The screw steamer Jenny Jones was lying alongside a coal-hulk at
Gibraltar one October afternoon. By three o'clock her bunkers were
nearly filled, and the captain was getting ready for casting off,
when one of the natives came on board. Captain Hindhaugh looked
about for something to throw at the visitor, and only the difficulty
of selecting an efficient missile from a large and varied assortment
prevented him from letting fly at once.
The "Scorpion" said, "Ah, no, no, Capeetan! No been throw nothin'
at myself. Beesiness! I'se been com' for beesiness. Big thing,
The last phrase was spoken with such a profound wink that
Hindhaugh held his hand, and, addressing the man as one would an
ill-conditioned dog, said, "Don't keep bowing and scraping there,
you tastrel! Get it out sharp!"
The Scorpion whispered, "No been talk up here. Keep ship one hour,
two hour, three hour. You'se been com' with me, and I speak you
Like many of his tribe, this interesting native spoke a kind
of English which is not heard anywhere else on the Mediterranean
shore. A few of the people on the Rock learn to talk very well to
our men, but most of those who come about the ships use a picturesque
lingo in which "myself" the place of quite a variety of parts of
Hindhaugh invited the man below, and asked him to explain himself.
The fellow leaned over the table and chattered on, throwing quick
side glances at every few words.
"This been big thing, Capeetan. You get away a little; drop your
anchor a little. Then three felucca com' alongside, and you'se been
hoist bales. Then you 'se go where agent say you. Very big thing.
Five thousand sovereign."
"What is it? tobacco?"
"That been it."
"I'm not going out of Portuguese waters at no price."
"Ah, no, no, Cheesu, Capeetan—no! Five mile. We have felucca there
ready. I 'se been see him myself."
"What's the figure? what's the money?"
"You com' 'shore and see agent with myself."
Hindhaugh put a revolver in his pocket and went on deck; the
Scorpion got ashore, and hung about with an air of innocence. The
captain was about to follow when the man in charge of the hulk
called out, "Do you intend to keep bumping us like this all night?
Why don't you cast off? You're knocking us all to flinders."
Hindhaugh beckoned. "Look here, my good chap, it won't matter to
you for a couple of hours. Let us lie till dusk, and then I'll
get away. I've got important business ashore."
"That's very well, Captain. But look here; if there's anything on,
I'm in it. You understand—I'm in it."
"You understand that, do you? Well then, I'll tell you to keep
your mouth shut just now, or never another ton of coal will you
put aboard of us as long as I run here."
"All right, Captain. No need to be nasty. You'll do the square
thing, I bet."
Then Hindhaugh went ashore, and the Scorpion walked on ahead,
gazing on architectural beauties with easy interest. Presently the
two men came to a narrow stairway, and the Englishman gripped his
revolver. A dark-eyed Spaniard was waiting on a landing, and held
up two fingers when the guide passed. The Scorpion knocked at
a greasy door, and an ugly fellow, with a cowl on, looked out and
nodded. Hindhaugh stepped into a room that reeked with garlic and
decay. Two men sat in the steamy dusk at the far side. An oily
gentleman rose and bowed. "I'm the interpreter, Captain. You and
this merchant must do your business through me. What'll you take
"Get through your business, mister. I'm not wanting any drink."
In brief, jerky sentences the interpreter explained what was wanted.
"You steam slowly till you're near the Fleet. Then put all your
men on and get the stuff up. This man goes with you, and he'll
tell you where to go. Lie five miles off Huelva."
"I sha'n't go except to Portuguese waters."
"Good. Then the lighters will come and the men will discharge
"And now," said the captain, "what about me? How much?"
"One hundred and twenty pounds."
"Can't be done. Make it two hundred and fifty."
After some haggling, a bargain was made for two hundred and twenty.
Then Hindhaugh went further: "I want one hundred and ten down before
we start, and the balance before you take an ounce of tobacco out
This was settled; the merchant bowed, and the skipper went away,
still keeping his hand on the revolver. Every cranny in the walls
seemed fit to hide a murderer—seemed made for nothing else; and
Hindhaugh thought what a fool he must have been to venture under
that foul arch.
On getting aboard, the captain sent for his brother, who sailed
as mate with him. He said, "Now, Jack, I'm going to run some risk.
You take this pistol, and get her oiled and put right. When you see
three feluccas coming alongside, get all the chaps on deck—the Dora's
crew as well as ours." (Hindhaugh was taking home a ship-wrecked
crew, and he was very grateful just then for that accession of
force.) "Whack on everything you know, and get the bales up sharp.
Tell the engineers to stand by for driving her, and leave the rest
to me. If we're nailed we'll be detained, and I don't know what
may happen; so you'll have to look slippy."
Jack replied, "All right, sir!" Quarter-deck manners were punctiliously
observed by one of the brothers.
The shadows fell low, and the crown of the Rock grew dim.
The creeping wind stole over the Pearl Rock, and set the sinister
ripples dancing; the bugles sang mysteriously through the gloom,
and the mystery of the night was in the air. The Jenny Jones stole
quietly toward the broad sheet of water where the vessels of the
Fleet heaved up their shadowy bulk above the lapping flood. All the
English sailors were stripped to the shirt, and a low hum of excited
talk came from amidships. Suddenly the raking yard of a felucca
started out from amid the haze; then came another, and another.
A sailor slipped a cork fender over the side, and there was a
muffled bump and a slight scrape. Jack, the mate, whispered, "Now,
you cripples!" and a brief scene of wild hurry and violent labour
ensued. Bale after bale was whisked aboard; the Englishmen worked
as only English sailors can, and the Scorpions excelled themselves
under the influence of fear and black wine. When the last bale was
up, Hindhaugh said to the man who first boarded him, "Who's got
"Me, Capeetan. All right. Honest man myself. You'se been have
"Well then, it's neck or nothing. We have half an hour to clear
out into the Gut. Come below, and shell out."
The Scorpion counted out one hundred pounds in gold, and then asked,
"That be enough? Other money all right other end."
"Deuce a bit! Down with the other ten or I sliver you."
The Scorpion did not know what "sliver" meant, but the gleam of
the skipper's cold eye was enough for him. He paid up and went on
Hindhaugh had just said to the engineer, "Now, rive the soul out
of her," when a low, panting sound was heard, and a white shape
appeared gliding over the water. The captain had let the feluccas
go, and the Jenny Jones was moving. He waved for the mate. "It's
all up. Here's a mess. You must go home overland; suppose you swim
ashore. Steady the men down."
Jack performed one or two steps of a dance, and placed his finger
against his nose. He rather enjoyed a scrape, did this frivolous
chief officer. The white shape came nearer, and a sharp whistle
sounded. Hindhaugh had known well enough that it was a steam-launch
that made the panting noise, and he got ready for the worst. The
launch drew right across the bows of the steamer, and then the
throbbing of the little engines ceased. Again the whistle sounded;
the launch gave a bound forward; then she struck away into the
darkness, and Hindhaugh drew a long breath.
In an instant every possible ounce of steam was put on, and the
Jenny Jones went away at eleven knots toward the Gut. All night
long the firemen were kept hard at it, and before morning the Rock
was far astern of the driving steamboat.
Three of the Scorpions had stayed aboard, and Captain Hindhaugh
noticed that they earned their knives. He noticed, too, that the
cringing manner which the fellows had shown before the Rock was
cleared had given place to a sort of subdued swagger.
About noon the engines were slowed down almost to nothing, and
the Jenny Jones crept gently on toward the shore. By four o'clock
the vessel was well into Portuguese waters, and Hindhaugh was
prepared to defy any quantity of Spanish coast-guards. When the
sun had dipped low the Scorpion-in-chief came aft, and pointed
mysteriously to the northeast.
"You'se been look where I point myself. Feluccas! You'se follow
them in and drop anchor."
Hindhaugh smiled. "Do you think you're talking to a fool? Come you
below there, and let me have that other money sharp."
"Ah, Capeetan, wait till agent's man come with felucca. I'se been
have no money myself."
Hindhaugh was not a person to be trifled with. He quietly took
out his revolver. "Now, do you see that pretty thing? First shot
for you. Look at that block forrad, and see how much chance you'll
have if I fire at you." The pop of the revolver sounded, and then
Hindhaugh went forward, pulling the Scorpion with him. "Do you see
that hole, you image? How would you like if that was your gizzard?
Now, no games, my joker."
The Scorpion begged for time, and Hindhaugh was so sure of his
man that he made no further objection. He had another conference
with Jack, and, to that worthy man's great delight, he expressed
"We're going to have a fight over this job," said the skipper. "I'm
dead sure of it. Go down and load the two muskets, and give them
to the safest men. When the lighters DO come, borrow the fireman's
iron rods. I've lent the steward my bowie that I got at Charleston,
and you can try and hold that old bulldog straight. We mustn't show
the least sign of funking."
Then Hindhaugh and his brother called for tea, and fed solidly.
The Scorpion whispered down the companion, "They'se been com'," and
the captain went on deck. Two large felucca-rigged lighters hove
up slowly through the dusk, and the chief Scorpion's signal was
answered. Hindhaugh saw both lighters draw near, he felt the usual
scraping bump, and then he heard a sudden thunder of many feet.
The second mate sung out, "Here's half a hundred of these devils,
sir. They're all armed to the teeth." And sure enough, a set of
ferocious-looking rapscallions had boarded the steamer. They looked
like low-class Irishmen browned with walnut-juice. Each man had
a heavy array of pistols in his sash, and all of them carried ugly
knives. The Scorpion waved to the gang, and they arranged themselves
around the pile of bales that stuck out through the after-hatch.
Hindhaugh had fully discounted all the chances, and had made up
his mind to one thing: he wouldn't be "done."
The Scorpion imperiously observed, "Come below, Capeetan," and
Hindhaugh went. Then the defiant native of the Rock put his back
against the cabin door, heaved out his chest in a manly way, and
said, "Now, Capeetan, you no have more money. You speak much, and
I'se been get your throat cut myself."
"You've got no money?"
"No; not a damn dollar."
"You won't keep to your bargain?"
"No; you come 'shore for your money if you want him."
Hindhaugh made up his mind in a flash. In spite of his habit of
wearing a frock-coat and tall hat, he was more than half a pirate,
and he would have ruffled it, like his red-bearded ancestors, had
fighting been still the usual employment of Norsemen. He marked his
man's throat, and saw that the insolent hands could not get at a
knife quickly. Then he sprang at the Scorpion, gripped him by the
windpipe, and swung him down. The fellow gurgled, but he couldn't
cry out. Hindhaugh called the steward, and that functionary came
out of his den with the long bowie. "Sit on him," said the captain.
"If he stirs cut his throat. Now, you, if you move a finger you're
done." The steward straddled across the Scorpion, and held the
knife up in a sarcastic way.
Hindhaugh went swiftly on deck, and stepped right among the jabbering
Spaniards. He smiled as though nothing had happened, but when he
saw one man lay hold of a bale he pulled him back. "Tell them I'll
shoot the first man that tries to lift a bale till I'm ready."
This message brought on a torrent of talk, which gave the captain
time. He whispered to Jack, "Sneak you round through the engine-room.
That lighter's made fast forrad; the second one's fast here. Get
a hatchet from the carpenter, and set him alongside of the second
rope. When I whistle twice, both of you nick the ropes, and we'll
jink these swindling swine." The engineer also received orders to
go full speed ahead on the instant that the whistle sounded.
Hindhaugh kept up his air of good-humour, although the full sense
of the risk he ran was in his mind. His threat of shooting had made
the Spaniards suspicious, although they were used to big talk of
the kind. One peep into the cabin would have brought on a collision,
and although the Englishmen might have fought, there was nothing
to gain by a fight. Everything depended on swiftness of action, and
Hindhaugh determined grimly that if rapidity could do anything he
would teach the "furriners" a lesson for trying to swindle him.
He said, very politely, "We're all ready now. You get your men
aboard the lighters, and we'll soon rash your cargo over the side."
This was transmitted to the smugglers, and immediately they swarmed
aboard their own boats. They had rather expected a quarrel, and
this pacific solution pleased them. As Jack afterward said, "They
blethered like a lot o' wild geese."
All the foreigners were gone but three. Hindhaugh stepped quietly
up to the interpreter, and said, very low, "I'm covering you with
my revolver from inside my pocket. Don't you stir. Is that other
money going to be paid?"
The interpreter had been innocent of all knowledge of the wild
work in the cabin. He stammered, "I thought by your way it was all
right. Where's our man?"
"I've got him safe enough. Ask those fellows in the lighters if any
of them can pay the freight for the job. If you tell them to fire
they may miss me, and I can't miss you."
No one, not even the consignee's man, had any money; the smugglers
meant to trick the Revenue, and the English captain as well.
Hindhaugh whistled, and then roared out, "Lie down, all of you! Ram
her ahead!" The hatchets went crack, crack; the steamer shuddered
and plunged forward; and the lighters bumped swiftly astern.
"Over the side, you animals, or I'll take you out to sea and drown
The three Spaniards rushed to the side, and took flying leaps into
the lighters. Hindhaugh stooped low and ran to the companion. "Let
that beggar up," he shouted. The Scorpion scuttled on deck. "Now,
mister, I'll let you see if you'll take me in. Over you go. Over
the stern with you, and mind the propeller doesn't carve you." Two
shots were fired, but they went wild. The Scorpion saw the whole
situation; he poised for a second on the rail, and then jumped
for it, and Hindhaugh laughed loudly as his enemy came up blowing.
Jack performed a triumphal war-dance on the steamer's bridge, and
the Jenny Jones was soon far out of pistol range.
All that night Captain Hindhaugh did not sleep a wink. He was quite
persuaded that he had acted the part of an exemplary Briton. What
is the use of belonging to the ruling race if a mere foreigner is
to do as he likes with you? But the adventurous skipper had landed
himself in a pretty mess, and the full extent of his entanglement
grew on him every minute. At twelve o'clock, when the watch was
relieved, Jack came aft in a state of exultation that words cannot
describe. He chuckled out, "Well, sir, we've made our fortunes
this time." Hindhaugh damped his spirits by saying, slowly, "Not
too fast; that 'baccy's got to go overboard, my boy." Jack's mental
processes became confused. He had been measuring the cubic contents
of the smuggled goods, and the thought of wasting such a gift of
the gods fairly stunned him. Had it been cotton, his imagination
would not have been touched. But 'baccy! and overboard! It was
too much, and he groaned. He was ready with expedients at once.
"Why not run it to Holland?"
"Can't be done; where's our bill of lading?"
"Make up one yourself; you have plenty of forms."
"And suppose the luck goes the wrong way. What's to happen to
me—and to you too for that matter?"
"Run to a tobacco port, and warehouse the stuff in your own name."
"We're not bound for a tobacco port. What's to be done about the
cargo of ore that we are carrying? No, John; the whole five thousand
pounds must go over the side."
Next morning broke joyously. The sea looked merry with miles of
brisk foam, and the little Portuguese schooners flew like butterflies
hither and thither. Every cloud of spray plucked from the dancing
crests flashed like white fire under the clear sun. It was one of
the mornings when one cannot speak for gladness. But Hindhaugh's
thoughts were fixed on material things. The rich bales lay there,
and their presence affected him like a sarcasm. The men were called
aft, and the shovels used for trimming grain were brought up. Then
the captain said, "Now each of you take a pound or two of this
tobacco, and then break the bales and shovel the rest overboard."
The precious packages were burst, and the sight of the beautiful
leaf, the richness of the tender aroma, affected the sailors with
remorse. It was like offering up a sacrifice. But the captain's
orders were definite; so until near noon the shovels were plied
smartly, and one hundredweight after another of admirable tobacco
drifted away on the careless sea.
Hindhaugh watched grimly until at last his emotions overcame him.
He growled, "Confound it, I can't do it! Belay there, men; I'll have
another think over this job." And think he did, with businesslike
solemnity, all day long. He saw that he might make a small fortune
by risking his liberty, and the curious morality of the British
sailor prevented him from seeing shades of right or wrong where
contraband business was concerned. Had you told him that the
tobacco was stolen, he would have pitched you overboard; he felt
his morality to be unimpeachable; it was only the question of
expediency that troubled him. For three days it was almost unsafe
to go near him, so intently did he ponder and plan. On the fifth
day he had worked his way through his perplexities, and was ready
with a plan. A pilot cutter came in sight, and Hindhaugh signalled
her. The pilot's boat was rowed alongside, and the bronzed and
dignified chief swaggered up to the captain with much cordiality.
No one is so cordial as a pilot who has secured a good ship. The
two men exchanged news, and gradually slid into desultory talk.
Suddenly Hindhaugh said, "Are you game for a bit of work? Do you
ever DO anything?"
The pilot was virtuously agitated. He drew himself up, and, taking
care that the mate should hear, answered, "Me! Not for the wurrrld,
Cap'n. I've got a wife and children, sir."
"All right, Pilot, never mind; come down and have some tea."
Then Hindhaugh gradually drew his man out, until the pilot
was absolutely confidential. The captain knew by the very excess
of purity expressed in the pilot's first answer that he was not
dealing with a simpleton; but he carefully kept away from the main
subject which was in his (and the pilot's) mind. At last the man
leaned over and gave a masonic sign. "What was that job you was
speaking about, Cap'n? We're near home now, you know. Better not
go too near."
Hindhaugh played a large card. He smiled carelessly. "Fact is, I've
just told the fellows to shy the stuff overboard; I shall risk no
"Mercy me, Cap'n! You're mad. How did I know who you were? I see
all about it now, but I did not know what game you might have on
with me. I'm in it, you know, if the dimes is right!"
"Why, if the job's big enough. You stand off for a day; go down to
the Sleeve, and hang round, and I'll find you a customer."
"If you do, I pay you three hundred pound as soon as his money's
"Done, then. My boat's not gone far. Whistle her, and I'll go slap
for Bristol. Never you mind for a day or two. How's your coals?"
"They're all right. You scoot now, and fetch your man over this
way. I'll go half-speed to the sou'west for twelve hours, another
twelve hours half-speed back. You'll find us."
In thirty-six hours the pilot cutter came back, and a Hebrew
gentleman boarded the Jenny Jones from her. After a long inspection,
the visitor said, "Now look here, I must have a hundred per cent.
margin out of this. What's your figure?"
"Two thousand five hundred."
"Won't do. Say two thousand, and you pay the jackal out of that."
"Done. And how do you manage?"
"I'll split the lot up among three trawlers. You wait off, and
give the jackal an extra fifty for bringing the boats down. I risk
Another night passed, and the dawn was breaking coldly when the
dirty sails of the trawlers came in sight. Ship after ship had
hailed Hindhaugh, and offered to tow him if anything had happened
to his engines. He knew he would be reported as lying off apparently
disabled, and he was in a feverish state of excitement. The Hebrew
speculator watched the last bale down the side, and then handed over
the money, had a glass of brandy with the pilot, and departed—whither
Hindhaugh neither knew nor cared. The Jenny Jones ran for her
port. She had just slowed down, and the great waves of smoke from
the town were pouring over her, when two large boats, heavily
laden with men, came off to her. The men swarmed up the side, and
the officer in command shouted, "Bring up the pickaxes, and go to
work!" The hatches were pulled off before the steamer had taken up
her moorings, and the men went violently to work among the ore.
Hindhaugh looked innocent, and inquired, "What's all this about,
"Fact is, Captain, we've got a telegram from Gibraltar to say you
have contraband on board. You may save all trouble if you make a
"Contraband! Who told you that?"
"Oh, we should have known without the wire. That gentleman on the
quay there came overland, and he put us up to you."
Hindhaugh looked ashore, and saw a dark face that he knew well. He
whistled and smiled. Then he said to the officer, "You may just
as well stop those poor beggars from blistering their hands. You
won't find anything here except what the men have in the forecastle.
You're done this journey fairly. Come away down and liquor, and
I'll tell you all about it." Then Hindhaugh gave an artistic account
of the whole transaction, and put the matter in such a light that
the custom-house officer cordially congratulated him on having
escaped without a slit weasand.
The Jenny Jones went back to Gibraltar, and Captain Hindhaugh was
very careful never to go ashore without a companion. One day he
was passing a chandler's shop when a sunken glitter of dark eyes
met him. His old acquaintance, the chief Scorpion, was looking
stilettos and poison at him. But Hindhaugh went by in his big,
burly way, and contented himself with setting on three watchmen
every night during his stay. To this day he is pleased with himself
for having given the foreigners a lesson in the elements of morality,
and he does not fear their knives one whit.