Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/57

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Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main

much for their knowledge of the flintlock and the cutlass as for their seamanship.

As by far the largest part of the trading in American waters was conducted by these Yankee coasters, so by far the heaviest blows, and those most keenly felt, fell upon them. Bulletin after bulletin came to port with its doleful tale of this vessel burned or that vessel scuttled, this one held by the pirates for their own use or that one stripped of its goods and sent into port as empty as an eggshell from which the yolk had been sucked. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston suffered alike, and worthy ship owners had to leave off counting their losses upon their fingers and take to the slate to keep the dismal record.

“Maroon—to put ashore on a desert isle, as a sailor, under pretense of having committed some great crime.” Thus our good Noah Webster gives us the dry bones, the anatomy, upon which the imagination may construct a specimen to suit itself.

It is thence that the marooners took their name, for marooning was one of their most effective instruments of punishment or revenge. If a pirate broke one of the many rules which governed the particular band to which he belonged, he was marooned; did a captain defend his ship to such a degree as to be unpleasant to the pirates attacking it, he was marooned; even the pirate captain himself, if he displeased his followers by the severity of his rule, was in danger of having the same punishment visited upon him which he had perhaps more than once visited upon another.

The process of marooning was as simple as terrible. A suitable place was chosen (generally some desert isle as far removed as possible from the pathway of commerce), and the condemned man was rowed from the ship to the beach. Out he was bundled upon the sand spit; a gun, a half dozen bullets, a few pinches of powder, and a bottle of water were chucked ashore after him, and away rowed the boat’s crew back to the ship, leaving the poor wretch alone to rave away his life in madness, or to sit sunken in his gloomy