Together We Teach
Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.
Room | Howard
Pyle's Book of Pirates
Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates
Fiction, Fact & Fancy concerning
Buccaneers & Marooners
of the Spanish Main
By Howard Pyle
WITH THE BUCCANEERS
Being an Account of Certain Adventures that Befell Henry Mostyn
Under Capt. H. Morgan in the Year 1665-66
ALTHOUGH this narration has more particularly to do with the
taking of the Spanish vice admiral in the harbor of Porto Bello,
and of the rescue therefrom of Le Sieur Simon, his wife and
daughter (the adventure of which was successfully achieved by
Captain Morgan, the famous buccaneer), we shall, nevertheless,
premise something of the earlier history of Master Harry Mostyn,
whom you may, if you please, consider as the hero of the several
circumstances recounted in these pages.
In the year 1664 our hero's father embarked from Portsmouth, in
England, for the Barbados, where he owned a considerable sugar
plantation. Thither to those parts of America he transported with
himself his whole family, of whom our Master Harry was the fifth
of eight children--a great lusty fellow as little fitted for the
Church (for which he was designed) as could be. At the time of
this story, though not above sixteen years old, Master Harry
Mostyn was as big and well-grown as many a man of twenty, and of
such a reckless and dare-devil spirit that no adventure was too
dangerous or too mischievous for him to embark upon.
At this time there was a deal of talk in those parts of the
Americas concerning Captain Morgan, and the prodigious successes
he was having pirating against the Spaniards.
This man had once been an indentured servant with Mr. Rolls, a
sugar factor at the Barbados. Having served out his time, and
being of lawless disposition, possessing also a prodigious
appetite for adventure, he joined with others of his kidney, and,
purchasing a caravel of three guns, embarked fairly upon that
career of piracy the most successful that ever was heard of in
Master Harry had known this man very well while he was still with
Mr. Rolls, serving as a clerk at that gentleman's sugar wharf, a
tall, broad- shouldered, strapping fellow, with red cheeks, and
thick red lips, and rolling blue eyes, and hair as red as any
chestnut. Many knew him for a bold, gruff-spoken man, but no one
at that time suspected that he had it in him to become so famous
and renowned as he afterward grew to be.
The fame of his exploits had been the talk of those parts for
above a twelvemonth, when, in the latter part of the year 1665,
Captain Morgan, having made a very successful expedition against
the Spaniards into the Gulf of Campeche--where he took several
important purchases from the plate fleet--came to the Barbados,
there to fit out another such venture, and to enlist recruits.
He and certain other adventurers had purchased a vessel of some
five hundred tons, which they proposed to convert into a pirate
by cutting portholes for cannon, and running three or four
carronades across her main deck. The name of this ship, be it
mentioned, was the Good Samaritan, as ill-fitting a name as could
be for such a craft, which, instead of being designed for the
healing of wounds, was intended to inflict such devastation as
those wicked men proposed.
Here was a piece of mischief exactly fitted to our hero's tastes;
wherefore, having made up a bundle of clothes, and with not above
a shilling in his pocket, he made an excursion into the town to
seek for Captain Morgan. There he found the great pirate
established at an ordinary, with a little court of ragamuffins
and swashbucklers gathered about him, all talking very loud, and
drinking healths in raw rum as though it were sugared water.
And what a fine figure our buccaneer had grown, to be sure! How
different from the poor, humble clerk upon the sugar wharf! What
a deal of gold braid! What a fine, silver-hilled Spanish sword!
What a gay velvet sling, hung with three silver-mounted pistols!
If Master Harry's mind had not been made up before, to be sure
such a spectacle of glory would have determined it.
This figure of war our hero asked to step aside with him, and
when they had come into a corner, proposed to the other what he
intended, and that he had a mind to enlist as a gentleman
adventurer upon this expedition. Upon this our rogue of a
buccaneer captain burst out a-laughing, and fetching Master Harry
a great thump upon the back, swore roundly that he would make a
man of him, and that it was a pity to make a parson out of so
good a piece of stuff.
Nor was Captain Morgan less good than his word, for when the Good
Samaritan set sail with a favoring wind for the island of
Jamaica, Master Harry found himself established as one of the
Could you but have seen the town of Port Royal as it appeared in
the year 1665 you would have beheld a sight very well worth while
looking upon. There were no fine houses at that time, and no
great counting houses built of brick, such as you may find
nowadays, but a crowd of board and wattled huts huddled along the
streets, and all so gay with flags and bits of color that Vanity
Fair itself could not have been gayer. To this place came all the
pirates and buccaneers that infested those parts, and men shouted
and swore and gambled, and poured out money like water, and then
maybe wound up their merrymaking by dying of fever. For the sky
in these torrid latitudes is all full of clouds overhead, and as
hot as any blanket, and when the sun shone forth it streamed down
upon the smoking sands so that the houses were ovens and the
streets were furnaces; so it was little wonder that men died like
rats in a hole. But little they appeared to care for that; so
that everywhere you might behold a multitude of painted women and
Jews and merchants and pirates, gaudy with red scarfs and gold
braid and all sorts of odds and ends of foolish finery, all
fighting and gambling and bartering for that ill-gotten treasure
of the be-robbed Spaniard.
Here, arriving, Captain Morgan found a hearty welcome, and a
message from the governor awaiting him, the message bidding him
attend His Excellency upon the earliest occasion that offered.
Whereupon, taking our hero (of whom he had grown prodigiously
fond) along with him, our pirate went, without any loss of time,
to visit Sir Thomas Modiford, who was then the royal governor of
all this devil's brew of wickedness.
They found His Excellency seated in a great easy-chair, under the
shadow of a slatted veranda, the floor whereof was paved with
brick. He was clad, for the sake of coolness, only in his shirt,
breeches, and stockings, and he wore slippers on his feet. He
was smoking a great cigarro of tobacco, and a goblet of lime
juice and water and rum stood at his elbow on a table. Here, out
of the glare of the heat, it was all very cool and pleasant, with
a sea breeze blowing violently in through the slats, setting them
a-rattling now and then, and stirring Sir Thomas's long hair,
which he had pushed back for the sake of coolness.
The purport of this interview, I may tell you, concerned the
rescue of one Le Sieur Simon, who, together with his wife and
daughter, was held captive by the Spaniards.
This gentleman adventurer (Le Sieur Simon) had, a few years
before, been set up by the buccaneers as governor of the island
of Santa Catharina. This place, though well fortified by the
Spaniards, the buccaneers had seized upon, establishing
themselves thereon, and so infesting the commerce of those seas
that no Spanish fleet was safe from them. At last the Spaniards,
no longer able to endure these assaults against their commerce,
sent a great force against the freebooters to drive them out of
their island stronghold. This they did, retaking Santa Catharina,
together with its governor, his wife, and daughter, as well as
the whole garrison of buccaneers.
This garrison was sent by their conquerors, some to the galleys,
some to the mines, some to no man knows where. The governor
himself--Le Sieur Simon--was to be sent to Spain, there to stand
his trial for piracy.
The news of all this, I may tell you, had only just been received
in Jamaica, having been brought thither by a Spanish captain, one
Don Roderiguez Sylvia, who was, besides, the bearer of dispatches
to the Spanish authorities relating the whole affair.
Such, in fine, was the purport of this interview, and as our hero
and his captain walked back together from the governor's house to
the ordinary where they had taken up their inn, the buccaneer
assured his companion that he purposed to obtain those dispatches
from the Spanish captain that very afternoon, even if he had to
use force to seize them.
All this, you are to understand, was undertaken only because of
the friendship that the governor and Captain Morgan entertained
for Le Sieur Simon. And, indeed, it was wonderful how honest and
how faithful were these wicked men in their dealings with one
another. For you must know that Governor Modiford and Le Sieur
Simon and the buccaneers were all of one kidney--all taking a
share in the piracies of those times, and all holding by one
another as though they were the honestest men in the world. Hence
it was they were all so determined to rescue Le Sieur Simon from
Having reached his ordinary after his interview with the
governor, Captain Morgan found there a number of his companions,
such as usually gathered at that place to be in attendance upon
him--some, those belonging to the Good Samaritan; others, those
who hoped to obtain benefits from him; others, those ragamuffins
who gathered around him because he was famous, and because it
pleased them to be of his court and to be called his followers.
For nearly always your successful pirate had such a little court
Finding a dozen or more of these rascals gathered there, Captain
Morgan informed them of his present purpose that he was going to
find the Spanish captain to demand his papers of him, and
calling upon them to accompany him.
With this following at his heels, our buccaneer started off down
the street, his lieutenant, a Cornishman named Bartholomew Davis,
upon one hand and our hero upon the other. So they paraded the
streets for the best part of an hour before they found the
Spanish captain. For whether he had got wind that Captain Morgan
was searching for him, or whether, finding himself in a place so
full of his enemies, he had buried himself in some place of
hiding, it is certain that the buccaneers had traversed pretty
nearly the whole town before they discovered that he was lying at
a certain auberge kept by a Portuguese Jew. Thither they went,
and thither Captain Morgan entered with the utmost coolness and
composure of demeanor, his followers crowding noisily in at his
The space within was very dark, being lighted only by the doorway
and by two large slatted windows or openings in the front.
In this dark, hot place not over-roomy at the best--were gathered
twelve or fifteen villainous-appearing men, sitting at tables and
drinking together, waited upon by the Jew and his wife. Our hero
had no trouble in discovering which of this lot of men was
Captain Sylvia, for not only did Captain Morgan direct his glance
full of war upon him, but the Spaniard was clad with more
particularity and with more show of finery than any of the others
who were there.
Him Captain Morgan approached and demanded his papers, whereunto
the other replied with such a jabber of Spanish and English that
no man could have understood what he said. To this Captain Morgan
in turn replied that he must have those papers, no matter what it
might cost him to obtain them, and thereupon drew a pistol from
his sling and presented it at the other's head.
At this threatening action the innkeeper's wife fell a-screaming,
and the Jew, as in a frenzy, besought them not to tear the house
down about his ears.
Our hero could hardly tell what followed, only that all of a
sudden there was a prodigious uproar of combat. knives flashed
everywhere, and then a pistol was fired so close to his head that
he stood like one stunned, hearing some one crying out in a loud
voice, but not knowing whether it was a friend or a foe who had
been shot. Then another pistol shot so deafened what was left of
Master Harry's hearing that his ears rang for above an hour
afterward. By this time the whole place was full of gunpowder
smoke, and there was the sound of blows and oaths and outcrying
and the clashing of knives.
As Master Harry, who had no great stomach for such a combat, and
no very particular interest in the quarrel, was making for the
door, a little Portuguese, as withered and as nimble as an ape,
came ducking under the table and plunged at his stomach with a
great long knife, which, had it effected its object, would surely
have ended his adventures then and there. Finding himself in such
danger, Master Harry snatched up a heavy chair, and, flinging it
at his enemy, who was preparing for another attack, he fairly ran
for it out of the door, expecting every instant to feel the
thrust of the blade betwixt his ribs.
A considerable crowd had gathered outside, and others, hearing
the uproar, were coming running to join them. With these our hero
stood, trembling like a leaf, and with cold chills running up and
down his back like water at the narrow escape from the danger
that had threatened him.
Nor shall you think him a coward, for you must remember he was
hardly sixteen years old at the time, and that this was the first
affair of the sort he had encountered. Afterward, as you shall
learn, he showed that he could exhibit courage enough at a pinch.
While he stood there, endeavoring to recover his composure, the
while the tumult continued within, suddenly two men came running
almost together out of the door, a crowd of the combatants at
their heels. The first of these men was Captain Sylvia; the
other, who was pursuing him, was Captain Morgan.
As the crowd about the door parted before the sudden appearing of
these, the Spanish captain, perceiving, as he supposed, a way of
escape opened to him, darted across the street with incredible
swiftness toward an alleyway upon the other side. Upon this,
seeing his prey like to get away from him, Captain Morgan
snatched a pistol out of his sling, and resting it for an instant
across his arm, fired at the flying Spaniard, and that with so
true an aim that, though the street was now full of people, the
other went tumbling over and over all of a heap in the kennel,
where he lay, after a twitch or two, as still as a log.
At the sound of the shot and the fall of the man the crowd
scattered upon all sides, yelling and screaming, and the street
being thus pretty clear, Captain Morgan ran across the way to
where his victim lay, his smoking pistol still in his hand, and
our hero following close at his heels.
Our poor Harry had never before beheld a man killed thus in an
instant who a moment before had been so full of life and
activity, for when Captain Morgan turned the body over upon its
back he could perceive at a glance, little as he knew of such
matters, that the man was stone-dead. And, indeed, it was a
dreadful sight for him who was hardly more than a child. He stood
rooted for he knew not how long, staring down at the dead face
with twitching fingers and shuddering limbs. Meantime a great
crowd was gathering about them again. As for Captain Morgan, he
went about his work with the utmost coolness and deliberation
imaginable, unbuttoning the waistcoat and the shirt of the man he
had murdered with fingers that neither twitched nor shook. There
were a gold cross and a bunch of silver medals hung by a whipcord
about the neck of the dead man. This Captain Morgan broke away
with a snap, reaching the jingling baubles to Harry, who took
them in his nerveless hand and fingers that he could hardly close
upon what they held.
The papers Captain Morgan found in a wallet in an inner breast
pocket of the Spaniard's waistcoat. These he examined one by
one, and finding them to his satisfaction, tied them up again,
and slipped the wallet and its contents into his own pocket.
Then for the first time he appeared to observe Master Harry, who,
indeed, must have been standing, the perfect picture of horror
and dismay. Whereupon, bursting out a-laughing, and slipping the
pistol he had used back into its sling again, he fetched poor
Harry a great slap upon the back, bidding him be a man, for that
he would see many such sights as this.
But indeed, it was no laughing matter for poor Master Harry, for
it was many a day before his imagination could rid itself of the
image of the dead Spaniard's face; and as he walked away down
the street with his companions, leaving the crowd behind them,
and the dead body where it lay for its friends to look after, his
ears humming and ringing from the deafening noise of the pistol
shots fired in the close room, and the sweat trickling down his
face in drops, he knew not whether all that had passed had been
real, or whether it was a dream from which he might presently
The papers Captain Morgan had thus seized upon as the fruit of
the murder he had committed must have been as perfectly
satisfactory to him as could be, for having paid a second visit
that evening to Governor Modiford, the pirate lifted anchor the
next morning and made sail toward the Gulf of Darien. There,
after cruising about in those waters for about a fortnight
without falling in with a vessel of any sort, at the end of that
time they overhauled a caravel bound from Porto Bello to
Cartagena, which vessel they took, and finding her loaded with
nothing better than raw hides, scuttled and sank her, being then
about twenty leagues from the main of Cartagena. From the
captain of this vessel they learned that the plate fleet was then
lying in the harbor of Porto Bello, not yet having set sail
thence, but waiting for the change of the winds before embarking
for Spain. Besides this, which was a good deal more to their
purpose, the Spaniards told the pirates that the Sieur Simon, his
wife, and daughter were confined aboard the vice admiral of that
fleet, and that the name of the vice admiral was the Santa Maria
So soon as Captain Morgan had obtained the information he desired
he directed his course straight for the Bay of Santo Blaso, where
he might lie safely within the cape of that name without any
danger of discovery (that part of the mainland being entirely
uninhabited) and yet be within twenty or twenty-five leagues of
Having come safely to this anchorage, he at once declared his
intentions to his companions, which were as follows:
That it was entirely impossible for them to hope to sail their
vessel into the harbor of Porto Bello, and to attack the Spanish
vice admiral where he lay in the midst of the armed flota;
wherefore, if anything was to be accomplished, it must be
undertaken by some subtle design rather than by open-handed
boldness. Having so prefaced what he had to say, he now declared
that it was his purpose to take one of the ship's boats and to go
in that to Porto Bello, trusting for some opportunity to occur to
aid him either in the accomplishment of his aims or in the
gaining of some further information. Having thus delivered
himself, he invited any who dared to do so to volunteer for the
expedition, telling them plainly that he would constrain no man
to go against his will, for that at best it was a desperate
enterprise, possessing only the recommendation that in its
achievement the few who undertook it would gain great renown, and
perhaps a very considerable booty.
And such was the incredible influence of this bold man over his
companions, and such was their confidence in his skill and
cunning, that not above a dozen of all those aboard hung back
from the undertaking, but nearly every man desired to be taken.
Of these volunteers Captain Morgan chose twenty--among others our
Master Harry--and having arranged with his lieutenant that if
nothing was heard from the expedition at the end of three days he
should sail for Jamaica to await news, he embarked upon that
enterprise, which, though never heretofore published, was perhaps
the boldest and the most desperate of all those that have since
made his name so famous. For what could be a more unparalleled
undertaking than for a little open boat, containing but twenty
men, to enter the harbor of the third strongest fortress of the
Spanish mainland with the intention of cutting out the Spanish
vice admiral from the midst of a whole fleet of powerfully armed
vessels, and how many men in all the world do you suppose would
venture such a thing?
But there is this to be said of that great buccaneer: that if he
undertook enterprises so desperate as this, he yet laid his plans
so well that they never went altogether amiss. Moreover, the very
desperation of his successes was of such a nature that no man
could suspect that he would dare to undertake such things, and
accordingly his enemies were never prepared to guard against his
attacks. Aye, had he but worn the king's colors and served under
the rules of honest war, he might have become as great and as
renowned as Admiral Blake himself.
But all that is neither here nor there; what I have to tell you
now is that Captain Morgan in this open boat with his twenty
mates reached the Cape of Salmedina toward the fall of day.
Arriving within view of the harbor they discovered the plate
fleet at anchor, with two men-of-war and an armed galley riding
as a guard at the mouth of the harbor, scarce half a league
distant from the other ships. Having spied the fleet in this
posture, the pirates presently pulled down their sails and rowed
along the coast, feigning to be a Spanish vessel from Nombre de
Dios. So hugging the shore, they came boldly within the harbor,
upon the opposite side of which you might see the fortress a
considerable distance away.
Being now come so near to the consummation of their adventure,
Captain Morgan required every man to make an oath to stand by him
to the last, whereunto our hero swore as heartily as any man
aboard, although his heart, I must needs confess, was beating at
a great rate at the approach of what was to happen. Having thus
received the oaths of all his followers, Captain Morgan commanded
the surgeon of the expedition that, when the order was given, he,
the medico, was to bore six holes in the boat, so that, it
sinking under them, they might all be compelled to push forward,
with no chance of retreat. And such was the ascendancy of this
man over his followers, and such was their awe of him, that not
one of them uttered even so much as a murmur, though what he had
commanded the surgeon to do pledged them either to victory or to
death, with no chance to choose between. Nor did the surgeon
question the orders he had received, much less did he dream of
By now it had fallen pretty dusk, whereupon, spying two fishermen
in a canoe at a little distance, Captain Morgan demanded of them
in Spanish which vessel of those at anchor in the harbor was the
vice admiral, for that he had dispatches for the captain thereof.
Whereupon the fishermen, suspecting nothing, pointed to them a
galleon of great size riding at anchor not half a league
Toward this vessel accordingly the pirates directed their course,
and when they had come pretty nigh, Captain Morgan called upon
the surgeon that now it was time for him to perform the duty that
had been laid upon him. Whereupon the other did as he was
ordered, and that so thoroughly that the water presently came
gushing into the boat in great streams, whereat all hands pulled
for the galleon as though every next moment was to be their last.
And what do you suppose were our hero's emotions at this time?
Like all in the boat, his awe of Captain Morgan was so great that
I do believe he would rather have gone to the bottom than have
questioned his command, even when it was to scuttle the boat.
Nevertheless, when he felt the cold water gushing about his feet
(for he had taken off his shoes and stockings) he became
possessed with such a fear of being drowned that even the Spanish
galleon had no terrors for him if he could only feel the solid
planks thereof beneath his feet.
Indeed, all the crew appeared to be possessed of a like dismay,
for they pulled at the oars with such an incredible force that
they were under the quarter of the galleon before the boat was
half filled with water.
Here, as they approached, it then being pretty dark and the moon
not yet having risen, the watch upon the deck hailed them,
whereupon Captain Morgan called out in Spanish that he was Capt.
Alvarez Mendazo, and that he brought dispatches for the vice
But at that moment, the boat being now so full of water as to be
logged, it suddenly tilted upon one side as though to sink
beneath them, whereupon all hands, without further orders, went
scrambling up the side, as nimble as so many monkeys, each armed
with a pistol in one hand and a cutlass in the other, and so were
upon deck before the watch could collect his wits to utter any
outcry or to give any other alarm than to cry out, "Jesu bless
us! who are these?" at which words somebody knocked him down with
the butt of a pistol, though who it was our hero could not tell
in the darkness and the hurry.
Before any of those upon deck could recover from their alarm or
those from below come up upon deck, a part of the pirates, under
the carpenter and the surgeon, had run to the gun room and had
taken possession of the arms, while Captain Morgan, with Master
Harry and a Portuguese called Murillo Braziliano, had flown with
the speed of the wind into the great cabin.
Here they found the captain of the vice admiral playing at cards
with the Sieur Simon and a friend, Madam Simon and her daughter
Captain Morgan instantly set his pistol at the breast of the
Spanish captain, swearing with a most horrible fierce countenance
that if he spake a word or made any outcry he was a dead man. As
for our hero, having now got his hand into the game, he performed
the same service for the Spaniard's friend, declaring he would
shoot him dead if he opened his lips or lifted so much as a
All this while the ladies, not comprehending what had occurred,
had sat as mute as stones; but now having so far recovered
themselves as to find a voice, the younger of the two fell to
screaming, at which the Sieur Simon called out to her to be
still, for these were friends who had come to help them, and not
enemies who had come to harm them.
All this, you are to understand, occupied only a little while,
for in less than a minute three or four of the pirates had come
into the cabin, who, together with the Portuguese, proceeded at
once to bind the two Spaniards hand and foot, and to gag them.
This being done to our buccaneer's satisfaction, and the Spanish
captain being stretched out in the corner of the cabin, he
instantly cleared his countenance of its terrors, and bursting
forth into a great loud laugh, clapped his hand to the Sieur
Simon's, which he wrung with the best will in the world. Having
done this, and being in a fine humor after this his first
success, he turned to the two ladies. "And this, ladies," said
he, taking our hero by the hand and presenting him, "is a young
gentleman who has embarked with me to learn the trade of piracy.
I recommend him to your politeness."
Think what a confusion this threw our Master Harry into, to be
sure, who at his best was never easy in the company of strange
ladies! You may suppose what must have been his emotions to find
himself thus introduced to the attention of Madam Simon and her
daughter, being at the time in his bare feet, clad only in his
shirt and breeches, and with no hat upon his head, a pistol in
one hand and a cutlass in the other. However, he was not left
for long to his embarrassments, for almost immediately after he
had thus far relaxed, Captain Morgan fell of a sudden serious
again, and bidding the Sieur Simon to get his ladies away into
some place of safety, for the most hazardous part of this
adventure was yet to occur, he quitted the cabin with Master
Harry and the other pirates (for you may call him a pirate now)
at his heels.
Having come upon deck, our hero beheld that a part of the Spanish
crew were huddled forward in a flock like so many sheep (the
others being crowded below with the hatches fastened upon them),
and such was the terror of the pirates, and so dreadful the name
of Henry Morgan, that not one of those poor wretches dared to
lift up his voice to give any alarm, nor even to attempt an
escape by jumping overboard.
At Captain Morgan's orders, these men, together with certain of
his own company, ran nimbly aloft and began setting the sails,
which, the night now having fallen pretty thick, was not for a
good while observed by any of the vessels riding at anchor about
Indeed, the pirates might have made good their escape, with at
most only a shot or two from the men-of-war, had it not then been
about the full of the moon, which, having arisen, presently
discovered to those of the fleet that lay closest about them what
was being done aboard the vice admiral.
At this one of the vessels hailed them, and then after a while,
having no reply, hailed them again. Even then the Spaniards
might not immediately have suspected anything was amiss but only
that the vice admiral for some reason best known to himself was
shifting his anchorage, had not one of the Spaniards aloft--but
who it was Captain Morgan was never able to discover--answered
the hail by crying out that the vice admiral had been seized by
At this the alarm was instantly given and the mischief done, for
presently there was a tremendous bustle through that part of the
fleet lying nighest the vice admiral--a deal of shouting of
orders, a beating of drums, and the running hither and thither of
But by this time the sails of the vice admiral had filled with a
strong land breeze that was blowing up the harbor, whereupon the
carpenter, at Captain Morgan's orders, having cut away both
anchors, the galleon presently bore away up the harbor, gathering
headway every moment with the wind nearly dead astern. The
nearest vessel was the only one that for the moment was able to
offer any hindrance. This ship, having by this time cleared away
one of its guns, was able to fire a parting shot against the
vice-admiral, striking her somewhere forward, as our hero could
see by a great shower of splinters that flew up in the moonlight.
At the sound of the shot all the vessels of the flota not yet
disturbed by the alarm were aroused at once, so that the pirates
had the satisfaction of knowing that they would have to run the
gantlet of all the ships between them and the open sea before
they could reckon themselves escaped.
And, indeed, to our hero's mind it seemed that the battle which
followed must have been the most terrific cannonade that was ever
heard in the world. It was not so ill at first, for it was some
while before the Spaniards could get their guns clear for action,
they being not the least in the world prepared for such an
occasion as this. But by and by first one and then another ship
opened fire upon the galleon, until it seemed to our hero that
all the thunders of heaven let loose upon them could not have
created a more prodigious uproar, and that it was not possible
that they could any of them escape destruction.
By now the moon had risen full and round, so that the clouds of
smoke that rose in the air appeared as white as snow. The air
seemed full of the hiss and screaming of shot, each one of which,
when it struck the galleon, was magnified by our hero's
imagination into ten times its magnitude from the crash which it
delivered and from the cloud of splinters it would cast up into
the moonlight. At last he suddenly beheld one poor man knocked
sprawling across the deck, who, as he raised his arm from behind
the mast, disclosed that the hand was gone from it, and that the
shirt sleeve was red with blood in the moonlight. At this sight
all the strength fell away from poor Harry, and he felt sure that
a like fate or even a worse must be in store for him.
But, after all, this was nothing to what it might have been in
broad daylight, for what with the darkness of night, and the
little preparation the Spaniards could make for such a business,
and the extreme haste with which they discharged their guns (many
not understanding what was the occasion of all this uproar),
nearly all the shot flew so wide of the mark that not above one
in twenty struck that at which it was aimed.
Meantime Captain Morgan, with the Sieur Simon, who had followed
him upon deck, stood just above where our hero lay behind the
shelter of the bulwark. The captain had lit a pipe of tobacco,
and he stood now in the bright moonlight close to the rail, with
his hands behind him, looking out ahead with the utmost coolness
imaginable, and paying no more attention to the din of battle
than though it were twenty leagues away. Now and then he would
take his pipe from his lips to utter an order to the man at the
wheel. Excepting this he stood there hardly moving at all, the
wind blowing his long red hair over his shoulders.
Had it not been for the armed galley the pirates might have got
the galleon away with no great harm done in spite of all this
cannonading, for the man-of-war which rode at anchor nighest to
them at the mouth of the harbor was still so far away that they
might have passed it by hugging pretty close to the shore, and
that without any great harm being done to them in the darkness.
But just at this moment, when the open water lay in sight, came
this galley pulling out from behind the point of the shore in
such a manner as either to head our pirates off entirely or else
to compel them to approach so near to the man-of-war that that
latter vessel could bring its guns to bear with more effect.
This galley, I must tell you, was like others of its kind such as
you may find in these waters, the hull being long and cut low to
the water so as to allow the oars to dip freely. The bow was
sharp and projected far out ahead, mounting a swivel upon it,
while at the stern a number of galleries built one above another
into a castle gave shelter to several companies of musketeers as
well as the officers commanding them.
Our hero could behold the approach of this galley from above the
starboard bulwarks, and it appeared to him impossible for them to
hope to escape either it or the man-of-war. But still Captain
Morgan maintained the same composure that he had exhibited all
the while, only now and then delivering an order to the man at
the wheel, who, putting the helm over, threw the bows of the
galleon around more to the larboard, as though to escape the bow
of the galley and get into the open water beyond. This course
brought the pirates ever closer and closer to the man-of-war,
which now began to add its thunder to the din of the battle, and
with so much more effect that at every discharge you might hear
the crashing and crackling of splintered wood, and now and then
the outcry or groaning of some man who was hurt. Indeed, had it
been daylight, they must at this juncture all have perished,
though, as was said, what with the night and the confusion and
the hurry, they escaped entire destruction, though more by a
miracle than through any policy upon their own part.
Meantime the galley, steering as though to come aboard of them,
had now come so near that it, too, presently began to open its
musketry fire upon them, so that the humming and rattling of
bullets were presently added to the din of cannonading.
In two minutes more it would have been aboard of them, when in a
moment Captain Morgan roared out of a sudden to the man at the
helm to put it hard a starboard. In response the man ran the
wheel over with the utmost quickness, and the galleon, obeying
her helm very readily, came around upon a course which, if
continued, would certainly bring them into collision with their
It is possible at first the Spaniards imagined the pirates
intended to escape past their stern, for they instantly began
backing oars to keep them from getting past, so that the water
was all of a foam about them, at the same time they did this they
poured in such a fire of musketry that it was a miracle that no
more execution was accomplished than happened.
As for our hero, methinks for the moment he forgot all about
everything else than as to whether or no his captain's maneuver
would succeed, for in the very first moment he divined, as by
some instinct, what Captain Morgan purposed doing.
At this moment, so particular in the execution of this nice
design, a bullet suddenly struck down the man at the wheel.
Hearing the sharp outcry, our Harry turned to see him fall
forward, and then to his hands and knees upon the deck, the blood
running in a black pool beneath him, while the wheel, escaping
from his hands, spun over until the spokes were all of a mist.
In a moment the ship would have fallen off before the wind had
not our hero, leaping to the wheel (even as Captain Morgan
shouted an order for some one to do so), seized the flying
spokes, whirling them back again, and so bringing the bow of the
galleon up to its former course.
In the first moment of this effort he had reckoned of nothing but
of carrying out his captain's designs. He neither thought of
cannon balls nor of bullets. But now that his task was
accomplished, he came suddenly back to himself to find the
galleries of the galley aflame with musket shots, and to become
aware with a most horrible sinking of the spirits that all the
shots therefrom were intended for him. He cast his eyes about
him with despair, but no one came to ease him of his task, which,
having undertaken, he had too much spirit to resign from carrying
through to the end, though he was well aware that the very next
instant might mean his sudden and violent death. His ears hummed
and rang, and his brain swam as light as a feather. I know not
whether he breathed, but he shut his eyes tight as though that
might save him from the bullets that were raining about him.
At this moment the Spaniards must have discovered for the first
time the pirates' design, for of a sudden they ceased firing, and
began to shout out a multitude of orders, while the oars lashed
the water all about with a foam. But it was too late then for
them to escape, for within a couple of seconds the galleon struck
her enemy a blow so violent upon the larboard quarter as nearly
to hurl our Harry upon the deck, and then with a dreadful,
horrible crackling of wood, commingled with a yelling of men's
voices, the galley was swung around upon her side, and the
galleon, sailing into the open sea, left nothing of her immediate
enemy but a sinking wreck, and the water dotted all over with
bobbing heads and waving hands in the moonlight.
And now, indeed, that all danger was past and gone, there were
plenty to come running to help our hero at the wheel. As for
Captain Morgan, having come down upon the main deck, he fetches
the young helmsman a clap upon the back. "Well, Master Harry,"
says he, "and did I not tell you I would make a man of you?"
Whereat our poor Harry fell a-laughing, but with a sad catch in
his voice, for his hands trembled as with an ague, and were as
cold as ice. As for his emotions, God knows he was nearer crying
than laughing, if Captain Morgan had but known it.
Nevertheless, though undertaken under the spur of the moment, I
protest it was indeed a brave deed, and I cannot but wonder how
many young gentlemen of sixteen there are to-day who, upon a like
occasion, would act as well as our Harry.
The balance of our hero's adventures were of a lighter sort than
those already recounted, for the next morning the Spanish captain
(a very polite and well-bred gentleman) having fitted him out
with a shift of his own clothes, Master Harry was presented in a
proper form to the ladies. For Captain Morgan, if he had felt a
liking for the young man before, could not now show sufficient
regard for him. He ate in the great cabin and was petted by all.
Madam Simon, who was a fat and red-faced lady, was forever
praising him, and the young miss, who was extremely well-
looking, was as continually making eyes at him.
She and Master Harry, I must tell you, would spend hours
together, she making pretense of teaching him French, although he
was so possessed with a passion of love that he was nigh
suffocated with it. She, upon her part, perceiving his emotions,
responded with extreme good nature and complacency, so that had
our hero been older, and the voyage proved longer, he might have
become entirely enmeshed in the toils of his fair siren. For all
this while, you are to understand, the pirates were making sail
straight for Jamaica, which they reached upon the third day in
In that time, however, the pirates had well-nigh gone crazy for
joy; for when they came to examine their purchase they discovered
her cargo to consist of plate to the prodigious sum of L180,000
in value. 'Twas a wonder they did not all make themselves drunk
for joy. No doubt they would have done so had not Captain Morgan,
knowing they were still in the exact track of the Spanish fleets,
threatened them that the first man among them who touched a drop
of rum without his permission he would shoot him dead upon the
deck. This threat had such effect that they all remained entirely
sober until they had reached Port Royal Harbor, which they did
about nine o'clock in the morning.
And now it was that our hero's romance came all tumbling down
about his ears with a run. For they had hardly come to anchor in
the harbor when a boat came from a man-of-war, and who should
come stepping aboard but Lieutenant Grantley (a particular friend
of our hero's father) and his own eldest brother Thomas, who,
putting on a very stern face, informed Master Harry that he was a
desperate and hardened villain who was sure to end at the
gallows, and that he was to go immediately back to his home
again. He told our embryo pirate that his family had nigh gone
distracted because of his wicked and ungrateful conduct. Nor
could our hero move him from his inflexible purpose. "What," says
our Harry, "and will you not then let me wait until our prize is
divided and I get my share?"
"Prize, indeed!" says his brother. "And do you then really
that your father would consent to your having a share in this
terrible bloody and murthering business?"
And so, after a good deal of argument, our hero was constrained
to go; nor did he even have an opportunity to bid adieu to his
inamorata. Nor did he see her any more, except from a distance,
she standing on the poop deck as he was rowed away from her, her
face all stained with crying. For himself, he felt that there
was no more joy in life; nevertheless, standing up in the stern
of the boat, he made shift, though with an aching heart, to
deliver her a fine bow with the hat he had borrowed from the
Spanish captain, before his brother bade him sit down again.
And so to the ending of this story, with only this to relate,
that our Master Harry, so far from going to the gallows, became
in good time a respectable and wealthy sugar merchant with an
English wife and a fine family of children, whereunto, when the
mood was upon him, he has sometimes told these adventures (and
sundry others not here recounted), as I have told them unto you.
Room | Howard
Pyle's Book of Pirates