Or was it that they were hunting in the interior of the island, and were not on the lookout for a ship yet? Craddock was still hesitating between the two alternatives, when a Carib Indian came down with information. The pirates were in the island, he said, and their camp was a day's march from the sea. They had stolen his wife, and the marks of their stripes were still pink upon his brown back. Their enemies were his friends, and he would lead them to where they lay. Craddock could not have asked for anything better; so early next morning, with a small party armed to the teeth, he set off under the guidance of the Carib.
All day they struggled through brushwood and clambered over rocks, pushing their way farther and farther into the desolate heart of the island. Here and there they found traces of the hunters, the bones of a slain ox, or the marks of feet in a morass, and once, towards evening, it seemed to some of them that they heard the distant rattle of guns. That night they spent under the trees, and pushed on again with the earliest light.
About noon they came to the huts of bark, which, the Carib told them, were the camp of the hunters, but they were silent and deserted. No doubt their occupants were away at the hunt and would return in the evening, so Craddock and his men lay in ambush in the brushwood around them. But no one came, and another night was spent in the forest. Nothing more could be done, and it seemed to Craddock that after the two days' absence it was time that he returned to his ship once more.
The return journey was less difficult, as they had already blazed a path for themselves. Before evening they found themselves once more at the Bay of Palms, and saw their ship riding at anchor where they had left her. Their boat and oars had been hauled up among the bushes, so they launched it and pulled out to the barque. Somebody upon deck began to laugh. But as he passed over the bulwarks, with one foot upon the deck and one knee upon the rail, a tow-bearded man, whom he had never before observed aboard his vessel, grabbed suddenly at his pistol.
Craddock clutched at the fellow's wrist, but at the same instant his mate snatched the cutlass from his side. But the crew stood in little knots about the deck, laughing and whispering amongst themselves without showing any desire to go to his assistance. Even in that hurried glance Craddock noticed that they were dressed in the most singular manner, with long riding-coats, full-skirted velvet gowns and coloured ribands at their knees, more like men of fashion than seamen.
As he looked at their grotesque figures he struck his brow with his clenched fist to be sure that he was awake. The deck seemed to be much dirtier than when he had left it, and there were strange, sun-blackened faces turned upon him from every side. Not one of them did he know save only Joshua Hird. Had the ship been captured in his absence?
Were these Sharkey's men who were around him? At the thought he broke furiously away and tried to climb over to his boat, but a dozen hands were on him in an instant, and he was pushed aft through the open door of his own cabin. And it was all different from the cabin which he had left. The floor was different, the ceiling was different, the furniture was different. His had been plain and austere. This was sumptuous and yet dirty, hung with rare velvet curtains splashed with wine-stains, and panelled with costly woods which were pocked with pistol-marks.
On the table was a great chart of the Caribbean Sea, and beside it, with compasses in his hand, sat a clean-shaven, pale-faced man with a fur cap and a claret-coloured coat of damask. Craddock turned white under his freckles as he looked upon the long, thin, high-nostrilled nose and the red-rimmed eyes which were turned upon him with the fixed, humorous gaze of the master player who has left his opponent without a move. It was not the pain of the wounds, but it was the contempt in Sharkey's voice which turned Craddock into a savage madman. He flew at the pirate, roaring with rage, striking, kicking, writhing, and foaming.
It took six men to drag him down on to the floor amidst the splintered remains of the table--and not one of the six who did not bear the prisoner's mark upon him. But Sharkey still surveyed him with the same contemptuous eye. From outside there came the crash of breaking wood and the clamour of startled voices. Now, Craddock, you know where you are. You are aboard my ship the Happy Delivery , and you lie at my mercy: I knew you for a stout seaman, you rogue, before you took to this long-shore canting.
Your hands then were no cleaner than my own. Will you sign articles, as your mate has done, and join us, or shall I heave you over to follow your ship's company? Many rough hands had dragged. Craddock out upon deck, and Galloway, the quartermaster, had already drawn his hanger to cripple him, when Sharkey came hurrying from his cabin with an eager face. Throw him into the sail-room with the irons on, and do you come here, quartermaster, that I may tell you what I have in my mind.
So Craddock, bruised and wounded in soul and body, was thrown into the dark sail-room, so fettered that he could not stir hand or foot, but his northern blood was running strong in his veins, and his grim spirit aspired only to make such an ending as might go some way towards atoning for the evil of his life. All night he lay in the curve of the bilge listening to the rush of the water and the straining of the timbers which told him that the ship was at sea, and driving fast.
In the early morning someone came crawling to him in the darkness over the heaps of sails. They laid us aboard, and, short-handed as we were, with the best of the men ashore with you, we could offer but a poor defence. Some were cut down, and they were the happiest. The others were killed afterwards. As to me, I saved my life by signing on with them. His mainyard had been cracked and fished last voyage, so he had suspicions of us, seeing that ours was whole. Then he thought of laying the same trap for you which you had set for him. All that night and the next day the Happy Delivery ran before the easterly trades, and Stephen Craddock lay in the dark of the sail-room working patiently at his wrist-irons.
One he had slipped off at the cost of a row of broken and bleeding knuckles, but, do what he would, he could not free the other, and his ankles were securely fastened. From hour to hour he heard the swish of the water, and knew that the barque must be driving with all set in front of the trade-wind. In that case they must be nearly back again to Jamaica by now.
What plan could Sharkey have in his head, and what use did he hope to make of him? Craddock set his teeth, and vowed that if he had once been a villain from choice he would, at least, never be one by compulsion. On the second morning Craddock became aware that sail had been reduced in the vessel, and that she was tacking slowly, with a light breeze on her beam.
The varying slope of the sail-room and the sounds from the deck told his practised senses exactly what she was doing. The short reaches showed him that she was manoeuvring near shore, and making for some definite point. If so, she must have reached Jamaica. But what could she be doing there? And then suddenly there was a burst of hearty cheering from the deck, and then the crash of a gun above his head, and then the answering booming of guns from far over the water. Craddock sat up and strained his ears. Was the ship in action? Only the one gun had been fired, and though many had answered there were none of the crashings which told of a shot coming home.
Then, if it was not an action, it must be a salute. But who would salute Sharkey, the pirate? It could only be another pirate ship which would do so. So Craddock lay back again with a groan, and continued to work at the manacle which still held his right wrist. But suddenly there came the shuffling of steps outside, and he had hardly time to wrap the loose links round his free hand, when the door was unbolted and two pirates came in.
Better leave the bracelets--he's safer with them on. The sailor seized him by the arm and dragged him roughly to the foot of the companion. Above him was a square of blue sky cut across by the mizzen gaff with the colours flying at the peak. But it was the sight of those colours which struck the breath from Stephen Craddock's lips. For there were two of them, and the British ensign was flying above the Jolly Roger--the honest flag above that of the rogue.
For an instant Craddock stopped in amazement, but a brutal push from the pirates behind drove him up the companion ladder. As he stepped out upon deck, his eyes turned up to the main, and there again were the British colours flying above the red pennant, and all the shrouds and rigging were garlanded with streamers.
Had the ship been taken, then? But that was impossible, for there were the pirates clustering in swarms along the port bulwarks, and waving their hats joyously in the air. Most prominent of all was the renegade mate, standing on the fo'c'sle head, and gesticulating wildly. Craddock looked over the side to see what they were cheering at, and then in a flash he saw how critical was the moment. On the port bow, and about a mile off, lay the white houses and forts of Port Royal, with flags breaking out everywhere over their roofs.
Right ahead was the opening of the palisades leading to the town of Kingston. Not more than a quarter of a mile off was a small sloop working out against the very slight wind. The British ensign was at her peak, and her rigging was all decorated. On her deck could be seen a dense crowd of people cheering and waving their hats, and the gleam of scarlet told that there were officers of the garrison among them. In an instant, with the quick perception of a man of action, Craddock saw through it all.
Sharkey, with that diabolical cunning and audacity which were among his main characteristics, was simulating the part which Craddock would himself have played, had he come back victorious. It was in his honour that the salutes were firing and the flags flying.
It was to welcome him that this ship with the Governor, the commandant, and the chiefs of the island was approaching. In another ten minutes they would all be under the guns of the Happy Delivery, and Sharkey would have won the greatest stake that ever a pirate played for yet. Another two cable lengths and we have them. Quick, or your brains will be over your coat. Put an inch of your knife into him, Ned. Now, will you wave your hat? Try him again, then.
Hey, shoot him! Stop him! But it was too late. Relying upon the manacles, the quartermaster had taken his hands for a moment off Craddock's arm. In that instant he had flung, off the carpenter and, amid a spatter of pistol bullets, had sprung the bulwarks and was swimming for his life. He had been hit and hit again, but it takes many pistols to kill a resolute and powerful man who has his mind set upon doing something before he dies. He was a strong swimmer, and, in spite of the red trail which he left in the water behind him, he was rapidly increasing his distance from the pirate.
He was a famous shot, and his iron nerves never failed him in an emergency. The dark head appearing on the crest of a roller, and then swooping down on the other side, was already half-way to the sloop. Sharkey dwelt long upon his aim before he fired. With the crack of the gun the swimmer reared himself up in the water, waved his hands in a gesture of warning, and roared out in a voice which rang over the bay. Then, as the sloop swung round her head-sails, and the pirate fired an impotent broadside, Stephen Craddock, smiling grimly in his death agony, sank slowly down to that golden couch which glimmered far beneath him.
Sharkey, the abominable Sharkey, was out again. After two years of the Coromandel coast, his black barque of death, the Happy Delivery , was prowling off the Spanish Main, while trader and fisher flew for dear life at the menace of that patched fore-topsail, rising slowly over the violet rim of the tropical sea. As the birds cower when the shadow of the hawk falls athwart the field, or as the jungle folk crouch and shiver when the coughing cry of the tiger is heard in the nighttime, so through all the busy world of ships, from the whalers of Nantucket to the tobacco ships of Charleston, and from the Spanish supply ships of Cadiz to the sugar merchants of the Main, there spread the rumour of the black curse of the ocean.
Some hugged the shore, ready to make for the nearest port, while others struck far out beyond the known lines of commerce, but none were so stout-hearted that they did not breathe more freely when their passengers and cargoes were safe under the guns of some mothering fort. Through all the islands there ran tales of charred derelicts at sea, of sudden glares seen afar in the nighttime, and of withered bodies stretched upon the sand of waterless Bahama Keys.
All the old signs were there to show that Sharkey was at his bloody game once more. These fair waters and yellow-rimmed palm-nodding islands are the traditional home of the sea rover. First it was the gentleman adventurer, the man of family and honour, who fought as a patriot, though he was ready to take his payment in Spanish plunder. Then, within a century, his debonair figure had passed to make room fur the buccaneers, robbers pure and simple, yet with some organized code of their own, commanded by notable chieftains, and taking in hand great concerted enterprises.
They, too, passed with their fleets and their sacking of cities, to make room for the worst of all, the lonely, outcast pirate, the bloody Ishmael of the seas, at war with the whole human race. This was the vile brood which the early eighteenth century had spawned forth, and of them all there was none who could compare in audacity, wickedness, and evil repute with the unutterable Sharkey.
It was early in May, in the year , that the Happy Delivery lay with her fore-yard aback some five leagues west of the Windward Passage, waiting to see what rich, helpless craft the trade-wind might bring down to her. Three days she had lain there, a sinister black speck, in the centre of the great sapphire circle of the ocean. Far to the south-east the low blue hills of Hispaniola showed up on the skyline. Hour by hour as he waited without avail, Sharkey's savage temper had risen, for his arrogant spirit chafed against any contradiction, even from Fate itself.
To his quartermaster, Ned Galloway, he had said that night, with his odious neighing laugh, that the crew of the next captured vessel should answer to him for having kept him waiting so long. The cabin of the pirate barque was a good-sized room, hung with much tarnished finery, and presenting a strange medley of luxury and disorder. The panelling of carved and polished sandal-wood was blotched with foul smudges and chipped with bullet-marks fired in some drunken revelry. Rich velvets and laces were heaped upon the brocaded settees, while metal-work and pictures of great price filled every niche and corner, for anything which caught the pirate's fancy in the sack of a hundred vessels was thrown haphazard into his chamber.
A rich, soft carpet covered the floor, but it was mottled with wine-stains and charred with burned tobacco. Above, a great brass hanging-lamp threw a brilliant yellow light upon this singular apartment, and upon the two men who sat in their shirt-sleeves with the wine between them, and the cards in their hands, deep in a game of piquet.
Both were smoking long pipes, and the thin blue reek filled the cabin and floated through the skylight above them, which, half opened, disclosed a slip of deep violet sky spangled with great silver stars. Ned Galloway, the quartermaster, was a huge New England wastrel, the one rotten branch upon a goodly Puritan family tree.
His robust limbs and giant frame were the heritage of a long line of God-fearing ancestors, while his black savage heart was all his own. Bearded to the temples, with fierce blue eyes, a tangled lion's mane of coarse, dark hair, and huge gold rings in his ears, he was the idol of the women in every waterside hell from the Tortugas to Maracaibo on the Main. A red cap, a blue silken shirt, brown velvet breeches with gaudy knee-ribbons, and high sea-boots made up the costume of the rover Hercules. A very different figure was Captain John Sharkey. His thin, drawn, clean-shaven face was corpse-like in its pallor, and all the suns of the Indies could but turn it to a more deathly parchment tint.
He was part bald, with a few lank locks of tow-like hair, and a steep, narrow forehead. His thin nose jutted sharply forth, and near-set on either side of it were those filmy blue eyes, red-rimmed like those of a white bull-terrier, from which strong men winced away in fear and loathing. His bony hands, with long, thin fingers which quivered ceaselessly like the antennae of an insect, were toying constantly with the cards and the heap of gold moidores which lay before him. His dress was of some sober drab material, but, indeed, the men who looked upon that fearsome face had little thought for the costume of its owner.
The game was brought to a sudden interruption, for the cabin door was swung rudely open, and two rough fellows--Israel Martin, the boatswain, and Red Foley, the gunner--rushed into the cabin. In an instant Sharkey was on his feet with a pistol in either hand and murder in his eyes. What mean you by entering my cabin as though it were a Wapping alehouse? We have had enough of it. Sharkey saw that something serious was in the wind. He laid down his pistols and leaned back in his chair with a flash of his yellow fangs. I know you to be roaring boys who would go with me against the devil himself if I bid you.
Let the steward bring cups and drown all unkindness between us. They mean mischief, Captain Sharkey, and we have come to warn you. Here within the cabin it may be that we can hold them off at the points of our pistols. He had hardly spoken when there came the tread of many heavy feet upon the deck. Then there was a pause with no sound but the gentle lapping of the water against the sides of the pirate vessel.
Finally, a crashing blow as from a pistol-butt fell upon the door, and an instant afterwards Sweetlocks himself, a tall, dark man, with a deep red birth-mark blazing upon his cheek, strode into the cabin. His swaggering air sank somewhat as he looked into those pale and filmy eyes. Time was when we did our two or three craft a day, and every man had women and dollars to his liking, but now for a long week we have not raised a sail, and save for three beggarly sloops, have taken never a vessel since we passed the Bahama Bank.
Also, they know that you killed Jack Bartholomew, the carpenter, by beating his head in with a bucket, so that each of us goes in fear of his life. Also, the rum has given out, and we are hard put to it for liquor. Also, you sit in your cabin whilst it is in the articles that you should drink and roar with the crew.
For all these reasons it has been this day in general meeting decreed--". Sharkey had stealthily cocked a pistol under the table, so it may have been as well for the mutinous master that he never reached the end of his discourse, for even as he came to it there was a swift patter of feet upon the deck, and a ship lad, wild with his tidings, rushed into the room. In a flash the quarrel was forgotten, and the pirates were rushing to quarters. Sure enough, surging slowly down before the gentle trade-wind, a great full-rigged ship, with all sail set, was close beside them.
It was clear that she had come from afar and knew nothing of the ways of the Caribbean Sea, for she made no effort to avoid the low, dark craft which lay so close upon her bow, but blundered on as if her mere size would avail her. So daring was she, that for an instant the rovers, as they flew to loose the tackles of their guns, and hoisted their battle-lanterns, believed that a man-of-war had caught them napping.
But at the sight of her bulging, portless sides and merchant rig a shout of exultation broke from amongst them, and in an instant they had swung round their fore-yard, and darting alongside they had grappled with her and flung a spray of shrieking, cursing ruffians upon her deck. Half a dozen seamen of the night-watch were cut down where they stood, the mate was felled by Sharkey and tossed overboard by Ned Galloway, and before the sleepers had time to sit up in their berths, the vessel was in the hands of the pirates.
The prize proved to be the full-rigged ship Portobello --Captain Hardy, master--bound from London to Kingston in Jamaica, with a cargo of cotton goods and hoop-iron. Having secured their prisoners, all huddled together in a dazed, distracted group, the pirates spread over the vessel in search of plunder, handing all that was found to the giant quartermaster, who in turn passed it over the side of the Happy Delivery and laid it under guard at the foot of her mainmast.
The cargo was useless, but there were a thousand guineas in the ship's strong-box, and there were some eight or ten passengers, three of them wealthy Jamaica merchants, all bringing home well-filled boxes from their London visit. When all the plunder was gathered, the passengers and crew were dragged to the waist, and under the cold smile of Sharkey each in turn was thrown over the side--Sweetlocks standing by the rail and ham-stringing them with his cutlass as they passed over, lest some strong swimmer should rise in judgment against them.
A portly, grey-haired woman, the wife of one of the planters, was among the captives, but she also was thrust screaming and clutching over the side. The captain of the Portobello , a hale-, blue-eyed greybeard, was the last upon the deck. He stood, a thickset resolute figure, in the glare of the lanterns, while Sharkey bowed and smirked before him. I have held you to the last, as you see, where a brave man should be; so now, my bully, you have seen the end of them, and may step over with an easy mind.
But before I go over I would say a word, in your ear. You have kept us waiting here for three days, and curse me if one of you shall live! You have not yet found what is the true treasure aboard of this ship. Sink me, but I will slice your liver, Captain Hardy, if you do not make good your words! Where is this treasure you speak of? She is the only daughter of the Count and Countess Ramirez, who are amongst those whom you have murdered. Her name is Inez Ramirez, and she is of the best blood of Spain, her father being Governor of Chagre, to which he was now bound. It chanced that she was found to have formed an attachment, as maids will, to one far beneath her in rank aboard this ship; so her parents, being people of great power, whose word is not to be gainsaid, constrained me to confine her close in a special cabin aft of my own.
Here she was held straitly, all food being carried to her and she allowed to see no one. This I tell you as a last gift, though why I should make it to you I do not know, for indeed you are a most bloody rascal, and it comforts me in dying to think that you will surely be gallow's-meat in this world, and hell's-meat in the next. At the words he ran to the rail, and vaulted over into the darkness, praying as he sank into the depths of the sea, that the betrayal of this maid might not be counted too heavily against his soul. The body of Captain Hardy had not yet settled upon the sand forty fathoms deep before the pirates had rushed along the cabin gangway.
There, sure enough, at the farther end, was a barred door, overlooked in their previous search. There was no key, but they beat it in with their gunstocks, whilst shriek after shriek came from within. In the light of their outstretched lanterns they saw a young woman, in the very prime and fullness of her youth, crouching in a corner, her unkempt hair hanging to the ground, her dark eyes glaring with fear, her lovely form straining away in horror from this inrush of savage blood-stained men.
Rough hands seized her, she was jerked to her feet, and dragged with scream on scream to where John Sharkey awaited her. He held the light long and fondly to her face, then, laughing loudly, he bent forward and left his red handprint upon her cheek. Take her to the cabin and use her well. Now, hearties, get her under water, and out to our luck once more.
Within an hour the good ship Portobello had settled down to her doom, till she lay beside her murdered passengers upon the Caribbean sand, while the pirate barque, her deck littered' with plunder, was heading northward in search of another victim. There was a carouse that night in the cabin of the Happy Delivery , at which three men drank deep. They, were the captain, the quartermaster, and Baldy Stable, the surgeon, a man who had held the first practice in Charleston, until, misusing a patient, he fled from justice, and took his skill over to the pirates.
A bloated fat man he was, with a creased neck and a great shining scalp, which gave him his name. Sharkey had put for the moment all thought of the mutiny out of his head, knowing that no animal is fierce when it is over-fed, and that whilst the plunder of the great ship was new to them he need fear no trouble from his crew.
He gave himself up, therefore, to the wine and the riot, shouting and roaring with his boon companions. All three were flushed and mad, ripe for any devilment, when the thought of the woman crossed the pirate's evil mind. He yelled to the negro steward that he should bring her on the instant. Inez Ramirez had now realized it all--the death of her father and mother, and her own position in the hands of their murderers.
Yet calmness had come with the knowledge, and there was no sign of terror in her proud, dark face as she was led into the cabin, but rather a strange, firm set of the mouth and an exultant gleam of the eyes, like one who sees great hopes in the future. She smiled at the pirate captain as he rose and seized her by the waist. Come, my bird, and drink to our better friendship. Sit here upon my knee, and place your arm round me so. Sink me, if she has not learned to love me at sight! Tell me, my pretty, why you were so mishandled and laid in the bilboes aboard yonder craft?
The woman shook her head and smiled. She had drunk off the bumper of wine which Sharkey held to her, and her dark eyes gleamed more brightly than before. Sitting on Sharkey's knee, her arm encircled his neck, and her hand toyed with his hair, his ear, his check. Even the strange quartermaster and the hardened surgeon felt a horror as they watched her, but Sharkey laughed in his joy.
But a strange intent look of interest had come into the surgeon's eyes as he watched her, and his face set rigidly, as if a fearsome thought had entered his mind. There stole a grey pallor over his bull face, mottling all the red of the tropics and the flush of the wine. Sharkey stared down at the hand which had fondled him.
It was of a strange dead pallor, with a yellow shiny web betwixt the fingers. All over it was a white fluffy dust, like the flour of a new-baked loaf. It lay thick on Sharkey's neck and cheek. With a cry of disgust he flung the woman from his lap; but in an instant, with a wild-cat bound, and a scream of triumphant malice, she had sprung at the surgeon, who vanished yelling under the table. One of her clawing hands grasped Galloway by the beard, but he tore himself away, and snatching a pike, held her off from him as she gibbered and mowed with the blazing eyes of a maniac.
The black steward had run in on the sudden turmoil, and among them they forced the mad creature back into a cabin, and turned the key upon her. Then the three sank panting into their chairs and looked with eyes of horror upon each other. The same word was in the mind of each, but Galloway was the first to speak it. I will have every hair of it off before morning.
It is easy to see now that her corruption broke forth in the journey, and that save throwing her over they had no choice but to board her up until they should come to some port with a lazarette. Sharkey had sat leaning back in his chair with a ghastly face while he listened to the surgeon's words. He mopped himself with his red handkerchief, and wiped away the fatal dust with which he was smeared. Is there a chance for me? Curse you for a villain! Is there a chance for me, I say!
But the surgeon shook his head. The taint is on you. No man on whom the leper scales have rested is ever clean again. Sharkey's head fell forward on his chest, and he sat motionless, stricken by this great and sudden horror, looking with his smouldering eyes into his fearsome future. Softly the mate and the surgeon rose from their places, and stealing out from the poisoned air of the cabin, came forth into the freshness of the early dawn, with the soft, scent-laden breeze in their faces and the first red feathers of cloud catching the earliest gleam of the rising sun as it shot its golden rays over the palm-clad ridges of distant Hispaniola.
That morning a second council of the Rovers was held at the base of the mainmast, and a deputation chosen to see the captain. They were approaching the after-cabins when Sharkey came forth, the old devil in his eyes, and his bandolier with a pair of pistols over his shoulder. Stand out, Sweetlocks, and I will lay you open! Here, Galloway, Martin, Foley, stand by me and lash the dogs to their kennel! But his officers had deserted him, and there was none to come to his aid.
There was a rush of the pirates. One was shot through the body, but an instant afterwards Sharkey had been seized and was triced to his own mainmast. His filmy eyes looked round from face to face, and there was none who felt the happier for having met them. All this might have been forgiven you, in that you have been our leader for years, and that we have signed articles to serve under you while the voyage lasts.
But now We have heard of this bona roba on board, and we know that you are poisoned to the marrow, and that while you rot there will be no safety for any of us, but that we shall all be turned into filth and corruption. Therefore, John Sharkey, we Rovers of the Happy Delivery , in council assembled, have decreed that while there be yet time, before the plague spreads, you shall be set adrift in a boat to find such a fate as Fortune may be pleased to send you. John Sharkey said nothing, but slowly circling his head, he cursed them all with his baleful gaze.
The ship's dinghy had been lowered, and he, with his hands still tied, was dropped into it on the bight of a rope. Is she to bide aboard and poison us all? Driven forth at the end of pikes, the girl was pushed towards the boat. With all the spirit of Spain in her rotting body she flashed triumphant glances at her captors. Perros Ingleses! Lepero, Lepero! Extract from the log of H.
Woodruff, the master, reports that near the landing-place at the edge of the forest was found the skeleton of a woman, clad in European dress, of such sort as to show that she may have been a person of quality. Her head had been crushed by a great stone which lay beside her. Hard by was a grass hut, and signs that a man had 'dwelt therein for some time, as was shown by charred wood, bones and other traces.
There is a rumour upon the coast that Sharkey, the bloody pirate, was marooned in these parts last year, but whether he has made his way into the interior, or whether he has been picked up by some craft, there is no means of knowing. If he be once again afloat, then I pray that God send him under our guns. The Buccaneers were something higher than a mere band of marauders. They were a floating republic, with laws, usages, and discipline of their own. In their endless and remorseless quarrel with the Spaniards they had some semblance of right upon their side.
Their bloody harryings of the cities of the Main were not more barbarous than the inroads of Spain upon the Netherlands--or upon the Caribs in these same American lands. The chief of the Buccaneers, were he English or French, a Morgan or a Granmont, was still a responsible person, whose country might countenance him, or even praise him, so long as he refrained from any deed which might shock the leathery seventeenth-century conscience too outrageously.
Some of them were touched with religion, and it is still remembered how Sawkins threw the dice overboard upon the Sabbath, and Daniel pistolled a man before the altar for irreverence. But there came a day when the fleets of the Buccaneers no longer mustered at the Tortugas, and the solitary and outlawed pirate took their place. Yet even with him the tradition of restraint and of discipline still lingered; and among the early pirates, the Avorys, the Englands, and the Robertses, there remained some respect for human sentiment.
They were more dangerous to the merchant than to the seaman. But they in turn were replaced by more savage and desperate men, who frankly recognized that they would get no quarter in their war with the human race, and who swore that they would give as little as they got.
Of their histories we know little that is trustworthy. They wrote no memoirs and left no trace, save an occasional blackened and bloodstained derelict adrift upon the face of the Atlantic. Their deeds could only be surmised from the long roll of ships which never made their port. Searching the records of history, it is only here and there in an old-world trial that the veil that shrouds them seems for an instant to be lifted, and we catch a glimpse of some amazing and grotesque brutality behind.
Such was the breed of Ned Low, of Gow the Scotchman, and of the infamous Sharkey, whose coal-black barque, the Happy Delivery , was known from the Newfoundland Banks to the mouths of the Orinoco as the dark forerunner of misery and of death. There were many men, both among the islands and on the Main, who had a blood feud with Sharkey, but not one who had suffered more bitterly than Copley Banks, of Kingston.
Banks had been one of the leading sugar merchants of the West Indies. He was a man of position, a member of the Council, the husband of a Percival, and the cousin of the Governor of Virginia. His two sons had been sent to London to be educated, and their mother had gone over to bring them back. On their return voyage the ship, the Duchess of Cornwall , fell into the hands of Sharkey, and the whole family met with an infamous death. Copley Banks said little when he heard the news, but he sank into a morose and enduring melancholy.
He neglected his business, avoided his friends, and spent much of his time in the low taverns of the fishermen and seamen. There, amidst riot and devilry, he sat silently puffing at his pipe, with a set face and a smouldering eye. It was generally supposed that his misfortunes had shaken his wits, and his old friends looked at him askance, for the company which he kept was enough to bar him from honest men. From time to time there came rumours of Sharkey over the sea. Sometimes it was from some schooner which had seen a great flame upon the horizon, and approaching to offer help to the burning ship, had fled away at the sight of the sleek, black barque, lurking like a wolf near a mangled sheep.
Sometimes it was a frightened trader, which had come tearing in with her canvas curved like a lady's bodice, because she had seen a patched fore-topsail rising slowly above the violet waterline. Sometimes it was from a Coaster, which had found a waterless Bahama cay littered with sun-dried bodies. Once there came a man who had been mate of a Guinea-man, and who had escaped from the pirate's hands. He could not speak--for reasons which Sharkey could best supply--but he could write, and he did write, to the very great interest of Copley Banks.
For hours they sat together over the map, and the dumb man pointed here and there to outlying reefs and tortuous inlets, while his companion sat smoking in silence, with his unvarying face and his fiery eyes. One morning, some two years after his misfortune, Mr. Copley Banks strode into his own office with his old air of energy and alertness. The manager stared at him in surprise, for it was months since he had shown any interest in business.
My mind is made up, and the Ruffling Harry must go slaving to Whydah. All argument and persuasion were vain, so the manager had dolefully to clear the ship once more. And then Copley Banks began to make preparations for his African voyage. It appeared that he relied upon force rather than barter for the filling of his hold, for he carried none of those showy trinkets which savages love, but the brig was fitted with eight nine-pounder guns and racks full of muskets and cutlasses.
The after sail-room next the cabin was transformed into a powder magazine, and she carried as many round shot as a well-found privateer. Water and provisions were shipped for a long voyage. But the preparation of his ship's company was most surprising. It made Freeman, the manager, realize that there was truth in the rumour that his master had taken leave of his senses.
For, under one pretext or another, he began to dismiss the old and tried hands, who had served the firm for years, and in their place he embarked the scum of the port--men whose reputations were so vile that the lowest crimp would have been ashamed to furnish them.
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There was Birthmark Sweetlocks, who was known to have been present at the killing of the logwood cutters, so that his hideous scarlet disfigurement was put down by the fanciful as being a red afterglow from that great crime. He was first mate, and under him was Israel Martin, a little sun-wilted fellow who had served with Howell Davies at the taking of Cape Coast Castle. The crew were chosen from amongst those whom Banks had met and known in their own infamous haunts, and his own table-steward was a haggard-faced man, who gobbled at you when he tried to talk.
His beard had been shaved, and it was impossible to recognize him as the same man whom Sharkey had placed under the knife, and who had escaped to tell his experiences to Copley Banks. These doings were not unnoticed, nor yet uncommented upon in the town of Kingston. The Commandant of the troops--Major Harvey, of the Artillery--made serious representations to the Governor. Now, Stede Bonnet was a planter of high reputation and religious character, who, from some sudden and overpowering freshet of wildness in his blood, had given up everything in order to start off pirating in the Caribbean Sea.
The example was a recent one, and it had caused the utmost consternation in the islands. Governors had before now been accused of being in league with pirates, and of receiving commissions upon their plunder, so that any want of vigilance was open to a sinister construction.
So at one in the morning Major Harvey, with a launchful of his soldiers, paid a surprise visit to the Ruffling Harry , with the result that they picked up nothing more solid than a hempen cable floating at the moorings. It had been slipped by the brig, whose owner had scented danger. She had already passed the Palisades, and was beating out against the north-east trades on a course for the Windward Passage. When upon the next morning the brig had left Morant Point a mere haze upon the Southern horizon, the men were called aft, and Copley Banks revealed his plans to them. He had chosen them, he said, as brisk boys and lads of spirit, who would rather run some risk upon the sea than starve for a living upon the shore.
King's ships were few and weak, and they could master any trader who might come their way. Others had done well at the business, and with a handy, well-found vessel, there was no reason why they should not turn their tarry jackets into velvet coats. If they were prepared to sail under the black flag, he was ready to command them; but if any wished to withdraw, they might have the gig and row back to Jamaica. Four men out of six-and-forty asked for their discharge, went over the ship's side into the boat, and rowed away amidst the jeers and howlings of the crew.
The rest assembled aft, and drew up the articles of their association. A square of black tarpaulin had the white skull painted upon it, and was hoisted amidst cheering at the main. Officers were elected, and the limits of their authority fixed. Copley Banks was chosen captain, but, as there are no mates upon a pirate craft, Birthmark Sweetlocks became quartermaster, and Israel Martin the boatswain.
There was no difficulty in knowing what was the custom of the brotherhood, for half the men at least had served upon pirates before. Food should be the same for all, and no man should interfere with another man's drink! The captain should have a cabin, but all hands should be welcome to enter it when they chose. All should share and share alike, save only the captain, quartermaster, boatswain, carpenter, and master-gunner, who had from a quarter to a whole share extra. He who saw a prize first should have the best weapon taken out of her.
He who boarded her first should have the richest suit of clothes aboard of her. Every man might treat his own prisoner, be it man or woman, after his own fashion. If a man flinched from his gun, the quartermaster should pistol him. These were some of the rules which the crew of the Ruffling Harry subscribed by putting forty-two crosses at the foot of the paper upon which they had been drawn. So a new rover was afloat upon the seas, and her name before a year was over became as well known as that of the Happy Delivery.
From the Bahamas to the Leewards, and from the Leewards to the Windwards, Copley Banks became the rival of Sharkey and the terror of traders. For a long time the barque and the brig never met, which was the more singular, as the Ruffling Harry was for ever looking in at Sharkey's resorts; but at last one day, when she was passing down the inlet of Coxon's Hole, at the east end of Cuba, with the intention of careening, there was the Happy Delivery , with her blocks and tackle-falls already rigged for the same purpose.
Copley Banks fired a shotted salute and hoisted the green trumpeter ensign, as the custom was among gentlemen of the sea. Then he dropped his boat and went aboard. Captain Sharkey was not a man of a genial mood, nor had he any kindly sympathy for those who were of the same trade as himself. Copley Banks found him seated astride upon one of the after guns, with his New England quartermaster, Ned Galloway, and a crowd of roaring ruffians standing about him.
Yet none of them roared with quite such assurance when Sharkey's pale face and filmy blue eyes were turned upon him. He was in his shirt-sleeves, with his cambric frills breaking through his open red satin long-flapped vest. The scorching sun seemed to have no power upon his fleshless frame, for he wore a low fur cap, as though it had been winter. A many-coloured band of silk passed across his body and supported a short murderous sword, while his broad, brass-buckled belt was stuffed with pistols.
What mean you by fishing in my waters? Copley Banks looked at him, and his eyes were like those of a traveller who sees his home at last. But if you will take your sword and pistols and come upon a sand-bank with me, then the world will be rid of a damned villain whichever way it goes. May the devil seize me if I do not choose you as a consort! But if you play me false, then I will come aboard of you and gut you upon your own poop. That summer they went north as far as the Newfoundland Banks, and harried the New York traders and the whale-ships from New England.
It was Copley Banks who captured the Liverpool ship, House of Hanover , but it was Sharkey who fastened her master to the windlass and pelted him to death with empty claret-bottles. Together they engaged the King's ship Royal Fortune , which had been sent in search of them, and beat her off after a night action of five hours, the drunken, raving crews fighting naked in the light of the battle-lanterns, with a bucket of rum and a pannikin laid by the tackles of every gun.
They ran to Topsail Inlet in North Carolina to refit, and then in the spring they were at the Grand Caicos, ready for a long cruise down the West Indies. By this time Sharkey and Copley Banks had become very excellent friends, for Sharkey loved a whole-hearted villain, and he loved a man of metal, and it seemed to him that the two met in the captain of the Ruffling Harry. It was long before he gave his confidence to him, for cold suspicion lay deep in his character. Never once would he trust himself outside his own ship and away from his own men.
But Copley Banks came often on board the Happy Delivery , and joined Sharkey in many of his morose debauches, so that at last any lingering misgivings of the latter were set at rest. He knew nothing of the evil that he had done to his new boon companion, for of his many victims how could he remember the woman and the two boys whom he had slain with such levity so long ago!
When, therefore, he received a challenge to himself and to his quartermaster for a carouse upon the last evening of their stay at the Caicos Bank, he saw no reason to refuse. A well-found passenger ship had been rifled the week before, so their fare was of the best, and after supper five of them drank deeply together.
To wait upon them was the dumb steward, whose head Sharkey split with his glass, because he had been too slow in the filling of it. The quartermaster had slipped Sharkey's pistols away from him, for it was an old joke with him to fire them cross-handed under the table, and see who was the luckiest man. It was a pleasantry which had cost his boatswain his leg, so now, when the table was cleared, they would coax Sharkey's weapons away from him on the excuse of the heat, and lay them out of his reach.
The captain's cabin of the Ruffling Harry was in a deck-house upon the poop, and a stern-chaser gun was mounted at the back of it. Round shot were racked round the wall, and three great hogsheads of powder made a stand for dishes and for bottles. In this grim room the five pirates sang and roared and drank, while the silent steward still filled up their glasses, and passed the box and the candle round for their tobacco-pipes.
Hour after hour the talk became fouler, the voices hoarser, the curses and shoutings more incoherent, until three of the five had closed their bloodshot eyes, and dropped their swimming heads upon the table. Copley Banks and Sharkey were left face to face, the one because he had drunk the least, the other because no amount of liquor would ever shake his iron nerve or warm his sluggish blood. Behind him stood the watchful steward, for ever filling up his waning glass.
From without came the low lapping of the tide, and from over the water a sailor's chanty from the barque. The two boon companions sat listening in silence. Then Copley Banks glanced at the steward, and the man took a coil of rope from the shot-rack behind him.
Maybe that will bring it back to your mind. Captain Sharkey leant back in thought, with his huge thin beak of a nose jutting upwards. Then he burst suddenly into a high treble, neighing laugh. He remembered it, he said, and he added details to prove it. Sharkey stared across at his companion, and saw that the smouldering fire which lurked always in his eyes had burned up into a lurid flame. He read their menace, and he clapped his hands to his empty belt. Then he turned to seize a weapon, but the bight of a rope was cast round him, and in an instant his arms were bound to his side.
He fought like a wild cat and screamed for help. But the three men were far too deeply sunk in their swinish sleep for any voice to wake them, Round and round went the rope, until Sharkey was swathed like a mummy from ankle to neck. They propped him stiff and helpless against a powder barrel, and they gagged him with a handkerchief, but his filmy, red-rimmed eyes still looked curses at them. The dumb man chattered in his exultation, and Sharkey winced for the first time when he saw the empty mouth before him.
He understood that vengeance, slow and patient, had dogged him long, and clutched him at last. First of all they stove the heads of two of the great powder barrels, and they heaped the contents out upon the table and floor. They piled it round and under the three drunken men, until each sprawled in a heap of it. Then they carried Sharkey to the gun and they triced him sitting over the port-hole, with his body about a foot from the muzzle. Wriggle as he would he could not move an inch either to right or left, and the dumb man trussed him up with a sailor's cunning, so that there was no chance that he should work free.
You are my man now, and I have bought you at a price, for I have given all that a man can give here below, and I have given my soul as well. For two years I strove against it, hoping that some other way might come, but I learnt that there was no other way. I've robbed and I have murdered--worse still, I have laughed and lived with you--and all for the one end. And now my time has come, and you will die as I would have you die, seeing the shadow creeping slowly upon you and the devil waiting for you in the shadow.
The words came clear to his ear, and just outside he could hear two men pacing backwards and forwards upon the deck. And yet he was helpless, staring down the mouth of the nine-pounder, unable to move an inch or to utter so much as a groan. Again there came the burst of voices from the deck of the barque. To the dying pirate the jovial words and rollicking tune made his own fate seem the harsher, but there was no softening in his venomous blue eyes. Copley Banks had brushed away the priming of the gun, and had sprinkled fresh powder over the touch-hole.
Then he had taken up the candle and cut it to the length of about an inch. This he placed upon the loose powder at the breach of the gun. Then he scattered powder thickly over the floor beneath, so that when the candle fell at the recoil it must explode the huge pile in which the three drunkards were wallowing.
You and these swine here shall go together. Then he passed out with the dumb man, and locked the cabin door upon the outer side. But before he closed it he took an exultant look backwards and received one last curse from those unconquerable eyes. In the single dim circle of light that ivory-white face, with the gleam of moisture upon the high, bald forehead, was the last that was ever seen of Sharkey. There was a skiff alongside, and in it Copley Banks and the dumb steward made their way to the beach, and looked back upon the brig riding in the moonlight just outside the shadow of the palm trees.
They waited and waited, watching that dim light which shone through the stern port. And then at last there came the dull thud of a gun, and an instant later the shattering crash of the explosion. The long, sleek, black barque, the sweep of white sand, and the fringe of nodding, feathery palm trees sprang into dazzling light and back into darkness again. Voices screamed and called upon the bay. Then Copley Banks, his heart singing within him, touched his companion upon the shoulder, and they plunged together into the lonely jungle of the Caicos. Nor could Claver forget the Negroes one they were sent away from Cartagena.
He kept a strict account of each and every slave he baptized. Often he would take mission trips into the thick of the country to look after his flock. He encouraged those masters who were good Catholics to look after the spiritual as well as the bodily well-being of the Negroes. If the slaves complained of ill treatment, the indignant saint spared no words in admonishing the guilty owners to correct their faults.
Due to the tremendous respect everyone has for the extraordinary Jesuit, these warnings always produced the desired fruit. It seemed that the blacks under Father Claver were destined to keep the straight and narrow. One thing the Negroes had a craving for was dancing. The saint allowed it, provided it was decent, but quite often the temptation got the better of them to overdo it, and it more often than not led to promiscuity. Nor would he give them back until their owners promised, after confession, to make alms to the leper hospital.
Another excess that occupied his zeal and caused him great anxiety was certain pagan festivals and rites that weak Christians sometimes slipped back into. Some cases involved actual diabolic manifestations. A witness testified to the Office of Inquisition in Cartagena that, on one occasion, he had seen several Negroes floating naked around the ceiling in a house at night after dabbling in this witchcraft.
Such demonic phenomena were not uncommon among the uncivilized races. So great was his civil influence that he actually obtained from the magistrates and order forbidding the sale of liquor to the Negroes. A civil rights violation? Yes, I suppose it was. As the saying goes, only love can afford to be severe.
The supreme charity of our saint was most vividly portrayed in his solicitude for the sick; and Cartagena, in its infant years, had plenty of sick and very sick people. The major contagion was smallpox; but others. Like typhoid, dysentery, scurvy, and incurable ulcers and cancers wreaked havoc, especially among the undernourished blacks. Six abandoned pagans from Biafara were lying in a shed, suffering from violent dysentery. Someone told the saint about their plight. Immediately he set out to help them, taking with him a free Negress named Magdalena, who used to collect alms in the city for the saint to distribute.
She also happened to be from Biafara and Claver needed her as a translator. Arriving at the shack where the men lay writing in the mud, the gentle doctor lifted them up one by one onto some dry mats. His hands and clothing were instantly covered with infectious filth. Moreover, the weather was hot, the stench so unbearable in the stuffy hut, and the sight so repulsive that the Negress took flight.
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They saw and they believed. One priest who loved Father Claver dearly and who longed to have his charity went with him to tend a poor afflicted slave. The priest watched as the saint caressed the ulcerous patient like a mother, and then put his lips to the most pestiferous of his sores. Overcome with nausea, the admiring priest had to leave the room, but despite his own weakness, he never ceased praising the heroic virtue of Claver, publicizing it even in Rome. Here he would find them some kind of shelter and nurse them, bringing them food and medicine. Many of these castaways seemed to be miraculously sustained while waiting for Father Claver to find them, and baptize or confess them before they should die.
For fourteen years the man of God served one such helpless old man, visiting him three or four times a week and bringing him food and consolation, until at last he passed away in the blessed arms of his benefactor. These heroic acts of sublime love for his neighbor were by no means natural to Claver.
He was no egotistic eccentric who delighted in doing daring things for the sake of being unique! In particular, he had a relish for good music, and believe it or not, he was especially fond of a new palatal delight called chocolate; however, lest you chocolate lovers get overconfident, the first time he tasted the sweet was his last. He felt it was too delicate a flavor for a religious. The following incident illustrates the struggle of the saint to overcome nature. A rich merchant once called him to his house to give the sacraments to a dying Negro who was one mass of ulcers.
So repulsive was his sickness that no one dares to go near him, lest they contract the infection. Claver went to the door of the room in which the man was quarantined. With him were the merchant and some curious companions. The saint entered, but he was at once so overwhelmed with the loathsome stench and the repellent sight that he recoiled and took a step back. Instantly his conscience accused him, and ashamed of his cowardice, he retired to a corner of the room and delivered himself a brutal scourging, confessing all the while his fault in not loving enough one who was redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ.
Finally he approached the man, heard his confession, kissed his wounds, and applied his own tongue to the most offensive. You can add to these the faded and worn cloak of Saint Peter Claver. Thousands of times, during his forty years in the world of pain, he would take off that cloak and use it. To cover the feverish and naked, to wash wounds, to shroud women penitents and to place upon it the abandoned sick, until he could procure them a mat for a bed.
There were times when he even raised the dead with it. However, witnesses testified that, despite the filth, the miraculous fabric always smelled fresh and clean. The fact that Father Claver was able to open the kingdom of heaven to over three hundred thousand Negroes was due in no small degree to the help of his African co-workers. In all he had eighteen. When a language was unuasually remote, Father Peter would have to speak through a chain of five or six interpreters to get across his message.
One of his linguistic gems was Calepino, a veritable genius, who spoke eleven different African dialects. Oddly enough, these men whom Claver used as interpreters were his own slaves. Due to the importance of this apostolate, Rome was willing to allow an exception to its canon forbidding clerics to own slaves. In truth, it was a blessed form of servitude for those eighteen Negroes. It was their privilege to be the slaves of the slave of slaves. His loving solicitude for these co-laborers was so great that if any of them fell sick he would give them his own bed, while he slept on the floor next to the sick man, so that he might be able to wait on him continually.
Nor could anyone console him until he had restored the interpreter to health. By far the greatest damage the devil suffered from Father Claver was in the confessional, though some of us may cringe when we consider his methods of extracting vice. Kind and patient to all, for some of his penitents he prescribed the remedy of hairshirts and scourges. A handsome supply of which was hung upon the back if his confessional; for others that the saint felt had enough of a penance to bear the crippled, the lame, the aged, the destitute , he had more pleasant gifts: Rosary beads, or fruits, sweets, and similar delicacies.
For the infirm he would come out of his stuffy box and often set them on his knees so as to accommodate them more easily, and after he was through, he would invite them all for a little breakfast. Near the confessional he also had holy books with pictures of the Passion, which he insisted that all the people ponder before they confessed.
The saint spent every day in the confessional from sunrise until twelve noon. His Mass, which followed, was deliberately short. He would never let it go beyond a half-hour because he felt that a lengthy Mass in the tropical heat would stifle devotion rather than kindle it. Nor was the saint known to into ecstasies at the altar. Daily his loving eyes would have to wrest their gaze from the Spotless Host lest he should allow his devotion to get the better of him.
During Lent and on the major feat days, he would go about the city inviting all to a thorough house cleaning. His labors in the confessional for the holy season would increase threefold. No time was too early for these faithful Cartagenians to unburden their souls to God. He stayed there in his confessional until midday. The fatigue of this Lenten routine was aggravated unmercifully by the excruciating heat, the bite of mosquitoes, and the stinging itch of a full ankle length hairshirt that the holy confessor wore beneath his cassock next to his body.
To keep from fainting, he applied periodically a handkerchief dipped in wine to his sweaty face. Sometimes he would have to yield to nature and collapse. The other priests would then carry him to his cell where, when he revived, the saint would refresh himself with a good scourging and some mental prayer. After Easter Peter Claver was back on the road instructing newly-arrived slaves and tending the sick.
Besides visiting the slave huts, the zealous father had other apostolates that he lovingly attended to: the hospital of St. Sebastian, the leprosarium of St Lazarus, and the prisons. The hospital, run by the religious of St John of God, was almost always overcrowded, due to the scourge of frequent epidemics and continual warfare. The religious there used to say that their welcome friend, Father Claver, did the work of forty men. But for every chore he performed, whether it was sweeping the floors, changing linens, washing clothes or dishes, or cooking, the visiting Jesuit, in his humility, always first asked permission of the Superior.
But his main purpose of helping out at the hospital, which he did once a week, was to win sinners back to God. Many a despairing man who had been confined to bed due to the physical consequences of an irregular life would find the supernatural peace through the encouragement and charity of good Father Peter. Here he had more opportunities, even than in the slave pens, to satisfy has craving to love the unlovable. For here dwelt the living dead- the very pit of human misery. Two or three times a week the saint would go succor these poor specimens of what were once healthy men and women.
Like an angel of mercy, the black-robed friar would arrive at the colony with the gifts that he had begged in the market place: oranges, bananas, preserves, sweet cakes, and soothing medicines. Sitting on a rock, he would put his cloak over their shoulders, if it was cold, and hear their confessions. Then he would go unperturbed into a more remote area in order to console the more pathetic cases. People who were so horribly afflicted that they were actually shunned by their fellow lepers. How beautifully did his words echo on their souls as he spoke to them of the infinite value of their cross if only they should bear it with joy and patience.
Like a mother, he would press their deformed frames to his, encouraging them to endure their purgatory here so that they might cross directly to heaven at death, for paradise was so close. Whole parts of their bodies were eaten away by the dreadful disease; some had lost limbs, others had loose parts of their faces; some had scarcely any resemblance to a human exterior remaining, and the odor emanating from their many sores was the worst the apostle anywhere encountered. Again the gruesome routine began, washing their infections, kissing their sores, bandaging their wounds, even sweeping up their hovels.
Finally, before departing, he sprinkled them with perfume. Peter Claver had another side to him that cannot be overlooked. He loved to entertain. And he delighted in good music. Every major feastday he would get together the great city band of Cartagena, and off they would go to perform for the lepers. Meanwhile some of his close friends would prepare a splendid repast of the best foods and delicacies, and while the orchestra performed, the jubilant lepers devoured a sumptuous banquet. In addition, the man of God found time to organize a talented black choir. Not a few fellow slaves were converted from Islam by the beautiful liturgical services and heavenly hymns that were sung at the funeral of a baptized Negro.
The whites were also affected. Many an ivory cheek ran with tears as the Spaniards listened in wonder to the angelic voices of the slaves resounding from the walls of the Jesuit Church with an incomparably touching rendition of the Dies Irae or a triumphant Gloria. The Apostle of Cartagena worse a serious face.
It was a face that betrayed the worn-out condition of his entire body. But his sullen-ness and even the sadness reflected from his deep-set eyes were not the result of his excessive mortification. That melancholic countenance was first stamped upon him when he was introduced to the real world of human misery.
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The science of the school of Peter Claver was the art of dealing with pain, and of knowing its worth. To care for the slaves he must totally subject his own flesh and subdue it. This was his main thesis: the flesh could not rebel if the flesh knew only pain. Give it the least bit of pampering and it will want more and more. So Claver gave it none- except what was absolutely necessary to sustain life.
Herbs, potatoes, a little rice, or a banana made up his diet; a mat on a board with a log for a pillow made up his bed; only three hours of the night were occupied in an attempt at rest; and then there were his penances. The man of God scourged himself three times nightly: before prayer, before retiring, and after rising.
So severe were the lashings that the neighbors shuddered when they heard the sound of them in the still of the night air. As a dressing for the wounds of the whipping, he wore over them a soothing full-length hairshirt. The gruesome list goes on and on: coarse horsehair cords tied around his toes, arms, and legs; sharp pointed crosses, strapped by more coarse rope around his chest and back; a sharp studded girdle about his lions and thighs. During prayer at night he added a crown of thorns and a rope tied around his neck in imitation of his beloved Savior bound and led to Pilate. When he slept, or tried to sleep, he removed only the neck rope and the crown of thorns.
His penances clung to him like the skin to the bones. He prayed, slept, walked, labored, and preached in them for forty long years. Even in sickness he would not ease up. An angel of mercy to the sick, Father Claver was also a seraph of consolation to prisoners.
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In every possible was he tried to help them, whether by procuring them good lawyers, or even by speaking to judges, in order to win them lighter sentences. To all he brought the comforts of the sacramental religion. There were thirteen prisons in Cartagena. That seems a lot, considering that the city numbered only about twelve thousand inhabitants before But the criminals came from all over. Most of the more difficult inmates were pirates or sailors who ended up their profligate careers afoul of the law in the golden city of the Indies, although the local element of Spaniards and slaves contributed a fair share to the hands of justice.
Claver treated their needy souls almost the same way he treated afflicted bodies. He brought them anything they desired: tobacco, sweets, good books, cakes, even paper and a pen to write letters with. But when he spoke to them he spoke exactly of what they would expect a priest to speak about: God, heaven and hell.
There was nothing artificial about Peter Claver. They knew he meant what he said and what he said was true. No sin, he assured them, was too great for Jesus to forgive in confession. All God wanted was their love in return. Under the chaplaincy of this unique man, whose astounding charity to the slaves had been talked of even behind cell walls, the prisons were transformed into virtual monasteries. The convicts had common morning and evening prayer, litanies and the daily Rosary. Justice delivers his body to death, thereby to save his soul… I have sinned, O my God… My greatest grief is that I cannot repent sufficiently to compensate for my offenses against Thee.
This last mentioned convict was executed by strangulation. He gulped his final breath of air lying in the arms of his confessor. Though the Inquisition had also been in operation since in Cartagena, that office dealt in the main with crimes against religion, such as blasphemy, witchcraft and their was and still is plenty of it in the West Indies , and the preaching of heresy.
In this prison there were detained slaves, who re-lived the dark pagan rituals in the hot forest nights, side by side with certain clerics who would not keep their vow of chastity. There were adulterers, Jewish usurers, and occasionally a deranged spellcaster or two.
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- Happy End für Anfänger: Roman (German Edition)?
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To Claver, they were all important. They all had souls to save. And in particular, he applied himself by word and prayer to regain the abandoned priests to a meaningful and holy life. People who truly love God never put on artificial airs of piety, folding their hands and bowing their heads, while they shun sinners as if they were to be despised.
Claver greeted sinners and even served them. He drew them by his humility and his Christlikeness. Or, again, with women who were in a habit of dressing immodestly, excusing themselves on account of the excessive heat, he would hand them pictures of a woman similarly garbed amid the torments of the fire and demons in hell. Were we to even put a dent in the accounts of the marvelous miracles performed by our hero we would need a hundred more pages. He cured the sick almost routinely and there were times when he even raised the dead. The methods this apostle used to restore life or health was often quite out of the ordinary.
Of course, more often than not he made use of much more religious means of intercession, such as relics, holy water a sacramental that the saint never tired of sprinkling everywhere and a rough-hewn cross of maple. In fact, her body was being prepared for the funeral shroud. Then he fell to his knees by her bed and prayed for an hour. Her body began to move. Suddenly the girl who had been dead sat up and vomited a large quantity of blood. Upon careful interrogation, even though the whole household had assumed otherwise, the wise priest perceived that she had never been baptized.
After he had performed the sacred ceremony to the great joy of the young Negress and the whole household, she instantly dozed off in death to retrace the steps she had previously taken, this time clothed in the proper wedding garment. To remain a heretic, a pagan, or a bad Catholic, and live in the same city as Peter Claver, was quite an accomplishment in obduracy. The holy man seemed to touch everyone. His Lenten sermons were so moving that, due to them hundreds of young men, ex-libertines, and widowers, sought entry into the different orders that served the spiritual and corporal needs of the city.
Sinners were afraid to walk the streets lest they should encounter the saint in the market place, for they knew he had the gift of reading souls. Even Mohammedans thought him fascinating, and many found it difficult to resist his entreaties for very long. The most illustrious of his many conversions was that of an English prelate and his Protestant confreres. Hearing of their capture, Father Claver requested and received permission to visit the fleet and offer holy Mass for the Spanish soldiers. The Reformed churchmen looked on in a kind of curious awe as they watched the majesty of a ceremony they had heard so reviled.
They were especially amazed at the devoutness of the Catholic soldiers. After the Mass the saint happily accepted an invitation to dine with them- for he recognized in so doing a tremendous opportunity to save souls. As the affable Jesuit ate and drank nd conversed with the delighted crew, the Englishmen, somewhat won over already by his manners, so contrary to what they had heard of Jesuits, requested that the priest meet their venerable archdeacon, who happened to have been captured along with them. The dignified old man appeared, wearing a long white beard, and Claver, having been apprised of the customary signs of English protocol, saluted the prelate with much respect and offered a toast to his health.
Pleased by the courtesy of the Catholic priest, the archdeacon asked him in Latin for a private interview. The two men conversed at length, discussing the Catholic position as opposed to the Protestant. However, the consideration of the problem of his wife and family, who would resent the temporal loss that would go with his renouncing of the Church of England, prevented the weak man from doing his duty to God right away, though he did promise to do so before he died. Not long afterward the venerable archdeacon fell grievously ill.
Most of the soldiers went so far as to voluntarily enlist in the Spanish army, or in some other way subject themselves to the Spanish crown, rather than to return to their anti-Catholic homelands. The descendant of these six hundred English and Dutch converts can be seen to this very day in their blond-haired, blue-eyed progeny whom one may see walking the streets of Cartagena. In the hospital of Saint Sebastian Claver was also able to convert back to the Faith many Dutchmen who had been badly wounded in battle.
One Dutchman was particularly hard, and assaulted Father Claver verbally every time he saw him, shouting in his fury that the priest would never bewitch him as he did the others. For this poor sinner all Claver could do was to pray, for words were useless. And the saint prayed hard. One day, after offering a funeral Mass for one of these converts, he decided to visit the obstinate patient.
Come to me, my Father! Finally, the happy convert related a vision he had had of the deceased Dutchman, whom the good Father had just buried, with great ceremony. The dead man had assured him that he and his converted fellow countrymen were saved only because they had abandoned their errors and embraced the Catholic religion.
The Mohammedans, however, cost the saint much more effort to win to the true religion. And he did win thousands of them despite all kinds of obstacles. The problem with many of the Moslems was that they were slaves, and consequently, they despised Christianity because it was the religion of their captors. But heaven could not resist the sighs of the saint as he stormed the throne of grace to melt their hearts. He came spoke to him with such an authority and efficacy that the obstinate Turk yielded and begged for baptism. Cursed be the law of the false prophet Mahomet, as well as all those who follow it.
Sometimes the Mother of God herself appeared to certain of the infidels to rebuke them for not listening to Father Claver. It is a fact as marvelous as it was true, that while Father Claver labored in Cartagena, not one Moslem went to his grave without first embracing the Catholic Religion. Peter Claver was spiritually mailed to the Cross of Jesus in Cartagena. He never came down from it. This was his city. Only death could drag hi away. And though death should have come much sooner than it did for a man who had trodden on danger as one would on rose petals, it finally began to move on him mercilessly.
It came very slowly. An epidemic had spread again, and the saint began to feel its bite in his own flesh as he returned from a mission to his slaves in one of the outlying villages. In the past, when he came home from such missions, he was usually so reduced physically that he looked like a walking skeleton. This time he stumbled into the Jesuit residence with a body that could scarcely be recognized.
The fathers immediately took him to a more suitable room than his own cell to recuperate. Since I am a bad priest, God no longer desires my services. But four long years would be needed before the consuming affliction would liberate him forever. Four years is a long time to be laid up. With his familiar face no longer visible in the market and byways, people soon began to forget about the man they had so short a time ago nearly worshiped.
It was necessary for him to taste the abandonment of the cross. Here in the solitude of his confinement he suffered not only physically but also mentally. His apostolate was over, and dark thoughts tried to upset his peace… he was useless, a burden to others, and deservedly was cast aside by God. His fellow Jesuits, having been reduced to an extreme poverty, were so busy with their individual responsibilities that days would pass without anyone even visiting him.
The Negro nurse who was supposed to take care of him was a crude hard-hearted man who had no appreciation for what this great and burdensome invalid had done for his race. Whereas many of the Negroes used to kneel before the saint and kiss his hand if they chanced to meet him on the street, this savage resented his job and took out his hatefulness on his unwanted charge. The saint would never complain. In fact, he would refuse to allow the good Brother Nicholas to dress him when he offered to do so, but asked rather for his nurse.
As for his meals, even these meager refreshments were half devoured by the ungrateful wretch before the saint ever received them. In all this he found more opportunity to suffer. And for the longest time no one but God and the saints of heaven knew what the holy man was going through. The ways of God seem hard at times. The miracles, the sermons, the labors in the confessional, the work with all the poor and the sick, the charity for all the Negroes, seemed to be temporarily forgotten by all as the saint silently prayed for death to come.
Only three times in those four years of his last tribulation did he leave the monastery. Once for the Negroes, when having heard of the arrival of a slave ship laden with blacks from a notoriously barbaric area, he had himself carried in a litter to the dock to greet them. When he viewed their deplorable condition and saw the fear in their faces, he broke down and cried. The next time he left was to hear the confession of the holy laywoman, Dona Isabel who, sick and bedridden, was afraid that it might be her last opportunity to speak to the saint in this life.
The final emergence was on behalf of the lepers at Saint Lazarus. In his humility, in order to avoid the attention of the crowd, who would have swarmed about him had they seen him, he had his lame body strapped to a horse in the hopes that the animal would take him swiftly to the leprosarium through the back roads. The animal took him swiftly all right when, for some strange reason some witnesses felt the horse was temporarily bewitched , the gentle horse suddenly bolted, galloping wildly through the streets.
It was now The tortured body of Father Claver, which the saint never ceased to submit to the hairshirt and discipline, could barely contain the ghost. He announced to Brother Gonzales that he would die on the next festival of the Blessed Virgin. One day close to his very last, as he lay in his cell, the saint heard a great deal of rejoicing in the residence.
Having inquired as to the cause, he was informed that Father Diego Farigna had arrived with the Spanish fleet, and that this was the priest who had received the commission from the King to continue the work of baptizing the Negroes. Somehow Claver managed to get out of bed and don a cassock, and the next minute his frail and bent figure, with cane in hand, shuffled up to his successor.
Falling down before him, the veteran apostle kissed his feet. The startled priest, having been told the identity of the man kneeling before him, immediately lifted Father Claver up and dropping to his knees he likewise kissed the reverend feet of his predecessor with great emotion and confusion. On September sixth, two Negroes carried Father Claver to the chapel where he received Holy Communion with the devotion of a seraph. In the evening, the saint was torn with a violent fever that, together with the intense vehemence of his aspiring love, cast him into a motionless state, in which he lay unconscious, his face betraying in its peaceful composer the transport of love he was undergoing.
There they stood looking at a man they knew so well, whose holiness, ecstasies, and extraordinary virtues had so inspired them, and yet perhaps not a few accused themselves of not having profited enough by his presence among them. One by one, the religious and the Negroes clasped his feet, which were giving off such a heavenly fragrance, and bathed them with their kisses. Bot the saint knew it not. Nor could he appreciate any human consolation now, as his soul had already begun to break the web that so finely separated him from the vision of his Desire.
The Saint is dying! Nothing could be done to keep them away. Clasping his feet in their hands, they bade him farewell amid a profusion of sighs and tears. The Negroes were especially affected; Peter Claver had been a real father to them. Never had any of them been loved as this man had loved them. Lifting his hands, they watered them with tears, crying out that they had lost their greatest friend and protector.
This steady concourse lasted until nightfall when the Fathers insisted on sending the people away and closing the doors. Peter Claver was seventy-one years old. The very day that the Holy Virgin, to whom he was so tenderly devoted, entered time, the slave of Mary and of the Negroes entered eternity.