Pirate Life

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

least resistance.

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

thought of.

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

your fate."

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

nothing occurred.

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

these miscreants.


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?"

"Yes, Senor."

"You persist then in your obstinacy."

"Yes, Senor."

"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,

twenty doubloons.

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

noble profession!"

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

something strengthening."

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

me immediately.

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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