Blackbeard: BuccaneerRalph Delahaye Paine / Young Adult
Produced by Robert Cicconetti, Emmy and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)
THIS LEAN, STRAIGHT ROVER LOOKED THE PART OF A COMPETENTSOLDIER]
_By_ RALPH D. PAINE
_Illustrated by Frank E. Schoonover_
THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY PHILADELPHIA
COPYRIGHT 1922 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
Made in the U. S. A.
I. THAT COURTEOUS PIRATE, CAPTAIN BONNET 7
II. THE MERCHANT TRADER, _PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE_ 21
III. HELD AS HOSTAGES TO BLACKBEARD 43
IV. THE CAPTIVE SEAMEN IN THE FORECASTLE 62
V. RELEASING A FEARFUL WEAPON 79
VI. THE VOYAGE OF THE LITTLE RAFT 99
VII. THE MIST OF THE CHEROKEE SWAMP 114
VIII. THE EPISODE OF THE WINDING CREEK 132
IX. BLACKBEARD'S ERRAND IS INTERRUPTED 147
X. THE SEA URCHIN AND THE CARPENTER'S MATE 161
XI. JACK JOURNEYS AFOOT 177
XII. A PRIVATE ACCOUNT TO SETTLE 189
XIII. OUR HEROES SEEK SECLUSION 203
XIV. BLACKBEARD APPEARS IN FIRE AND BRIMSTONE 217
XV. MR. PETER FORBES MOURNS HIS NEPHEW 232
XVI. NED RACKHAM'S PLANS GO MUCH AMISS 248
XVII. THE GREAT FIGHT OF CAPTAIN TEACH 260
XVIII. THE OLD BUCCANEER IS LOYAL 274
XIX. THE QUEST FOR PIRATES' GOLD 288
THIS LEAN, STRAIGHT ROVER LOOKED THE PART OF A COMPETENT SOLDIER _Frontispiece_
THE BRAWN OF THESE LADS MADE THE PIKE A MATCH FOR A PIRATE'S CUTLASS 83
THE FIRST MATE LEAPED UP WITH A HORRIBLE YELL 120
JACK ALMOST BUMPED INTO THE DUGOUT CANOE 129
THEY CAPERED AND HUGGED EACH OTHER 164
HE LOOMED LIKE THE BELIAL WHOM HE WAS SO FOND OF CLAIMING AS HIS MENTOR 224
THAT COURTEOUS PIRATE, CAPTAIN BONNET
THE year of 1718 seems very dim and far away, but the tall lad whosauntered down to the harbor of Charles Town, South Carolina, on a fine,bright morning, was much like the youngsters of this generation. Hisclothes were quite different, it is true, and he lived in a queer, roughworld, but he detested grammar and arithmetic and loved adventure, andwould have made a sturdy tackle for a modern high-school football team.He wore a peaked straw hat of Indian weave, a linen shirt open at thethroat, short breeches with silver buckles at the knees, and aflint-lock pistol hung from his leather belt.
He passed by scattered houses and stores which were mere log hutsloopholed for defense, with shutters and doors of hewn plank heavyenough to stop a musket ball. The unpaved lanes wandered between mudholes in which pigs wallowed enjoyably. Negro slaves, half-naked andbearing heavy burdens, jabbered the dialects of the African jungle fromwhich they had been kidnapped a few months before. Yemassee Indians cladin tanned deer-skins bartered with the merchants and hid their hatred ofthe English. Jovial, hard-riding gentlemen galloped in from the indigoplantations and dismounted at the tavern to drink and gamble and fightduels at the smallest excuse.
Young Jack Cockrell paid scant heed to these accustomed sights butwalked as far as the wharf built of palmetto piling. The wide harbor andthe sea that flashed beyond the outer bar were ruffled by a pipingbreeze out of the northeast. The only vessel at anchor was a heavilysparred brig whose bulwarks were high enough to hide the rows of cannonbehind the closed ports.
The lad gazed at the shapely brig with a lively curiosity, as if herewas something really interesting. Presently a boat splashed into thewater and was tied alongside the vessel while a dozen of the crewtumbled in to sprawl upon the thwarts and shove the oars into thethole-pins. An erect, graceful man in a red coat and a great beaver hatroared a command from the stern-sheets and the pinnace pulled in thedirection of the wharf.
Pirates, to be sure! said Jack Cockrell to himself, without a sign ofalarm. 'Tis Captain Stede Bonnet and his _Royal James_. I know theship. I saw her when she came in leaking last October and was careenedon the beach at Sullivan's Island. A rich voyage this time, for the brigrides deep.
The coast of South Carolina swarmed with pirates two hundred years ago,and they cared not a rap for the law. Indeed, some of these rascalslived on friendly terms with the people of the small settlements andswaggered ashore to squander the broad gold pieces and merchandisestolen from honest trading vessels. You must not blame the SouthCarolina colonists too harshly because they sometimes welcomed thevisiting pirates instead of clapping them in jail. Charles Town was avillage at the edge of a wilderness filled with hostile Indians. By seait stood in fear of attack by the Spaniards of Florida and Havana. Therewere almost no crops for food and among the population were manyrunaways from England, loafers and vagabonds who hated the sight ofwork.
The pirates helped them fight their enemies and did a thriving trade ingoods that were sorely needed. Respectable citizens grumbled and onehigh official was removed in disgrace because he encouraged the piratesto make Charles Town their headquarters, but there was no general outcryunless the sea-rovers happened to molest English ships outside theharbor.
It was Captain Stede Bonnet himself who steered the pinnace and cursedhis sweating sailors in a deep voice which went echoing across the bay.He made a brave figure in his scarlet coat, with the brass guard of hisnaked cutlass winking in the sun. His boat's crew had been mustered frommany climes and races, several strapping Englishmen, a wiry, splutteringlittle Frenchman, a swarthy Portuguese with gold rings in his ears, abrace of stolid Norwegians, and two or three coal black negroes fromBarbadoes.
They were well armed, every weapon burnished clean of rust and ready forinstant use. Some wore tarnished, sea-stained finery looted from haplessprizes, a brocaded waistcoat, a pair of tasseled jack-boots, a plumedhat, a ruffled cape. The heads of several were bound around with knottedkerchiefs on which dark stains showed,--marks of a brawl aboard the brigor a fight with another ship.
Soon a second boat moved away from the _Royal James_ and many peopledrifted toward the wharf to see the pirates come ashore, but they leftplenty of room when the captain scrambled up the weedy ladder and toldhis men to follow him. Charles Town felt little dread of Stede Bonnethimself. He knew how to conduct himself as a gentleman and the story waswell known,--how he had been a major in the British army and a man ofwealth and refinement. He had left his home in Barbadoes to follow thetrade of piracy because he couldn't get along with his wife, so therumor ran. At any rate, he seemed oddly out of place among the dirtyrogues who sailed under the black flag.
He looked more the soldier than the sailor as he strode along the wharf,his lean, dark visage both grim and melancholy, his chin clean shaven,his mustachios carefully cropped. There were respectful greetings fromthe crowd of idlers and a gray-haired seaman all warped with rheumatismspoke up louder than the rest.
Good morrow to ye, Cap'n Bonnet! I be old Sam Griscom that sailed bos'nwith you on a marchant voyage out of Liverpool. An' now you are a finegentleman of fortune, with moidores and pieces of eight to fling at thegals, an' here I be, a sheer hulk on the beach.
Captain Stede Bonnet halted, stared from beneath heavy brows, and asmile made his seamed, sun-dried face almost gentle as he replied:
It cheers me to run athwart a true old shipmate. A slant of illfortune, eh, Sam Griscom? You are too old and crippled to sail in the_Royal James_. Here, and a blessing with the gift.
The pirate skipper rammed a hand in his pocket and flung a shower ofgold coins at the derelict seaman while the crowd cheered the generousdeed. It was easy to guess why Stede Bonnet was something of a hero inCharles Town. He passed on and turned into the street. Most of hisruffians were at his heels but one of the younger of them delayed to payhis compliments to a pretty girl whose manner was sweet and shy andgentle. She had remained aloof from the crowd, having some errand of herown at the wharf, and evidently hoped to be unobserved. Jack Cockrellhad failed to notice her, absorbed as he was in gazing his fill ofCaptain Stede Bonnet.
The girl resented the young pirate's gallantry and would have fled, buthe nimbly blocked her path. Just then Jack Cockrell happened to glancethat way and his anger flamed hot. He was about to run after CaptainBonnet and beg him to interfere but the maid's distress was too urgent.Her blackguardly admirer was trying to slip his arm around her trimwaist while he laughingly demanded a kiss from those fair lips. Sheevaded him and screamed for help.
There were lusty townsmen among those who beheld the scene but theysheepishly stood in their tracks and were afraid to punish the insolentpirate with his dirk and pistols. He was much taller and heavier thanJack Cockrell, the lad of seventeen, who came of gentlefolk and wasunused to brawls with weapons. But the youngster hesitated no more thanan instant, although his own pistol lacked a flint and was carried forshow.
His quick eye spied a capstan bar which he snatched up as a cudgel.Chivalry had taught him that a man should never reckon the odds when awoman appealed for succor. With a headlong rush he crossed the wharf andswung the hickory bar. The pirate dodged the blow and whipped out hisdirk which slithered through Jack's shirt and scratched his shoulder.Undismayed, he aimed a smashing blow at the pirate's wrist and the dirkwent spinning into the water.
The rascal tugged at a pistol in his belt but it was awkward work withhis left hand and he was bewildered by this amazing attack. Before hecould clear for action, Jack smote him on the pate and the battle endedthen and there, for the pirate staggered back, missed his footing, andtoppled overboard with a tremendous splash.
Leaping to the edge of the wharf, Jack saw him bob to the surface andstrike out for shore. Then the doughty young champion ran to offer hisescort to the damsel in distress. But she had hastened to slip away fromthis hateful notoriety and he saw her at the bend of the street whereshe turned to wave him a grateful farewell.
He would have hastened to overtake her but just then Captain StedeBonnet came striding back in a temper so black that it terrified his ownmen. His wrath was not aimed at Jack Cockrell, for he laid a hand uponthe lad's arm and exclaimed:
A shrewd stroke, boy, and a mettlesome spirit! You struck him swift andhard. 'Twould please me better if you had killed the dog.
Stede Bonnet waited with folded arms until the culprit had emerged fromthe water. Jack Cockrell had punished him severely and there was no morefight in him. His head was reeling, the blood ran into his eyes, and hehad swallowed much salt water. Captain Bonnet crooked a finger at himand he obeyed without a word. For a moment they stood face to face, thewretched offender trembling, the captain scowling as he said:
And so you mistook a lady for a common serving wench, Will Brant? Wouldye have Charles Town rise and reeve the ropes about our necks? Is thisyour promise of good behavior? Learn a lesson then, poor fool.
With the steel-shod butt of a pistol Stede Bonnet hit him squarelybetween the eyes. He dropped without a groan and lay stretched out as ifdead. The captain kicked him once and carelessly shouted:
Ho, men! Toss this squire o' dames into the pinnace to await ourreturn. And harkee, take warning.
Jack Cockrell felt almost sorry for his fallen foeman but the otherpirates grinned and did as they were told. It was a trifling episode.Resuming his stroll to the tavern, Captain Bonnet linked Jack's arm inhis and fairly towed him along while the assorted scoundrels troopedbehind them. It was shocking company for a lad of the most respectableconnections but he felt greatly flattered by the distinction. The nameof Stede Bonnet had spread terror from the Capes of the Chesapeake tothe blue waters of the Caribbean.
And so you were unafraid of this bullying Will Brant of mine, said thecaptain, with one of his pleasant smiles. You clipped his comb righthandsomely. And who may ye be, my brave young sprig?
I am John Spencer Cockrell, may it please you, sir, was the answer.'Twas a small thing to do for a lady. Your pirate would have been toomuch for me in a fair set-to.
Pirate? A poor word! objected Captain Bonnet, his accents severe butthe bold eyes twinkling. We are loyal servants of the King, sworn to domischief to his lawful enemies,--to wit, all ships and sailors of Spain.For such a young gentleman adventurer as you, Master Cockrell, there isa berth in the _Royal James_. Will ye rendezvous at the tavern and signyour fist to the articles?
Jack stammered that his kinfolk would never consent, at which CaptainBonnet forbore to coax him but kept a grip on his arm as though theywere chums who could not bear to be parted. Down the middle of thestreet paraded this extraordinary company, the seamen breaking into asong which ran:
In Bristowe I left Poll ashore, Well stored wi' togs an' gold, And off I go to sea for more, A-piratin' so bold. An' wounded in the arm I got, An' then a pretty blow; Comed home I find Poll's flowed away, _Yo, ho, with the rum below!_
Charles Town might be glad to get the pirates' gold but it seemed atimorous welcome, for the merchants peered from their doorways likerabbits when the hounds are loose, and nervous old gentlemen took coverin the near-by alleys. Stede Bonnet knew how to keep his men in hand andallowed only part of the company ashore at once. They were likehilarious children out for a lark, capering outside the tavern to themusic of a strolling fiddler or buying horses on the spot and trying toride them. When they were pitched off on their heads the mirth wasuproarious.
In a field beside the tavern some townsmen were shooting at a mark for aprize of a dressed bullock while a group of gentlemen from theplantations were intent on a cock-fight in the tap-room. Here was rarepastime for the frolicsome blades of the _Royal James_ and soon theywere banging away with their pistols or betting their gold-pieces on thesteel-gaffed birds, singing the louder as the bottle was passed. CaptainStede Bonnet stayed prudently sober, ready for any emergency, hisdemeanor cool and watchful while he chatted with old acquaintances.
He talked often with Jack Cockrell to whom he had taken a strong fancy,and pressed the lad to dine with him. Jack was uneasy at being seen sopublicly with a notorious pirate but the experience was delightfulbeyond words. The captain asked him many questions, twisting hismustachios and staring down from his commanding height with an air offriendly interest. He had found a lad after his own heart.
The seamen tired of their sport and sought new diversion. Some of themkicked off their boots and clinched in wrestling matches for prodigalstakes of gold and jewels. Others found girls to dance with them orwandered off to buy useless trinkets in the shops. Jack Cockrell knew heought to be posting home to dinner but he was tempted to accept StedeBonnet's cordial bidding. Boyish friends of his hovered near andregarded him as a hero. No pirate captain had ever deigned to noticethem.
Alas for Jack and his puffed-up pride which was doomed to a sudden fall!There advanced from a better quarter of the town a florid, foppishlydressed gentleman of middle age who walked with a pompous gait. He wasstout-bodied and the heat of the day oppressed him. Mopping his facewith a lace handkerchief or fanning himself with his hat, he halted nowand then in a shady spot. Very mindful of his rank and dignity was Mr.Peter Arbuthnot Forbes, sometime London barrister, at present Secretaryto the Council of the Province.
He differed from some of his neighbors in that he abominated pirates andwould have given them short shift. A trifle near-sighted, he was quiteclose to the tavern before he espied his own nephew and ward, JackCockrell, in this shameful company of roisterers. The august uncleblinked, opened his mouth, and turned as red as a lobster. Indignationchoked his speech. For his part, Jack stood dumfounded and quaking, thepicture of a coward with a guilty conscience. He would have tried tosteal from sight but it was too late.
Captain Stede Bonnet enjoyed the tableau and several of his wickedsailors were mimicking the pompous strut of Mr. Peter Arbuthnot Forbes.Poor Jack mumbled some explanation but his irate uncle first paid hisrespects to Captain Bonnet.
Shame to you, sirrah, he cried in a voice that shook with passion. Aman of good birth, by all accounts, who has fallen so low as to leadthese vile gallows-birds! And you would entice this lad of mine tofollow your dirty trade?
Captain Bonnet doffed the great beaver hat and bowed low in mockingcourtesy. He perceived that this fussy lawyer was not wholly a popinjay,for it required courage to insult a pirate to his face. The reply wastherefore milder than expected.
Mayhap I am painted blacker than the fact, Councilor. As for this finestripling who has so disgraced himself, the fault is mine. He risked hislife to save a maid from harm. The deed won my affection.
The maids of Charles Town would need to fear no harm if more pirateswere hanged, Captain Bonnet, roundly declared Mr. Forbes, shaking hisgold-tipped cane at the freebooter.
'Tis fortunate for me that you lack the power, my fat and petulantgentleman, was the smiling response.
Laugh while you may, quoth the other. These Provinces may soonproclaim joint action against such pests as you.
With a shrug, the Secretary turned to his crestfallen nephew and sharplyexclaimed:
Home with you, John Cockrell. You shall go dinnerless and be locked inyour room.
The seamen guffawed at this and Jack furiously resented their ridicule.He was on the point of rebellion as he hotly retorted:
I am no child to be treated thus, Uncle Peter. Didn't you hear CaptainBonnet report that I had proved myself a man? I trounced one of his owncrew, a six-foot bully with a dirk and pistols.
A fig for that, rapped out Uncle Peter. Your bully was drunk andhelpless, I have no doubt. Will you bandy words with me?
With this his plump fingers closed on Jack's elbow which he used as ahandle to lead him firmly and rapidly away. Behind them pranced a limberyoung negro who showed every tooth in his head. Jack heard the derisivelaughter of the pirates who had hailed him as a hero. His cup ofbitterness overflowed when it occurred to him that Captain Bonnet woulddespise a lad who could be led home in custody of a dandified tyrant ofan uncle.