The Cut of His Jib
A strange tale of the pirating of a pirate and the stranger mating of the belle of Chancy Pot
THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS
DUDLEY GLOYNE SUMMERS
THE owner came aboard and promoted Mr. Thanksgiving Apple to the berth of master. Captain Apple! The navigator’s cold and somewhat fishy eyes warmed and took on human tints, at that. As master, his percentage of the privateer’s “earnings” would be treble what he had been entitled to as first mate. He was a strange character, compounded of two major vices and one major virtue. He was avaricious. The acquiring of precious metals and their equivalents was a red-hot passion in him. He was a miser. The spending of a guinea hurt him like a knifethrust between the ribs. He had the courage of a bulldog.
Before the brig Nonesuch again cleared from her home port, the English and French kings patched up their differences. But Captain Apple did not hear of it. The Nonesuch cruised to the southward. After sixteen uneventful days she was signalled by an English frigate. So Captain Apple went aboard and received distressful information and instructions. He was told that England and France were at peace, that his letter of marque was cancelled, that any hostile act toward the property or person of any subject of the French king would be piracy, and punishable as such; and he was instructed to return to his home port and take in a cargo of somethingor-other for peaceful trading. He swallowed a glass of rum and water before venturing a reply.
“Yes, sir,” he said, to the frigate’s captain. “I be a peaceful navigator at heart, yer Honor. Thank God this here bloody war be over!” And he saluted the frigate’s commander and the frigate’s quarterdeck, and went over the side and was pulled back to the brig Nonesuch: and his fishy eyes had a glint in them like winter sunshine on polished grey granite.
The frigate cracked on and continued about her lordly affairs. The brig got her nose around in the general direction of home and kept it there or thereabouts, until the frigate’s highest skysail had gone from the shimmering horizon like a dissolving pearl; and that was long enough, in Captain Apple’s opinion. Then she headed southward again. Three days later she overhauled a brigantine off Guadeloupe. The brigantine showed her colors when a twelve-pound shot went skipping athwart her blunt bows. Spanish colors!
“Hell!” remarked Silas Green, the Nonesuch’s first mate, disgustedly.
“Hell nothin’,” returned Captain Apple, who had kept the information and instructions received aboard His Majesty’s Ship Falcon jealously to himself. “I’ll tell ’e now what it was the king’s cap’n telled to me, mister. We be at war with Spain, Silas Green.”
“Spain too—atop o’ they fiery Frenchies? God help us!”
“God helps them as helps theirselves, mister.”
The master of the Spanish brigantine protested against that which followed. If Spain was at war with England, he had not been informed of the fact. He flourished his arms, flashed his teeth, popped his eyes,
puffed garlic-laden breath and called upon all the saints and most of the devils to strike somebody dead; and he was kicked into the port scuppers for his trouble.
The brigantine’s freight consisted of rum and sugar. Captain Apple grumbled even as he issued orders for transferring the sticky sacks and jolly kegs from brigantine to brig. The Spaniard’s strong-box contained only a handful of gold pieces; and Captain Apple grumbled even in the act of pocketing them. The business of transshipping cargo completed, the Spaniards were sent away in their own boats and the empty brigantine was scuttled.
“Ye hadn’t ought to left ’em go free, maybe,” said Mr. Green.
“They won’t go far, without neither victuals nor drink,” returned Captain Apple confidently. “They won’t raise no landfall, an’ ye kin lay to that.”
' I 'HE Nonesuch regained her home port without accident; and her owner, Jabez Pilchard, came aboard in a hurry. Mr. Pilchard began to twitch his long nose before he was within twenty yards of the brig. He was sniffing loudly as he came over the side.
“Molasses? Molasses? What’s the meaning of this, Master Apple?”
“ ’Tain’t molasses, squire. This way, sir, if ye’ll be so obligin’,” countered the captain.
The owner was led to the master’s inner cabin. The skylight was lowered and all doors were shut.
“Rum an’ sugar—an’ Cuban rum, at that!”
“Rum, d’ye say? And how’d ye come by it?”
“Why, sir, how would an honest privateer come by a freight o’ sugar an’ rum.”
“And didn’t ye hear the news, man? England an’ France be at peace, and what was patriotism eight weeks back be rank piracy today!”
“Aye—an’ patriotism agin tomorrer, like as not.” “Did ye hear the news or didn’t ye?”
“Why, sir, as to hearin’ the news whilst battlin’ with hurricanes and me king’s an' me owner’s enemies at peril o’ me life—why, ’twam’t in reason.”
“Now harky here, Master Apple! Law is law; and
Cap’n John Bell be harbormaster o’ this port; and if that cursed jack-in-office was to so much as sniff yer precious cargo, he’d confiscate the lot and fine the ship into the bargain.
But he be away down the coast for a few days, praise the Lord ! Yank up yer hook an’ bustle north an’ trade yer rum and sugar to the Acadians for peltries. Stow yer guns
and go tradin’ peacefully. Acadians and Injuns. Ye took yer cargo aboard at Havana, mark ye; and I’ll send papers aboard within the hour to prove it, just in case one o’ them cursed frigates was to overhaul ye. But hold! Break out one keg and send it ashore to my countin’-house. Now bustle!”
“Ay, ay, sir! But who’s to catch me my ship’s company, all ashore by now an’ three sheets in the wind?” “Leave that to me, brother Apple. I’ll do my part, and your part be to go down the bay on the nex’ tide.” And so it was. A confidential clerk brought Spanishlooking papers aboard which appeared to prove that the brig Nonesuch had loaded at, and cleared from, the port of Havana with sugar and rum; and the crew came aboard by threes and fours, in shoreboats, under compulsion. Most of the stout lads subsided in the scuppers; but the anchor came up, and sail was made, and the brig went down the bay on the next tide. She made a safe offing, then headed northward. Next day, her guns were lowered on to the sugar and made fast. She looked like a peaceful merchantman.
CAPTAIN APPLE had no great opinion of the rôle of peaceful trader. Trading, giving something for something else, seemed to him a dull and feeble way of getting what one wanted. It was not his game. He had not been bred to it. The very thought of it depressed his hard, high spirits. He grumbled and complained to his first mate, Mr. Silas Green. Green agreed with him that it was a poor sort of business and a cruel waste of time for a master navigator trained and seasoned to, and of proven luck in, the noble and far more profitable profession of operating under a letter of marque. But that was only Green’s way. He always agreed with his superiors.
A gale of wind blew the Nonesuch dizzy and blind and off her course for three days and nights. But being a stout vessel, she lost nothing but a topmast and her deck-galley and her sense of direction. Nothing important was started or sprung. But Captain Apple took a low view of it.
“That comes o’ this here tradin' with Acadians an’
Injuns,” he complained to Mr. Green. (He had not so much as seen an Acadian or Acadian Indian since his northward voyage as boatswain in the old main-topsail schooner Province-
town Belle nine years before this date.) “'Tain’t in nature; an’ what ain’t in nature murders luck. There was never a luckier seaman with winds nor meself; an’ now I be blowed all abroad the same as any other blasted longshore trader.”
A man who had gone aloft to rig block and tackle for the hoisting of a new spar into place, hailed the deck. “Ship in distress to leeward, sir!”
Captain Apple brightened. The distress of others was always a tonic to him. He sent below for his spyglass and went aloft with it. He saw a big, high-pooped, dismasted hull lurching and wallowing among the tumbling grey seas. He studied her without haste, but with a pleasant, rising tickle of excitement in his cool veins. Nothing was left of her three big masts but jagged stumps. Her bulwarks were stove in. Her deckhouses, if she’d had any, were gone. Her waist was still cluttered with broken yardarms, tattered sails and tangled running-gear. Men were busy as ants aboard her, trying to rig a jurymast to one of the jagged stumps.
“A French Indiaman,” thought Captain Apple. An East Indiaman. There was no confusing her general outline with anything else afloat except a Dutch Indiaman. And what would a French Indiaman be doing in these latitudes and longitudes or thereabouts, unless she were bound westward for the St. Lawrence and Quebec, or homeward from the heart and stronghold of New France? If west-bound, she would be carrying military stores, and pay for the French king’s officials and regiments. If east-bound, she would doubtless be freighted with rich pelts of beaver, otter, mink and fox.
“An’ her guns be all washed overboard, devil a doubt of it,” reflected Captain Apple, smacking his lips and contracting his telescope.
He descended to the deck and gave Mr. Green certain definite instructions for immediate transmission to the crew; and he sent for Dave Hummer, who had passed three years in France as a prisoner of war, and who knew the lingo, to attend him in his cabin.
THE Nonesuch bore down upon the dismasted Indiaman, flying the colors of the French marine at her foremasthead and her mizzen-peak. Two of her trustiest old salts manned the wheel. Mr. Green took post at the break of the poop-deck, Mr. Creamer, second mate, on the quarterdeck and the boatswain at a point of vantage midway between quarterdeck and
forecastlehead. Captain Apple and Dave Hummer graced the forecastlehead.
Hummer had the captain’s speakingtrumpet and the captain had Hummer’s ear. Save for a dozen fellows who stood attentive to brace and downhaul, and the persons already mentioned, the brig’s decks were deserted. The remaining members of the brig’s company, thirty-eight in number, though out of sight were neither idle nor far off. Some were charging and priming pistols, others were selecting cutlasses and boarding-pikes to their especial tastes, and yet others were putting the grappling-irons and gear in order.
“Give ’em a hail ordered Captain Apple.
“Somethin’ to cheer ’em up. Their own lingo, mind ye! The wind ’ll carry it, maybe.”
So Hummer hailed, in his best French and heartiest voice,
“Courage, brave brothers! Help is at hand! Captain Duvar is at hand! Courage, my children !”
A minute later,
Hummer repeated the good news, with variations; and a flapping of flags from here and there aboard the wallowing Indiaman suggested that the distressed Frenchmen were glad to hear it.
“Tell ’em we’ll lay the brig alongside, smooth an’ sweet as
kisses, an’ never start her paint,” instructed our Apple into the linguist’s ear.
“Ay, ay, sir.” And Dave straightway bellowed that sweet assurance down the wind.
Lowering the trumpet from his lips, he smirked at the captain.
“Precious hot kissin’ they’ll find it, sir,” he ventured.
Apple shifted his quid from starboard to larboard, and one of his fishy eyes showed something like a twinkle.
“Fools be known by their folly, afloat an’ ashore; an’ nobody only fools lets their minds run on kisses with all their spars over the side,” said he.
There was no smarter seaman in a matter of pure seamanship than Captain Thanksgiving Apple. He laid the handy brig alongside that big wallowing hulk as gently as laying a finger alongside a nose; and she snuggled close; and then, with a roar as of uncaged lions, the fellows with pistols and pikes and cutlasses swarmed into view, and the irons were heaved. And then—
Well, and then a most amazing thing happened, followed swiftly and confusedly and violently by dozens of amazing things. Before the brig’s company could board the Indiaman, three score armed men sprang from the dismasted hulk down upon the brig’s deck. They sprang with yells of derision, and the throwing and bursting of grenades and the banging of pistols. It was astounding, and from Captain Apple’s point of view it was outrageous. He was a fighter, was Apple; but on this occasion he had not time to bring his mind around to the notion of fighting. He had been looking for a walk-over, not a fight. He drew his cutlass in a dazed manner, in time to have it knocked from his hand; and a moment later two large men sat on his chest and stomach, and a third, in military boots, stood on his face.
Captain Apple lost touch with actuality for a considerable period of time. Upon regaining consciousness he found himself in a strange cabin, slumped against a bulkhead like a bag of ship’s biscuit. He felt as sore as a bee-sting all over, and a little sorer than that about the head and neck and face. Only one of his eyes was available for the purpose of observation; and with this
he beheld three men standing over him, gazing down at him. They stood with their legs straddled against the crooked heaves of the deck. One, an absolute stranger to him, smiled with dark eyes and bearded lips. The second, also a stranger to Apple, presented veiled eyes and a face like a mask. The third—the devil! Captain Apple’s vitals turned over at sight of the third.
The third man had a yellow face, clean-shaven jowls and silky black mustaches. He was slender and graceful. His hands were long and slender. The long fingers of his left hand twirled a silky mustache, the long fingers of his right hand toyed with the buckhorn haft of a knife in his belt. A glimmer of derision moved in his large, dark, melancholy eyes. He shifted his glance to the man on his left and spoke softly in Spanish. The other nodded, and addressed the master of the Nonesuch in excellent English.
“We t’ank you for bringing your good brig to our rescue, Captain Apple. It was smartly done—as if in direct answer to our prayers, for great was our need of a seaworthy ship.”
Believing himself to be as bad as dead already, or worse, Captain Apple growled, “To hell with that, an’ you too!—but how the devil did he come aboard?”
The interpreter smiled and spoke to his companions. Everyone smiled—except Captain Apple. The fellow with the melancholy eyes spoke again at some length, now in Spanish, again in French, and raised his right hand from his belt and his left from his mustaches, and described graceful gesticulations in the air. The bearded fellow chuckled. The man with the mask-like face contrived another spasmodic smile and addressed Apple for the second time.
“T’anking you once more, Captain. Our hearts enlarge wit’ gratitude. But for you, we make a distressful end to a long voyage. We carry munitions of war and much gold and silver for New France. But first we convoy five little barques to Martinique, for we are one strong ship before the seas smash us, with ten eighteen-pounders to a side and long twelves fore and aft. In those waters we chance upon distressed seamen in open boats and take them all aboard, and so sail our
nort’ward course. The gale strikes us very hard, very bad. The foremast goes—so! — over the side—with brave men also; and the great guns burst their tackles, batter mainmast and mizzen, split the bulwarks, dive down to Father Neptune. The mainmast, she totters, she crashes ! The mizzen also. Her seams open. We pump and pray for our sweet lives, and for all the munitions and gold and stores so needed by New France. So for days and nights. But behold the answer to our prayers! A smart brig to our rescue, flying the colors of France ! And this gentleman says to the commander, T know that good brig and the smart seaman, her master. He is the great Captain Apple. No man can sail a ship so handy, so clever, so seamanship like Captain Apple. He will save us all. See, he flies French colors for love of us, to set our fears at rest. So we must make ready to do honor to Captain Apple—to show our appreciation of his noble efforts on our behalf.’ It is done. We have no spars, but still plenty of men left. We make ready a guard of honor to receive and welcome our rescuer. Very good. And now, my Apple, we give you a big ship for a little one—a twenty-six gun ship for a little brig. It is a second surprise for our noble preserver. Don’t mention it, my noble captain!”
Apple moaned as he pressed both hands to his sore skull. Of what use to speak? Of what use to think, even? His goose was cooked.
“It is so,” continued the fellow with the mask-like face. “And moreover, this gentleman who had the honor to know the cut o’ your jib at a glance, and so make ready the honorable welcome for you, transfers one keg of that sweet rum of Habana from brig to ship, in memory of certain empty water-breakers. You find the golden spirit in the lazaretto, my honorable Apple.”
The interpreter bowed. His companions bowed. Captain Apple waited dully for the knife-thrust—but it did not come. He maintained his sack-like attitude, heavy silence and glassy stare. The three left the cabin. Slow minutes passed over Captain Apple’s aching head. He had not been knifed. His life had been spared, or what devilment were they up to? At last he straightened his sore back against the bulkhead and uttered a commanding bellow quite in his old tone of voice.
“Lay aft, damn ye! Lay aft!”
But nobody laid aft. No one answered. Nothing happened. So Captain Apple crawled painfully to the deck. He rolled his fishy glance at shattered bulwarks, splintered stumps of masts, dead men of his own crew in the spouting scuppers. He beheld foam-laced grey seas shoulder-
ing up on every side and, far off, the pitching topsails of the good brig Nonesuch. Except for rats and cockroaches, he was the only living thing in that lurching, helpless, masterless hulk.
“I’d ought to slit their yeller throats an’ hove ’em overboard when I had the chance, instead o’ sendin’ ’em away in their boats,” he mumbled. “This here
comes o’ bein’ marciful to thievin’ traders.”
He returned to the cabin and crawled straight to the trapdoor of the lazarette in the middle of the deck. He grasped the iron ring; and with mighty and painful effort he raised the trap and laid it back. There stood the keg, lashed securely in place and already equipped with a
wooden tap. He lowered himself to the jolly keg, lay on his back beside it with his mouth wide open, and turned the tap.
Captain Apple was alone with rats and cockroaches and corpses—the corpses mostly of members of his own late crew— in the big, dismasted, blindly wallowing Indiaman. He found the corpses extremely depressing, sprawled and huddled about the decks, and in the least expected corners. With their foolish attitudes, their senseless ways of changing position to the drunken lurches of the hulk and even of rolling or sliding from larboard to starboard and back again, they soon began to get on the poor man’s nerves. Also, he was hungry and thirsty. For food he could find nothing nearer the purpose than a few pounds of ancient ship’s biscuit; and for drink, nothing but some stale rain water in tarry buckets slung under the break of the quarterdeck.
FEW more perilous bits of coast than Chancy Head are to be found in the circuit of the seven seas. Those spraydrenched cliffs rising sheer from strips of weedy landwash; those submerged reefs reaching far out to sea; and those strong currents pulling and driving, sucking and twisting, have made of Chancy Head a pame of. terror to all seafarers in those swaters. j|nd yet elementa^ature had not atnished the most deadlyrperil. Human nature háa contributed its share. Beware the wreckers of Chancy Head!
At the time of the incidents herewith recorded, Pat Waddy was the big man of Chancy Pot and Chancy Head. Skipper is what they called him. He commanded by right; for might was right in Chancy Pot. He commanded with a high, hard and heavy hand; which was the only way to command that savage clan.
The Skipper' was a widower with three sons and a daughter. Kate was the girl’s name. Kate Waddy was ignorant, but she had a kind heart; and her looks were such as would cause emotional disturbances even in larger and more civilized communities than Chancy Pot. Five men of the place, not counting young Simon Cram, hated one another for desire of her. Nobody but the girl herself knew, or even suspected, that Simon was one of her ardent admirers.
Simon Cram was a New Englander, a Bostonian even. He was the sole survivor of the crew of the late maintopsail schooner Boston Belle, which had fallen a prey to the Chancy Reefs and the unholy light on Chancy Head in August. Three or four others of the shattered schooner’s company had reached the spraysmothered landwash alive, but he alone had béen dragged to safety by Kate Waddy. The other poor fellows had fallen into less gentle hands, and had been knocked on the head and flung back to the tide, according to the time-honored custom of the wreckers. “Swiler” Nolan had stepped up, just as Simon was clearing his eyes and nose of brine, and would have cracked the stranger’s skull with one swing of the broken oar he carried for such purposes, if Kate had not been too quick for him. “Swiler” had not been himself and had not known who he was for all of four days after the knock Kate laid across his ear with a handy balk of driftwood.
, It was October now, and Simon Cram was still alive—thanks to the Skipper’s whim, to Kate’s good offices and somewhat to his own discretion. Kate was discreet, too. Most of the wreckers, and “Swiler” Nolan in particular, were all for doing away with the young Bostonian. He did them no good; he was not needed in Chancy Pot or on Chancy Head; but, on the other hand, he would ruin them all if he ever got the chance, if he ever escaped. Thus they advised Pat Waddy from time to time; and advice was a thing the Skipper had no use for.
“No crawlin’ son o’ a—squid bain’t skipper o’ dis yere ’arbor only meself,” explained Mr. Waddy, in rejecting the advice of his followers; and he usually went on to say that there was no more likelihood of Simon Cram’s escape from Chancy Pot than there was of the escape of the ancestors of his would-be advisers from the red-hot pincers of Old Nick himself; and he sometimes added a few phrases in the vernacular of that coast to the effect that he would just as willingly open up the vital organs of any Nolan, Kelly, Crock or Bowlin of his acquaintance as split a fish for the drying-stage. An unsatisfactory sort of man to argue with, was Pat Waddy.
So young Simon Cram survived in that company from day to day.
THE helpless hulk that had so recently been a tall Indiaman armed with twenty-four guns lumbered on to the Chancy Reefs in grey daylight and moderate weather, and proved herself one of the toughest propositions Chancy Head had ever had to deal with. Though her spars had been rotten, her timbers were sound. She made three shoreward jumps among the reefs before she stuck. Even then, she did not careen. She stood up on a crushed but level keel, gripped and wedged and supported by fangs and shoulders of weed-draped rock.
The wreckers gathered from Chancy Pot, some on the top of the cliff and the hardiest lining the spouting landwash, and waited for her to break up and come ashore.
Captain Apple realized the worst of the situation at a glance. He had heard many
true stories of wreckers and their unpleasant customs.
“They’d poleaxe me like I was a stallfed ox,” he told himself. “But they can’t git at me here ’til she busts abroad. But I’ll starve to death if I don’t win ashore to a mess o’ vittals.”
He fortified his stomach with the last of the mouldy biscuit and a swig of stale water, then gave his very best thought to the situation. He thought desperately hard; and the wreckers waited on cliff and landwash for the great hulk to break and come to them. His thinking bore fruit. He went to the cabin, found paper, pen and ink, and wrote laboriously, as follows:
I got a fortin in gold aboard here hid away ware nobody only me cud find it in fifty year, french gold and Spanish, come aboard or shoot me a lifeline and I show ye the blunt ye cud not diskivver in a lifetime only for me. so help me god.
Now to get this artful message ashore. And was there a man or woman among those wild people with enough learning to read it? But one thing at a time. A bottle, to serve as a safe container of the message, was what he needed. There were empty bottles aplenty in the lazarette. He bottled his message, corked it securely, went up on the butt of the bowsprit and attracted the curious eyes of the wreckers by flapping a red shirt at them. Then he flung the bottle shoreward. It splashed into the curved shoulders of an onrolling breaker, popped into view, went ashore in a hissing fury of foam and was snatched from destruction by Skipper Waddy himself.
The Skipper looked at what he found in the bottle, then bellowed for Simon Cram. Simon read out the words of the message to him.
“Keep yer mout’ shut on it,” said Waddy to the Bostonian. “I’ll do the lyin’, an’ ye kin swear to it.”
Swiler Nolan and Luke Kelly and Tommy Crock came stumbling along the slippery, spouting landwash to hear the news out of the bottle. Skipper Waddy flourished the written message under their ignorant noses, and laughed loud and hearty.
“Rum, b’ys! Rum an’ pickled pork!” he bawled. “But mostly rum. An’ it be all wrote down ’ere how he ’ll trade the entire freight for his life’s salvation— afore de old hulk busts all abroad under ’im.”
The wreckers joined in the Skipper’s mirth, and the Skipper gave Simon Cram a significant shoot of the left eye, and then the young New Englander laughed, too. More wreckers came up and heard the joke. Then Waddy talked business, thumping the heel of his big right fist into the leathery palm of his big left hand at every word. He expounded his plan of action. When the old hulk broke up, which would be sooner or later, and the kegs of rum and casks of pork were spilled abroad, very little of the precious cargo would reach the honest hands of the folk of Chancy Pot. Much of it would be stove on the landwash at the first impact; and what is the value of a stove keg of rum? Still more of it would be caught in the cross-currents, bilged on outlying reefs or washed out to sea. (All of which was true; and no man denied it). But the Skipper was determined to make extra efforts to salvage an extra percentage of this cargo. | Rum and pork, mark ye! It was not every day, no, nor every year, they had a chance at kegs of rum and casks of pork. So the Skipper proposed to go around from Chancy Pot, on the outside, and to stand off-and-on and pick up whatever of I that precious freight drifted seaward, while the other honest lads secured whatever came ashore unstove.
Swiler Nolan said that he approved of the idea, but for his own part would not take a chance of standing on-and-off the Continued on page 59 Continued from page 57 Chancy Reefs in a worm-eaten fore-andafter for ten kegs of rum to his own fist, for fear of being sucked in on to the rocks and busted all abroad like a figgy duff. The others felt the same way about it. The Skipper called for volunteers, but in vain. The Skipper did some jeering and cursing, which nobody minded; then bawled to his sons and Simon Cram to follow him and headed away from there. Kate Waddy went too. Kate brought up the tail of the procession, a pace behind the New Englander. Simon stumbled on wet seaweed, checked, shouldered into the girl.
“Skipper’s lying,” he said. “It’s gold, not rum; but maybe that’s a lie, too.”
Nobody heard him but Kate. Nobody observed the incident. Every man was busy minding his own footsteps. So Cram checked and spoke again.
“If they take me—I’ll make a try for freedom—fair means or foul.”
“Would ye go away from me?” she asked.
“Aye—and come back for you with armed men at my elbows.”
They climbed the cliff, crossed half a mile of mossy barren and scrambled down into Chancy Pot. There the girl parted company with the four men. Simon lost sight of her among the little grey tilts. The Skipper spoke low and harsh, but with a crack of excitement in his voice, to his sons and Simon Cram. He ordered Jerry and Bill to fetch all the twine and light line and rope they could lay hands on in five minutes, and Simon Cram to bale the skiff. Fifteen minutes later, the three Waddys and the Bostonian were aboard the little, ancient fore-and-after Sea Robin. Up went the little headsails; up came the little anchor; the patched foresail flapped and filled and the Sea Robin stood out of Chancy Pot on an offshore breeze.
They lay to, to seaward of the Chancy Reefs, with the menacing rocks and the stranded ship to windward. A shoreward current dragged at the fore-and-after, but the breeze held her.
Skipper Waddy fairly trembled with excitement. He flung a thwart from the skiff far to windward, into the shorewardpulling current. The dry thwart drifted toward the stranded hulk, dragging fathoms of twine. His intention was clear to Simon Cram. With a line secured from fore-and-after to ship, a skiff could be “handed” back and forth at pleasure.
The man aboard the doomed Indiaman was very much in evidence, bellowing down the wind at the Sea Robin and preparing to receive and fish up the drifting thwart and line. Cram studied him through the Skipper’s spyglass.
“I know the cut o’ that jib,” said Simon. “Apple’s his name.”
“Wud ’e be one to have a fortin o’ gold aboard?” asked the Skipper, laying hold of the other’s shoulder and shaking it in eagerness.
“Aye, and why not,” answered Simon. “He’s a privateer, and no better than a bloody pirate.”
Skipper Waddy was delighted to hear it.
“B’ys, we be made men !” he exclaimed. “We hands his fortin aboard here, an’ bats ’im over the head, an’ sails away sout’ along wid gold to last us all our days!—an’ to the divil wid Chancy Pot an’ Chancy Head ! They dirty wrackers has seen the last o’ Pat Waddy!”
“But we’ll have to put back into the Pot to fetch your daughter aboard,” Simon reminded him.
“Stow yer jaw!” retorted the Skipper. “Herself ’ll do grand, married to Swiler Nolan, an’ him skipper in my shoes.”
Simon Cram turned his head swiftly, so that the Waddys would not see the disgust and hate and hostile intention afire in heart and brain and flaming behind his grey eyes.
A half-inch line followed the twine
aboard the stranded hulk. A hawser followed the half-inch line. All was made fast. Then the Skipper and his elder son Jerry dropt over into the skiff and “handed” themselves across the grey sea lane.
Simon Cram turned to Bill Waddy.
“Now we cast off, head back and take Kate aboard an’ clear for Boston,” announced the New Englander.
Bill reached for a handspike—but Simon beat him to it with the Skipper’s brass spyglass.
“Now I got to sail her single-handed till I get Kate aboard,” said Simon; and he cast off his end of the hawser, jumped to the little wheel and fell away on the wind.
A young woman in dripping garments popped up from the main hatch, ran aft to the man at the wheel and embraced him with wet arms.
“I swum aboard • when ye was balin’ the skiff,” she explained.
Simon managed the wheel with one hand and a knee. They laughed madly together, joyously, like children awakened from a nightmare. Later, they brought brother Bill back to consciousness with splashes of cold water, and around to reason with a little argument; and by that time Chancy Head was low and dim astern.
“We’ve got to thank Captain Thanksgiving Apple for this,” said Simon Cram. “Out o’ evil has come good at last. If half I’ve heard of him be true, it’s the first good turn he ever did—and it an accident! Aye, a bad man, old Apple! — but when I think of him marooned in that hulk along with the Skipper and Jerry, gold or no gold, I feel a twitch o’ pity for the poor bloody pirate.”
But he should have saved his pity for those two Waddys.
YY 7”HILE Skipper Waddy and his son Y Y Jerry were in the act of ascending the hulk’s high side, Captain Apple caught sight of two things as yet unseen by the visitors, and instantly conceived a new idea. The first sight was of the little foreand-after free of the hawser and falling off on the wind, the second was a flash of white topsails to seaward. His new idea was to look to seaward rather than to the wild wreckers ashore for rescue from his perilous position. His decision was made, and his plans were changed accordingly, even as the two Waddys reached the deck.
“Where be dis yere fortin o’ gold?” demanded the Skipper.
“This way, mates,” cried Apple, cheerfully; and he led them straight into the main cabin under the quarterdeck.
They followed close, without a glance to right or left; and so it was that they failed to observe the strange action of their fore-and-after. They crowded Captain Apple as he lifted the heavy trap of the lazarette and laid it back.
“Pickled gold,” said Apple. “The rum don’t harm the yeller boys, nor the suverigns don’t spile the rum.”
The Waddys lowered themselves into the lazarette and turned the wooden tap; and even as the salt water streamed forth, Apple heaved the heavy trap up and over on its massive hinges and crashed it into place. The big bolts were knocked home.
There was a light, swivelled gun on the quarterdeck. With powder from a locker in the cabin, and a tinder-box from the commander’s berth, Captain Apple had all he required with which to attract the attention of the sloop-of-war to seaward. He loaded and fired twelve times; and then, resting from his labors and awaiting the arrival of the boat from the hove-to sloop-of-war, he prepared his story, planned his line of action and decided to hand over the wreckers in the lazarette as a brace of wicked pirates. The gift of a brace of pirates would make a good impression on the commander of the sloop, he reckoned. And he reckoned right.