REPORTED TALE OF A SMUGGLER, A REVENUE CUTTER, AND AN OFFICIOUS MINISTER.
You have heard tell, of course, of Captain John Carter, the famous smuggler of Prussia Cove, and his brothers Harry, Francis, and Charles, and Captain Will Richards, “Tummels,” Carpenter Hosking, Uncle Billy, and the rest of the Cove boys; likewise of old Nan Leggo and Bessie Bussow that kept the Kiddlywink there? Well, well, I see our youngsters going to school nowadays with their hair brushed, and I hear them singing away inside the classroom for all the world as if they were glad to grow up and pay taxes; and it makes me wonder if they can be the children of that old-fangled race. Sometimes I think it’s high time for me to go. There was a newspaper fellow down here when the General Walker came ashore, and, after asking a lot of questions, he put the case in a nutshell. “You’re a link with the past,” he said; “that’s what you are.” I don’t know if he invented the expression, or if he picked it up somewhere and used it on me, but it’s a terrible clever one.
You mustn’t think I’m boasting. I never knew Captain John; he died in the year ‘seven, and I wasn’t born for twelve months after. But I’ve shaken hands with Captain Harry–the one who was taken prisoner by the French, and came near to losing his head. He spent his latter years farming at Rinsey and local preaching; a very earnest man. He gave me my first-class ticket–that was in the late twenties, and not long before his death. And Captain Will Richards I knew well; he took over the business after Captain John, and lasted down to the Crimea year. I carried the coffin; eighty-five his age was, according to the plate on it; but, of course, the business had come to an end long before.
Everybody calls it Prussia Cove in these days. The visitors ask for Prussia Cove, and go and crane their heads over. You know the place?– just east of Cuddan Point. It’s three coves really; Pisky’s Cove, Bessie’s Cove, and Prussia. The first has no good landing, but plenty of good caves; east of that comes Bessie’s, where the Kiddlywink stood, with a harbour cut in the solid rock, and a roadway, and more caves; and east of that, with a point and a small island dividing them, comes Prussia, where John Carter had his house. Before his time it was called Porthleah, but he got the nickname “King o’ Prussia” as a boy, and it stuck to him, and now it sticks to the old place. The visitors crane their heads over (for you must do that to count the vessels in the harbour right underneath you), and ask foolish questions, and get answered with a pack of lies. There’s an old tale for one, about a fellow who heard that the real King of Prussia had been defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte. “Ah,” says he, “I’m sorry for that man. Misfortunes never come single; not more’n six weeks ago he lost three hundred keg of brandy, by information, so I’m told.” All nonsense! Porthleah never lost but one keg in all John Carter’s time, and that was a leaky one in a pool at Pisky’s which the custom-house fellows sniffed as they went by. To be sure, one day when the King was away from home, the collector came round from Penzance, seized a cargo, and carried it off to the Custom House store. What did Carter do when he came home and heard about it? He had agreed to deliver the goods by a certain day, his character for honest business was at stake and he wasn’t going to disappoint his customers. So he rode into Penzance that night, broke open the Custom House store, and rode back with all his kegs; nothing else, mind you. When the officers next morning discovered what had happened, they allowed at once this was Carter’s work, because he was an honest man and wouldn’t take anything that didn’t belong to him.