Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/56

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Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

The buccaneers became bolder and bolder. In fact, so daring were their crimes that the home governments, stirred at last by these outrageous barbarities, seriously undertook the suppression of the freebooters, lopping and trimming the main trunk until its members were scattered hither and thither, and it was thought that the organization was exterminated. But, so far from being exterminated, the individual members were merely scattered north, south, east, and west, each forming a nucleus around which gathered and clustered the very worst of the offscouring of humanity.

The result was that when the seventeenth century was fairly packed away with its lavender in the store chest of the past, a score or more bands of freebooters were cruising along the Atlantic seaboard in armed vessels, each with a black flag with its skull and crossbones at the fore, and with a nondescript crew made up of the tags and remnants of civilized and semicivilized humanity (white, black, red, and yellow), known generally as marooners, swarming upon the decks below.

Nor did these offshoots from the old buccaneer stem confine their depredations to the American seas alone; the East Indies and the African coast also witnessed their doings, and suffered from them, and even the Bay of Biscay had good cause to remember more than one visit from them.

Worthy sprigs from so worthy a stem improved variously upon the parent methods; for while the buccaneers were content to prey upon the Spaniards alone, the marooners reaped the harvest from the commerce of all nations.

So up and down the Atlantic seaboard they cruised, and for the fifty years that marooning was in the flower of its glory it was a sorrowful time for the coasters of New England, the middle provinces, and the Virginias, sailing to the West Indies with their cargoes of salt fish, grain, and tobacco. Trading became almost as dangerous as privateering, and sea captains were chosen as