Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
'Go home, go home,' says Captain Ward,
'And tell your king from me,
If he reigns king upon dry land,
I will reign king at sea.'"—Old Song.
High winds from the south-east having increased to a tempest, none of that portion of the crew, who left the ship, with the intention of returning on board as soon as they had gained some tidings of their friends, attempted to put to sea again. But few hands were left on board, and the ship was driven ashore on the rocks near Lamorna Cove. where she became a wreck before the morning.
On the night after the funeral of Lanyon, some of his crew related to their old acquaintances in the public-house (whither they all assembled to renew their friendship with their old comrades, to cheer their heavy hearts with good strong drink, and to drown their sorrows and forget
their cares over the pure home-brewed) that on the night of the 30th of October, Lanyon was for hours like one raving mad. They could scarcely keep him in the ship until he fell on the deck in a trance, and remained speechless and still as death for hours. When he carne to himself he told them he had been taken to the village of Kimyel, and that if he ever married the woman who cast the spell he would make her suffer the longest day she had to live, for drawing his soul out of his body. The young men had often, before this night, related to their old comrades the story of their adventures in the pirate-ship, which adventures were thought to be nothing remarkable for those times. The contrary winds that came on soon after they left Boulogne (with a cargo of the choicest wines and cordials, strongest brandy, silks, laces, and other merchandise) became a fearful storm, which lasted several days, and drove them towards the south-east and far out of their course.
For several days they saw neither sun, moon, nor stars, and knew not which way to steer, for compass they had none. The fifth day, when the weather cleared, they were out of sight of land, and knew not what course to take to arrive at the nearest port. As much of their rigging was lost, and their eatables spoiled, they must either make land or perish, unless picked up by some ship; and they had been days on the look-out for some friendly sail, without seeing any other signs of human life than what their own frail bark contained. As well as they were able, they kept their course towards the east, hoping soon to reach the coast of France or Spain. When all but Lanyon had fallen to the bottom of the boat quite exhausted, he saw, and signalled to, a rakish-looking craft that was passing at no great distance. The boat's crew roused themselves and all joined to hail the passing ship.
They were at last noticed by the ship's crew, who, seeing their signal of distress, hove about and slackened sail. When taken on board the young men were too much exhausted to know or care what ship they were in, or with whom. They heard a strange lingo, saw strange swarthy-looking visages with long black beards, smelt the flavour of strange cookery, and soon made a hearty meal on what they were too hungry to examine, and fell asleep, quite worn out with their long watch, fast, and fatigue. They awoke from a protracted sleep much restored, and found that their knives and everything else they wore as armour or for self-defence, as well as the little money they had about them, was taken from them. When they arose, to examine the dark part of the hold in which they were placed, and found the doors and hatches secured by massive bars and bolts, with chains and manacles fastened to beams and stanchions they then understood that they had fallen into the hands of Algerine pirates or Barbary corsairs. As the day wore on, a negro came below and made signs for them to go on deck, where they found a good repast of stewed mutton prepared for them. All but two of the ship's swarthy crew kept aloof, and seemed afraid of being polluted if they came near
them. Even the rank negro who served the pirates’ cabin—either from the monkey-like instinct of imitation, or the slavish perception which ever prompts the despicable race of black or white to lick the feet of the strongest and crush the weakest—pretended to find the strangers unclean and offensive, but a withering glance from Lanyon made the man skulk away, abashed. The young men also remarked that before meals and at stated times, there was a great show of washing without much regard to cleanliness, and that their captors often placed themselves in formal attitudes, made various prostrations towards the east,—in fact, according to their Mussulman notions, they were as religious a set as gentlemen of their profession could well be, under the circumstances, and were even regarded by their fellow-countrymen as holy warriors for making havoc on the unbelieving Christian dogs.
Their interpreters of the dubious oracles and wild fables of the prophet (like the priests of all other barbarous creeds) taught the ignorant and superstitious people that what the infidels regard as crimes are mere venial faults, compared with unbelief in what these interested interpreters of their prophet dictate as the will of Allah. This unbelief, they say, is the most heinous and unpardonable of all sins, because a sin against God; whereas all other sins, or what the infidels call crimes, are merely sins against mankind. As a consequence of this atrocious dogma, so dangerous in the mouths of interested fiery fanatics, these religious warriors spread rapine and murder into many peaceful Christian lands, believing all the while that they were offering an acceptable sacrifice to the god whom they created after their own image. It is well known that these bloody Algerine pirates were regarded by their countrymen as holy warriors in the service of Allah to subdue the unbelieving "dogs of Christians." Yet little better could be expected of the people who regard the insane as the particular favourites of heaven, and as the oft-chosen instruments of the celestial powers for communicating their pleasure to the more sober sons of earth. The Mahomedan fanatics are not singular in believing the insane to be the most favoured of heaven. Notwithstanding the formal profession, by these sanguinary roving Moors, of unquestioning submission to the ordinances of their prophet, yet in their heart of hearts they were bound by no other laws than such as their pleasures or necessities dictated, and were striking examples of the general rule, that there is always a close connection between devoteeism and devilry—superstition and the most atrocious wickedness, like modern developments of cant, sanctimonious pride, and diabolically-treacherous actions.
There were two seamen on board who had been captured by the pirates many years before from a French ship, and had been retained instead of sold as slaves, because one of them was a clever cook, and had such a knowledge of surgery as was not to be despised, while the other was an able pilot. These wandering sailors, who had mixed for many
years with people from all the trading parts of the world, seemed to belong to no country in particular, and their language was composed of a mixture of words from all the babels of the North and West, with many Levantine terms, which make up that confusion of tongues known in the Levant as the Lingua Franca, and which was a universal language among sailors of these times. These two Francs had much sympathy and liking for the young Cornish smugglers, which they contrived to express by signs and their universal lingo (when not watched by the jealous Moors), and informed the young men, with whom they had more affinity of race, that when they were taken on board, the day before the pirate ship was cruising near Corunna, waiting for more favourable weather to land in any cove or creek at no great distance, with the intention of carrying off some Astrurian maidens for the harems of wealthy Moors, and youths to work in their gardens, and that their object for then setting sail for Levant was to take the young men to some market on the coast and sell them for slaves.
The young men of Buryan determined to fight hard for their lives, before they would be this disposed of. As is well known, the Mahomedans are forbidden by the prophet to taste either wine or strong drink; yet these rovers took good care to save, and stow away, all the delicious wines, cordials, and spirits that they found in the smugglers’ boat, and it was soon plain, by the altered demeanour of the usually gloomy and silent Moors, that they had made a law for themselves for the time, thinking, no doubt, that if Mahomed had only tasted the rich wines of France he would never have made the unreasonable ordinance to forbid the faithful from drinking nectar worthy of Allah. The first day the pirates indulged themselves so far, that in their early excitement they amused themselves by showing their contempt and practising on the fears of the captives and, displayed their exultation over the young men, whom they called Christian dogs, by torturing them in various ways, and finished their cowardly cruelty by spitting in the faces of the fettered, defenceless band. They became stupidly drunk and powerless before night, when the two Franks and Lanyon took advantage of the pirates’ oblivion to all sublunary doings to procure themselves arms, and to provide the means of releasing the others of the smuggling band from the manacles to which they were obliged to submit, when they showed by signs that they wished to have some provisions, and to be allowed to proceed westward in their own boat. Afterwards, by the advice of their Frankish accomplices, they appeared to be as submissive as possible, to throw the Moors off their guard.
When the rovers roused themselves a little, the next day, their captain came into the part of the ship in which the smugglers were confined. He found them all apparently asleep and the negro keeping vigilant guard over them: then, seeing the cook busy in the galley, the pilot at the wheel, and the weather being so calm that the ship made no headway, he took
some more of the nectar that the doctor-cook had taken good care to drug with some powerful opiate. All the other Moors, following the example of their captain, were, long before night, in such a state as to be unable to offer much resistance. After the negro (who could go to any part of the ship without suspicion) had procured them the keys of the armoury, that they might get such weapons as they required, the youngsters of Buryan got rid of their bracelets and placed them quietly on the arms of the drunken pirates. Then, as soon as a boat was ready, and a light breeze sprang up, they, with the help of the Franks and the negro soon put the Moors overboard.
In the rough handling required to haul the grimfaced pirates from their sleeping-places and to land them into the boat, many of them became sensible of their altered fortunes, and made such desperate resistance as occasioned much bloodshed. Yet, although some were bleeding freely, all seemed to be breathing when they were sent adrift at no great distance from the Spanish land with two or three days’ provisions and a keg of water. The honest doctor-cook sent them down a bucket of such things as would be suitable for their stomachs when they got over their drink;—the good man would not even let a drunken Turk be without proper food if he could help it, as most seamen know there is nothing so bad as hunger to make savages of saints.
The pilot tried to make them understand the course to steer for the nearest land. The negro, who was a good Mussulman in his way, saluted his former masters with the ordinary salaam of "Allah is great, and Mahomed is his prophet; what is to be must be; the will of the Lord be done;" and, turning to his new masters, he called the Moors a set of nasty black niggers.
Lanyon was chosen captain; the treasures, money, and merchandize found in the ship were divided as equally as might be between the Buryan men, the Franks, and the negro (who was about the best sailor on board, and a favourite with the crew for his facility of adapting himself to any changes).
The wind being favourable for continuing their course towards the coast of Barbary, the new possessors of the pirate-craft resolved to try a scheme they planned by way of retaliation on those who are fond of buying Christian captives.
The ship had no sooner arrived within sight of a town on the Levantine shores, than Jewish or other dealers in human merchandize came off in their galleys, in hopes to procure some young Christian slaves for the Moorish bashaws of the city.
The negro and the two Franks were well known. The rest of the ship's company, by darkening their skin with gunpowder and donning the Moorish garb, were not remarked as strangers by the Jewish and Ishmaelitish dealers, who came with money or merchandize to pay for the
captives that the nigger assured the Jews they would see below, where the captain was waiting to receive his friends. The merchants were no sooner below the hatchway than they found themselves gagged, and placed in the chains in which they expected to find some lovely Spanish damsels or stalwart youths. This game was played until they had as much provision and Moorish human chattels on board as they could well stow away and attend to. Then they set sail for the Spanish and Portuguese settlements in the new world. In repassing the Bay of Biscay, the bottle containing the paper, with the names of those on board, was committed to the deep, with but little hopes that its contents would ever reach Buryan. In some isle of the Spanish main they disposed of their Moors, who took to their changed condition with all the apathy for which these fatalists are remarkable. The rovers then made some profitable buccaneering expeditions to the Dutch, and other, isles and settlements, when they returned with the intention of selling their ship and merchandize in some English port and settling quietly at home.
Although the ship became a wreck, as related before, most of those on board, by swimming, reached the shore, and with the help of the others of the ship's company saved good quantity of the rich spoils of the wrecked pirate ship in Lamorna Cove, and gave much more than Lanyon's share to the old folks for his son. They say that the horse was found dead the morning after the spectre-bridegroom rode it to fetch his bride, either in the town-place of Bosean or in Baranhuel cliff.