Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
BUCCANEERS MANSVELT AND MORGAN
 NOW remained the performance of my duty to my uncle. I had promised him that he should not be
tossed to the sharks, and should be buried 'neath one of the swaying palms on shore,
provided I could accomplish it. To do so I must seek Mansvelt in his lair and beg the
favor of him, or of whomsoever made pretense of being the lord of the isle. Doubtless it
was Mansvelt, but I misdoubted if the pirate Morgan would not have a word to say. And it
was even so, for when I went ashore to proffer the request I found the twain holding high
revel in the leader's hut. They had little mind to listen to me, in sooth; but my mission
 was urgent, my heart was callous with much suffering, and I cared nothing for their whims.
"How is this?" demanded Mansvelt, after I had gained entrance to the room where he was
reclining in a hammock surrounded by his boon companions. "How is this? Is it not enough
that ye all should murder some dozen or more of my honest knaves who had gone aboard your
craft on pleasure bent, but that ye also should desire me to bury them? Who is this man
you would thrust upon my island now? Ods blood, but there are bones enough buried here
now, without adding to the number. Over on the leeward side is a veritable golgotha.
"Well, yes, bring him ashore, for one more or less will not matter. But who is he that of
all the number slain should be so highly honored? No sailor, I'll trow, who prefers a dry
grave ashore to the salt sea."
"It is my uncle, sir," I managed to stammer, yet looking him full in the eye. "You knew
 when alive, yet he would not wish me to beg a favor of you, that I am sure."
"What, Brabazon? He killed? Well, I'm sorry. He was the most skillful navigator ever
sailed these seas, and I had hoped yet to have him one of us. He would have made a fine
chief mate, in sooth. He was a brave man, too. I reel moved to go with you and see him
laid at rest. What sayest thou, Morgan, shall we go and do the honors?"
"Go an 't pleaseth thee," snarled the one addressed, who was lolling near in another
hammock; "but as for me, this wine is to my taste. I'll not leave it for any dog's
funeral, let alone Brabazon. I have it from my spies that he came here of a purpose:
namely, to gather information of the rendezvous and then haste home to England, eke to
return with the king's ships and hang the whole of us!"
"Not so," returned Mansvelt. When I took him he was bound for the Barbadoes, whither he
was going for a cargo."
 "When you took him! Ah, ha, that is rich enough. Why, man, he allowed himself to be taken,
that he might be brought here and gain the evidence that would swing us all from the
"Thou liest, Morgan, I took him in a fair fight."
"Fight? Call you that a fight when no blood was shed save by that youngster yonder, and
that, too, of your own men in the quarrel that he picked with them? Better make it a
double funeral and bury them both in the same grave—Brabazon and his
nephew—else the pup may carry out the old dog's scheme and cause us trouble later."
Morgan had said all this without even rising from his reclining position in the hammock,
and without raising his voice, as if it were a matter of indifference to him, yet the
words stung the more, both Mansvelt and myself. I felt the blood boil within my veins and
that creeping at the roots of my hair which boded ire. It was
 only by the mightiest effort that I controlled myself. I did not wish to engage in
unseemly strife at that time when on such an errand, and I tried to still the beating of
my heart and the bounding of my pulse, resolving to swallow the insult rather than allow
myself to be drawn into a quarrel.
But Mansvelt had no such scruples as mine to restrain him, and he leaped to his feet soon
as the words were said that impugned his honor and veracity. His cimitar he jerked from
its scabbard and flourished aloft, at the same time exclaiming that he would make Morgan
eat those words: that he must fight unless he retracted what he had said. As for the
latter, he seemed in no whit moved by the actions of the Frenchman, although in the
circles described by Mansvelt's cimitar in the air it came very near to his head. He
continued puffing tobacco, blowing rings of smoke into the air, and now and then reaching
for a cup of wine, held by an Indian slave who stood trembling by. He seemed
 to enjoy the confusion he had created, and his huge shoulders quaked with inward
merriment. One would have thought, seeing him thus, that he had cracked the greatest joke
in the world.
But the confusion was not all of either his or Mansvelt's creating, for at his suggestion
of burying me in the same grave with my uncle there arose a shout of approval from the
rest of the company gathered there at the revel, nearly all, as with one voice, yelling
out: "Aye, bury them together. One grave for both! One grave for both!" And weapons were
unloosed, while, if scowls could have killed a person, I were like to fall dead at once.
I stood my ground, however, neither replying to the wretches nor yielding to the impulse
that now and again seized me of taking to my heels and seeking shelter on the ship. It
seemed to me, despite the apparent danger I was in, that these fools were merely vaporing,
and especially Mansvelt, with his sword play at the empty air and his oaths, which he
continued to explode
 like Chinese fireworks in a barrel. My opinion of him underwent a change as I saw him
thus, and at that particular moment his rival, Morgan, appeared to the better advantage, I
MORGAN SAID ALL THIS WITHOUT RISING FROM THE HAMMOCK.
At last the latter thundered forth: "Avast and belay there, fool. Enough of this boy's
play. If you misdoubt me ask the lad what his uncle's intentions were. Stand forth, thou
British cur," he said, addressing me, "and tell us what thou knowest about the admiralty
scheme. Tell Monsieur Mansvelt that I am no liar!"
"That you cannot prove by me," I said, recklessly enough. "Where you got that tale I know
not, but from the time our ship left England until the day we arrived at this island I
never heard a word of it. But, then, I was not master of the vessel. Belike he would not
have confided his plans, if he had any such, to his cabin boy."
"No, belike," sneered Morgan, bringing his evil face close to mine (for he had .now left
his hammock and was on his feet), "but he might
 have confided them to his sister's son when at the point of death. He might have done
this, and this he did, as you cannot deny, and also have bound you by an oath to carry out
his scheme. Is that so?"
Like a flash then it came to me how this villain had secured the information: he had been
eavesdropping while my dear uncle had falteringly confessed to me his scheme in his last
moments. Unutterable loathing of the creature took possession of me then, and I drew away
from him as though he were a thing unclean—as, in sooth, he was.
"I will not tell you what my uncle said to me. His last words are sacred. But, be assured,
he bound me by no oath." I told him this much and then lapsed into silence, resolved not
to speak again.
"Sacred, eh?" the pirate repeated after me with a leer. "Know, fool, that there is nothing
sacred in these seas. Not life, nor death, nor religion. For this is the nether
 hear? This is the place where demons dwell. We are all devils here. That ape over there
(pointing to Mansvelt) is a French devil; I am a Welsh devil; those asses who brayed so
loudly just now are mongrel devils; but all, all are possessed of the evil one!"
"Oh, let the lad alone," now interposed Mansvelt, his fury being now spent and Morgan's
ghastly jesting putting him in good humor again. "What matters it whether he knows of his
uncle's plan or not, or whether Brabazon had a scheme? Who cares? Brabazon is dead; the
boy cannot escape us, and as for the British admiralty, like all things British, it is
pig-headed and dense. Were it the French admiralty, now—ah, that would be
"Of course," snarled the Briton, "the difference between something and nothing. "No
wasp-waisted Frenchman yet could handle a vessel, let alone a navy; which, by the way,
your nation never owned."
"Eh, bien," returned the Frenchman, now
 thoroughly good-humored. "Have it your own way. But let the lad go bury his uncle. Captain
Brabazon was not the man to wait on others in his life; methinks this delay must be
vexatious to him." He laughed at his grim joke and his boon companions joined in, so there
was peace again in camp.
Such as I have described him was the buccaneer, Henry Morgan, though I have given but a
phase or two of his hideous character. It makes me ashamed that one of my countrymen
should have sunk so low as he, should have given to the land of his birth such a
reputation; but he was born a monster, it would seem. A native of Wales, his father a
wealthy farmer, somehow or other Morgan became enamored of the sea, and shipped for the
Barbadoes, arrived at which island the master of his vessel sold him into slavery, in a
manner, that sort of white slavery being then in vogue; that is, men and boys were lured
to the islands under one pretence and another, or else sent there for their offences, and
indentured to the
 planters for terms of years. The latter saw to it that their 'prentices did not escape
without paying them well for their investments, and many a poor white slave paid his
reckoning with his life.
Morgan, however, was of stronger stuff than the common run, and instead of sinking under
his misfortunes ran away and escaped them. He made his way either to Saint Kitts or to
Jamaica, and there joined the fraternity known as the Brethren of the Sea, or the
Buccaneers, becoming shortly one of the best known of those gentry and carrying things
before him with a high hand. Having in mind the sufferings he had endured from his own
countrymen in particular, he always held a grudge against them, it would seem, being
especially cruel to such as fell into his clutches. Many a poor mariner had he made to
walk the plank, and many a British ship had he consigned to the flames, after sacking her
of all she held worth taking away.
When I first made his acquaintance he was
 not much more than thirty years old, having been born, he always held, in 1637. As I have
already described him: he was big and burly, peculiarly phlegmatic when he chose, but as
cruel as a tiger or hyena—which latter he seemed more to resemble in his ghoulish
delight in lending away from his victims, whether dead or alive, the last shred of
character he was able to deprive them of. Just when he made the acquaintance of my friend
Mansvelt I never knew, but they had known each other some time when I first found them.
They had already been engaged in several nefarious expeditions, had plundered a city and
taken galleons galore. They made a good pair together so long as they could agree, for the
Frenchman was crafty and designing, while the Englishman was bold and relentless in
pursuit. The one would plan a scheme of plunder, be it the sacking of a city on the Main
or the cutting out of a fleet of treasure ships from its convoy, and the other would
 This precious pair of rascals would not much longer hold together, as any one the least
observant could see with half an eye, for they were now wealthy beyond all calculation
from the plunder they had taken, and had little more to gain by working in unison. Each
was getting restive under the domineering of the other, and there were not lacking those
in Tortuga who predicted that the question of leadership would soon be settled by personal
combat. There could be only one leader; but while Mansvelt enjoyed the nominal
distinction, Morgan was really the dominant one. He had hitherto kept pretty much at sea,
being a pirate that was happy only when sailing under the black flag with the cross-bones
on it at the masthead in open sea. But latterly he had shown a preference for Tortuga that
was most unusual, sometimes spending weeks ashore, when he should have been off scouring
the sea, Mansvelt thought, for their common prey.
I learned later that there was a fair lady in
 the case, whose favors both were striving for, and who dwelt a prisoner in Tortuga under
guard of Mansvelt's men. It did not seem possible to me then that any man could care
sufficiently for any woman, not his mother or sister, to fight for her withal; but as I
grew older I grew wiser, and learned what it was to become interested to that extent. In
sooth, no knight-errant of chivalry could have fought more fiercely for his lady love than
I myself fought in defence of this same lady's honor later on. I mean she who was the
cause of trouble between Morgan and Mansvelt.