeons.
And if any further incentive were required, this would certainly rouse
the ire and sharpen the keenness of Morgan and his men. Porto Bello
relied for its defence on three forts, and it was likely to be no easy
work to compel these to yield. But Morgan succeeded in his object, and
this is how he went to work: Arrived in the vicinity of Porto Bello,
he left his ships and, under the cover of night, proceeded towards the
shore with his men in about two dozen canoes. By three o’clock in the
morning his force had crept into the shore and landed. The first fort
was assaulted by the aid of ladders, and the garrison was slaughtered.
So, too, the second fort was attacked. Hither the Spanish governor had
betaken himself. For a time it offered a stout resistance, but Morgan had
a number of ladders so made that they were wide enough to allow several
men to climb up abreast of each other. By this means the castle walls
were overcome, the castle itself taken, and the governor slain. The third
fort surrendered, the town was sacked, and then, for over a fortnight,
the buccaneers indulged themselves as was their wont in debauchery. I
have no intention of suggesting the details either of these excesses nor
of the abominable tortures to which the inhabitants were now subjected
in order to compel them to reveal the places where their treasures were
hidden. Not even the most unprincipled admirer of the buccaneers could
honestly find it possible to defend Morgan and his associates against the
most serious charges on the ground of common justice.

Morgan may not have been any worse than some of his contemporaries at
heart, but whatever else he was, he was an unmerciful tyrant. As for
his enemies, we cannot regard them with much admiration either. This
Dago crowd were morally not much better than the Welshman, and though
sometimes they put up a good fight, they were too often cowards. In
this present instance they adopted that futile and weak plan of buying
off the aggressor. You will remember that, unfortunately, our ancestors
adopted this plan many hundreds of years ago when they sought to ward
off the Viking depredators by buying peace. It was a foolish and an
ineffectual method both then and in the seventeenth century in the case
of Morgan. For what else does such an action mean than a confession
of inferiority? Peace at this price is out of all proportion to the
ultimate value obtained, and the condition is merely a temptation to
the aggressor to come back for more. Stripped of any technicality,
Morgan blackmailed these Panamanians to the extent of 100,000 pieces of
eight, and 300 negroes. On these conditions, which were agreed upon, he
consented to withdraw. So, very well rewarded for his trouble, Morgan
returned joyfully to Jamaica, and for some time the buccaneers were able
to indulge themselves in the pleasures which this booty was capable of
affording them.

You will generally find that a buccaneer, a highwayman, a gambler, a
smuggler or any kind of pirate by land or by sea is a spendthrift.
There are certainly exceptions, but this is the rule. A man who knows
that he can easily get more money when he runs short shows no reserve
in spending, provided it affords him gratification. So with these
buccaneers. At length they came to the end of their resources and were
ready to go forth again. It is true that Modyford had been in two minds
after Morgan’s return from Porto Bello. He rejoiced at the success of his
arms, but he was nervous of the consequences. The Welshman had certainly
exceeded his commission, and there might be trouble, as a result, at
headquarters.

And yet there was work to be done, and Morgan was the only man who
could do it. So once more Modyford had to commission him to carry out
hostilities against the Spaniards. To the eastward of Jamaica lies the
island of S. Domingo, or as it was known in those days, Hispaniola.
If you were to examine a chart of Hispaniola you would see in the
south-west corner a bay and a small island. The latter is known as
Vache Island. This was to be the meeting-place where Morgan was now to
collect his ships. Apart from being a good anchorage, it was a convenient
starting-place if one wished to attack either the mainland of Central
America or Cuba. In the present instance the objective was in the latter.
The ships got under way, Morgan arrived at the scene of operations, and
positively ravaged the Cuban Coast, again striking terror wherever he
went. But, important as this was, it is not to be reckoned alongside the
achievement which he performed in the early part of 1669.

On the north coast of South America is a wide gulf which opens out
into the Caribbean Sea. But as this gulf extends southward, the shores
on either side narrow so closely that the shape resembles the neck
of a bottle. The town here is named Maracaibo. But a little distance
still farther south the shores on either side recede considerably like
the lower portion of a bottle, and there extends a vast lagoon which
takes its name from the town mentioned. It is obvious to any one that
the strategical point is at the neck. And when I mention that here
the navigation was both tricky and shallow, and that the channel was
protected by a strong castle, the reader will instantly appreciate that
any one who tried to bring his ships into the lake would have a very
difficult task.

Now in the month of March, Morgan, with eight ships and 500 men, had
arrived off this entrance. With great daring and dogged determination
he was able to force his way in through this narrow entrance. He not
only dismantled the fort, but he sacked the town of Maracaibo in his
own ruthless manner; then he followed up his attack by scouring the
neighbouring woods, and put the captured and terrified inhabitants to
cruel tortures in order to compel them to reveal the hiding-places of
their valuables. He captured many a prisoner and at length, very well
satisfied with his success, after the lapse of three weeks decided to
advance still farther. He had got his ships through the most difficult
portion, and now he intended to navigate the lagoon itself.

At length he arrived at a town called by the inhabitants Gibraltar, after
the European place of that name. Here Morgan again satiated himself
with plunder, with cruelties and with debauchery until the time came
for him to take his ships away with all the booty they could carry.
But the serious news reached them that awaiting them off the entrance
to the gulf were three Spanish men-of-war. Still more serious was the
information that the castle at Maracaibo had now been efficiently manned
and armed. That was more than awkward, for without the permission of the
fort it was quite impossible for his ships to make their exit in safety.
The situation would have puzzled many a fine strategist. Here was the
buccaneer positively trapped with no means of escape.

But Morgan was quite equal to the occasion, and he set to work. His
first object was to gain time, and so he began by opening negotiations
with the Spanish Admiral Don Alonso del Campo y Espinosa. He knew these
negotiations would prove fruitless, as indeed they did. But in the
meantime Morgan had been busily employing his men in getting ready a
fireship. In our modern days of steel hulls, fireships play no part in
naval tactics, but in the time of oak and hemp this mode of aggression
continued till very late. The fireship would first be filled with
combustible material, and then released, the wind or current taking her
down on to the enemy’s ships. The grapnel irons projecting from her
side would foul the enemy, and it would be no easy matter to thrust the
fireship off until she had done considerable damage by conflagration.
This method of warfare was one of the oldest tactics in the history of
naval fighting. It was successful over and over again, and the reader
can well imagine that the sight of a flaming ship rapidly approaching a
fleet of anchored ships with the tide was really terrifying. And even
if the attacked ships were under way and not brought up it made little
difference: for the flames would immediately set on fire a ship’s sails,
and the tarred rigging would soon be ablaze, rendering the attacked ship
disabled.

Of course it was possible at times for a fleet under way so to manœuvre
as to get out of the direction towards which the fire-vessel was
travelling. But Morgan was up to every eventuality. The fireship he
disguised as a man-of-war, and she was not yet set alight. With this
craft looking just like one of his own he took his fleet to look for
the Spanish men-of-war. On the 1st of May he found them just within the
entrance to the lagoon. He now made straight for them, and setting the
fireship alight when quite near, sent her right alongside the Spanish
flagship, a vessel of 40 guns. The latter was too late to shake her
off, burst into flames and soon foundered. Another Spanish ship was so
terror-stricken that her crew ran ashore, and she was burnt by her own
men lest she should fall into the hands of the buccaneers. The third
was captured after heavy slaughter. Some of the Spaniards succeeded in
swimming ashore, among whom was the Admiral Don Alonso himself.

Morgan was able to capture a number of prisoners, and from these men he
learned tidings which must have sent a thrill of great joy through his
avaricious mind. The sunken ship had gone down with 40,000 pieces of
eight! So the buccaneer took steps to recover as much of this treasure
as he could, and salved no less than 15,000, in addition to a quantity
of melted silver. His next work was to have the prize-ship refitted, and
her he adopted as his own flagship. So far, so good. But he was still in
the lagoon, and the door of the trap was yet closed as before, although
the enemy’s ships had been now disposed of. He again opened negotiations
with Don Alonso, and it is surprisingly true that the latter actually
paid Morgan the sum of 20,000 pieces of eight and 500 head of cattle as
a ransom for Maracaibo. But, on the other hand, Don Alonso declined to
demean himself by granting Morgan permission to take his ships out.

That, of course, set Morgan’s brain working. He was determined to put
to sea, and it was only a question of stratagem. He therefore allowed
the Spaniards to gain the impression that he was landing his men so as
to attack the fort from the landward side. This caused the Spaniards
to move the guns of the fort to that direction, leaving the seaward
side practically unarmed. That was Morgan’s chance and he fully availed
himself thereof. It was night-time and there was the moon to help him.
He waited till the tide was ebbing, and then allowing his ships to drop
down with the current he held on until he was off the fort, when he
spread sail and before long was well on his way to the northward. It was
a clever device for getting out of a very tight corner.

So he sailed over the Spanish Main with rich booty from Gibraltar, with
15,000 pieces of eight from the wreck, with another 20,000 from Alonso,
with a new ship and other possessions. Certainly the voyage had been
most fortunate and remunerative. He reached Jamaica in safety, but again
Modyford was compelled to reprove him for having exceeded his commission.
But the same thing happened as before. The Spaniards were becoming more
and more aggressive towards the English in the West Indies, and it was
essential that they should be given a severe lesson before worse events
occurred. Morgan was the only man for the task, and he was now appointed
commander-in-chief of the warships of the Jamaican station, and sent
forth with full authority to seize and destroy all the enemy’s vessels
that could be found. He was further to destroy all stores and magazines,
and for his pay he was to have all the goods and merchandise which he
could lay his hands on, his men being paid the customary share that was
usual on buccaneering expeditions.

We find him, then, at the middle of August 1670, leaving Port Royal (now
better known as Kingston), Jamaica, and as before his rendezvous was
Vache Island. With this as his base he sent ships for several months to
ravage Cuba and the mainland, and as usual “refreshed” himself, as an
Elizabethan would have said, with the things he was in most need, such
as provisions. But he was able also to obtain a great deal of valuable
information, and at length sailed in a south-west direction till he came
to that island of Santa Catalina which we mentioned earlier in this
chapter as having been taken by the Spaniards. This he now recaptured,
and thereafter he was to perform another wonderful feat. The object he
had conceived was to capture Panama. It was another bold idea boldly
carried out. First of all, then, he sent from Santa Catalina four of his
ships, and a boat, and nearly 500 men, under the leadership of Captain
Brodely. These, after a three days’ voyage, arrived off Chagres Castle,
which is at the mouth of the River Chagres, not far from where the modern
Panama Canal comes out. In a remarkably short time Brodely was able to
capture this castle: and presently Morgan arrived with the rest of his
expedition.

Having made security doubly sure, he proceeded inland, taking his ships
up the River Chagres. But after he had gone some distance it was found
that, through lack of rain, the river had dried considerably. He
therefore left 200 men behind to hold the place, and with the rest of his
forces he set out to march on foot. He did not hamper his expedition with
provisions, as he trusted to obtain supplies from the inhabitants whose
dwellings he passed. On the tenth day he had arrived at his destination.
Before him lay Panama and the Pacific. But the Spaniards were there on
the plain to meet his forces with a considerable strength, consisting of
3000 infantry and cavalry as well as some guns.

But the Spaniards had also ready a unique tactic which seems almost
ludicrous. We have already referred slightly to the cattle, which were
a feature of this region of the globe. The Spaniards decided to employ
such in battle. So, between themselves and the English, they interposed
a vast herd of wild bulls, which were driven on in the hope of breaking
the English ranks. The wild stampede of creatures of this sort is not
likely to make for order, but, like the boomerang on land and the ram
in naval warfare, such a device is capable of being less damaging to
the attacked than to the attacker. For, as it happened, many of these
bulls were shot dead by the English, and the rest of the animals turned
their heads round and made for the Spanish, trampling many of them under
foot. The English gained the day; the Spaniards were put to flight, and
although the buccaneers lost heavily, yet the other side had lost 600
dead. The city of Panama was captured early in the afternoon, and yet
again Morgan scooped in an amazing amount of booty. There was the same
series of tortures, of threats, and there was a total absence of anything
noble-minded in the way Morgan went about his way, satisfying his greed
for gold. But he had just missed one very big haul, and this annoyed him
exceedingly. For when the Spaniards saw their men were being defeated,
they sent to sea a Spanish galleon which was full of money, church plate
and other valuables, worth far more than ever Morgan had obtained from
what was left in Panama.

The expedition started on its return journey overland, and after twelve
days arrived at Chagres. Here the great quantity of booty was divided
up among the crews; but the men were not satisfied with their share,
protested that they had been cheated of their full amount, and much
discontent ensued. There can be little doubt but that this was so, and
that Morgan had enriched himself at the expense of his men. However,
he managed to slip away to his ship, followed by only a handful of his
former fleet, and once again found himself in Jamaica. Here he received
the formal thanks of the governor, but there was trouble brewing. For
while Morgan had been away, a treaty had been signed at Madrid concerning
Spanish America. It is true that Modyford had, in those days of slow
communication, known nothing of it; but he was recalled, and he returned
to England a prisoner to answer for his having supported and encouraged
buccaneering. The following year Morgan was also sent to England in
a frigate, but Charles II. took a great liking to this dare-devil,
and in 1674 sent him back again to Jamaica, this time with the rank
of Colonel and with the title of knighthood, to be not a buccaneer
but Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica. If ever there was an instance of
the ungodly flourishing, here it is. Fourteen years longer did Morgan
continue to live in this island as a rich man possessing social prestige.
It is true that he made a good governor, but although he had defeated
Alonso, reduced Panama, made a clever escape from Maracaibo, taken Santa
Catalina and been a veritable thorn in the side of the Spaniards, yet
he had been a brute, and he died a brute. He was a blackmailer on a
large scale, he was unmercifully a tyrant, and he was a profligate.
It is only because he attacked the enemies of his own Government, and
because he was lucky to obtain the commissions demanded by law, that he
is prevented from being reckoned as a mere common pirate. But if there is
honour among most thieves, what shall we say of Morgan’s dishonesty and
harshness in cheating the very men who had fought under him of their fair
share of plunder when the battle was won? It is, perhaps, hardly fair to
judge even a Morgan except by the prevailing standard of his time. But
those who care to look up the details of Morgan’s private life will find
much to condemn even if there is something to admire in his exceptional
cleverness and undoubted courage. The sea is a hard school and makes hard
men harder, and in those days when might was right and every ocean more
or less in a chaotic state of lawlessness, when poverty, or chance, or
despair, or the irresistible longing for adventure drove men to become
pirates, there was no living for a soft-hearted sailor. He had to fight
or be fought: he had to swim with the tide, or else sink. The luckiest
and cleverest became the worst terrors of the sea, while the least
fortunate had either to submit to the strong or else end their days in
captivity. Morgan having been kidnapped while young may have been driven
to kidnap others by sea: or there may have been other causes at work.
One thing, however, is certain: the world is not made the richer by the
advent of such a man as this Welsh buccaneer.



CHAPTER XIII

“BLACK-BEARD” TEACH


The sea-rovers whom we know by the name of buccaneers had an origin
somewhat similar to that of the Moslem corsairs of Barbary. The reader
will not have forgotten that the latter, after being driven out of Spain,
settled on the north coast of Africa, and then, after being instructed in
the nautical arts by the seamen of different nationalities, rose to the
rank of grand corsairs.

So, likewise, the buccaneers were at first inoffensive settlers in
Hispaniola, but, after having been driven from their habitations by the
Spaniards, developed an implacable hatred of the latter and devoted
themselves to infesting the shores of Spanish America and intercepting
ships on their way over the sea. And just as the Moslem corsairs were
a mixture of several nations—English, Dutch, Levantine, Italian and so
on—in like manner the company of buccaneers before long was made up of
various European seamen from many a different port.

But among the English buccaneers a special place must be reserved for a
Bristol seaman named Edward Teach, better known as “Black-Beard” Teach,
just as we remember the great Moslem corsair was known as Red-Beard Uruj,
or Barbarossa. Teach left the west of England, and having arrived at
Jamaica shipped as one of the crew of a privateer during the French war,
and was not long in showing that he was made of the right stuff of which
those who rove the seas for booty are supposed to be. But it was not
until a Captain Benjamin Hornigold gave him the command of a prize which
he had taken that Teach began to have his full opportunity. In the spring
of 1717 Hornigold and Teach sailed away from the West Indies for North
America. Before they had reached their destination they had captured a
vessel with 120 barrels of flour, which they distributed between their
two vessels. A little later they seized two more vessels, from which they
obtained a quantity of wine and treasure. The pirates next proceeded to
the coast of Virginia, where they cleaned ship, and then, after these
diversions, they captured a ship bound for Martinique.

Hornigold now returned with his prizes to the island of Providence, and
presently surrendered himself to the King’s clemency. But Teach went
about his business as an independent pirate now. The vessel in which he
sailed was fitted with forty guns, and he named her _The Queen Anne’s
Revenge_, and he began rapidly to accumulate wealth. One day, while
cruising near the island of St. Vincent, he captured a large vessel
called the _Great Allan_, pillaged her of what he fancied and then set
her on fire. Only a few days later the _Scarborough_ man-of-war hove in
sight, and for several hours the two ships engaged. The former recognised
that Teach was a pirate and was endeavouring to conquer him: but it is a
fact that after a time the _Scarborough_, seeing she was not a match for
_The Queen Anne’s Revenge_, deemed it better to retire from the contest,
thus allowing Teach to resume his piratical profession.

He next found himself encountering a sloop, which was commanded by a
Major Bonnet, and Teach and Bonnet agreed to throw in their lot together.
But as “Black Beard” soon saw that Bonnet was inexperienced in naval
matters the former gave the command of the sloop to one of the crew named
Richards, whilst Bonnet transferred to the larger ship. And then the two
craft went roaming over the seas with singular success. Indeed, were one
to mention every ship that Teach captured, the reader would find the
catalogue to be one of mere monotony. The pirate had but to give chase
after a sail, hoist his black flag, and the fleeing ship would heave-to
and surrender. But as I believe the reader would find it more interesting
to become acquainted with the more interesting episodes rather than a
complete list of every single engagement, I propose to confine myself to
the former.

Teach cruised about the West Indies and off the southern portion of
what are now the United States. He would anchor off Charleston (South
Carolina), wait till an outward-bound ship emerged from the harbour, and
then promptly seize her, or, just to vary matters, he would capture a
couple of others as they were about to enter Charleston. The impudence
of the man was amazing, and his audacity spread terror in the town and
paralysed the trade of the port. No vessel dared to show her nose outside
the harbour, and a whole fleet of ships was thus tied up inside unable to
move. And then, like many of these pirates, Teach showed how remarkably
clever and resourceful he was. By this time he had captured quite a large
number of prisoners, and it became essential that medicine supplies
should be procured by some means. To this end he had the remarkable
impudence to demand a medicine-chest from the governor: and this request
was made neither diplomatically nor even politely. He asked for it with
consummate insolence. He sent some of his own crew ashore, together with
several of the prisoners, demanding these medicinal stores, and it was
made quite clear to the governor that if these were not forthcoming and a
safe return made to the ships, every prisoner should instantly be put to
death, and the captured ships burnt to ashes. Whilst these negotiations
were being carried on by the little deputation of prisoners, the pirate’s
crew were swaggering up and down the streets of Charleston, and not a
hand dared to touch them.

The governor was in a dilemma and listened carefully to the insolent
demand: but as he was anxious to prevent human carnage, he got together
medicinal supplies to the value of over £300 and sent them aboard. But
to show you what sort of a man Teach was, let it be said that as soon
as the pirate obtained these goods and the safe return of his own men,
he pillaged the captured vessels of all their gold and provisions, then
put the prisoners back on their respective ships and set sail for North
Carolina. On the way thither Teach began to consider how he could best
secure the spoil for himself and a few of his especial friends among the
crew, so he pretended that he was about to give his ship’s bottom a scrub
and headed for the shore, where she grounded. He then called to the sloop
to come to his assistance. This they attempted, but the sloop also took
the ground badly and both ships became total wrecks. Teach then took
the tender, put forty hands therein, had about half of them landed on a
lonely sandy island three miles from the shore, “where there was neither
bird nor beast nor herb for their subsistence.” Had it not been for Major
Bonnet, who afterwards sent a long-boat for them, they would have died.

Meanwhile Teach, now very rich, with the rest of his crew, went and
surrendered himself to the Governor of North Carolina. Why? Not for any
other reason than in order to plan out bigger piracies. For he knew that
the governor would succumb to bribery, and by this official’s influence
a court of vice-admiralty was held and _The Queen Anne’s Revenge_
condemned as a lawful prize and the legal property of Teach, although it
was a well-known fact that she belonged to English merchants.

It was not long before Teach was at sea again, and setting a course
for Bermudas he pillaged four or five English and French merchantmen,
and brought one of the ships back to North Carolina, where he shared
the prizes with the governor who had already obliged him. Teach also
made an affidavit that he had found this French ship at sea with not a
soul on board, so the court allowed him to keep her, and the governor
received sixty hogsheads of sugar for his kindly assistance. Teach was
very nervous lest some one might arrive in the harbour and prove that the
pirate was lying, so on the excuse that this ship was leaky and likely to
stop up the entrance to the harbour if she sank, permission was obtained
from the governor to burn her, and when that had been done, her bottom
was sunk so that she might never exist as a witness against him.

But the time came when the piracies of this Teach could no longer be
endured. Skippers of trading craft had already lost so heavily that
it was resolved to take concerted action. The skippers knew that the
Governor of Virginia was an honourable man, and they laid the matter
before him, begging that an armed force might be sent from the men-of-war
to settle these infesting pirates. The governor consulted the men-of-war
captains as to what had best be done, and it was decided to hire two
small vessels which could pursue Black Beard into all those inlets and
creeks which exist on the American coast. These were to be manned by
men from the warships, and placed under the command of Lieutenant May.
A proclamation was also issued offering a handsome reward to any who
within a year should capture or destroy a pirate.

But before we go on to watch the exciting events with which this punitive
expedition was concerned I want the reader to realise something more of
the kind of pirate they were to chase. A few actual incidents will reveal
his character better than many words. The story is told that on a certain
night when Black Beard was drinking in his cabin with Israel Hands (who
was master of _The Queen Anne’s Revenge_), the ship’s pilot and a fourth
man, Teach suddenly took up a pair of pistols and cocked them underneath
the table. When the fourth man perceived this, he went up on deck,
leaving Teach, Hands and the pilot together. As soon as the pistols were
ready, Teach blew out the light, crossed his arms and fired at the two
men. The first pistol did not harm, but the other wounded Hands in the
knee. When Teach was asked why he did this, he replied with an oath, “If
I didn’t now and then kill one of you, you would forget who I was.”

And there is another anecdote which shows his vanity in a curious
manner. Like most blackguards, he was anxious to pose as a person who
set no limits to his endurance. Those were the days of braggadocio, of
pomposity and hard drinking and hard swearing. It happened that on this
particular occasion the ship was doing a passage, and Teach was somewhat
high-spirited through the effect of the wine, and he became obsessed
with the idea of making his crew believe that he was a devil incarnate.
“Come,” he roared to some of his men, “let us make a hell of our own, and
try how long we can bear it.” It was obviously the prank of a drunken
braggart, but with several others he went down into the hold of the
ship and closed up all the hatches. He then filled several pots full
of brimstone and other combustible matter and set it on fire. Quickly
the hold became so bad that the men were almost suffocated, and some of
them clamoured for air. The hatches were at last opened and Teach was as
proud of having been able to hold out longest as if he had just captured
a well-freighted prize. And, finally, you can also appreciate the man’s
vanity in a totally different manner. His name was derived from his long
black beard, which caused him to look exceedingly repellent; but he would
sometimes even stick lighted matches under his hat, which, burning on
either side of his face, lit up his wild fierce eyes and made his general
appearance so repulsive that he exactly reflected his own character.

But to resume our story at the point where we digressed. About the
middle of November 1717, Lieutenant Maynard set out in quest of Black
Beard, and four days later came in sight of the pirate. The expedition
had been fitted out with every secrecy, and care was taken to prevent
information reaching Teach. But the tidings had reached Teach’s friend,
the Governor of Bermudas, and his secretary. The latter therefore sent a
letter to warn Teach to be on his guard. But Teach had before now been
the recipient of false news, and he declined to believe that he was
being hunted down. In fact, it was not until he actually saw the sloops
which had been sent to catch him that he could realise the true state of
affairs.

Maynard had arrived with his sloops in the evening of a November day, and
deemed it wiser to wait till morning before attack. Teach was so little
concerned, however, that he spent the night in drinking with the skipper
of a trader. Black Beard’s men fully realised that there would be an
engagement the next day, and one of them ventured to ask him a certain
question. If, inquired the man, anything should happen to Teach during
the engagement would his wife know where he had buried his money? Black
Beard’s reply was short and concise. “Nobody but the devil and myself,”
he answered, “knows where it is. And the longest liver shall take all.”

When the morning came, Maynard weighed anchor and sent his boat to sound
the depth of water around where the pirate was lying. Teach then promptly
fired at the boat, but Maynard then hoisted his royal colours and made
towards Black Beard as fast as oars and sails could carry him. Before
long both the pirate and two sloops were aground, but Maynard lightened
his vessel of her ballast and water, and then advanced towards Black
Beard, whereupon the pirate began to roar and rant. “Who are you?” he
hailed, “and whence come you?” The naval officer quietly answered him.
“You see from our colours we are no pirates.” Black Beard then bade him
send his boat aboard that he might see who he was, but Maynard simply
answered this impudent request by replying, “I cannot spare my boat, but
I will come aboard you as soon as I can with my sloop.”

The swaggering pirate then raised his glass of grog and insolently drank
to the officer, saying, “I’ll give no quarter, nor take any from you.”
Maynard replied that he expected no quarter from him, nor, for his part,
did he intend to give any. But whilst this exchange of courtesies went
on, the tide had risen and the pirate’s ship floated off. As fast as they
could the sloops were being rowed towards Teach’s ship, but as the ships
drew near, Teach fired a broadside and so killed or wounded twenty of the
naval men. A little later Black Beard’s ship drifted in to the shore and
one of the sloops fell astern. But Maynard, finding that his own sloop
was carrying way on and that he would fetch alongside Teach’s ship,
ordered all his own men below, while he and the helmsman were the only
two who remained on deck. The latter he managed to conceal so that only
the officer was visible. But he ordered his crew to take their pistols,
cutlasses and swords and to be ready for any duty immediately, and in
order to make it possible for the men to regain the deck in the minimum
time, he caused two ladders to be placed in the hatchway.

The sloop now came alongside the pirate, whereupon the latter had
case-boxes, such as were discharged from cannon, thrown on board, having
first been filled with powder, small shot, slugs and pieces of lead and
iron. A quick match was placed in the mouth of these and then they were
dropped on to the sloop’s deck. These would, of course, be exceedingly
destructive, but inasmuch as the naval crew were below at the time, they
did but little harm. And when Black Beard saw that by now there were
only a few hands on deck he believed that these three or four were the
sole survivors. He exulted greatly and cried, “Let us jump on board and
cut to pieces those that are alive.” Now one of these case-boxes was
causing a great cloud of smoke, so that Black Beard was able, together
with fourteen of his men, to leap on the sloop’s deck without being
immediately perceived. But as soon as the smoke began to clear, Maynard
ordered his men up from below, who were on deck in a flash.

Then there began a fierce fight, and between Maynard and Black Beard
there was a magnificent hand-to-hand encounter. At first they exchanged
shots, and the pirate was wounded. Then they drew their swords, and each
man lunged at the other. Matters were proceeding in an exciting manner
until, by ill-luck, the lieutenant had the misfortune to break his sword.
In a moment Black Beard would have dealt him a fatal blow, had not one
of Maynard’s men instantly given the pirate a terrible wound in the neck
and throat. After this the onslaught became fiercer and fiercer. Both
sides were releasing their pent-up rage, and it was by no means certain
who would win the fight. There were twelve service men against fourteen
of the pirates, not counting Maynard or Teach. It is to be stated that
neither side lacked bravery, and the greatest valour was displayed on
both sides. The deck presented a sickening sight, and blood was seen
spilt everywhere. Teach, though he had been wounded by the shot from
Maynard and the blow from one of the latter’s men, as well as sundry
other ugly cuts, still fought splendidly. But he was employing the very
utmost of his physical resources, and finally, while in the act of
cocking his pistol, fell down with a heavy thud to the deck dead.

In the meanwhile eight of his men had also perished, and most of the
rest being wounded they clamoured for quarter, a request which was
granted, seeing that Teach himself had been slain. Maynard severed the
pirate’s head from his body, and after affixing it to the end of his
bowsprit, sailed away to Bathtown in order to obtain medical aid for his
wounded men. On ransacking the pirate ship there were found a number
of incriminating documents which showed the close connection between
Teach and the Governor of Bermudas. After Maynard’s men had their wounds
attended to, the sloop left Bathtown, and with Black Beard’s head
still swinging at the bowsprit end, proceeded to Virginia, where there
was great rejoicing that the pirate pest had at last been killed. The
prisoners were brought off from the sloop, tried, condemned and executed,
with the exception of two. Of these one had been taken by Teach from
a trading ship only the day before the fight, and he was suffering
severely from no less than seventy wounds, but of these he presently
recovered. The other man not executed was Israel Hands, who was master of
_The Queen Anne’s Revenge_, who had remained on shore at Bathtown, where
he was recovering from that wound we mentioned just now which Black-Beard
one night in a playful humour had dealt him from his pistol in the dark.

So the American colonists were able to breathe again, and the trading
ships were allowed to go about once more without fear of this scoundrel.
The blow had been dealt decisively and neatly. It only remains to add
one other fact which well indicates the desperate nature of this pirate.
When, during the engagement, it seemed likely that he would be overcome,
he had placed a negro at the gunpowder door with instructions to blow
the ship up the moment Maynard’s men should come aboard. But inasmuch
as Maynard’s clever stratagem lured the pirate and his men on board the
sloop, a terrible disaster was avoided which would have involved both
ships and doubtless all the men of each contesting party.



CHAPTER XIV

THE STORY OF CAPTAIN KIDD


We come now to another historical pirate, who, both in America and
England, will long be remembered for his very interesting exploits.
Following the modern tendency of endeavouring to whitewash notorious
criminals of a bygone age, a recent writer has sought to dismiss the idea
that Kidd was to be numbered among the pirates. I admit that at one time
this man was an honest seaman, and that force of circumstances caused his
career to become completely altered. But a pirate he certainly became,
and no amount of juggling with facts can alter this.

The story of his life is as follows: He was a Scotsman who was born in
Greenock, which has given to the world so many fine seamen in different
generations, and so many handsome new ships both of wood and of steel.
Sailing ships and steam-propelled liners have been built here during the
past two hundred years by the score. After a while we find Kidd in North
America. He became a resident of New York, and in 1691 married a widow.
He became a prosperous shipmaster sailing out of New York, and they say
that in his house in Liberty Street was the first Turkey carpet ever seen
in New York. He was a man well-known to the local merchants, and for a
time had command of a privateer cruising against the French in West
Indian waters. This was the period during which William III. was at war
with our French neighbours.

In the year 1695 Kidd had crossed to England and was in London, having
command of the brigantine _Antigoa_, of New York. Now about this time the
King had appointed the Earl of Bellomont to be governor of New England
and New York. And the latter was especially instructed to suppress the
prevailing piracy which was causing so much distress along the coast.
Lord Bellomont, who had been governor of Barbadoes, suggested that Kidd
should be entrusted with a man-of-war, as he was a most suitable person
to send against these sea-rovers, knowing as he did every inch of the
coast and the favourite hiding-places of the pirates. But the Admiralty
did not esteem it suitable for Kidd to have a government ship under him,
and there the matter ended. But Bellomont was one of those far-sighted
men who ever had an eye for the main chance. He and his friends were well
aware of the enormous amount of money which these pirates accumulated,
and since the Admiralty would not give him a frigate, he resolved to
form a small syndicate among his friends and fit out a private ship. He
decided to appoint Kidd as captain. The latter was not anxious to accept
this appointment, but Bellomont pointed out that if he did not, Kidd’s
own vessel would be detained in the Thames; so at last he consented.

In order to give the project a certain amount of status and in order to
be able to enforce greater discipline over the crew, a King’s commission
was obtained for Kidd, authorising him “to apprehend, seize, and take
into your custody” all “pirates, freebooters, and sea-rovers, being our
subjects, or of other nations associated with them.” But he was also
given a “commission of reprisals.” As it was then time of war, this
second commission gave him justification for capturing any French ships
he might encounter. The ship which had been purchased for him was called
the _Adventure_, of 287 tons, 34 guns and 70 or 80 men.

In the month of May 1696, we find her sailing out of Plymouth Sound bound
for New York. It should be mentioned that Kidd and a man named Robert
Livingstone had undertaken to pay one-fifth of the expenses, whilst
Bellomont, with the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Lord Chancellor
and certain other gentlemen had put up the other four-fifths of the
capital. On the voyage out, Kidd fell in with a French fishing craft
off the Newfoundland banks and annexed her. Owing to the second of his
commissions just mentioned, this was no act of piracy but perfectly legal
as a privateer. Arrived in New York, Kidd made it known that he needed
a number of additional hands as crew, and, as an incentive, he offered
each man a share, reserving for himself and owners forty shares. He got
an additional number of men, comprising now 155, and then sailed away.
He had shipped a miscellaneous lot of rascals—naval deserters, pirates
out of employment, fugitives from justice, brawlers, thieves, rogues
and vagabonds. They had signed on, attracted by the chance of obtaining
plenty of booty. He set a course across the Atlantic, and his first call
was at Madeira, where he took on board wine and other necessaries. From
there he proceeded to the Cape Verde Islands, where he obtained salt and
provisions, and having all this done, steered in a southerly direction,
rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and hauled up into the Indian Ocean till
he found himself off Madagascar, which was a notorious hunting ground
for pirates. It was now February of 1697, the _Adventure_ having left
Plymouth for New York the previous May.

But, as it happened, there were no pirate ships to be found off
Madagascar, for they were somewhere out at sea looking for spoil.
Therefore, after watering and taking on board more provisions, he steered
to the north-east across the Indian Ocean till he came to the Malabar
coast in the month of June. His ship was sadly in need of repairs, and
he was in serious need of further stores. He had come a long way from
New York to India, and his ship had not earned a penny since she left
America. But he managed to borrow a sum of money from some Frenchmen who
had lost their ship but had saved their effects, and with this he was
able to buy materials for putting his ship in a seaworthy condition.

And now there came a change, and from being a privateer he became a
pirate. Once more he crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived at Bab’s Key,
which is on an island at the entrance to the Red Sea. He began to open
his mind to his crew and to let them understand that he was making a
change. So far he had acted according to the law and his commission,
though not a single pirate had he seen. He knew that the Mocha fleet
would presently come sailing that way, and he addressed his men in these
words: “We have been unsuccessful hitherto; but courage, my boys, we’ll
make our fortunes out of this fleet.” There can be little doubt but
that Kidd had been working at this idea as he came across the Indian
Ocean. Before a man becomes a robber either by land or by sea, there
is a previous mental process. A man cannot say that he acted on the
spur of the moment without confessing that he had been entertaining
the suggestion of robbery some time before. It would seem that Kidd
originally had every intention of keeping to the terms and spirit of
his two commissions. But as he had been sailing across the world without
luck, he became despondent. He thought not merely of himself, or of his
crew, but of Bellomont and the rest of the syndicate. Time and expenses
had been running on, and there was nothing on the credit side beyond
that one French ship of a year ago. He was utterly despondent, and as
a man down on his luck thieves on land so he would now act on sea. The
intention was thoroughly wrong, but it was comprehensible.

He waited for the Mocha fleet, but it came not; so he had a boat hoisted
out, and sent her well-manned along the coast to bring back a prisoner,
or at any rate obtain intelligence somehow. In a few days the boat
returned, announcing there were fourteen ships ready to sail—English,
Dutch and Moorish. He therefore kept a man continually on the look out
at the masthead lest the fleet should sail past without being seen; for
Kidd was well-nigh desperate. And one evening, about four days later, the
ships appeared in sight, being convoyed by two men-of-war—one English
and one Dutch. Kidd soon fell in with them, got among them, and fired at
the Moorish ship which happened to be nearest to him. Thereupon the two
convoys bore down on him, engaged him hotly, and compelled him to sheer
off. So, as he had begun to play the pirate, he resolved to go on. He
crossed the Indian Ocean to the eastward yet again, and cruised along
the Malabar coast, and at last he got a prize. She was a Moorish vessel,
owned by Moorish merchants, but her master was an Englishman named
Parker, and there was also a Portuguese named Don Antonio on board.

These two men Kidd forced to join him, the former as pilot and the latter
as interpreter. Thus the commissioned privateer was now a full-fledged
pirate; he had sunk deep down into the mire. And he acted with all the
customary cruelty of a pirate. He hoisted his prisoners up by the arms,
drubbed them with a naked cutlass in order that they might reveal where
the money was hidden. But all that he obtained was a bale of pepper and a
bale of coffee. But then he sailed along and touched at Carawar, where he
discovered that already the news of the assault on the Moorish ship had
arrived and was being discussed with great excitement by the merchants.
Kidd was suspected, and two Englishmen came aboard and inquired for
Parker and Don Antonio. Kidd denied that he knew such persons, and as he
had taken the precaution to hide them away in a secret place down the
hold, the visitors, still suspicious, went ashore without any definite
tidings.

For over a week these two wretched men were kept in their hiding-place,
and once more Kidd put to sea. A Portuguese man-of-war having been
sent to cruise after him, he engaged her for six hours, but as he
could not take her, and as he was the swifter sailer, he cleared off.
Soon afterwards he became possessor of a Moorish ship by a very subtle
quibble, which indicated the man’s astuteness. The vessel was under the
command of a Dutch skipper, and as soon as Kidd gave her chase, the
pirate hoisted French colours. When the merchantship saw this, she also
showed the French ensign. The _Adventure_ soon overtook her and hailed
her in French. The merchantship, having a Frenchman on board, answered
in that language. Kidd ordered her to send her boat aboard, and then
asked the Frenchman—a passenger—if he had a pass for himself. The latter
replied in the affirmative. Kidd then told the Frenchman he must pass
as captain, “and,” he added, “you _are_ captain.” His intention was
simply this. Remembering the terms of his commission, he was untruthfully
insisting that the merchantman was French and therefore legally his
prize. It was a bare-faced quibble, and one wonders why so unprincipled a
man should deem it necessary to go out of his way to make such a pretence.

So he relieved the ship of her cargo and sold it later on. Presently,
as he began to suffer from qualms of conscience and declined to attack
a Dutch ship with which they came up, his crew mutinied, and one day,
whilst a man named Moore, his gunner, was on deck discussing the Dutch
ship, Moore so far lost control of his tongue as to accuse Kidd of having
ruined them all. The pirate answered this complaint by calling him a dog,
taking up a bucket and breaking the man’s skull therewith, so that he
died the next day. Kidd now cruised about the Malabar coast, plundering
craft, taking in water and supplies from the shore, and pillaging when he
liked.

And now he came up with a fine 400-ton Moorish merchantman named the
_Queda_, whose master was an Englishman named Wright, for it was by no
means rare for these Eastern owners to employ English or Dutch skippers,
as the latter were such good seamen and navigators. Kidd as before chased
her under French colours, and having got abreast of her compelled her to
hoist out her boat and send it aboard. He then informed Wright he was to
consider himself a prisoner, and he learnt that there were only three
Europeans on board—two Dutch and one Frenchman—the rest being either
Indians or Armenians. The last mentioned were also part-owners of the
cargo. Kidd set the crew of this vessel ashore at different places along
the coast, and soon sold about £10,000 worth of the captured cargo, so
that each man had about £200, whilst Kidd got £8000.

Putting part of his own crew into the _Queda_, Kidd took the _Adventure_
and the prize southwards to Madagascar, and when he had come to anchor
a ludicrous incident occurred. For there came off to him a canoe
containing several Englishmen who had previously known Kidd well. They
now saluted him and said they understood that he had come to take
them and hang them, “which would be a little unkind in such an old
acquaintance.” But Kidd at once put them at their ease, swearing he had
no such intention, and that he was now in every respect their brother,
and just as bad as they; and calling for alcohol he drank their captain’s
health. The men then returned on board their ship _Resolution_. But by
now, after all her travels backwards and forwards over the ocean, the
_Adventure_ had become very leaky and her two pumps had to be kept going
continuously. So Kidd transferred all the tackle and guns from her to the
_Queda_, and in future made her his home. He then divided up the spoil on
the sharing principle as before. About a hundred of his men now deserted
him, and, with his forty men and about £20,000 in his ship, he put to
sea, bound at last for America again, for he was under orders to report
to Bellomont at the end of the cruise.

He arrived at the West Indies, called at one of the Leeward islands and
learnt that the news of his piracies had spread over the civilised world,
and he was wanted as a pirate. The date was now April 1699. He handed
over the _Queda_ to a man named Bolton who was a merchant at Antigua,
and bought from him a sloop named the _San Antonio_, into which he put
all his treasure. He must now press on and swear to Bellomont that he
was innocent of piracy. Being anxious to communicate with his wife, Kidd
steered for Long Island Sound, proceeded as far as Oyster Bay, landed,
and sent her a message, and after going on his northward voyaging,
transferred some of his treasure into three sloops. Towards the end of
June he headed for Boston, arriving there on the 1st July, where he had
various interviews with Bellomont. The sloop and her contents, as well
as the other three sloops’ goods were arrested, and Kidd was afterwards
taken across to England. He and six others were tried at a sessions of
Admirality at the Old Bailey in May 1701 for piracy and robbery on the
high seas, and found guilty. Kidd was further charged with the murder of
the man Moore in the bucket incident, and also found guilty.

Kidd’s defence was that the man mutinied against him, that his accusers
had committed perjury and that he was “the most innocent person of them
all.” But the Court thought otherwise, and a week or so later he and the
other six men were executed at the Execution Dock, and afterwards their
bodies were hung up in chains, at intervals along the river, where they
remained for a long time.

Of the treasure which was brought by Kidd to America, and has frequently
been sought for by treasure-hunters unavailingly, the exact total of
gold dust, gold coins, gold bars; silver rings, silver buttons, broken
silver, silver bars; precious stones—diamonds, rubies, green stones, and
so on—reached the following enormous amount—

    Gold        1111 oz.
    Silver      2353 ”
    Jewels        17 ”

A certain amount of plate and money was successfully retained by Kidd’s
wife, and of what was left of the booty after payment of the legal
fees involved in his trial, the sum of £6472 was, by special Act of
Parliament, handed over to Greenwich Hospital.[2]

Surely, with such facts as these before one, it is a hopeless case for
any modern enthusiast to pretend for a moment that the famous Captain
Kidd was not a pirate. If his luck had turned out better, probably
he would have contentedly remained a privateer. But opportunity is
illustrative of the man, and if ever a sailor succeeded in showing
himself to be a pirate with all the avariciousness and cruelty which the
word suggests, here you have it in the life of Captain Kidd.



CHAPTER XV

THE EXPLOITS OF CAPTAIN AVERY


If the sixteenth century was the “grand” period of the Moslem corsairs
of the Mediterranean, the eighteenth will ever remain memorable for the
manifold activities of those English seamen who took to piracy as a far
more remunerative profession than carrying freights. If we look for any
explanation of this, I think it is not far to seek.

You have to take into consideration several points. Firstly, it seems
to me, in all phases whether political or otherwise, whether concerned
with the sea or with land affairs, you must get at personal and national
character—the very fount and origin of all human energies. Whatever
else the seventeenth century was, it was not a very distinguished era.
There were, of course, exceptions, but speaking broadly, it was a
most disappointing period. Morally it was corrupt, politically it was
degenerate, and artistically it was insincere and pompous. You have only
to read the history of that period in its various aspects to realise
this. This was the time when the reaction after the Puritan period had
led to a dereliction of high principles, when intrigue and bribery had
made such an onslaught on political life that votes were bought for
money, that even admirals allowed petty politics to interfere with their
loyalty when fighting at sea the nation’s enemies. Smug respectability
was the dominating high ideal, and there was no greater sin than that of
being found out. High-handed actions by those in power and lawlessness
by those who were covetous of obtaining wealth were significant of this
period. And if you want to realise the humbug and insincerity of the
eighteenth century, you have only to go into the nearest art gallery and
examine the pictures of that period (excepting perhaps some portraiture),
or to read the letters which the men and women wrote, or to read the
books which the educated people of that time esteemed so highly. Religion
and politics, domestic life, art and literature were in an unhealthy
condition.

Now a man, whether a sailor or a politician, or whatever else, is
very largely the child of his age. That is to say, given a lawless,
unprincipled, corrupt period, it is more than likely that any particular
individual will be found to exhibit in his activities the marks of that
age. And therefore, bearing such facts as these in mind, it becomes
perfectly comprehensible that the eighteenth century should have been the
flourishing period of English sea-robbery. Add just one item more—the
continual period of unrest caused by years of international wars and
the rumours of war, and you are not surprised that the call of the sea
was accepted by so many more hundreds of men than ever before in the
history of the nation. But naval wars did not mean merely that more men
were wanted to work the ship which fought our battles; there was such
an encouragement and incentive to skippers and capitalists to undertake
privateering that not even in the Elizabethan age had so many ships and
men taken part in that kind of undertaking. So, instead of privateering
being merely an exceptional activity during an occasional period of
hostilities, it became, owing to long drawn-out wars, a regular,
definite profession. There was in it every opportunity to indulge both
personal and national hatred of the foreigner; to enjoy a series of fine
adventures, and then to return home with an accumulation of glory and
prizes. Side by side with this—and well illustrating the tone of the
age—smuggling had become an almost irrepressible national evil.

In the history of smuggling you not infrequently found that the
preliminary steps to this dishonest livelihood were as follows: First,
the man was employed as an honest fisherman; then, finding this did not
pay him, he became a privateer, or else in the King’s service serving on
board a Revenue cutter. Then, being more anxious for wealth, he threw
in his lot with the very men he had been chasing, and became either an
out-and-out smuggler or else a pirate. For, as has been insisted on
more than once in previous chapters, the line of demarcation between
privateering and piracy, though perfectly visible to lawyers, was
not always sufficiently strong to keep the roving seaman within the
limitations of legal livelihood. In a word, as it is always difficult
suddenly to break a habit, and as this immense body of seamen had so long
been accustomed to earning their money by attacking other ships, so in an
age that had but little respect for what was lawful, it was really not
surprising that dozens of ships put to sea as downright pirates or else
as acknowledged smugglers. In this present volume we are concerned only
with the first of these two classes.

Typical of the period was a notorious Captain Avery, whose doings
became known throughout Europe. There was nothing petty in these
eighteenth-century corsairs. They had in them the attributes which go
to making a great admiral, they were born rulers of men, they were good
strategists, hard fighters, brave and valorous, daring and determined.
But as against this they were tyrannical, cruel and brutal; and, as is so
frequently the case with all men, the acquisition of wealth ruined them,
made them still more overbearing and swollen-headed, so that with no high
principles, no lofty aims, they descended by degrees into debauchery
and callousness. It was a thousand pities in many ways, for these
were magnificent seamen who took their ill-designed, bluff, old tubs
practically all round the world, keeping the sea for months at a time,
and surviving terrible weather and many changes of climate. If these
great disciplinarians had not become tyrants, and if their unquestioned
abilities could have been legitimately employed, they had in them the
ability which has produced great Empire makers, brilliant admirals and
magnificent administrators. But their misfortune consisted in having
belonged to the eighteenth century.

Avery, like many of the world’s greatest seamen, was born in Devonshire,
went to sea when quite young, and rose to the rank of mate in a merchant
ship. It happened that there was a good deal of smuggling going on by the
French of Martinique with the Spaniards of the American colonies. And in
order to put a stop to this, the Spanish Government hired foreigners to
act against the delinquents. A number of Bristol merchants accordingly
fitted out a couple of 30-gun ships, and, well-manned, well-found in
everything, sent them to Corunna to await orders. One of these ships was
commanded by a Captain Gibson, and in the year 1715 Avery happened to
be his mate. The Devonshire man possessed all the traditional seafaring
instincts and that love of adventure for which his county was famous,
and he was evidently not unpopular with the rest of the crew. For after
he had won their confidence, he began to point out to them what immense
riches could be obtained on the Spanish coast, and suggested that they
should throw in their lot with him and run off with the ship. This
suggestion was heartily agreed upon, and it was resolved to make the
attempt the following evening at ten o’clock.

It should be mentioned that Gibson, like many another eighteenth-century
skipper, was rather too fond of his grog, and on the eventful night he
had imbibed somewhat freely and turned into his bunk, instead of going
ashore for his usual refreshment. Those of the crew who were not in the
present plot had also turned in, but the others remained on deck. At
ten o’clock the long-boat from the other ship rowed off to them. Avery
gave her a hail, and the boat answered by the agreed watchword thus. “Is
your drunken boatswain on board?” Avery replied in the affirmative, and
then sixteen able men came on board. The first thing was to secure the
hatches, and then very quietly they hauled up the anchor and put to sea
without making much noise.

After they had been under way some time, the captain awoke from his
drunken sleep and rang his bell. Avery and one other confederate then
went into the cabin. “What’s the matter with the ship?” queried the “old
man.” “Does she drive; what weather is it?” For as he realised she was
on the move he naturally was forced to the conclusion that the ship was
sheering about at her anchor and that a strong wind had sprung up. Avery
quickly reassured him, and incidentally gave his waking mind something of
a shock. “No,” answered the former mate, “no, we’re at sea, with a fair
wind and good weather.” “At sea?” gasped the captain. “How can that be?”
“Come, don’t be in a fright, but put on your clothes, and I’ll let you
into a secret. You must know,” he went on, “that I am captain of this
ship now, and this is my cabin, therefore you must walk out. I am bound
for Madagascar with the design of making my own fortune and that of all
the brave fellows joined with me.”

The captain began to recover his senses and to understand what was being
said, but he was still very frightened. Avery begged him not to be
afraid, and that if he liked to join their confederacy they were willing
to receive him. “If you turn sober, and attend to business, perhaps in
time I may make you one of my lieutenants. If not here’s a boat, and you
shall be set on shore.” Gibson preferred to choose this last alternative,
and the whole crew being called up to know who was willing to go ashore
with the captain, there were only about half a dozen who decided to
accompany him to the land.

So Avery took his ship to Madagascar without making any captures. On
arriving at the north-east portion of the island, he found a couple of
sloops at anchor, but when these espied him they slipped their cables and
ran their ships ashore, while the men rushed inland and hid themselves
in the woods. For these men had guilty consciences. They had stolen the
sloops from the East Indies, and on seeing Avery’s ship arrive they
imagined that he had been sent to punish them. But Avery sent some of
his own men ashore to say that the sloops’ men were his friends, and
suggested that they should form an amalgamation for their common benefit
and safety. The men were well armed and had taken up positions in the
wood, and outposts had been stationed to watch whether they were pursued
ashore.

But when the latter perceived that two or three men were approaching
unarmed, there was no opposition offered, and on learning that they were
friends, the messengers were led to the main body, where they delivered
Avery’s message. At first the fugitives had feared this was just a
stratagem to entrap them, but when they heard that Avery, too, had run
away with his ship, they conferred and decided to throw in their lot. The
next thing was to get the two sloops refloated, and then the trio sailed
towards the Arabian coast. When they arrived at length off the mouths of
the Indus, a man at the masthead espied a sail, so orders were given to
chase. As they came on nearer, the strange vessel was observed to be a
fine tall craft and probably an East Indiaman. But when they came closer
she was found to be far more valuable and more worth fighting.

On firing at her the latter hoisted the colours of the Great Mogul and
seemed prepared to fight the matter out. But Avery declined getting at
close quarters and preferred to bombard from a safe distance, whereupon
some of his men began to suspect that he was not the dashing hero they
had taken him for. But the sloops attacked the strange ship vigorously,
one at the bow and the other on her quarter. After a while they succeeded
in boarding her, when she was now compelled to strike colours. It was
found that she was one of the Great Mogul’s ships, carrying a number
of important members of his court on a pilgrimage to Mecca and most
valuable articles to be offered at the shrine of Mahomet. There were
large quantities of magnificent gold and silver vessels, immense sums of
money, and altogether the plunder was very considerable. Everything of
value having been taken out of her, and the entire treasure having been
transferred on board the three ships, the vessel was permitted to depart.

When at last the ship returned to her home, and the Mogul learned the
news, he was exceedingly wrathful and threatened to send a mighty army
to drive out the English from their settlements along the Indian coast.
This greatly alarmed the East India Company, but the latter managed to
calm him down by promising to send ships after the robbers and deliver
him into their hands. The incident caused great excitement in Europe, and
all sorts of extravagant rumours spread about, so that at one time it
was intended to fit out a powerful squadron and have him captured, while
another suggestion was that he should be invited home with his riches and
receive the offer of His Majesty’s pardon, for he was reputed now to be
about to found a new monarchy. But eventually these foolish notions were
discovered to be baseless. Meanwhile the three treasure-laden ships were
returning to Madagascar, where it was hoped to build a small fort, keep a
few men there permanently and there deposit their ill-gotten treasure.

But Avery had another plan in his mind, and this well exhibits his true
character. On the voyage he sent out a boat to each of the sloops,
inviting each skipper to repair on board him. They came and he laid
before them the following proposition. If either of the sloops were to
be attacked alone, they could not be able to offer any great resistance,
and so their treasure would vanish. As regards his own ship, he went on,
she was such a swift ship that he could not conceive of any other craft
overtaking her. Therefore he suggested that all the treasure should be
sealed up in three separate chests, that each of the three captains
should have keys, that they should not be opened until all were present,
that these chests should then be kept on his own ship, and afterwards
deposited in a safe place ashore.

It seems very curious that such wide-awake pirates should not have been
able to see through such an obvious trick. But without hesitation they
agreed with the idea, and all the treasure was placed aboard Avery’s ship
as had been suggested. The little fleet sailed on, and now Avery began
to approach his crew in his usual underhand manner. Here was sufficient
wealth on board to make them all happy for the rest of their lives.
“What,” he asked, “shall hinder us from going to some country where we
are not known and living on shore to the end of our days in affluence?”
The crew thoroughly appreciated the hint, so during the night Avery’s
ship got clear away, altered her course, sailed round the Cape of Good
Hope and made for America. They were strangers in that land, they would
divide up the booty and they would separate, so that each man would
be able to live on comfortably without working. They arrived at the
island of Providence, when it was decided that it would be wiser to get
rid of such a large vessel. So, pretending she had been fitted out for
privateering, and that, having had an unsuccessful voyage, Avery had
received orders from his owners to sell her as best he could, he soon
found a merchant who bought her, and Avery then purchased a small sloop.

In this craft he and his crew embarked with their treasure, and after
landing at different places on the American coast where no one suspected
them, they dispersed and settled down in the country. Avery had now
immense wealth, but as most thereof consisted of diamonds and he was
afraid of being unable to get rid of them in America without being
suspected as a pirate, he then crossed to the north of Ireland, where
some of his men settled and obtained the King’s pardon. And now began
a series of incidents which might well be taken to show the folly of
ill-gotten gain. The reader has already seen that in spite of the vast
affluence which these eighteenth-century pirates obtained, yet in the
end such wealth brought them nothing but anxiety and final wretchedness.

Avery could no more dispose of his precious stones in Ireland than in
America, so thinking that perhaps there might be some one in that big
west-country town of Bristol who would purchase them, he proceeded to his
native county of Devonshire and sent to one of his friends to meet him at
Bideford. The “friend” introduced other “friends” and Avery informed them
of his business. It was agreed that the best plan would be to place the
diamonds in the hands of some wealthy merchants who would ask no awkward
questions as to their origin. One of the “friends” asserted that he knew
some merchants who would be able to transact the business, and provided
they allowed a handsome commission the diamonds would be turned into
money. As Avery could think of no other solution to the difficulty, he
agreed with this, so presently the merchants came down to Bideford, and
after strongly protesting their integrity they were handed both diamonds
and vessels of gold, for which they gave him a small sum in advance.
Avery then changed his name and lived quietly at Bideford, but in a short
time he had spent all his money, and in spite of repeated letters to the
wily merchants he could get no answer. But at last they sent him a small
sum, though quite inadequate for paying his debts, and as he could barely
subsist he resolved to go to Bristol and interview the merchants.

He arrived, but instead of money he was met with a firm refusal and
a threat that they would give information that he was a pirate. This
frightened him so much that he returned to Ireland, and from there kept
writing for his money, which, however, never came. He was reduced to such
a condition of abject poverty that he resolved, in his misery, to go
back to Bristol and throw himself on the merchants’ mercy. He therefore
shipped on board a trading ship, worked his passage to Plymouth and then
walked to Bideford. He had arrived there not many days when he fell ill
and died without so much as the money to buy him a burial. So it was true
that “there be land rats and water rats, land thieves and water thieves,
I mean pirates.” Avery had met a company of men who treated him in the
way he had robbed others. Thus, the whole of his long voyaging from sea
to sea, the entire series of events from the time when he had seized
Gibson’s ship, had been not only profitless but brought upon him the
utmost misery, terror, starvation and ultimate death. He had fought, he
had schemed, he had done underhand tricks, he had told lies and he had
endured bitter anxiety: but all to no purpose whatever.



CHAPTER XVI

A “GENTLEMAN” OF FORTUNE


“In an honest service there are commonly low wages and hard labour: in
piracy, satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not
balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it at
worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short
one shall be my motto.”

Such was the remark which a certain Captain Bartholomew Roberts, a
notorious seventeenth-century pirate, was said to have made, and no doubt
there was a certain amount of truth in this statement. The low wages and
hard labour in other spheres of life contrasted unfavourably with the
possibilities of ease, plenty, liberty and power. This fellow, like the
notorious Henry Morgan, was a Welshman and born in Pembrokeshire. He grew
up to be a tall, dark, ingenious and daring seaman. For a time he led the
hard but honest life of a sailor trading to the Guinea coast, but in the
year 1719 he had the bad luck to be captured by Davis, another pirate
captain. The latter constrained Roberts to lead this lawless form of
life, and it is only fair to state that Roberts at first was distinctly
averse from piracy and would certainly have deserted if an opportunity
had been forthcoming. However, “preferment claimed his conscience and
reconciled him to that which he formerly hated.”

And when Davis ended his days by death in action, the pirate crew decided
to choose Roberts as their skipper. “It is my advice,” said one of these
at the time of the election, “it is my advice, while we are sober, to
pitch upon a man of courage, and one skilled in navigation—one who, by
his prudence and bravery, seems best able to ward us from the dangers
and tempests of an unstable element, and the fatal consequences of
anarchy, and such a one I take Roberts to be: a fellow in all respects
worthy of your esteem and favour.” So the Welshman was prevailed upon
to accept this new honour, adding that since he had dipped his hands in
muddy water, and must be a pirate, it was better being a commander than a
private man.

So the pirate ship sailed south along the Guinea coast with her new
commander, captured a Dutch Guinea ship, emptied her of everything they
fancied, sent her on her way again, and two days later took an English
ship. From her, too, they extracted all that they desired, and since her
crew were persuaded to join Roberts’ ship the prize was burnt and the
pirate, with a now much bigger company, set sail for the island of St.
Thomas, which is in the South Atlantic some distance off the Congo coast.
But as they had no further luck in these parts, they eventually resolved
by vote to make for Brazil. After a twenty-eight-day voyage across the
Atlantic they arrived off the South American shore and for nine weeks
or so cruised about unsuccessfully, taking care to keep out of sight of
land. But on the way to the West Indies, whither they were now bound, a
little disappointed, they unexpectedly fell in with a fleet of forty-two
Portuguese ships of Bahia. These vessels were bound for Lisbon, and were
now waiting for two 70-gun men-of-war to convoy them home.

Such a rich sight was too much for the pirate. He was sure that his one
single ship would have but little chance against such a powerful fleet,
especially as some of them were really powerful vessels. But a faint
heart never made a prize, and he was minded to have a try. Among the many
vicissitudes of these pirate wayfarers the reader must have been struck
by the extremely able cunning which these lawless desperate fellows
displayed in many of their captures. Somehow one does not associate skill
with brutality. But it was very rare that these pirate skippers were at
a loss for a stratagem. Force was employed and used without mercy at the
proper time, but that was not allowed to take the place of ingenuity. So
long as these corsairs remained sober and did not set foot on land, they
very rarely met with defeat. They were terrified not by superior forces
but by the possibility of being found out when ashore. The sea and its
ways they understood: in that sphere they were at home. It was only when
they became so foolish as to abandon their natural element that they fell
on evil days.

So Roberts set about devising some means of getting what he wanted from
this mighty fleet. He got his ship in their midst and kept his own rugged
desperate crew concealed. He then took his ship close to one of the
biggest Portuguese and hailed her to send her master aboard _quietly_.
If the Portuguese should show the slightest resistance, or make any
signal of distress, he would show them no mercy. This cool impudence was
successful: for the master now coming on deck, and seeing the sudden
flash of pirate cutlasses of the men who had for a time been concealed,
there was nothing to do but submit quietly, and the captain repaired
on board the pirate as requested. Roberts saluted him in a friendly
manner and told him he and his crew were gentlemen of fortune. All they
desired from him was to be informed as to which was the richest ship of
the fleet. If the captain informed them correctly, then he should be
permitted to go back to his ship in safety: but if not, he must expect
instant death.

So the Portuguese pointed out a 40-gun vessel which had a crew of 150
men. Certainly she appeared far too big a job for Roberts to tackle, but
he made towards her, still keeping the Portuguese captain aboard. As they
came alongside, the pirate ordered the Portuguese prisoner to hail her
and inquire after the commander’s health and invite him on board, as a
matter of importance was waiting to be imparted to him. The reply came
that the commander would come presently. But Roberts was not to be put
off, for, observing signs of unusual activity on board her, he poured a
heavy broadside into her, then ran his ship right alongside in the most
approved Elizabethan manner, grappled and boarded her. In a short space
of time she had been captured, and there were taken out of her into the
pirate’s hold large and valuable quantities of sugar, skins, tobacco,
etc., and 4000 gold moidores.

After this, just as a dog which has stolen a piece of meat hurries off to
find a secluded spot where he can eat his spoil in peace, so the pirates
began to long for some safe retreat where they could spend their time in
debauchery with the prizes to pay for the cost. They resolved to go to
Devil’s Island, on the river Surinam, in Dutch Guiana, and having safely
arrived there were well received by the governor and inhabitants. But the
pirates were sadly in need of provisions until they fell in with a sloop
which was in the river. This craft, which was now seized, said that she
had been sailing in company with a brigantine loaded with provisions.
The news gladdened the corsairs, and Roberts, believing the matter to
be so important that he ought to attend to it himself, went in command
of the sloop, taking forty men and leaving the pirate ship behind. He
was sure the latter would be all safe, and he would not be away long.
The brigantine would soon be espied and then he would return with the
latter’s welcome cargo.

But on this occasion Roberts was unlucky. He did not sight the
brigantine, although he sailed for miles and miles during eight days, so
at last he came to anchor off the coast somewhere, and sent a boat ashore
to inform their shipmates left behind in the Surinam River. The boat was
also to bring back provisions to the sloop: but when she returned, after
an almost unbearable delay, she brought no provisions and the unwelcome
knowledge that the lieutenant of the pirate ship had run off with her.
Roberts had certainly been a fool not to have foreseen this probability,
and in order to prevent such mutiny recurring he proceeded to draw up
regulations for preserving order in his present craft. After that, he had
to act. Provisions and water they must have at all costs, and so they
must make for the West Indies.

They had not gone far, however, before they fell in with a couple of
sloops, which they captured. These afforded them the necessary supplies.
A few days later they also captured a brigantine and then proceeded to
Barbadoes. Off Barbadoes they met a 10-gun ship heavily laden with cargo
from Bristol. Her they plundered, but after three days allowed her to
proceed. But as soon as the latter touched land and informed the governor
of her misfortune, there was dispatched a 20-gun ship with eighty men,
under the command of Captain Rogers, to seek out the pirates. In two
days they came up with her. Roberts was, of course, quite unaware that
any vessel had been sent against him, and the two craft drew near.
Roberts as usual fired a blank shot for the stranger to heave to, and was
very surprised to observe that instead of striking his colours forthwith
she returned his gun with a broadside. A sharp engagement ensued, but
as Roberts was getting distinctly the worst of it, he threw some of his
cargo overboard and hurried off as fast as his ship could travel, being
very lucky to escape in this manner.

He next made for Dominica, in the Caribbean Sea, and bartered some of his
cargo with the inhabitants for provisions. He watered his ship, and as
he happened to meet fifteen Englishmen who had been left upon the island
by some Frenchmen who had captured the Englishmen’s vessel, Roberts
persuaded these destitutes to join him, and this additional strength was
by no means inappreciable. But his ship was very foul and badly needed
her bottom scrubbed, so Roberts took her for this purpose southwards to
the Grenada Islands. It was fortunate that he did not waste any time
about his cleaning and that he put to sea immediately after, for the
Governor of Martinique got to hear that the pirate was so near, and two
sloops were sent to catch him. But Roberts and his ship had departed only
the very night before the sloops arrived.

Setting a northerly course, the pirate now proceeded towards
Newfoundland. His ship was well cleaned, so she could sail at her best
pace. He arrived off the Banks in June of 1720, and entered the harbour
of Trepassi with the black pirate’s flag at her masthead, with drums
beating and trumpets sounding. Twenty-two ships were lying in that
harbour as Roberts came in, but as soon as they realised what sort of
a visitor was amongst them, the crews forsook the ships, and Roberts,
with his men, destroyed them by burning or sinking, and then pillaged the
houses ashore, behaving like madmen and fiends let loose.

He retained just one ship of the lot, which hailed from Bristol,
and after leaving the harbour, encountered ten French ships off the
Newfoundland Banks. All of these he also destroyed excepting one, which
he took for his own use and named the _Fortune_. The Bristol ship he
handed over to these Frenchmen, and then for some time, being in the very
track of the shipping, made some important prizes, after which he sailed
again for the West Indies, took in ample supplies of provisions and then
determined to hasten towards the coast of Guinea, where previously they
had been so successful. On the way they came up with a French ship,
and as she was more suitable for piracy than his own, Roberts made her
skipper exchange ships. They were some time getting towards Surinam, as
they made a mistake in their navigation and got out of the trade winds.
And then trouble overtook them. Water had been running short for some
time, so that they became reduced to one mouthful a day. Famine, too,
overtook them, so that with thirst also tormenting them many of the
crew died, whilst the rest were extremely weak and feeble. Things went
from bad to worse, and now there was not one drop of fluid for drinking
purposes.

But, fortunately for them, they found they were in seven fathoms of
water, so the anchor was lowered over, but as they were such a long
way off the shore they despaired of relieving their thirst. But the
ship’s boat was sent away, and after a while, to their immense relief,
the little craft returned with plenty of drinking water to end their
sufferings. One would have thought that as an act of gratitude these
men would then have given up their lawless life and ceased their
depredations. But they were a hardened lot of ruffians who feared neither
God nor man, so as soon as they were able they were off to sea at their
old game. They fell in with a ship which gave them all the provisions
they required, and soon afterwards came up with a brigantine which not
only afforded them still further supplies, but also a mate who joined
their company. Then, as they learnt that the governor had dispatched two
ships to capture them, they did a very impudent and a very cruel series
of acts by way of revenge. It should be mentioned that it was the custom
of the Dutch ships to trade with Martinique illegally. To prevent any
trouble they would keep some distance off the island and then hoist their
jacks. The inhabitants were on the look out for the signal and would row
off to do their trading, there being always a sharp contest as to who
should reach the ship first and so secure the pick of the goods.

The artful Roberts, always ready with some new device, was well aware of
this custom, so when he arrived off the island he hoisted the Dutch jack
and waited. The inhabitants of Martinique saw it and came off in their
craft as fast as they could. As each man came on board he had him killed
until there were only left those who had remained in the small ships
which had come for the cargo. All these ships, to the number of twenty,
he burned, excepting one: and into this one ship he put the survivors
and sent them back to Martinique with the doleful news. It was a cruel,
heartless trick and the basest of all methods of revenge. Roberts’ ships
then put to sea once more.

And so the life of pillage went on. When they found themselves, after
a successful period, well supplied with everything, they would indulge
their bestial bodies in hard drinking: in fact, it was deemed a crime
among them not to be in this condition of inebriety. And then finding
their wealth diminishing they set a course across the South Atlantic once
more to the Guinea coast in order to forage for gold. They fell in with
two French ships, of which one was a 10-gunner and the other a 75. The
former carried sixty-five men and the latter seventy-five. But so soon as
these cowards recognised the black flag they surrendered. So, taking the
two prizes with them, the pirates went on to Sierra Leone. One of the new
ships Roberts named the _Ranger_: the other he used as a store-ship.

After six more weeks spent at Sierra Leone in excesses, they put to
sea, and after more captures and more enjoyment of their wealth found
that their resources were still in need of replenishment. Festivity and
mirth had made a big hole in their capital, so that if they were to keep
alive they must needs get busy forthwith. Therefore they cruised about,
held up unprotected merchant ships, relieved them of their cargoes and
then burnt or sunk those strong hulls which had been the pride of many
a shipbuilder and many an owner. But the time of reckoning was at hand,
for H.M.S. _Swallow_ and another man-of-war had now been sent to capture
both Roberts and his craft. Definite news had been gained as to where
the pirates were likely to be found, and the matter was to be dealt with
firmly. Just a little to the south of the Equator, where the “line”
touches the west coast of Africa, is a bold promontory known as Cape
Lopez. Off this point lay Roberts.

Now the _Swallow_ was fortunate enough to know that the man he wanted
was here and came up as fast as she could to that locality. Those who
were serving under the pirate saw this strange sail in the offing, and so
Roberts sent one of his ships to chase her and bring her back. The pirate
had heard that two men-of-war were sent out to seek him, but he had so
successfully escaped their vigilance so far that he became over-confident
and careless. And in the present instance he judged her to be merely one
more unhappy merchantman that was to add to his list of victims. But when
the pilot of the _Swallow_ saw the detached pirate craft approaching, he
effected a smart stratagem. He altered his course and ran away from her,
but he gave her a good long run for her trouble, and managed to allow her
gradually to overtake the man-of-war. But this was not until the pirate
had got well away from her mother ship.

As the pirate came up, full of confidence that the prize would shortly be
hers, she hoisted out her black flag as usual and then fired. But when it
was now too late they discovered that this was a man-of-war and much more
than a match for the pirate. The latter was too far from Roberts’ ship to
be assisted, and so, seeing that resistance would be futile, she cried
for quarter. This was granted and her crew promptly made prisoners, but
not till she had lost already ten men killed and twenty wounded, whereas
the _Swallow_ had not received one single casualty.

The pirate admiral was still lying near the Cape, and one morning her
crew looked up and saw a sight which gave them no pleasure. Over the land
they could see the masts of the _Swallow_ as the ship bore away to round
the Cape. At the time Roberts was below having breakfast, and some of
the crew came down to inform him of the sight. But Roberts was far more
interested in his meal than in the ship and declined to get excited. She
might be a Portuguese craft, or a French slaver, or it might be their own
_Ranger_ coming back. But as the ship came on nearer and nearer the crew
began to get exceptionally interested. That was the man-of-war _Swallow_.
It was useless to dispute the point, for there was among the pirate
crew a man named Armstrong, who had previously served aboard the naval
ship and deserted. He knew her too well to take any heed of others who
disputed her identity. But Roberts was still not nervous, and stigmatised
those as cowards who were disheartening his men. Even if she were the
_Swallow_, what did it matter? Were they afraid to fight her?

But if there was a man aboard the pirate who still possessed any doubt,
that uncertainty was instantly set at rest when the _Swallow_ was seen
to be hoisting up her ports and getting her guns ready for action. Out
went the British colours, and even Roberts thought it was time to be
doing something. He had driven matters pretty fine, so he had to slip
his cable, got under way, and ordered his men to arms. All the time he
showed no timidity, but dropping an occasional oath he meant to be ready
for all that the _Swallow_ would be willing to attempt. The pirate’s
sails were unloosed and the ship had gathered way. Roberts never lost his
head, although he was not in a good humour at having had to interrupt his
morning meal. He called Armstrong to him and questioned him as to the
trim of the _Swallow_. Armstrong informed him that she sailed best upon a
wind, so that, if Roberts wanted to get away, he would be best advised to
run before the wind, as thus the _Swallow_ would not easily overtake him.

But the two ships were getting very near to each other and there was no
longer time for thinking out tactics. Quick but not hasty decision must
be made, so this is what Roberts resolved to attempt: He would pass quite
close to the _Swallow_ under full sail, and receive her broadside before
returning a shot. If the pirate should then have the misfortune to be
disabled, or if his masts and sails were shot away, then the ship would
be run ashore at the point, and every man could shift for himself among
the natives. But if this means of escape should turn out impracticable,
Roberts intended to get his ship alongside the _Swallow_ and blow the two
craft up together. The reason why he intended such desperate measures
was that old folly which has been the cause of so much disaster both to
nations, fleets and individual ships. In a word, he was unprepared, so
were his crew. He himself had not been expecting the _Swallow_, and his
own men were either drunk or only passively courageous; in any case not
the keen, alert crew who are likely to win an engagement.

But there was a curious old-time vanity about the man, which shows how
seriously these pirate-skippers took themselves. Dressed in a rich
crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold
chain round his neck with a diamond cross depending, he stood on his
deck, sword in hand, and two pairs of pistols hanging at the end of a
silk sling flung over his shoulders, as was the custom of the pirates
and such as one sees in the old prints of these men. He played the part
of commander grandly, giving his order with boldness and spirit. When
his ship closed with the _Swallow_, he received her fire and hoisted
his black flag, returning the man-of-war’s fire. He set all the sail
he could, and, as the ship tore through the water, blazed away at
the _Swallow_. It was a pity for his own sake that he did not follow
Armstrong’s advice and run his ship off before the wind. Had he done
so he might have escaped. But either through the wind shifting or else
through bad steerage in the excitement of the contest, his sails, with
the tacks down, were taken aback, and for a second time the _Swallow_
came quite close to him. From now onwards there would have been a very
desperate fight, but a grape shot struck him in the throat, and presently
he died. He laid himself on the tackles of one of the ship’s guns. The
man at the helm observing him there, and seeing that he was wounded, ran
towards him and swore at him, bidding him stand up and fight like a man.
But when the sailor found to his horror that his chief was already dead,
he burst into tears, and hoped that the next shot might settle himself.
Presently the lifeless body of the daring, plucky, ingenious Roberts was
thrown over the side into the water with his arms and ornaments still
on, just as he had repeatedly expressed the wish to be buried during his
lifetime.

The rest is quickly told. The pirate ship was now soon captured, and
the crew arrested. The latter were strictly guarded while on board the
man-of-war, and were taken to Cape Coast Castle, where they underwent
a long trial. Like many of the old smugglers, these pirates remained
defiant and impenitent for a long time, but after some experience of the
dull confinement in the castle and the imminence of death, they changed
their disposition, “and became serious, penitent, and fervent in their
devotions.” Their acts of robbery on sea had been so flagrant that there
was no difficulty in bringing in a verdict of guilty.



CHAPTER XVII

PAUL JONES, PIRATE AND PRIVATEER


We come now to consider the exploits of another historical character
whose life and adventures will ever be of unfailing interest on both
sides of the Atlantic. And yet, perhaps, this amazing Scotsman is to-day
better known in America than in Great Britain. Like many another before
him he rose from the rank of ordinary seaman to become a man that was
to be had in great fear if not respect. His fame has been celebrated in
fiction, and very probably many a story of which he has been made the
hero had no foundation in fact.

There is some dispute concerning his birth, but it seems pretty certain
that he was the son of John Paul, head gardener on Lord Selkirk’s estate
near Kirkcudbright. Paul Jones first saw light in the year 1728. Brought
up on the shores of the Solway Firth, it was only likely that he gave
up being assistant to his father and preferred the sea to gardening.
In his character there developed many of those traits which have been
such marked characteristics of the pirate breed. To realise Paul Jones,
you must think of a wild, reckless nature, burning with enthusiasm for
adventure, yet excessively vain and desirous of recognition. He was a
rebel, a privateer, a pirate and a smuggler; he was a villain, he was
quarrelsome, he was petty and mean. Finally, he was a traitor to his
country. When he died he had lived a most varied life, and had seen
service on merchantman, slaver and man-of-war.

After making several voyages to the West Indies in a merchantman as
ordinary and able-bodied seaman, he was promoted to rank of mate, and
then rose to the rank of master. Soon after the rupture between England
and America he happened to be in New England, and then it was that he
succumbed to the temptation to desert his own national standard and to
throw his aid on to the side of the revolutionists—for which reason he
changed his real name of John Paul to that of Paul Jones. Notwithstanding
that Jones has been justly condemned by biographers for having been a
traitor, yet my own opinion is that this change arose far less from
a desire to become an enemy of the British nation than from that
overwhelming _wanderlust_, and that irrepressible desire for adventure to
which we have already called attention. There are some men who have never
had enough fighting. So soon as one campaign ends they are unhappy till
another begins, so that they may find a full outlet for their spirits.
To such men as these the daily round of a peaceful life is a perpetual
monotony, and unless they can go forth to rove and wander, to fight or to
explore, their very souls would almost cry out for freedom.

So, I am convinced, it was with Paul Jones. To such a man nationalities
mean nothing more than certain artificial considerations. The only real
differences are those between the land and the sea. He knew that in
the forthcoming war he would find just the adventure which delighted
him; he would have every chance of obtaining booty, and his own natural
endowment, physical and mental, were splendidly suitable for such
activities. He had a special knowledge of British pilotage, so he was a
seaman distinctly worth having for any marauding expeditions that might
be set going. So in the year 1777 we find him very busy as commander,
fitting out the privateer _Ranger_. This vessel mounted 18 guns as well
as several swivel-guns, and had a desperate crew of 150 able men.

He put to sea and made two captures on the European side of the Atlantic,
sending each of these prizes into a French port. The following spring he
went a step further in his character as a rebel, for he appeared off the
Cumberland coast and began to attack a part of England that must have
been singularly well-known to him. He had made his landfall by daylight,
but stood away until darkness set in. At midnight he ran closer in, and
in grim silence he sent away his boats with thirty men, all well armed
and ready to perform a desperate job. Their objective was Whitehaven,
the entrance to the harbour being commanded by a small battery, so
their first effort must obviously be to settle that. Having landed with
great care, they rushed upon the small garrison and made the whole lot
prisoners. The guns of the battery were next spiked, and now they set
about their next piece of daring.

In the harbour the ships were lying side by side, the tide being out. The
good people of the town were asleep in their beds, and all the conditions
were ideal for burning the shipping where it stood. Very stealthily the
men went about their business, and had laid their combustibles on the
decks all ready for firing as soon as the signal should be given. But
just then something was happening. At the doors of the main street of
the little town there was a series of loud knockings, and people began
to wake and bustle about; and soon the sound of voices and the sight of
crowds running down to the pier. The marauders had now to hurry on the
rest of their work, for the alarm had been given and there was not a
moment to lose. So hastily the privateer’s men threw their matches on the
decks, then made for their boats and rowed off quickly to their ship.

But, luckily, the inhabitants of Whitehaven had come down just in time.
For they were able to extinguish the flames before serious damage had
been done. What was their joy was keen annoyance to the privateer’s men.
But who was the good friend who had taken the trouble to rouse the town?
Who had at once been so kind as to knock at the doors and to despoil the
marauders of their night’s work? When the shore party of the privateer
mustered on deck it was found that one man was missing, and this was the
fellow who, for some conscientious or worldly motive, had gone over to
the other side, and so saved both property and lives.

So Jones went a few miles farther north, crossed his familiar Solway
Firth and entered the river Dee, on the left bank of which stands
Kirkcudbright. He entered the estuary at dawn and let go anchor off Lord
Selkirk’s castle. When the natives saw this warlike ship in their river,
with her guns and her formidable appearance generally, they began to fear
she was a man-of-war come to impress men for the Navy. It happened that
the noble lord was away from home in London, and when the men-servants
at the castle espied what they presumed to be a King’s ship, they begged
Lady Selkirk for leave to go and hide themselves lest they might be
impressed into the service. A boat was sent from the ship, and a strong
body of men landed and marched to the castle, which, to the surprise of
all, they surrounded. Lady Selkirk had just finished breakfast when she
was summoned to appear before the leader of the men, whose rough clothes
soon showed the kind of fellows they were. Armed with pistols, swords,
muskets, and even an American tomahawk, they inquired for Lord Selkirk,
only to be assured his lordship was away.

The next request was that all the family plate should be handed over. So
all that was in the castle was yielded, even to the silver teapot which
was on the breakfast table and had not yet been washed out. The silver
was packed up, and with many apologies for having had to transact this
“dirty business,” as one of the officers called it, the pirates went back
to their ship rather richer than they had set out. But the inhabitants
of the castle were as much surprised as they were thankful to find their
own lives had not been demanded as well as the plate. The ship got under
way some time after, and put to sea without any further incident. Now
the rest of this story of the plate runs as follows, and shows another
side to the character of the head-gardener’s son: for, a few days after
this visit, Lady Selkirk received a letter from Jones, apologising for
what had been done, and stating that this raid had been neither suggested
nor sanctioned by him. On the contrary he had used his best influence to
prevent its occurrence. But his officers and crew had insisted on the
deed, with a view to capturing Lord Selkirk, for whose ransom they hoped
to obtain a large sum of money.

As an earnest of his own innocence in the matter, Paul Jones added that
he would try to purchase from his associates the booty which they had
brought away, and even if he could not return the entire quantity he
would send back all that he could. We need not stop to wonder whether
Lady Selkirk really believed such a statement; but the truth is that
about five years later the whole of the plate came back, carriage paid,
in exactly the same condition as it had left the castle. Apparently it
had never been unpacked, for the tea leaves were still in the teapot,
just as they had been taken away on that exciting morning.

But to come back to the ship. After leaving the Solway Firth astern,
Jones stood over to the Irish coast and entered Belfast Lough, amusing
himself on the way by burning or capturing several fishing craft. But
it happened that he was espied by Captain Burdon of H.M.S. _Drake_, a
sloop. Seeing Jones’ ship coming along, he took her to be a merchantman,
and so from her he could impress some seamen. So the officer lowered a
boat and sent her off. But when the boat’s crew came aboard Jones’ vessel
they had the surprise of their lives, for instead of arresting they
were themselves arrested. After this it seemed to Jones more prudent to
leave Belfast alone and get away with his capture. Meanwhile, Captain
Burdon was getting anxious about his men, as the boat had not returned.
Moreover, he noticed that the supposed merchantman was now crowding on
all possible sail, so he at once prepared his sloop for giving chase and
prepared for action, and, on coming up with the privateer, began a sharp
fire.

Night, however, intervened, and the firing had to stop, but when daylight
returned the engagement recommenced and continued for an hour. A fierce
encounter was fought on both sides, and at length Captain Burdon and his
first lieutenant were killed, as well as twenty of the crew disabled. The
_Drake’s_ topmast was shot away and the ship was considerably damaged, so
that there was no other alternative but to surrender to the privateer.

But as both sides of the Irish Channel were now infuriated against
Jones, he determined to leave these parts, and taking his prize with him
proceeded to Brest, where he arrived in safety. In the following year,
instead of the _Ranger_ he had command of a frigate called the _Bon
Homme Richard_, a 40-gun ship with 370 crew. In addition to this vessel
he had also the frigate _Alliance_, of 36 guns and 300 crew; the brig
_Vengeance_, 14 guns and 70 men; a cutter of eighteen tons; and a French
frigate named the _Pallas_. All except the last mentioned were in the
service of the American Congress. A little further down the coast of the
Bay of Biscay than Brest is L’Orient, and from this port Jones sailed
with the above fleet in the summer of 1779, arriving off the Kerry coast,
where he sent a boat’s crew ashore to bring back sheep. But the natives
captured the boat’s crew and lodged them in Tralee gaol.

After this Jones sailed to the east of Scotland and captured a number
of prizes, all of which he sent on to France. Finally he determined
to attempt no less a plan than burn the shipping in Leith harbour and
collect tribute from the undefended towns of the Fifeshire coast. He came
into the Firth of Forth, but as both wind and tide were foul, he let go
under the island of Inchkeith. Next day he weighed anchor and again tried
to make Leith, but the breeze had now increased to a gale, and he sprung
one of his topmasts which caused him to bear up and leave the Firth. He
now rejoined his squadron and cruised along the east coast of England.
Towards the end of September he fell in with a British convoy bound from
the Baltic, being escorted by two men-of-war, namely, H.M.S. _Serapis_
(44 guns), and H.M.S. _Countess of Scarborough_ (20 guns). And then
followed a most memorable engagement. In order that the reader may be
afforded some opportunity of realising how doughty an opponent was this
Paul Jones, and how this corsair was able to make a ship of the Royal
Navy strike colours, I append the following despatch which was written
by Captain Pearson, R.N., who commanded the _Serapis_. The _Countess
of Scarborough_ was under command of Captain Thomas Piercy, and this
officer also confirmed the account of the disaster. The narrative is so
succinct and clear that it needs no further explanation. The letter was
written from the Texel, whither Pearson was afterwards taken:—

                             “_PALLAS_ FRIGATE IN CONGRESS SERVICE,
                                          TEXEL, _October 6, 1779_.

    “On the 23rd ult. being close in with Scarborough about twelve
    o’clock, a boat came on board with a letter from the bailiffs
    of that corporation, giving information of a flying squadron
    of the enemy’s ship being on the coast, of a part of the said
    squadron having been seen from thence the day before standing
    to the southward. As soon as I received this intelligence I
    made the signal for the convoy to bear down under my lee, and
    repeated it with two guns; notwithstanding which the van of
    the convoy kept their wind with all sail stretching out to the
    southward from under Flamborough-head, till between twelve and
    one, when the headmost of them got sight of the enemy’s ships,
    which were then in chase of them. They then tacked, and made
    the best of their way under the shore for Scarborough, letting
    fly their topgallant sheets, and firing guns; upon which I made
    all the sail I could to windward, to get between the enemy’s
    ship and the convoy, which I soon effected. At one o’clock we
    got sight of the enemy’s ship from the masthead, and about four
    we made them plain from the deck to be three large ships and a
    brig! Upon which I made the _Countess of Scarborough’s_ signal
    to join me, she being in-shore with the convoy; at the same
    time I made the signal for the convoy to make the best of their
    way, and repeated the signal with two guns. I then brought-to
    to let the _Countess of Scarborough_ come up, and cleared ship
    for action.

    “At half-past five the _Countess of Scarborough_ joined me,
    the enemy’s ships bearing down upon us with a light breeze at
    S.S.W.; at six tacked and laid our head in-shore, in order to
    keep our ground the better between the enemy’s ships and the
    convoy; soon after which we perceived the ships bearing down
    upon us to be a two-decked ship and two frigates, but from
    their keeping end upon us in bearing down, we could not discern
    what colours they were under. At twenty minutes past seven,
    the largest ship of the two brought-to on our lee-bow, within
    musket shot. I hailed him, and asked what ship it was? They
    answered in English, the _Princess Royal_. I then asked where
    they belonged to? They answered evasively; on which I told
    them, if they did not answer directly I would fire into them.
    They then answered with a shot, which was instantly returned
    with a broadside; and after exchanging two or three broadsides,
    he backed his topsails, and dropped upon our quarter, within
    pistol-shot; then filled again, put his helm a-weather, and ran
    us on board upon our weather quarter, and attempted to board
    us, but being repulsed he sheered off: upon which I backed our
    topsails in order to get square with him again; which, as soon
    as he observed, he then filled, put his helm a-weather, and
    laid us athwart hawse; his mizen shrouds took our jib-boom,
    which hung for some time, till it at last gave way, and we
    dropt alongside each other head and stern, when the fluke
    of our spare anchor hooking his quarter, we became so close
    fore-and-aft, that the muzzles of our guns touched each other’s
    sides.

    “In this position we engaged from half-past eight till
    half-past ten; during which time, from the great quantity and
    variety of combustible matters which they threw upon our decks,
    chains, and, in short, into every part of the ship, we were on
    fire not less than ten or twelve times in different parts of
    the ship, and it was with the greatest difficulty and exertion
    imaginable at times, that we were able to get it extinguished.
    At the same time the largest of the two frigates kept sailing
    round us during the whole action, and raking us fore and aft,
    by which means she killed or wounded almost every man on the
    quarter and main decks. At half-past nine, either from a hand
    grenade being thrown in at one of our lower-deck ports, or
    from some other accident, a cartridge of powder was set on
    fire, the flames of which running from cartridge to cartridge
    all the way aft, blew up the whole of the people and officers
    that were quartered abaft the main mast; from which unfortunate
    circumstance all those guns were rendered useless for the
    remainder of the action, and I fear the greatest part of the
    people will lose their lives.

    “At ten o’clock they called for quarters from the ship
    alongside, and said they had struck. Hearing this, I called
    upon the captain to say if they had struck, or if he asked for
    quarter; but receiving no answer, after repeating my words two
    or three times, I called for the boarders, and ordered them to
    board, which they did; but the moment they were on board her,
    they discovered a superior number lying under cover, with pikes
    in their hands, ready to receive them; on which our people
    retreated instantly into our own ship, and returned to their
    guns again until half-past ten, when the frigate coming across
    our stern, and pouring her broadside into us again, without our
    being able to bring a gun to bear on her, I found it in vain,
    and in short impracticable, from the situation we were in, to
    stand out any longer with any prospect of success; I therefore
    struck. Our mainmast at the same time went by the board.

    “The first lieutenant and myself were immediately escorted into
    the ship alongside, when we found her to be an American ship
    of war, called the _Bon Homme Richard_, of forty guns, and
    375 men, commanded by Captain Paul Jones; the other frigate
    which engaged us, to be the _Alliance_, of forty guns, and
    300 men; and the third frigate, which engaged and took the
    _Countess of Scarborough_, after two hours’ action, to be the
    _Pallas_, a French frigate, of thirty guns, and 275 men; the
    _Vengeance_, an armed brig, of twelve guns, and 70 men; all in
    Congress service, under the command of Paul Jones. They fitted
    out and sailed from Port l’Orient the latter end of July, and
    came north about. They have on board 300 English prisoners,
    which they have taken in different vessels in their way round
    since they left France, and have ransomed some others. On my
    going on board the _Bon Homme Richard_ I found her in the
    greatest distress, her quarters and counter on the lower deck
    being entirely drove in, and the whole of her lower-deck guns
    dismounted; she was also on fire in two places, and six or
    seven feet of water in her hold, which kept increasing upon
    them all night and next day, till they were obliged to quit
    her. She had 300 men killed and wounded in the action. Our loss
    in the _Serapis_ was also very great.

    “My officers, and people in general, behaved well; and I should
    be very remiss in my attentions to their merit were I to omit
    recommending them to their Lordships’ favour.

    “I must at the same time beg leave to inform their Lordships
    that Captain Piercy, in the _Countess of Scarborough_, was
    not the least remiss in his duty, he having given me every
    assistance in his power; and as much as could be expected
    from such a ship in engaging the attention of the _Pallas_, a
    frigate of thirty-two guns, during the whole action.

    “I am extremely sorry for the accident that has happened, that
    of losing His Majesty’s ship which I had the honour to command;
    but at the same time I flatter myself with the hope that their
    Lordships will be convinced that she has not been given away;
    but, on the contrary, that every exertion has been used to
    defend her, and that two essential pieces of service to our
    country have arisen from it: the one, in wholly oversetting the
    cruise and intentions of this flying squadron; the other is
    rescuing the whole of a valuable convoy from falling into the
    hands of the enemy, which must have been the case had I acted
    any otherwise than I did. We have been driving about the North
    Sea ever since the action, and endeavouring to make to any
    port we possibly could; but have not been able to get into any
    place till to-day we arrived in the Texel. Herewith I enclose
    you the most correct list of the killed and wounded I have as
    yet been able to procure, from my people being dispersed among
    the different ships, and having been refused permission to make
    much of them.

                                                       “R. PEARSON.

    “_P.S._ I am refused permission to wait on Sir Joseph Yorke,[3]
    and even to go on shore.

    “The killed were—1 boatswain, 1 master’s mate, 2 midshipmen, 1
    quarter-master, 29 sailors, 15 marines—49.

    “Wounded—second lieutenant Michael Stanhope, Lieutenant
    Whiteman, marines, 2 surgeon’s mates, 6 petty officers, 46
    sailors, 12 marines—total, 68.”

It is obvious that the British Officers had fought their ships most
gallantly, and the King showed his appreciation by conferring the honour
of knighthood on Captain Pearson, and soon after Piercy was promoted to
the rank of Post-Captain, and promotion was also granted to the other
officers. But recognition was shown not merely by the State but by the
City, for the Directors of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company presented
Pearson with a piece of plate valued at a hundred guineas, and Piercy
with a similar gift valued at fifty guineas. They further voted their
thanks to the officers for having protected the rich fleets under their
care.

The British Ambassador, Sir Joseph York, had considerable difficulty in
procuring the release of the prisoners which Paul Jones had made from His
Majesty’s ships, and although he strenuously urged the States General to
detain Jones and his ships as a rebel subject with unlawful ships, yet
the squadron, after being carefully blockaded, succeeded in escaping one
dark night to Dunkirk. Jones had lost his ship the _Bon Homme Richard_ as
a result of the fight, and now made the _Alliance_ his flagship.

The story of Paul Jones from now is not capable of completion. For a
period of several years his movements were somewhat mysterious, although
it is known that on one occasion he sailed across the Atlantic in
the remarkable time of three weeks with despatches from the American
Congress. Then the fame of this remarkable fellow begins to wane.
After peace was concluded the active brain and fervent spirit of this
Paul Jones were not required, and he chafed against the fetters of
unemployment. It is true that he offered his services to the Empress of
Russia in 1788, but he seems very soon to have gone to Paris, where he
spent the rest of his life. There was no employment for him in the French
Navy, and finally he was reduced to abject poverty and ended his days in
the year 1792. The reader will doubtless have in mind that less than ten
years ago the United States had the body of Paul Jones brought across the
Atlantic and re-buried in North America.

It is not quite easy, altogether, to estimate the character of a man so
contradictory as Paul Jones. Had he been born in another age and placed
in different circumstances, there is no telling how illustrious he might
not have become. He was certainly a magnificent seaman and fighting man,
but over and above all he was an adventurer. Idolised as a hero both in
America and France, he struck terror in Britain. His latest biographer
has stated that the skull and crossbones never fluttered from his
masthead and that he never sailed with a letter of marque. But that being
so it can only be a mere quibble which can save him from being reckoned
among the most notorious pirates of history. A pirate is a person who
performs acts of piracy. It seems to me that it makes little difference
whether he hoists the conventional black pirate flag or not. It is not
the flag which makes a pirate, but the deeds and intentions of which he
is responsible. And if his biographer is correct in saying that Jones was
never commissioned as a privateer, that is still one more proof that in
raiding Whitehaven, the coasts of Scotland, Ireland, England; capturing
and burning merchant or fishing craft on the seas; taking their crews
into bondage,—he was acting without any shred of legality, and therefore
a pirate pure and simple.

A pirate—and a very daring pirate—he certainly was, though he was
primarily a sailor of fortune. As one can see from his life his devotion
of adventure was far superior to his devotion to nationality—Scotch,
English, French, American or Russian. He was willing and anxious to go
wherever there was fighting, wherever glory could be obtained. He was a
man who despised those who did not keep their word, and in the incident
of his fulfilment of the promise made to Lady Selkirk in respect of the
family plate, we have, at any rate in the life of Paul Jones, a proof
that sometimes there is honour among thieves. But his death in abject
poverty is but another illustration of the tragic ending which was
customary in the lives of many notorious pirates.



CHAPTER XVIII

A NOTORIOUS AMERICAN PIRATE


The notorious sea-robber of whom we are to speak in the following chapter
has an especial interest for English and American readers, from the fact
that he was a member of the _Chesapeake_ during her historic duel with
the _Shannon_. This Charles Gibbs was born in the State of Rhode Island
in the year 1794. From the sulky, refractory character which he exhibited
as a child any reader of human nature could have guessed that his career
promised none too well, and when his full powers had been developed he
developed finally into a singularly cruel robber of the sea. From one
cruelty to another he sunk lower and lower until the inevitable gallows
were ready to put an end to his atrocities.

Possessed of that roving spirit which was ever an early characteristic
of those who were destined to become pirates, he threw up his work as
farm-hand at the age of fifteen, ran away from home and signed on as one
of the crew in the United States sloop-of-war _Hornet_. Off the coast of
Pernambuco this ship was in action and captured H.M.S. sloop _Peacock_.
The commander of the former was Captain Lawrence, and on his return
he was promoted to command the _Chesapeake_, and to that ship Gibbs
accompanied him. When the _Shannon_ emerged from the fray victorious,
the survivors were taken as prisoners and imprisoned in Dartmoor, among
them being Charles Gibbs. When prisoners were exchanged, he returned to
Boston, Captain Lawrence having fallen in the engagement.

For a time Gibbs now abandoned the sea and set up in business, but he
was unable to lead a respectable life ashore, so back he went to sea,
this time on board a privateer belonging to Buenos Ayres; but a quarrel
arising between the officers of the one part and the crew regarding the
division of prize-money, there ensued a mutiny. The mutineers won the
victory and took possession of the ship. They proceeded to the coast of
Florida, landed some of the ship’s company, and thence sailed to the
West Indies to perform their piratical exploits, and in a short time had
captured more than twenty ships and murdered about four hundred human
beings, Havannah being used as the port where they could conveniently
dispose of their plunder. It is difficult to speak of a man like Charles
Gibbs in cold blood. He was not a mere pirate, but a blackguard and
murderer of the vilest type. Of him it may be said in very truth that
with his death the world lost nothing, but was the gainer. A pirate who
in the heat of the moment, when he is being violently opposed by another,
kills his aggressor, is a criminal whom we can understand though not
acquit. But a human fiend who, for no particular reason, unnecessarily
sheds blood and bereaves women of husbands and children of fathers, is a
devil incarnate. Such was Gibbs.

In the year 1819 he departed from Havannah and returned to the United
States, his accumulated wealth, as a result of so many piracies,
amounting to about £6000. After passing some time in New York and Boston
he sailed for England on the _Emerald_, but in 1826 was back again in the
United States. Hearing of the war between Brazil and the Buenos Ayres
republic, he sailed from Boston to fight, if possible, on behalf of the
republic. He made himself known to Admiral Brown, and presently received
a lieutenant’s commission, being assigned to a 34-gun ship. For four
months he served in this ship, and then, as a result of his satisfactory
conduct, he was given command of a privateer schooner which carried
two 24-pounders and forty-six men. Sailing from Buenos Ayres he made a
couple of successful privateering cruises, and then was able to purchase
a half-share in a Baltimore schooner. But after putting to sea he was
captured seven days out and taken into Rio de Janeiro, where he remained
until the declaration of peace and eventually returned to New York.

There followed another year’s interval in roaming about from place to
place, and then the French campaign against Algiers attracted him, not
to fight on behalf of the French but for the pirates. He accordingly
embarked on a ship that landed him at Barcelona, whence he crossed to
Port Mahon and tried to make his way to Algiers; but the vigilance of
the French fleet prevented him from getting any nearer than Tunis, and
at last returned from Marseilles to Boston. A few days later he went
to New Orleans, and there he signed on as one of the crew on board the
_Vineyard_ brig. Up till now he had led a restless, wandering, wicked
life of self-indulgence. He had robbed and murdered. But now we come
to the climax and decline of his career. The details which follow are
essential to the story, and they indicate better than any number of words
the type of character to which Gibbs belonged.

The skipper of this brig was William Thornby. She sailed away from New
Orleans, bound for Philadelphia, with a valuable cargo of cotton, sugar,
molasses, as well as over £10,000 in dollars. When the ship was about
five days out from her port the crew began to talk about the money on
board, and some of them, including Charles Gibbs, made up their minds to
seize the ship. Before attaining this object they realised they would
have to kill the captain and mate. On the night of the 23rd of November,
soon after midnight, the opportunity for putting this dastardly deed
into action arrived. One of the crew named Dawes was at the helm. As the
brig was ploughing her way over the lonely sea, rolling her masts across
the star-specked sky, the steersman suddenly saw the steward emerge from
below with a light in one hand and a knife in the other. He set down the
light, and then, taking the top of the pump, struck the captain on the
head. The latter cried “Murder!” but he was then seized firmly by Gibbs
and the cook at the head and the heels, and without further delay hove
overboard.

Roused by the unwonted noise on deck, the mate now came up the hatchway,
but, as he approached, two others of the crew named Atwell and Church
were waiting for him, and struck him over the head just as he was asking
for the reason of the noise. The mate then rushed back into his cabin,
followed by Gibbs, who, by reason of the darkness, could not find him.
So the murderer ran on deck, fetched the binnacle light, with the aid of
which the helmsman was steering, and returned below. This time he found
his victim, and two others of the crew knocked him down and then dragged
him on deck. Dawes, since he could not now see his compass to steer by,
left the helm to see what was going on. And as the other men were hauling
the mate along, they called to Dawes to assist them. In a few moments the
mate was thrown over the side alive and was even heard to cry out from
the water twice. He was never picked up, so must have been drowned.

Dawes was terrified beyond expression at these two incidents, so that he
scarcely knew what to do. The confederates then ordered him to call a man
named James Talbot who had declined to take part in the plot. Talbot was
in the forecastle saying his prayers. He came up, and the confederates
did not instantly put him to death, as he had quite expected, but, on
the contrary, gave him some grog. The captain and mate being now out of
the way, the confederates then got up a keg containing dollars. They
then divided the captain’s clothes, the sum of eight pounds, which he
possessed, and a gold watch. Dawes was ordered to go back to the helm and
to steer for Long Island, while Talbot was likewise compelled to do as he
was told. The next day several more kegs of specie, amounting to £1000
each, were divided and the specie placed into bags and sewn up. After
this the money was divided up without counting it.

Gibbs had been acting as captain ever since the two murders, and when
they arrived about fifteen miles south-south-east of Southampton Light
the ship’s boats were ordered out, half the money was placed in each, and
the survivors got in. Before doing so, however, the ship was scuttled and
set fire to in the cabin, so that before long she would founder and so
not exist as possible evidence against the assassins. But after the boats
had rowed away towards the shore, soon after daylight, they stuck on the
bar. One of them was saved by throwing overboard about £1000 in dollars,
but the other was seen to fill and founder as the men in her vainly
sought to cling to the masts of the craft. Those in the other craft,
however, were more fortunate and landed on Barron Island, buried the
money in the sand and soon afterwards fell in with a man who took them to
the only house on the island.

But justice, if delayed, advanced with sure and certain steps. In the
month of February 1831, Charles Gibbs and a man named Wansley, who had
been one of the confederates, were brought up for trial in New York
on a charge of murdering Captain Thornby. Wansley was a negro and was
found guilty and condemned to death. Gibbs, in his defence, said that
when the ship started out from New Orleans he was a stranger to all on
board excepting Dawes and one other. He pretended that it was not he
himself who first suggested taking the money, but that after the subject
had been discussed for some days he agreed to join in the plot. He even
protested, he alleged, that it would be better to give up the plan, as
it was a serious thing to take human life and commit piracy. This, be it
remembered, was Gibbs’ version of the affair, but having regard to his
past record there is every reason to suppose that he was now adding lies
to his other guilt. Three days later, he averred, the murder took place,
and all that he did was to help throw the captain’s body overboard after
he had been struck, when he presumed he had been killed. He protested
further that he was innocent of the mate’s murder.

But the judge pointed out that even if Gibbs had not actually done
the deed, he was there strongly instigating the murderers on without
stretching out a hand to save them. “It is murder as much to stand by
and encourage the deed as to stab with a knife, strike with a hatchet
or shoot with a pistol. It is not only murder in law, but in your own
feelings and in your own conscience.” So spoke the judge, and he who
had spent a life of licence and piracy, marked by murders with only
occasional legitimate fighting, was condemned to the scaffold. To the
end Gibbs, while admitting his guilt of piracy, yet insisted that he was
innocent of the charge of murdering the captain, although “it is true I
stood by and saw the fatal deed done, and stretched not forth my arm to
save him.” Wansley, however, frankly admitted the justice of the sentence
and died penitent. We need say no more, but if there are any to-day who
have still a secret affection for the pirates of yesterday, we can only
suggest that although few of these pirates were cowards yet there is not
one who showed himself little more than a vulture in human form. Very
rare indeed does one find instances of these rude fellows giving mercy.
There is now and again such an occasion, but it is like the stray blade
of herbage in a wilderness. Personal vanity—the determination to get rich
at all costs—has brought many a crime in its wake, and if men are still
dishonest in other ways, we can at least be thankful that the wholesale
murders of the days of the pirates have long since ended.



CHAPTER XIX

THE LAST OF THE ALGERINE CORSAIRS


And now let us take a final look at that pestilential spot, Algiers. We
have seen how that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it had
been constantly attacked and conquered, but before long the Algerines had
again broken out into piracy. So soon as their invaders withdrew their
forces the corsairs rebuilt their walls, fitted out their new craft and
went roving the seas and harassing innocent ships. They had pillaged the
coastline of the French Riviera, burning and killing and destroying in
their ruthless manner. And then the French had been compelled to send
Admiral Du Quesne against them, who had bombarded the place for a time
until bad weather had caused him to withdraw his ships from Algiers.

The pirate trouble had therefore begun afresh, and the Dey had sent to
Louis the impudent message that if the French monarch would give him half
the money the last French expedition had cost, the Dey would be pleased
to burn down his city! So once more Du Quesne had been sent out, who had
bombarded Algiers and caused wholesale destruction. Then he had consented
to cease firing and discuss terms, but in the meantime the Dey had been
assassinated by his own followers, who now elected a new one and ordered
the Algerine flag to be re-hoisted on their walls. With greater fervour
hostilities were now resumed, and in a few days the place was reduced to
ashes and large numbers of the Algerines had perished. This so infuriated
the new Dey that he ordered all the French captives to be cruelly
murdered, and with great brutality caused Father Vacher to be bound hand
and foot, tied to a mortar and fired off like a bomb against the French
fleet outside.

Du Quesne had then brought his ships as near in as possible, destroyed
all their shipping, fortifications and buildings, and, having done all
that he could, sailed away, leaving the Algerines plenty of subjects for
meditation. And yet it was not long before these pirates had regained
their good spirits and were again engaged in piracy. Was it not their
profession and calling? Was it not by such methods that they kept
themselves alive? They knew perfectly well they were rogues, but as other
men were traders so they were pirates. Therefore, diplomatic measures
being obviously impotent, the only way to treat with them was to keep on
sending expedition after expedition. In 1700 Captain Beach attacked seven
of their craft, drove them on shore and burnt them. Less than a hundred
years later ten American ships had been seized by these corsairs and 150
men from their crews taken into captivity. In order to obtain these men
back, the Americans had to pay a heavy ransom, and build the Dey a 36-gun
frigate, but thereby they also received protection for the American ships
and the right of free trade with Algiers.

At an earlier stage of this book I have had occasion, in discussing the
Moslem corsairs, to refer to the port of Bona, a little to the east of
Algiers. In the year 1816 there was an establishment here for carrying on
the coral fishery under the protection of the British flag. Hither came a
number of Corsican, Neapolitan and other Italian fishercraft. Ascension
Day in that year fell on the 23rd of May, and as the fishermen were about
to attend Mass there was a gun fired from the castle, and simultaneously
there rushed into sight 2000 infantry and cavalry, consisting of
Moors, Turks and Levanters. Fire was opened on the poor fishermen, and
practically the whole lot were massacred. The English flags were then
torn to pieces and trampled on, the British Vice-Consul’s house was
pillaged, as well as the supplies of coral which had been obtained by the
fishermen.

As soon as news of this incident reached England the country was roused
to immediate action, and a punitive expedition was got together and sent
out under Admiral Lord Exmouth. He had been delayed by head winds, but
got under way in the last week of July. His flagship was the 120-gun
_Queen Charlotte_, Rear-Admiral Sir David Milne being second in command
in the 90-gun _Impregnable_. There were also three 74-gun ships in
addition to a number of frigates, brigs, bombs, fireships and several
smaller ships well supplied with shrapnel and the ordinary means of
warfare of those times. By the 9th of August the fleet had arrived and
anchored at Gibraltar, where it was joined by the Dutch fleet of five
frigates and a corvette under Admiral Van Cappillen. Meanwhile H.M.S.
_Prometheus_ had been dispatched ahead to Algiers to bring away the
British Consul and his family, but did not succeed in the entire task. By
disguising them in midshipmen’s uniform the Consul’s wife and daughter
were able to escape, but the Consul had been seized by the Dey and thrown
into chains. For the Algerine had learnt from French papers of the
forthcoming British expedition, and having heard of the escape of Mrs.
and Miss Macdonell, he immediately ordered the detention of two of the
boats from the _Prometheus_ which chanced to be ashore. The crews were
thrown into slavery; but when this information reached the ears of Lord
Exmouth, this, if anything were wanting, completed his eagerness to wipe
out the plague-spot of European civilisation.

So the fleet left Gibraltar and arrived before Algiers on 27th August.
An interpreter was sent ashore with Lieutenant Burgess (the Admiral’s
flag-lieutenant), under a flag of truce, with a letter to the Dey
demanding reparation, and while this was being done the fleet, taking
advantage of a light breeze springing up, came into the bay and hove
to about a mile from Algiers. But after waiting beyond the stipulated
time, since no answer was forthcoming, Mr. Burgess and the interpreter
returned to the flagship, where every one was ready and anxious for the
order to blaze away at the enemy. The Admiral now made a signal to know
whether all the ships were prepared, and the affirmative answer being
returned, the _Queen Charlotte_ led the line towards the shore, and to
the amazement of the enemy ran across all the batteries without firing or
receiving a single shot. She then brought up within eighty yards of that
mole which the reader will recollect had been built long years before
by Christian captives. The spot selected by the Admiral was where an
Algerine brig was seen lying. The rest of the fleet, including the Dutch
vessels, then took up their assigned positions in regular order.

[Illustration: THE BOMBARDMENT OF ALGIERS

When Lord Exmouth attacked this den of piracy and cruelty, even the
British women served at the same guns as their husbands, and never
shrank.]

The position of the _Queen Charlotte_ had been selected with great
foresight, for here she was exposed to only three or four flanking guns,
while her own broadside swept the whole of the enemy’s batteries. But
so far not a shot had been fired, and the shore batteries were lined
with spectators who gazed in astonishment at the quiet order with which
the ships had each come to her berth in such close proximity to the
defensive works. For a time Lord Exmouth was in hopes that the Dey would
yield to his lordship’s demands, but this delay was not caused by any
such intention on the part of the enemy but owing to the fact that the
Algerines were completely unprepared for such a sudden approach, and
their guns were not even shotted. It was only as the fleet came to anchor
that the gunners ashore could be seen getting busy. To the last minute
the British Admiral was minded to spare human life and even was seen on
the quarter-deck repeatedly waving his hat as a warning to the crowd to
retire from the mole.

So at 2.45 p.m. the enemy opened fire at the _Queen Charlotte_. Before
the sound of the firing reached his ears, and while the first smoke was
visible, Lord Exmouth gave the order to fire, and then three broadsides
were fired in about six minutes, the rest of the fleet following the
example. This caused terrible devastation ashore, as many as 500 people
being killed or wounded. Then the attack began in deadly earnest. It was
a repetition of the history of the sixteenth century. On the one hand,
the Christian forces of Europe: on the other, the infidel corsairs and
enemies of the human race. Both sides fought with the same fierceness
which had marked their contests in many a previous generation. In the
hot, overpowering sun, with the last vestige of breeze vanished away, the
gunners blazed away in fine style. Algerine vessels in close proximity
to the English fleet burst forth into flames and for a time endangered
the wooden walls of England. On both sides frightful slaughter was
taking place. The Dey had 500 guns mounted and doing their work to our
great loss, but our own men and guns were hurling death into the nest
of pirates in a manner that surprised the Algerines. There was in the
breasts of the invaders, not merely the hatred of the Algerines as
infidels and pirates, but the fact that these men had been responsible
for the capture of so many Christian ships and the cruelties to so many
European seamen, sufficed to increase the determination and enthusiasm
with which the destruction was being dealt out to these poisonous wasps.

But if the enemy was clearly suffering heavy losses, the attackers were
not without heavy casualties. About sunset Rear-Admiral Milne made a
signal to Lord Exmouth announcing the losses on the _Impregnable_ alone
as 150 killed and wounded, and requesting that if possible a frigate
might be sent to take off some of the enemy’s fire. The _Glasgow_ was
therefore ordered to go, and actually got up her anchor, but the wind was
so scant that she was obliged again to let go, though in a rather more
favourable position. But meanwhile on shore flames were bursting out and
making an end to matters. One of the enemy’s frigates had been gallantly
boarded and set on fire, but now all the Algerine ships in the port were
in flames, and thence the fire spread with all-devouring force to the
arsenal and storehouse, causing a marvellous sight against the background
of darkness. Our shells had been splendidly aimed, and although in some
cases they had to be fired right across our own men-of-war, yet never an
accident occurred to our ships as they went to find their billet in the
home of the Algerine pirates. And then, as if to bring about the climax
of this hot battle, the attacking fleet had brought near to the battery
of the enemy the special ship which had been specially charged with
explosives. And as she blew up there was another wealth of damage done to
the cause of the defenders. And so by midnight the enemy’s batteries had
been silenced, and in the morning the Dey was compelled to surrender.

The net result of Lord Exmouth’s fine attack was as follows. Twelve
hundred Christians were released from their terrible slavery, all the
demands were complied with, the British Consul had been indemnified
for his losses, and the Dey, in the presence of all his officers, made
an apology for the insults offered. Even though, a few years later,
the French had further trouble with these Algerines, yet Exmouth’s
expedition had the effect of giving the death-blow to a monster that had
worried Europe for about three centuries. The scourge of the tideless
Mediterranean had been obliterated: the murders and enslavery of so
many thousands and thousands of European Christians of past centuries
had been avenged, and a universal enemy which neither Charles V., nor
Andrea Doria, nor many another had been able to exterminate was now laid
low. The combined squadrons of those two historic maritime nations—Great
Britain and Holland—had shown that even a race so long accustomed to the
sea as the Algerine pirates could not resist for all time. In the history
of the world few nations have ever done so much for the development of
ships and sea-power as these two northern peoples, and the chance which
enabled them to combine forces against a common evil of such antiquity
was singularly happy.



CHAPTER XX

PIRATES OF THE PERSIAN GULF


We have seen throughout this volume that there have always been certain
geographical areas which have been favoured by pirates as their suitable
sphere for roving. Madagascar, Malabar, the north coast of Africa, the
West Indies—these and others have been the scene, not of one piratical
incident, but of scores.

The Persian Gulf is to this day not quite the peaceful corner of the
globe that undoubtedly some day it will become. It is still patrolled
by the Royal Navy for various reasons, including the prevention of
gun-running. Just how long the Persian Gulf has been navigated it would
be impossible to say: but there is every reason to suppose that if
the first kind of boat which ever floated was seen on the Tigris or
Euphrates, the first sea-going craft was observed in the Persian Gulf. At
any rate it is certain that the Arabians who occupy that peninsula which
separates the Red Sea from the Persian Gulf were in the early stages of
history the greatest navigators and seamen anywhere. Even right down
to the Middle Ages, for scientific navigation, with the aid of those
nautical instruments which were the forerunners of our modern sextant,
there were no mariners who could find their way across the trackless seas
so skilfully as these inhabitants of Arabia.

From time immemorial there have dwelt on the west side of the Persian
Gulf an Arabian tribe named the Joassamees, engaged in maritime pursuits
either in trading, or pearl-fishing, or as pilots to strange ships
entering the Gulf, or else acting as pirates. For it was obvious to them
that this last mentioned occupation held out much that was tempting.
So the Joassamees began in a small way, pillaging the coasting vessels
of the Gulf, and as they found their efforts in this respect were so
successful they aspired to bigger things. We are speaking now of that
fascinating period of the sailing ship which belongs to the end of the
eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.

The reader will instantly call to mind those fine ships of the East
India Company, so smart and similar to the ships of the Royal Navy in
appearance, and so similar in discipline and actual build. Shortly before
the close of the eighteenth century the _Viper_, a 10-gun East Indiaman,
was lying at anchor in the Bushire Roads. (Bushire is a port on the east
or Persian side of the Gulf.) In the same harbour there were at anchor
also a few dhows. Up till now these pirates had never molested an English
ship: they had confined their attentions to native craft, so no efforts
had been made to deal with them.

Now the skippers of these dhows had applied to the Persian agent of the
East India Company for a supply of gunpowder and cannon shot to last
them out their cruise, and, as the agent had no suspicions whatever, he
gave them an order to the commanding officer on board for the desired
quantity. It happened that the _Viper’s_ captain was ashore, so the
order was produced to the officer in charge, the quantity mentioned was
handed over, and the dhows began to make sail. The _Viper’s_ crew were
breakfasting on deck, and the officers below, when, without any warning,
a couple of these dhows began to cannonade the _Viper_, and the crews
attempted to come aboard. No time was lost on the Indiaman, however, for
the officers rushed up on deck, called the crew to quarters, cut the
hempen cable, got sail on her so as to be ready for manœuvring, and a
regular engagement began between the _Viper_ and the four dhows which had
plenty of men and big guns. It was a determined onslaught, and Lieutenant
Carruthers, the commanding officer, was wounded in the lower part of the
body, but bravely kept on, until he was killed by a ball in the forehead.

The command now fell on Mr. Salter, midshipman, who continued the fight
not less courageously, and, after a keen encounter, drove the pirates
off and chased them out to sea. This gave them a severe lesson, so that
years passed by before another similar attempt was made on the British
flag. But in the year 1804 there was a renewed attempt, and the following
story, though a little involved, is of real interest. It begins with
the East India Company’s cruiser named _Fly_, and the scene is still
the Persian Gulf. At the time we are speaking of this ship was off the
island of Kenn when she had the bad fortune to be attacked by a French
privateer. In order, however, to prevent the enemy boarding her, she was
purposely run on to a shoal, and the Government dispatches which she
was carrying, together with some treasure, were thrown overboard in 2½
fathoms, cross-bearings having first been taken so that perhaps these
might be recovered at some future date. The passengers and crew were
taken to Bushire and set at liberty.

They then purchased a dhow by subscription, fitted her out and sailed
down the Gulf bound for Bombay. On their way they stopped near Kenn
Island to recover the dispatches and treasure. The former they managed to
get up again, and as there was no time to waste they left the treasure
and were hurrying on to their goal. But when they got to the south of
the Gulf they had even worse fortune, for they were attacked by a fleet
of Joassamee pirates and taken into the port of Ras-el-Khyma, which was
to these Arabian rovers what Algiers had been to the corsairs of the
Mediterranean. Here the English remained in the hope of being ransomed,
but no such opportunity occurred. Months went by, and at last they
determined to do what they could. They informed the pirate-chief of the
treasure which lay sunk in the Gulf, and assured him that having taken
good cross-bearings of the spot by the marks on shore the wealth could be
recovered if some of these Arabians, so accustomed to pearl-diving, would
assist them. The arrangement was that if the treasure was recovered the
English should regain their liberty.

So English and Arabian sailed to the spot, and anchored where the
cross-bearings indicated. The first divers who went down were so
successful that all the crew dived down to the bottom of the fifteen feet
in turns. And then came the great chance of escape. While practically all
these men were below the water on the floor of the sea, it seemed that
the real opportunity was at hand after all those months to get away. The
picture is not without humour—the prisoners above in the craft, while
the captors are left behind with no alternative but to swim ashore. But
the best laid schemes of mice and men often work out differently from
mere theory. The cable was cut, and either the splash of the rope in the
water, or some suspicious instinct in these primitive people betrayed
the plot, so the divers rushed up again to the surface and prevented the
consummation of the prisoners’ desires.

But for all that, the pirates kept their word. The treasure had been
recovered, so the prisoners were given their liberty. The promise was
kept _literally_ and no more. For being placed on the island of Kenn
there was no means of escaping from this limited freedom; and, further,
there was practically nothing to eat. The pirates came ashore at the
same time and put to death all the inhabitants, and the Englishmen,
thinking it might be their own turn next, took to hiding in the rocks
as best they might, going out under cover of night to steal a goat or
whatever food might fall into their hands. But when at last the pirates
had completed their bloody work they departed, leaving the Englishmen the
sole inhabitants.

It was clear to the latter that if they wished to keep alive, they too
must quit the island; but what were they to do for a boat? And here again
we have one of those instances which, in fiction, would be far-fetched.
When they were most in despair they had the good fortune to find a
wrecked boat on the beach which might be capable of being repaired.
Through the silent, deserted town the mariners searched until they were
able to bring down to the beach an adequate supply of timber for patching
up the boat and for making also a raft. In a few days both of these were
ready, and the party in two sections began to endeavour to cross to the
Persian shore. But one of the sections foundered and were never seen
again, while the other reached the mainland and then, following the line
of coast, obtaining food and water from the villages through which they
passed, they arrived at length after terrible privations at Bushire,
still having preserved their Government dispatches. Thence they proceeded
to Bombay, but out of the whole company there were only two that
survived, though the bag of dispatches was brought at last into safety.

In the following year two English brigs were also captured by these
pirates, while the former were sailing from Bombay to Bussorah, and the
crew taken to an Arabian port, whence they succeeded in escaping, though
the piracies now continued unabated. By the year 1808 these Joassamees
were becoming exceedingly strong and impudent. Their many successes had
made them more desperate than ever, and the time-honoured practice of
heaving the resisting captain overboard was, of course, resorted to.
One of the most daring attacks was that on the _Sylph_, an East India
Company’s cruiser of 60 tons, mounting 8 guns. She was bound from Bombay
to Persia, and when she had arrived in the Gulf she was attacked by a
fleet of these Arab dhows. The commander of the _Sylph_ was a Lieutenant
Graham. He, of course, observed these craft approaching him, but he had
been previously warned by the Bombay Government not to fire upon any of
these dhows until he had first been fired at.

Under the circumstances one would have thought that was a clear instance
when orders might have been disobeyed: for before he had even time to
hoist his colours to indicate his nationality, the dhows had thrown
themselves against the _Sylph_, poured in a shower of stones, wounded
many of the crew, and then leapt aboard and captured the vessel before
a single shot had been fired. Those whom they had not killed were now
slain with the sword, and the enemy being in sole possession made sail
and took the ship along triumphantly, their dhows bearing them company.
But before long the Commodore of the squadron hove in sight, cruising in
the frigate _Nereid_. Seeing the _Sylph_ with so many dhows alongside,
he correctly surmised that the East Indiaman had fallen a victim to the
pirates. So giving chase to this assorted fleet he soon came up to the
East Indiaman, and the Arabs having leapt again into their dhows, the
Commodore was able to regain the _Sylph_, though he was unable to capture
either dhow or Arab.

And then the East India Government began to realise that something ought
to be done to end these repeated attacks: so an expedition was sent from
Bombay consisting of a frigate and a 38-gun ship as well as eight East
India Company’s cruisers, four large transports and a bomb-ketch. These
at length arrived at Ras-el-Khyma, anchored before the town and landed
the troops. The Arabs assembled in crowds to attack the invaders, but the
trained troops were too great a match for them. The regular volleys and
the charge at the point of the bayonet caused very heavy losses to the
enemy. The place was burnt down, sixty of their dhows and boats as well
as an English ship which they had previously captured were also consumed
in flames, and the troops were allowed to plunder all that they found.
With very small loss to the invaders the whole place had been wiped out,
though it was thought that the treasures had been taken inland by the
pirates.

The expedition afterwards sailed to Linga, another of these pirate ports,
and burnt it to the ground. And after an exciting encounter yet another
port, named Luft, was also overcome. It happened on this wise. Because
the channel was very difficult and narrow, the ships had to be warped to
their anchorages. The troops were then landed, and it was hoped to have
been able to blow up the gate of the fortress with a howitzer specially
brought for such a purpose. The fortress’s walls were fourteen feet
thick, so it would have been a tough business to have razed them to the
ground. But the English were picked off by the enemy so disastrously
from the loopholes of the fortress that a general flight took place of
our men, and the howitzer was left behind. The troops lay hidden till
darkness came on, and were thus enabled to make for the beach, where they
embarked without further assault from the enemy. But as the dawn came,
judge of the surprise of the invaders when they saw a man on the top of
the fortress walls waving the Union Jack! The whole squadron marvelled
and rubbed their eyes in amazement. Who was it, and how had he remained
there alive, and what were the enemy doing? The answer was soon found.
This gallant gentleman was Lieutenant Hall who was in command of the
_Fury_, one of the ships nearest to the shore. During the darkness he
had put off from his ship, landed alone with a Union Jack and advanced
to the castle gate. Here he found the fortress had been for the most
part abandoned, but there were a few of the enemy still remaining. When
they saw the British officer these presumed that there were more of his
followers coming on, so they fled precipitately. All that the officer now
had to do was to take possession single-handed. It was a plucky, cool
act, and well worthy of remembrance.

The fleet got under way again, bombarded for several days another pirate
stronghold named Shenaz. A breach was made in the castle walls, and even
now a stubborn resistance was made, the Arabs fighting finely till the
last, but the town was overcome and left a mere ruin. And such was the
effect of this protracted expedition, that for some years following the
pirates were compelled to reverence the British flag whenever they were
tempted to attack our ships at sea. But as it was with Algiers, so with
these Arabian pirates. The respite did not continue long, and by the
year 1815 the Arabian dhows were infesting the entrance of the Red Sea.
Under their admiral, Ameer Ibrahim, a fleet of them, the following year,
captured near the Straits of Babelmandeb four British vessels richly
laden with cargo from Surat.

So again a British squadron had to be sent against them. This consisted
of H.M.S. _Challenger_ and the East India Company’s cruisers _Mercury_,
_Ariel_ and _Vestal_, which were dispatched to the port of Ras-el-Khyma,
where a demand was presented for the return of the four Surat ships
or, if not forthcoming, then the payment of four lacks of rupees,
coupled with the handing over of Ameer Ibrahim. This town stands on a
narrow tongue of sandy land, pointing to the north-east, presenting its
north-west edge to the open sea and its south-east edge to a creek which
ran up to the south-west and affords a safe harbour for small craft.
Round towers and isolated walls were seen, but no continuous wall. There
were about 10,000 inhabitants in the town, and the port boasted of 60
dhows manned by crews of from 80 to 300 men. In the present instance
they were assisted by another 40 dhows from other ports. In short, the
concentrated force amounted to about 100 dhows and 8000 fighting men.

After some fruitless negotiations, the signal was made to the British
squadron to get up anchors and stand in close to the shore. This was
followed by another signal to engage with the enemy, and the squadron
bore down nearly in line before the wind, under easy sail, till they
got near where four dhows were lying at anchor, the depth of the water
gradually shoaling till they found themselves in 2½ fathoms. At this
sounding the squadron anchored with springs on the cables, so that
each vessel lay with her broadside to the shore. Fire was now opened
against these four of the enemy’s craft, the latter seething with men,
brandishing their weapons in the air. At first some of our shells reached
the shore and buried themselves in the sand, others fell across the bows
of the Arab craft. On all the forts were seen the Arabs’ colours flying,
and crowds of armed men were visible on the beach. But, unhappily, the
whole of this bombardment availed nothing and a bloodless battle was
brought to an end.

[Illustration: ATTACKING A PIRATE STRONGHOLD

A breach was made in the wall by the British, but a stubborn resistance
was made, the Arabs fighting finely till the last, but the town was
overcome and left a mere ruin.]

In the year 1818, as these pirates had assumed such strength and daring
to the great menace of commercial shipping, another fleet had to be sent
against them. For the Arab dhows had not merely plundered ships at sea
but ravaged the sea-coast towns on islands as well as mainland. But the
British ships now dispatched intercepted them and drove them back into
the Gulf. In one day as many as seventeen dhows were being chased by one
of ours, but the wind just suited the Arabian craft so that they managed
to get away. And so we might continue. For years these pirates caused
grievous trouble, and for years they had to be dealt with. Perhaps the
time will come when the Persian Gulf will be as safe for navigation
as the English Channel is to-day, with regard to the elimination of
pirate craft. Matters have, thanks to the patrolling by the Royal Navy,
improved considerably: but that there is still danger is well-known,
and it would be foolish to ignore it. For we must remember that it is
a hard task to exterminate such an ancient profession as piracy, and
especially when the practice is carried on by such an historic race of
seamen as the Arabs. When any community has been accustomed for centuries
and centuries, either in the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea or the Arabian
Sea or the Indian Ocean, to gain their living by sea robbery; when they
have made such a careful study of the local navigation and the habits
of their potential victims,—it is no easy matter for these men suddenly
to relinquish their previous habits and to give up their hard-earned
knowledge. It would be just as easy for a Brixham or Lowestoft fisherman
to give up his vocation and take to farming or manufacture, as it has
been for the Arab slaver and pirate to become a law-abiding seaman.
But as so many of the notorious piratical seas in the past have been
cleansed beyond all expectation, so, doubtless, the time will come when
the last sea-robber has disappeared from both hemispheres and the pirate
has become as extinct as the dodo. But whether the story of the sea will
thereby be as interesting and exciting as in previous ages is quite
another matter.



CHAPTER XXI

THE STORY OF AARON SMITH


If the expression had not been used already so many thousand times, one
might well say of the following story that truth is indeed stranger than
fiction. Had you read the yarn which is here to be related you would, at
its conclusion, have remarked that it was certainly most interesting and
exciting, but it was too exaggerated, too full of coincidences, too full
of narrow escapes ever to have occurred in real life. But I would assure
the reader at the outset that Smith’s experiences were actual and not
fictional, and that his story was carefully examined at the time by the
High Court of Admiralty. The prelude, the climax and the conclusion of
this drama with its exciting incidents, its love interest and its happy
ending; the romantic atmosphere, the picturesque characters, the colours
and the symmetry of the narrative are so much in accord with certain
models such as one used to read in mere story-books of one’s boyhood,
that it is well the reader should be fully assured that what is here set
forth did in very truth happen. In some respects the narrative reads like
pages from one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels, and yet though I have,
by the limits of the space at my disposal, been compelled to omit many of
the incidents which centred around Smith and his pirate associates, yet
the facts which are set forth have been taken from contemporary data and
can be relied upon implicitly.

The story opens in the year 1821, and the hero is an English seaman
named Aaron Smith. In the month of June, Smith departed from England and
embarked on the merchant ship _Harrington_, which carried him safely over
the Atlantic to the West Indies. Subsequent events induced him to resign
his billet on that vessel, and as he found that the West Indian climate
was impairing his health, he made arrangements to get back home to
England. Being then at Kingston in the island of Jamaica, he interviewed
the captain of the British merchant ship _Zephyr_ and was appointed
first mate. The _Zephyr_, like many of the ships of the eighteenth and
early nineteenth centuries, was rigged as a brig, that is to say with
square sails on each of her two masts, with triangular headsails and a
quadrilateral sail abaft the second mast much like the mainsail of a
cutter-rigged craft. Brigs nowadays are practically obsolete, but at
the time we are speaking of they were immensely popular in the merchant
service and for carrying coals from Newcastle-on-Tyne to London.

The _Zephyr_, after taking on board her West Indian cargo together with
a few passengers, weighed anchor in the month of June 1822—just a year
after Smith had left Europe—and set sail for England. From the very first
Smith saw that things were not quite as they should be. The pilot who
took the ship out into the open sea was a very incapable man, but his
duties were soon ended and he left the ship. The name of the _Zephyr’s_
captain was Lumsden, and even he was far from being the capable mariner
which one would have expected in a man whose duty it was to take a ship
across the broad Atlantic. Presently, before they had left Kingston far
astern, a strong breeze sprang up from the north-east, and a heavy
easterly swell got up, which made the brig somewhat lively. Most people
are aware that the navigation among the islands and in the tricky
channels of the West Indies needs both great care and much knowledge,
such as ought to have been possessed by a man in Lumsden’s position.
Judge of Smith’s surprise, therefore, when the latter found his captain
asking his advice as to which passage he ought to take.

Whatever else Smith had in his character, he was certainly extremely
shrewd and cautious, and he replied in a non-committal answer to the
effect that the “windward” passage might prolong the voyage but that the
“leeward” one would expose the ship to the risk of being plundered by
the pirates, which in those days were far from rare. Lumsden weighed the
pros and cons in his mind, and at last resolved to choose the “leeward”
passage. About two o’clock one afternoon Smith was pacing up and down
deck when he suddenly espied a schooner of a very suspicious appearance
standing out from the land. Not quite happy as to her character, he then
went aloft with his telescope and examined her closely. In the case of a
man of his sea experience it did not take long for him to realise that
the schooner was a pirate-ship. Lumsden was below at the time, so Smith
called him on deck and, pointing out the strange vessel, suggested to
the captain that it would be best to alter the brig’s course to avoid
her. But Lumsden, like most ignorant men, was exceedingly obstinate,
and stoutly declined the proffered advice. With characteristic British
sentiment he opined that “because he bore the English flag no one would
dare to molest him.” The skipper of the schooner, as we shall presently
see, did not think of the matter in that way.

Half an hour passed by, the brig held on her original course, and the
two ships drawing closer together it was observed that the schooner’s
deck was full of men. Clearly, too, she was about to hoist out her boats.
This gave cause for alarm even in the stubborn breast of Lumsden, and
now he gave orders for the course to be altered a couple of points. But
the decision had been arrived at too leisurely, for the stranger was
already within gunshot. Before much time had sped on, the sound of voices
was heard from the schooner, and short, sharp orders came across the
heaving sea, ordering the _Zephyr_ to lower her stern boat and to send
the captain aboard the schooner. Lumsden pretended not to understand,
but a brisk volley of musketry from the stranger instantly quickened the
skipper’s comprehension, and he promptly gave orders to lay the mainyard
aback and heave-to.

The boat which had been lowered from the schooner was quickly rowed
alongside the brig, and nine or ten men, ferocious of appearance and
well-armed with knives, cutlasses and muskets, now leapt aboard.
It was obvious before they had left the schooner’s deck that these
were desperate pirates, such as had many a dark, cruel deed to their
consciences. With no wasting of formality they at once took charge of
the brig and ordered Lumsden, Smith, the ship’s carpenter, and also a
Captain Cowper who was travelling as a passenger, to proceed on board
the schooner without delay. In order to hurry them on, the pirates gave
them repeated blows over the back from the flat part of their cutlasses,
accompanying these strokes with threats of shooting them. So the company
got into the schooner’s boat and were rowed off; Lumsden recollected
having left on the cabin table of the _Zephyr_ the ship’s books
containing an account of all the money aboard the brig.

Arrived alongside the schooner, the prisoners were ordered on deck. It
was the pirate captain who now issued the commands, a man of repulsive
appearance with his savage expression, his short, stout stature. His
age was not more than about thirty-two, his appearance denoted that in
his veins ran Indian blood. Standing not more than five and a half feet
high, he had an aquiline nose, high cheek bones, a large mouth, big full
eyes, sallow complexion and black hair. The son of a Spanish father and a
Yucatan squaw, there was nothing in him that suggested anything but the
downright brigand of the sea.

But with all this savage temperament there was nothing in him of the
fool, and his wits and eyes were ever on the alert. Already he had
observed a cluster of vessels in the distance, and he questioned Lumsden
as to what kind of craft they might be. On being informed that probably
they were French merchantmen, the pirate captain gave orders for all
hands to get the schooner ready to give chase. Meanwhile the _Zephyr_,
with part of the pirate crew on board, made sail and stood in towards
the land in the direction of Cape Roman, some eighteen miles away. And
as the schooner pushed on, cleaving her way through the warm sea, the
pirate applied himself to questioning the skipper of the brig. What was
his cargo? Lumsden answered that it consisted of sugars, rum, coffee,
arrowroot, and so on. But what money had he on board? Lumsden replied
that there was no money. Such an answer only infuriated the pirate.
“Don’t imagine I’m a fool, sir,” he roared at him. “I know that all
vessels going to Europe have specie on board, and”—he added—“if you will
give up what you have, you shall proceed on your voyage without further
molestation.” But Lumsden still continued in his protestations that money
there was none: to which the pirate remarked that if the money were not
forthcoming he would throw the _Zephyr’s_ cargo overboard.

Night was rapidly approaching, and the breeze was certainly dying down,
so that although the schooner had done fairly well through the water, yet
the pirate despaired of ever coming up with the Frenchmen. Disappointed
at his lack of success, he was compelled to abandon the chase, and
altered his course to stand in the direction of the _Zephyr_. When night
had fallen the pirates began to prepare supper, and offered spirits to
their captives, which the latter declined. The pirate captain now turned
his attention to Smith, and observed that as he was in bad health, and
none of the schooner’s crew understood navigation, it was his intention
to detain Smith to navigate her. We need not attempt to suggest the
feelings of dismay with which Smith received this information. To resist
forceably was obviously out of the question, though he did his best to
be allowed to forego the doubtful honour of being appointed navigating
officer to a pirate-ship. Lumsden, too, uneasy at the thought of being
bereft of a man indispensable to the safety of his brig, expressed a
nervous hope that Smith might not be detained. But the pirate’s reply
to the last request came prompt and plain. “If I do not keep him,” he
growled at Lumsden, “I shall keep you.” That sufficiently alarmed the
brig’s master to subdue him to silence.

The captives sat down to supper with their pirate captain and the
latter’s six officers. The meal consisted of garlic and onions chopped
up into fine pieces and mixed with bread in a bowl. From this every one
helped himself as he pleased with his fingers, and the coarse manners
of the schooner’s company were in keeping with the brutality of their
profession. A breeze had sprung up in the meanwhile and they began fast
to approach the _Zephyr_. When at length the two vessels were within
a short distance, the pirate ordered a musket to be fired and then
proceeded to tack shorewards. This signal was answered immediately by the
pirates on board the brig, and the _Zephyr_ then proceeded to follow the
schooner. One of the brig’s crew who had been brought aboard the schooner
at the time when Lumsden and Smith were taken, was now ordered to heave
the lead and to give warning as soon as the schooner got into soundings.
It is significant that whatever else these pirates may have been, they
were brigands first and sailormen only a bad second, who had taken to
roving less through nautical enthusiasm than from a greed for gain and
a means of indulging their savage tastes. Thus, although on waylaying a
merchant ship their first object was to pillage, yet they made it also
their aim to carry off any useful members of the trader’s crew who were
expert in the arts of seamanship or navigation.

As soon as the leadsman, then, found bottom at fourteen fathoms, the
pirate commanded a boat to be lowered and therein were placed Lumsden
and some of the crew which had belonged to the _Zephyr_. Smith, however,
and with him the brig’s carpenter, were detained on the schooner. The
pirate captain himself accompanied Lumsden, left the latter on board the
brig and brought back the crew of the pirate, who in the first instance
had been left to take charge of the _Zephyr_. They also brought away to
the schooner a number of articles, including Cowper’s watch, the brig’s
spy-glass, Smith’s own telescope, some clothes belonging to the latter
and a goat. To show what kind of cruel rascals Smith had now become
shipmate with may be seen from the fact that as soon as the animal had
been brought aboard, one of the pirate’s crew instantly cut the goat’s
throat with his knife, flayed the poor creature alive, and promised the
same kind of treatment to his friends if no money were found in the
_Zephyr_. Even the most stalwart British sailor could not help his heart
beating the more rapidly at such cowardly and bullying treatment.

By now the schooner had stood so near to the shore that she was in four
fathoms and the anchor was let go. The _Zephyr_ also let go and brought
up about fifty yards away. Relieved from work, the pirates now began to
exult and to congratulate each other on their fine capture. Night came
on again and a watch was set. Smith and Cowper, still in the schooner,
were ordered to sleep in the companion-way, but with the fearful anxiety
imminent and the possibility of never being allowed to wake again, they
never relapsed into unconsciousness. Conversation was kept up stealthily
between them, and Cowper, knowing that the _Zephyr_ carried a quantity of
specie and that Lumsden had hoodwinked the pirate captain, dreaded lest
this should be found out. With the certain assurance in his mind of being
put to death, a horrible night of suspense and fear was passed by the two
seamen.

When daylight came, some of the pirates were seen on the brig’s deck
beating the _Zephyr’s_ crew with their cutlasses. Great activity of a
most business-like nature was being manifested on the English ship,
boats were being hoisted out, a rope cable—those were still the days of
hemp—was being coiled on deck, the hatches were being removed and all
was being made ready for taking out the _Zephyr’s_ cargo. The pirate
commanded Smith to go aboard the brig and fetch everything that might
be essential for the purposes of navigation, for the former was most
determined to retain the former mate of the English merchantman. To
accentuate his determination the half-caste brute raised his arm into
the air and, brandishing a cutlass over poor Smith’s head, threatened him
with instant death if he showed any reluctance. “Mind and you obey me,”
he taunted, “or I will take off your skin.”

We need not stop to depict Smith’s feelings, nor to suggest with what
dismay he found himself compelled to obey the behests of a coarse,
ignorant freebooter. It was humiliating to the last degree for a man who
had been mate and served under the red ensign thus to have to submit to
such abominable treatment. But there was no choice between submission and
death, though from what eventually followed it was obvious that Smith
was not a coward and was not so proud of his skin as to fear death. He
proceeded aboard the brig, discovered that she had been well ransacked
and with a heavy heart began to collect his belongings. He brought off
his gold watch and sextant, packed his clothes and then returned to the
schooner. But before doing so he acted as a man about to pass out of
the world and anxious to dispose of his remaining effects. With almost
humorous pathos, one might remark, he set about this last duty. “My
books, parrot and various other articles I gave in charge to Mr. Lumsden,
who engaged to deliver them safely into the hands of my friends, should
he reach England:” and it needs no very gifted imagination to see the
sentimental sailor of the great sailing-ship age painfully taking a last
look at these cherished possessions.

The cargo having been transferred to the schooner, the pirates indulged
themselves in liquor and became intoxicated. But meanwhile the crew of
the brig were not allowed to stand idle. The pirate captain was going
to get all that he could from his capture, and ordered the _Zephyr’s_
fore t’gallant mast and yard to be sent down, and these, together with
whatever other spars might seem useful, were to be sent on board the
schooner. The merchant ship was positively gutted of everything the
pirates fancied. There was not left even so much as a bed or a blanket:
even the ear-rings on the ears of the children passengers were snatched
from the latter. In addition to this the whole of the live stock such
as an ocean-going ship carried in those days prior to the invention of
refrigerating rooms and tinned food was transferred to the schooner and a
certain amount of drinking water.

But the pirates had not yet concluded their dastardly work. Lumsden and
Cowper were warned that unless they produced the money, which the pirate
was convinced still remained, the _Zephyr_, with all her people in her,
should be burnt to the water’s edge. It is to the credit of these two men
that they strenuously declined to oblige the pirate. This only served as
fuel to the latter’s temper, and he sent them below and began a series
of heartless tortures which were more in keeping with some of the worst
features of the Middle Ages than the nineteenth century. Determined to
attain his object, no matter what the cost, he caused the two men to be
locked to the ship’s pumps and proceeded to carry out the threat which
he had just promised. Every preparation was made for starting a fire,
combustibles were piled round about the unfortunate men, and the light
was just about to be applied when Lumsden, unable to endure the torture
any longer, confessed that there was money. He was accordingly released,
and rummaging about produced a small box of doubloons.

This, however, far from satisfying the pirate’s thirst, merely increased
his desire for more. Lumsden protested that that was all. So again the
skipper was lashed to the pumps, again fire was ordered to be put to
the fuel, and again the victim was about to be immolated. Once more, at
the last minute, Lumsden yielded and offered to surrender all that he
had. Thereupon, for the second time he was released, and producing nine
more doubloons declared that this money had been entrusted to his care on
behalf of a poor woman. Such human sentiments, however, rarely fell on
more unsympathetic ears. “Don’t speak to me of poor people,” howled the
pirate. “I am poor, and your countrymen and the Americans have made me
so. I know there is more money, and I will either have it or burn you and
the vessel.”

Following up his threat with deeds, he once more ordered Lumsden below,
yet again had the combustibles laid around. But the Englishman stood his
torture well: his being was becoming accustomed to the treatment and for
a while he never flinched. Then the monsters of iniquity applied a light
to the fire, and the red and yellow flames leapt forward and already
began to lick the skipper’s body. For a time he endured the grievous pain
as the fire burnt into his flesh. With agonising cries and heartrending
shouts he begged to be relieved of his tortures—to be cut adrift in a
boat and left solitary on the wide open ocean—anything rather than this.
Money he had not: already he had given up all that he possessed. And
after this slow murder had continued for some time the stubborn dulled
intellect of the pirate captain began to work, and seeing that not even
fire could call forth more money from a suffering man, he was inclined
to believe that the last coin had now been yielded up. Then turning to
some of his own crew, he ordered them to throw water on to the flames,
and the long-suffering Lumsden, more dead than alive, racked by physical
and mental tortures, was released and allowed to regain his freedom. As
if to accentuate their own bestial natures the pirates then proceeded to
carouse once more and to exult again in their ill-gotten treasures.

But even in the most villainous criminal there is always at least
one small trait of human nature left, and it is often surprising how
this manifests itself when circumstances had seemed to deny its very
existence. It was so in the case of this pirate captain. Everything so
far had indicated the most unmitigated bully and murderer without one
single redeeming feature of any sort whatever. And yet, in spite of
all the vain entreaties of Lumsden for mercy, the pirate showed that
the last spark of human kindness was not yet quenched. The reader will
remember that among the articles which Smith had brought away from the
brig was his gold watch. The pirate took this in his hands, examined
it, and instead of promptly annexing the same, threw out a strong hint
that he would like to retain it. Such moderation from one who had not
hesitated to burn a man at the stake was in itself curious. But his
inconsistency did not stop at that. Smith remarked that the watch was
a gift from his aged mother, whom he now never expected to see again,
adding that he would like to be allowed to send it to her by Lumsden, but
was afraid that the pirates would take it away from the English captain
if it were entrusted to him. It was then that the pirate manifested the
extraordinary contradiction which his character possessed. “Your people,”
he began, “have a very bad opinion of us, but I will convince you that
we are not so bad as we are represented to be; come along with me, and
your watch shall go safely home.” And with this he took Smith on board
the _Zephyr_ once more, handed the watch into Lumsden’s keeping and gave
strict orders that on no account was any one to take it away from the
English captain.

Smith now took a final farewell of his old messmates, but lest he should
take advantage of the indulgence which had been just granted him, the
pirate captain instantly ordered him back to the schooner, and even
impelled him forward at the point of his murderous knife. All this time
the two ships had been lying alongside lashed together by warps. Being
at last content with the ample cargo which he had extracted from the
_Zephyr_, and being convinced that there was nothing else aboard of much
value, the pirate now ordered the warps to be cast loose and informed
Lumsden that he might consider himself free to resume his voyage. But, he
insisted, on no account was he to steer for Havannah. Should he do so,
the schooner would pursue him, and on being overtaken Lumsden and his
ship should be destroyed without further consideration.

So at last the brig _Zephyr_, robbed of most of her valuables, lacking
some of her gear and minus her mate, and with a tortured skipper, hove up
her anchor, let loose her canvas and cleared out into the open sea.



FOOTNOTES


[1] See _Sea-Wolves of the Mediterranean_, by Commander E. Hamilton
Currey, R.N., to which I am indebted for certain information regarding
these corsairs and their Christian foes.

[2] I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness for some of the facts here
mentioned to an interesting article by Mr. Winfield M. Thompson in the
_Rudder_ for the year 1909.

[3] The British Ambassador.

_Printed by MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, Edinburgh, 1917_



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