Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XV / The Ship of Fire >> Page 340

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 340

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 840 SOUTHWARD HO
error of policy�to that wild eagerness and childish hope, which
made them heedless of a caution which they had hitherto pre-
served with a religious strictness, through long years in which
they had known nothing but the caprice of fortune.
The careless, or the ostentatious exhibition of their hitherto
concealed treasures, now held to be secure, was the true cause
of the master's change of policy. His greedy eye had caught
golden glimpses among their luggage. He had seen the silver
vessels and the shining jewels�he had detected the value of
those heirlooms which had been accumulated and preserved by
the tribe of adventurers, in spite of the trials of poverty, through
long generations.
"'1'liese discoveries awakened the devil in his heart. His
was the sort of honesty which kept steadfast only in the absence
of the tempter. He had, otherwise, few or no human motives
for its exercise. His life had been a reckless and a restless one,
and sober business performance was only to be pursued by way
of variety, and in the absence of more exciting stimulants. His
mate, or second officer, was a person after his own heart. To
him he dropped a hint of his discoveries. A word to the rogue
is quite as sufficient as to the wise man. It required but few
words between the two to come to a mutual understanding. The
seamen were severally sounded ; and the ship clawed off from
the shore.
� In those days the profession of piracy had no such odious
character as it bears in ours. Successful piracy was, in short,
rather a creditable business. It was not dishonorable, and he
who practised it with most profit, was likely to acquire from it
the best credit. Great pirates were knighted by great kings in
those periods. Witness the case of the monster Henry Morgan.
The bloody hand was rather a noble badge indeed, provided it
was shown at court f dl-handed. Then, as now, it was only your
poor rogue who was hung for making too free with his neigh-
bor's goods. Piracy was legitimated beyond the line, and found
its national and natural excuse in Great Britain when it could
prove that the victims were only Spaniards or Frenchmen. Like
any other speculation, its moral depended wholly on its results.
We are not to feel surprised, therefore, at the easy virtue of our
mariners�a people, in those days, whose lives and morals oc-