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Prince Rupert, the Buccaneer

Prince Rupert, the Buccaneer
Title: Prince Rupert, the Buccaneer
Release Date: 2018-04-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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First Published . . . April 1901
Second Edition . . . June 1901
Third Edition . . . . May 1907

E. C. H.



I. The Pawning of the Fleet
II. The Admission to the Brotherhood
III. The Rape of the Spanish Pearls
IV. The Ransoming of Caraccas
V. The Passage-money
VI. The Mermaid and the Act of Faith
VII. The Galley
VIII. The Regaining of the Fleet


They marched ... like men who had lostall interest in life . . . Frontispiece

Prince Rupert shone out like a very Paladin

Then one Watkin, a man of iron and amighty shooter, took the lead

It would be a perpetual sunshine for me, Querida

Master Laughan endeavoured to outdothem all in desperation and valour

"Oh, I say what I think," retortedWatkin with a sour look

The secretary was occupied in leading her own.

There is no mistaking the manner ofbuccaneers returning well-laden



"Not slaves, your Highness," said the Governor."We call them engags here: it's a genteeler style.The Lord General keeps us supplied."

"I'll be bound he gave them the plainer name,"said Prince Rupert.

The Governor of Tortuga shrugged his shoulders."On the bills of lading they are written asMalignants; but judging from the way he packedthe last cargo, Monsieur Cromwell regards themas cattle. It is evident that he cared only to beshut of them. They were so packed that onehalf were dead and over the side before the shipbrought up to her anchors in the harbour here.And what were left fetched but poor prices.There was a strong market too. The Spaniardshad been making their raids on the hunters, andmany of the engags had been killed: our hunterswanted others; they were hungry for others; butthese poor rags of seaworn, scurvy-bittenhumanity which offered, were hardly worth takingaway to teach the craft—Your Highnessneglects the cordial."

"I am in but indifferent mood for drinking,Monsieur. It hangs in my memory that thesepoor rogues once fought most stoutly for me andthe King. Cromwell was ever inclined to beiron-fisted with these Irish. Even when we werefighting him on level terms he hanged all that cameinto his hands, till he found us stringing up anequal number of his saints by way of reprisal.But now he has the kingdom all to himself, Isuppose he can ride his own gait. But it is sad,Monsieur D'Ogeron, detestably sad. Irish thoughthey were, these men fought well for the Cause."

The Governor of Tortuga emptied his gobletand looked thoughtfully at its silver rim. "ButI did not say they were Irish, mon prince. FourIrish kernes there were on the ship's manifest,but the scurvy took them, and they wentoverside before reaching here."

"Scots then?"

"There is one outlandish fellow who might bea Scot, or a Yorkshireman, or a Russian, orsomething like that. But no man could speak hislingo, and none would bid for him at the sale.You may have him as a present if you care, and ifperchance he can be found anywhere alive on theisland. No, your Highness, this consignment isall English; drafted from foot, horse, and guns:and a rarely sought-after lot they would havebeen, if whole. From accounts, they must havebeen all tried fighting men, and many had theadvantage of being under your own distinguishedcommand.—Your Highness, I beseech you shirknot the cordial. This climate creates a pleasingthirst, which we ought to be thankful for. Thejack stands at your elbow."

Prince Rupert looked out over the harbour,and the black ships, at the blue waters of theCarib sea beyond. "My poor fellows," he said,"my glorious soldiers, your loyalty has cost youdear."

"It is the fortune of war," said D'Ogeron,sipping his goblet. "A fighting man must be readyto take what befalls. Our turn may come to-morrow."

"I am ready, Monsieur, to take my chances.It is not on my conscience that I ever avoidedthem."

"Your Highness is a philosopher, and I take ityour officers are the same. Yesterday they rodewith you boot to boot in the field, ate with youon the same lawn, spoke with you in councilacross the same drum-head. To-day they wouldbe happy if they could be your lackeys. But thechance is not open to them; they are lackeys tothe buccaneers."

Prince Rupert started to his feet. "Officers,did you say?"

"Just officers. The great Monsieur Cromwellhas but wasteful and uncommercial ways ofconducting a war. He captures a gentle and gallantofficer; he does not ask if the poor man desiresto be put up to ransom, but just claps the ironson him, and writes him for the next shipment tothese West Indies, as though he were a commonpikeman." The Governor toyed with his gobletand sighed regretfully—"'Twas a sheer waste ofgood hard money."

"And you?"

"We kept to the Lord General's classification,and sold gentle officer, and rude common soldieron the same footing. There was no other way.We were too far off your England here to treatprofitably for ransom. Besides, the estates ofmost were wasted during the war, and what wasleft lay in Monsieur Cromwell's hands."

"All the gentlemen of England are beggared.They sent their plate to the King's mint to becoined for the troops' pay; they pawned theirlands; and now they are sent to be butcher-boysto horny-handed cow-killers. I think you havedealt harshly, Monsieur D'Ogeron."

"It was your war," said the Governor good-humouredly,"not mine; and the harshness of itwas out of my hands. The men were sent here,and I dealt with them in the most profitable way.If it would have paid me to weed out the officers,I should have done it. As it didn't, I e'en letthem stay herded in with the rest."

"But surely, Monsieur, you must have someregard for gentle blood?"

"Mighty little, mon prince, mighty little. Ihad it once in the old days, in France; but I lostit out here. It's not in fashion. A quick eyeand a lusty arm we value in Tortuga and Hispaniolamore than all the titles a king could bestow.Gentility will not fill the belly here, neither willit ward off the Spaniards, neither will it despoilthem of their ill-got treasure to provide thewherewithal for an honest carouse. What wevalue most is a little coterie of Brethren of theCoast sailing in with a deep fat ship, with theirnumbers few and their appetites whetted. Tothose we are ready to bow, as we did once in theold countries to knights and belted earls—till,that is, they have spent their gains."

"And then?"

"Why, then, mon prince, we are apt to growuncivil till we see their sterns again as they go offto search the seas for more. Oh, I tell you, it'sa different life here from the old one at home;and a rustling blade, if he can contrive to remainalive, soon makes his way to the top, be he gentle,or be he mere whelp of a seaport drab."

"You state your policy with clearness. Thisis not known in France, and there, I make boldto say, Monsieur, it would not be liked."

The Governor drank deeply. "Here's toFrance," quoth he, "and may she always stay along way off! I'm my own master here, and havea strong place and a lusty following."

"Stronger places have been taken," said thePrince.

"Not if they were snugly guarded," saidD'Ogeron. "I use my precautions. There aretwo entrances to this harbour, but only onechannel. There are many bays, but only oneanchorage. Your ships are in it now; mybatteries command them."

"Monsieur," said Rupert stiffly, "do youdistrust me?"

"Except for my own rogues, and you are notone of them——"

"Thank God!"

"Except for my own rogues, I trust no one."

"Monsieur," said Rupert, "I am not in thehabit of having my word doubted. I have hadthe honour to inform you before that I came inpeace."

"So have done others, and yet I have seenthem bubble out with war when it suited theirpurpose."

"Monsieur, you may have your own individualcode of honour in these barbarous islands, but Istill preserve mine. You have seen fit to put inquestion my honesty. I must ask you to callback your words, or stand by the consequences."

The Governor winked a vinous eye. "Youdon't catch me fighting a duel," said he. "Thehonour of the thing we may leave out of thequestion: we don't deal in it here. And beyondthat, I have all to lose and nothing to gain."

"Monsieur," said the Prince, "you have yoursword, and I have mine. I can force you eitherto fight or apologise."

The Governor wagged his goblet slowly."Neither one nor the other," said he. "Alphonse,"he cried, raising his voice, "haul acrossthat curtain."

There was a scuffle of feet. A piece of draperythat seemed to hide the wall behind the Prince'schair clattered back on its rings, and showedanother room, long, narrow, and dusky. In it atthe farther end was a demi-bombarde, a smallwide-mouthed piece on a gun carriage, with aman standing beside its breech holding a lightedmatch over the touch-hole.

The Prince turned sharply to look, and thenslewed round to the table again. "It covers mewell, but I have known a single shot to miss."

"But not a bag of musket balls, mon prince,with a small charge behind them," said theFrenchman politely.

"They would be safer," said Rupert. "Yes,Monsieur, it is a pretty trap, but to me it scarcelyseems one that a gentleman would set for aguest."

D'Ogeron shrugged his shoulders. "It contentsme," he said, reaching for the black-jack."I have ceased to be a gentleman. I amGovernor of Tortuga."

"If I cannot compel you just now to fight mefor your discourtesy," said Rupert, "at least Iwill not drink with you." And he spilled hisliquor on the floor.

"Every man to his humour," said D'Ogeron."The jack's half full yet, but I'm not averse todoing double duty. This sangoree puts heart ina man. Now touching these engags we startedfrom: there is a way open by which you can servethem quite to their fancy. All who are left, thatis, for I make no doubt that some have notsurvived. Newcomers are apt to be full ofvexatious faults, and the cow-killers are not wont tobe lenient when their convenience is injured.Give out that you are here with money, andready to buy, and within a month I'll have all ofthem brought here to look at, with their priceswritten in plain figures. Say the word, monprince, and I'll send out news this very day."

It irked Prince Rupert to deal with this man,it irked him to sit in the same room with such afellow; but the woes of those that had fought byhis side cried aloud for relief, so he swallowedback his nausea and spoke him civilly. Besides,if the Governor chose to pocket the affronts andgo on sipping his sangoree, it was the Governor'saffair. So the Prince said that he was ready tobuy back the liberty of those officers who hadserved his late majesty King Charles in the wars,and was prepared to remain in Tortuga harbourwith his three ships till these were brought in.

"Well and good," said D'Ogeron. "But Imust warn your Highness that prices will rule high.When your very excellent friends were sold here,newly out of the ship, being raw with wounds,and galled with their shackles, and damaged withscurvy, they went cheap. But since then theyhave been

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