ESCAPES OF CAPTIVES—I
IT was very rarely that a captive escaped from the clutches of the Corsairs. When we consider the vast numbers of
people they seized, many of the prisoners being soldiers and seamen, some of them gentlemen-adventurers, the
pick of the bold and daring spirits of a bold and daring age, it seems strange that the accounts of successful
escapes from a town such as Algiers are very few and far between.
 The reason was very simple. The whole city was one huge prison. And it was not the city walls and the city
gates which held the bondsmen captive; it was the open country which lay around. For this was filled with
savage, native tribes through whom no fugitive could make his way. To make for the hills and the open country
was to make for death, for the mountain Moors were thrice as savage and bloodthirsty as their fellows of the
city. There remained the sea; but the watch along the shore was so strict, the guard upon vessels and oars so
close, that very few ever got clear off by water. Some did, and of these we will read, but first we will speak
of those who escaped after capture but while still upon the sea.
THE STORY OF THE FOUR BRAVE BOYS
In 1621 the good ship Jacob of Bristol sailed for the Mediterranean. All went well until she was
entering the Straits of Gibraltar, when she was suddenly attacked by a Corsair ship out of Algiers. There was
a desperate fight, but in the end the pirates won, and seized the vessel. The Corsair captain did not wish to
return to Algiers, so he resolved to send the prize home. He took all the English crew out of the
Jacob except four boys, John Cooke, William Long, Robert Tuckey, and David Jones. He left these
as prisoners in the hands of the thirteen men whom he sent aboard to carry the Jacob to Algiers.
For some days they sailed towards Algiers, and the four boys were kept fast in the hands of the pirates. Then
on the fifth day the wind began to freshen and the sea to rise. The Turks now wished
 to take in sail, but found they were short-handed. So they freed the boys and ordered them to help. But these
brave lads, once free, helped themselves in British fashion. One seized the captain and pitched him overboard.
The others snatched such weapons as came to hand and attacked the rest of the crew. They killed two, threw two
more into the sea, and drove the other eight below. Next they clapped on the hatches and secured them, and the
eight were prisoners.
Now the four boys were masters of the ship, and so well did they handle her, that they sailed her safely into
the harbour of San Lucar in Spain. Here they landed in safety and sold their prisoners, the pirates, for a
large sum of money as galley-slaves.
THE STORY OF JOHN RAWLINS
In the same year (1621) one John Rawlins of Rochester sailed from Plymouth as the pilot of the
Nicholas, which had in its company another ship of Plymouth. They had a fair voyage till they came
within sight of Gibraltar; then they saw a fleet of five sail trying to come up with them. Those on board the
Nicholas suspected the newcomers were pirates, and so they proved to be, and after a long chase
the pirates came up and seized the English ships. The crews were carried to Algiers and sold as slaves. John
Rawlins was the last to be sold, for his hand was badly injured, and he fetched no more than seven pounds ten,
reckoned in English money.
After a time he was sold again. There was a pirate vessel in the harbour about to set out on a cruise, and she
wanted a pilot. Now she was
 commanded by an English Turk, a renegade, and he wished for an English slave for pilot, and he bought John
Rawlins. When the ship left Algiers there were on board sixty-three Turks and Moors, nine English slaves, one
French slave, four Dutchmen, who were free, and four gunners, among whom were one English and one Dutch
The English slaves were so badly treated by their cruel masters that one day John Rawlins broke out: "Oh,
horrible slavery, to be thus subject to dogs! Oh, Heaven, strengthen my heart and hand, and something shall be
done to deliver us!"
The other slaves bade him be silent, lest all should fare the worse for his rash talk.
"Worse!" cried Rawlins, "what can be worse? I will either regain my liberty at one time or another, or perish
in the attempt; but if you would agree to join with me in the undertaking, I doubt not but we should find some
way of winning glory with our freedom." His companions again begged him to be silent, but said that if he
could hit on a plan they would follow him.
After this the Turks behaved worse than ever. They flogged and reviled the slaves with the greatest fury, even
when the slaves were doing their utmost. John Rawlins became more and more resolved to seize the ship and
secure liberty. So he made ready strong ropes with broad spikes of iron so that he and his friends might
fasten up, at the proper moment, all scuttles, gratings, and cabins. In this way he could shut up the Turks in
small parties, and then, if he could become master of the gun-room and the powder, he could blow the Turks
into the air, or kill them one by one if any party should break out of its prison.
 Little by little he gained over the Dutch gunners to his plot, and they agreed to join him. Now John Rawlins
persuaded the captain to steer away northward, because Rawlins wished to draw the pirate ship away from other
Turkish vessels which were in company with it. The captain consented, for he did not know a great deal about
seamanship, and had heard that Rawlins was a very skilful pilot.
They had been about a month out from Algiers when they saw a sail, and at once the Turks pursued, came up, and
forced the vessel to surrender. It was a ship from Dartmouth laden with silk. The Turks took the captain with
five of his men, and a boy, on board, and sent ten men to man the prize. Among these men were three who were
in the plot, and Rawlins bade them make common cause with the four Englishmen left on the captured ship, and
steer for England that night while the Turks slept.
This was done, and the next morning there was no sign of the prize to be seen. The pirate captain was amazed
and angry, and bade Rawlins search the seas for the missing ship, but they sailed all day without success.
Then John Rawlins told the captain there was a great deal of water in the hold, and it must be pumped out
before the ship could sail properly, so the pumps were set to work. And in order to make the water run to the
pumps, the guns were moved and the pirate soldiery were gathered on the poop to weigh the ship down by the
stern. All these movements furthered the plot. The ship had three decks. The plotters were gathered on the
middle deck. The soldiers were now all on the upper deck, and must remain there if the scuttles and hatches
were closed. And
 the slaves were strong enough to deal with those left on the lower deck. The conspirators now waited for the
signal gun which John Rawlins was to fire, and upon the report of this gun they were to shout their watchword:
"For God, and King James, and Saint George for England." At two o'clock Rawlins fired the gun, and the slaves,
with loud cries, leapt to the attack.
"But when the Turks heard this, and the shouts of the conspirators, and saw that part of the ship was torn
away, and felt it shake under them, and knew that all threatened their destruction—no bear robbed of her
whelps was ever so mad as they, for they not only called us dogs, and cried in their tongue, 'The fortune of
war! the fortune of war!' but they tried to tear up the planking, setting to work hammers, hatchets, knives,
the oars of the boat, the boat-hook, and whatever else came to hand, besides the stones and bricks of the
cook-room, still trying to break the hatches, and never ceasing their horrible cries and threats."
Then Rawlins, seeing them so violent, and understanding that the slaves had cleared the decks of all the Turks
and Moors underneath, began to shoot at them through different holes, with their own muskets, and so lessened
their number. At this they cried for the pilot, and so Rawlins, with some to guard him, went to them, and
understood by their kneeling that they cried for mercy and begged to come down. This they were bidden to do,
but coming down one by one, they were taken and slain by their own swords. And the rest perceiving this, some
of them leapt into the water, still crying, "The fortune of war!" till the decks were well cleared, and the
 "When all was done, and the ship cleared of the dead bodies, John Rawlins assembled his men, and with one
consent gave the praise to God, using the accustomed services on shipboard. Then did they sing a psalm, and,
last of all, embraced one another for playing the men in such a deliverance, whereby their fear was turned
into joy. That same night they steered for England, and arrived at Plymouth on the 13th of February, and were
welcomed with all gladness."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics