YOU may be sure I received with resentment enough the account that a most ridiculous book, entitled, “My Life and Adventures,” had been published in England, being fully assured nothing of truth could be contained in such a work; and though it may be true that my extravagant story may be the proper foundation of a romance, yet as no man has a title to publish it better than I have to expose and contradict it, I send you this by one of my particular friends, who, having an opportunity of returning into England, has promised to convey it faithfully to you, by which at least two things shall be made good to the world: first, that they shall be satisfied in the scandalous and unjust manner in which others have already treated me, and it shall give, in the mean time, a larger account of what may at present be fit to be made public of my unhappy though successful adventures.
I shall not trouble my friends with anything of my original and first introduction into the world, I leave it to you to add from yourself what you think proper to be known on that subject; only this I enjoin you to take notice of, that the account printed of me, with all the particulars of my marriage, my being defrauded, and leaving my family and native country on that account, is a mere fable and a made story, to embellish, as the writer of it perhaps supposed, the rest of his story, or perhaps to fill up the book, that it might swell to a magnitude which his barren invention could not supply.
In the present account, I have taken no notice of my birth, infancy, youth, or any of that part; which, as it was the most useless part of my years to myself, so ’tis the most useless to any one that shall read this work to know, being altogether barren of anything remarkable in itself or instructing to others. It is sufficient to me to let the world know, as above, that the former accounts made public are utterly false, and to begin my account of myself at a period which may be more useful and entertaining.
It may be true that I may represent some particulars of my life in this tract with reserve or enlarge ment, such as may be sufficient to conceal anything in my present circumstance that ought to be concealed and reserved with respect to my own safety; and therefore, if on pretence of justice the busy world should look for me in one part of the world when I am in another, search for my new kingdom in Madagascar, and should not find it, or search for my settlement on one side of the island when it lies on another, they must not take this ill, for self-preservation being the supreme law of nature, all things of this kind must submit to that.
In order, then, to come immediately to my story, I shall, without any circumlocutions, give you leave to tell the world that, being, bred to the sea from a youth, none of those romantic introductions published had any share in my adventures, or were any way the cause of my taking the courses I have since been embarked in; but as, in several parts of my wandering life, I had seen something of the immense wealth which the buccaneers and other adventurers met with in their scouring about the world for pur chase, I had for a long time meditated in my thoughts to get possessed of a good ship for that purpose if I could, and to try my fortune. I had been some years in the Bay of Campeachy, and though with patience I endured the fatigue of that laborious life, yet it was as visible to others as to myself that I was not formed by nature for a log wood-cutter any more than I was for a foremast-man; and therefore night and day I applied myself to study how I should dismiss myself from that drudgery, and get to be, first or last, master of a good ship, which was the utmost of my ambition at that time; resolving in the meantime that when ever any such thing should happen, I would try my fortune in the cruising trade, but would be sure not to prey upon my own countrymen.
It was many years after this before I could bring my purposes to pass; and I served first in some of the adventures of Captain Sharp, Captain Hawkins, and others, in their bold adventures in the South Seas, where I got a very good booty; was at the taking of Puna, where we were obliged to leave infinite wealth behind us for want of being able to bring it away; and, after several adventures in those seas, was among that party who fought their way, sword in hand, through all the detachments of the Spaniards, in the journey overland, across the isthmus of Darien to the North Seas; and when other of our men got away, some one way, some another, I, with twelve more of our men, by help of a periagua, got into the Bay of Campeachy, where we fell very honestly to cutting of logwood, not for want, but to employ ourselves till we could make off.
Here three of our men died, and we that were left shared their money among us; and having stayed here two years, without seeing any way of escape that I dared to trust to, I at last, with two of our men who spoke Spanish perfectly well, made a desperate at tempt to travel overland to L——, having buried all our money (which was worth eight thousand pieces of eight a man, though most of it in gold) in a pit in the earth, which we dug twelve foot deep, and where it would have lain still, for no man knew where to look for it; but we had an opportunity to come at it again some years after.
We travelled along the seashore five days together, the weather exceeding hot, and did not doubt but we should so disguise ourselves as to be taken for Spaniards; but our better fortune provided otherwise for us, for the sixth day of our march we found a canoe lying on the shore with no one in her. We found, however, several things in her which told us plainly that she belonged to some Englishmen who were on shore, so we resolved to sit down by her and wait. By-and-by we heard the Englishmen, who were seven in number, and were coming back to their boat, having been up the country to an ingenio, where they had gotten great quantities of provision, and were bringing it down to their boat which they had left on the shore (with the help of five Indians, of whom they had bought it), not thinking there was any people thereabouts. When they saw us, not knowing who we were, they were just going to fire at us; when I, perceiving it, held up a white flag as high as I could reach it, which was, in short, only a piece of an old linen waistcoat which I had on, and pulled it off for the occasion. Upon this, however, they forbore firing at us, and when they came nearer to us, they could easily see that we were their own countrymen. They inquired of us what we came there for. We told them we had travelled from Campeachy, where, being tired with the hardships of our fortune, and not getting any vessel to carry us where we durst go, we were even desperate and cared not what became of us; so that had not they come to us thus happily, we should have put ourselves into the hands of the Spaniards rather than have perished where we were.
They took us into their boat, and afterwards carried us on board their ship. When we came there we found they were a worse sort of wanderers than ourselves; for though we had been a kind of pirates, known and declared enemies to the Spaniards, yet it was to them only and to no other; for we never offered to rob any of our other European nations, either Dutch or French, much less English; but now we were listed in the service of the devil indeed, and, like him, were at war with all mankind.
However, we not only were obliged to sort with them while with them, but in a little time the novelty of the crime wore off, and we grew hardened to it like the rest; and in this service I spent four years more of my time.
Our captain in this pirate ship was named Nichols, but we called him Captain Redhand; it seems it was a Scotch sailor gave him that name when he was not the head of the crew, because he was so bloody a wretch that he scarce ever was at the taking any prize, but he had a hand in some butchery or other.
They were hard put to it for fresh provisions, or they would not have sent thus up into the country a single canoe; and when I came on board they were so straitened, that, by my advice, they resolved to go to the Isle of Cuba to kill wild beef, of which the south side of the island is so full. Accordingly we sailed thither directly.
The vessel carried sixteen guns, but was fitted to carry twenty-two, and there was on board one hundred and sixty stout fellows, as bold and as case-hardened for the work as ever I met with upon any occasion whatever. We victualled in this place for eight months by our calculation; but our cook, who had the management of the salting and pickling the beef, ordered his matters so, that had he been let alone he would have starved us all and poisoned us too; for as we are obliged to hunt the black cattle in the island sometimes a great while before we can shoot them, it should be observed that the flesh of those that are heated before they are killed is not fit to be pickled or salted up for keeping.
But this man, happening to pickle up the beef without regard to this particular distinction, most of the beef so pickled stunk before we left the place, so that we were obliged to throw it all away. The men then said it was impossible to salt any beef in those hot countries so as to preserve it, and would have had us given it over, and have gone to the coast of New England or New York for provisions; but I soon convinced them of the mistake, and by only using the caution, viz., not to salt up any beef of those cattle that had been hunted, we cured one hundred and forty barrels of very good beef, and such as lasted us a very great while.
I began to be of some repute among them upon this occasion, and Redhand took me into the cabin with him to consult upon all emergencies, and gave me the name of captain, though I had then no command. By this means I gave him an account of all my adventures in the South Seas, and what a prodigious booty we got there with Captain Goignet, the Frenchman, and with Captain Sharp, and others, encouraging him to make an attempt that way, and proposing to him to go away to the Brazils, and so round by the Straits of Magellan or Cape Horn.
However, in this he was more prudent than I, and told me that not only the strength but the force of his ship was too small; not but that he had men enough, as he said, very well, but he wanted more guns and a better ship, for, indeed, the ship we were in was but a weak crazy boat for so long a voyage; so he said he approved my project very well, but that he thought we should try to take some more substantial vessel for the business. And, says he, if we could but take a good stout ship, fit to carry thirty guns, and a sloop or brigantine, he would go with all his heart.
This I could not but approve of; so we formed the scheme of the design, and he called all his men to gether and proposed it to them, and they all approved it with a general consent; and I had the honour of being the contriver of the voyage. From this time we resolved, somehow or other, to get a better ship under us, and it was not long before an opportunity presented to our mind.
Being now upon the coast of the island of Cuba, we stood away west, coasting the island, and so went away for Florida, where we cruised among the islands, and in the wake of the gulf, but nothing presented a great while. At length we spied a sail, which proved an English homeward-bound ship from Jamaica. We immediately chased her and came up with her; she was a stout ship, and the captain defended her very well, and had she not been a cumbered deep ship, being full loaded so that they could scarce come at their guns, we should have had our hands full of her. But when they found what we were, and that, being full of men, we were resolved to be on board them, and that we had hoisted the black flag, a signal that we would give them no quarter, they began to sink in their spirits, and soon after cried quarter, offering to yield. Redhand would have given them no quarter, but, according to his usual practice, would have thrown the men all into the sea; but I prevailed with him to give them quarter, and good usage too, and so they yielded, and a very rich prize it was, only that we knew not what to do with the cargo.
When we came to consider more seriously the circumstances we were in by taking this ship, and what we should do with her, we found that she was not only deep loaden, but was a very heavy sailer, and that, in short, she was not such a ship as we wanted. So, upon long debate, we resolved to take out of her all the rum, the indigo, and the money we could come at, with about twenty casks of sugar, and twelve of her guns, with all the ammunition, small arms, bullets, &c., and let her go, which was accordingly done, to the great joy of the captain that commanded her. However, we took in her about six thousand pounds sterling in pieces of eight.
But the next prize we met suited us better on all accounts, being a ship from Kinsale, in Ireland, loaden with beef and butter and beer for Barbados. Never was ship more welcome to men in our circumstances; this was the very thing we wanted. We saw the ship early in the morning at about five leagues’ distance, and we was three days in chase of her. She stood from us as if she would have run away for the Cape de Verde Islands, and two or three times we thought she sailed so well she would have got away from us, but we had always the good luck to get sight of her in the morning. She was about 260 ton, an English frigate-built ship, and had twelve guns on board, but could carry twenty. The commander was a Quaker, but yet had he been equal to us in force, it appeared by his countenance he would not have been afraid of his flesh, or have baulked using the carnal weapon of offence, viz., the cannon-ball.
We soon made ourselves master of this ship when once we came up with her, and she was everything that we wanted; so we began to shift our guns into her, and shifted about sixty ton of her butter and beef into our own frigate. This made the Irish vessel be a clear ship, lighter in the water, and have more room on board for fight if occasion offered.
When we had the old Quaking skipper on board, we asked him whether he would go along with us. He gave us no answer at first; but when we asked him again, he returned that he did not know whether it might be safe for him to answer the question. We told him he should either go or stay as he pleased. “Why, then,” says he, “I had rather ye will give me leave to decline it.”
We gave him leave, and accordingly set him on shore afterwards at Nevis with ten of his men. The rest went along with us as volunteers, except the carpenter and his mate and the surgeon; those we took by force. We were now supplied as well as heart could wish, had a large ship in our possession, with provisions enough for a little fleet rather than for a single ship. So with this purchase we went away for the Leeward Islands, and fain we would have met with some of the New York or New England ships, which generally come loaden with pease, flour, pork, &c. But it was a long while before anything of that kind presented. We had promised the Irish captain to set him on shore with his company at Nevis, but we were not willing till we had done our business in those seas, because of giving the alarm among the islands. So we went away for St. Domingo, and making that island our rendezvous, we cruised to the eastward in hopes of some purchase. It was not long before we spied a sail which proved to be a Bermudas sloop, but bound from Virginia or Maryland, with flour, tobacco, and some malt, the last a thing which, in particular, we knew not what to do with. However, the flour and tobacco was very welcome, and the sloop no less welcome than the rest, for she was a very large vessel and carried near sixty ton, and when not so deep loaden proved an excellent sailer. Soon after this we met with another sloop, but she was bound from Barbados to New England, with rum, sugar, and molasses. Nothing disturbed us in taking this vessel, but that [we were] willing enough to let her go (for as to the sugar and molasses, we had neither use for them or room for them); but to have let her go, had been to give the alarm to all the coast of North America, and then what we wanted would never come in our way. Our captain, justly called Redhand or Bloody hand, was presently for despatching them, that they might tell no tales, and, indeed, the necessity of the method had very near prevailed; nor did I much interpose here, I know not why; but some of the other men put him in as good a way, and that was, to bring the sloop to an anchor under the lee of St. Domingo, and take away all her sails, that she should not stir till we gave her leave.
We met with no less than five prizes more here in about twenty days’ cruise, but none of them for our turn; one of them, indeed, was a vessel bound to St. Christopher’s with Madeira wine. We borrowed about twenty pipes of the wine, and let her go. Another was a New-England-built ship of about one hundred and fifty ton, bound also home with sugar and molasses, which was good for nothing to us; however, we got near £1000 on board her in pieces of eight, and taking away her sails, as before, brought her to an anchor under the lee of the sloop. At last we met with what we wanted, and this was another ship of about one hundred ton from New England, bound to Barbados. She had on board one hundred and fifty barrels of flour, about three hundred and fifty barrels of pease, and ten ton of pork barrelled up and pickled, besides some live hogs, and some horses, and six tun of beer.
We were now sufficiently provided for. In all those prizes we got also about fifty-six men, who, by choice and volunteer, agreed to go along with us, including the carpenters and surgeons, who we obliged always to go, so that we were now above two hundred men, two ships, and the Bermudas sloop; and giving the other sloop and the New England homeward-bound ship their sails again, we let them go; and as to the malt which we took in the Bermudas sloop, we gave it the last New England master, who was going to Barbados. We got in all those ships, besides the provisions above mentioned, about two hundred muskets and pistols, good store of cutlasses, about twenty ton of iron shot and musket ball, and thirty-three barrels of good powder, which was all very suitable things to our occasions.
We were fully satisfied, as we said to one another now, and concluded that we would stand away to the windward as well as we could, towards the coast of Africa, that we might come in the wind’s way for the coast of Brazil. But our frigate (I mean that we were first shipped in) was yet out upon the cruise, and not come in, so we came to an anchor to wait for her, when, behold, the next morning she came in with full sail and a prize in tow. She had, it seems, been farther west than her orders, but had met with a Spanish prize, whither bound, or from whence, I remem ber we did not inquire, but we found in her, besides merchandise which we had no occasion for, 65,000 pieces of eight in silver, some gold, and two boxes of pearl of a good value. Five Dutch, or rather Flemish, seamen that were on board her were willing to go with us; and as to the rest of the cargo, we let her go; only, finding four of her guns were brass, we took them into our ship, with seven great jars of powder and some cannon-shot, and let her go, using the Spaniards very civilly.
This was a piece of mere good fortune to us, and was so encouraging as nothing could be more, for it set us up, as we may say; for now we thought we could never fail of good fortune, and we resolved, one and all, directly to the South Seas.
It was about the middle of August 1690 that we set forward, and steering E. by S. and E.S.E. for about fifteen days, with the winds at N.N.W. variable, we came quickly into the trade winds, with a good offing, to go clear of all the islands; and so we steered directly for Cape St. Augustin, in the Brazils, which we made the 22nd of September.
We cruised some time upon the coast about the Bay of All Saints, and put in once or twice for fresh water, especially at the island of St. John’s, where we got good store of fish and some hogs, which, for fresh provisions, was a great relief to us. But we got no purchase here; for whether it was that their European ships were just come in or just gone out, we know not, or whether they suspected what we were, and so kept close within their ports, but in thirteen days that we plied off and on about Pernambuco, and about fourteen days more that we spent in coasting along the Brazil shore to the south, we met not one ship, neither saw a sail, except of their fishing-boats or small coasters, who kept close under shore.
We crossed the line here about the latter end of September, and found the air exceeding hot and unwholesome, the sun being in the zenith, and the weather very wet and rainy. So we resolved to stand away south without looking for any more purchase on that side.
Accordingly we kept on to the south, having tolerable good weather, and keeping the shore all the way in view till we came the length of St. Julian, in the latitude of forty-eight degrees twenty-two minutes south. Here we put in again, being the beginning of November, and took in fresh water, and spent about ten days refreshing ourselves and fitting our tackle, all which time we lived upon penguins and seals, of which we killed an innumerable number; and when we pre pared to go, we salted up as many penguins as we found would serve our whole crew, to eat them twice a week as long as they would keep.
Here we consulted together about going through the Straits of Magellan, but I put them quite out of conceit of making that troublesome and fatiguing adventure, the straits being so hazardous, and so many winds required to pass them; and having assured them that in our return with Bat Sharp, we went away to the latitude of fifty-five degrees thirty minutes, and then, steering due east, came open with the North Seas in five days’ run, they all agreed to go that way.
On the 20th of November we weighed from Port Julian, and having a fair wind at N.E. by E., led it away merrily till we came into the latitude of fifty-four, when the wind veering more northerly, and then to the N.W., blowing hard, we were driven into fifty-five degrees and a half; but lying as near as we could to the wind, we made some westward way withal. The 3rd of December the wind came up S., and S.E. by S., being now just as it were at the beginning of the summer solstice in that country.
With this wind, which blew a fresh gale, we stood away N.N.W., and soon found ourselves in open sea to the west of America, upon which we hauled away N. by E. and N.N.E., and then N.E., when, on the 20th of December, we made the land, being the coast of Chili, in the latitude of forty-one degrees, about the height of Baldivia; and we stood out from hence till we made the isle of Juan Fernandez, where we came to an anchor, and went on shore to get fresh water; also some of our men went a-hunting for goats, of which we killed enough to feed us all with fresh meat for all the while we stayed here, which was twenty-two days (January 11).
During this stay we sent the sloop out to cruise, but she came back without seeing any vessel; after which we ordered her out again more to the north, but she was scarce gone a league when she made a signal that she saw a sail, and that we should come out to help them. Accordingly the frigate put to sea after them, but making no signal for us to follow, we lay still, and worked hard at cleaning our ship, shifting some of the rigging and the like.
We heard no more of them in three days, which made us repent sorely that we had not gone all three together; but the third day they came back, though without any prize, as we thought, but gave us an account that they had chased a great ship and a bark all night and the next day; that they took the bark the evening before, but found little in her of value; that the great ship ran on shore among some rocks, where they durst not go in after her, but that, manning out their boats, they got on shore so soon that the men belonging to her durst not land; that then they threatened to burn the ship as she lay, and burn them all in her, if they did not come on shore and surrender. They offered to surrender, giving them their liberty, which our men would not promise at first; but after some parley and arguing on both sides, our men agreed thus far, that they should remain prisoners for so long as we were in those seas, but that as soon as we came to the height of Panama, or if we resolved to return sooner, then they should be set at liberty; and to these hard conditions they yielded.
Our men found in the ship six brass guns, two hundred sacks of meal, some fruit, and the value of 160,000 pieces of eight in gold of Chili, as good as any in the world. It was a glittering sight, and enough to dazzle the eyes of those that looked on it, to see such a quantity of gold laid all of a heap together, and we began to embrace one another in congratulation of our good fortune.
We brought the prisoners all to the island Fernandez, where we used them very well, built little houses for them, gave them bread and meat, and everything they wanted, and gave them powder and ball to kill goats with, which they were fully satisfied with, and killed a great many for us too.
We continued to cruise (February 2) hereabout, but without finding any other prize for near three weeks more. So we resolved to go up as high as Puna, the place where I had been so lucky before, and we assured our prisoners that in about two months we would return and relieve them; but they chose rather to be on board us. So we took them all in again, and kept on with an easy sail at a proper distance from land, that we might not be known and the alarm given; for as to the ship which we had taken, and which was stranded among the rocks, as we had taken all the men out of her, the people on the shore, when they should find her, could think no other than that she was driven on shore by a storm, and that all the people were drowned, or all escaped and gone; and there was no doubt but that the ship would beat to pieces in a very few days.
We kept, I say, at a distance from the shore to prevent giving the alarm; but it was a needless caution, for the country was all alarmed on another account, viz., about one hundred and thirty bold buccaneers had made their way overland, not at the isthmus of Darien as usual, but from Granada, on the lake of Nicaragua, to the north of Panama, by which, though the way was longer, and the country not so practicable as at the ordinary passage, yet they were unmolested, for they surprised the country; and whereas the Spaniards, looking for them at the old passage, had drawn en trenchments, planted guns, and posted men at the passages of the mountains to intercept them and cut them off, here they met with no Spaniards nor any other obstruction in their way, but, coming to the South Sea, had time, undiscovered, to build themselves canoes and periaguas, and did a great deal of mischief upon the shore, having been followed, among the rest, by eighty men more, commanded by one Guilotte, a Frenchman, an old buccaneer; so that they were now two hundred and ten men, and they were not long at sea before they took two Spanish barks going from Guatemala to Panama loaden with meal, cocoa, and other provisions, so that now they were a fleet of two barks, with several canoes and periaguas, but no guns, nor any more ammunition than every one carried at first at their backs.
However, this troop of desperadoes had alarmed all the coast, and expresses both by sea and land were despatched to warn the towns on the coast to be upon their guard all the way from Panama to Lima. But as they were represented to be only such freebooters as I have said, ships of strength did not desist their voyages, as they found occasion, as we shall observe presently. We were now gotten into the latitude of ten, eleven, and twelve degrees and a half; but, in our overmuch caution, had kept out so far to sea that we missed everything which would otherwise have fallen into our hands; but we were better informed quickly, as you shall hear.
Early in the morning one of our men being on the mizzen-top cried, “A sail! a sail!” It proved to be a small vessel standing just after us, and, as we under stood afterwards, did so, believing that we were some of the king’s ships looking after the buccaneers. As we understood she was astern of us, we shortened sail and hung out the Spanish colours, separating our selves to make him suppose we were cruising for the buccaneers, and did not look for him. However, when we saw him come forward, but stretching in a little towards the shore, we took care to be so much to starboard that he could not escape us that way, and when he was a little nearer the sloop plainly chased him, and in a little time came up with him and took him. We had little goods in the vessel, their chief loading being meal and corn for Panama; but the master happened to have 6000 pieces of eight in his cabin, which was good booty.
But that which was better than all this to us was, that the master gave us an account of two ships which were behind, and were under sail for Lima or Panama, the one having the revenues of the kingdom of Chili, and the other having a great quantity of silver going from Puna to Lima, to be forwarded from thence to Panama, and that they kept together, being ships of force, to protect one another. How they did it we soon saw the effects of.
Upon this intelligence we were very joyful, and assured the master that, if we found it so, we would give him his vessel again, and all his goods except his money; as for that, we told him such people as we never returned it anybody. However, the man’s intelligence proved good, for the very next day, as we were standing south-west, our Spanish colours being out, as above, we spied one of the ships, and soon after the other. We found they had discovered us also, and that, being doubtful what to make of us, they tacked and stood eastward to get nearer the land. We did the like, and as we found there was no letting them go that way, but that we should be sure to lose them, we soon let them know that we were resolved to speak with them.
The biggest ship, which was three leagues astern of the other, crowded in for the shore with all the sail she could make, and it was easy for us to see that she would escape us; for as she was a great deal further in with the land than the other when we first gave chase, so in about three hours we saw the land plain ahead of us, and that the great ship would get into port before we could reach her.
Upon this we stretched ahead with all the sail we could make, and the sloop, which crowded also very hard, and out-went us, engaged the small ship at least an hour before we could come up. But she could make little of it, for the Spanish ship, having twelve guns and six patereroes, would have been too many for the sloop if we had not come up. How ever, at length, our biggest ship came up also, and, running up under her quarter, gave her our whole broadside; at which she struck immediately, and the Spaniards cried quarter and misericordia. Upon this, our sloop’s men entered her presently and secured her.
In the beginning of this action, it seems, our Redhand Captain was so provoked at losing the greater prize, which, as he thought, had all the money on board, that he swore he would not spare one of the dogs (so he called the Spaniards in the other ship); but he was prevented, and it was very happy for the Spaniards that the first shot the ship made towards us, just as we were running up to pour in our broad side,—I say, the first shot took Captain Redhand full on the breast, and shot his head and one shoulder off, so that he never spoke more, nor did I find that any one man in the ship showed the least concern for him. So certain it is that cruelty never recommends any man among Englishmen; no, though they have no share in the suffering under it. But one said, “D—n him; let him go; he was a butcherly dog.” Another said, “D—n him; he was a merciless son of a b—ch.” Another said, “He was a barbarous dog,” and the like.
But to return to the prize. Being now as certain of the smaller prize as that we had missed the great one, we began to examine what we had got; and it is not easy to give an exact account of the prodigious variety of things we found. In the first place were one hundred and sixteen chests of pieces of eight in specie, seventy-two bars of silver, fifteen bags of wrought plate, which a friar that was on board would have persuaded us, for the sake of the Blessed Virgin, to have returned, being, as he said, consecrated plate to the honour of the Holy Church, the Virgin Mary, and St. Martin; but, as it happened, he could not persuade us to it; also we found about 60,000 ounces of gold, some in little wedges, some in dust. We found several other things of value, but not to be named with the rest.
Being thus made surprisingly rich, we began to think what course we should steer next; for as the great ship which was escaped would certainly alarm the country, we might be sure we should meet with no more purchase at sea, and we were not very fond of landing to attack any town on shore. In this consultation ’t is to be observed that I was, by the unanimous consent of all the crew, made captain of the great ship and of the whole crew the whole voyage hither, and every part of it, having, for some time before, been chiefly managed by my direction, or at least by my advice.
The first thing I proposed to them all was, seeing we had met with such good luck, and that we could not expect much more, and, if we stayed longer in these seas, should find it very hard to revictual our ships, and might have our retreat cut off by Spanish men-of-war (five of which we heard were sent out after the other buccaneers), we should make the best of our way to the south, and get about into the North Seas, where we were out of all danger.
In consequence of this advice, which was generally approved, we stood away directly south, and the wind blowing pretty fair at N.N.E. a merry gale, we stood directly for the isle of Juan Fernandez, carrying our rich prize with us.
We arrived here the beginning of June, having been just six months in those seas. We were surprised when, coming to the island, we found two ships at an anchor close under the lee of the rocks, and two little periaguas further in, near the shore; but being resolved to see what they were, we found, to our satisfaction, they were the buccaneers of whom I have spoken above. The story is too long to enter upon here; but, in short, without guns, without ship, and only coming overland with their fusees in their hands, they had ranged these seas, had taken several prizes, and some pretty rich, and had got two pretty handsome barks; one carried six guns, and the other four. They had shared, as they told us, about four hundred pieces of eight a man; besides, one thing they had which we were willing to buy of them they had about one hundred jars of gun powder, which they took out of a store-ship going to Lima.
If we were glad to meet them, you may be sure they were glad to meet with us, and so we began to sort together as one company; only they were loth to give over and return, as we were, and which we had now resolved on.
We were so rich ourselves, and so fully satisfied with what we had taken, that we began to be bountiful to our countrymen; and indeed they dealt so generously with us, that we could not but be inclined to do them some good; for when we talked of buying their gunpowder, they very frankly gave us fifty jars of it gratis.
I took this so kindly that I called a little council among ourselves, and proposed to send the poor rogues fifty barrels of our beef, which we could very well spare; and our company agreeing to it, we did so, which made their hearts glad, for it was very good, and they had not tasted good salt beef for a long time, and with it we sent them two hogsheads of rum. This made them so hearty to us, that they sent two of their company to compliment us, to offer to enter themselves on board us, and to go with us all the world over.
We did not so readily agree to this at first, because we had no new enterprise in view; but, however, as they sent us word they had chosen me so unanimously for their captain, I proposed to our men to remove ourselves and all our goods into the great ship and the sloop, and so take the honest fellows into the frigate, which now had no less than twenty-two guns, and would hold them all, and then they might sail with us, or go upon any adventures of their own, as we should agree.
Accordingly we did so, and gave them that ship, with all her guns and ammunition, but made one of our own men captain, which they consented to, and so we became all one body.
Here also we shared our booty, which was great, indeed, to a profusion; and as keeping such a treasure in every man’s particular private possession would have occasioned gaming, quarrelling, and perhaps thieving and pilfering, I ordered that so many small chests should be made as there were men in the ship, and every man’s treasure was nailed up in these chests, and the chests all stowed in the hold, with every man’s name upon his chest, not to be touched but by general order; and to prevent gaming, I prevailed with them to make a law or agreement, and every one to set their hands to it; by which they agreed that if any man played for any more money than he had in his keeping, the winner should not be paid, whatever the loser run in debt, but the chest containing every man’s dividend should be all his own, to be delivered whole to him; and the offender, whenever he left the ship, if he would pay any gaming debts afterward, that was another case, but such debts should never be paid while he continued in that company.
By this means also we secured the ship’s crew keeping together; for if any man left the ship now, he was sure to leave about 6000 pieces of eight behind him, to be shared among the rest of the ship’s company, which few of them cared to do.
As we were now all embarked together, the next question was, whither we should go? As for our crew, we were so rich, that our men were all for going back again, and so to make off to some of the Leeward Islands, that we might get ashore privately with our booty. But as we had shipped our new comrades on board a good ship, it would oe very hard to oblige them to go back without any purchase; for that would be to give them a ship to do them no good, but to carry them back to Europe just as they came out from thence, viz., with no money in their pockets.
Upon these considerations we came to this resolution, that they should go out to sea and cruise the height of Lima and try their fortune, and that we would stay sixty days for them at Juan Fernandez.
Upon this agreement they went away very joyful, and we fell to work to new rig our ship, mending our sails, and cleaning our bottom. Here we employed ourselves a month very hard at work. Our carpenters also took down some of the ship’s upper work, and built it, as we thought, more to the advantage of sailing; so that we had more room within, and yet did not lie so high.
During this time we had a tent set up on shore, and fifty of our men employed themselves wholly in killing goats and fowls for our fresh provisions; and one of our men understanding we had some malt left on board the ship, which was taken in one of the prizes, set up a great kettle on shore and went to work to brewing, and, to our great satisfaction, brewed us some very good beer; but we wanted bottles to keep it in after it had stood a while in the cask.
However, he brewed us very good small beer for present use, and instead of hops he found some wild wormwood growing on the island, which gave it no unpleasant taste, and made it very agreeable to us.
Before the time was expired, our frigate sent a sloop to us, which they had taken, to give us notice that they were in a small creek near the mould of the river Guayaquil, on the coast of Peru, in the latitude of twenty-two degrees. They had a great booty in view, there being two ships in the river of Guayaquil, and two more expected to pass by from Lima, in which was a great quantity of plate; that they waited there for them, and begged we would not think the time long; but that if we should go away, they desired that we would fix up a post with a piece of lead on it, signifying where they should come to us, and wherever it was, east or west, north or south, they would follow us with all the sail they could make.
A little while after this they sent another sloop, which they had taken also, and she brought a vast treasure in silver and very rich goods, which they had got in plundering a town on the continent, and they ordered the sloop to wait for them at the island where we lay till their return. But they were so eager in the pursuit of their game, that they could not think of coming back yet, neither could we blame them, they having such great things in view. So we resolved, in pursuit of our former resolution, to be gone, and after several consultations among ourselves in what part of the world we should pitch our tent, we broke up at first without any conclusion.
We were all of the opinion that our treasure was so great that wherever we went we should be a prey to the government of that place; that it was impossible to go all on shore and be concealed; and that we should be so jealous of one another, that we should certainly betray one another, every one for fear of his fellow; that is to say, for fear the other should tell first. Some therefore proposed our going about the south point of Cape Horn, and that then, going away to the Gulf of Mexico, we should go on shore at the Bay of Campeachy, and from thence disperse ourselves as well as we could, and every one go his own way.
I was willing enough to have gone thither, because of the treasure I had left there under ground; but still I concluded we were (as I have said) too rich to go on shore anywhere to separate, for every man of us had too much wealth to carry about us; and if we separated, the first number of men any of us should meet with, that were strong enough to do it, would take it from us, and so we should but just expose ourselves to be murdered for that money we had gotten at so much hazard.
Some proposed then our going to the coast of Virginia, and go some on shore in one place, and some in another, privately, and so travelling to the seaports where there were most people, we might be concealed, and by degrees reduce ourselves to a private capacity, every one shifting home as well as they could. This, I acknowledge, might be done if we were sure none of us would be false one to another; but while tales might be told, and the teller of the tale was sure to save his own life and treasure, and make his peace at the expense of his comrades, there was no safety; and they might be sure that as the money would render them suspected wherever they came, so they would be examined, and what by faltering in their story, and by being cross-examined kept apart, and the one being made to believe the other had betrayed him and told all, when indeed he might have said nothing to hurt him, the truth of fact would be dragged out by piecemeal, till they would certainly at last come to the gallows.
These objections were equally just to what nation or place soever we could think of going; so that, upon the whole, we concluded there was no safety for us but by keeping all together, and going to some part of the world where we might be strong enough to defend ourselves, or be so concealed till we might find out some way of escape that we might not now be so well able to think of.
In the middle of all these consultations, in which I freely own I was at a loss, and could not tell which way to advise, an old sailor stood up and told us, if we would be advised by him, there was a part of the world where he had been where we might all settle ourselves undisturbed, and live very comfortably and plentifully till we could find out some way how to dispose of ourselves better, and that we might easily be strong enough for the inhabitants, who would at first, perhaps, attack us, but that afterwards they would sort very well with us, and supply us with all sorts of provisions very plentifully, and this was the island of Madagascar. He told us we might live very well there. He gave us a large account of the country, the climate, the people, the plenty of provisions which was to be had there, especially of black cattle, of which, he said, there was an infinite number, and consequently a plenty of milk, of which so many other things was made. In a word, he read us so many lectures upon the goodness of the place and the conveniency of living there, that we were, one and all, eager to go thither, and concluded upon it.
Accordingly, having little left to do (for we had been in a sailing posture some weeks), we left word with the officer who commanded the sloop, and with all his men, that they should come after us to Madagascar; and our men were not wanting to let them know all our reasons for going thither, as well as the difficulties we found of going anywhere else, which had so fully possessed them with the hopes of further advantage, that they promised for the rest that they would all follow us.
However, as we all calculated the length of the voyage, and that our water, and perhaps our provisions, might not hold out so far, but especially our water, we agreed, that having passed Cape Horn, and got into the North Seas, we would steer northward up the east shore of America till we came to St. Julian, where we would stay at least fourteen days to take in water, and to store ourselves with seals and penguins, which would greatly eke out our ship’s stores; and that then we should cross the great Atlantic Ocean in a milder latitude than if we went directly, and stood immediately over from the passage about the Cape, which must be, at least, in fifty-five or fifty-six; and perhaps, as the weather might be, would be in the latitude of sixty or sixty-one.
With this resolution, and under these measures, we set sail from the island of St. Juan Fernandez the 23rd of September (being the same there as our March is here), and keeping the coast of Chili on board, had good weather for about a fortnight (October 14), till we came into the latitude of forty-four degrees south, when finding the wind come squally off the shore from among the mountains, we were obliged to keep far ther out at sea, where the winds were less uncertain, and some calms we met with, till about the middle of October (16th), when the wind springing up at N.N.W. a pretty moderate gale, we jogged S.E. and S.S.E. till we came into the latitude of fifty-five degrees, and the 16th of November found ourselves in fifty-nine degrees, the weather exceeding cold and severe. But the wind holding fair, we held in with the land, and steering E.S.E., we held that course till we thought ourselves entirely clear of the land, and entered into the North Sea or Atlantic Ocean; and then changing our course, we steered N. and N.N.E.; but the wind blowing still at N.N.W. a pretty stiff gale, we could make nothing of it till we made the land in the latitude of fifty-two degrees, and when we came close under shore we found the winds variable; so we made still N. under the lee of the shore, and made the point of St. Julian the 13th of November, having been a year and seven days since we parted from thence on our voyage out ward bound.
Here we rested ourselves, took in fresh water, and began to kill seals and fowls of several sorts, but especially penguins, which this place is noted for, and here we stayed in hopes our frigate would arrive, but we heard no news of her; so at parting we set up a post with this inscription, done on a plate of lead, with our names upon the lead, and these words:—
“Gone to Madagascar, December 10, 1692;”
(being in that latitude the longest day in the year;) and I doubt not but the post may stand there still.
From hence we launched out into the vast Atlantic Ocean, steering our course E. by N. and E.N.E. till we had sailed, by our account, about four hundred and seventy leagues, taking our meridian distance or departure from St. Julian; and here a strong gale springing up at S.E. by E. and E.S.E., increasing afterwards to a violent storm, we were forced by it to the northward as high as the Tropic, not that it blew a storm all the while, but it blew so steady and so very hard for near twenty days together, that we were carried quite out of our intended course. After we had weathered this, we began to recover ourselves again, making still east; and endeavouring to get to the southward, we had yet another hard gale of wind at S. and S.S.E. so strong, that we could make nothing of it at all; whereupon it was resolved, if we could, to make the island of St. Helena, which, in about three weeks more, we very happily came to on the 17th of January.
It was to our great satisfaction that we found no ships at all here, and we resolved not by any means to let the governor on shore know our ship’s name or any of our officers’ names, and I believe our men were very true to one another in that point, but they were not at all shy of letting them know upon what ac count we were, &c.; so that if he could have gotten any of us in his power, as we were afterwards told he endeavoured by two or three ambuscades to do, we should have passed our time but very indifferently, for which, when we went away, we let him know we would not have failed to have beat his little fort about his ears.
We stayed no longer here than just served to refresh ourselves and supply our want of fresh water. The wind presenting fair (February 2, 1692-3), we set sail, and (not to trouble my story with the particulars of the voyage, in which nothing remarkable occurred) we doubled the Cape the 13th of March, and passing on without coming to an anchor or discovering ourselves, we made directly to the island of Madagascar, where we arrived the 7th of April—the sloop, to our particular satisfaction, keeping in company all the way, and bearing the sea as well as our ship upon all occasions.
To this time I had met with nothing but good fortune; success answered every attempt and followed every undertaking, and we scarce knew what it was to be disappointed. But we had an interval of our fortunes to meet with in this place. We arrived, as above, at the island on the 13th of March, but we did not care to make the south part of the island our retreat, nor was it a proper place for our business, which was to take possession of a private, secure place to make a refuge of; so after staying some time where we put in, which was on the point of land a little to the south of Cape St. Augustine, and taking in water and provisions there, we stood away to the north, and keeping the island in view, went on till we came to the latitude of fourteen degrees. Here we met with a very terrible tornado or hurricane, which, after we had beat the sea as long as we could, obliged us to run directly for the shore to save our lives as well as we could, in hopes of finding some harbour or bay where we might run in, or at least might go into smooth water till the storm was over.
The sloop was more put to it than we were in the great ship, and being obliged to run afore it a little sooner than we did, she served for a pilot-boat to us which followed; in a word, she run in under the lee of a great headland which jetted far out into the sea, and stood very high also, and came to an anchor in three fathom and a half water. We followed her, but not with the same good luck, though we came to an anchor too, as we thought, safe enough; but the sea going very high, our anchor came home in the night, and we drove on shore in the dark among the rocks, in spite of all we were able to do.
Thus we lost the most fortunate ship that ever man sailed with; however, making signals of distress to the sloop, and by the assistance of our own boat, we saved our lives; and the storm abating in the morning, we had time to save many things, particularly our guns and most of our ammunition, and, which was more than all the rest, we saved our treasure. Though I mention the saving our guns first, yet they were the last things we saved, being obliged to break the upper deck of the ship up for them.
Being thus got on shore, and having built us some huts for our conveniency, we had nothing before us but a view of fixing our habitations in the country; for though we had the sloop, we could propose little advantage by her; for as to cruising for booty among the Arabians or Indians, we had neither room for it or inclination to it; and as for attacking any European ship, the sloop was in no condition to do it, though we had all been on board, for everybody knows that all the ships trading from Europe to the East Indies were ships of force, and too strong for us. So that, in short, we had nothing in view for several months but how to settle ourselves here, and live as comfortably and as well as we could till something or other might offer for our deliverance.
In this condition we remained on shore above eight months, during which time we built us a little town, and fortified it by the direction of one of our gunners, who was a very good engineer, in a very clever and regular manner, placing a very strong double palisado round the foot of our works, and a very large ditch without our palisado, and a third palisado beyond the ditch like a counterscarp or covered way. Besides this, we raised a large battery next to the sea, with a line of twenty-four guns placed before it, and thus we thought ourselves in a condition to defend our selves against any force that could attempt us in that part of the world. And besides all this, the place on which our habitation was built being an island, there was no coming easily at us by land.
But I was far from being easy in this situation of our affairs; so I made a proposal to our men one day, that though we were well enough in our habitation, and wanted for nothing, yet since we had a sloop here, and a boat so good as she was, ’t was pity she should lie and perish there, but we should send her abroad and see what might happen; that perhaps it might be our good luck to surprise some ship or other for our turn, and so we might all go to sea again. The proposal was well enough relished at first word, but the great mischief of all was like to be this, that we should all go together by the ears upon the question who should go in her. My secret design was laid, that I was resolved to go in her myself, and that she should not go without me; but when it began to be talked of, I discovered the greatest seeming resolution not to stir, but to stay with the rest, and take care of the main chance, that was to say, the money.
I found, when they saw that I did not propose to go myself, the men were much the easier, for at first they began to think it was only a project of mine to run away from them, and so indeed it was. However, as I did not at first propose to go myself, so when I came to the proposal of who should go, I made a long discourse to them of the obligation they had all to be faithful one to another, and that those who went in the sloop ought to consider themselves and those that were with them to be but one body with those who were left behind; that their whole concern ought to be to get some good ship to fetch them off. At last I concluded with a proposal that whoever went in the sloop should leave his money behind in the common keeping, as it was before, to remain as a pledge for his faithful performing the voyage, and coming back again to the company, and should faithfully swear that wherever they went (for as to the voyage, they were at full liberty to go whither they would), they would certainly endeavour to get back to Madagascar, and that if they were cast away, stranded, taken, or whatever befell them, they should never rest till they got to Madagascar, if it was possible.
They all came most readily into this proposal for those who should go into the sloop, but with this alteration in them (which was easy to be seen in their countenances), viz., that from that minute there was no striving who should go, but every man was willing to stay where they were. This was what I wanted, and I let it rest for two or three days, when I took occasion to tell them, that seeing they all were sensible that it was a very good proposal to send the sloop out to sea, and see what they could do for us, I thought it was strange they should so generally show themselves backward to the service for fear of parting from their money. I told them that no man need be afraid that the whole body should agree to take his money from him without any pretended offence, much less when he should be abroad for their service. But, however, as it was my proposal, and I was always willing to hazard myself for the good of them all, so I was ready to go on the conditions I had proposed to them for others, and I was not afraid to flatter myself with serving them so well abroad, that they should not grudge to restore me my share of money when I came home, and the like of all those that went with me.
This was so seasonably spoken, and humoured so well, that it answered my design effectually, and I was voted to go nemine contradicente; then I desired they would either draw lots for who and who should go with me, or leave it in my absolute choice to pick and cull my men. They had for some time agreed to the first, and forty blanks were made for those to whose lot it should come to draw a blank to go in the sloop; but then it was said this might neither be a fair nor an effectual choice; for example, if the needful number of officers and of particular occupations should not happen to be lotted out, the sloop might be obliged to go out to sea without a surgeon, or without a carpenter, or without a cook, and the like. So, upon second thoughts, it was left to me to name my men; so I chose me out forty stout fellows, and among them several who were trusty, bold men, fit for anything.
Being thus manned, the sloop rigged, and having cleared her bottom and laid in provisions enough for a long voyage, we set sail the 3rd of January 1694, for the Cape of Good Hope. We very honestly left our money, as I said, behind us; only that we had about the value of two thousand pound in pieces of eight allowed us on board for any exigence that might happen at sea.
We made no stop at the Cape or at St. Helena, though we passed in sight of it, but stood over to the Caribbee Islands directly, and made the Island of Tobago the 18th of February, where we took in fresh water, which we stood in great need of, as you may judge by the length of the voyage. We sought no purchase, for I had fully convinced our men that our business was not to appear, as we were used to be, upon the cruise, but as traders, and to that end I proposed to go away to the Bay of Campeachy and load logwood, under the pretence of selling of which we might go anywhere.
It is true I had another design here, which was to recover the money which my comrade and I had buried there; and having the man on board with me to whom I had communicated my design, we found an opportunity to come at our money with privacy enough, having so concealed it as that it would have lain there to the general conflagration if we had not come for it ourselves.
My next resolution was to go for England, only that I had too many men, and did not know what to do with them. I told them we could never pretend to go with a sloop loaden with logwood to any place, with forty men on board, but we should be discovered; but if they would resolve to put fifteen or sixteen men on shore as private seamen, the rest might do well enough, and if they thought it hard to be set on shore, I was content to be one; only that I thought it was very reasonable that whoever went on shore should have some money given them, and that all should agree to rendezvous in England, and so make the best of our way thither, and there perhaps we might get a good ship to go fetch off our comrades and our money. With this resolution, sixteen of our men had three hundred pieces of eight a man given them, and they went off thus. The sloop stood away north through the Gulf of Florida, keeping under the shore of Carolina and Virginia; so our men dropped off as if they had deserted the ship. Three of the sixteen ran away there, five more went off at Virginia, three at New York, three at Rhode Island, and myself and one more at New England; and so the sloop went away for England with the rest. I got all my money on shore with me, and concealed it as well as I could. Some I got bills for, some I bought molasses with, and turned the rest into gold; and dressing myself, not as a common sailor, but as a master of a ketch which I had lost in the Bay of Campeachy, I got passage on board one Captain Guillame, a New England captain, whose owner was one Mr. Johnson, a merchant, living at Hackney, near London.
Being at London, it was but a very few months before several of us met again, as I have said we agreed to do; and being true to our first design of going back to our comrades, we had several close conferences about the manner and figure in which we should make the attempt, and we had some very great difficulties appeared in our way. First, to have fitted up a small vessel, it would be of no service to us, but be the same thing as the sloop we came in; and if we pretended to a great ship, our money would not hold out; so we were quite at a stand in our councils what to do or what course to take, till at length, our money still wasting, we grew less able to execute anything we should project.
This made us all desperate, when, as desperate distempers call for desperate cures, I started a proposal which pleased them all, and this was, that I would endeavour among my acquaintance, and with what money I had left (which was still sixteen or seventeen hundred pound), to get the command of a good ship, bearing a quarter part or thereabout my self, and so having got into the ship and got a freight, the rest of our gang should all enter on board as seamen, and whatever voyage we went, or wheresoever we were bound, we would run away with the ship and all the goods, and so go to our friends as we had promised.
I made several attempts of this kind, and once bought a very good ship called The Griffin, of one Snelgrove a shipwright, and engaged the persons concerned to hold a share in her, and fit her out on a voyage for Leghorn and Venice, when it was very probable the cargo to be shipped on board casually by the merchant would be very rich; but Providence, and the good fortune of the owner, prevented this bargain, for without any objection against me, or discovery of my design in the least, he told me after wards his wife had an ugly dream or two about the ship; once, that it was set on fire by lightning, and he had lost all he had in it; another time, that the men had mutinied and conspired to kill him; and that his wife was so averse to his being concerned in it, that it had always been an unlucky ship, and that therefore his mind was changed; that he would sell the whole ship, if I would, but he would not hold any part of it himself.
Though I was very much disappointed at this, yet I put a very good face upon it, and told him, I was very glad to hear him tell me the particulars of his dissatisfaction; for if there was anything in dreams, and his wife’s dream had any signification at all, it seemed to concern me (more than him), who was to go the voyage and command the ship; and whether the ship was to be burnt, or the men to mutiny, though part of the loss might be his, who was to stay on shore, all the danger was to be mine, who was to be at sea in her; and then, as he had said she had been an unlucky ship to him, it was very likely she would be so to me; and therefore I thanked him for the discovery, and told him I would not meddle with her.
The man was uneasy, and began to waver in his resolution, and had it not been for the continued importunities of his wife, I believe would have come on again; for people generally incline to a thing that is rejected, when they would reject the same thing when proffered. But I knew it was not my business to let myself be blowed upon, so I kept to my resolution and wholly declined that affair, on pretence of its having got an ill name for an unlucky ship; and that name stuck so to her that the owners could never sell her, and, as I have been informed since, were obliged to break her up at last.
It was a great while I spent with hunting after a ship, but was every way disappointed, till money grew short, and the number of my men lessened apace, and at last we were reduced to seven, when an opportunity happened in my way to go chief mate on board a stout ship bound from London to ——.
[N. B.—In things so modern, it is no way convenient to write to you particular circumstances and names of persons, ships, or places, because those things, being in themselves criminal, may be called up in question in a judicial way; and therefore I warn the reader to observe that not only all the names are omitted, but even the scene of action in this criminal part is not laid exactly as things were acted, lest I should give justice a clue to unravel my story by, which nobody will blame me for avoiding.]
It is enough to tell the reader that, being put out to sea, and being, for conveniency of wind and weather, come to an anchor on the coast of Spain, my seven companions having resolved upon our measures, and having brought three more of the men to confederate with us, we took up arms in the middle of the night, secured the captain, the gunner, and the carpenter, and after that all the rest of the men, and declared our intention. The captain and nine men refused to come into our projected roguery (for we gave them their choice to go with us or go on shore), so we put them on shore very civilly, gave the master his books and everything he could carry with him, and all the rest of the men agreed to go along with us.
As I had resolved before I went on board upon what I purposed to do, so I had laid out all the money I had left in such things as I knew I should want, and had caused one of my men to pretend he was going to —— to build or buy a ship there, and that he wanted freight for a great deal of cordage, anchors, eight guns, powder and ball, with about twenty ton of lead and other bulky goods, which were all put on board as merchandise.
We had not abundance of bale goods on board, which I was glad of; not that I made any conscience or scruple of carrying them away if the ship had been full of them, but we had no market for them. Our first business was to get a larger store of provision on board than we had, our voyage being long; and having acquainted the men with our design, and promised the new men a share of the wealth we had there, which made them very hearty to us, we set sail. We took in some beef and fish at ——, where we lay fifteen days, but out of all reach of the castle or fort, and having done our business, sailed away for the Canaries, where we took in some butts of wine, and some fresh water. With the guns the ship had, and those eight I had put on board as merchandise, we had then two and thirty guns mounted, but were but slenderly manned, though we got four English seamen at the Canaries; but we made up the loss at Fiall, where we made bold with three English ships we found, and partly by fair means, and partly by force, shipped twelve men there; after which, with out any farther stop for men or stores, we kept the coast of Africa on board till we passed the line, and then stood off to St. Helena.
Here we took in fresh water and some fresh provisions, and went directly for the Cape of Good Hope, which we passed, stopping only to fill about twenty-two butts of water, and, with a fair gale, entered the sea of Madagascar, and sailing up the west shore between the island and the coast of Africa, came to an anchor over against our settlement, about two leagues’ distance, and made the signal of our arrival with firing twice seven guns at the distance of a two-minute glass between the seven, when, to our infinite joy, the fort answered us, and the long boat, the same that belonged to our former ship, came off to us.
We embraced one another with inexpressible joy, and the next morning I went on shore, and our men brought our ship safe into harbour, lying within the defence of our platform, and within two cables’ length of the shore, good soft ground, and in eleven fathom water, having been three months and eighteen days on the voyage, and almost three years absent from the place.
When I came to look about me here, I found our men had increased their number, and that a vessel which had been cruising, that is to say, pirating, on the coast of Arabia, having seven Dutchmen, three Portuguese, and five Englishmen on board, had been cast away upon the northern shore of that island, and had been taken up and relieved by our men, and lived among them. They told us also of another crew of European sailors which lay, as we did, on the main of the island, and had lost their ship, and were, as the islanders told them, above a hundred men, but we heard nothing who they were.
Some of our men were dead in the meantime, I think about three; and the first thing I did was to call a muster and see how things stood as to money. I found the men had been very true to one another; there lay all the money in chests piled up as I left it, and every man’s money having his name upon it. Then acquainting the rest with the promise I had made the men that came with me, they all agreed to it; so the money belonging to the dead men, and to the rest of the forty men who belonged to the sloop, was divided among the men I brought with me, as well those who joined at first, as those we took in at the Cape de Verd and the Canaries. And the bales of goods which we found in the ship, many of which were valuable for our own use, we agreed to give them all to the fifteen men mentioned above, who had been saved by our men, and so to buy what we wanted of those goods of them, which made their hearts glad also.
And now we began to consult what course to take in the world. As for going to England, though our men had a great mind to be there, yet none of them knew how to get thither, notwithstanding I had brought them a ship; but I, who had now made myself too public to think any more of England, had given over all views that way, and began to cast about for farther adventures; for though, as I said, we were immensely rich before, yet I abhorred lying still and burying myself alive, as I called it, among savages and barbarians; besides, some of our men were young in the trade, and had seen nothing, and they lay at me every day not to lie still in a part of the world where, as they said, such vast riches might be gained; and that the Dutchmen and Englishmen who were cast away, as above, and who our men called the Comelings, were continually buzzing in my ears what infinite wealth was to be got if I would but make one voyage to the coast of Malabar, Coromandel, and the Bay of Bengal; nay, the three Portuguese seamen offered themselves to attack and bring off one of their biggest galleons, even out of the road of Goa, on the Malabar coast, the capital of the Portuguese factories in the Indies.
In a word, I was overcome with these new proposals, and told the rest of my people I was resolved to go to sea again and try my good fortune. I was sorry I had not another ship or two, but if ever it lay in my power to master a good ship, I would not fail to bring her to them.
While I was thus fitting out upon this new under taking, and the ship lay ready to sail, and all the men who were designed for the voyage were on board, being eighty-five in number, among which were all the men I brought with me, the fifteen Comelings, and the rest made up out of our old number,—I say, when I was just upon the point of setting sail, we were all surprised, just in the grey of the morning, to spy a sail at sea. We knew not what to make of her, but found she was an European ship; that she was not a very large vessel, yet that she was a ship of force too. She seemed to shorten sail, as if she looked out for some harbour. At first sight I thought she was English. Immediately I resolved to slip anchor and cable, and go out to sea and speak with her if I could, let her be what she would. As soon as I was got a little clear of the land, I fired a gun and spread English colours. She immediately brought to, fired three guns, and manned out her boat with a flag of truce. I did the like, and the two boats spoke to one another in about two hours, when, to our in finite joy, we found they were our comrades who we left in the South Seas, and to whom we gave the frigate at the isle of Juan Fernandez.
Nothing of this kind could have happened more to our mutual satisfaction, for though we had long ago given them over either for lost, or lost to us, and we had no great need of company, yet we were overjoyed at meeting, and so were they too.
They were in some distress for provisions, and we had plenty; so we brought their ship in for them, gave them a present supply, and when we had helped them to moor and secure the ship in the barbour, we made them lock all their hatches and cabins up, and come on shore, and there we feasted them five or six days, for we had a plenty of all sorts of provisons, not to be exhausted; and if we had wanted an hundred head of fat bullocks, we could have had them for asking for of the natives, who treated us all along with all possible courtesy and freedom in their way.
The history of the adventures and success of these men from the time we left them to the time of their arrival at our new plantation, was our whole entertainment for some days. I cannot pretend to give the particulars by my memory; but as they came to us thieves, they improved in their calling to a great degree, and, next to ourselves, had the greatest suc cess of any of the buccaneers whose story has ever been made public.
I shall not take upon me to vouch the whole account of their actions, neither will this letter contain a full history of their adventures; but if the account which they gave us was true, you may take it thus:—
First, that having met with good success after they left us, and having taken some extraordinary purchase, as well in some vessels they took at sea, as in the plunder of some towns on the shore near Guayaquil, as I have already told you, they got information of a large ship which was loading the king’s money at Puna, and had orders to sail with it to Lima, in order to its being carried from thence to Panama by the fleet, under the convoy of the flotilla or squadron of men-of-war which the king’s governor at Panama had sent to prevent their being insulted by the pirates, which they had intelligence were on the coast, by which, we suppose, they meant us who were gone, for they could have no notion of these men then.
Upon this intelligence they cruised off and on upon the coast for near a month, keeping always to the southward of Lima, because they would not fall in the way of the said flotilla, and so be overpowered and miss of their prize. At last they met with what they looked for—that is to say, they met with the great ship above-named; but, to their great misfortune and disappointment (as they first thought it to be), she had with her a man-of-war for her convoy, and two other merchant ships in her company.
The buccaneers had with them the sloop which they first sent to us for our intelligence, and which they made a little frigate of, carrying eight guns and some patereroes. They had not long time to consult, but, in short, they resolved to double man the sloop, and let her attack the great merchant-ship, while the frigate, which was the whole of their fleet, held the man-of-war in play, or at least kept him from assist ing her.
According to this resolution, they put fifty men on board the sloop, which was, in short, almost as many as would stand upon her deck one by another; and with this force they attacked the great merchant-ship, which, besides its being well manned, had sixteen good guns and about thirty men on board. While the sloop thus began the unequal fight, the man-of-war bore down upon her to succour the ship under her convoy; but the frigate, thrusting in between, engaged the man-of-war, and began a very warm fight with her, for the man-of-war had both more guns and more men than the frigate after she had parted with fifty men on board the sloop. While the two men-of-war, as we may now call them, were thus engaged, the sloop was in great danger of being worsted by the merchant-ship, for the force was too much for her, the ship was great, and her men fought a desperate and close fight. Twice the sloop men entered her and were beaten off, and about nine of their men killed, several others wounded; and an unlucky shot taking the sloop between wind and water, she was obliged to fall astern, and heel her over to stop the leak, during which the Spaniards steered away to assist the man-of-war, and poured her broadside in upon the frigate, which, though but small, yet at a time when she lay yard-arm and yard-arm close by the side of the Spanish man-of-war, was a great extremity; however, the frigate returned her broadside, and therewith made her sheer off, and, which was worse, shot her mainmast through, though it did not come presently by the board.
During this time the sloop, having many hands, had stopped the leak, was brought to rights again, and came up again to the engagement, and at the first broadside had the good luck to bring the ship’s fore mast by the board, and thereby disabled her, but could not for all that lay her athwart or carry her by boarding, so that the case began to be very doubtful; at which the captain of the sloop, finding the merchant-ship was disabled and could not get away from them, resolved to leave her a while and assist the frigate, which he did, and running alongside our frigate, he fairly laid the man-of-war on board just thwart his hawser; and besides firing into her with his great shot, he very fairly set her on fire, and it was a great chance but that they had been all three burned together, but our men helped the Spaniards themselves to put out the fire, and after some time mastered it. But the Spaniards were in such a terrible fright at the apprehension of the fire, that they made little resistance afterwards, and, in short, in about an hour’s fight more, the Spanish man-of-war struck and was taken, and after that the merchant-ship also, with all the wealth that was in her; and thus their victory was as complete as it was unexpected.
The captain of the Spanish man-of-war was killed in the fight, and about thirty-six of his men, and most of the rest wounded, which, it seems, happened upon the sloop’s lying athwart her. This man-of-war was a new ship, and, with some alteration in her upper work, made a very good frigate for them; and they afterwards quitted their own ship, and went all on board the Spanish ship, taking out the mainmast of their own ship, and making a new foremast for the Spanish ship, because her foremast was also weakened with some shot in her. This, however, cost them a great deal of labour and difficulty, and also some time; when they came to a certain creek, where they all went on shore, and refreshed themselves a while.
But if the taking the man-of-war was an unexpected victory to them, the wealth of the prize was much more so, for they found an amazing treasure on board her, both in silver and gold, and the account they gave me was but imperfect; but I think they calculated the pieces of eight to be about thirteen ton in weight; besides that, they had five small chests of gold, some emeralds, and, in a word, a prodigious booty.
They were not, however, so modest in their prosperity as we were, for they never knew when to have done; but they must cruise again to the northward for more booty, when, to their great surprise, they fell in with the flotilla, or squadron’ of men-of-war, which they had so studiously avoided before, and were so surrounded by them that there was no remedy but they must fight, and that in a kind of desperation, having no prospect now but to sell their lives as dear as they could.
This unlucky accident befell them before they had changed their ship, so that they had now the sloop and both the men-of-war in company, but they were but thinly manned; and as for the booty, the greater part of it was on board the sloop—that is to say, all the gold and emeralds, and near half the silver.
When they saw the necessity of fighting, they ordered the sloop, if possible, to keep to windward, that so she might, as night came on, make the best of her way and escape; but a Spanish frigate of eighteen guns tended her so close, and sailed so well, that the sloop could by no means get away from the rest; so she made up close to the buccaneers’ frigate, and maintained a fight as well as she could, till in the dusk of the evening the Spaniards boarded and took her; but most of her men got away in her boat, and some by swimming on board the other ship. They only left in her five wounded Englishmen, and six Spanish negroes. The five English the barbarous Spaniards hanged up immediately, wounded as they were.
This was good notice to the other men to tell them what they were to expect, and made them fight like desperate men till night, and killed the Spaniards a great many men. It proved a very dark, rainy night, so that the Spaniards were obliged by necessity to give over the fight till the next day, endeavouring, in the meantime, to keep as near them as they could. But the buccaneers concerting their measures where they should meet, resolved to make use of the darkness of the night to get off if they could, and the wind springing up a fresh gale at S.S.W., they changed their course, and, with all the sail they could make, stood away to the N.N.W., slanting it to seawards as nigh the wind as they could; and getting clear away from the Spaniards, who they never saw more, they made no stay till they passed the line, and arrived in about twenty-two days’ sail on the coast of California, where they were quite out of the way of all inquiry and search of the Spaniards.
Here it was they changed their ship, as I said, and quitting their own vessel, they went all on board the Spanish man-of-war, fitting up her masts and rigging, as I have said, and taking out all the guns, stores, &c., of their own ship, so that they had now a stout ship under them, carrying forty guns (for so many they made her carry), and well furnished with all things; and though they had lost so great a part of their booty, yet they had still left a vast wealth, being six or seven ton of silver, besides what they had gotten before.
With this booty, and regretting heartily they had not practised the same moderation before, they resolved now to be satisfied, and make the best of their way to the island of Juan Fernandez; where, keeping at a great distance from the shore, they safely arrived in about two months’ voyage, having met with some contrary winds by the way.
However, here they found the other sloop which they had sent in with their first booty, to wait for them; and here understanding that we were gone for St. Julian, they resolved (since the time was so long gone that they could not expect to find us again) that they would have t’other touch with the Spaniards, cost what it would. And accordingly, having first buried the most part of their money in the ground on shore in the island, and having revictualled their ship in the best manner they could in that barren island, away they went to sea.
They beat about on the south of the line all up the coast of Chili, and part of Peru, till they came to the height of Lima itself. They met with several ships, and took several, but they were loaden chiefly with lumber or provisions, except that in one vessel they took between 40,000 and 50,000 pieces of eight, and in another 75,000. They soon informed themselves that the Spanish men-of-war were gone out of those seas up to Panama to boast of their good fortune, and carry home their prize, and this made them the bolder. But though they spent near five months in this second cruise, they met with nothing considerable, the Spaniards being everywhere alarmed, and having notice of them, so that nothing stirred abroad.
Tired, then, with their long cruise, and out of hope of more booty, they began to look homeward, and to say to one another that they had enough; so, in a word, they came back to Juan Fernandez, and there, furnishing themselves as well as they could with provisions, and not forgetting to take their treasure on board with them, they set forward again to the south; and after a very bad voyage in rounding the Terra del Fuego, being driven to the latitude of sixty-five degrees, where they felt extremity of cold, they at length obtained a more favourable wind, viz., at S. and S. S. E., with which, steering to the north, they came into a milder sea and a milder coast, and at length arrived at Port St. Julian, where, to their great joy, they found the post or cross erected by us; and understanding that we were gone to Madagascar, and that we would be sure to remain there to hear from them, and withal that we had been gone there near two years, they resolved to follow us.
Here they stayed, it seems, almost half a year, partly fitting and altering their ship, partly wearing out the winter season, and waiting for milder weather; and having victualled their ship in but a very ordinary manner for so long a run, viz., only with seals’ flesh and penguins, and some deer they killed in the country, they at last launched out, ancl crossing the great Atlantic Ocean, they made the Cape of Good Hope in about seventy-six days, having been put to very great distresses in that time for want of food, all their seals’ flesh and penguins growing nauseous and stinking in little less than half the time of their voyage; so that they had nothing to subsist on for seven-and-twenty days, but a little quantity of dried venison which they killed on shore, about the quantity of three barrels of English beef, and some bread; and when they came to the Cape of Good Hope they got some small supply, but it being soon perceived on shore what they were, they were glad to be gone as soon as they had filled their casks with water, and got but a very little provisions; so they made to the coast of Natal on the south-east point of Africa, and there they got more fresh provisions, such as veal, milk, goats’ flesh, some tolerable butter, and very good beef. And this held them out till they found us in the north part of Madagascar, as above.
We stayed about a fortnight in our port, and in a sailing posture, just as if we had been wind-bound, merely to congratulate and make merry with our new-come friends, when I resolved to leave them there, and set sail, which I did with a westerly wind, keeping away north till I came into the latitude of seven degrees north; so coasting along the Arabian coast E.N.E. towards the Gulf of Persia, in the cruise I met with two Persian barks loaden with rice, one of which I manned and sent away to Madagascar, and the other I took for our own ship’s use. This bark came safe to my new colony, and was a very agreeable prize to them I think verily almost as agreeable as if it had been loaded with pieces of eight; for they had been without bread a great while, and this was a double benefit to them, for they fitted up this bark, which earned about fifty-five ton, and went away to the Gulf of Persia in her to buy rice, and brought two or three freights of that, which was very good.
In this time I pursued my voyage, coasted the whole Malabar shore, and met with no purchase but a great Portugal East India ship, which I chased into Goa, where she got out of my reach. I took several small vessels and barks, but little of value in them, till I entered the great Bay of Bengal, when I began to look about me with more expectation of success, though without prospect of what happened.
I cruised here about two months, finding nothing worth while; so I stood away to a port on the north point of the isle of Sumatra, where I made no stay; for here I got news that two large ships belonging to the Great Mogul were expected to cross the bay from Hoogly, in the Ganges, to the country of the King of Pegu, being to carry the grand-daughter of the Great Mogul to Pegu, who was to be married to the king of that country, with all her retinue, jewels, and wealth.
This was a booty worth watching for, though it had been some months longer; so I resolved that we would go and cruise off Point Negaris, on the east side of the bay, near Diamond Isle; and here we plied off and on for three weeks, and began to despair of success; but the knowledge of the booty we expected spurred us on, and we waited with great patience, for we knew the prize would be immensely rich.
At length we spied three ships coming right up to us with the wind. We could easily see they were not Europeans by their sails, and began to prepare ourselves for a prize, not for a fight; but were a little disappointed when we found the first ship full of guns and full of soldiers, and in condition, had she been managed by English sailors, to have fought two such ships as ours were. However, we resolved to attack her if she had been full of devils as she was full of men.
Accordingly, when we came near them, we fired a gun with shot as a challenge. They fired again immediately three or four guns, but fired them so confusedly that we could easily see they did not understand their business; when we considered how to lay them on board, and so to come thwart them, if we could; but falling, for want of wind, open to them, we gave them a fair broadside. We could easily see, by the confusion that was on board, that they were frighted out of their wits; they fired here a gun and there a gun, and some on that side that was from us, as well as those that were next to us. The next thing we did was to lay them on board, which we did presently, and then gave them a volley of our small shot, which, as they stood so thick, killed a great many of them, and made all the rest run down under their hatches, crying out like creatures bewitched. In a word, we presently took the ship, and having secured her men, we chased the other two. One was chiefly filled with women, and the other with lumber. Upon the whole, as the grand-daughter of the Great Mogul was our prize in the first ship, so in the second was her women, or, in a word, her household, her eunuchs, all the necessaries of her wardrobe, of her stables, and of her kitchen; and in the last, great quantities of house hold stuff, and things less costly, though not less useful.
But the first was the main prize. When my men had entered and mastered the ship, one of our lieutenants called for me, and accordingly I jumped on board. He told me he thought nobody but I ought to go into the great cabin, or, at least, nobody should go there before me; for that the lady herself and all her attendance was there, and he feared the men were so heated they would murder them all, or do worse.
I immediately went to the great cabin door, taking the lieutenant that called me along with me, and caused the cabin door to be opened. But such a sight of glory and misery was never seen by buccaneer before. The queen (for such she was to have been) was all in gold and silver, but frighted and crying, and, at the sight of me, she appeared trembling, and just as if she was going to die. She sat on the side of a kind of a bed like a couch, with no canopy over it, or any covering; only made to lie down upon. She was, in a manner, covered with diamonds, and I, like a true pirate, soon let her see that I had more mind to the jewels than to the lady.
However, before I touched her, I ordered the lieutenant to place a guard at the cabin door, and fastening the door, shut us both in, which he did. The lady was young, and, I suppose, in their country esteem, very handsome, but she was not very much so in my thoughts. At first, her fright, and the danger she thought she was in of being killed, taught her to do everything that she thought might interpose between her and danger, and that was to take off her jewels as fast as she could, and give them to me; and I, without any great compliment, took them as fast as she gave them me, and put them into my pocket, taking no great notice of them or of her, which frighted her worse than all the rest, and she said something which I could not understand. However, two of the other ladies came, all crying, and kneeled down to me with their hands lifted up. What they meant, I knew not at first; but by their gestures and pointings I found at last it was to beg the young queen’s life, and that I would not kill her.
I have heard that it has been reported in England that I ravished this lady, and then used her most barbarously; but they wrong me, for I never offered anything of that kind to her, I assure you; nay, I was so far from being inclined to it that I did not like her; and there was one of her ladies who I found much more agreeable to me, and who I was afterwards something free with, but not even with her either by force or by way of ravishing.
We did indeed ravish them of all their wealth; for that was what we wanted, not the women; nor was there any other ravishing among those in the great cabin, that I can assure you. As for the ship where the women of inferior rank were, and who were in number almost two hundred, I cannot answer for what might happen in the first heat; but even there, after the first heat of our men was over, what was done was done quietly; for I have heard some of the men say that there was not a woman among them but what was lain with four or five times over, that is to say, by so many several men; for as the women made no opposition, so the men even took those that were next them without ceremony, when and where opportunity offered.
When the three ladies kneeled down to me, and as soon as I understood what it was for, I let them know I would not hurt the queen, nor let any one else hurt her, but that she must give me all her jewels and money. Upon this they acquainted her that I would save her life; and no sooner had they assured her of that but she got up smiling, and went to a fine Indian cabinet, and opened a private drawer, from whence she took another little thing full of little square drawers and holes. This she brings to me in her hand, and offered to kneel down to give it me. This innocent usage began to rouse some good-nature in me (though I never had much), and I would not let her kneel; but sitting down myself on the side of her couch or bed, made a motion to her to sit down too. But here she was frighted again, it seems, at what I had no thought of; for, sitting on her bed, she thought I would pull her down to lie with her, and so did all her women too; for they began to hold their hands before their faces, which, as I under stood afterwards, was that they might not see me turn up their queen. But as I did not offer any thing of that kind, only made her sit down by me, they began all to be easier after some time, and she gave me the little box or casket, I know not what to call it, but it was full of invaluable jewels. I have them still in my keeping, and wish they were safe in England; for I doubt not but some of them are fit to be placed on the king’s crown.
Being master of this treasure, I was very willing to be good-humoured to the persons; so I went out of the cabin, and caused the women to be left alone, causing the guard to be kept still, that they might receive no more injury than I would do them myself.
After I had been out of the cabin some time, a slave of the women’s came to me, and made sign to me that the queen would speak with me again. I made signs back that I would come and dine with her majesty; and accordingly I ordered that her servants should prepare her dinner, and carry it in, and then call me. They provided her repast after the usual manner, and when she saw it brought in she appeared pleased, and more when she saw me come in after it; for she was exceedingly pleased that I had caused a guard to keep the rest of my men from her; and she had, it seems, been told how rude they had been to some of the women that belonged to her.
When I came in, she rose up, and paid me such respect as I did not well know how to receive, and not in the least how to return. If she had under stood English, I could have said plainly, and in good rough words, “Madam, be easy; we are rude, rough-hewn fellows, but none of our men should hurt you, or touch you; I will be your guard and protection; we are for money indeed, and we shall take what you have, but we will do you no other harm.” But as I could not talk thus to her, I scarce knew what to say; but I sat down, and made signs to have her sit down and eat, which she did, but with so much ceremony that I did not know well what to do with it.
After we had eaten, she rose up again, and drinking some water out of a china cup, sat her down on the side of the couch as before. When she saw I had done eating, she went then to another cabinet, and pulling out a drawer, she brought it to me; it was full of small pieces of gold coin of Pegu, about as big as an English half-guinea, and I think there were three thousand of them. She opened several other drawers, and showed me the wealth that was in them, and then gave me the key of the whole.
We had revelled thus all day, and part of the next day, in a bottomless sea of riches, when my lieutenant began to tell me, we must consider what to do with our prisoners and the ships, for that there was no subsisting in that manner; besides, he hinted privately, that the men would be ruined by lying with the women in the other ship, where all sorts of liberty was both given and taken. Upon this we called a short council, and concluded to carry the great ship away with us, but to put all the prisoners queen, ladies, and all the rest into the lesser vessels, and let them go; and so far was I from ravishing this lady, as I hear is reported of me, that though I might rifle her of everything else, yet, I assure you, I let her go untouched for me, or, as I am satisfied, for any one of my men; nay, when we dismissed them, we gave her leave to take a great many things of value with her, which she would have been plundered of if I had not been so careful of her.
We had now wealth enough not only to make us rich, but almost to have made a nation rich; and to tell you the truth, considering the costly things we took here, which we did not know the value of, and besides gold and silver and jewels, I say, we never knew how rich we were; besides which we had a great quantity of bales of goods, as well calicoes as wrought silks, which, being for sale, were perhaps as a cargo of goods to answer the bills which might be drawn upon them for the account of the bride’s portion; all which fell into our hands, with a great sum in silver coin, too big to talk of among Englishmen, especially while I am living, for reasons which I may give you hereafter.
I had nothing to do now but to think of coming back to Madagascar, so we made the best of our way; only that, to make us quite distracted with our other joy, we took in our way a small bark loaden with arrack and rice, which was good sauce to our other purchase; for if the women made our men drunk before, this arrack made them quite mad; and they had so little government of themselves with it, that I think it might be said the whole ship’s crew was drunk for above a fortnight together, till six or seven of them killed themselves; two fell overboard and were drowned, and several more fell into raging fevers, and it was a wonder, on the whole, they were not all killed with it.
But, to make short of the story as we did of the voyage, we had a very pleasant voyage, except those disasters, and we came safe back to our comrades at Madagascar, having been absent in all about seven months.
We found them in very good health, and longing to hear from us; and we were, you may be assured, welcome to them; for now we had amassed such a treasure as no society of men ever possessed in this world before us; neither could we ever bring it to an estimation, for we could not bring particular things to a just valuation.
We lived now and enjoyed ourselves in full security; for though some of the European nations, and perhaps all of them, had heard of us, yet they heard such formidable things of us, such terrible stories of our great strength, as well as of our great wealth, that they had no thought of undertaking anything against us; for, as I have understood, they were told at London, that we were no less than 5000 men, that we had built a regular fortress for our defence by land, and that we had twenty sail of ships; and I have been told that in France they have heard the same thing. But nothing of all this was ever true, any more than it was true that we offered ten millions to the Government of England for our pardon.
It is true that had the queen sent any intimation to us of a pardon, and that we should have been received to grace at home, we should all have very willingly embraced it; for we had money enough to have encouraged us all to live honest; and if we had been asked for a million of pieces of eight, or a million of pounds sterling, to have purchased our pardon, we should have been very ready to have complied with it; for we really knew not what to do with ourselves or with our wealth; and the only thing we had now before us was to consider what method to take for getting home, if possible, to our own country with our wealth, or at least with such part of it as would secure us easy and comfortable lives; and, for my own part, I resolved, if I could, to make full satisfaction to all the persons who I had wronged in England I mean by that, such people as I had in jured by running away with the ship; as well the owners and the master or captain, who I set ashore in Spain, as the merchant whose goods I had taken with the ship; and I was daily forming schemes in my thoughts how to bring this to pass. But we all concluded that it was impossible for us to accomplish our desires as to that part, seeing the fact of our piracy was now so public all over the world, that there was not any nation in the world that would receive us or any of us; but would immediately seize on our wealth, and execute us for pirates and robbers of all nations.
This was confirmed to us after some time, with all the particulars, as it is now understood in Europe; for as the fame of our wealth and power was such that it made all the world afraid of us, so it brought some of the like sort with ourselves to join with us from all parts of the world; and particularly, we had a bark and sixty men of all nations from Martinico, who had been cruising in the Gulf of Florida, came over to us to try if they could mend their fortunes; and these went afterwards to the Gulf of Persia, where they took some prizes, and returned to us again. We had after this three pirate ships came to us, most English, who had done some exploits on the coast of Guinea, had made several good prizes, and were all tolerably rich.
As these people came and sheltered with us, so they came and went as they would, and sometimes some of our men went with them, sometimes theirs stayed with us. But by that coming and going our men found ways and means to convey themselves away, some one way, some another. For I should have told you at first, that after we had such intelligence from England, viz., that they knew of all our successful enterprises, and that there was no hopes of our returning, especially of mine and some other men who were known, I say, after this we called a general council to consider what to do; and there, one and all, we concluded that we lived very happy where we were; that if any of us had a mind to venture to get away to any part of the world, none should hinder them; but that else we would continue where we were; and that the first opportunity we had we would cruise upon the English East India ships, and do them what spoil we could, fancying that some time or other they would proclaim a pardon to us if we would come in; and if they did, then we would accept of it.
Under these circumstances we remained here, off and on, first and last, above three years more; during which time our number increased so, especially at first, that we were once eight hundred men, stout, brave fellows, and as good sailors as any in the world. Our number decreased afterwards upon several occasions: such as the going abroad to cruise, wandering to the south part of the island (as above), getting on board European ships, and the like.
After I perceived that a great many of our men were gone off, and had carried their wealth with them, I began to cast about in my own thoughts how I should make my way home also. Innumerable difficulties presented to my view; when at last an account of some of our men’s escape into Persia encouraged me. The story was this. One of the small barks we had taken went to Gujerat to get rice, and having secured a cargo, but not loaded it, ten of our men resolved to attempt their escape; and accordingly they dressed themselves like merchant strangers, and bought several sorts of goods there, such as an Englishman who they found there assisted them to buy; and with their bales (but in them packed up all the rest of their money) they went up to Bassorah, in the Gulf of Persia, and so travelled as merchants with the caravan to Aleppo, and we never heard any more of them, but that they went clean off with all their cargo.
This filled my head with schemes for my own deliverance; but, however, it was a year more before I attempted anything, and not till I found that many of our men shifted off, some and some, nor did any of them miscarry. Some went one way, some an other; some lost their money, and some saved it; nay, some earned it away with them, and some left it behind them. As for me, I discovered my intentions to nobody, but made them all believe I would stay here till some of them should come and fetch me off, and pretended to make every man that went off promise to come for me if it ever was in his power, and gave every one of them signals to make for me when they came back, upon which I would certainly come off to them. At the same time, nothing was more certain than that I intended from the beginning to get away from the island as soon as I could any way make my way with safety to any part of the world.
It was still above two years after this that I re mained in the island; nor could I, in all that time, find any probable means for removing myself with safety.
One of the ways I thought to have made my escape was this. I went to sea in a long-boat a-fishing (as we often did), and having a sail to the boat, we were out two or three days together. At length it came into my thoughts that we might cruise about the island in this long-boat a great way, and perhaps some adventure might happen to us which we might make something of; so I told them I had a mind to make a voyage with the long-boat to see what would happen.
To this purpose we built upon her, made a state room in the middle, and clapped four patereroes upon her gunnel, and away we went, being sixteen stout fellows in the boat, not reckoning myself. Thus we ran away, as it were, from the rest of our crew, though not a man of us knew our own minds as to whither we were going, or upon what design. In this frolic we ran south quite away to the Bay of St. Augustine’s, in the latitude of twenty-four degrees, where the ships from Europe often put in for water and provisions.
Here we put in, not knowing well what to do next. I thought myself disappointed very much that we saw no European ship here, though afterwards I saw my mistake, and found that it was better for us that we were in that port first. We went boldly on shore; for as to the natives, we understood how to manage them well enough, knew all their customs, and the manner of their treating with strangers as to peace or war; their temper, and how to oblige them, or behave if they were disobliged; so we went, I say, boldly on shore, and there we began to chaffer with them for some provisions, such as we wanted.
We had not been here above two or three days, but that, early in the morning, the weather thick and hazy, we heard several guns fire at sea. We were not at a loss to know what they meant, and that it was certainly some European ships coming in, and who gave the signal to one another that they had made the land, which they could easily see from the sea, though we, who were also within the bay, could not see them from the shore. However, in a few hours, the weather clearing up, we saw plainly five large ships, three with English colours and two with Dutch, standing into the bay, and in about four or five hours more they came to an anchor.
A little while after they were come to an anchor, their boats began to come on shore to the usual watering-place to fill their casks; and while they were doing that, the rest of the men looked about them a little, as usual, though at first they did not stir very far from their boats.
I had now a nice game to play, as any man in the world ever had. It was absolutely necessary for us to speak with these men; and yet how to speak with them, and not have them speak with us in a manner that we should not like, that was the main point. It was with a great deal of impatience that we lay still one whole day, and saw their boats come on shore, and go on board again, and we were so irresolute all the while that we knew not what to do; at last I told my men, it was absolutely necessary we should speak with them, and seeing we could not agree upon the method how to do it friendly and fairly, I was resolved to do it by force, and that if they would take my advice, we would place ourselves in ambuscade upon the land somewhere, that we might see them when they were on shore, and the first man that straggled from the rest we would clap in upon and seize him, and three or four of them if we could. As for our boat, we had secured it in a creek three or four miles up the country, where it was secure enough out of their reach or knowledge.
With this resolution we placed ourselves in two gangs eleven of us in one place, and only three of us in another, and very close we lay. The place we chose for our ambuscade was on the side of a rising ground almost a mile from the watering place, but where we could see them all come towards the shore, and see them if they did but set their foot on shore.
As we understood afterwards, they had the knowledge of our being upon the island, but knew not in what part of it, and were therefore very cautious and wary how they went on shore, and came all very well armed. This gave us a new difficulty, for in the very first excursion that any of them made from the watering place, there was not less than twenty of them, all well armed, and they passed by in our sight; but as we were out of their sight, we were all very well pleased with seeing them go by, and being not obliged to meddle with them or show ourselves.
But we had not long lain in this circumstance, but, by what occasion we knew not, five of the gentlemen tars were pleased to be willing to go no farther with their companions; and thinking all safe behind them, because they had found no disturbance in their going out, came back the same way, straggling without any guard or regard.
I thought now was our time to show ourselves; so taking them as they came by the place where we lay in ambuscade, we placed ourselves just in their way, and as they were entering a little thicket of trees, we appeared; and calling to them in English, told them they were our prisoners; that if they yielded, we would use them very well, but if they offered to resist, they should have no quarter. One of them looking behind, as if he would show us a pair of heels, I called to him, and told him if he attempted to run for it he was a dead man, unless he could out run a musket-bullet; and that we would soon let him see we had more men in our company; and so giving the signal appointed, our three men, who lay at a distance, showed themselves in the rear.
When they saw this, one of them, who appeared as their leader, but was only the purser’s clerk, asked who we were they must yield to, and if we were Christians? I told them jestingly, we were good, honest Christian pirates, and belonged to Captain Avery (not at all letting them know that I was Avery himself), and if they yielded, it was enough; that we assured them they should have fair quarter and good usage upon our honour; but that they must resolve immediately, or else they would be surrounded with five hundred men, and we could not answer for what they might do to them.
They yielded presently upon this news, and delivered their arms; and we carried them away to our tent, which we had built near the place where our boat lay. Here I entered into a particular serious discourse with them about Captain Avery, for ’t was this I wanted upon several accounts. First, I wanted to inquire what news they had had of us in Europe, and then to give them ideas of our numbers and power as romantic as I could.
They told us, that they had heard of the great booty Captain Avery had taken in the Bay of Bengal; and among the rest, a bloody story was related of Avery himself, viz., that he ravished the Great Mogul’s daughter, who was going to be married to the Prince of Pegu; that we ravished and forced all the ladies attending her train, and then threw them into the sea, or cut their throats; and that we had gotten a booty of ten millions in gold and silver, besides an inestimable treasure of jewels, diamonds, pearls, &c.; but that we had committed most inhuman barbarities on the innocent people that fell into our hands. They then told us, but in a broken, imperfect account, how the Great Mogul had resented it; and that he had raised a great army against the English factories, resolving to root them out of his dominions; but that the Company had appeased him by presents, and by assuring him that the men who did it were rebels to the English Government, and that the Queen of England would hang them all whenever they could be taken. I smiled at that, and told them Captain Avery would give them leave to hang him and all his men when they could take them; but that I could assure him they were too strong to be taken; that if the Government of England went about to provoke them, Captain Avery would soon make those seas too hot for the English, and they might even give over their East India trade, for they little thought the circumstances Captain Avery was in.
This I did, as well to know what notions you had of us in England as to give a formidable account of us and of our circumstances to England, which I knew might be of use to us several ways hereafter. Then I made him tell his part, which he did freely enough. He told us that indeed they had received an account in England that we were exceeding strong; that we had several gangs of pirates from the Spanish West Indies that had taken great booties there, and were gone all to Madagascar to join Captain Avery; that he had taken three great East India ships one Dutch, and two Portuguese which they had converted into men-of-war; that he had six thousand men under his command; that he had twelve ships, whereof three carried sixty guns apiece, and six more of them from forty to fifty guns; that they had built a large fort to secure their habitations; and that they had two large towns, one on one side, one on the other of a river, covered by the said fort, and two great platforms or batteries of guns to defend the entrance where their ships rode; that they had an immense invaluable treasure; and that it was said Captain Avery was resolved to people the whole island of Madagascar with Europeans, and to get women from Jamaica and the Leeward Islands; and that it was not doubted but he would subdue, and make himself king of that country, if he was let alone a little longer.
I had enjoined my men, in the first place, not to let him know that I was Avery, but that I was one of his captains; and in the next place, not to say a word, but just ay and no, as things occurred, and leave the rest to me. I heard him patiently out in all the particulars above; and when he had done, I told him it was true Captain Avery was in the island of Madagascar, and that several other societies of buccaneers and freebooters were joined him from the Spanish West Indies; “for,” said I, “the plenty and ease of our living here is such, and we are so safe from all the world, that we do not doubt but we shall be twenty thousand men in a very little time, when two ships which we have sent to the West Indies shall come back, and shall have told the buccaneers at the Bay of Campeachy how we live here.
“But,” said I, “you in England greatly wrong Captain Avery, our general (so I called myself, to advance our credit); for I can assure you, that except plundering the ship, and taking that immense booty which he got in the great ship where the Great Mogul’s daughter was, there was not the least injury done to the lady, no ravishing or violence done to her, or any of her attendance; and this,” said I, “you may take of my certain knowledge; for,” said I, “I was on board the ship with our general all the while. And if any of the princess’s women were lain with,” said I, “on board the other ship, as I believe most of them were, yet it was done with their own consent and good-will, and no other wise; and they were all dismissed afterwards, without so much as being put in fear or apprehensions of life or honour.” This I assured him (as indeed it was just), and told him I hoped, if ever he came safe to England, he would do Captain Avery, and all of us, justice in that particular case.
As to our being well fortified on the island and our numbers, I assured them all they were far from thinking too much of us; that we had a very good fleet, and a very good harbour for them; that we were not afraid of any force from Europe, either by land or water; that it was indeed in vain to pretend to attack us by force; that the only way for the Government of England to bring us back to our duty would be to send a proclamation from England with the Queen’s pardon for our general and all his people if they came in by a certain time. “And,” added I, “we know you want money in England. I dare say,” said I, “our general, Captain Avery, and his particular gang, who have the main riches, would not grudge to advance five or six millions of ducats to the Government to give them leave to return in peace to England and sit down quietly with the rest.”
This discourse, I suppose, was the ground of the rumour you have had in England that Avery had offered to come in and submit, and would give six millions for his pardon; for as these men were soon after this dismissed, and went back to England, there is no doubt but they gave a particular account of the conference they had with me, who they called one of Captain Avery’s captains.
We kept these five men six or seven days, and we pretended to show them the country from some of the hills, calling it all our own, and pointing every way how many miles we extended ourselves; we made them believe also that all the rest of the country was at our disposal, that the whole island was at our beck; we told them we had treasure enough to enrich the whole kingdom of England; that our general had several millions in diamonds, and we had many tons of silver and gold; that we had fifty large barns full of all sorts of goods, as well European as Indian; and that it would be truly the best way for England to do as they said, namely, to invite us all home by a proclamation with a pardon. “And if they would do this,” said I, “they can ask no reasonable sum, but our general might advance it;” besides getting home such a body of stout, able seamen as we were, such a number of ships, and such a quantity of rich goods.
We had several long discourses with them upon these heads, and our frequent offering this part to them with a kind of feeling warmth (for it was what we all desired) has caused, I doubt not, the rumour of such great offers made by us, and of a letter sent by me to the queen, to beg her Majesty’s pardon for myself and my company, and offering ten millions of money advance to the queen for the public service; all which is a mere fiction of the Drain of those which have published it; neither were we in any condition to make such an offer; neither did I, or any of my crew or company, ever write a letter or petition to the queen, or to any one in the Government, or make any application in the case other than as above, which was only matter of conversation or private discourse.
Nor were we so strong in men or ships, or any thing like it. You have heard of the number of ships which we had now with us, which amounted to two ships and a sloop, and no more; except the prize in which we took the Mogul’s daughter (which ship we called The Great Mogul), but she was fit for nothing; for she would neither sail or steer worth a farthing, and indeed was fit for no use but a hulk or a guardship.
As to numbers of men, they belied us strangely, and particularly they seemed only to mistake thousands for hundreds; for whereas they told us that you in England had a report of our being six thousand men, I must acknowledge that I think we were never, when we were at the most, above six hundred; and at the time when I quitted the country, I left about one hundred and eight men there, and no more; and, I am assured, all the number that now remains there is not above twenty-two men, no, not in the whole island.
Well, we thought, however, that it was no business of ours at that time to undeceive them in their high opinion of our great strength; so we took care to magnify ourselves and the strength of our general (meaning myself), that they might carry the story to England, depending upon it that “a tale loses no thing in the carrying.” When they told us of our fort and the batteries at the mouth of the river where our ships lie, we insinuated that it was a place where we did not fear all the fleets in the world attacking us; and when they told us of the number of men, we strove to make them believe that they were much many more.
At length the poor men began to be tired of us, and indeed we began to be tired of them, for we began to be afraid very much that they would pry a little way into our affairs, and that a little too narrowly that way; so as they began to solicit their deliverance, we began to listen to their importunities. In a word, we agreed to dismiss them; and accordingly we gave them leave to go away to the watering place, as if they had made their escape from us; which they did, carrying away their heads full of all those unlikely projected things which you have heard above.
In all this, however, I had not the good luck to advance one step towards my own escape; and here is one thing remarkable, viz., that the great mass of wealth I had gotten together was so far from forwarding my deliverance, that it really was the only thing that hindered it most effectually; and I was so sensible of it, that I resolved once to be gone, and leave all my wealth behind me, except some jewels, as several of our men had done already. For many of them were so impatient of staying here, that they found means to get away, some and some, with no more money than they could carry about them; particularly, thirteen of our men made themselves a kind of shallop with a mast and sail, and went for the Red Sea, having two patereroes for her defence, and every man a thousand pieces of eight, and no more, except that one Macmow, an Irishman, who was their captain, had five rubies and a diamond, which he got among the plunder of the Mogul’s ship.
These men, as I heard, got safe to Mocha, in the Arabian Gulf, where they fetch the coffee, and their captain managed for them all so well, that of pirates he made them merchants, laid out all the stock in coffee, and got a vessel to carry it up the Red Sea to Suez, where they sold it to the factors for the European merchants, and came all safe to Alexandria, where they parted the money again; and then every one separated as they thought fit, and went their own way.
We heard of this by mere accident afterwards, and I confess I envied their success; and though it was a great while after this that I took a like run, yet you may be sure I formed a resolution from that time to do the like; and most of the time that I stayed after this was employed in picking out a suitable gang that I might depend upon, as well to trust with the secret of my going away, as to take with me, and on whom I might depend, and they on me, for keeping one another’s counsel when we should come into Europe.
It was in pursuit of this resolution that I went this little voyage to the south of the island, and the gang I took with me proved very trusty, but we found no opportunity then for our escape. Two of the men that we took prisoners would fain have gone with us. but we resolved to trust none of them with the real and true discovery of our circumstances; and as we had made them believe mighty things of ourselves, and of the posture of our settlement, that we had 5000 men, twelve men-of-war, and the like, we were resolved they should carry the delusion away with them, and that nobody should undeceive them; be cause, though we had not such an immense wealth as was reported, and so as to be able to offer ten millions for our pardon, yet we had a very great treasure; and being nothing near so strong as they had imagined, we might have been made a prey, with all our riches, to any set of adventurers who might undertake to attempt us, by consent of the Government of England, and make the expedition “No purchase no pay.”
For this reason we civilly declined them, told them we had wealth enough, and therefore did not now cruise abroad as we used to do, unless we should hear of another wedding of a king’s daughter, or unless some rich fleet or some heathen kingdom was to be attempted, and that therefore a new-comer, or any body of new-comers, could do themselves no good by coming over to us. If any gang of pirates or buccaneers would go upon their adventures, and when they had made themselves rich, would come and settle with us, we would take them into our protection, and give them land to build towns and habitations for themselves, and so in time we might become a great nation, and inhabit the whole island. I told them the Romans themselves were at first no better than such a gang of rovers as we were; and who knew but our general, Captain Avery, might lay the foundation of as great an empire as they?
These big words amazed the fellows, and answered my end to a tittle; for they told such rhodomontading stories of us when they came back to their ships, and from them it spread so universally all over the East Indies (for they were outward bound), that none of the English or Dutch ships would come near Madagascar again, if they could help it, for a great while, for fear of us; and we, who were soon after this dwindled away to less than one hundred men, were very glad to have them think us too strong to meddle with, or so strong that nobody durst come near us.
After these men were gone, we roved about to the east side of the island, and, in a word, knew not what to do or what course to take, for we durst not put out to sea in such a bauble of a boat as we had under us; but tired at last, we came back to the south point of the island again. In our rounding the island we saw a great English-built ship at sea, but at too far distance to speak with her; and if it had not, we knew not what to have said to her, for we were not strong enough to attack her. We judged by her course she stood away from the isle of St. Maurice or Mauritius for the Cape of Good Hope, and must, as we supposed, come from the Malabar coast, bound home for England; so we let her go.
We are now returned back to our settlement on the north part of the island; and I have singled out about twelve or thirteen bold, brave fellows, with whom I am resolved to venture to the Gulf of Persia. Twenty more of our men have agreed to carry us thither as passengers in the sloop, and try their own fortunes afterwards, for they allow we are enough to go together. We resolve, when we come to Bassorah, to separate into three companies, as if we did not know one another; to dress ourselves as merchants, for now we look like hell-hounds and vagabonds; but when we are well dressed we expect to look as other men do. If I come thither, I suppose, with two more, to give my companions the slip, and travel as Armenians through Persia to the Caspian Sea, so to Constantinople; and I doubt not we shall, one way or other, find our way, with our merchandise and money, to come into France, if not quite home to my own country. Assure yourself, when I arrive in any part of Christendom, I will give you a farther account of my adventures.
Your Friend and Servant,
THE END OF THE FIRST LETTER.