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Sea StoriesWreck Of The Rothsay Castle Steamer
The Rothsay Castle was a steam packet which formerly ...
Origins Of Steamships—ocean-steamers Etcetera
As we have been led, in writing about ships of the n...
I served as assistant pilot on board the merchant vessel Dolphin,
bound from Jamaica for London, which had already doubled the southern
point of the Island of Cuba, favored by the wind, when one afternoon,
I suddenly observed a very suspicious-looking schooner bearing down
upon us from the coast. I climbed the mast, with my spy glass, and
became convinced that it was a pirate. I directed the captain, who was
taking his siesta, to be awaked instantly, showed him the craft, and
advised him to alter our course, that we might avoid her. The captain,
a man of unfortunate temper, whose principal traits of character were
arrogance, avarice, and obstinacy, scorned my counsel, and insisted
that we had nothing to fear, as we were perfectly well protected by
the English flag.
We sailed on, while the schooner drew nearer, for about half a league,
when we observed that the deck of the strange vessel swarmed with
armed men, and her people were busy in getting out their boats. Upon
seeing this, our captain was not a little frightened, and ordered a
change in the course of the ship; but it was too late, for we were
already within reach of the pirate, who soon hailed us, commanding our
captain to come on board of his vessel, and as his commands were not
obeyed, fired a broadside into us, which, however, did us no injury.
At the same time a boat, containing nine men, pushed off towards us.
They presented a most ferocious appearance, being armed with guns,
swords, and long knives. They boarded our brig, as we offered not the
They then commanded the captain, the ship's carpenter, and myself, to
enter their boat, and sent us with an armed escort of four men, who
handled us most roughly, to the schooner, where the pirate captain
received us with deep curses. He was a gigantic, powerful, well-formed
man, of a pale, sallow complexion, large prominent eyes, a hooked
nose, and a huge mouth, and glossy hair and beard. He might be about
thirty years old, and spoke broken English with a Spanish accent.
"Have you specie on board?" he asked.
"None at all," answered our Captain, thoughtlessly enough, for we had
only too much of it, and unfortunately the papers referring to it lay
upon the cabin table.
"The devil," cried the robber, "do you take me for a child? All
home-bound vessels have money on board; give up yours quietly, and
depart in the devil's name whither you will."
The captain repeated his silly denial, and enraged the pirate still
"Well," he said with frightful calmness, "if you will not give up the
money, I will throw your cargo overboard, and search for it myself.
If I find it, I'll lock you in your cabin, and burn your vessel with
every man on board."
After this threat he walked up and down the deck, and said more
quietly, turning to me:
"You must remain with us, for there is no one among my men who
thoroughly understands a helmsman's duty, and I must give myself more
rest, I am not well."
One can imagine my sensations. In the meanwhile supper had been
prepared, and the pirate officers, six or seven in number, invited us
politely to partake of it; we accepted, as we did not wish to
displease them. The meal consisted of onion soup with bread, tolerable
fish, and a very good ham, with plenty of excellent Cogniac and
Bordeaux wine. During supper the schooner approached the Dolphin, and
lay alongside. It was now perfectly dark, and they showed us a place
close by the cabin door, where we could sleep.
The following morning we were invited to breakfast, which consisted of
coffee with goat's milk, broiled fish, smoked pork, very good biscuit,
and sweet brandy. After breakfast we were sent back to the Dolphin,
which, as the captain still persisted in his obstinate assertion that
there was no money on board, was being emptied of her contents by the
robber captain's commands. First of all I slipped into the cabin to
look after my chest; it had been broken open and robbed of all
articles of value, among which were two diamond rings. Some suits of
clothes, and some shirts, were all that remained. In unloading the
vessel they began first with the cow; then they threw over the
poultry, and all the other provisions, and then the wine and brandy
casks. They next came to the actual cargo of the brig, out of which
only what was very valuable was preserved, for there was no room to
stow any thing away in the pirate ship. Thus they worked until towards
evening, when we were again invited to supper, and again shown to our
sleeping place. The sailors had already become intoxicated, and were
singing and rioting upon deck, without either officers or captain
daring to check them, for on board such ships discipline is not to be
The next day, right after breakfast, the pirate called the captain to
the after deck.
"I speak now," said he, "in kindness to you, for the last time; give
up your money, or tell where it is concealed. Do it, or, God d--n me,
the Dolphin, yourself, and all on board are lost."
The captain answered as before, that there was no money on board.
"Well then," cried the captain in a rage, "you shall find out who you
have to deal with. Ho there!" he cried to his men, "down with him into
the hold, tie up the pumps, and bring fire!"
The command was instantly obeyed, and a quantity of dry wood was
heaped up around the unfortunate man, which they were just about to
kindle, when his agony wrung from him the confession that under a
board in the cabin floor there was a box containing about five hundred
doubloons. He was unbound, and the gold was found.
"Well," said the pirate, "that is something. But you have more--I know
it! Give it up, or by all the devils, you shall be burnt."
The captain now swore, with tears, that he had not a penny more, but
the pirate would not believe him.
"I will refresh your memory," said he, "rely upon it. Bind up the
pumps again, and kindle the fire quickly!"
The poor man was again bound fast, and the light wood around him was
kindled; the flames licked his clothes and hands, and his eye-brows
and hair were already singed, but he renewed his protestations and
commended himself to God's mercy. The pirate at last believing his
assertion, let the pumps play and extinguished the fire.
"Well," he said in a milder tone, "I will set you at liberty, and you
may sail whither you please, except to any Cuban port, for if I find
you again in these waters I will scuttle your vessel and leave you to
He supplied the Dolphin with water and provisions for ten days and
loosened it from the schooner. I was obliged to remain upon the pirate
ship while the brig set sail, and had soon vanished from our sight. As
a thick mist arose we anchored on the edge of a sand-bank, and
remained there over night; at break of day we again set sail and ran
into a small, concealed, but very safe harbor on the coast of Cuba.
We had scarcely cast anchor when a whole fleet of large and small
boats pushed off from the shore and sailed towards us. The pirate knew
with whom he had to deal, and made ready for them. Two officials and
several other gentlemen and ladies now stepped on board, and were
saluted with fifteen guns. After the guests had congratulated the
robber upon his successful expedition, refreshments were brought, and
the whole company commenced dancing on the deck, where some black
musicians were playing. The merriment lasted far into the night, and
all left the vessel, delighted with the rich presents of silks and
jewels that they had received, while they promised to send purchasers
to the sale of the pirate's booty, which was to take place on the
following day. As soon as we were alone again, the pirate captain
informed me confidentially, that he maintained the friendliest
relations with the government, and that he had no dread whatever of
any hostile attempts against him.
"I can easily settle all that with these people," said he, "with
On the following morning the deck was swept and preparations were made
for the sale, and a crowd of ladies and gentlemen soon appeared; the
captain and I received them on board, and conducted them under the
blue canopy with silver fringe that had been erected for their
accommodation. At a signal from the ship's bell the sale began. As
many articles were sold by weight, I presided over the scales, that
were placed near the mainmast. The purchasers stood around me in a
semi-circle, and as every one of them bought either a whole or half a
hundred weight, it was immediately shoveled into the bags and baskets
they had brought. Some attendants, in the meanwhile, handed round
wine, cakes, and biscuit, and the wine had its effect; the sale was
very lively, and before three o'clock in the afternoon, our casks and
barrels were almost empty.
The captain now invited the whole company to dinner, and the further
sale of silks, linens, and ornaments, was postponed until afterwards.
He then called me aside, and gave me a peculiar commission; he ordered
me to concoct a drink which should be no less intoxicating than
"After the guests shall have partaken of it," said he, "they will bid
high enough, and I shall have an excellent sale. Call it English punch
and they will like it all the better."
I had to promise him to do my best, and go to work at once; as we had
a good store of all kinds of intoxicating liquors on board, I could
choose what I pleased. I mixed together, Bordeaux, Madeira, Rum,
Arrac, Geneva, Cogniac, and Porter; dissolved in it half a hat-full of
sugar and threw in about two dozen oranges, and as many sweet lemons.
It certainly tasted most excellently, and even the smell of it
affected my head. After dinner, when the dessert was about to be
placed upon the table, I called six sailors, and providing each with a
large bowl of my mixture, they marched into the cabin in procession
and placed them on the table; then I informed the company that the
mixture was a new kind of English punch, and filled their glasses for
The delicious drink was very popular and even the ladies sipped it
with delight. The effect was immediate; after the first two glasses,
all grew very loquacious; two more glasses and the gentlemen were
thoroughly intoxicated without being stupified. At this moment the
sale began, and all rushed on deck, and proceeded to purchase in such
a wild, excited manner, that the worst article that we had, sold for
twice its real value. When the business was nearly concluded, a
frightful noise arose on the forward deck; the crew had received a
double allowance of rum and brandy, and very naturally, a quarrel had
arisen between two of the most excited, in which one of them was
stabbed in the breast. As I understood something of surgery, I was
called upon to dress and bandage the wound, and whilst I was thus
engaged the company departed in the boats, the gentlemen in a high
state of excitement and much pleased with their bargains.
When all was quiet on board, the captain called to him the man who had
escaped from the combat unhurt, and inquired into the cause of the
bloody fray. And now a fearful secret came to light. The man revealed
a conspiracy against the captain, headed by one of the officers, which
had been in progress for a month. The officer who commanded it had
asked leave of absence, and was at that time on land, engaged in
perfecting his plan, which was, to fall upon the captain and murder
him with the greater part of the crew. The wounded sailor had belonged
to this conspiracy, which was frightful enough, and so angered the
captain that he was almost beside himself with rage. He forthwith
called together the whole ship's company and made known to them the
plot he had discovered. He had scarcely finished speaking when fierce
cries for revenge arose among the crew; they rushed below, and in a
few minutes dragged up the wounded sailor, hacked off his arms and
legs, plunged their knives into his body, and threw it overboard.
They then dragged out his chest; destroyed and tore to rags every
thing in it, and in a perfect frenzy of rage, threw it into the sea
also. Then the watch was trebled and set; all sharpened their daggers
and knives, and prepared for an attack. But the night passed and
On the following afternoon, a sail appeared, which steered towards us;
the captain took the spy glass, and instantly recognized the boat
which had carried the treacherous officer and part of the crew on land
the day before.
"Here come the conspirators," he cried, with a fearful curse, "we'll
give them the welcome they deserve. Thirty of you load your muskets
and be ready."
When the boat was within a short distance of us, it stopped and
hoisted a white flag in token of peace; the captain did the same, and
the boat then approached perfectly unsuspiciously. When they were
within musket shot, the captain ordered his men to fire. Five men fell
dead, a sixth sprang into the sea, and the rest turned and rowed away.
The captain sent a boat out after the unhappy wretch who was in the
water, and in less than five minutes they dragged him on board. He was
wounded in the arm and was bleeding freely. But, notwithstanding, his
clothes were, by the captain's orders, torn off, and he was exposed
naked to the burning rays of the sun. When he had suffered thus for an
hour, the tyrant went to him and asked with suppressed rage:
"Now traitor, will you confess?"
"I am innocent," replied the half-dead wretch, "I know of nothing."
"Here," cried the captain to his savages, "take him and row him into
the inlet; there leave him in the swamp; we'll see whether the
gad-flies will not help his memory. You," continued the captain, "go
with them, and give heed to this example."
Five of the pirates, armed with pistols and swords, bound the wretched
man, hand and foot, threw him into the boat and rowed into the inlet.
Just at the mouth of it there was a morass filled with gad-flies and
other poisonous insects. Into this dreadful ditch they threw their
former comrade, and then withdrew to a short distance to jeer at and
mock him. In about an hour they drew him out again; he was still
living, but his body was so covered with blisters that he looked like
nothing human. In this condition he was taken to the ship again.
"Has he confessed?" shouted the captain to us as we were approaching.
We replied in the negative.
"Then shoot him down like a dog."
Two of the robbers seized him, one presented a pistol to his forehead,
another to his breast; they were both discharged at the same moment,
and the unhappy man was bathed in his own blood. As he gave no further
sign of life, they hurled him overboard.
What a deed of horror! I passed a fearful night, for I could not close
my eyes when I thought of the probable fate that awaited me among
The next morning I went sadly enough to my labor, which consisted in
cutting and making a new sail, when at about ten o'clock, the watch at
the mast-head, cried out:
"A sail! a sail!"
I went aloft, and saw that it was a large merchant vessel. The captain
weighed anchor, sailed down upon her and when he supposed himself sure
of his prey, fired off a cannon; the brig hoisted the English flag and
lay to. This unexpected manoeuvre seemed very suspicious to the
captain; he began to believe that he had to deal with a man-of-war;
changed his plan, and determined upon boarding the strange vessel; he
gave orders to have two boats manned with the bravest of his crew,
which should attack the ship upon both sides at once, and commanded me
to head the expedition. Such an order terrified me not a little.
"What," I cried, "must I fight thus shamefully with my countrymen. If
I am taken prisoner what can I expect but the most shameful death. No,
Senor, I can never obey your orders."
"Who are you," he answered fiercely, "who think yourself so much
better than me and my men? Do we not expose ourselves to death every
hour of the day? My vessel shall never be taken, for when I can no
longer defend it I will blow it up. Obey me instantly or I will have
you shot in the twinkling of an eye."
"Do it," I coolly rejoined, "I do not fear death, but I will never
obey your orders."
"Well then," he cried furiously, "to death with him. Bandage his eyes.
Five minutes respite only, and let three men aim at his head and three
at his heart."
The pirates obeyed instantly, and I commended my soul to God. When the
five minutes had gone, the captain asked:
"Are you ready, helmsman?"
"You persist then in your obstinacy."
"Attention! Make ready! Fire!"
The men fired, but I remained unhurt; a burning cork flew in my face,
but made no wound. The captain had intended to frighten me, and his
men had only loaded with blank cartridges.
"Well, helmsman," he cried, "are you mortally wounded? Have you had
"I am not wounded, Senor," I replied, "but I am not a boy to be
trifled with; if you are going to kill me, do it quickly, for I will
never disgrace myself by obeying your orders."
"So be it then," cried the pirate, foaming with rage; "bind him to the
mainmast; unbandage his eyes; let us have plenty of tinder; lay a
train of powder, and to the devil with him!"
His orders were obeyed; I closed my eyes and awaited death for the
second time. In about ten seconds I heard a terrible explosion, which
stunned me for some minutes. When I recovered my consciousness, I
felt a terrible pain in my lower limbs; my hands were bound, and my
clothes on fire.
"Shoot me upon the spot; why do you torture me so?"
But the captain and his men only laughed; and when my stockings were
entirely burnt, he gave orders to pour water over me and unbind me,
saying composedly, as if nothing had happened:
"You provoked me or I should not have done it; now go below and get
But the moment I was unbound, I fainted away, and when I came to
myself I lay upon a matrass in the cabin, and felt the most
intolerable pain in all my limbs, but particularly in my legs. On a
chair beside me sat the cook; he told me that lemonade had been
prepared for me; I took some of it, and asked him to support me, that
I might look at my legs; they were frightfully burnt; in some places
the bone was exposed. While I was examining them, the captain
appeared, looked at my horrible wounds, and said, with a show of
"Helmsman, ask for whatsoever you want, and you, cook, see that he has
it. Make haste and get better; by heaven, I hope you'll get over it."
With these words he left me. I called for a better bed, the medicine
chest, lint, and bandages; every thing was instantly brought, and I
did my best to soothe my sufferings. I inquired of my officious
attendants where we were, and learnt, to my surprise, that we were
again at anchor in the harbour. The captain had decided that the brig
was an English man-of-war, and had made a hasty retreat to a place of
After dinner, the cook made his appearance again, and as he had
nothing else to do, remained with me. He informed me that the captain,
a naturally quick-tempered, tyrannical man, was a perfect tiger when
he was in a passion, that he had already shot and stabbed twenty of
his men with his own hands, and begged me to be upon my guard, for I
had not a man, but a monster, to deal with.
"Whatever you want," he added, compassionately, "let me know, and be
assured that I mean you well."
With this comforting assurance he departed, while I prepared a cooling
salve and bandaged my wounds neatly. I drank quantities of lemonade
and broth, and felt that as the afternoon wore on, the heat in my
limbs was subsiding. Towards sunset, the kind cook again appeared, to
see how I was, and to inform me that the captain was raging like a
maniac on deck, for a coasting vessel had brought him news that my
former captain had sailed straight for Havana, and had there made all
sorts of complaints with regard to the robbery that he had sustained.
While he was speaking the captain himself rushed into the cabin.
"See," he cried, "what rogues your countrymen are. Spite of my
commands, that traitor sailed directly for Havana and entered a
complaint against me. But I know how to deal with him; I have sent
four bold fellows after him; he is a dead man if he lingers two days
longer, and to make all sure, I shall send a fifth this evening, who
understands his business well, and will despatch him without mercy."
With these words he left the cabin. "What a monster, what cruelty!" I
thought, but borne down by fatigue, I soon fell asleep.
I had been sleeping about two hours when I was roused by the captain.
"You must come on deck," he said, rather anxiously, "we are in
Four sailors seized me, and immediately carried me above, sick as I
was. Here I learned that a boat was approaching in the darkness, and
that preparations for defence were being made.
"Hail it in English," said the captain.
I did so, but received no answer.
"Now let me try," he continued; "we'll see if they understand
They answered immediately as friends, and announced that they came
with important news for the captain. The partisans of the officer, who
had formed the before-mentioned conspiracy, maddened by the death of
their comrades, had sworn to be revenged. They had tracked the fifth
assassin, who had been sent off this evening to the house of one of
the government officials, who was in friendly connection with the
pirate captain, and our informants assured us that if timely aid were
not rendered him, he would certainly be put to death. This information
had a most distressing effect upon the crew, and no one offered to go
upon such a dangerous errand. But the captain did not lose courage,
gave the men quantities of rum and brandy, and promised four pieces
of gold to each volunteer. Ten of the boldest then came forward, got
ready immediately, and were fully provided with weapons, as well as
biscuit and wine. Before the end of a quarter of an hour, they rowed
ashore in company with the other boat. The captain commanded the whole
crew to remain on deck, and doubled the watch. Every thing was quiet,
and prepared for any emergency. I was carried down into the cabin
again, but could not close my eyes; the door was open, and I heard
every thing that passed on deck. About midnight our boat returned, but
only with five men, who gave the following account of their adventures
to the captain.
After they had landed, and proceeded a few steps, they came upon a
servant of that honest official to whose house the fifth assassin
had been tracked, and who was to have furnished him with a pass. This
man informed them that the assassin had actually fallen into the hands
of the conspirators, and that he was lost if they did not instantly
hasten to his rescue. They made a circuit to avoid their enemies, and
succeeded in surprising a few stragglers, from whom they extorted the
information that a considerable number of the conspirators were making
merry in the house of the officer, where they had taken their comrade
prisoner. They immediately proceeded to this house, where they
commenced a most destructive fire through the doors and windows, not
taking any aim or making any discrimination between friend or foe.
They then entered, killed the wounded, and took some prisoners.
Unfortunately the good old host had received two serious shots, and
now sent to the captain to request him to send to his relief the
Englishman in whom he placed such confidence. With regard to the
assassin, he had been found bound hand and foot, but uninjured, and
having been provided with a passport, had proceeded to Havana.
"Helmsman," cried the captain, now entering the cabin, "it can't be
helped. You must go on shore, and look after the old gentleman's
wounds, for he is my best friend, and I cannot treat him with too much
consideration. Put a mattrass into the boat," he continued, "that he
may lie comfortably upon it, and when you get to land carry him as
carefully as possible."
They let me down into the boat in an arm-chair, laid me upon a
mattrass, put a cushion under my head, and covered me with a silken
coverlet. The moon was just rising, and it was about one o'clock. The
current was against us, and we were almost an hour in reaching the
shore. After we had taken something to eat and drink in a little
ale-house, not ten steps from the beach, I was placed on a bamboo
litter, furnished with an abundance of soft cushions, and put upon a
horse. We journeyed for about an hour through a high mahogany forest,
until we arrived comfortably at a small town, and before the door of
the mansion of Don Toribios, as the conscientious official was called.
I immediately examined the old man's wounds, which proved to be not at
all dangerous, extracted the balls without difficulty, and left him to
the care of his wife and daughter. We returned slowly to our boat, and
reached the schooner before sunrise.
The sailors rendered an account of their expedition, and each
received as a reward a double allowance of brandy, and they were told
that the prisoners they had taken had been tortured and then shot. The
captain asked me particularly concerning Don Toribios, and as I was
able to give him favorable replies, he was greatly rejoiced, and
loaded me with praises.
"You must go on shore to him every morning or afternoon," said he,
"for this man is my best friend. But now go and rest, you seem very
weary; you shall be called when the breakfast is ready." I was indeed
rejoiced to be able to rest. I bandaged my wounds afresh, stretched
myself on my couch, and fell asleep immediately.
After dinner, I was about to go on shore, in accordance with the
captain's orders, when, just as they were letting me down into the
boat, a large vessel appeared in sight. I was immediately assisted to
the mast-head, and commanded to report what vessel it was. I examined
it for a quarter of an hour through my spy-glass, and was at last
convinced that it was a large Dutch merchantman. The captain then had
me brought down, and communicated my discovery to the crew, who
received it with a loud "huzza."
"These Dutchmen," said he, "are rich prizes; they are sure to have
cash on board."
Instantly we weighed anchor, and the chase began. But the Dutchman was
suspicious, and tried every means of avoiding us; it was too late,
however, for we sailed twice as fast as he, and besides had the
advantage of the wind. To deceive him, we hoisted the English flag,
and fired a shot. He then turned towards us. Our captain supposed that
he would offer resistance, and accordingly, when he came within shot,
sent a ball into him from our forty-four pounder, which struck the
water by the side of the vessel, and then hoisted the blood-red pirate
"Send the captain, with his papers, on board," he shouted through the
speaking trumpet. As the fulfilment of this command seemed tardy to
the pirates, they enforced it by discharging a dozen muskets. This
produced the desired effect; the captain and supercargo immediately
came on board; they were both pale as death, and trembled with fear.
The pirate snatched their papers from them, and threw them to me
saying, "There! translate those things for me." Although I understood
very little Dutch, I managed to make out that the vessel was bound
from Antwerp for some Mexican port, and that it was freighted with
wine, cheese, hams, cloths and linens. The pirate was not a little
rejoiced to hear this, and ordered me to ask the amount of cash on
board. The Dutchman assured us that he had none.
"We will soon see for ourselves!" said the captain, and taking with
him the pilot and four sailors, he went on board of the merchantman.
In half an hour he called out to the schooner to come alongside. This
was done, and the Dutchman was again sent on board of his vessel,
where he was greeted with a blow from the flat of a sword that
stretched him on the deck. The inquiries concerning the money now
began afresh, accompanied by the threats of burning both ship and
crew, if money should actually be found on board. Then the Dutchman
was placed in confinement, while the crew were sent on board the
schooner, and down into the hold. Both ships sailed into the harbour
at sundown, that they might spend the night in safety. I received
permission to retire to the cabin, and there found a neat little
supper that the care of the benevolent cook had provided for me. The
salve that I had prepared for my wounds had an excellent effect, and I
was now quite free from pain.
The next morning the freight of the captured vessel was transferred to
the schooner, and I was again obliged to assist with my small
knowledge of Dutch. After dinner I was sent on shore again, to dress
Don Toribios' wounds. As they were healing rapidly, and the fever had
quite left him, I soon returned, his daughter having presented me with
a box of Havana cigars.
As night had not yet set in, they proceeded vigorously in transferring
the cargo of the Dutchman, and the goods were piled up high on the
deck of the schooner; they were not to be sold, as before, but taken
by a coasting vessel to Havana, and disposed of there. The next
morning the coaster appeared, and the transfer of the cargo began
again. While all were thus busied, the captain drew me aside, and said
to me in an unusually confidential tone, "I must accompany this
coaster some distance; we shall be gone four or five days. Therefore,
go on shore once more, and carry to Don Toribios as much physic as he
will want during this time, but be sure to be back before sunset."
I immediately obeyed, fulfilled my commission, and returned at the
appointed hour; the captain was making merry with the coaster, and as
I would take no part in their excesses, I retired to rest, but could
not sleep. The door of my cabin opened gently, to admit the cook; he
sat down by me, and said as softly as possible:
"While you were on shore to-day, the captain called together the crew,
and told them that during the course of four weeks they had all
learned to know the captive Englishman, and must be aware that he was
most useful in every capacity. 'But,' said the captain, 'he is not to
be trusted; I see that he meditates escape, day and night, and if his
plans should succeed, which is not impossible, the first English
man-of-war that he meets will have the secret of our retreat here, and
all will be over with us. I have, therefore, formed a resolution that
will certainly seem right to you all. We will let him finish the sails
that he is now at work upon, and then get rid of him. Some evening I
will get up a dispute with him; you will gather around us and take
sides, and in the heat of argument I will plunge my knife into his
bosom, and you will finish the business.' The crew consulted together,
and opinion was divided; only a few of the most bloody-minded agreed
to the thought of your murder; at last it was determined to have you
closely watched, and not to allow you to go on shore any more."
"Have it so then," cried the captain, angrily; "you will see what will
come of it."
"Now my friend," concluded the brave fellow, "now you know every
thing. I fear the captain has not given up his intention; therefore,
take your measures accordingly. If I can assist you in carrying out
any plan that you may form, rely upon my desire to serve you. God
grant, that if you escape, I may accompany you."
With these words he bade me good night and left me. What were my
sensations. "Am I then," I said to myself "to be thus cut off in the
midst of my youth? No! I will balk these monsters. I must attempt to
save myself even if the attempt cost me my life." These thoughts
occupied me during the night, and I did not sleep until towards four
o'clock in the morning.
At sunrise the schooner weighed anchor, in order to accompany the
coaster. Towards noon we discovered an English brig, which proved to
be a merchantman, and the customary pursuit and capture ensued. The
cargo consisted of rum, for the vessel was bound for Liverpool from
Jamaica. The English captain, who was an old acquaintance of mine,
offered to ransom his vessel, and begged me to make the arrangement
for him; this I gladly did, and the brig was ransomed for four hundred
doubloons and eight casks of rum. The Englishman, who had a
considerable amount of cash on board, pressed upon me, at parting,
Towards evening the skies were covered with black clouds; the sea
began to rage, and every thing indicated an approaching storm. We
therefore ran into a little bay, sheltered by high rocks, and passed a
very quiet night, although a fearful storm was raging on the open sea,
and the rain fell in torrents. The next morning we set sail again and
conveyed the coaster almost to the place of her destination. On our
return voyage we captured a French vessel, but it was also ransomed,
and on the evening of the fourth day we reached again our old station,
where the Dutch brig had been left under the command of the pilot. The
Dutch captain and a great part of his crew had accompanied us.
The pirate was very well pleased with his short, profitable trip, and
gave orders to the steward to prepare a magnificent collation, to
which he invited his officers, the Dutch captain, and myself. As it
was too warm in the cabin the table was laid on deck; the steward had
done his best, and when the wine had begun to take effect, the
Dutchman informed me that he had a proposition to make. He spoke in
Dutch, and that no suspicion might be excited, I immediately informed
the captain of what he had said, and offered to carry on the
negociation. This was agreed to, and the Dutchman then informed me
that he had concealed upon his person, a heavy gold chain, a gold
watch set with brilliants, and two diamond rings, and that he would
give them all if the pirate would release his vessel and allow him to
depart, with provisions for eight days. I translated all this to the
captain as well as I could, and his countenance immediately beamed
with the friendliest expression.
"Tell the captain," he replied mildly, "that I accept his offer, and
if he will hand over to me the articles in question, I swear by the
holy virgin, that he shall depart to-morrow morning early, with eight
days' provisions, and sail whither he pleases."
I interpreted this to the captain, who hastened, joyfully, into the
cabin, and returned in a few minutes with the jewels, which he laid
before the captain, on the table.
"Done," said he, reaching his hand and filling his glass; "join me
captain and gentlemen all. By heaven, I will keep my word; you are all
We remained at table until eleven o'clock, when all retired; my
thoughts kept me awake during the whole night. Immediately after
sunrise, the Dutch vessel was supplied with the promised provisions,
besides six casks of water and two of Geneva. The captain took leave
of us all; put several pieces of gold into my hand, and betook himself
on board of his own ship. In half an hour he set sail, and with a
favourable wind was soon out of sight.
Towards eight o'clock, a boat appeared from the shore, and brought two
calves and two sheep, just killed, and a quantity of fowls,
vegetables, and fruit, as a present for the captain, from Don Toribios
and the other officials. They announced their intention, also, of
paying us a visit with their wives, in the afternoon, whereat the
captain was much pleased. Preparations were instantly made for their
reception, and the steward was busy enough; at half-past two the
little fleet appeared, and the guests arrived on board, where they
were served with refreshments. They talked, laughed, joked, played the
guitar, and sang, until near sunset, when the air grew cooler. Then
the seats and benches were cleared away; the old people betook
themselves, with their wine, to the cabin, and the young ones danced
until they were called to supper. The time was passed most pleasantly,
and I almost forgot that I was on board a pirate vessel. Don
Toribios, too, was very friendly, and called out as soon as he saw
me, "Going on excellently! all healed over!" I examined his wounds and
found it actually so. The old gentleman then applied himself
industriously to the wine, and appeared determined to make up for the
abstinence of two weeks. My warning, to be prudent, was not regarded
in the least.
The company found the entertainment so much to their liking that they
remained three hours longer on board than they had at first intended;
the moon was in her first quarter, but shone brighter than even the
full moon in England. A little after nine, the guests took leave of
the captain and entered their boats; the little fleet rowed away in
the glorious moonlight, and every thing was restored to order on board
of the schooner.
The captain was unusually gay and friendly; had three bottles of
Bordeaux brought, and called to me: "Sit down; we will drink another
glass together. Fill for yourself. I see you are a brave, fine fellow,
and if you conduct yourself well, you shall have such wages as you'll
get on no ship of the line, I can tell you. Come, drink; here's to our
I was obliged to join him, and drank in this way almost a bottle full.
I succeeded, however, in allaying all his suspicion of me. Towards
midnight I threw myself upon my bed, but could not close my eyes, my
thoughts were so busy with plans of escape. Where shall I be, I asked
myself, in one--two weeks--in a month? If my plan succeeds, I shall be
upon my way home; but if not, where then? Of this last alternative I
would not think, and towards two o'clock I fell asleep.
The next afternoon I sat working at my sails, when a boat with three
negroes in it, pushed off from the shore, and approached the schooner.
The man at the helm had a large basket, covered with black, before
him, and the usually white aprons of the negroes were black. This
indicated a death, and I was very anxious to know which of yesterday's
company had so quickly had their joy turned to mourning; in the
meanwhile the boat arrived, and the chief negro came on board.
"Master dead!" he said, in his broken Spanish. "Don Toribios dead!
last night! Here a letter and presents for Senor captain and Senor
With these words he handed the captain four bundles of Havana cigars,
as many baskets of fruit, and two great pastries, besides four jars of
sweet-meats. This giving of presents is customary in Cuba in case of
any death, and I also received the due proportion of gifts. The negro
was dismissed with a present in money.
When the captain, after dinner, had taken his siesta, he made known to
the crew the death of Don Toribios, and ordered preparations to be
made for paying the last honors to his deceased friend. A hundred
bottles of wine, torches, crape, and whatever else is necessary upon
such occasions, were put into the long-boat, into which the captain
entered, with ten sailors, six musicians, and myself. We found horses
and mules waiting for us on the shore, and we soon reached the house
of death, before which a great many tar barrels were burning, and in
the centre stood a bier, upon which the coffin was placed. A number of
mourners, among whom were twelve or fifteen ladies, now greeted us. We
returned their salutations and entered the brilliantly lighted saloon,
hung with black, where sat the mother and daughter of the dead man,
dressed in the deepest mourning. We expressed our sympathy for them;
refreshments were handed round, and all were provided with torches.
The procession was then arranged. Our sailors carried the coffin; the
musicians commenced a mournful march; the priest, with the choristers,
led the way and the others followed in pairs; the captain conducted
the mother, and I the daughter. Our sailors sent up some rockets, and
at this signal the schooner fired minute guns for a half hour. After
the conclusion of the solemnity, we went to the funeral supper, and
the guests indulged in all kinds of gayety.
Midnight had past, when we broke up; towards two o'clock we got on
board the schooner and retired to rest. The next morning I returned to
my sails, but thought incessantly of my plan for escape, and how it
could be most prudently carried into execution, for the danger of such
an attempt was immense. I believed that I could possess myself of one
of the boats, but where could I find a companion to be depended upon?
Yet such a one was absolutely necessary. I could never row alone for
five or six leagues, which was the shortest distance that would place
me out of reach of the pirates. Whether I should confide in the
steward, I could not exactly decide. Imagine my astonishment when the
honest fellow came to me while the captain was taking his afternoon's
nap in the cabin, and began gently to whisper in my ear.
"My friend, we must fly. In a few days there will be horrible work on
board here; a new conspiracy has been formed against the captain, and
his death is inevitable. We must seize the first opportunity to get
away. I know these waters well, for I was born upon the Cuban coast.
You know that quantities of fishing boats come every evening to
exchange their fish for brandy, and their owners often remain all
night on board, while their boats are floating by the side of the
vessel. My plan is to get into one of these about midnight, and trust
ourselves to the wind and the current, until the next morning, when we
can find our way to Havana."
"Well, my honest friend," I replied, "I agree with you entirely; in
this way we cannot fail to succeed. We will, therefore, hold ourselves
in readiness any day, and God will not forsake us in our hour of
Thus we separated.
When the captain awoke he complained of violent pain in his limbs, and
I saw clearly that a fever had attacked him. With his consent, I
opened a vein and took from him thirteen ounces of blood. His bed was
placed on the forward deck, and an awning spread above it, for the
cabin was too close and hot. I left him for the night and prescribed
almond milk and orange flower water.
It was about sunset, the weather was sultry, and towards the south
masses of clouds were forming, which betokened a storm. The sea, too,
began to be disturbed. Two fishing boats, that had ventured too far
into the open sea, came alongside and asked to be allowed to lodge on
board for the night. The lieutenant granted their request, after
conferring with the captain, and told them to make fast their boats to
the stern of the vessel. They did so, and came on board, bringing with
them a large basket of the fish that they had caught.
After they had presented the captain and lieutenant with the two
finest fish in their basket, they exchanged the rest for rum and
They took two of the dozen great bottles they received to treat the
crew with. The captain, who had no appetite, gave up his fish to the
crew, and the lieutenant invited his comrades and me to share his with
When the steward came to receive the fish, I said to him, with
peculiar emphasis: "Well, steward! now or never! display your art!"
He understood me perfectly.
"Yes, indeed, Senor," he replied, significantly, "I will make an
English sauce for the gentlemen, such as they cannot find in all
He went out, and I went to inquire after the captain.
"I feel much better," he replied to my inquiries; "only give me
I retired to the cabin, wrote down what I wanted upon a card, and
sent it to the steward. I soon received two dozen oranges and sweet
lemons, a great bottle of Canary, half a loaf of bread, a pound of
sugar, three spoons full of East India cinnamon, and a bottle of old
Malaga wine. From these I prepared most artistically, a strong,
delicious drink. I mixed with it, finally, one hundred and fifty drops
of opium that I took from the medicine chest. The dose was rather
large, but I had to do, not with men, but with beasts. After I had
poured it all into a large bowl, I carried it to the captain, who
immediately took ten or twelve spoons full of it, and was quite
delighted; I told him that he might drink as much of it as he
"Well," he said, kindly, "since you are so skilful, go and get two
dozen bottles of Bordeaux; you can share them with the officers."
I thanked him and turned to go.
"Stop!" he cried, "if I am well my men shall feel well too; they have
been grumbling for several days; I'll moisten their throats with rum;
we're perfectly safe here; tell the steward to roll a barrel on deck;
they shall drink until they can't stand."
The storm had, in the meantime, blown over; the sea was placid, and
the full moon was rising gloriously. The table was already spread; I
hastened to the cabin, taking with me the laudanum bottle from the
medicine chest, out of which I poured a stupefying dose into the
rum-cask and into every bottle of Bordeaux, except the one destined
for my own use, which I marked by a cut in the cork. Then I gave the
captain's orders to the steward, who immediately obeyed them, and the
crew expressed their gratitude by three cheers and a "Long live the
I now placed the bottles of Bordeaux upon the table so that the one I
had marked stood by my plate. Eight o'clock struck during these
preparations; supper was brought and we immediately took our places.
The crew lay about on the deck, and seemed very good humored. When the
keenness of their appetite was appeased, they began to drink, and the
officers broke the necks of the bottles of Bordeaux.
I did not neglect the captain meanwhile; he was very well content, for
he had already emptied half the bowl. I perceived that the laudanum
was taking effect upon all, and when I returned to the officers I
found them all very much excited. They were relating their various
exploits so noisily that scarcely a word could be heard. On deck the
wildest confusion reigned, and the sailors were shouting their
horrible pirate songs. The noise lasted about a half an hour and then
grew fainter and fainter till it ceased entirely; the opium had done
its duty; all lay buried in profound slumber, just where they had been
The steward and I delayed not an instant in taking advantage of this
favourable moment. We immediately put into one of the fishing boats, a
cask of water, a brandy flask, a ham and some other provisions, and
then provided ourselves with the necessary clothes. I put on my
overcoat, into which I had sewed a considerable number of gold-pieces;
took a pocket compass, and a good spy glass, and was in the boat in
less than five seconds. The steward threw down a bundle and followed
We quickly cut the rope that fastened us to the hated schooner, put up
the sail, and as the wind was favourable, were soon out of sight of
her. We got into the current and shot along like an arrow. I was
rather terrified when the moon set, but the stars shone brightly, and
the steward was indeed well acquainted with those waters. When the sun
rose, we were not more than five leagues from Havana, and as the wind
and current continued to be favorable, we sailed into port a little
after nine o'clock, heard the bells ringing, and the great city with
its threatening fortifications and forest of masts lay before us. We
landed, and before a half an hour had elapsed, were in the house of
the English consul, relating to him our wonderful escape from the
pirates, whom I had served, much against my will, for more than a
Two days afterwards, an English frigate set sail for home. I took my
passage in it, and after a short, prosperous voyage, landed at
Plymouth, my native town.
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