Tales of Pirates and Blue Water

Tales of Pirates and Blue Water

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by Arthur Conan Doyle
     
 

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When the great wars of the Spanish Succession had been brought to an end
by the Treaty of Utrecht, the vast number of privateers which had been
fitted out by the contending parties found their occupation gone. Some
took to the more peaceful but less lucrative ways of ordinary commerce,
others were absorbed into the fishing-fleets, and a few of the more… See more details below

Overview

When the great wars of the Spanish Succession had been brought to an end
by the Treaty of Utrecht, the vast number of privateers which had been
fitted out by the contending parties found their occupation gone. Some
took to the more peaceful but less lucrative ways of ordinary commerce,
others were absorbed into the fishing-fleets, and a few of the more
reckless hoisted the Jolly Roger at the mizzen and the bloody flag at
the main, declaring a private war upon their own account against the
whole human race.

With mixed crews, recruited from every nation, they scoured the seas,
disappearing occasionally to careen in some lonely inlet, or putting in
for a debauch at some outlying port, where they dazzled the inhabitants
by their lavishness and horrified them by their brutalities.

On the Coromandel Coast, at Madagascar, in the African waters, and above
all in the West Indian and American seas, the pirates were a constant
menace; With an insolent luxury they would regulate their depredations
by the comfort of the seasons, harrying New England in the summer and
dropping south again to the tropical islands in the winter.

They were the more to be dreaded because they had none of that
discipline and restraint which made their predecessors, the Buccaneers,
both formidable and respectable. These Ishmaels of the sea rendered an
account to no man, and treated their prisoners according to the drunken
whim of the moment. Flashes of grotesque generosity alternated with
longer stretches of inconceivable ferocity, and the skipper who fell
into their hands might find himself dismissed with his cargo, after
serving as boon companion in some hideous debauch, or might sit at his
cabin table with his own nose and his lips served up with pepper and
salt in front of him. It took a stout seaman in those days to ply his
calling in the Caribbean Gulf.

Such a man was Captain John Scarrow, of the ship _Morning Star_, and yet
he breathed a long sigh of relief when he heard the splash of the
falling anchor and swung at his moorings within a hundred yards of the
guns of the citadel of Basseterre. St. Kitt's was his final port of
call, and early next morning his bowsprit would be pointed for Old
England. He had had enough of those robber-haunted seas. Ever since he
had left Maracaibo upon the Main, with his full lading of sugar and red
pepper, he had winced at every topsail which glimmered over the violet
edge of the tropical sea. He had coasted up the Windward Islands,
touching here and there, and assailed continually by stories of villainy
and outrage.

Captain Sharkey, of the 20-gun pirate barque, _Happy Delivery_, had passed
down the coast, and had littered it with gutted vessels and with
murdered men. Dreadful anecdotes were current of his grim pleasantries
and of his inflexible ferocity. From the Bahamas to the Main his
coal-black barque, with the ambiguous name, had been freighted with
death and many things which are worse than death. So nervous was Captain
Scarrow, with his new full-rigged ship and her full and valuable lading,
that he struck out to the west as far as Bird's Island to be out of the
usual track of commerce. And yet even in those solitary waters he had
been unable to shake off sinister traces of Captain Sharkey.

One morning they had raised a single skiff adrift upon the face of the
ocean. Its only occupant was a delirious seaman, who yelled hoarsely as
they hoisted him aboard, and showed a dried-up tongue like a black and
wrinkled fungus at the back of his mouth. Water and nursing soon
transformed him into the strongest and smartest sailor on the ship. He
was from Marblehead, in New England, it seemed, and was the sole
survivor of a schooner which had been scuttled by the dreadful Sharkey.

For a week Hiram Evanson, for that was his name, had been adrift beneath
a tropical sun. Sharkey had ordered the mangled remains of his late
captain to be thrown into the boat, "as provisions for the voyage," but
the seaman had at once committed them to the deep, lest the temptation
should be more than he could bear. He had lived upon his own huge frame,
until, at the last moment, the _Morning Star_ had found him in that
madness which is the precursor of such a death. It was no bad find for
Captain Scarrow, for, with a short-handed crew, such a seaman as this
big New Englander was a prize worth having. He vowed that he was the
only man whom Captain Sharkey had ever placed under an obligation.

Now that they lay under the guns of Basseterre, all danger from the
pirate was at an end, and yet the thought of him lay heavily upon the
seaman's mind as he watched the agent's boat shooting out from the
custom-house quay.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013684614
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/22/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB

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