The Pirate by Henry Poe-Part One
by Ann Neilson
In the next few posts, I will be scribing William Henry Leonard Poe’s stories, as I had done with his poetry.
Now, I happily present The Pirate, part one.
To the Editor of the North American.
On my last voyage to the West Indies, a friend whom I met after a long separation, related to me the following adventure, and as it appeared singular and romantic, I made a memorandum of it, and I now transcribe it from my “log book” for your use, which you are at liberty to do with as you may deem proper. Yours, W.H.P.
I went to the Havana in the summer of 182-, on business, and having settled it to my satisfaction, engaged my passage in a vessel bound to New York–We had been but a few hours on the voyage when I felt that weariness and pain which indicates the approach of the yellow fever. I continued to grow worse, and to add to my distress, the vessel began to roll violently and sea-sickness with all its horrors cause upon me–I would have sacrificed every thing for a quiet place in which to die, as I felt that this was all I could wish for. Overcome at length with weakness, and completely exhausted, I fell asleep, from which I was awakened by a confused noise. I at first believed it was merely imagination, but as it became louder, I felt convinced that what I heard was a reality. At length the cabin door opened, and several persons descended. Our captain approached my birth and told me the vessel had been captured by pirates, and that we were now standing in for the land. I heard the first part of his speech with an apathy which my illness only can account for;-but the very name of land seemed to operate like a charm upon me. A young man now approached and told me to be under no apprehension, as no personal injury was intended, and that every care should be bestowed upon me. He inquired the nature and state of my disease, and brought me a cordial, which considerably relieved me. In a short time we were at anchor, and I was told our vessel would be detained for a day or two, and after a few articles had been taken out, permitted (cannot read word here) proceed on her voyage. The same person subsequently entered, and observed that I could be much better attended on shore, where I would be relieved from the bustle and confusion of the vessel. To this I cheerfully assented, and in the afternoon I was placed in a boat and carried to a hut near the beach;-here I was treated kindly, and every attention paid me. I had been three days on shore when the young man (whom I now discovered to be captain of the corsair) arrived, and told me our vessel would sail in an hour, and if I wished to proceed in her I was at liberty to do so, although he remarked, in my present state it would no doubt cost me my life:-and that if I would trust to him, and could bear the detention of a month or so, he would convey me to some part of Cuba, from whence I could easily procure a passage home. Believing a removal in my present state would be almost certain death, added to a strong desire to know more of a man who appeared so different from what I had heard of men engaged in the profession with which he was connected, made me assent to his proposal. In about a week I was decidedly convalescent, and I felt really grateful for the kindness of the youthful outlaw. One evening on entering my room he expressed himself gratified to see me so much recovered, as he was to sail in the morning for the other side of the islands, and it was his wish that I should accompany him, as it was likely he would fall in with some vessel bound to the United States, and I could thus get home–the next morning we were underweigh.
It was near midnight when I was awakened by a deep groan in the cabin in which I slept–I raised my head and perceived the captain gazing on a small but beautiful dagger, which he was holding to the light as if to see more plainly–before him on the table, as well as I could judge, lay a miniature–he was in tears, and appeared much affected–In a few moments he placed them in his desk and went on deck. I mused some time on the singularity of this man, who seemed fitted for a situation better than that of a piratical captain:–he was rather small in his person, but well formed–had been handsome, I should think, but sorrow seemed to have set her seal upon his brow; his hair exhibited the marks of premature old age, although he could not be more than twenty-three.
The next night I determined to watch and see if he would again look at the dagger–he at length came down, and after sitting some time in a contemplative posture, opened the desk and again the dagger met my eye–Curiosity could bear it no longer–“What a singularity beautiful dirk,” I exclaimed–he started as if he had been shot, but suddenly reocvering himself, said, with a look which seemed as if he would reach my very thoughts, “Why did you make that remark?” I felt abashed, but he immediately added, “Since you appear anxious to know my history, I will tell it you. Do you see that,” he exclaimed, as he moved the light nearer and placed the dagger before me–“‘Tis blood,” I answered, sickening at the sight–“Ay, ’tis blood!–blood! to save one drop of which I would give all this miserable body contains–and yet,” added he, wildly, “’twas I that shed it!”–He buried his face in his hands and groaned deeply–in a few moments he became more composed, and began his story.