The author of this narrative cannot recall that, in any history
of the famous pirates, he has ever read a detailed and sufficient
account of the life and death of Capt. John Scarfield. Doubtless
some data concerning his death and the destruction of his
schooner might be gathered from the report of Lieutenant
Mainwaring, now filed in the archives of the Navy Department, out
beyond such bald and bloodless narrative the author knows of
nothing, unless it be the little chap-book history published by
Isaiah Thomas in Newburyport about the year 1821-22, entitled, "A
True History of the Life and Death of Captain Jack Scarfield."
This lack of particularity in the history of one so notable in
his profession it is the design of the present narrative in a
measure to supply, and, if the author has seen fit to cast it in
the form of a fictional story, it is only that it may make more
easy reading for those who see fit to follow the tale from this
to its conclusion.
ELEAZER COOPER, or Captain Cooper, as was his better-known title
in Philadelphia, was a prominent member of the Society of
Friends. He was an overseer of the meeting and an occasional
speaker upon particular occasions. When at home from one of his
many voyages he never failed to occupy his seat in the meeting
both on First Day and Fifth Day, and he was regarded by his
fellow townsmen as a model of business integrity and of domestic
More incidental to this history, however, it is to be narrated
that Captain Cooper was one of those trading skippers who carried
their own merchandise in their own vessels which they sailed
themselves, and on whose decks they did their own bartering. His
vessel was a swift, large schooner, the Eliza Cooper, of
Philadelphia, named for his wife. His cruising grounds were the
West India Islands, and his merchandise was flour and corn meal
ground at the Brandywine Mills at Wilmington, Delaware.
During the War of 1812 he had earned, as was very well known, an
extraordinary fortune in this trading; for flour and corn meal
sold at fabulous prices in the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Danish
islands, cut off, as they were, from the rest of the world by the
The running of this blockade was one of the most hazardous
maritime ventures possible, but Captain Cooper had met with such
unvaried success, and had sold his merchandise at such incredible
profit that, at the end of the war, he found himself to have
become one of the wealthiest merchants of his native city.
It was known at one time that his balance in the Mechanics' Bank
was greater than that of any other individual depositor upon the
books, and it was told of him that he had once deposited in the
bank a chest of foreign silver coin, the exchanged value of which,
when translated into American currency, was upward of forty-two
thousand dollars--a prodigious sum of money in those days.
In person, Captain Cooper was tall and angular of frame. His face
was thin and severe, wearing continually an unsmiling, mask-like
expression of continent and unruffled sobriety. His manner was
dry and taciturn, and his conduct and life were measured to the
most absolute accord with the teachings of his religious belief.
He lived in an old-fashioned house on Front Street below
Spruce--as pleasant, cheerful a house as ever a trading captain
could return to. At the back of the house a lawn sloped steeply
down toward the river. To the south stood the wharf and
storehouses; to the north an orchard and kitchen garden bloomed
with abundant verdure. Two large chestnut trees sheltered the
porch and the little space of lawn, and when you sat under them
in the shade you looked down the slope between two rows of box
bushes directly across the shining river to the Jersey shore.
At the time of our story--that is, about the year 1820--this
property had increased very greatly in value, but it was the old
home of the Coopers, as Eleazer Cooper was entirely rich enough
to indulge his fancy in such matters. Accordingly, as he chose to
live in the same house where his father and his grandfather had
dwelt before him, he peremptorily, if quietly, refused all offers
looking toward the purchase of the lot of ground--though it was
now worth five or six times its former value.
As was said, it was a cheerful, pleasant home, impressing you
when you entered it with the feeling of spotless and
all-pervading cleanliness--a cleanliness that greeted you in the
shining brass door-knocker; that entertained you in the sitting
room with its stiff, leather-covered furniture, the brass-headed
tacks whereof sparkled like so many stars--a cleanliness that
bade you farewell in the spotless stretch of sand- sprinkled
hallway, the wooden floor of which was worn into knobs around the
nail heads by the countless scourings and scrubbings to which it
had been subjected and which left behind them an all-pervading
faint, fragrant odor of soap and warm water.
Eleazer Cooper and his wife were childless, but one inmate made
the great, silent, shady house bright with life. Lucinda
Fairbanks, a niece of Captain Cooper's by his only sister, was a
handsome, sprightly girl of eighteen or twenty, and a great
favorite in the Quaker society of the city.
It remains only to introduce the final and, perhaps, the most
important actor of the narrative Lieut. James Mainwaring. During
the past twelve months or so he had been a frequent visitor at
the Cooper house. At this time he was a broad-shouldered,
red-cheeked, stalwart fellow of twenty- six or twenty-eight. He
was a great social favorite, and possessed the added romantic
interest of having been aboard the Constitution when she fought
the Guerriere, and of having, with his own hands, touched the
match that fired the first gun of that great battle.
Mainwaring's mother and Eliza Cooper had always been intimate
friends, and the coming and going of the young man during his
leave of absence were looked upon in the house as quite a matter
of course. Half a dozen times a week he would drop in to execute
some little commission for the ladies, or, if Captain Cooper was
at home, to smoke a pipe of tobacco with him, to sip a dram of
his famous old Jamaica rum, or to play a rubber of checkers of an
evening. It is not likely that either of the older people was the
least aware of the real cause of his visits; still less did they
suspect that any passages of sentiment had passed between the
The truth was that Mainwaring and the young lady were very deeply
in love. It was a love that they were obliged to keep a profound
secret, for not only had Eleazer Cooper held the strictest sort
of testimony against the late war--a testimony so rigorous as to
render it altogether unlikely that one of so military a
profession as Mainwaring practiced could hope for his consent to
a suit for marriage, but Lucinda could not have married one not a
member of the Society of Friends without losing her own
birthright membership therein. She herself might not attach much
weight to such a loss of membership in the Society, but her fear
of, and her respect for, her uncle led her to walk very closely
in her path of duty in this respect. Accordingly she and
Mainwaring met as they could-- clandestinely--and the stolen
moments were very sweet. With equal secrecy Lucinda had, at the
request of her lover, sat for a miniature portrait to Mrs.
Gregory, which miniature, set in a gold medallion, Mainwaring,
with a mild, sentimental pleasure, wore hung around his neck and
beneath his shirt frill next his heart.
In the month of April of the year 1820 Mainwaring received orders
to report at Washington. During the preceding autumn the West
India pirates, and notably Capt. Jack Scarfield, had been more
than usually active, and the loss of the packet Marblehead
(which, sailing from Charleston, South Carolina, was never heard
of more) was attributed to them. Two other coasting vessels off
the coast of Georgia had been looted and burned by Scarfield, and
the government had at last aroused itself to the necessity of
active measures for repressing these pests of the West India waters.
Mainwaring received orders to take command of the Yankee, a
swift, light- draught, heavily armed brig of war, and to cruise
about the Bahama Islands and to capture and destroy all the
pirates' vessels he could there discover.
On his way from Washington to New York, where the Yankee was then
waiting orders, Mainwaring stopped in Philadelphia to bid good-by
to his many friends in that city. He called at the old Cooper
house. It was on a Sunday afternoon. The spring was early and
the weather extremely pleasant that day, being filled with a
warmth almost as of summer. The apple trees were already in full
bloom and filled all the air with their fragrance. Everywhere
there seemed to be the pervading hum of bees, and the drowsy,
tepid sunshine was very delightful.
At that time Eleazer was just home from an unusually successful
voyage to Antigua. Mainwaring found the family sitting under one
of the still leafless chestnut trees, Captain Cooper smoking his
long clay pipe and lazily perusing a copy of the National
Gazette. Eleazer listened with a great deal of interest to what
Mainwaring had to say of his proposed cruise. He himself knew a
great deal about the pirates, and, singularly unbending from his
normal, stiff taciturnity, he began telling of what he knew,
particularly of Captain Scarfield--in whom he appeared to take an
Vastly to Mainwaring's surprise, the old Quaker assumed the
position of a defendant of the pirates, protesting that the
wickedness of the accused was enormously exaggerated. He declared
that he knew some of the freebooters very well and that at the
most they were poor, misdirected wretches who had, by easy
gradation, slid into their present evil ways, from having been
tempted by the government authorities to enter into privateering
in the days of the late war. He conceded that Captain Scarfield
had done many cruel and wicked deeds, but he averred that he had
also performed many kind and benevolent actions. The world made
no note of these latter, but took care only to condemn the evil
that had been done. He acknowledged that it was true that the
pirate had allowed his crew to cast lots for the wife and the
daughter of the skipper of the Northern Rose, but there were none
of his accusers who told how, at the risk of his own life and the
lives of all his crew, he had given succor to the schooner
Halifax, found adrift with all hands down with yellow fever.
There was no defender of his actions to tell how he and his crew
of pirates had sailed the pest-stricken vessel almost into the
rescuing waters of Kingston harbor. Eleazer confessed that he
could not deny that when Scarfield had tied the skipper of the
Baltimore Belle naked to the foremast of his own brig he had
permitted his crew of cutthroats (who were drunk at the time) to
throw bottles at the helpless captive, who died that night of the
wounds he had received. For this he was doubtless very justly
condemned, but who was there to praise him when he had, at the
risk of his life and in the face of the authorities, carried a
cargo of provisions which he himself had purchased at Tampa Bay
to the Island of Bella Vista after the great hurricane of 1818?
In this notable adventure he had barely escaped, after a two
days' chase, the British frigate Ceres, whose captain, had a
capture been effected, would instantly have hung the unfortunate
man to the yardarm in spite of the beneficent mission he was in
the act of conducting.
In all this Eleazer had the air of conducting the case for the
defendant. As he talked he became more and more animated and
voluble. The light went out in his tobacco pipe, and a hectic
spot appeared in either thin and sallow cheek. Mainwaring sat
wondering to hear the severely peaceful Quaker preacher defending
so notoriously bloody and cruel a cutthroat pirate as Capt. Jack
Scarfield. The warm and innocent surroundings, the old brick
house looking down upon them, the odor of apple blossoms and the
hum of bees seemed to make it all the more incongruous. And still
the elderly Quaker skipper talked on and on with hardly an
interruption, till the warm sun slanted to the west and the day
began to decline.
That evening Mainwaring stayed to tea and when he parted from
Lucinda Fairbanks it was after nightfall, with a clear, round
moon shining in the milky sky and a radiance pallid and unreal
enveloping the old house, the blooming apple trees, the sloping
lawn and the shining river beyond. He implored his sweetheart to
let him tell her uncle and aunt of their acknowledged love and to
ask the old man's consent to it, but she would not permit him to
do so. They were so happy as they were. Who knew but what her
uncle might forbid their fondness? Would he not wait a little
longer? Maybe it would all come right after a while. She was so
fond, so tender, so tearful at the nearness of their parting that
he had not the heart to insist. At the same time it was with a
feeling almost of despair that he realized that he must now be
gone--maybe for the space of two years--without in all that time
possessing the right to call her his before the world.
When he bade farewell to the older people it was with a choking
feeling of bitter disappointment. He yet felt the pressure of
her cheek against his shoulder, the touch of soft and velvet lips
to his own. But what were such clandestine endearments compared
to what might, perchance, be his-- the right of calling her his
own when he was far away and upon the distant sea? And, besides,
he felt like a coward who had shirked his duty.
But he was very much in love. The next morning appeared in a
drizzle of rain that followed the beautiful warmth of the day
before. He had the coach all to himself, and in the damp and
leathery solitude he drew out the little oval picture from
beneath his shirt frill and looked long and fixedly with a fond
and foolish joy at the innocent face, the blue eyes, the red,
smiling lips depicted upon the satinlike, ivory surface.
For the better part of five months Mainwaring cruised about in
the waters surrounding the Bahama Islands. In that time he ran
to earth and dispersed a dozen nests of pirates. He destroyed no
less than fifteen piratical crafts of all sizes, from a large
half-decked whaleboat to a three-hundred-ton barkentine. The name
of the Yankee became a terror to every sea wolf in the western
tropics, and the waters of the Bahama Islands became swept almost
clean of the bloody wretches who had so lately infested it.
But the one freebooter of all others whom he sought--Capt. Jack
Scarfield--seemed to evade him like a shadow, to slip through his
fingers like magic. Twice he came almost within touch of the
famous marauder, both times in the ominous wrecks that the pirate
captain had left behind him. The first of these was the
water-logged remains of a burned and still smoking wreck that he
found adrift in the great Bahama channel. It was the Water
Witch, of Salem, but he did not learn her tragic story until, two
weeks later, he discovered a part of her crew at Port Maria, on
the north coast of Jamaica. It was, indeed, a dreadful story to
which he listened. The castaways said that they of all the
vessel's crew had been spared so that they might tell the
commander of the Yankee, should they meet him, that he might keep
what he found, with Captain Scarfield's compliments, who served
it up to him hot cooked.
Three weeks later he rescued what remained of the crew of the
shattered, bloody hulk of the Baltimore Belle, eight of whose
crew, headed by the captain, had been tied hand and foot and
heaved overboard. Again, there was a message from Captain
Scarfield to the commander of the Yankee that he might season
what he found to suit his own taste.
Mainwaring was of a sanguine disposition, with fiery temper. He
swore, with the utmost vehemence, that either he or John
Scarfield would have to leave the earth.
He had little suspicion of how soon was to befall the ominous
realization of his angry prophecy.
At that time one of the chief rendezvous of the pirates was the
little island of San Jose, one of the southernmost of the Bahama
group. Here, in the days before the coming of the Yankee, they
were wont to put in to careen and clean their vessels and to take
in a fresh supply of provisions, gunpowder, and rum, preparatory
to renewing their attacks upon the peaceful commerce circulating
up and down outside the islands, or through the wide stretches of
the Bahama channel.
Mainwaring had made several descents upon this nest of
freebooters. He had already made two notable captures, and it was
here he hoped eventually to capture Captain Scarfield himself.
A brief description of this one-time notorious rendezvous of
freebooters might not be out of place. It consisted of a little
settlement of those wattled and mud-smeared houses such as you
find through the West Indies. There were only three houses of a
more pretentious sort, built of wood. One of these was a
storehouse, another was a rum shop, and a third a house in which
dwelt a mulatto woman, who was reputed to be a sort of
left-handed wife of Captain Scarfield's. The population was
almost entirely black and brown. One or two Jews and a half
dozen Yankee traders, of hardly dubious honesty, comprised the
entire white population. The rest consisted of a mongrel
accumulation of negroes and mulattoes and half-caste Spaniards,
and of a multitude of black or yellow women and children. The
settlement stood in a bight of the beach forming a small harbor
and affording a fair anchorage for small vessels, excepting it
were against the beating of a southeasterly gale. The houses, or
cabins, were surrounded by clusters of coco palms and growths of
bananas, and a long curve of white beach, sheltered from the
large Atlantic breakers that burst and exploded upon an outer
bar, was drawn like a necklace around the semi-circle of
Such was the famous pirates' settlement of San Jose--a paradise
of nature and a hell of human depravity and wickedness--and it
was to this spot that Mainwaring paid another visit a few days
after rescuing the crew of the Baltimore Belle from her shattered
and sinking wreck.
As the little bay with its fringe of palms and its cluster of
wattle huts opened up to view, Mainwaring discovered a vessel
lying at anchor in the little harbor. It was a large and
well-rigged schooner of two hundred and fifty or three hundred
tons burden. As the Yankee rounded to under the stern of the
stranger and dropped anchor in such a position as to bring her
broadside battery to bear should the occasion require, Mainwaring
set his glass to his eye to read the name he could distinguish
beneath the overhang of her stern. It is impossible to describe
his infinite surprise when, the white lettering starting out in
the circle of the glass, he read, The Eliza Cooper, of
He could not believe the evidence of his senses. Certainly this
sink of iniquity was the last place in the world he would have
expected to have fallen in with Eleazer Cooper.
He ordered out the gig and had himself immediately rowed over to
the schooner. Whatever lingering doubts he might have
entertained as to the identity of the vessel were quickly
dispelled when he beheld Captain Cooper himself standing at the
gangway to meet him. The impassive face of the friend showed
neither surprise nor confusion at what must have been to him a
most unexpected encounter.
But when he stepped upon the deck of the Eliza Cooper and looked
about him, Mainwaring could hardly believe the evidence of his
senses at the transformation that he beheld. Upon the main deck
were eight twelve- pound carronade neatly covered with tarpaulin;
in the bow a Long Tom, also snugly stowed away and covered,
directed a veiled and muzzled snout out over the bowsprit.
It was entirely impossible for Mainwaring to conceal his
astonishment at so unexpected a sight, and whether or not his own
thoughts lent color to his imagination, it seemed to him that
Eleazer Cooper concealed under the immobility of his countenance
no small degree of confusion.
After Captain Cooper had led the way into the cabin and he and
the younger man were seated over a pipe of tobacco and the
invariable bottle of fine old Jamaica rum, Mainwaring made no
attempt to refrain from questioning him as to the reason for this
singular and ominous transformation.
"I am a man of peace, James Mainwaring," Eleazer replied, "but
there are men of blood in these waters, and an appearance of
great strength is of use to protect the innocent from the wicked.
If I remained in appearance the peaceful trader I really am, how
long does thee suppose I could remain unassailed in this place?"
It occurred to Mainwaring that the powerful armament he had
beheld was rather extreme to be used merely as a preventive. He
smoked for a while in silence and then he suddenly asked the
other point-blank whether, if it came to blows with such a one as
Captain Scarfield, would he make a fight of it?
The Quaker trading captain regarded him for a while in silence.
His look, it seemed to Mainwaring, appeared to be dubitative as
to how far he dared to be frank. "Friend James," he said at
last, "I may as well acknowledge that my officers and crew are
somewhat worldly. Of a truth they do not hold the same testimony
as I. I am inclined to think that if it came to the point of a
broil with those men of iniquity, my individual voice cast for
peace would not be sufficient to keep my crew from meeting
violence with violence. As for myself, thee knows who I am and
what is my testimony in these matters."
Mainwaring made no comment as to the extremely questionable
manner in which the Quaker proposed to beat the devil about the
stump. Presently he asked his second question:
"And might I inquire," he said, "what you are doing here
you find it necessary to come at all into such a wicked,
dangerous place as this?"
"Indeed, I knew thee would ask that question of me," said the
Friend, "and I will be entirely frank with thee. These men of
blood are, after all, but human beings, and as human beings they
need food. I have at present upon this vessel upward of two
hundred and fifty barrels of flour which will bring a higher
price here than anywhere else in the West Indies. To be entirely
frank with thee, I will tell thee that I was engaged in making a
bargain for the sale of the greater part of my merchandise when
the news of thy approach drove away my best customer."
Mainwaring sat for a while in smoking silence. What the other
had told him explained many things he had not before understood.
It explained why Captain Cooper got almost as much for his flour
and corn meal now that peace had been declared as he had obtained
when the war and the blockade were in full swing. It explained
why he had been so strong a defender of Captain Scarfield and the
pirates that afternoon in the garden. Meantime, what was to be
done? Eleazer confessed openly that he dealt with the pirates.
What now was his--Mainwaring's--duty in the case? Was the cargo
of the Eliza Cooper contraband and subject to confiscation? And
then another question framed itself in his mind: Who was this
customer whom his approach had driven away?
As though he had formulated the inquiry into speech the other
began directly to speak of it. "I know," he said, "that in
thee will ask me who was this customer of whom I have just
now spoken. I have no desire to conceal his name from thee. It was
the man who is known as Captain Jack or Captain John Scarfield."
Mainwaring fairly started from his seat. "The devil you say!"
cried. "And how long has it been," he asked, "since he left
The Quaker skipper carefully refilled his pipe, which be had by
now smoked out. "I would judge," he said, "that it is a matter
of four or five hours since news was brought overland by means of
swift runners of thy approach. Immediately the man of wickedness
disappeared." Here Eleazer set the bowl of his pipe to the
candle flame and began puffing out voluminous clouds of smoke.
"I would have thee understand, James Mainwaring," he resumed,
"that I am no friend of this wicked and sinful man. His safety
is nothing to me. It is only a question of buying upon his part
and of selling upon mine. If it is any satisfaction to thee I
will heartily promise to bring thee news if I hear anything of
the man of Belial. I may furthermore say that I think it is
likely thee will have news more or less directly of him within
the space of a day. If this should happen, however, thee will
have to do thy own fighting without help from me, for I am no man
of combat nor of blood and will take no hand in it either way."
It struck Mainwaring that the words contained some meaning that
did not appear upon the surface. This significance struck him as
so ambiguous that when he went aboard the Yankee he confided as
much of his suspicions as he saw fit to his second in command,
Lieutenant Underwood. As night descended he had a double watch
set and had everything prepared to repel any attack or surprise
that might be attempted.
Nighttime in the tropics descends with a surprising rapidity. At
one moment the earth is shining with the brightness of the
twilight; the next, as it were, all things are suddenly swallowed
into a gulf of darkness. The particular night of which this story
treats was not entirely clear; the time of year was about the
approach of the rainy season, and the tepid, tropical clouds
added obscurity to the darkness of the sky, so that the night
fell with even more startling quickness than usual. The blackness
was very dense. Now and then a group of drifting stars swam out
of a rift in the vapors, but the night was curiously silent and
of a velvety darkness.
As the obscurity had deepened, Mainwaring had ordered lanthorns
to be lighted and slung to the shrouds and to the stays, and the
faint yellow of their illumination lighted the level white of the
snug little war vessel, gleaming here and there in a starlike
spark upon the brass trimmings and causing the rows of cannons to
assume curiously gigantic proportions.
For some reason Mainwaring was possessed by a strange, uneasy
feeling. He walked restlessly up and down the deck for a time,
and then, still full of anxieties for he knew not what, went into
his cabin to finish writing up his log for the day. He
unstrapped his cutlass and laid it upon the table, lighted his
pipe at the lanthorn and was about preparing to lay aside his
coat when word was brought to him that the captain of the trading
schooner was come alongside and had some private information to
communicate to him.
Mainwaring surmised in an instant that the trader's visit related
somehow to news of Captain Scarfield, and as immediately, in the
relief of something positive to face, all of his feeling of
restlessness vanished like a shadow of mist. He gave orders that
Captain Cooper should be immediately shown into the cabin, and in
a few moments the tall, angular form of the Quaker skipper
appeared in the narrow, lanthorn-lighted space.
Mainwaring at once saw that his visitor was strangely agitated
and disturbed. He had taken off his hat, and shining beads of
perspiration had gathered and stood clustered upon his forehead.
He did not reply to Mainwaring's greeting; he did not, indeed,
seem to hear it; but he came directly forward to the table and
stood leaning with one hand upon the open log book in which the
lieutenant had just been writing. Mainwaring had reseated himself
at the head of the table, and the tall figure of the skipper
stood looking down at him as from a considerable height.
"James Mainwaring," he said, "I promised thee to report if
news of the pirate. Is thee ready now to hear my news?"
There was something so strange in his agitation that it began to
infect Mainwaring with a feeling somewhat akin to that which
appeared to disturb his visitor. "I know not what you mean,
sir!" he cried, "by asking if I care to hear your news. At this
moment I would rather have news of that scoundrel than to have
anything I know of in the world."
"Thou would? Thou would?" cried the other, with mounting
agitation. "Is thee in such haste to meet him as all that? Very
well; very well, then. Suppose I could bring thee face to face
with him--what then? Hey? Hey? Face to face with him, James
The thought instantly flashed into Mainwaring's mind that the
pirate had returned to the island; that perhaps at that moment he
was somewhere near at hand.
"I do not understand you, sir," he cried. "Do you mean to
me that you know where the villain is? If so, lose no time in
informing me, for every instant of delay may mean his chance of
"No danger of that!" the other declared, vehemently. "No
of that! I'll tell thee where he is and I'll bring thee to him
quick enough!" And as he spoke he thumped his fist against the
open log book. In the vehemence of his growing excitement his
eyes appeared to shine green in the lanthorn light, and the sweat
that had stood in beads upon his forehead was now running in
streams down his face. One drop hung like a jewel to the tip of
his beaklike nose. He came a step nearer to Mainwaring and bent
forward toward him, and there was something so strange and
ominous in his bearing that the lieutenant instinctively drew
back a little where he sat.
"Captain Scarfield sent something to you," said Eleazer, almost
in a raucous voice, "something that you will be surprised to
see." And the lapse in his speech from the Quaker "thee"
plural "you" struck Mainwaring as singularly strange.
As he was speaking Eleazer was fumbling in a pocket of his
long-tailed drab coat, and presently he brought something forth
that gleamed in the lanthorn light.
The next moment Mainwaring saw leveled directly in his face the
round and hollow nozzle of a pistol.
There was an instant of dead silence and then, "I am the man you
seek!" said Eleazer Cooper, in a tense and breathless voice.
The whole thing had happened so instantaneously and unexpectedly
that for the moment Mainwaring sat like one petrified. Had a
thunderbolt fallen from the silent sky and burst at his feet he
could not have been more stunned. He was like one held in the
meshes of a horrid nightmare, and he gazed as through a mist of
impossibility into the lineaments of the well-known, sober face
now transformed as from within into the aspect of a devil. That
face, now ashy white, was distorted into a diabolical grin. The
teeth glistened in the lamplight. The brows, twisted into a
tense and convulsed frown, were drawn down into black shadows,
through which the eyes burned a baleful green like the eyes of a
wild animal driven to bay. Again he spoke in the same breathless
voice. "I am John Scarfield! Look at me, then, if you want to
see a pirate!" Again there was a little time of silence, through
which Mainwaring heard his watch ticking loudly from where it
hung against the bulkhead. Then once more the other began
speaking. "You would chase me out of the West Indies, would you?
G------ --you! What are you come to now? You are caught in your
own trap, and you'll squeal loud enough before you get out of it.
Speak a word or make a movement and I'll blow your brains out
against the partition behind you! Listen to what I say or you
are a dead man. Sing out an order instantly for my mate and my
bos'n to come here to the cabin, and be quick about it, for my
finger's on the trigger, and it's only a pull to shut your mouth
It was astonishing to Mainwaring, in afterward thinking about it
all, how quickly his mind began to recover its steadiness after
that first astonishing shock. Even as the other was speaking he
discovered that his brain was becoming clarified to a wonderful
lucidity; his thoughts were becoming rearranged, and with a
marvelous activity and an alertness he had never before
experienced. He knew that if he moved to escape or uttered any
outcry he would be instantly a dead man, for the circle of the
pistol barrel was directed full against his forehead and with the
steadiness of a rock. If he could but for an instant divert that
fixed and deadly attention he might still have a chance for
life. With the thought an inspiration burst into his mind and he
instantly put it into execution; thought, inspiration, and
action, as in a flash, were one. He must make the other turn
aside his deadly gaze, and instantly he roared out in a voice
that stunned his own ears: "Strike, bos'n! Strike, quick!"
Taken by surprise, and thinking, doubtless, that another enemy
stood behind him, the pirate swung around like a flash with his
pistol leveled against the blank boarding. Equally upon the
instant he saw the trick that had been played upon him and in a
second flash had turned again. The turn and return had occupied
but a moment of time, but that moment, thanks to the readiness of
his own invention, had undoubtedly saved Mainwaring's life. As
the other turned away his gaze for that brief instant Mainwaring
leaped forward and upon him. There was a flashing flame of fire
as the pistol was discharged and a deafening detonation that
seemed to split his brain. For a moment, with reeling senses, he
supposed himself to have been shot, the next he knew he had
escaped. With the energy of despair he swung his enemy around and
drove him with prodigious violence against the corner of the
table. The pirate emitted a grunting cry and then they fell
together, Mainwaring upon the top, and the pistol clattered with
them to the floor in their fall. Even as he fell, Mainwaring
roared in a voice of thunder, "All hands repel boarders!" And
then again, "All hands repel boarders!"
Whether hurt by the table edge or not, the fallen pirate
struggled as though possessed of forty devils, and in a moment or
two Mainwaring saw the shine of a long, keen knife that he had
drawn from somewhere about his person. The lieutenant caught him
by the wrist, but the other's muscles were as though made of
steel. They both fought in despairing silence, the one to carry
out his frustrated purposes to kill, the other to save his life.
Again and again Mainwaring felt that the knife had been thrust
against him, piercing once his arm, once his shoulder, and again
his neck. He felt the warm blood streaming down his arm and body
and looked about him in despair. The pistol lay near upon the
deck of the cabin. Still holding the other by the wrist as he
could, Mainwaring snatched up the empty weapon and struck once
and again at the bald, narrow forehead beneath him. A third blow
he delivered with all the force he could command, and then with a
violent and convulsive throe the straining muscles beneath him
relaxed and grew limp and the fight was won.
Through all the struggle he had been aware of the shouts of
voices, of trampling of feet and discharge of firearms, and the
thought came to him, even through his own danger, that the Yankee
was being assaulted by the pirates. As he felt the struggling
form beneath him loosen and dissolve into quietude, he leaped up,
and snatching his cutlass, which still lay upon the table, rushed
out upon the deck, leaving the stricken form lying twitching upon
the floor behind him.
It was a fortunate thing that he had set double watches and
prepared himself for some attack from the pirates, otherwise the
Yankee would certainly have been lost. As it was, the surprise
was so overwhelming that the pirates, who had been concealed in
the large whaleboat that had come alongside, were not only able
to gain a foothold upon the deck, but for a time it seemed as
though they would drive the crew of the brig below the hatches.
But as Mainwaring, streaming with blood, rushed out upon the
deck, the pirates became immediately aware that their own captain
must have been overpowered, and in an instant their desperate
energy began to evaporate. One or two jumped overboard; one, who
seemed to be the mate, fell dead from a pistol shot, and then, in
the turn of a hand, there was a rush of a retreat and a vision of
leaping forms in the dusky light of the lanthorns and a sound of
splashing in the water below.
The crew of the Yankee continued firing at the phosphorescent
wakes of the swimming bodies, but whether with effect it was
impossible at the time to tell.
The pirate captain did not die immediately. He lingered for
three or four days, now and then unconscious, now and then
semi-conscious, but always deliriously wandering. All the while
he thus lay dying, the mulatto woman, with whom he lived in this
part of his extraordinary dual existence, nursed and cared for
him with such rude attentions as the surroundings afforded. In
the wanderings of his mind the same duality of life followed him.
Now and then he would appear the calm, sober, self- contained,
well-ordered member of a peaceful society that his friends in his
faraway home knew him to be; at other times the nether part of
his nature would leap up into life like a wild beast, furious and
gnashing. At the one time he talked evenly and clearly of
peaceful things; at the other time he blasphemed and hooted with
Several times Mainwaring, though racked by his own wounds, sat
beside the dying man through the silent watches of the tropical
nights. Oftentimes upon these occasions as he looked at the thin,
lean face babbling and talking so aimlessly, he wondered what it
all meant. Could it have been madness--madness in which the
separate entities of good and bad each had, in its turn, a
perfect and distinct existence? He chose to think that this was
the case. Who, within his inner consciousness, does not feel
that same ferine, savage man struggling against the stern,
adamantine bonds of morality and decorum? Were those bonds burst
asunder, as it was with this man, might not the wild beast rush
forth, as it had rushed forth in him, to rend and to tear? Such
were the questions that Mainwaring asked himself. And how had it
all come about? By what easy gradations had the respectable
Quaker skipper descended from the decorum of his home life, step
by step, into such a gulf of iniquity? Many such thoughts passed
through Mainwaring's mind, and he pondered them through the still
reaches of the tropical nights while he sat watching the pirate
captain struggle out of the world he had so long burdened. At
last the poor wretch died, and the earth was well quit of one of
A systematic search was made through the island for the scattered
crew, but none was captured. Either there were some secret
hiding places upon the island (which was not very likely) or else
they had escaped in boats hidden somewhere among the tropical
foliage. At any rate they were gone.
Nor, search as he would, could Mainwaring find a trace of any of
the pirate treasure. After the pirate's death and under close
questioning, the weeping mulatto woman so far broke down as to
confess in broken English that Captain Scarfield had taken a
quantity of silver money aboard his vessel, but either she was
mistaken or else the pirates had taken it thence again and had
hidden it somewhere else.
Nor would the treasure ever have been found but for a most
fortuitous accident. Mainwaring had given orders that the Eliza
Cooper was to be burned, and a party was detailed to carry the
order into execution. At this the cook of the Yankee came
petitioning for some of the Wilmington and Brandywine flour to
make some plum duff upon the morrow, and Mainwaring granted his
request in so far that he ordered one of the men to knock open
one of the barrels of flour and to supply the cook's demands.
The crew detailed to execute this modest order in connection with
the destruction of the pirate vessel had not been gone a quarter
of an hour when word came back that the hidden treasure had been
Mainwaring hurried aboard the Eliza Cooper, and there in the
midst of the open flour barrel he beheld a great quantity of
silver coin buried in and partly covered by the white meal. A
systematic search was now made. One by one the flour barrels
were heaved up from below and burst open on the deck and their
contents searched, and if nothing but the meal was found it was
swept overboard. The breeze was whitened with clouds of flour,
and the white meal covered the surface of the ocean for yards
In all, upward of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars was
found concealed beneath the innocent flour and meal. It was no
wonder the pirate captain was so successful, when he could upon
an instant's notice transform himself from a wolf of the ocean to
a peaceful Quaker trader selling flour to the hungry towns and
settlements among the scattered islands of the West Indies, and
so carrying his bloody treasure safely into his quiet Northern home.
In concluding this part of the narrative it may be added that a
wide strip of canvas painted black was discovered in the hold of
the Eliza Cooper. Upon it, in great white letters, was painted
the name, "The Bloodhound." Undoubtedly this was used upon
occasions to cover the real and peaceful title of the trading schooner,
just as its captain had, in reverse, covered his sanguine and cruel life
by a thin sheet of morality and respectability.
This is the true story of the death of Capt. Jack Scarfield.
The Newburyport chap-book, of which I have already spoken, speaks
only of how the pirate disguised himself upon the ocean as a
Nor is it likely that anyone ever identified Eleazer Cooper with
the pirate, for only Mainwaring of all the crew of the Yankee was
exactly aware of the true identity of Captain Scarfield. All
that was ever known to the world was that Eleazer Cooper had been
killed in a fight with the pirates.
In a little less than a year Mainwaring was married to Lucinda
Fairbanks. As to Eleazer Cooper's fortune, which eventually came
into the possession of Mainwaring through his wife, it was many
times a subject of speculation to the lieutenant how it had been
earned. There were times when he felt well assured that a part of
it at least was the fruit of piracy, but it was entirely impossible
to guess how much more was the result of legitimate trading.
For a little time it seemed to Mainwaring that he should give it
all up, but this was at once so impracticable and so quixotic
that he presently abandoned it, and in time his qualms and
misdoubts faded away and he settled himself down to enjoy that
which had come to him through his marriage.
In time the Mainwarings removed to New York, and ultimately the
fortune that the pirate Scarfield had left behind him was used in
part to found the great shipping house of Mainwaring & Bigot,
whose famous transatlantic packet ships were in their time the
admiration of the whole world.
Room | Howard
Pyle's Book of Pirates