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Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts by  Frank R. Stockton


 

 

HOW BARTHOLEMY RESTED HIMSELF

[59] IT was full two weeks from the time that Bartholemy began his most adventurous and difficult journey before he reached the little town of Golpho Triste, where, as he had hoped, he found some of his buccaneer friends. Now that his hardships and dangers were over, and when, instead of roots and shellfish, he could sit down to good, plentiful meals, and stretch himself upon a comfortable bed, it might have been supposed that Bartholemy would have given himself a long rest, but this hardy pirate had no desire for a vacation at this time. Instead of being worn out and exhausted by his amazing exertions and semi-starvation, he arrived among his friends vigorous and energetic and exceedingly anxious to recommence business as soon as possible. He told them of all that had happened to him, what wonderful good fortune had come to him, and what terrible bad fortune had quickly followed it, and when he had related his adventures and his dangers he astonished even his [60] piratical friends by asking them to furnish him with a small vessel and about twenty men, in order that he might go back and revenge himself, not only for what had happened to him, but for what would have happened if he had not taken his affairs into his own hands.

To do daring and astounding deeds is part of the business of a pirate, and although it was an uncommonly bold enterprise that Bartholemy contemplated, he got his vessel and he got his men, and away he sailed. After a voyage of about eight days he came in sight of the little seaport town, and sailing slowly along the coast, he waited until nightfall before entering the harbor. Anchored at a considerable distance from shore was the great Spanish ship on which he had been a prisoner, and from which he would have been taken and hung in the public square; the sight of the vessel filled his soul with a savage fury known only to pirates and bull dogs.

As the little vessel slowly approached the great ship, the people on board the latter thought it was a trading-vessel from shore, and allowed it to come alongside, such small craft seldom coming from the sea. But the moment Bartholemy reached the ship he scrambled up its side almost as rapidly as he had jumped down from it with his two wine jars a few weeks before, and every one of his crew, leaving [61] their own vessel to take care of itself, scrambled up after him.

Nobody on board was prepared to defend the ship. It was the same old story; resting quietly in a peaceful harbor, what danger had they to expect? As usual the pirates had everything their own way; they were ready to fight, and the others were not, and they were led by a man who was determined to take that ship without giving even a thought to the ordinary alternative of dying in the attempt. The affair was more of a massacre than a combat, and there were people on board who did not know what was taking place until the vessel had been captured.

As soon as Bartholemy was master of the great vessel he gave orders to slip the cable and hoist the sails, for he was anxious to get out of that harbor as quickly as possible. The fight had apparently attracted no attention in the town, but there were ships in the port whose company the bold buccaneer did not at all desire, and as soon as possible he got his grand prize under way and went sailing out of the port.

Now, indeed, was Bartholemy triumphant; the ship he had captured was a finer one and a richer one than that other vessel which had been taken from him. It was loaded with valuable merchandise, and we may here remark that for some reason [62] or other all Spanish vessels of that day, which were so unfortunate as to be taken by pirates, seemed to be richly laden.

If our bold pirate had sung wild pirate songs, as he passed the flowing bowl while carousing with his crew in the cabin of the Spanish vessel he had first captured, he now sang wilder songs, and passed more flowing bowls, for this prize was a much greater one than the first. If Bartholemy could have communicated his great good fortune to the other buccaneers in the West Indies, there would have been a boom in piracy which would have threatened great danger to the honesty and integrity of the seafaring men of that region.

But nobody, not even a pirate, has any way of finding out what is going to happen next, and if Bartholemy had had an idea of the fluctuations which were about to occur in the market in which he had made his investments he would have been in a great hurry to sell all his stock very much below par. The fluctuations referred to occurred on the ocean, near the island of Pinos, and came in the shape of great storm waves, which blew the Spanish vessel with all its rich cargo, and its triumphant pirate crew, high up upon the cruel rocks, and wrecked it absolutely and utterly. Bartholemy and his men barely managed to get into a little boat, and row themselves away. All the wealth [63] and treasure which had come to them with the capture of the Spanish vessel, all the power which the possession of that vessel gave them, and all the wild joy which came to them with riches and power, were lost to them in as short a space of time as it had taken to gain them.

In the way of well-defined and conspicuous ups and downs, few lives surpassed that of Bartholemy Portuguez. But after this he seems, in the language of the old English song, "All in the downs." He had many adventures after the desperate affair in the bay of Campeachy, but they must all have turned out badly for him, and, consequently, very well, it is probable, for divers and sundry Spanish vessels, and, for the rest of his life, he bore the reputation of an unfortunate pirate. He was one of those men whose success seemed to have depended entirely upon his own exertions. If there happened to be the least chance of his doing anything, he generally did it; Spanish cannon, well-armed Spanish crews, manacles, imprisonment, the dangers of the ocean to a man who could not swim, bloodhounds, alligators, wild beasts, awful forests impenetrable to common men, all these were bravely met and triumphed over by Bartholemy.

But when he came to ordinary good fortune, such as any pirate might expect, Bartholemy the Portuguese found that he had no chance at all. But [64] he was not a common pirate, and was, therefore, obliged to be content with his uncommon career. He eventually settled in the island of Jamaica, but nobody knows what became of him. If it so happened that he found himself obliged to make his living by some simple industry, such as the selling of fruit upon a street corner, it is likely he never disposed of a banana or an orange unless he jumped at the throat of a passer-by and compelled him to purchase. As for sitting still and waiting for customers to come to him, such a man as Bartholemy would not be likely to do anything so commonplace.


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