BUCCANEERS AND PIRATES OF OUR COASTS
FRANK R. STOCKTON
Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers New York by arrangement with The Macmillan Company Copyright, 1897-1898, By the Century Co. Copyright, 1898, 1926, By the MacMillan Company. All rights reserved—no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in magazine or newspaper. Set up and electrotyped July, 1898. Reprinted November, 1898; September, 1905; May, 1906; April, October, 1908; October, 1910; March, 1913; September, 1914; January, 1915; October, 1917. Printed in the United States of America
Tempting boys to be what they should be—giving them in wholesome form what they want—that is the purpose and power of Scouting. To help parents and leaders of youth secure books boys like best that are also best for boys, the Boy Scouts of America organized EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY. The books included, formerly sold at prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.00 but, by special arrangement with the several publishers interested, are now sold in the EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY Edition at $1.00 per volume.
The books of EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY were selected by the Library Commission of the Boy Scouts of America, consisting of George F. Bowerman, Librarian, Public Library of the District of Columbia; Harrison W. Craver, Director, Engineering Societies Library, New York City; Claude G. Leland, Superintendent, Bureau of Libraries, Board of Education, New York City; Edward F. Stevens, Librarian, Pratt Institute Free Library, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Franklin K. Mathiews, Chief Scout Librarian. Only such books were chosen by the Commission as proved to be, by a nation wide canvas, most in demand by the boys themselves. Their popularity is further attested by the fact that in the EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY Edition, more than a million and a quarter copies of these books have already been sold.
We know so well, are reminded so often of the worth of the good book and great, that too often we fail to observe or understand the influence for good of a boy's recreational reading. Such books may influence him for good or ill as profoundly as his play activities, of which they are a vital part. The needful thing is to find stories in which the heroes have the characteristics boys so much admire—unquenchable courage, immense resourcefulness, absolute fidelity, conspicuous greatness. We believe the books of EVERY BOY'S LIBRARY measurably well meet this challenge.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA,
[signed] James E. West
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I. The Bold Buccaneers 1
II. Some Masters in Piracy 7
III. Pupils in Piracy 16
IV. Peter the Great 23
V. The Story of a Pearl Pirate 31
VI. The Surprising Adventures of Bartholemy Portuguez 39
VII. The Pirate who could not Swim 49
VIII. How Bartholemy rested Himself 59
IX. A Pirate Author 65
X. The Story of Roc, the Brazilian 72
XI. A Buccaneer Boom 89
XII. The Story of L'Olonnois the Cruel 94
XIII. A Resurrected Pirate 100
XIV. Villany on a Grand Scale 109
XV. A Just Reward 119
XVI. A Pirate Potentate 132
XVII. How Morgan was helped by Some Religious People 145
XVIII. A Piratical Aftermath 153
XIX. A Tight Place for Morgan 159
XX. The Story of a High-Minded Pirate 171
XXI. Exit Buccaneer; Enter Pirate 192
XXII. The Great Blackbeard comes upon the Stage 200
XXIII. A True-Hearted Sailor draws his Sword 210
XXIV. A Greenhorn under the Black Flag 217
XXV. Bonnet again to the Front 224
XXVI. The Battle of the Sand Bars 233
XXVII. A Six Weeks' Pirate 243
XXVIII. The Story of Two Women Pirates 253
XXIX. A Pirate from Boyhood 263
XXX. A Pirate of the Gulf 277
XXXI. The Pirate of the Buried Treasure 291
XXXII. The Real Captain Kidd 309
Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts
The Bold Buccaneers
When I was a boy I strongly desired to be a pirate, and the reason for this was the absolute independence of that sort of life. Restrictions of all sorts had become onerous to me, and in my reading of the adventures of the bold sea-rovers of the main, I had unconsciously selected those portions of a pirate's life which were attractive to me, and had totally disregarded all the rest.
In fact, I had a great desire to become what might be called a marine Robin Hood. I would take from the rich and give to the poor; I would run my long, low, black craft by the side of the merchantman, and when I had loaded my vessel with the rich stuffs and golden ingots which composed her cargo, I would sail away to some poor village, and make its inhabitants prosperous and happy for the rest of their lives by a judicious distribution of my booty.
I would always be as free as a sea-bird. My men would be devoted to me, and my word would be their law. I would decide for myself whether this or that proceeding would be proper, generous, and worthy of my unlimited power; when tired of sailing, I would retire to my island,—the position of which, in a beautiful semi-tropic ocean, would be known only to myself and to my crew,—and there I would pass happy days in the company of my books, my works of art, and all the various treasures I had taken from the mercenary vessels which I had overhauled.
Such was my notion of a pirate's life. I would kill nobody; the very sight of my black flag would be sufficient to put an end to all thought of resistance on the part of my victims, who would no more think of fighting me, than a fat bishop would have thought of lifting his hand against Robin Hood and his merry men; and I truly believe that I expected my conscience to have a great deal more to do in the way of approval of my actions, than it had found necessary in the course of my ordinary school-boy life.
I mention these early impressions because I have a notion that a great many people—and not only young people—have an idea of piracy not altogether different from that of my boyhood. They know that pirates are wicked men, that, in fact, they are sea-robbers or maritime murderers, but their bold and adventurous method of life, their bravery, daring, and the exciting character of their expeditions, give them something of the same charm and interest which belong to the robber knights of the middle ages. The one mounts his mailed steed and clanks his long sword against his iron stirrup, riding forth into the world with a feeling that he can do anything that pleases him, if he finds himself strong enough. The other springs into his rakish craft, spreads his sails to the wind, and dashes over the sparkling main with a feeling that he can do anything he pleases, provided he be strong enough.
The first pirates who made themselves known in American waters were the famous buccaneers; these began their career in a very commonplace and unobjectionable manner, and the name by which they were known had originally no piratical significance. It was derived from the French word boucanier, signifying "a drier of beef."
Some of the West India islands, especially San Domingo, were almost overrun with wild cattle of various kinds, and this was owing to the fact that the Spaniards had killed off nearly all the natives, and so had left the interior of the islands to the herds of cattle which had increased rapidly. There were a few settlements on the seacoast, but the Spaniards did not allow the inhabitants of these to trade with any nation but their own, and consequently the people were badly supplied with the necessaries of life.
But the trading vessels which sailed from Europe to that part of the Caribbean Sea were manned by bold and daring sailors, and when they knew that San Domingo contained an abundance of beef cattle, they did not hesitate to stop at the little seaports to replenish their stores. The natives of the island were skilled in the art of preparing beef by smoking and drying it,—very much in the same way in which our Indians prepare "jerked meat" for winter use.
But so many vessels came to San Domingo for beef that there were not enough people on the island to do all the hunting and drying that was necessary, so these trading vessels frequently anchored in some quiet cove, and the crews went on shore and devoted themselves to securing a cargo of beef,—not only enough for their own use, but for trading purposes; thus they became known as "beef-driers," or buccaneers.
When the Spaniards heard of this new industry which had arisen within the limits of their possessions, they pursued the vessels of the buccaneers wherever they were seen, and relentlessly destroyed them and their crews. But there were not enough Spanish vessels to put down the trade in dried beef; more European vessels—generally English and French—stopped at San Domingo; more bands of hunting sailors made their way into the interior. When these daring fellows knew that the Spaniards were determined to break up their trade, they became more determined that it should not be broken up, and they armed themselves and their vessels so that they might be able to make a defence against the Spanish men-of-war.
Thus gradually and almost imperceptibly a state of maritime warfare grew up in the waters of the West Indies between Spain and the beef-traders of other nations; and from being obliged to fight, the buccaneers became glad to fight, provided that it was Spain they fought. True to her policy of despotism and cruelty when dealing with her American possessions, Spain waged a bitter and bloody war against the buccaneers who dared to interfere with the commercial relations between herself and her West India colonies, and in return, the buccaneers were just as bitter and savage in their warfare against Spain. From defending themselves against Spanish attacks, they began to attack Spaniards whenever there was any chance of success, at first only upon the sea, but afterwards on land. The cruelty and ferocity of Spanish rule had brought them into existence, and it was against Spain and her possessions that the cruelty and ferocity which she had taught them were now directed.
When the buccaneers had begun to understand each other and to effect organizations among themselves, they adopted a general name,—"The Brethren of the Coast." The outside world, especially the Spanish world, called them pirates, sea-robbers, buccaneers,—any title which would express their lawless character, but in their own denomination of themselves they expressed only their fraternal relations; and for the greater part of their career, they truly stood by each other like brothers.
Some Masters in Piracy
From the very earliest days of history there have been pirates, and it is, therefore, not at all remarkable that, in the early days of the history of this continent, sea-robbers should have made themselves prominent; but the buccaneers of America differed in many ways from those pirates with whom the history of the old world has made us acquainted.
It was very seldom that an armed vessel set out from an European port for the express purpose of sea-robbery in American waters. At first nearly all the noted buccaneers were traders. But the circumstances which surrounded them in the new world made of them pirates whose evil deeds have never been surpassed in any part of the globe.
These unusual circumstances and amazing temptations do not furnish an excuse for the exceptionally wicked careers of the early American pirates; but we are bound to remember these causes or we could not understand the records of the settlement of the West Indies. The buccaneers were fierce and reckless fellows who pursued their daring occupation because it was profitable, because they had learned to like it, and because it enabled them to wreak a certain amount of vengeance upon the common enemy. But we must not assume that they inaugurated the piratical conquests and warfare which existed so long upon our eastern seacoasts.
Before the buccaneers began their careers, there had been great masters of piracy who had opened their schools in the Caribbean Sea; and in order that the condition of affairs in this country during parts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries may be clearly understood, we will consider some of the very earliest noted pirates of the West Indies.
When we begin a judicial inquiry into the condition of our fellow-beings, we should try to be as courteous as we can, but we must be just; consequently a man's fame and position must not turn us aside, when we are acting as historical investigators.
Therefore, we shall be bold and speak the truth, and although we shall take off our hats and bow very respectfully, we must still assert that Christopher Columbus was the first who practised piracy in American waters.
When he sailed with his three little ships to discover unknown lands, he was an accredited explorer for the court of Spain, and was bravely sailing forth with an honest purpose, and with the same regard for law and justice as is possessed by any explorer of the present day. But when he discovered some unknown lands, rich in treasure and outside of all legal restrictions, the views and ideas of the great discoverer gradually changed. Being now beyond the boundaries of civilization, he also placed himself beyond the boundaries of civilized law. Robbery, murder, and the destruction of property, by the commanders of naval expeditions, who have no warrant or commission for their conduct, is the same as piracy, and when Columbus ceased to be a legalized explorer, and when, against the expressed wishes, and even the prohibitions, of the royal personages who had sent him out on this expedition, he began to devastate the countries he had discovered, and to enslave and exterminate their peaceable natives, then he became a master in piracy, from whom the buccaneers afterward learned many a valuable lesson.
It is not necessary for us to enter very deeply into the consideration of the policy of Columbus toward the people of the islands of the West Indies. His second voyage was nothing more than an expedition for the sake of plunder. He had discovered gold and other riches in the West Indies and he had found that the people who inhabited the islands were simple-hearted, inoffensive creatures, who did not know how to fight and who did not want to fight. Therefore, it was so easy to sail his ships into the harbors of defenceless islands, to subjugate the natives, and to take away the products of their mines and soil, that he commenced a veritable course of piracy.
The acquisition of gold and all sorts of plunder seemed to be the sole object of this Spanish expedition; natives were enslaved, and subjected to the greatest hardships, so that they died in great numbers. At one time three hundred of them were sent as slaves to Spain. A pack of bloodhounds, which Columbus had brought with him for the purpose, was used to hunt down the poor Indians when they endeavored to escape from the hands of the oppressors, and in every way the island of Hayti, the principal scene of the actions of Columbus, was treated as if its inhabitants had committed a dreadful crime by being in possession of the wealth which the Spaniards desired for themselves.
Queen Isabella was greatly opposed to these cruel and unjust proceedings. She sent back to their native land the slaves which Columbus had shipped to Spain, and she gave positive orders that no more of the inhabitants were to be enslaved, and that they were all to be treated with moderation and kindness. But the Atlantic is a wide ocean, and Columbus, far away from his royal patron, paid little attention to her wishes and commands; without going further into the history of this period, we will simply mention the fact that it was on account of his alleged atrocities that Columbus was superseded in his command, and sent back in chains to Spain.
There was another noted personage of the sixteenth century who played the part of pirate in the new world, and thereby set a most shining example to the buccaneers of those regions. This was no other than Sir Francis Drake, one of England's greatest naval commanders.
It is probable that Drake, when he started out in life, was a man of very law-abiding and orderly disposition, for he was appointed by Queen Elizabeth a naval chaplain, and, it is said, though there is some doubt about this, that he was subsequently vicar of a parish. But by nature he was a sailor, and nothing else, and after having made several voyages in which he showed himself a good fighter, as well as a good commander, he undertook, in 1572, an expedition against the Spanish settlements in the West Indies, for which he had no legal warrant whatever.
Spain was not at war with England, and when Drake sailed with four small ships into the port of the little town of Nombre de Dios in the middle of the night, the inhabitants of the town were as much astonished as the people of Perth Amboy would be if four armed vessels were to steam into Raritan Bay, and endeavor to take possession of the town. The peaceful Spanish townspeople were not at war with any civilized nation, and they could not understand why bands of armed men should invade their streets, enter the market-place, fire their calivers, or muskets, into the air, and then sound a trumpet loud enough to wake up everybody in the place. Just outside of the town the invaders had left a portion of their men, and when these heard the trumpet in the market-place, they also fired their guns; all this noise and hubbub so frightened the good people of the town, that many of them jumped from their beds, and without stopping to dress, fled away to the mountains. But all the citizens were not such cowards, and fourteen or fifteen of them armed themselves and went out to defend their town from the unknown invaders.
Beginners in any trade or profession, whether it be the playing of the piano, the painting of pictures, or the pursuit of piracy, are often timid and distrustful of themselves; so it happened on this occasion with Francis Drake and his men, who were merely amateur pirates, and showed very plainly that they did not yet understand their business.
When the fifteen Spanish citizens came into the market-place and found there the little body of armed Englishmen, they immediately fired upon them, not knowing or caring who they were. This brave resistance seems to have frightened Drake and his men almost as much as their trumpets and guns had frightened the citizens, and the English immediately retreated from the town. When they reached the place where they had left the rest of their party, they found that these had already run away, and taken to the boats. Consequently Drake and his brave men were obliged to take off some of their clothes and to wade out to the little ships. The Englishmen secured no booty whatever, and killed only one Spaniard, who was a man who had been looking out of a window to see what was the matter.
Whether or not Drake's conscience had anything to do with the bungling manner in which he made this first attempt at piracy, we cannot say, but he soon gave his conscience a holiday, and undertook some very successful robbing enterprises. He received information from some natives, that a train of mules was coming across the Isthmus of Panama loaded with gold and silver bullion, and guarded only by their drivers; for the merchants who owned all this treasure had no idea that there was any one in that part of the world who would commit a robbery upon them. But Drake and his men soon proved that they could hold up a train of mules as easily as some of the masked robbers in our western country hold up a train of cars. All the gold was taken, but the silver was too heavy for the amateur pirates to carry.
Two days after that, Drake and his men came to a place called "The House of Crosses," where they killed five or six peaceable merchants, but were greatly disappointed to find no gold, although the house was full of rich merchandise of various kinds. As his men had no means of carrying away heavy goods, he burned up the house and all its contents and went to his ships, and sailed away with the treasure he had already obtained.
Whatever this gallant ex-chaplain now thought of himself, he was considered by the Spaniards as an out-and-out pirate, and in this opinion they were quite correct. During his great voyage around the world, which he began in 1577, he came down upon the Spanish-American settlements like a storm from the sea. He attacked towns, carried off treasure, captured merchant-vessels,—and in fact showed himself to be a thoroughbred and accomplished pirate of the first class.
It was in consequence of the rich plunder with which his ships were now loaded, that he made his voyage around the world. He was afraid to go back the way he came, for fear of capture, and so, having passed the Straits of Magellan, and having failed to find a way out of the Pacific in the neighborhood of California, he doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and sailed along the western coast of Africa to European waters.
This grand piratical expedition excited great indignation in Spain, which country was still at peace with England, and even in England there were influential people who counselled the Queen that it would be wise and prudent to disavow Drake's actions, and compel him to restore to Spain the booty he had taken from his subjects. But Queen Elizabeth was not the woman to do that sort of thing. She liked brave men and brave deeds, and she was proud of Drake. Therefore, instead of punishing him, she honored him, and went to take dinner with him on board his ship, which lay at Deptford.
So Columbus does not stand alone as a grand master of piracy. The famous Sir Francis Drake, who became vice-admiral of the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada, was a worthy companion of the great Genoese.
These notable instances have been mentioned because it would be unjust to take up the history of those resolute traders who sailed from England, France, and Holland, to the distant waters of the western world for the purpose of legitimate enterprise and commerce, and who afterwards became thorough-going pirates, without trying to make it clear that they had shining examples for their notable careers.
Pupils in Piracy
After the discoveries of Columbus, the Spanish mind seems to have been filled with the idea that the whole undiscovered world, wherever it might be, belonged to Spain, and that no other nation had any right whatever to discover anything on the other side of the Atlantic, or to make any use whatever of lands which had been discovered. In fact, the natives of the new countries, and the inhabitants of all old countries except her own, were considered by Spain as possessing no rights whatever. If the natives refused to pay tribute, or to spend their days toiling for gold for their masters, or if vessels from England or France touched at one of their settlements for purposes of trade, it was all the same to the Spaniards; a war of attempted extermination was waged alike against the peaceful inhabitants of Hispaniola, now Hayti, and upon the bearded and hardy seamen from Northern Europe. Under this treatment the natives weakened and gradually disappeared; but the buccaneers became more and more numerous and powerful.
The buccaneers were not unlike that class of men known in our western country as cowboys. Young fellows of good families from England and France often determined to embrace a life of adventure, and possibly profit, and sailed out to the West Indies to get gold and hides, and to fight Spaniards. Frequently they dropped their family names and assumed others more suitable to roving freebooters, and, like the bold young fellows who ride over our western plains, driving cattle and shooting Indians, they adopted a style of dress as free and easy, but probably not quite so picturesque, as that of the cowboy. They soon became a very rough set of fellows, in appearance as well as action, endeavoring in every way to let the people of the western world understand that they were absolutely free and independent of the manners and customs, as well as of the laws of their native countries.
So well was this independence understood, that when the buccaneers became strong enough to inflict some serious injury upon the settlements in the West Indies, and the Spanish court remonstrated with Queen Elizabeth on account of what had been done by some of her subjects, she replied that she had nothing to do with these buccaneers, who, although they had been born in England, had ceased for the time to be her subjects, and the Spaniards must defend themselves against them just as if they were an independent nation.
But it is impossible for men who have been brought up in civilized society, and who have been accustomed to obey laws, to rid themselves entirely of all ideas of propriety and morality, as soon as they begin a life of lawlessness. So it happened that many of the buccaneers could not divest themselves of the notions of good behavior to which they had been accustomed from youth. For instance, we are told of a captain of buccaneers, who, landing at a settlement on a Sunday, took his crew to church. As it is not at all probable that any of the buccaneering vessels carried chaplains, opportunities of attending services must have been rare. This captain seems to have wished to show that pirates in church know what they ought to do just as well as other people; it was for this reason that, when one of his men behaved himself in an improper and disorderly manner during the service, this proper-minded captain arose from his seat and shot the offender dead.
There was a Frenchman of that period who must have been a warm-hearted philanthropist, because, having read accounts of the terrible atrocities of the Spaniards in the western lands, he determined to leave his home and his family, and become a buccaneer, in order that he might do what he could for the suffering natives in the Spanish possessions. He entered into the great work which he had planned for himself with such enthusiasm and zeal, that in the course of time he came to be known as "The Exterminator," and if there had been more people of his philanthropic turn of mind, there would soon have been no inhabitants whatever upon the islands from which the Spaniards had driven out the Indians.
There was another person of that day,—also a Frenchman,—who became deeply involved in debt in his own country, and feeling that the principles of honor forbade him to live upon and enjoy what was really the property of others, he made up his mind to sail across the Atlantic, and become a buccaneer. He hoped that if he should be successful in his new profession, and should be enabled to rob Spaniards for a term of years, he could return to France, pay off all his debts, and afterward live the life of a man of honor and respectability.
Other ideas which the buccaneers brought with them from their native countries soon showed themselves when these daring sailors began their lives as regular pirates; among these, the idea of organization was very prominent. Of course it was hard to get a number of free and untrammelled crews to unite and obey the commands of a few officers. But in time the buccaneers had recognized leaders, and laws were made for concerted action. In consequence of this the buccaneers became a formidable body of men, sometimes superior to the Spanish naval and military forces.
It must be remembered that the buccaneers lived in a very peculiar age. So far as the history of America is concerned, it might be called the age of blood and gold. In the newly discovered countries there were no laws which European nations or individuals cared to observe. In the West Indies and the adjacent mainlands there were gold and silver, and there were also valuable products of other kinds, and when the Spaniards sailed to their part of the new world, these treasures were the things for which they came. The natives were weak and not able to defend themselves. All the Spaniards had to do was to take what they could find, and when they could not find enough they made the poor Indians find it for them. Here was a part of the world, and an age of the world, wherein it was the custom for men to do what they pleased, provided they felt themselves strong enough, and it was not to be supposed that any one European nation could expect a monopoly of this state of mind.
Therefore it was that while the Spaniards robbed and ruined the natives of the lands they discovered, the English, French, and Dutch buccaneers robbed the robbers. Great vessels were sent out from Spain, carrying nothing in the way of merchandise to America, but returning with all the precious metals and valuable products of the newly discovered regions, which could in any way be taken from the unfortunate natives. The gold mines of the new world had long been worked, and yielded handsome revenues, but the native method of operating them did not satisfy the Spaniards, who forced the poor Indians to labor incessantly at the difficult task of digging out the precious metals, until many of them died under the cruel oppression. Sometimes the Indians were kept six months under ground, working in the mines; and at one time, when it was found that the natives had died off, or had fled from the neighborhood of some of the rich gold deposits, it was proposed to send to Africa and get a cargo of negroes to work the mines.
Now it is easy to see that all this made buccaneering a very tempting occupation. To capture a great treasure ship, after the Spaniards had been at so much trouble to load it, was a grand thing, according to the pirate's point of view, and although it often required reckless bravery and almost superhuman energy to accomplish the feats necessary in this dangerous vocation, these were qualities which were possessed by nearly all the sea-robbers of our coast; the stories of some of the most interesting of these wild and desperate fellows,—men who did not combine piracy with discoveries and explorations, but who were out-and-out sea-robbers, and gained in that way all the reputation they ever possessed,—will be told in subsequent chapters.
Peter the Great
Very prominent among the early regular buccaneers was a Frenchman who came to be called Peter the Great. This man seems to have been one of those adventurers who were not buccaneers in the earlier sense of the word (by which I mean they were not traders who touched at Spanish settlements to procure cattle and hides, and who were prepared to fight any Spaniards who might interfere with them), but they were men who came from Europe on purpose to prey upon Spanish possessions, whether on land or sea. Some of them made a rough sort of settlement on the island of Tortuga, and then it was that Peter the Great seems to have come into prominence. He gathered about him a body of adherents, but although he had a great reputation as an individual pirate, it seems to have been a good while before he achieved any success as a leader.
The fortunes of Peter and his men must have been at a pretty low ebb when they found themselves cruising in a large, canoe-shaped boat not far from the island of Hispaniola. There were twenty-nine of them in all, and they were not able to procure a vessel suitable for their purpose. They had been a long time floating about in an aimless way, hoping to see some Spanish merchant-vessel which they might attack and possibly capture, but no such vessel appeared. Their provisions began to give out, the men were hungry, discontented, and grumbling. In fact, they were in almost as bad a condition as were the sailors of Columbus just before they discovered signs of land, after their long and weary voyage across the Atlantic.
When Peter and his men were almost on the point of despair, they perceived, far away upon the still waters, a large ship. With a great jump, hope sprang up in the breast of every man. They seized the oars and pulled in the direction of the distant craft. But when they were near enough, they saw that the vessel was not a merchantman, probably piled with gold and treasure, but a man-of-war belonging to the Spanish fleet. In fact, it was the vessel of the vice-admiral. This was an astonishing and disheartening state of things. It was very much as if a lion, hearing the approach of probable prey, had sprung from the thicket where he had been concealed, and had beheld before him, not a fine, fat deer, but an immense and scrawny elephant.
But the twenty-nine buccaneers in the crew were very hungry. They had not come out upon those waters to attack men-of-war, but, more than that, they had not come out to perish by hunger and thirst. There could be no doubt that there was plenty to eat and to drink on that tall Spanish vessel, and if they could not get food and water they could not live more than a day or two longer.
Under the circumstances it was not long before Peter the Great made up his mind that if his men would stand by him, he would endeavor to capture that Spanish war-vessel; when he put the question to his crew they all swore that they would follow him and obey his orders as long as life was left in their bodies. To attack a vessel armed with cannon, and manned by a crew very much larger than their little party, seemed almost like throwing themselves upon certain death. But still, there was a chance that in some way they might get the better of the Spaniards; whereas, if they rowed away again into the solitudes of the ocean, they would give up all chance of saving themselves from death by starvation. Steadily, therefore, they pulled toward the Spanish vessel, and slowly—for there was but little wind—she approached them.
The people in the man-of-war did not fail to perceive the little boat far out on the ocean, and some of them sent to the captain and reported the fact. The news, however, did not interest him, for he was engaged in playing cards in his cabin, and it was not until an hour afterward that he consented to come on deck and look out toward the boat which had been sighted, and which was now much nearer.
Taking a good look at the boat, and perceiving that it was nothing more than a canoe, the captain laughed at the advice of some of his officers, who thought it would be well to fire a few cannon-shot and sink the little craft. The captain thought it would be a useless proceeding. He did not know anything about the people in the boat, and he did not very much care, but he remarked that if they should come near enough, it might be a good thing to put out some tackle and haul them and their boat on deck, after which they might be examined and questioned whenever it should suit his convenience. Then he went down to his cards.
If Peter the Great and his men could have been sure that if they were to row alongside the Spanish vessel they would have been quietly hauled on deck and examined, they would have been delighted at the opportunity. With cutlasses, pistols, and knives, they were more than ready to demonstrate to the Spaniards what sort of fellows they were, and the captain would have found hungry pirates uncomfortable persons to question.
But it seemed to Peter and his crew a very difficult thing indeed to get themselves on board the man-of-war, so they curbed their ardor and enthusiasm, and waited until nightfall before approaching nearer. As soon as it became dark enough they slowly and quietly paddled toward the great ship, which was now almost becalmed. There were no lights in the boat, and the people on the deck of the vessel saw and heard nothing on the dark waters around them.
When they were very near the man-of-war, the captain of the buccaneers—according to the ancient accounts of this adventure—ordered his chirurgeon, or surgeon, to bore a large hole in the bottom of their canoe. It is probable that this officer, with his saws and other surgical instruments, was expected to do carpenter work when there were no duties for him to perform in the regular line of his profession. At any rate, he went to work, and noiselessly bored the hole.
This remarkable proceeding showed the desperate character of these pirates. A great, almost impossible task was before them, and nothing but absolute recklessness could enable them to succeed. If his men should meet with strong opposition from the Spaniards in the proposed attack, and if any of them should become frightened and try to retreat to the boat, Peter knew that all would be lost, and consequently he determined to make it impossible for any man to get away in that boat. If they could not conquer the Spanish vessel they must die on her decks.
When the half-sunken canoe touched the sides of the vessel, the pirates, seizing every rope or projection on which they could lay their hands, climbed up the sides of the man-of-war, as if they had been twenty-nine cats, and springing over the rail, dashed upon the sailors who were on deck. These men were utterly stupefied and astounded. They had seen nothing, they had heard nothing, and all of a sudden they were confronted with savage fellows with cutlasses and pistols.
Some of the crew looked over the sides to see where these strange visitors had come from, but they saw nothing, for the canoe had gone to the bottom. Then they were filled with a superstitious horror, believing that the wild visitors were devils who had dropped from the sky, for there seemed no other place from which they could come. Making no attempt to defend themselves, the sailors, wild with terror, tumbled below and hid themselves, without even giving an alarm.
The Spanish captain was still playing cards, and whether he was winning or losing, the old historians do not tell us, but very suddenly a newcomer took a hand in the game. This was Peter the Great, and he played the ace of trumps. With a great pistol in his hand, he called upon the Spanish captain to surrender. That noble commander glanced around. There was a savage pirate holding a pistol at the head of each of the officers at the table. He threw up his cards. The trick was won by Peter and his men.
The rest of the game was easy enough. When the pirates spread themselves over the vessel, the frightened crew got out of sight as well as they could. Some, who attempted to seize their arms in order to defend themselves, were ruthlessly cut down or shot, and when the hatches had been securely fastened upon the sailors who had fled below, Peter the Great was captain and owner of that tall Spanish man-of-war.
It is quite certain that the first thing these pirates did to celebrate their victory was to eat a rousing good supper, and then they took charge of the vessel, and sailed her triumphantly over the waters on which, not many hours before, they had feared that a little boat would soon be floating, filled with their emaciated bodies.
This most remarkable success of Peter the Great worked a great change, of course, in the circumstances of himself and his men. But it worked a greater change in the career, and possibly in the character of the captain. He was now a very rich man, and all his followers had plenty of money. The Spanish vessel was amply supplied with provisions, and there was also on board a great quantity of gold bullion, which was to be shipped to Spain. In fact, Peter and his men had booty enough to satisfy any sensible pirate. Now we all know that sensible pirates, and people in any sphere of life who are satisfied when they have enough, are very rare indeed, and therefore it is not a little surprising that the bold buccaneer, whose story we are now telling, should have proved that he merited, in a certain way, the title his companions had given him.
Sailing his prize to the shores of Hispaniola, Peter put on shore all the Spaniards whose services he did not desire. The rest of his prisoners he compelled to help his men work the ship, and then, without delay, he sailed away to France, and there he retired entirely from the business of piracy, and set himself up as a gentleman of wealth and leisure.
The Story of a Pearl Pirate
The ordinary story of the pirate, or the wicked man in general, no matter how successful he may have been in his criminal career, nearly always ends disastrously, and in that way points a moral which doubtless has a good effect on a large class of people, who would be very glad to do wrong, provided no harm was likely to come to them in consequence. But the story of Peter the Great, which we have just told, contains no such moral. In fact, its influence upon the adventurers of that period was most unwholesome.
When the wonderful success of Peter the Great became known, the buccaneering community at Tortuga was wildly excited. Every bushy-bearded fellow who could get possession of a small boat, and induce a score of other bushy-bearded fellows to follow him, wanted to start out and capture a rich Spanish galleon, as the great ships, used alike for war and commerce, were then called.
But not only were the French and English sailors and traders who had become buccaneers excited and stimulated by the remarkable good fortune of their companion, but many people of adventurous mind, who had never thought of leaving England for purposes of piracy, now became firmly convinced that there was no business which promised better than that of a buccaneer, and some of them crossed the ocean for the express purpose of getting rich by capturing Spanish vessels homeward bound.
As there were not enough suitable vessels in Tortuga for the demands of the recently stimulated industry, the buccaneer settlers went to other parts of the West Indies to obtain suitable craft, and it is related that in about a month after the great victory of Peter the Great, two large Spanish vessels, loaded with silver bullion, and two other heavily laden merchantmen were brought into Tortuga by the buccaneers.
One of the adventurers who set out about this time on a cruise after gold-laden vessels, was a Frenchman who was known to his countrymen as Pierre Francois, and to the English as Peter Francis. He was a good sailor, and ready for any sort of a sea-fight, but for a long time he cruised about without seeing anything which it was worth while to attempt to capture. At last, when his provisions began to give out, and his men became somewhat discontented, Pierre made up his mind that rather than return to Tortuga empty-handed, he would make a bold and novel stroke for fortune.
At the mouth of one of the large rivers of the mainland the Spaniards had established a pearl fishery,—for there was no kind of wealth or treasure, on the land, under ground, or at the bottom of the sea, that the Spaniards did not get if it were possible for them to do so.
Every year, at the proper season, a dozen or more vessels came to this pearl-bank, attended by a man-of-war to protect them from molestation. Pierre knew all about this, and as he could not find any Spanish merchantmen to rob, he thought he would go down and see what he could do with the pearl-fishers. This was something the buccaneers had not yet attempted, but no one knows what he can do until he tries, and it was very necessary that this buccaneer captain should try something immediately.
When he reached the coast near the mouth of the river, he took the masts out of his little vessel, and rowed quietly toward the pearl-fishing fleet, as if he had intended to join them on some entirely peaceable errand; and, in fact, there was no reason whatever why the Spaniards should suppose that a boat full of buccaneers should be rowing along that part of the coast.
The pearl-fishing vessels were all at anchor, and the people on board were quietly attending to their business. Out at sea, some distance from the mouth of the river, the man-of-war was lying becalmed. The native divers who went down to the bottom of the sea to bring up the shellfish which contained the pearls, plunged into the water, and came up wet and shining in the sun, with no fear whatever of any sharks which might be swimming about in search of a dinner, and the people on the vessels opened the oysters and carefully searched for pearls, feeling as safe from harm as if they were picking olives in their native groves.
But something worse than a shark was quietly making its way over those tranquil waters, and no banditti who ever descended from Spanish mountains upon the quiet peasants of a village, equalled in ferocity the savage fellows who were crouching in the little boat belonging to Pierre of Tortuga.
This innocent-looking craft, which the pearl-fishers probably thought was loaded with fruit or vegetables which somebody from the mainland desired to sell, was permitted, without being challenged or interfered with, to row up alongside the largest vessel of the fleet, on which there were some armed men and a few cannon.
As soon as Pierre's boat touched the Spanish vessel, the buccaneers sprang on board with their pistols and cutlasses, and a savage fight began. The Spaniards were surprised, but there were a great many more of them than there were pirates, and they fought hard. However, the man who makes the attack, and who is at the same time desperate and hungry, has a great advantage, and it was not long before the buccaneers were masters of the vessel. Those of the Spaniards who were not killed, were forced into the service of their captors, and Pierre found himself in command of a very good vessel.
Now it so happened that the man-of-war was so far away that she knew nothing of this fight on board one of the fleet which she was there to watch, and if she had known of it, she would not have been able to give any assistance, for there was no wind by which she could sail to the mouth of the river. Therefore, so far as she was concerned, Pierre considered himself safe.
But although he had captured a Spanish ship, he was not so foolish as to haul down her flag, and run up his own in her place. He had had very good success so far, but he was not satisfied. It was quite probable that there was a rich store of pearls on board the vessel he had taken, but on the other vessels of the fleet there were many more pearls, and these he wanted if he could get them. In fact, he conceived the grand idea of capturing the whole fleet.
But it would be impossible for Pierre to attempt anything on such a magnificent scale until he had first disposed of the man-of-war, and as he had now a good strong ship, with a much larger crew than that with which he had set out,—for the Spanish prisoners would be obliged to man the guns and help in every way to fight their countrymen,—Pierre determined to attack the man-of-war.
A land wind began to blow, which enabled him to make very fair headway out to sea. The Spanish colors were flying from his topmast, and he hoped to be able, without being suspected of any evil designs, to get so near to the man-of-war that he might run alongside and boldly board her.
But something now happened which Pierre could not have expected. When the commander of the war-vessel perceived that one of the fleet under his charge was leaving her companions and putting out to sea, he could imagine no reason for such extraordinary conduct, except that she was taking advantage of the fact that the wind had not yet reached his vessel, and was trying to run away with the pearls she had on board. From these ready suspicions we may imagine that, at that time, the robbers who robbed robbers were not all buccaneers.
Soon after the Spanish captain perceived that one of his fleet was making his way out of the river, the wind reached his vessel, and he immediately set all sail and started in pursuit of the rascals, whom he supposed to be his dishonest countrymen.
The breeze freshened rapidly, and when Pierre and his men saw that the man-of-war was coming toward them at a good rate of speed, showing plainly that she had suspicions of them, they gave up all hope of running alongside of her and boarding her, and concluded that the best thing they could do would be to give up their plan of capturing the pearl-fishing fleet, and get away with the ship they had taken, and whatever it had on board. So they set all sail, and there was a fine sea-chase.
The now frightened buccaneers were too anxious to get away. They not only put on all the sail which the vessel could carry, but they put on more. The wind blew harder, and suddenly down came the mainmast with a crash. This stopped the chase, and the next act in the performance would have to be a sea-fight. Pierre and his buccaneers were good at that sort of thing, and when the man-of-war came up, there was a terrible time on board those two vessels. But the Spaniards were the stronger, and the buccaneers were defeated.
There must have been something in the daring courage of this Frenchman and his little band of followers, which gave him favor in the eyes of the Spanish captain, for there was no other reason for the good treatment which the buccaneers received.
They were not put to the sword nor thrown overboard, not sent on shore and made to work as slaves,—three very common methods of treating prisoners in those days. But they were all set free, and put on land, where they might go where they pleased.
This unfortunate result of the bold enterprise undertaken by Pierre Francois was deeply deplored, not only at Tortuga, but in England and in France. If this bold buccaneer had captured the pearl fleet, it would have been a victory that would have made a hero of him on each side of the Atlantic, but had he even been able to get away with the one vessel he had seized, he would have been a rich man, and might have retired to a life of ease and affluence; the vessel he had captured proved to be one of the richest laden of the whole fleet, and not only in the heart of Pierre and his men, but among his sympathizers in Europe and America, there was great disappointment at the loss of that mainmast, which, until it cracked, was carrying him forward to fame and fortune.
The Surprising Adventures of Bartholemy Portuguez
As we have seen that the buccaneers were mainly English, French, and Dutch sailors, who were united to make a common piratical warfare upon the Spaniards in the West Indies, it may seem a little strange to find a man from Portugal who seemed to be on the wrong side of this peculiar fight which was going on in the new world between the sailors of Northern and Southern Europe. But although Portugal is such a close neighbor of Spain, the two countries have often been at war with each other, and their interests are by no means the same. The only advantage that Portugal could expect from the newly discovered treasures of the West were those which her seafaring men, acting with the seafaring men of other nations, should wrest from Spanish vessels homeward bound.
Consequently, there were Portuguese among the pirates of those days. Among these was a man named Bartholemy Portuguez, a famous flibustier.
It may be here remarked that the name of buccaneer was chiefly affected by the English adventurers on our coast, while the French members of the profession often preferred the name of "flibustier." This word, which has since been corrupted into our familiar "filibuster," is said to have been originally a corruption, being nothing more than the French method of pronouncing the word "freebooters," which title had long been used for independent robbers.
Thus, although Bartholemy called himself a flibustier, he was really a buccaneer, and his name came to be known all over the Caribbean Sea. From the accounts we have of him it appears that he did not start out on his career of piracy as a poor man. He had some capital to invest in the business, and when he went over to the West Indies he took with him a small ship, armed with four small cannon, and manned by a crew of picked men, many of them no doubt professional robbers, and the others anxious for practice in this most alluring vocation, for the gold fields of California were never more attractive to the bold and hardy adventurers of our country, than were the gold fields of the sea to the buccaneers and flibustiers of the seventeenth century.
When Bartholemy reached the Caribbean Sea he probably first touched at Tortuga, the pirates' headquarters, and then sailed out very much as if he had been a fisherman going forth to see what he could catch on the sea. He cruised about on the track generally taken by treasure ships going from the mainland to the Havanas, or the island of Hispaniola, and when at last he sighted a vessel in the distance, it was not long before he and his men had made up their minds that if they were to have any sport that day it would be with what might be called most decidedly a game fish, for the ship slowly sailing toward them was a large Spanish vessel, and from her portholes there protruded the muzzles of at least twenty cannon. Of course, they knew that such a vessel would have a much larger crew than their own, and, altogether, Bartholemy was very much in the position of a man who should go out to harpoon a sturgeon, and who should find himself confronted by a vicious swordfish.
The Spanish merchantmen of that day were generally well armed, for getting home safely across the Atlantic was often the most difficult part of the treasure-seeking. There were many of these ships, which, although they did not belong to the Spanish navy, might almost be designated as men-of-war; and it was one of these with which our flibustier had now met.
But pirates and fishermen cannot afford to pick and choose. They must take what comes to them and make the best of it, and this is exactly the way in which the matter presented itself to Bartholemy and his men. They held one of their councils around the mast, and after an address from their leader, they decided that come what may, they must attack that Spanish vessel.
So the little pirate sailed boldly toward the big Spaniard, and the latter vessel, utterly astonished at the audacity of this attack,—for the pirates' flag was flying,—lay to, head to the wind, and waited, the gunners standing by their cannon. When the pirates had come near enough to see and understand the size and power of the vessel they had thought of attacking, they did not, as might have been expected, put about and sail away at the best of their vessel's speed, but they kept straight on their course as if they had been about to fall upon a great, unwieldy merchantman, manned by common sailors.
Perceiving the foolhardiness of the little vessel, the Spanish commander determined to give it a lesson which would teach its captain to understand better the relative power of great vessels and little ones, so, as soon as the pirates' vessel was near enough, he ordered a broadside fired upon it. The Spanish ship had a great many people on board. It had a crew of seventy men, and besides these there were some passengers, and regular marines, and knowing that the captain had determined to fire upon the approaching vessel, everybody had gathered on deck to see the little pirate ship go down.
But the ten great cannon-balls which were shot out at Bartholemy's little craft all missed their aim, and before the guns could be reloaded or the great ship be got around so as to deliver her other broadside, the pirate vessel was alongside of her. Bartholemy had fired none of his cannon. Such guns were useless against so huge a foe. What he was after was a hand-to-hand combat on the deck of the Spanish ship.
The pirates were all ready for hot work. They had thrown aside their coats and shirts as if each of them were going into a prize fight, and, with their cutlasses in their hands, and their pistols and knives in their belts, they scrambled like monkeys up the sides of the great ship. But Spaniards are brave men and good fighters, and there were more than twice as many of them as there were of the pirates, and it was not long before the latter found out that they could not capture that vessel by boarding it. So over the side they tumbled as fast as they could go, leaving some of their number dead and wounded behind them. They jumped into their own vessel, and then they put off to a short distance to take breath and get ready for a different kind of a fight. The triumphant Spaniards now prepared to get rid of this boat load of half-naked wild beasts, which they could easily do if they should take better aim with their cannon than they had done before.
But to their amazement they soon found that they could do nothing with the guns, nor were they able to work their ship so as to get it into position for effectual shots. Bartholemy and his men laid aside their cutlasses and their pistols, and took up their muskets, with which they were well provided. Their vessel lay within a very short range of the Spanish ship, and whenever a man could be seen through the portholes, or showed himself in the rigging or anywhere else where it was necessary to go in order to work the ship, he made himself a target for the good aim of the pirates. The pirate vessel could move about as it pleased, for it required but a few men to manage it, and so it kept out of the way of the Spanish guns, and its best marksmen, crouching close to the deck, fired and fired whenever a Spanish head was to be seen.
For five long hours this unequal contest was kept up. It might have reminded one of a man with a slender rod and a long, delicate line, who had hooked a big salmon. The man could not pull in the salmon, but, on the other hand, the salmon could not hurt the man, and in the course of time the big fish would be tired out, and the man would get out his landing-net and scoop him in.
Now Bartholemy thought he could scoop in the Spanish vessel. So many of her men had been shot that the two crews would be more nearly equal. So, boldly, he ran his vessel alongside the big ship and again boarded her. Now there was another great fight on the decks. The Spaniards had ceased to be triumphant, but they had become desperate, and in the furious combat ten of the pirates were killed and four wounded. But the Spaniards fared worse than that; more than half of the men who had not been shot by the pirates went down before their cutlasses and pistols, and it was not long before Bartholemy had captured the great Spanish ship.
It was a fearful and a bloody victory he had gained. A great part of his own men were lying dead or helpless on the deck, and of the Spaniards only forty were left alive, and these, it appears from the accounts, must have been nearly all wounded or disabled.
It was a common habit among the buccaneers, as well as among the Spaniards, to kill all prisoners who were not able to work for them, but Bartholemy does not seem to have arrived at the stage of depravity necessary for this. So he determined not to kill his prisoners, but he put them all into a boat and let them go where they pleased; while he was left with fifteen men to work a great vessel which required a crew of five times that number.
But the men who could conquer and capture a ship against such enormous odds, felt themselves fully capable of working her, even with their little crew. Before doing anything in the way of navigation they cleared the decks of the dead bodies, taking from them all watches, trinkets, and money, and then went below to see what sort of a prize they had gained. They found it a very good one indeed. There were seventy-five thousand crowns in money, besides a cargo of cocoa worth five thousand more, and this, combined with the value of the ship and all its fittings, was a great fortune for those days.
When the victorious pirates had counted their gains and had mended the sails and rigging of their new ship, they took what they wanted out of their own vessel, and left her to sink or to float as she pleased, and then they sailed away in the direction of the island of Jamaica. But the winds did not suit them, and, as their crew was so very small, they could not take advantage of light breezes as they could have done if they had had men enough. Consequently they were obliged to stop to get water before they reached the friendly vicinity of Jamaica.
They cast anchor at Cape St. Anthony on the west end of Cuba. After a considerable delay at this place they started out again to resume their voyage, but it was not long before they perceived, to their horror, three Spanish vessels coming towards them. It was impossible for a very large ship, manned by an extremely small crew, to sail away from those fully equipped vessels, and as to attempting to defend themselves against the overwhelming power of the antagonists, that was too absurd to be thought of even by such a reckless fellow as Bartholemy. So, when the ship was hailed by the Spanish vessels he lay to and waited until a boat's crew boarded him. With the eye of a nautical man the Spanish captain of one of the ships perceived that something was the matter with this vessel, for its sails and rigging were terribly cut up in the long fight through which it had passed, and of course he wanted to know what had happened. When he found that the great ship was in the possession of a very small body of pirates, Bartholemy and his men were immediately made prisoners, taken on board the Spanish ship, stripped of everything they possessed, even their clothes, and shut up in the hold. A crew from the Spanish ships was sent to man the vessel which had been captured, and then the little fleet set sail for San Francisco in Campeachy.
An hour had worked a very great change in the fortunes of Bartholemy and his men; in the fine cabin of their grand prize they had feasted and sung, and had gloried over their wonderful success, and now, in the vessel of their captor, they were shut up in the dark, to be enslaved or perhaps executed.
But it is not likely that any one of them either despaired or repented; these are sentiments very little in use by pirates.
The Pirate who could not Swim
When the little fleet of Spanish vessels, including the one which had been captured by Bartholemy Portuguez and his men, were on their way to Campeachy, they met with very stormy weather so that they were separated, and the ship which contained Bartholemy and his companions arrived first at the port for which they were bound.
The captain, who had Bartholemy and the others in charge, did not know what an important capture he had made; he supposed that these pirates were ordinary buccaneers, and it appears that it was his intention to keep them as his own private prisoners, for, as they were all very able-bodied men, they would be extremely useful on a ship. But when his vessel was safely moored, and it became known in the town that he had a company of pirates on board, a great many people came from shore to see these savage men, who were probably looked upon very much as if they were a menagerie of wild beasts brought from foreign lands.
Among the sightseers who came to the ship was a merchant of the town who had seen Bartholemy before, and who had heard of his various exploits. He therefore went to the captain of the vessel and informed him that he had on board one of the very worst pirates in the whole world, whose wicked deeds were well known in various parts of the West Indies, and who ought immediately to be delivered up to the civil authorities. This proposal, however, met with no favor from the Spanish captain, who had found Bartholemy a very quiet man, and could see that he was a very strong one, and he did not at all desire to give up such a valuable addition to his crew. But the merchant grew very angry, for he knew that Bartholemy had inflicted great injury on Spanish commerce, and as the captain would not listen to him, he went to the Governor of the town and reported the case. When this dignitary heard the story he immediately sent a party of officers to the ship, and commanded the captain to deliver the pirate leader into their charge. The other men were left where they were, but Bartholemy was taken away and confined in another ship. The merchant, who seemed to know a great deal about him, informed the authorities that this terrible pirate had been captured several times, but that he had always managed to escape, and, therefore, he was put in irons, and preparations were made to execute him on the next day; for, from what he had heard, the Governor considered that this pirate was no better than a wild beast, and that he should be put to death without even the formality of a trial.
But there was a Spanish soldier on board the ship who seemed to have had some pity, or perhaps some admiration, for the daring pirate, and he thought that if he were to be hung the next day it was no more than right to let him know it, so that when he went in to take some food to Bartholemy he told him what was to happen.
Now this pirate captain was a man who always wanted to have a share in what was to happen, and he immediately racked his brain to find out what he could do in this case. He had never been in a more desperate situation, but he did not lose heart, and immediately set to work to free himself from his irons, which were probably very clumsy affairs. At last, caring little how much he scratched and tore his skin, he succeeded in getting rid of his fetters, and could move about as freely as a tiger in a cage. To get out of this cage was Bartholemy's first object. It would be comparatively easy, because in the course of time some one would come into the hold, and the athletic buccaneer thought that he could easily get the better of whoever might open the hatch. But the next act in this truly melodramatic performance would be a great deal more difficult; for in order to escape from the ship it would be absolutely necessary for Bartholemy to swim to shore, and he did not know how to swim, which seems a strange failing in a hardy sailor with so many other nautical accomplishments. In the rough hold where he was shut up, our pirate, peering about, anxious and earnest, discovered two large, earthen jars in which wine had been brought from Spain, and with these he determined to make a sort of life-preserver. He found some pieces of oiled cloth, which he tied tightly over the open mouths of the jars and fastened them with cords. He was satisfied that this unwieldy contrivance would support him in the water.
Among other things he had found in his rummagings about the hold was an old knife, and with this in his hand he now sat waiting for a good opportunity to attack his sentinel.
This came soon after nightfall. A man descended with a lantern to see that the prisoner was still secure,—let us hope that it was not the soldier who had kindly informed him of his fate,—and as soon as he was fairly in the hold Bartholemy sprang upon him. There was a fierce struggle, but the pirate was quick and powerful, and the sentinel was soon dead. Then, carrying his two jars, Bartholemy climbed swiftly and noiselessly up the short ladder, came out on deck in the darkness, made a rush toward the side of the ship, and leaped overboard. For a moment he sank below the surface, but the two air-tight jars quickly rose and bore him up with them. There was a bustle on board the ship, there was some random firing of muskets in the direction of the splashing which the watch had heard, but none of the balls struck the pirate or his jars, and he soon floated out of sight and hearing. Kicking out with his legs, and paddling as well as he could with one hand while he held on to the jars with the other, he at last managed to reach the land, and ran as fast as he could into the dark woods beyond the town.
Bartholemy was now greatly in fear that, when his escape was discovered, he would be tracked by bloodhounds,—for these dogs were much used by the Spaniards in pursuing escaping slaves or prisoners,—and he therefore did not feel safe in immediately making his way along the coast, which was what he wished to do. If the hounds should get upon his trail, he was a lost man. The desperate pirate, therefore, determined to give the bloodhounds no chance to follow him, and for three days he remained in a marshy forest, in the dark recesses of which he could hide, and where the water, which covered the ground, prevented the dogs from following his scent. He had nothing to eat except a few roots of water-plants, but he was accustomed to privation, and these kept him alive. Often he heard the hounds baying on the dry land adjoining the marsh, and sometimes he saw at night distant torches, which he was sure were carried by men who were hunting for him.
But at last the pursuit seemed to be given up; and hearing no more dogs and seeing no more flickering lights, Bartholemy left the marsh and set out on his long journey down the coast. The place he wished to reach was called Golpho Triste, which was forty leagues away, but where he had reason to suppose he would find some friends. When he came out from among the trees, he mounted a small hill and looked back upon the town. The public square was lighted, and there in the middle of it he saw the gallows which had been erected for his execution, and this sight, doubtless, animated him very much during the first part of his journey.
The terrible trials and hardships which Bartholemy experienced during his tramp along the coast were such as could have been endured only by one of the strongest and toughest of men. He had found in the marsh an old gourd, or calabash, which he had filled with fresh water,—for he could expect nothing but sea-water during his journey,—and as for solid food he had nothing but the raw shellfish which he found upon the rocks; but after a diet of roots, shellfish must have been a very agreeable change, and they gave him all the strength and vigor he needed. Very often he found streams and inlets which he was obliged to ford, and as he could see that they were always filled with alligators, the passage of them was not very pleasant. His method of getting across one of these narrow streams, was to hurl rocks into the water until he had frightened away the alligators immediately in front of him, and then, when he had made for himself what seemed to be a free passage, he would dash in and hurry across.
At other times great forests stretched down to the very coast, and through these he was obliged to make his way, although he could hear the roars and screams of wild beasts all about him. Any one who is afraid to go down into a dark cellar to get some apples from a barrel at the foot of the stairs, can have no idea of the sort of mind possessed by Bartholemy Portuguez. The animals might howl around him and glare at him with their shining eyes, and the alligators might lash the water into foam with their great tails, but he was bound for Golpho Triste and was not to be stopped on his way by anything alive.
But at last he came to something not alive, which seemed to be an obstacle which would certainly get the better of him. This was a wide river, flowing through the inland country into the sea. He made his way up the shore of this river for a considerable distance, but it grew but little narrower, and he could see no chance of getting across. He could not swim and he had no wine-jars now with which to buoy himself up, and if he had been able to swim he would probably have been eaten up by alligators soon after he left the shore. But a man in his situation would not be likely to give up readily; he had done so much that he was ready to do more if he could only find out what to do.
Now a piece of good fortune happened to him, although to an ordinary traveller it might have been considered a matter of no importance whatever. On the edge of the shore, where it had floated down from some region higher up the river, Bartholemy perceived an old board, in which there were some long and heavy rusty nails. Greatly encouraged by this discovery the indefatigable traveller set about a work which resembled that of the old woman who wanted a needle, and who began to rub a crow-bar on a stone in order to reduce it to the proper size. Bartholemy carefully knocked all the nails out of the board, and then finding a large flat stone, he rubbed down one of them until he had formed it into the shape of a rude knife blade, which he made as sharp as he could. Then with these tools he undertook the construction of a raft, working away like a beaver, and using the sharpened nails instead of his teeth. He cut down a number of small trees, and when he had enough of these slender trunks he bound them together with reeds and osiers, which he found on the river bank. So, after infinite labor and trial he constructed a raft which would bear him on the surface of the water. When he had launched this he got upon it, gathering up his legs so as to keep out of reach of the alligators, and with a long pole pushed himself off from shore. Sometimes paddling and sometimes pushing his pole against the bottom, he at last got across the river and took up his journey upon dry land.
But our pirate had not progressed very far upon the other side of the river before he met with a new difficulty of a very formidable character. This was a great forest of mangrove trees, which grow in muddy and watery places and which have many roots, some coming down from the branches, and some extending themselves in a hopeless tangle in the water and mud. It would have been impossible for even a stork to walk through this forest, but as there was no way of getting around it Bartholemy determined to go through it, even if he could not walk. No athlete of the present day, no matter if he should be a most accomplished circus-man, could reasonably expect to perform the feat which this bold pirate successfully accomplished. For five or six leagues he went through that mangrove forest, never once setting his foot upon the ground,—by which is meant mud, water, and roots,—but swinging himself by his hands and arms, from branch to branch, as if he had been a great ape, only resting occasionally, drawing himself upon a stout limb where he might sit for a while and get his breath. If he had slipped while he was swinging from one limb to another and had gone down into the mire and roots beneath him, it is likely that he would never have been able to get out alive. But he made no slips. He might not have had the agility and grace of a trapeze performer, but his grasp was powerful and his arms were strong, and so he swung and clutched, and clutched and swung, until he had gone entirely through the forest and had come out on the open coast.
How Bartholemy rested Himself
It was full two weeks from the time that Bartholemy began his most adventurous and difficult journey before he reached the little town of Golpho Triste, where, as he had hoped, he found some of his buccaneer friends. Now that his hardships and dangers were over, and when, instead of roots and shellfish, he could sit down to good, plentiful meals, and stretch himself upon a comfortable bed, it might have been supposed that Bartholemy would have given himself a long rest, but this hardy pirate had no desire for a vacation at this time. Instead of being worn out and exhausted by his amazing exertions and semi-starvation, he arrived among his friends vigorous and energetic and exceedingly anxious to recommence business as soon as possible. He told them of all that had happened to him, what wonderful good fortune had come to him, and what terrible bad fortune had quickly followed it, and when he had related his adventures and his dangers he astonished even his piratical friends by asking them to furnish him with a small vessel and about twenty men, in order that he might go back and revenge himself, not only for what had happened to him, but for what would have happened if he had not taken his affairs into his own hands.
To do daring and astounding deeds is part of the business of a pirate, and although it was an uncommonly bold enterprise that Bartholemy contemplated, he got his vessel and he got his men, and away he sailed. After a voyage of about eight days he came in sight of the little seaport town, and sailing slowly along the coast, he waited until nightfall before entering the harbor. Anchored at a considerable distance from shore was the great Spanish ship on which he had been a prisoner, and from which he would have been taken and hung in the public square; the sight of the vessel filled his soul with a savage fury known only to pirates and bull dogs.
As the little vessel slowly approached the great ship, the people on board the latter thought it was a trading-vessel from shore, and allowed it to come alongside, such small craft seldom coming from the sea. But the moment Bartholemy reached the ship he scrambled up its side almost as rapidly as he had jumped down from it with his two wine-jars a few weeks before, and every one of his crew, leaving their own vessel to take care of itself, scrambled up after him.
Nobody on board was prepared to defend the ship. It was the same old story; resting quietly in a peaceful harbor, what danger had they to expect? As usual the pirates had everything their own way; they were ready to fight, and the others were not, and they were led by a man who was determined to take that ship without giving even a thought to the ordinary alternative of dying in the attempt. The affair was more of a massacre than a combat, and there were people on board who did not know what was taking place until the vessel had been captured.
As soon as Bartholemy was master of the great vessel he gave orders to slip the cable and hoist the sails, for he was anxious to get out of that harbor as quickly as possible. The fight had apparently attracted no attention in the town, but there were ships in the port whose company the bold buccaneer did not at all desire, and as soon as possible he got his grand prize under way and went sailing out of the port.
Now, indeed, was Bartholemy triumphant; the ship he had captured was a finer one and a richer one than that other vessel which had been taken from him. It was loaded with valuable merchandise, and we may here remark that for some reason or other all Spanish vessels of that day which were so unfortunate as to be taken by pirates, seemed to be richly laden.
If our bold pirate had sung wild pirate songs, as he passed the flowing bowl while carousing with his crew in the cabin of the Spanish vessel he had first captured, he now sang wilder songs, and passed more flowing bowls, for this prize was a much greater one than the first. If Bartholemy could have communicated his great good fortune to the other buccaneers in the West Indies, there would have been a boom in piracy which would have threatened great danger to the honesty and integrity of the seafaring men of that region.
But nobody, not even a pirate, has any way of finding out what is going to happen next, and if Bartholemy had had an idea of the fluctuations which were about to occur in the market in which he had made his investments he would have been in a great hurry to sell all his stock very much below par. The fluctuations referred to occurred on the ocean, near the island of Pinos, and came in the shape of great storm waves, which blew the Spanish vessel with all its rich cargo, and its triumphant pirate crew, high up upon the cruel rocks, and wrecked it absolutely and utterly. Bartholemy and his men barely managed to get into a little boat, and row themselves away. All the wealth and treasure which had come to them with the capture of the Spanish vessel, all the power which the possession of that vessel gave them, and all the wild joy which came to them with riches and power, were lost to them in as short a space of time as it had taken to gain them.
In the way of well-defined and conspicuous ups and downs, few lives surpassed that of Bartholemy Portuguez. But after this he seems, in the language of the old English song, "All in the downs." He had many adventures after the desperate affair in the bay of Campeachy, but they must all have turned out badly for him, and, consequently, very well, it is probable, for divers and sundry Spanish vessels, and, for the rest of his life, he bore the reputation of an unfortunate pirate. He was one of those men whose success seemed to have depended entirely upon his own exertions. If there happened to be the least chance of his doing anything, he generally did it; Spanish cannon, well-armed Spanish crews, manacles, imprisonment, the dangers of the ocean to a man who could not swim, bloodhounds, alligators, wild beasts, awful forests impenetrable to common men, all these were bravely met and triumphed over by Bartholemy.
But when he came to ordinary good fortune, such as any pirate might expect, Bartholemy the Portuguese found that he had no chance at all. But he was not a common pirate, and was, therefore, obliged to be content with his uncommon career. He eventually settled in the island of Jamaica, but nobody knows what became of him. If it so happened that he found himself obliged to make his living by some simple industry, such as the selling of fruit upon a street corner, it is likely he never disposed of a banana or an orange unless he jumped at the throat of a passer-by and compelled him to purchase. As for sitting still and waiting for customers to come to him, such a man as Bartholemy would not be likely to do anything so commonplace.
A Pirate Author
In the days which we are considering there were all sorts of pirates, some of whom gained much reputation in one way and some in another, but there was one of them who had a disposition different from that of any of his fellows. He was a regular pirate, but it is not likely that he ever did much fighting, for, as he took great pride in the brave deeds of the Brethren of the Coast, he would have been sure to tell us of his own if he had ever performed any. He was a mild-mannered man, and, although he was a pirate, he eventually laid aside the pistol, the musket, and the cutlass, and took up the pen,—a very uncommon weapon for a buccaneer.
This man was John Esquemeling, supposed by some to be a Dutchman, and by others a native of France. He sailed to the West Indies in the year 1666, in the service of the French West India Company. He went out as a peaceable merchant clerk, and had no more idea of becoming a pirate than he had of going into literature, although he finally did both.
At that time the French West India Company had a colonial establishment on the island of Tortuga, which was principally inhabited, as we have seen before, by buccaneers in all their various grades and stages, from beef-driers to pirates. The French authorities undertook to supply these erratic people with the goods and provisions which they needed, and built storehouses with everything necessary for carrying on the trade. There were plenty of purchasers, for the buccaneers were willing to buy everything which could be brought from Europe. They were fond of good wine, good groceries, good firearms, and ammunition, fine cutlasses, and very often good clothes, in which they could disport themselves when on shore. But they had peculiar customs and manners, and although they were willing to buy as much as the French traders had to sell, they could not be prevailed upon to pay their bills. A pirate is not the sort of a man who generally cares to pay his bills. When he gets goods in any way, he wants them charged to him, and if that charge includes the features of robbery and murder, he will probably make no objection. But as for paying good money for what is received, that is quite another thing.
That this was the state of feeling on the island of Tortuga was discovered before very long by the French mercantile agents, who then applied to the mother country for assistance in collecting the debts due them, and a body of men, who might be called collectors, or deputy sheriffs, was sent out to the island; but although these officers were armed with pistols and swords, as well as with authority, they could do nothing with the buccaneers, and after a time the work of endeavoring to collect debts from pirates was given up. And as there was no profit in carrying on business in this way, the mercantile agency was also given up, and its officers were ordered to sell out everything they had on hand, and come home. There was, therefore, a sale, for which cash payments were demanded, and there was a great bargain day on the island of Tortuga. Everything was disposed of,—the stock of merchandise on hand, the tables, the desks, the stationery, the bookkeepers, the clerks, and the errand boys. The living items of the stock on hand were considered to be property just as if they had been any kind of merchandise, and were sold as slaves.
Now poor John Esquemeling found himself in a sad condition. He was bought by one of the French officials who had been left on the island, and he described his new master as a veritable fiend. He was worked hard, half fed, treated cruelly in many ways, and to add to his misery, his master tantalized him by offering to set him free upon the payment of a sum of money equal to about three hundred dollars. He might as well have been asked to pay three thousand or three million dollars, for he had not a penny in the world.
At last he was so fortunate as to fall sick, and his master, as avaricious as he was cruel, fearing that this creature he owned might die, and thus be an entire loss to him, sold him to a surgeon, very much as one would sell a sick horse to a veterinary surgeon, on the principle that he might make something out of the animal by curing him.
His new master treated Esquemeling very well, and after he had taken medicine and food enough to set him upon his legs, and had worked for the surgeon about a year, that kind master offered him his liberty if he would promise, as soon as he could earn the money, to pay him one hundred dollars, which would be a profit to his owner, who had paid but seventy dollars for him. This offer, of course, Esquemeling accepted with delight, and having made the bargain, he stepped forth upon the warm sands of the island of Tortuga a free and happy man. But he was as poor as a church mouse. He had nothing in the world but the clothes on his back, and he saw no way in which he could make money enough to keep himself alive until he had paid for himself. He tried various ways of support, but there was no opening for a young business man in that section of the country, and at last he came to the conclusion that there was only one way by which he could accomplish his object, and he therefore determined to enter into "the wicked order of pirates or robbers at sea."
It must have been a strange thing for a man accustomed to pens and ink, to yard-sticks and scales, to feel obliged to enroll himself into a company of bloody, big-bearded pirates, but a man must eat, and buccaneering was the only profession open to our ex-clerk. For some reason or other, certainly not on account of his bravery and daring, Esquemeling was very well received by the pirates of Tortuga. Perhaps they liked him because he was a mild-mannered man and so different from themselves. Nobody was afraid of him, every one felt superior to him, and we are all very apt to like people to whom we feel superior.
As for Esquemeling himself, he soon came to entertain the highest opinion of his pirate companions. He looked upon the buccaneers who had distinguished themselves as great heroes, and it must have been extremely gratifying to those savage fellows to tell Esquemeling all the wonderful things they had done. In the whole of the West Indies there was no one who was in the habit of giving such intelligent attention to the accounts of piratical depredations and savage sea-fights, as was Esquemeling and if he had demanded a salary as a listener there is no doubt that it would have been paid to him.
It was not long before his intense admiration of the buccaneers and their performances began to produce in him the feeling that the history of these great exploits should not be lost to the world, and so he set about writing the lives and adventures of many of the buccaneers with whom he became acquainted.
He remained with the pirates for several years, and during that time worked very industriously getting material together for his history. When he returned to his own country in 1672, having done as much literary work as was possible among the uncivilized surroundings of Tortuga, he there completed a book, which he called, "The Buccaneers of America, or The True Account of the Most Remarkable Assaults Committed of Late Years Upon the Coasts of the West Indies by the Buccaneers, etc., by John Esquemeling, One of the Buccaneers, Who Was Present at Those Tragedies."
From this title it is probable that our literary pirate accompanied his comrades on their various voyages and assaults, in the capacity of reporter, and although he states he was present at many of "those tragedies," he makes no reference to any deeds of valor or cruelty performed by himself, which shows him to have been a wonderfully conscientious historian. There are persons, however, who doubt his impartiality, because, as he liked the French, he always gave the pirates of that nationality the credit for most of the bravery displayed on their expeditions, and all of the magnanimity and courtesy, if there happened to be any, while the surliness, brutality, and extraordinary wickednesses were all ascribed to the English. But be this as it may, Esquemeling's history was a great success. It was written in Dutch and was afterwards translated into English, French, and Spanish. It contained a great deal of information regarding buccaneering in general, and most of the stories of pirates which we have already told, and many of the surprising narrations which are to come, have been taken from the book of this buccaneer historian.
The Story of Roc, the Brazilian
Having given the history of a very plain and quiet buccaneer, who was a reporter and writer, and who, if he were now living, would be eligible as a member of an Authors' Club, we will pass to the consideration of a regular out-and-out pirate, one from whose mast-head would have floated the black flag with its skull and cross-bones if that emblematic piece of bunting had been in use by the pirates of the period.
This famous buccaneer was called Roc, because he had to have a name, and his own was unknown, and "the Brazilian," because he was born in Brazil, though of Dutch parents. Unlike most of his fellow-practitioners he did not gradually become a pirate. From his early youth he never had an intention of being anything else. As soon as he grew to be a man he became a bloody buccaneer, and at the first opportunity he joined a pirate crew, and had made but a few voyages when it was perceived by his companions that he was destined to become a most remarkable sea-robber. He was offered the command of a ship with a well-armed crew of marine savages, and in a very short time after he had set out on his first independent cruise he fell in with a Spanish ship loaded with silver bullion; having captured this, he sailed with his prize to Jamaica, which was one of the great resorts of the English buccaneers. There his success delighted the community, his talents for the conduct of great piratical operations soon became apparent, and he was generally acknowledged as the Head Pirate of the West Indies.
He was now looked upon as a hero even by those colonists who had no sympathy with pirates, and as for Esquemeling, he simply worshipped the great Brazilian desperado. If he had been writing the life and times of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or Mr. Gladstone, he could not have been more enthusiastic in his praises. And as in The Arabian Nights the roc is described as the greatest of birds, so, in the eyes of the buccaneer biographer, this Roc was the greatest of pirates. But it was not only in the mind of the historian that Roc now became famous; the better he became known, the more general was the fear and respect felt for him, and we are told that the mothers of the islands used to put their children to sleep by threatening them with the terrible Roc if they did not close their eyes. This story, however, I regard with a great deal of doubt; it has been told of Saladin and many other wicked and famous men, but I do not believe it is an easy thing to frighten a child into going to sleep. If I found it necessary to make a youngster take a nap, I should say nothing of the condition of affairs in Cuba or of the persecutions of the Armenians.
This renowned pirate from Brazil must have been a terrible fellow to look at. He was strong and brawny, his face was short and very wide, with high cheek-bones, and his expression probably resembled that of a pug dog. His eyebrows were enormously large and bushy, and from under them he glared at his mundane surroundings. He was not a man whose spirit could be quelled by looking him steadfastly in the eye. It was his custom in the daytime to walk about, carrying a drawn cutlass, resting easily upon his arm, edge up, very much as a fine gentleman carries his high silk hat, and any one who should impertinently stare or endeavor to quell his high spirits in any other way, would probably have felt the edge of that cutlass descending rapidly through his physical organism.
He was a man who insisted upon being obeyed, and if any one of his crew behaved improperly, or was even found idle, this strict and inexorable master would cut him down where he stood. But although he was so strict and exacting during the business sessions of his piratical year, by which I mean when he was cruising around after prizes, he was very much more disagreeable when he was taking a vacation. On his return to Jamaica after one of his expeditions it was his habit to give himself some relaxation after the hardships and dangers through which he had passed, and on such occasions it was a great comfort to Roc to get himself thoroughly drunk. With his cutlass waving high in the air, he would rush out into the street and take a whack at every one whom he met. As far as was possible the citizens allowed him to have the street to himself, and it was not at all likely that his visits to Jamaica were looked forward to with any eager anticipations.
Roc, it may be said, was not only a bloody pirate, but a blooded one; he was thoroughbred. From the time he had been able to assert his individuality he had been a pirate, and there was no reason to suppose that he would ever reform himself into anything else. There were no extenuating circumstances in his case; in his nature there was no alloy, nor moderation, nor forbearance. The appreciative Esquemeling, who might be called the Boswell of the buccaneers, could never have met his hero Roc, when that bushy-bearded pirate was running "amuck" in the streets, but if he had, it is not probable that his book would have been written. He assures us that when Roc was not drunk he was esteemed, but at the same time feared; but there are various ways of gaining esteem, and Roc's method certainly succeeded very well in the case of his literary associate.
As we have seen, the hatred of the Spaniards by the buccaneers began very early in the settlement of the West Indies, and in fact, it is very likely that if there had been no Spaniards there would never have been any buccaneers; but in all the instances of ferocious enmity toward the Spaniards there has been nothing to equal the feelings of Roc, the Brazilian, upon that subject. His dislike to everything Spanish arose, he declared, from cruelties which had been practised upon his parents by people of that nation, and his main principle of action throughout all his piratical career seems to have been that there was nothing too bad for a Spaniard. The object of his life was to wage bitter war against Spanish ships and Spanish settlements. He seldom gave any quarter to his prisoners, and would often subject them to horrible tortures in order to make them tell where he could find the things he wanted. There is nothing horrible that has ever been written or told about the buccaneer life, which could not have been told about Roc, the Brazilian. He was a typical pirate.
Roc was very successful, in his enterprises, and took a great deal of valuable merchandise to Jamaica, but although he and his crew were always rich men when they went on shore, they did not remain in that condition very long. The buccaneers of that day were all very extravagant, and, moreover, they were great gamblers, and it was not uncommon for them to lose everything they possessed before they had been on shore a week. Then there was nothing for them to do but to go on board their vessels and put out to sea in search of some fresh prize. So far Roc's career had been very much like that of many other Companions of the Coast, differing from them only in respect to intensity and force, but he was a clever man with ideas, and was able to adapt himself to circumstances.
He was cruising about Campeachy without seeing any craft that was worth capturing, when he thought that it would be very well for him to go out on a sort of marine scouting expedition and find out whether or not there were any Spanish vessels in the bay which were well laden and which were likely soon to come out. So, with a small boat filled with some of his trusty men, he rowed quietly into the port to see what he could discover. If he had had Esquemeling with him, and had sent that mild-mannered observer into the harbor to investigate into the state of affairs, and come back with a report, it would have been a great deal better for the pirate captain, but he chose to go himself, and he came to grief. No sooner did the people on the ships lying in the harbor behold a boat approaching with a big-browed, broad-jawed mariner sitting in the stern, and with a good many more broad-backed, hairy mariners than were necessary, pulling at the oars, than they gave the alarm. The well-known pirate was recognized, and it was not long before he was captured. Roc must have had a great deal of confidence in his own powers, or perhaps he relied somewhat upon the fear which his very presence evoked. But he made a mistake this time; he had run into the lion's jaw, and the lion had closed his teeth upon him.