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THE STORY OF A PEARL PIRATE
 THE ordinary story of the pirate, or the wicked man in general, no matter how successful he may have been in his
criminal career, nearly always ends disastrously, and in that way points a moral which doubtless has a good
effect on a large class of people, who would be very glad to do wrong, provided no harm was likely to come to
them in consequence. But the story of Peter the Great, which we have just told, contains no such moral. In
fact, its influence upon the adventurers of that period was most unwholesome.
When the wonderful success of Peter the Great became known, the buccaneering community at Tortuga was wildly
excited. Every bushy-bearded fellow who could get possession of a small boat, and induce a score of other
bushy-bearded fellows to follow him, wanted to start out and capture a rich Spanish galleon, as the great
ships, used alike for war and commerce, were then called.
But not only were the French and English sailors
 and traders who had become buccaneers excited and stimulated by the remarkable good fortune of their
companion, but many people of adventurous mind, who had never thought of leaving England for purposes of
piracy, now became firmly convinced that there was no business which promised better than that of a buccaneer,
and some of them crossed the ocean for the express purpose of getting rich by capturing Spanish vessels
As there were not enough suitable vessels in Tortuga for the demands of the recently stimulated industry, the
buccaneer settlers went to other parts of the West Indies to obtain suitable craft, and it is related that in
about a month after the great victory of Peter the Great, two large Spanish vessels, loaded with silver
bullion, and two other heavily laden merchantmen were brought into Tortuga by the buccaneers.
One of the adventurers who set out about this time on a cruise after gold-laden vessels, was a Frenchman who
was known to his countrymen as Pierre François, and to the English as Peter Francis. He was a good sailor, and
ready for any sort of a sea-fight, but for a long time he cruised about without seeing anything which it was
worth while to attempt to capture. At last, when his provisions began to give out, and his men became somewhat
discontented, Pierre made up his mind that rather
 than return to Tortuga empty-handed, he would make a bold and novel stroke for fortune.
At the mouth of one of the large rivers of the mainland the Spaniards had established a pearl fishery,—for
there was no kind of wealth or treasure, on the land, under ground, or at the bottom of the sea, that the
Spaniards did not get if it were possible for them to do so.
Every year, at the proper season, a dozen or more vessels came to this pearl-bank, attended by a man-of-war to
protect them from molestation. Pierre knew all about this, and as he could not find any Spanish merchantmen to
rob, he thought he would go down and see what he could do with the pearl-fishers. This was something the
buccaneers had not yet attempted, but no one knows what he can do until he tries, and it was very necessary
that this buccaneer captain should try something immediately.
When he reached the coast near the mouth of the river, he took the masts out of his little vessel, and rowed
quietly toward the pearl-fishing fleet, as if he had intended to join them on some entirely peaceable errand;
and, in fact, there was no reason whatever why the Spaniards should suppose that a boat full of buccaneers
should be rowing along that part of the coast.
The pearl-fishing vessels were all at anchor, and the people on board were quietly attending to their
 business. Out at sea, some distance from the mouth of the river, the man-of-war was lying becalmed. The native
divers who went down to the bottom of the sea to bring up the shellfish which contained the pearls, plunged
into the water, and came up wet and shining in the sun, with no fear whatever of any sharks which might be
swimming about in search of a dinner, and the people on the vessels opened the oysters and carefully searched
for pearls, feeling as safe from harm as if they were picking olives in their native groves.
But something worse than a shark was quietly making its way over those tranquil waters, and no banditti who
ever descended from Spanish mountains upon the quiet peasants of a village, equaled in ferocity the savage
fellows who were crouching in the little boat belonging to Pierre of Tortuga.
This innocent-looking craft, which the pearl-fishers probably thought was loaded with fruit or vegetables
which somebody from the mainland desired to sell, was permitted, without being challenged or interfered with,
to row up alongside the largest vessel of the fleet, on which there were some armed men and a few cannon.
As soon as Pierre's boat touched the Spanish vessel, the buccaneers sprang on board with their pistols and
cutlasses, and a savage fight began. The Spaniards were surprised, but there were a great
 many more of them than there were pirates, and they fought hard. However, the man who makes the attack, and
who is at the same time desperate and hungry, has a great advantage, and it was not long before the buccaneers
were masters of the vessel. Those of the Spaniards who were not killed, were forced into the service of their
captors, and Pierre found himself in command of a very good vessel.
Now it so happened that the man-of-war was so far away that she knew nothing of this fight on board one of the
fleet which she was there to watch, and if she had known of it, she would not have been able to give any
assistance, for there was no wind by which she could sail to the mouth of the river. Therefore, so far as she
was concerned, Pierre considered himself safe.
But although he had captured a Spanish ship, he was not so foolish as to haul down her flag, and run up his
own in her place. He had had very good success so far, but he was not satisfied. It was quite probable that
there was a rich store of pearls on board the vessel he had taken, but on the other vessels of the fleet there
were many more pearls, and these he wanted if he could get them. In fact, he conceived the grand idea of
capturing the whole fleet.
But it would be impossible for Pierre to attempt
 anything on such a magnificent scale until he had first disposed of the man-of-war, and as he had now a good
strong ship, with a much larger crew than that with which he had set out,—for the Spanish prisoners would be
obliged to man the guns and help in every way to fight their countrymen,—Pierre determined to attack the
A land wind began to blow, which enabled him to make very fair headway out to sea. The Spanish colors were
flying from his topmast, and he hoped to be able, without being suspected of any evil designs, to get so near
to the man-of-war that he might run alongside and boldly board her.
But something now happened which Pierre could not have expected. When the commander of the war-vessel
perceived that one of the fleet under his charge was leaving her companions and putting out to sea, he could
imagine no reason for such extraordinary conduct, except that she was taking advantage of the fact that the
wind had not yet reached his vessel, and was trying to run away with the pearls she had on board. From these
ready suspicions we may imagine that, at that time, the robbers who robbed robbers were not all buccaneers.
Soon after the Spanish captain perceived that one of his fleet was making his way out of the river, the wind
reached his vessel, and he immediately set all
 sail and started in pursuit of the rascals, whom he supposed to be his dishonest countrymen.
The breeze freshened rapidly, and when Pierre and his men saw that the man-of-war was coming toward them at a
good rate of speed, showing plainly that she had suspicions of them, they gave up all hope of running
alongside of her and boarding her, and concluded that the best thing they could do would be to give up their
plan of capturing the pearl-fishing fleet, and get away with the ship they had taken, and whatever it had on
board. So they set all sail, and there was a fine sea-chase.
The now frightened buccaneers were too anxious to get away. They not only put on all the sail which the vessel
could carry, but they put on more. The wind blew harder, and suddenly down came the mainmast with a crash.
This stopped the chase, and the next act in the performance would have to be a sea-fight. Pierre and his
buccaneers were good at that sort of thing, and when the man-of-war came up, there was a terrible time on
board those two vessels. But the Spaniards were the stronger, and the buccaneers were defeated.
There must have been something in the daring courage of this Frenchman and his little band of followers, which
gave him favor in the eyes of the Spanish captain, for there was no other reason for the good treatment which
the buccaneers received.
 They were not put to the sword nor thrown overboard, not sent on shore and made to work as slaves,—three very
common methods of treating prisoners in those days. But they were all set free, and put on land, where they
might go where they pleased.
This unfortunate result of the bold enterprise undertaken by Pierre François was deeply deplored, not only at
Tortuga, but in England and in France. If this bold buccaneer had captured the pearl fleet, it would have been
a victory that would have made a hero of him on each side of the Atlantic, but had he even been able to get
away with the one vessel he had seized, he would have been a rich man, and might have retired to a life of
ease and affluence; the vessel he had captured proved to be one of the richest laden of the whole fleet, and
not only in the heart of Pierre and his men, but among his sympathizers in Europe and America, there was great
disappointment at the loss of that mainmast, which, until it cracked, was carrying him forward to fame and