The Dealings of Captain Sharkey, and Other Tales of PiratesArthur Conan Doyle / Actions & Adventure
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THE DEALINGS OF CAPTAIN SHARKEY
_and Other Tales of Pirates_
BY A. CONAN DOYLE
NEW YORK GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918, 1919, BY A. CONAN DOYLE
COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY ASSOCIATED SUNDAY MAGAZINES, INC.
COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY THE MCCLURE COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1900, 1902, BY THE S. S. MCCLURE COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TALES OF PIRATES
I CAPTAIN SHARKEY: HOW THE GOVERNOR OF SAINT KITT'S CAME HOME
II THE DEALINGS OF CAPTAIN SHARKEY WITH STEPHEN CRADDOCK
III THE BLIGHTING OF SHARKEY
IV HOW COPLEY BANKS SLEW CAPTAIN SHARKEY
V THE SLAPPING SAL
VI A PIRATE OF THE LAND (ONE CROWDED HOUR)
TALES OF BLUE WATER
VII THE STRIPED CHEST
VIII THE CAPTAIN OF THE POLESTAR
IX THE FIEND OF THE COOPERAGE
X JELLAND'S VOYAGE
XI J. HABAKUK JEPHSON'S STATEMENT
XII THAT LITTLE SQUARE BOX
THE DEALINGS OF CAPTAIN SHARKEY
_and Other Stories of Pirates_
TALES OF PIRATES
CAPTAIN SHARKEY: HOW THE GOVERNOR OF SAINT KITT'S CAME HOME
When the great wars of the Spanish Succession had been brought to an endby the Treaty of Utrecht, the vast number of privateers which had beenfitted out by the contending parties found their occupation gone. Sometook to the more peaceful but less lucrative ways of ordinary commerce,others were absorbed into the fishing-fleets, and a few of the morereckless hoisted the Jolly Rodger at the mizzen and the bloody flag atthe main, declaring a private war upon their own account against thewhole human race.
With mixed crews, recruited from every nation they scoured the seas,disappearing occasionally to careen in some lonely inlet, or putting infor a debauch at some outlaying port, where they dazzled the inhabitantsby their lavishness and horrified them by their brutalities.
On the Coromandel Coast, at Madagascar, in the African waters, and aboveall in the West Indian and American seas, the pirates were a constantmenace. With an insolent luxury they would regulate their depredationsby the comfort of the seasons, harrying New England in the summer anddropping south again to the tropical islands in the winter.
They were the more to be dreaded because they had none of thatdiscipline and restraint which made their predecessors, the Buccaneers,both formidable and respectable. These Ishmaels of the sea rendered anaccount to no man, and treated their prisoners according to the drunkenwhim of the moment. Flashes of grotesque generosity alternated withlonger stretches of inconceivable ferocity, and the skipper who fellinto their hands might find himself dismissed with his cargo, afterserving as boon companion in some hideous debauch, or might sit at hiscabin table with his own nose and his lips served up with pepper andsalt in front of him. It took a stout seaman in those days to ply hiscalling in the Caribbean Gulf.
Such a man was Captain John Scarrow, of the ship _Morning Star_, and yethe breathed a long sigh of relief when he heard the splash of thefalling anchor and swung at his moorings within a hundred yards of theguns of the citadel of Basseterre. St. Kitt's was his final port ofcall, and early next morning his bowsprit would be pointed for OldEngland. He had had enough of those robber-haunted seas. Ever since hehad left Maracaibo upon the Main, with his full lading of sugar and redpepper, he had winced at every topsail which glimmered over the violetedge of the tropical sea. He had coasted up the Windward Islands,touching here and there, and assailed continually by stories of villainyand outrage.
Captain Sharkey, of the 20-gun pirate barque, _Happy Delivery_, hadpassed down the coast, and had littered it with gutted vessels and withmurdered men. Dreadful anecdotes were current of his grim pleasantriesand of his inflexible ferocity. From the Bahamas to the Main hiscoal-black barque, with the ambiguous name, had been freighted withdeath and many things which are worse than death. So nervous was CaptainScarrow, with his new full-rigged ship and her full and valuable lading,that he struck out to the west as far as Bird's Island to be out of theusual track of commerce. And yet even in those solitary waters he hadbeen unable to shake off sinister traces of Captain Sharkey.
One morning they had raised a single skiff adrift upon the face of theocean. Its only occupant was a delirious seaman, who yelled hoarsely asthey hoisted him aboard, and showed a dried-up tongue like a black andwrinkled fungus at the back of his mouth. Water and nursing soontransformed him into the strongest and smartest sailor on the ship. Hewas from Marblehead, in New England, it seemed, and was the solesurvivor of a schooner which had been scuttled by the dreadful Sharkey.
For a week Hiram Evanson, for that was his name, had been adrift beneatha tropical sun. Sharkey had ordered the mangled remains of his latecaptain to be thrown into the boat, as provisions for the voyage, butthe seaman had at once committed them to the deep, lest the temptationshould be more than he could bear. He had lived upon his own huge frame,until, at the last moment, the _Morning Star_ had found him in thatmadness which is the precursor of such a death. It was no bad find forCaptain Scarrow, for, with a short-handed crew, such a seaman as thisbig New Englander was a prize worth having. He vowed that he was theonly man whom Captain Sharkey had ever placed under an obligation.
Now that they lay under the guns of Basseterre, all danger from thepirate was at an end, and yet the thought of him lay heavily upon theseaman's mind as he watched the agent's boat shooting out from thecustom-house quay.
I'll lay you a wager, Morgan, said he to the first mate, that theagent will speak of Sharkey in the first hundred words that pass hislips.
Well, captain, I'll have you a silver dollar, and chance it, said therough old Bristol man beside him.
The negro rowers shot the boat alongside, and the linen-clad steersmansprang up the ladder.
Welcome, Captain Scarrow! he cried. Have you heard about Sharkey?
The captain grinned at the mate.
What devilry has he been up to now? he asked.
Devilry! You've not heard, then! Why, we've got him safe under lock andkey here at Basseterre. He was tried last Wednesday, and he is to behanged to-morrow morning.
Captain and mate gave a shout of joy, which an instant later was takenup by the crew. Discipline was forgotten as they scrambled up throughthe break of the poop to hear the news. The New Englander was in thefront of them with a radiant face turned up to heaven, for he came ofthe Puritan stock.
Sharkey to be hanged! he cried. You don't know, Master Agent, if theylack a hangman, do you?
Stand back! cried the mate, whose outraged sense of discipline waseven stronger than his interest at the news. I'll pay that dollar,Captain Scarrow, with the lightest heart that ever I paid a wager yet.How came the villain to be taken?
Why, as to that, he became more than his own comrades could abide, andthey took such a horror of him that they would not have him on the ship.So they marooned him upon the Little Mangles to the south of theMysteriosa Bank, and there he was found by a Portobello trader, whobrought him in. There was talk of sending him to Jamaica to be tried,but our good little governor, Sir Charles Ewan, would not hear of it.'He's my meat,' said he, 'and I claim the cooking of it.' If you canstay till to-morrow morning at ten, you'll see the joint swinging.
I wish I could, said the captain, wistfully, but I am sadly behindtime now. I should start with the evening tide.
That you can't do, said the agent with decision. The Governor isgoing back with you.
Yes. He's had a dispatch from Government to return without delay. Thefly-boat that brought it has gone on to Virginia. So Sir Charles hasbeen waiting for you, as I told him you were due before the rains.
Well, well! cried the captain, in some perplexity, I'm a plainseaman, and I don't know much of governors and baronets and their ways.I don't remember that I ever so much as spoke to one. But if it's inKing George's service, and he asks a cast in the _Morning Star_ as faras London, I'll do what I can for him. There's my own cabin he can haveand welcome. As to the cooking, it's lobscouse and salmagundy six daysin the week; but he can bring his own cook aboard with him if he thinksour galley too rough for his taste.
You need not trouble your mind, Captain Scarrow, said the agent. SirCharles is in weak health just now, only clear of a quartan ague, and itis likely he will keep his cabin most of the voyage. Dr. Larousse saidthat he would have sunk had the hanging of Sharkey not put fresh lifeinto him. He has a great spirit in him, though, and you must not blamehim if he is somewhat short in his speech.
He may say what he likes and do what he likes so long as he does notcome athwart my hawse when I am working the ship, said the captain. Heis Governor of St. Kitt's, but I am Governor of the _Morning Star_. And,by his leave, I must weigh with the first tide, for I owe a duty to myemployer, just as he does to King George.
He can scarce be ready to-night, for he has many things to set in orderbefore he leaves.
The early morning tide, then.
Very good. I shall send his things aboard to-night, and he will followthem to-morrow early if I can prevail upon him to leave St. Kitt'swithout seeing Sharkey do the rogue's hornpipe. His own orders wereinstant, so it may be that he will come at once. It is likely that Dr.Larousse may attend him upon the journey.
Left to themselves, the captain and mate made the best preparationswhich they could for their illustrious passenger. The largest cabin wasturned out and adorned in his honour, and orders were given by whichbarrels of fruit and some cases of wine should be brought off to varythe plain food of an ocean-going trader. In the evening the Governor'sbaggage began to arrive--great ironbound ant-proof trunks, and officialtin packing-cases, with other strange-shaped packages, which suggestedthe cocked hat or the sword within. And then there came a note, with aheraldic device upon the big red seal, to say that Sir Charles Ewan madehis compliments to Captain Scarrow, and that he hoped to be with him inthe morning as early as his duties and his infirmities would permit.
He was as good as his word, for the first grey of dawn had hardly begunto deepen into pink when he was brought alongside, and climbed with somedifficulty up the ladder. The captain had heard that the Governor was aneccentric, but he was hardly prepared for the curious figure who camelimping feebly down his quarter-deck, his steps supported by a thickbamboo cane. He wore a Ramillies wig, all twisted into little tails likea poodle's coat, and cut so low across the brow that the large greenglasses which covered his eyes looked as if they were hung from it. Afierce beak of a nose, very long and very thin, cut the air in front ofhim. His ague had caused him to swathe his throat and chin with a broadlinen cravat, and he wore a loose damask powdering-gown secured by acord round the waist. As he advanced he carried his masterful nose highin the air, but his head turned slowly from side to side in the helplessmanner of the purblind, and he called in a high, querulous voice for thecaptain.
You have my things? he asked.
Yes, Sir Charles.
Have you wine aboard?
I have ordered five cases, sir.
There is a keg of Trinidad.
You play a hand at piquet?
Passably well, sir.
Then up anchor, and to sea!
There was a fresh westerly wind, so by the time the sun was fairlythrough the morning haze, the ship was hull down from the islands. Thedecrepit Governor still limped the deck, with one guiding hand upon thequarter-rail.
You are on Government service now, Captain, said he. They arecounting the days till I come to Westminster, I promise you. Have youall that she will carry?
Every inch, Sir Charles.
Keep her so if you blow the sails out of her. I fear, Captain Scarrow,that you will find a blind and broken man a poor companion for yourvoyage.
I am honoured in enjoying your Excellency's society, said the Captain.But I am sorry that your eyes should be so afflicted.
Yes, indeed. It is the cursed glare of the sun on the white streets ofBasseterre which has gone far to burn them out.
I had heard also that you had been plagued by a quartan ague.
Yes; I have had a pyrexy, which has reduced me much.
We had set aside a cabin for your surgeon.
Ah, the rascal! There was no budging him, for he has a snug businessamongst the merchants. But hark!
He raised his ring-covered hand in the air. From far astern there camethe low deep thunder of cannon.
It is from the island! cried the captain in astonishment. Can it be asignal for us to put back?
The Governor laughed.
You have heard that Sharkey, the pirate, is to be hanged this morning.I ordered the batteries to salute when the rascal was kicking his last,so that I might know of it out at sea. There's an end of Sharkey!
There's an end of Sharkey! cried the captain; and the crew took up thecry as they gathered in little knots upon the deck and stared back atthe low, purple line of the vanishing land.
It was a cheering omen for their start across the Western Ocean, and theinvalid Governor found himself a popular man on board, for it wasgenerally understood that but for his insistence upon an immediate trialand sentence, the villain might have played upon some more venal judgeand so escaped. At dinner that day Sir Charles gave many anecdotes ofthe deceased pirate; and so affable was he, and so skilful in adaptinghis conversation to men of lower degree, that captain, mate, andGovernor smoked their long pipes and drank their claret as three goodcomrades should.
And what figure did Sharkey cut in the dock? asked the captain.
He is a man of some presence, said the Governor.
I had always understood that he was an ugly, sneering devil, remarkedthe mate.
Well, I dare say he could look ugly upon occasions, said the Governor.
I have heard a New Bedford whaleman say that he could not forget hiseyes, said Captain Scarrow. They were of the lightest filmy blue, withred-rimmed lids. Was that not so, Sir Charles?
Alas, my own eyes will not permit me to know much of those of others!But I remember now that the Adjutant-General said that he had such aneye as you describe, and added that the jury were so foolish as to bevisibly discomposed when it was turned upon them. It is well for themthat he is dead, for he was a man who would never forget an injury, andif he had laid hands upon any one of them he would have stuffed him withstraw and hung him for a figure-head.
The idea seemed to amuse the Governor, for he broke suddenly into ahigh, neighing laugh, and the two seamen laughed also, but not soheartily, for they remembered that Sharkey was not the last pirate whosailed the western seas, and that as grotesque a fate might come to betheir own. Another bottle was broached to drink to a pleasant voyage,and the Governor would drink just one other on the top of it, so thatthe seamen were glad at last to stagger off--the one to his watch andthe other to his bunk. But when after his four hours' spell the matecame down again, he was amazed to see the Governor in his Ramillies wig,his glasses, and his powdering-gown still seated sedately at the lonelytable with his reeking pipe and six black bottles by his side.
I have drunk with the Governor of St. Kitt's when he was sick, saidhe, and God forbid that I should ever try to keep pace with him when heis well.
The voyage of the _Morning Star_ was a successful one, and in aboutthree weeks she was at the mouth of the British Channel. From the firstday the infirm Governor had begun to recover his strength, and beforethey were half-way across the Atlantic he was, save only for his eyes,as well as any man upon the ship. Those who uphold the nourishingqualities of wine might point to him in triumph, for never a nightpassed that he did not repeat the performance of his first one. And yethe would be out upon deck in the early morning as fresh and brisk as thebest of them, peering about with his weak eyes, and asking questionsabout the sails and the rigging, for he was anxious to learn the ways ofthe sea. And he made up for the deficiency of his eyes by obtainingleave from the captain that the New England seaman--he who had been castaway in the boat--should lead him about, and above all that he shouldsit beside him when he played cards and count the number of the pips,for unaided he could not tell the king from the knave.
It was natural that this Evanson should do the Governor willing service,since the one was the victim of the vile Sharkey, and the other was hisavenger. One could see that it was a pleasure to the big American tolend his arm to the invalid, and at night he would stand with allrespect behind his chair in the cabin and lay his great stub-nailedforefinger upon the card which he should play. Between them there waslittle in the pockets either of Captain Scarrow or of Morgan, the firstmate, by the time they sighted the Lizard.
And it was not long before they found that all they had heard of thehigh temper of Sir Charles Ewan fell short of the mark. At a sign ofopposition or a word of argument his chin would shoot out from hiscravat, his masterful nose would be cocked at a higher and more insolentangle, and his bamboo cane would whistle up over his shoulder. Hecracked it once over the head of the carpenter when the man hadaccidentally jostled him upon the deck. Once, too, when there was somegrumbling and talk of a mutiny over the state of the provisions, he wasof opinion that they should not wait for the dogs to rise, but that theyshould march forward and set upon them until they had trounced thedevilment out of them. Give me a knife and a bucket! he cried with anoath, and could hardly be withheld from setting forth alone to deal withthe spokesman of the seamen.
Captain Scarrow had to remind him that though he might be onlyanswerable to himself at St. Kitt's, killing became murder upon the highseas. In politics he was, as became his official position, a stout propof the House of Hanover, and he swore in his cups that he had never meta Jacobite without pistolling him where he stood. Yet for all hisvapouring and his violence he was so good a companion, with such astream of strange anecdote and reminiscence, that Scarrow and Morgan hadnever known a voyage pass so pleasantly.
And then at length came the last day, when, after passing the island,they had struck land again at the high white cliffs at Beachy Head. Asevening fell the ship lay rolling in an oily calm, a league off fromWinchelsea, with the long dark snout of Dungeness jutting out in frontof her. Next morning they would pick up their pilot at the Foreland, andSir Charles might meet the king's ministers at Westminster before theevening. The boatswain had the watch, and the three friends were met fora last turn of cards in the cabin, the faithful American still servingas eyes to the Governor. There was a good stake upon the table, for thesailors had tried on this last night to win their losses back from theirpassenger. Suddenly he threw his cards down, and swept all the moneyinto the pocket of his long-flapped silken waistcoat.
The game's mine! said he.
Heh, Sir Charles, not so fast! cried Captain Scarrow; you have notplayed out the hand, and we are not the losers.
Sink you for a liar! said the Governor. I tell you that I _have_played out the hand, and that you _are_ a loser. He whipped off his wigand his glasses as he spoke, and there was a high, bald forehead, and apair of shifty blue eyes with the red rims of a bull terrier.
Good God! cried the mate. It's Sharkey!
The two sailors sprang from their seats, but the big American castawayhad put his huge back against the cabin door, and he held a pistol ineach of his hands. The passenger had also laid a pistol upon thescattered cards in front of him, and he burst into his high, neighinglaugh.
Captain Sharkey is the name, gentlemen, said he, and this is RoaringNed Galloway, the quartermaster of the _Happy Delivery_. We made ithot, and so they marooned us: me on a dry Tortuga cay, and him in anoarless boat. You dogs--you poor, fond, water-hearted dogs--we hold youat the end of our pistols!
You may shoot, or you may not! cried Scarrow, striking his hand uponthe breast of his frieze jacket. If it's my last breath, Sharkey, Itell you that you are a bloody rogue and miscreant, with a halter andhell-fire in store for you!
There's a man of spirit, and one of my own kidney, and he's going tomake a very pretty death of it! cried Sharkey. There's no one aft savethe man at the wheel, so you may keep your breath, for you'll need itsoon. Is the dinghy astern, Ned?
Ay, ay, captain!
And the other boats scuttled?
I bored them all in three places.
Then we shall have to leave you, Captain Scarrow. You look as if youhadn't quite got your bearings yet. Is there anything you'd like to askme?
I believe you're the devil himself! cried the captain. Where is theGovernor of St. Kitt's?
When last I saw him his Excellency was in bed with his throat cut. WhenI broke prison I learnt from my friends--for Captain Sharkey has thosewho love him in every port--that the Governor was starting for Europeunder a master who had never seen him. I climbed his verandah and I paidhim the little debt that I owed him. Then I came aboard you with such ofhis things as I had need of, and a pair of glasses to hide thesetell-tale eyes of mine, and I have ruffled it as a governor should.Now, Ned, you can get to work upon them.
Help! Help! Watch ahoy! yelled the mate; but the butt of the pirate'spistol crashed down on to his head, and he dropped like a pithed ox.Scarrow rushed for the door, but the sentinel clapped his hand over hismouth, and threw his other arm round his waist.
No use, Master Scarrow, said Sharkey. Let us see you go down on yourknees and beg for your life.
I'll see you---- cried Scarrow, shaking his mouth clear.
Twist his arm round, Ned. Now will you?
No; not if you twist it off.
Put an inch of your knife into him.
You may put six inches, and then I won't.
Sink me, but I like his spirit! cried Sharkey. Put your knife in yourpocket, Ned. You've saved your skin, Scarrow, and it's a pity so stout aman should not take to the only trade where a pretty fellow can pick upa living. You must be born for no common death, Scarrow, since you havelain at my mercy and lived to tell the story. Tie him up, Ned.
To the stove, captain?
Tut, tut! there's a fire in the stove. None of your rover tricks, NedGalloway, unless they are called for, or I'll let you know which of ustwo is captain and which is quartermaster. Make him fast to the table.
Nay, I thought you meant to roast him! said the quartermaster. Yousurely do not mean to let him go?
If you and I were marooned on a Bahama cay, Ned Galloway, it is stillfor me to command and for you to obey. Sink you for a villain, do youdare to question my orders?
Nay, nay, Captain Sharkey, not so hot, sir! said the quartermaster,and, lifting Scarrow like a child, he laid him on the table. With thequick dexterity of a seaman, he tied his spreadeagled hands and feetwith a rope which was passed underneath, and gagged him securely withthe long cravat which used to adorn the chin of the Governor of St.Kitt's.
Now, Captain Scarrow, we must take our leave of you, said the pirate.If I had half a dozen of my brisk boys at my heels I should have hadyour cargo and your ship, but Roaring Ned could not find a foremast handwith the spirit of a mouse. I see there are some small craft about, andwe shall get one of them. When Captain Sharkey has a boat he can get asmack, when he has a smack he can get a brig, when he has a brig he canget a barque, and when he has a barque he'll soon have a full-riggedship of his own--so make haste into London town, or I may be comingback, after all, for the _Morning Star_.
Captain Scarrow heard the key turn in the lock as they left the cabin.Then, as he strained at his bonds, he heard their foot-steps pass up thecompanion and along the quarter-deck to where the dinghy hung in thestern. Then, still struggling and writhing, he heard the creak of thefalls and the splash of the boat in the water. In a mad fury he tore anddragged at his ropes, until at last, with flayed wrists and ankles, herolled from the table, sprang over the dead mate, kicked his way throughthe closed door, and rushed hatless on to the deck.
Ahoy! Peterson, Armitage, Wilson! he screamed. Cutlasses and pistols!Clear away the long-boat! Clear away the gig! Sharkey, the pirate, is inyonder dinghy. Whistle up the larboard watch, bo'sun, and tumble intothe boats all hands.
Down splashed the long-boat and down splashed the gig, but in an instantthe coxswains and crews were swarming up the falls on to the deck oncemore.
The boats are scuttled! they cried. They are leaking like a sieve.
The captain gave a bitter curse. He had been beaten and outwitted atevery point. Above was a cloudless, starlit sky, with neither wind northe promise of it. The sails flapped idly in the moonlight. Far away laya fishing-smack, with the men clustering over their net.
Close to them was the little dinghy, dipping and lifting over theshining swell.
They are dead men! cried the captain. A shout all together, boys, towarn them of their danger.
But it was too late.
At that very moment the dinghy shot into the shadow of the fishing-boat.There were two rapid pistol-shots, a scream, and then anotherpistol-shot, followed by silence. The clustering fishermen haddisappeared. And then, suddenly, as the first puffs of a land-breezecame out from the Sussex shore, the boom swung out, the mainsail filled,and the little craft crept out with her nose to the Atlantic.