Part 4 out of 4
Squire Hall thought for a while in silence. "Very well, Hiram,"
said he by and by, "if you'll do that. Your father left the
money, and I don't see that it's right for me to stay his son
from using it. But if it is lost, Hiram, and if Levi should come
back, it will go well to ruin ye."
So Hiram White invested seven hundred pounds in the Jamaica
venture and every farthing of it was burned by Blueskin, off
Sally Martin was said to be the prettiest girl in Lewes Hundred,
and when the rumor began to leak out that Hiram White was
courting her the whole community took it as a monstrous joke. It
was the common thing to greet Hiram himself with, "Hey, Hiram;
how's Sally?" Hiram never made answer to such salutation, but
went his way as heavily, as impassively, as dully as ever.
The joke was true. Twice a week, rain or shine, Hiram White
never failed to scrape his feet upon Billy Martin's doorstep.
Twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays, he never failed to take
his customary seat by the kitchen fire. He rarely said anything
by way of talk; he nodded to the farmer, to his wife, to Sally
and, when he chanced to be at home, to her brother, but he
ventured nothing further. There he would sit from half past
seven until nine o'clock, stolid, heavy, impassive, his dull eyes
following now one of the family and now another, but always
coming back again to Sally. It sometimes happened that she had
other company--some of the young men of the neighborhood. The
presence of such seemed to make no difference to Hiram; he bore
whatever broad jokes might be cracked upon him, whatever grins,
whatever giggling might follow those jokes, with the same patient
impassiveness. There he would sit, silent, unresponsive; then,
at the first stroke of nine o'clock, he would rise, shoulder his
ungainly person into his overcoat, twist his head into his
three-cornered hat, and with a "Good night, Sally, I be going
now," would take his departure, shutting the door carefully to
Never, perhaps, was there a girl in the world had such a lover
and such a courtship as Sally Martin.
It was one Thursday evening in the latter part of November, about
a week after Blueskin's appearance off the capes, and while the
one subject of talk was of the pirates being in Indian River
inlet. The air was still and wintry; a sudden cold snap had set
in and skims of ice had formed over puddles in the road; the
smoke from the chimneys rose straight in the quiet air and voices
sounded loud, as they do in frosty weather.
Hiram White sat by the dim light of a tallow dip, poring
laboriously over some account books. It was not quite seven
o'clock, and he never started for Billy Martin's before that
hour. As he ran his finger slowly and hesitatingly down the
column of figures, he heard the kitchen door beyond open and
shut, the noise of footsteps crossing the floor and the scraping
of a chair dragged forward to the hearth. Then came the sound of
a basket of corncobs being emptied on the smoldering blaze and
then the snapping and crackling of the reanimated fire. Hiram
thought nothing of all this, excepting, in a dim sort of way,
that it was Bob, the negro mill hand, or old black Dinah, the
housekeeper, and so went on with his calculations.
At last he closed the books with a snap and, smoothing down his
hair, arose, took up the candle, and passed out of the room into
the kitchen beyond.
A man was sitting in front of the corncob fire that flamed and
blazed in the great, gaping, sooty fireplace. A rough overcoat
was flung over the chair behind him and his hands were spread out
to the roaring warmth. At the sound of the lifted latch and of
Hiram's entrance he turned his head, and when Hiram saw his face
he stood suddenly still as though turned to stone. The face,
marvelously altered and changed as it was, was the face of his
stepbrother, Levi West. He was not dead; he had come home again.
For a time not a sound broke the dead, unbroken silence excepting
the crackling of the blaze in the fireplace and the sharp ticking
of the tall clock in the corner. The one face, dull and stolid,
with the light of the candle shining upward over its lumpy
features, looked fixedly, immovably, stonily at the other, sharp,
shrewd, cunning--the red wavering light of the blaze shining upon
the high cheek bones, cutting sharp on the nose and twinkling in
the glassy turn of the black, ratlike eyes. Then suddenly that
face cracked, broadened, spread to a grin. "I have come back
again, Hi," said Levi, and at the sound of the words the
speechless spell was broken.
Hiram answered never a word, but he walked to the fireplace, set
the candle down upon the dusty mantelshelf among the boxes and
bottles, and, drawing forward a chair upon the other side of the
hearth, sat down.
His dull little eyes never moved from his stepbrother's face.
There was no curiosity in his expression, no surprise, no wonder.
The heavy under lip dropped a little farther open and there was
snore than usual of dull, expressionless stupidity upon the
lumpish face; but that was all.
As was said, the face upon which he looked was strangely,
marvelously changed from what it had been when he had last seen
it nine years before, and, though it was still the face of Levi
West, it was a very different Levi West than the shiftless
ne'er-do-well who had run away to sea in the Brazilian brig that
long time ago. That Levi West had been a rough, careless,
happy-go-lucky fellow; thoughtless and selfish, but with nothing
essentially evil or sinister in his nature. The Levi West that
now sat in a rush-bottom chair at the other side of the fireplace
had that stamped upon his front that might be both evil and
sinister. His swart complexion was tanned to an Indian copper. On
one side of his face was a curious discoloration in the skin and
a long, crooked, cruel scar that ran diagonally across forehead
and temple and cheek in a white, jagged seam. This discoloration
was of a livid blue, about the tint of a tattoo mark. It made a
patch the size of a man's hand, lying across the cheek and the
side of the neck. Hiram could not keep his eyes from this mark
and the white scar cutting across it.
There was an odd sort of incongruity in Levi's dress; a pair of
heavy gold earrings and a dirty red handkerchief knotted loosely
around his neck, beneath an open collar, displaying to its full
length the lean, sinewy throat with its bony "Adam's apple," gave
to his costume somewhat the smack of a sailor. He wore a coat
that had once been of fine plum color--now stained and faded--too
small for his lean length, and furbished with tarnished lace.
Dirty cambric cuffs hung at his wrists and on his fingers were
half a dozen and more rings, set with stones that shone, and
glistened, and twinkled in the light of the fire. The hair at
either temple was twisted into a Spanish curl, plastered flat to
the cheek, and a plaited queue hung halfway down his back.
Hiram, speaking never a word, sat motionless, his dull little
eyes traveling slowly up and down and around and around his
Levi did not seem to notice his scrutiny, leaning forward, now
with his palms spread out to the grateful warmth, now rubbing
them slowly together. But at last he suddenly whirled his chair
around, rasping on the floor, and faced his stepbrother. He
thrust his hand into his capacious coat pocket and brought out a
pipe which he proceeded to fill from a skin of tobacco. "Well,
Hi," said he, "d'ye see I've come back home again?"
"Thought you was dead," said Hiram, dully.
Levi laughed, then he drew a red-hot coal out of the fire, put it
upon the bowl of the pipe and began puffing out clouds of pungent
smoke. "Nay, nay," said he; "not dead--not dead by odds. But
[puff] by the Eternal Holy, Hi, I played many a close game [puff]
with old Davy Jones, for all that."
Hiram's look turned inquiringly toward the jagged scar and Levi
caught the slow glance. "You're lookin' at this," said he,
running his finger down the crooked seam. "That looks bad, but
it wasn't so close as this"- -laying his hand for a moment upon
the livid stain. "A cooly devil off Singapore gave me that cut
when we fell foul of an opium junk in the China Sea four years
ago last September. This," touching the disfiguring blue patch
again, "was a closer miss, Hi. A Spanish captain fired a pistol
at me down off Santa Catharina. He was so nigh that the powder
went under the skin and it'll never come out again. ----his
eyes--he had better have fired the pistol into his own head that
morning. But never mind that. I reckon I'm changed, ain't I,
He took his pipe out of his mouth and looked inquiringly at
Hiram, who nodded.
Levi laughed. "Devil doubt it," said he, "but whether I'm
changed or no, I'll take my affidavy that you are the same old
half-witted Hi that you used to be. I remember dad used to say
that you hadn't no more than enough wits to keep you out of the
rain. And, talking of dad, Hi, I hearn tell he's been dead now
these nine years gone. D'ye know what I've come home for?"
Hiram shook his head.
"I've come for that five hundred pounds that dad left me when he
died, for I hearn tell of that, too."
Hiram sat quite still for a second or two and then he said, "I
put that money out to venture and lost it all."
Levi's face fell and he took his pipe out of his mouth, regarding
Hiram sharply and keenly. "What d'ye mean?" said he presently.
"I thought you was dead--and I put--seven hundred pounds--into
Nancy Lee- -and Blueskin burned her--off Currituck"
"Burned her off Currituck!" repeated Levi. Then suddenly a light
seemed to break upon his comprehension. "Burned by Blueskin!" he
repeated, and thereupon flung himself back in his chair and
burst into a short, boisterous fit of laughter. "Well, by the
Holy Eternal, Hi, if that isn't a piece of your tarnal luck.
Burned by Blueskin, was it?" He paused for a moment, as though
turning it over in his mind. Then he laughed again. "All the
same," said he presently, "d'ye see, I can't suffer for
Blueskin's doings. The money was willed to me, fair and true,
and you have got to pay it, Hiram White, burn or sink, Blueskin
or no Blueskin." Again he puffed for a moment or two in
reflective silence. "All the same, Hi," said he, once more
resuming the thread of talk, "I don't reckon to be too hard on
you. You be only half-witted, anyway, and I sha'n't be too hard
on you. I give you a month to raise that money, and while you're
doing it I'll jest hang around here. I've been in trouble, Hi,
d'ye see. I'm under a cloud and so I want to keep here, as quiet
as may be. I'll tell ye how it came about: I had a set-to with a
land pirate in Philadelphia, and somebody got hurt. That's the
reason I'm here now, and don't you say anything about it. Do you
Hiram opened his lips as though it was his intent to answer, then
seemed to think better of it and contented himself by nodding his
That Thursday night was the first for a six-month that Hiram
White did not scrape his feet clean at Billy Martin's doorstep.
Within a week Levi West had pretty well established himself among
his old friends and acquaintances, though upon a different
footing from that of nine years before, for this was a very
different Levi from that other. Nevertheless, he was none the
less popular in the barroom of the tavern and at the country
store, where he was always the center of a group of loungers. His
nine years seemed to have been crowded full of the wildest of
wild adventures and happenings, as well by land as by sea, and,
given an appreciative audience, he would reel off his yarns by
the hour, in a reckless, devil-may-care fashion that set agape
even old sea dogs who had sailed the western ocean since
boyhood. Then he seemed always to have plenty of money, and he
loved to spend it at the tavern tap-room, with a lavishness that
was at once the wonder and admiration of gossips.
At that time, as was said, Blueskin was the one engrossing topic
of talk, and it added not a little to Levi's prestige when it was
found that he had actually often seen that bloody, devilish
pirate with his own eyes. A great, heavy, burly fellow, Levi said
he was, with a beard as black as a hat--a devil with his sword
and pistol afloat, but not so black as he was painted when
ashore. He told of many adventures in which Blueskin figured and
was then always listened to with more than usual gaping interest.
As for Blueskin, the quiet way in which the pirates conducted
themselves at Indian River almost made the Lewes folk forget what
he could do when the occasion called. They almost ceased to
remember that poor shattered schooner that had crawled with its
ghastly dead and groaning wounded into the harbor a couple of
weeks since. But if for a while they forgot who or what Blueskin
was, it was not for long.
One day a bark from Bristol, bound for Cuba and laden with a
valuable cargo of cloth stuffs and silks, put into Lewes harbor
to take in water. The captain himself came ashore and was at the
tavern for two or three hours. It happened that Levi was there
and that the talk was of Blueskin. The English captain, a
grizzled old sea dog, listened to Levi's yarns with not a little
contempt. He had, he said, sailed in the China Sea and the
Indian Ocean too long to be afraid of any hog-eating Yankee
pirate such as this Blueskin. A junk full of coolies armed with
stink-pots was something to speak of, but who ever heard of the
likes of Blueskin falling afoul of anything more than a Spanish
canoe or a Yankee coaster?
Levi grinned. "All the same, my hearty," said he, "if I was you
I'd give Blueskin a wide berth. I hear that he's cleaned the
vessel that was careened awhile ago, and mebby he'll give you a
little trouble if you come too nigh him."
To this the Englishman only answered that Blueskin might be----,
and that the next afternoon, wind and weather permitting, he
intended to heave anchor and run out to sea.
Levi laughed again. "I wish I might be here to see what'll
happen," said he, "but I'm going up the river to-night to see a
gal and mebby won't be back again for three or four days."
The next afternoon the English bark set sail as the captain
promised, and that night Lewes town was awake until almost
morning, gazing at a broad red glare that lighted up the sky away
toward the southeast. Two days afterward a negro oysterman came
up from Indian River with news that the pirates were lying off
the inlet, bringing ashore bales of goods from their larger
vessel and piling the same upon the beach under tarpaulins. He
said that it was known down at Indian River that Blueskin had
fallen afoul of an English bark, had burned her and had murdered
the captain and all but three of the crew, who had joined with
The excitement over this terrible happening had only begun to
subside when another occurred to cap it. One afternoon a ship's
boat, in which were five men and two women, came rowing into
Lewes harbor. It was the longboat of the Charleston packet,
bound for New York, and was commanded by the first mate. The
packet had been attacked and captured by the pirates about ten
leagues south by east of Cape Henlopen. The pirates had come
aboard of them at night and no resistance had been offered.
Perhaps it was that circumstance that saved the lives of all, for
no murder or violence had been done. Nevertheless, officers,
passengers and crew had been stripped of everything of value and
set adrift in the boats and the ship herself had been burned. The
longboat had become separated from the others during the night
and had sighted Henlopen a little after sunrise.
It may be here said that Squire Hall made out a report of these
two occurrences and sent it up to Philadelphia by the mate of the
packet. But for some reason it was nearly four weeks before a
sloop of war was sent around from New York. In the meanwhile,
the pirates had disposed of the booty stored under the tarpaulins
on the beach at Indian River inlet, shipping some of it away in
two small sloops and sending the rest by wagons somewhere up the
Levi had told the English captain that he was going up-country to
visit one of his lady friends. He was gone nearly two weeks.
Then once more he appeared, as suddenly, as unexpectedly, as he
had done when he first returned to Lewes. Hiram was sitting at
supper when the door opened and Levi walked in, hanging up his
hat behind the door as unconcernedly as though he had only been
gone an hour. He was in an ugly, lowering humor and sat himself
down at the table without uttering a word, resting his chin upon
his clenched fist and glowering fixedly at the corn cake while
Dinah fetched him a plate and knife and fork.
His coming seemed to have taken away all of Hiram's appetite. He
pushed away his plate and sat staring at his stepbrother, who
presently fell to at the bacon and eggs like a famished wolf. Not
a word was said until Levi had ended his meal and filled his
pipe. "Look'ee, Hiram," said he, as he stooped over the fire and
raked out a hot coal. "Look'ee, Hiram! I've been to
Philadelphia, d'ye see, a-settlin' up that trouble I told you
about when I first come home. D'ye understand? D'ye remember?
D'ye get it through your skull?" He looked around over his
shoulder, waiting as though for an answer. But getting none, he
continued: "I expect two gentlemen here from Philadelphia
to-night. They're friends of mine and are coming to talk over the
business and ye needn't stay at home, Hi. You can go out
somewhere, d'ye understand?" And then he added with a grin, "Ye
can go to see Sally."
Hiram pushed back his chair and arose. He leaned with his back
against the side of the fireplace. "I'll stay at home," said he
"But I don't want you to stay at home, Hi," said Levi. "We'll
have to talk business and I want you to go!"
"I'll stay at home," said Hiram again.
Levi's brow grew as black as thunder. He ground his teeth
together and for a moment or two it seemed as though an explosion
was coming. But he swallowed his passion with a gulp. "You're
a----pig-headed, half-witted fool," said he. Hiram never so much
as moved his eyes. "As for you," said Levi, whirling round upon
Dinah, who was clearing the table, and glowering balefully upon
the old negress, "you put them things down and git out of here.
Don't you come nigh this kitchen again till I tell ye to. If I
catch you pryin' around may I be----, eyes and liver, if I don't
cut your heart out."
In about half an hour Levi's friends came; the first a little,
thin, wizened man with a very foreign look. He was dressed in a
rusty black suit and wore gray yarn stockings and shoes with
brass buckles. The other was also plainly a foreigner. He was
dressed in sailor fashion, with petticoat breeches of duck, a
heavy pea-jacket, and thick boots, reaching to the knees. He
wore a red sash tied around his waist, and once, as he pushed
back his coat, Hiram saw the glitter of a pistol butt. He was a
powerful, thickset man, low-browed and bull-necked, his cheek,
and chin, and throat closely covered with a stubble of blue-black
beard. He wore a red kerchief tied around his head and over it a
cocked hat, edged with tarnished gilt braid.
Levi himself opened the door to them. He exchanged a few words
outside with his visitors, in a foreign language of which Hiram
understood nothing. Neither of the two strangers spoke a word to
Hiram: the little man shot him a sharp look out of the corners
of his eyes and the burly ruffian scowled blackly at him, but
beyond that neither vouchsafed him any regard.
Levi drew to the shutters, shot the bolt in the outer door, and
tilted a chair against the latch of the one that led from the
kitchen into the adjoining room. Then the three worthies seated
themselves at the table which Dinah had half cleared of the
supper china, and were presently deeply engrossed over a packet
of papers which the big, burly man had brought with him in the
pocket of his pea-jacket. The confabulation was conducted
throughout in the same foreign language which Levi had used when
first speaking to them--a language quite unintelligible to
Hiram's ears. Now and then the murmur of talk would rise loud
and harsh over some disputed point; now and then it would sink
away to whispers.
Twice the tall clock in the corner whirred and sharply struck the
hour, but throughout the whole long consultation Hiram stood
silent, motionless as a stock, his eyes fixed almost unwinkingly
upon the three heads grouped close together around the dim,
flickering light of the candle and the papers scattered upon the
Suddenly the talk came to an end, the three heads separated and
the three chairs were pushed back, grating harshly. Levi rose,
went to the closet and brought thence a bottle of Hiram's apple
brandy, as coolly as though it belonged to himself. He set three
tumblers and a crock of water upon the table and each helped
As the two visitors departed down the road, Levi stood for a
while at the open door, looking after the dusky figures until
they were swallowed in the darkness. Then he turned, came in,
shut the door, shuddered, took a final dose of the apple brandy
and went to bed, without, since his first suppressed explosion,
having said a single word to Hiram.
Hiram, left alone, stood for a while, silent, motionless as ever,
then he looked slowly about him, gave a shake of the shoulders as
though to arouse himself, and taking the candle, left the room,
shutting the door noiselessly behind him.
This time of Levi West's unwelcome visitation was indeed a time
of bitter trouble and tribulation to poor Hiram White. Money was
of very different value in those days than it is now, and five
hundred pounds was in its way a good round lump--in Sussex County
it was almost a fortune. It was a desperate struggle for Hiram
to raise the amount of his father's bequest to his stepbrother.
Squire Hall, as may have been gathered, had a very warm and
friendly feeling for Hiram, believing in him when all others
disbelieved; nevertheless, in the matter of money the old man was
as hard and as cold as adamant. He would, he said, do all he
could to help Hiram, but that five hundred pounds must and should
be raised--Hiram must release his security bond. He would loan
him, he said, three hundred pounds, taking a mortgage upon the
mill. He would have lent him four hundred but that there was
already a first mortgage of one hundred pounds upon it, and he
would not dare to put more than three hundred more atop of that.
Hiram had a considerable quantity of wheat which he had bought
upon speculation and which was then lying idle in a Philadelphia
storehouse. This he had sold at public sale and at a very great
sacrifice; he realized barely one hundred pounds upon it. The
financial horizon looked very black to him; nevertheless, Levi's
five hundred pounds was raised, and paid into Squire Hall's
hands, and Squire Hall released Hiram's bond.
The business was finally closed on one cold, gray afternoon in
the early part of December. As Hiram tore his bond across and
then tore it across again and again, Squire Hall pushed back the
papers upon his desk and cocked his feet upon its slanting top.
"Hiram," said he, abruptly, "Hiram, do you know that Levi West is
forever hanging around Billy Martin's house, after that pretty
daughter of his?"
So long a space of silence followed the speech that the Squire
began to think that Hiram might not have heard him. But Hiram
had heard. "No," said he, "I didn't know it."
"Well, he is," said Squire Hall. "It's the talk of the whole
neighborhood. The talk's pretty bad, too. D'ye know that they
say that she was away from home three days last week, nobody knew
where? The fellow's turned her head with his sailor's yarns and
his traveler's lies."
Hiram said not a word, but he sat looking at the other in stolid
silence. "That stepbrother of yours," continued the old Squire
presently, "is a rascal--he is a rascal, Hiram, and I mis-doubt
he's something worse. I hear he's been seen in some queer places
and with queer company of late."
He stopped again, and still Hiram said nothing. "And look'ee,
Hiram," the old man resumed, suddenly, "I do hear that you be
courtin' the girl, too; is that so?"
"Yes," said Hiram, "I'm courtin' her, too."
"Tut! tut!" said the Squire, "that's a pity, Hiram. I'm afraid
your cakes are dough."
After he had left the Squire's office, Hiram stood for a while in
the street, bareheaded, his hat in his hand, staring unwinkingly
down at the ground at his feet, with stupidly drooping lips and
lackluster eyes. Presently he raised his hand and began slowly
smoothing down the sandy shock of hair upon his forehead. At
last he aroused himself with a shake, looked dully up and down
the street, and then, putting on his hat, turned and walked
slowly and heavily away.
The early dusk of the cloudy winter evening was settling fast,
for the sky was leaden and threatening. At the outskirts of the
town Hiram stopped again and again stood for a while in brooding
thought. Then, finally, he turned slowly, not the way that led
homeward, but taking the road that led between the bare and
withered fields and crooked fences toward Billy Martin's.
It would be hard to say just what it was that led Hiram to seek
Billy Martin's house at that time of day--whether it was fate or
ill fortune. He could not have chosen a more opportune time to
confirm his own undoing. What he saw was the very worst that his
Along the road, at a little distance from the house, was a
mock-orange hedge, now bare, naked, leafless. As Hiram drew near
he heard footsteps approaching and low voices. He drew back into
the fence corner and there stood, half sheltered by the stark
network of twigs. Two figures passed slowly along the gray of
the roadway in the gloaming. One was his stepbrother, the other
was Sally Martin. Levi's arm was around her, he was whispering
into her ear, and her head rested upon his shoulder.
Hiram stood as still, as breathless, as cold as ice. They stopped
upon the side of the road just beyond where he stood. Hiram's
eyes never left them. There for some time they talked together
in low voices, their words now and then reaching the ears of that
silent, breathless listener.
Suddenly there came the clattering of an opening door, and then
Betty Martin's voice broke the silence, harshly, shrilly:
"Sal!--Sal!--Sally Martin! You, Sally Martin! Come in yere.
Where be ye?"
The girl flung her arms around Levi's neck and their lips met in
one quick kiss. The next moment she was gone, flying swiftly,
silently, down the road past where Hiram stood, stooping as she
ran. Levi stood looking after her until she was gone; then he
turned and walked away whistling.
His whistling died shrilly into silence in the wintry distance,
and then at last Hiram came stumbling out from the hedge. His
face had never looked before as it looked then.
Hiram was standing in front of the fire with his hands clasped
behind his back. He had not touched the supper on the table.
Levi was eating with an appetite. Suddenly he looked over his
plate at his stepbrother.
"How about that five hundred pounds, Hiram?" said he. "I gave ye
a month to raise it and the month ain't quite up yet, but I'm
goin' to leave this here place day after to-morrow--by next day
at the furd'st--and I want the money that's mine."
"I paid it to Squire Hall to-day and he has it fer ye," said
Levi laid down his knife and fork with a clatter. "Squire Hall!"
said he, "what's Squire Hall got to do with it? Squire Hall
didn't have the use of that money. It was you had it and you
have got to pay it back to me, and if you don't do it, by G----,
I'll have the law on you, sure as you're born."
"Squire Hall's trustee--I ain't your trustee," said Hiram, in the
same dull voice.
"I don't know nothing about trustees," said Levi, "or anything
about lawyer business, either. What I want to know is, are you
going to pay me my money or no?"
"No," said Hiram, "I ain't--Squire Hall'll pay ye; you go to
Levi West's face grew purple red. He pushed back, his chair
grating harshly. "You--bloody land pirate!" he said, grinding his
teeth together. "I see through your tricks. You're up to
cheating me out of my money. You know very well that Squire Hall
is down on me, hard and bitter-- writin' his----reports to
Philadelphia and doing all he can to stir up everybody agin me
and to bring the bluejackets down on me. I see through your
tricks as clear as glass, but ye shatn't trick me. I'll have my
money if there's law in the land--ye bloody, unnatural thief ye,
who'd go agin our dead father's will!"
Then--if the roof had fallen in upon him, Levi West could not
have been more amazed--Hiram suddenly strode forward, and,
leaning half across the table with his fists clenched, fairly
glared into Levi's eyes. His face, dull, stupid, wooden, was now
fairly convulsed with passion. The great veins stood out upon his
temples like knotted whipcords, and when he spoke his voice was
more a breathless snarl than the voice of a Christian man.
"Ye'll have the law, will ye?" said he. "Ye'll--have the law,
will ye? You're afeared to go to law--Levi West--you try th'
law--and see how ye like it. Who 're you to call me thief--ye
bloody, murderin' villain ye! You're the thief--Levi West--you
come here and stole my daddy from me ye did. You make me
ruin--myself to pay what oughter to been mine then--ye ye steal
the gal I was courtin', to boot." He stopped and his lips rithed
for words to say. "I know ye," said he, grinding his teeth. "I
know ye! And only for what my daddy made me promise I'd a-had
you up to the magistrate's before this."
Then, pointing with quivering finger: "There's the door--you see
it! Go out that there door and don't never come into it again--if
ye do--or if ye ever come where I can lay eyes on ye again--by
th' Holy Holy I'll hale ye up to the Squire's office and tell all
I know and all I've seen. Oh, I'll give ye your belly-fill of
law if--ye want th' law! Git out of the house, I say!"
As Hiram spoke Levi seemed to shrink together. His face changed
from its copper color to a dull, waxy yellow. When the other
ended he answered never a word. But he pushed back his chair,
rose, put on his hat and, with a furtive, sidelong look, left the
house, without stopping to finish the supper which he had begun.
He never entered Hiram White's door again.
Hiram had driven out the evil spirit from his home, but the
mischief that it had brewed was done and could not be undone. The
next day it was known that Sally Martin had run away from home,
and that she had run away with Levi West. Old Billy Martin had
been in town in the morning with his rifle, hunting for Levi and
threatening if he caught him to have his life for leading his
And, as the evil spirit had left Hiram's house, so had another
and a greater evil spirit quitted its harborage. It was heard
from Indian River in a few days more that Blueskin had quitted
the inlet and had sailed away to the southeast; and it was
reported, by those who seemed to know, that he had finally
quitted those parts.
It was well for himself that Blueskin left when he did, for not
three days after he sailed away the Scorpion sloop-of-war dropped
anchor in Lewes harbor. The New York agent of the unfortunate
packet and a government commissioner had also come aboard the
Without loss of time, the officer in command instituted a keen
and searching examination that brought to light some singularly
curious facts. It was found that a very friendly understanding
must have existed for some time between the pirates and the
people of Indian River, for, in the houses throughout that
section, many things--some of considerable value--that had been
taken by the pirates from the packet, were discovered and seized
by the commissioner. Valuables of a suspicious nature had found
their way even into the houses of Lewes itself.
The whole neighborhood seemed to have become more or less tainted
by the presence of the pirates.
Even poor Hiram White did not escape the suspicions of having had
dealings with them. Of course the examiners were not slow in
discovering that Levi West had been deeply concerned with
Old Dinah and black Bob were examined, and not only did the story
of Levi's two visitors come to light, but also the fact that
Hiram was present and with them while they were in the house
disposing of the captured goods to their agent.
Of all that he had endured, nothing seemed to cut poor Hiram so
deeply and keenly as these unjust suspicions. They seemed to
bring the last bitter pang, hardest of all to bear.
Levi had taken from him his father's love; he had driven him, if
not to ruin, at least perilously close to it. He had run away
with the girl he loved, and now, through him, even Hiram's good
name was gone.
Neither did the suspicions against him remain passive; they
Goldsmiths' bills, to the amount of several thousand pounds, had
been taken in the packet and Hiram was examined with an almost
inquisitorial closeness and strictness as to whether he had or
had not knowledge of their whereabouts.
Under his accumulated misfortunes, he grew not only more dull,
more taciturn, than ever, but gloomy, moody, brooding as well.
For hours he would sit staring straight before him into the fire,
without moving so much as a hair.
One night--it was a bitterly cold night in February, with three
inches of dry and gritty snow upon the ground--while Hiram sat
thus brooding, there came, of a sudden, a soft tap upon the door.
Low and hesitating as it was, Hiram started violently at the
sound. He sat for a while, looking from right to left. Then
suddenly pushing back his chair, he arose, strode to the door,
and flung it wide open,
It was Sally Martin.
Hiram stood for a while staring blankly at her. It was she who
first spoke. "Won't you let me come in, Hi?" said she. "I'm nigh
starved with the cold and I'm fit to die, I'm so hungry. For
God's sake, let me come in."
"Yes," said Hiram, "I'll let you come in, but why don't you go
The poor girl was shivering and chattering with the cold; now she
began crying, wiping her eyes with the corner of a blanket in
which her head and shoulders were wrapped. "I have been home,
Hiram," she said, "but dad, he shut the door in my face. He
cursed me just awful, Hi--I wish I was dead!"
"You better come in," said Hiram. "It's no good standing out
there in the cold." He stood aside and the girl entered,
At Hiram's bidding black Dinah presently set some food before
Sally and she fell to eating ravenously, almost ferociously.
Meantime, while she ate, Hiram stood with his back to the fire,
looking at her face that face once so round and rosy, now thin,
"Are you sick, Sally?" said he presently.
"No," said she, "but I've had pretty hard times since I left
home, Hi." The tears sprang to her eyes at the recollection of
her troubles, but she only wiped them hastily away with the back
of her hand, without stopping in her eating.
A long pause of dead silence followed. Dinah sat crouched
together on a cricket at the other side of the hearth, listening
with interest. Hiram did not seem to see her. "Did you go off
with Levi?" said he at last, speaking abruptly. The girl looked
up furtively under her brows. "You needn't be afeared to tell,"
"Yes," said she at last, "I did go off with him, Hi."
"Where've you been?"
At the question, she suddenly laid down her knife and fork.
"Don't you ask me that, Hi," said she, agitatedly, "I can't tell
you that. You don't know Levi, Hiram; I darsn't tell you anything
he don't want me to. If I told you where I been he'd hunt me out,
no matter where I was, and kill me. If you only knew what I know
about him, Hiram, you wouldn't ask anything about him."
Hiram stood looking broodingly at her for a long time; then at
last he again spoke. "I thought a sight of you onc't, Sally,"
Sally did not answer immediately, but, after a while, she
suddenly looked up. "Hiram," said she, "if I tell ye something
will you promise on your oath not to breathe a word to any living
soul?" Hiram nodded. "Then I'll tell you, but if Levi finds I've
told he'll murder me as sure as you're standin' there. Come
nigher--I've got to whisper it." He leaned forward close to her
where she sat. She looked swiftly from right to left; then
raising her lips she breathed into his ear: "I'm an honest
woman, Hi. I was married to Levi West before I run away."
The winter had passed, spring had passed, and summer had come.
Whatever Hiram had felt, he had made no sign of suffering.
Nevertheless, his lumpy face had begun to look flabby, his cheeks
hollow, and his loose-jointed body shrunk more awkwardly together
into its clothes. He was often awake at night, sometimes walking
up and down his room until far into the small hours.
It was through such a wakeful spell as this that he entered into
the greatest, the most terrible, happening of his life.
It was a sulphurously hot night in July. The air was like the
breath of a furnace, and it was a hard matter to sleep with even
the easiest mind and under the most favorable circumstances. The
full moon shone in through the open window, laying a white square
of light upon the floor, and Hiram, as he paced up and down, up
and down, walked directly through it, his gaunt figure starting
out at every turn into sudden brightness as he entered the
straight line of misty light.
The clock in the kitchen whirred and rang out the hour of twelve,
and Hiram stopped in his walk to count the strokes.
The last vibration died away into silence, and still he stood
motionless, now listening with a new and sudden intentness, for,
even as the clock rang the last stroke, he heard soft, heavy
footsteps, moving slowly and cautiously along the pathway before
the house and directly below the open window. A few seconds more
and he heard the creaking of rusty hinges. The mysterious
visitor had entered the mill. Hiram crept softly to the window
and looked out. The moon shone full on the dusty, shingled face
of the old mill, not thirty steps away, and he saw that the door
was standing wide open. A second or two of stillness followed,
and then, as he still stood looking intently, he saw the figure
of a man suddenly appear, sharp and vivid, from the gaping
blackness of the open doorway. Hiram could see his face as clear
as day. It was Levi West, and he carried an empty meal bag over
Levi West stood looking from right to left for a second or two,
and then he took off his hat and wiped his brow with the back of
his hand. Then he softly closed the door behind him and left the
mill as he had come, and with the same cautious step. Hiram
looked down upon him as he passed close to the house and almost
directly beneath. He could have touched him with his hand.
Fifty or sixty yards from the house Levi stopped and a second
figure arose from the black shadow in the angle of the worm fence
and joined him. They stood for a while talking together, Levi
pointing now and then toward the mill. Then the two turned, and,
climbing over the fence, cut across an open field and through the
tall, shaggy grass toward the southeast.
Hiram straightened himself and drew a deep breath, and the moon,
shining full upon his face, snowed it twisted, convulsed, as it
had been when he had fronted his stepbrother seven months before
in the kitchen. Great beads of sweat stood on his brow and he
wiped them away with his sleeve. Then, coatless, hatless as he
was, he swung himself out of the window, dropped upon the grass,
and, without an instant of hesitation, strode off down the road
in the direction that Levi West had taken.
As he climbed the fence where the two men had climbed it he could
see them in the pallid light, far away across the level, scrubby
meadow land, walking toward a narrow strip of pine woods.
A little later they entered the sharp-cut shadows beneath the
trees and were swallowed in the darkness.
With fixed eyes and close-shut lips, as doggedly, as inexorably
as though he were a Nemesis hunting his enemy down, Hiram
followed their footsteps across the stretch of moonlit open.
Then, by and by, he also was in the shadow of the pines. Here,
not a sound broke the midnight hush. His feet made no noise upon
the resinous softness of the ground below. In that dead,
pulseless silence he could distinctly hear the distant voices of
Levi and his companion, sounding loud and resonant in the hollow
of the woods. Beyond the woods was a cornfield, and presently he
heard the rattling of the harsh leaves as the two plunged into
the tasseled jungle. Here, as in the woods, he followed them,
step by step, guided by the noise of their progress through the
Beyond the cornfield ran a road that, skirting to the south of
Lewes, led across a wooden bridge to the wide salt marshes that
stretched between the town and the distant sand hills. Coming out
upon this road Hiram found that he had gained upon those he
followed, and that they now were not fifty paces away, and he
could see that Levi's companion carried over his shoulder what
looked like a bundle of tools.
He waited for a little while to let them gain their distance and
for the second time wiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve;
then, without ever once letting his eyes leave them, he climbed
the fence to the roadway.
For a couple of miles or more he followed the two along the
white, level highway, past silent, sleeping houses, past barns,
sheds, and haystacks, looming big in the moonlight, past fields,
and woods, and clearings, past the dark and silent skirts of the
town, and so, at last, out upon the wide, misty salt marshes,
which seemed to stretch away interminably through the pallid
light, yet were bounded in the far distance by the long, white
line of sand hills.
Across the level salt marshes he followed them, through the rank
sedge and past the glassy pools in which his own inverted image
stalked beneath as he stalked above; on and on, until at last
they had reached a belt of scrub pines, gnarled and gray, that
fringed the foot of the white sand hills.
Here Hiram kept within the black network of shadow. The two whom
he followed walked more in the open, with their shadows, as black
as ink, walking along in the sand beside them, and now, in the
dead, breathless stillness, might be heard, dull and heavy, the
distant thumping, pounding roar of the Atlantic surf, beating on
the beach at the other side of the sand hills, half a mile away.
At last the two rounded the southern end of the white bluff, and
when Hiram, following, rounded it also, they were no longer to be
Before him the sand hill rose, smooth and steep, cutting in a
sharp ridge against the sky. Up this steep hill trailed the
footsteps of those he followed, disappearing over the crest.
Beyond the ridge lay a round, bowl-like hollow, perhaps fifty
feet across and eighteen or twenty feet deep, scooped out by the
eddying of the winds into an almost perfect circle. Hiram,
slowly, cautiously, stealthily, following their trailing line of
footmarks, mounted to the top of the hillock and peered down into
the bowl beneath. The two men were sitting upon the sand, not
far from the tall, skeleton-like shaft of a dead pine tree that
rose, stark and gray, from the sand in which it may once have
been buried, centuries ago.
Levi had taken off his coat and waistcoat and was fanning himself
with his hat. He was sitting upon the bag he had brought from
the mill and which he had spread out upon the sand. His
companion sat facing him. The moon shone full upon him and Hiram
knew him instantly--he was the same burly, foreign-looking
ruffian who had come with the little man to the mill that night
to see Levi. He also had his hat off and was wiping his forehead
and face with a red handkerchief. Beside him lay the bundle of
tools he had brought--a couple of shovels, a piece of rope, and a
long, sharp iron rod.
The two men were talking together, but Hiram could not understand
what they said, for they spoke in the same foreign language that
they had before used. But he could see his stepbrother point with
his finger, now to the dead tree and now to the steep, white face
of the opposite side of the bowl-like hollow.
At last, having apparently rested themselves, the conference, if
conference it was, came to an end, and Levi led the way, the
other following, to the dead pine tree. Here he stopped and
began searching, as though for some mark; then, having found that
which he looked for, he drew a tapeline and a large brass pocket
compass from his pocket. He gave one end of the tape line to his
companion, holding the other with his thumb pressed upon a
particular part of the tree. Taking his bearings by the compass,
he gave now and then some orders to the other, who moved a little
to the left or the right as he bade. At last he gave a word of
command, and, thereupon, his companion drew a wooden peg from his
pocket and thrust it into the sand. From this peg as a base they
again measured, taking bearings by the compass, and again drove a
peg. For a third time they repeated their measurements and then,
at last, seemed to have reached the point which they aimed for.
Here Levi marked a cross with his heel upon the sand.
His companion brought him the pointed iron rod which lay beside
the shovels, and then stood watching as Levi thrust it deep into
the sand, again and again, as though sounding for some object
below. It was some while before he found that for which he was
seeking, but at last the rod struck with a jar upon some hard
object below. After making sure of success by one or two
additional taps with the rod, Levi left it remaining where it
stood, brushing the sand from his hands. "Now fetch the shovels,
Pedro," said he, speaking for the first time in English.
The two men were busy for a long while, shoveling away the sand.
The object for which they were seeking lay buried some six feet
deep, and the work was heavy and laborious, the shifting sand
sliding back, again and again, into the hole. But at last the
blade of one of the shovels struck upon some hard substance and
Levi stooped and brushed away the sand with the palm of his hand.
Levi's companion climbed out of the hole which they had dug and
tossed the rope which he had brought with the shovels down to the
other. Levi made it fast to some object below and then himself
mounted to the level of the sand above. Pulling together, the
two drew up from the hole a heavy iron-bound box, nearly three
feet long and a foot wide and deep.
Levi's companion stooped and began untying the rope which had
been lashed to a ring in the lid.
What next happened happened suddenly, swiftly, terribly. Levi
drew back a single step, and shot one quick, keen look to right
and to left. He passed his hand rapidly behind his back, and the
next moment Hiram saw the moonlight gleam upon the long, sharp,
keen blade of a knife. Levi raised his arm. Then, just as the
other arose from bending over the chest, he struck, and struck
again, two swift, powerful blows. Hiram saw the blade drive,
clean and sharp, into the back, and heard the hilt strike with a
dull thud against the ribs--once, twice. The burly, black-
bearded wretch gave a shrill, terrible cry and fell staggering
back. Then, in an instant, with another cry, he was up and
clutched Levi with a clutch of despair by the throat and by the
arm. Then followed a struggle, short, terrible, silent. Not a
sound was heard but the deep, panting breath and the scuffling of
feet in the sand, upon which there now poured and dabbled a
dark-purple stream. But it was a one-sided struggle and lasted
only for a second or two. Levi wrenched his arm loose from the
wounded man's grasp, tearing his shirt sleeve from the wrist to
the shoulder as he did so. Again and again the cruel knife was
lifted, and again and again it fell, now no longer bright, but
stained with red.
Then, suddenly, all was over. Levi's companion dropped to the
sand without a sound, like a bundle of rags. For a moment he lay
limp and inert; then one shuddering spasm passed over him and he
lay silent and still, with his face half buried in the sand.
Levi, with the knife still gripped tight in his hand, stood
leaning over his victim, looking down upon his body. His shirt
and hand, and even his naked arm, were stained and blotched with
blood. The moon lit up his face and it was the face of a devil
At last he gave himself a shake, stooped and wiped his knife and
hand and arm upon the loose petticoat breeches of the dead man.
He thrust his knife back into its sheath, drew a key from his
pocket and unlocked the chest. In the moonlight Hiram could see
that it was filled mostly with paper and leather bags, full,
apparently of money.
All through this awful struggle and its awful ending Hiram lay,
dumb and motionless, upon the crest of the sand hill, looking
with a horrid fascination upon the death struggle in the pit
below. Now Hiram arose. The sand slid whispering down from the
crest as he did so, but Levi was too intent in turning over the
contents of the chest to notice the slight sound.
Hiram's face was ghastly pale and drawn. For one moment he
opened his lips as though to speak, but no word came. So, white,
silent, he stood for a few seconds, rather like a statue than a
living man, then, suddenly, his eyes fell upon the bag, which
Levi had brought with him, no doubt, to carry back the treasure
for which he and his companion were in search, and which still
lay spread out on the sand where it had been flung. Then, as
though a thought had suddenly flashed upon him, his whole
expression changed, his lips closed tightly together as though
fearing an involuntary sound might escape, and the haggard look
dissolved from his face.
Cautiously, slowly, he stepped over the edge of the sand hill and
down the slanting face. His coming was as silent as death, for
his feet made no noise as he sank ankle-deep in the yielding
surface. So, stealthily, step by step, he descended, reached the
bag, lifted it silently. Levi, still bending over the chest and
searching through the papers within, was not four feet away.
Hiram raised the bag in his hands. He must have made some slight
rustle as he did so, for suddenly Levi half turned his head. But
he was one instant too late. In a flash the bag was over his
Then came another struggle, as fierce, as silent, as desperate as
that other--and as short. Wiry, tough, and strong as he was,
with a lean, sinewy, nervous vigor, fighting desperately for his
life as he was, Levi had no chance against the ponderous strength
of his stepbrother. In any case, the struggle could not have
lasted long; as it was, Levi stumbled backward over the body of
his dead mate and fell, with Hiram upon him. Maybe he was stunned
by the fall; maybe he felt the hopelessness of resistance, for he
lay quite still while Hiram, kneeling upon him, drew the rope
from the ring of the chest and, without uttering a word, bound it
tightly around both the bag and the captive within, knotting it
again and again and drawing it tight. Only once was a word
spoken. "If you'll lemme go," said a muffled voice from the bag,
"I'll give you five thousand pounds--it's in that there box."
Hiram answered never a word, but continued knotting the rope and
drawing it tight.
The Scorpion sloop-of-war lay in Lewes harbor all that winter and
spring, probably upon the slim chance of a return of the pirates.
It was about eight o'clock in the morning and Lieutenant Maynard
was sitting in Squire Hall's office, fanning himself with his hat
and talking in a desultory fashion. Suddenly the dim and distant
noise of a great crowd was heard from without, coming nearer and
nearer. The Squire and his visitor hurried to the door. The
crowd was coming down the street shouting, jostling, struggling,
some on the footway, some in the roadway. Heads were at the doors
and windows, looking down upon them. Nearer they came, and
nearer; then at last they could see that the press surrounded and
accompanied one man. It was Hiram White, hatless, coatless, the
sweat running down his face in streams, but stolid and silent as
ever. Over his shoulder he carried a bag, tied round and round
with a rope. It was not until the crowd and the man it surrounded
had come quite near that the Squire and the lieutenant saw that a
pair of legs in gray-yarn stockings hung from the bag. It was a
man he was carrying.
Hiram had lugged his burden five miles that morning without help
and with scarcely a rest on the way.
He came directly toward the Squire's office and, still sun
rounded and hustled by the crowd, up the steep steps to the
office within. He flung his burden heavily upon the floor without
a word and wiped his streaming forehead.
The Squire stood with his knuckles on his desk, staring first at
Hiram and then at the strange burden he had brought. A sudden
hush fell upon all, though the voices of those without sounded as
loud and turbulent as ever. "What is it, Hiram?" said Squire Hall
Then for the first time Hiram spoke, panting thickly. "It's a
bloody murderer," said he, pointing a quivering finger at the
"Here, some of you!" called out the Squire. "Come! Untie this
man! Who is he?" A dozen willing fingers quickly unknotted the
rope and the bag was slipped from the head and body.
Hair and face and eyebrows and clothes were powdered with meal,
but, in spite of all and through all the innocent whiteness, dark
spots and blotches and smears of blood showed upon head and arm
and shirt. Levi raised himself upon his elbow and looked
scowlingly around at the amazed, wonderstruck faces surrounding
"Why, it's Levi West!" croaked the Squire, at last finding his
Then, suddenly, Lieutenant Maynard pushed forward, before the
others crowded around the figure on the floor, and, clutching
Levi by the hair, dragged his head backward so as to better see
his face. "Levi West!" said he in a loud voice. "Is this the
Levi West you've been telling me of? Look at that scar and the
mark on his cheek! THIS IS BLUESKIN HIMSELF."
In the chest which Blueskin had dug up out of the sand were
found not only the goldsmiths' bills taken from the packet, but
also many other valuables belonging to the officers and the
passengers of the unfortunate ship.
The New York agents offered Hiram a handsome reward for his
efforts in recovering the lost bills, but Hiram declined it,
positively and finally. "All I want," said he, in his usual dull,
stolid fashion, "is to have folks know I'm honest."
Nevertheless, though he did not accept what the agents of the
packet offered, fate took the matter into its own hands and
rewarded him not unsubstantially. Blueskin was taken to England
in the Scorpion. But he never came to trial. While in Newgate he
hanged himself to the cell window with his own stockings. The
news of his end was brought to Lewes in the early autumn and
Squire Hall took immediate measures to have the five hundred
pounds of his father's legacy duly transferred to Hiram.
In November Hiram married the pirate's widow.
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
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
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 and why
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 a
moment 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
Mainwaring fairly started from his seat. "The devil you say!" he
cried. "And how long has it been," he asked, "since he left you?"
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 I had
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 tell
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 danger
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" to the
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
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
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
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.