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by [?]

She had a large crew, abnormally large hawse-pipes, and a bad reputation–the last attribute born of the first. Registered as the Rosebud, this innocent name was painted on her stern and on her sixteen dories; but she was known among the fishing-fleet as the Ishmaelite, and the name fitted her. Secretive and unfriendly, she fished alone, avoided company, answered few hails, and, seldom filling her hold, disposed of her catch as her needs required, in out-of-the-way ports, often as far south as Charleston. And she usually left behind her such bitter memories of her visit as placed the last port at the bottom of her list of markets.

No ship-chandler or provision-dealer ever showed her receipted bills, and not a few of them openly averred that certain burglaries of their goods had plausible connection with her presence in port. Be this as it may, the fact stood that farmers on the coast who saw her high bow and unmistakable hawse-pipes when she ran in for bait invariably double-locked their barns and chicken-coops, and turned loose all tied dogs when night descended, often to find both dogs and chickens gone in the morning.

Once, too, three small schooners had come home with empty holds, and complained of the appearance, while anchored in the fog, of a flotilla of dories manned by masked men, who overpowered and locked all hands in cabin or forecastle, and then removed the cargoes of fish to their own craft, hidden in the fog. Shortly after this, the Ishmaelite disposed of a large catch in Baltimore, and the piracy was believed of her, but never proved.

Her luck at finding things was remarkable. Drifting dories, spars, oars, and trawl-tubs sought her unsavory company, as though impelled by the inanimate perversity which had sent them drifting. They were sold in port, or returned to their owners, when paid for. In the early part of her career she had towed a whistling buoy into Boston and claimed salvage of the government, showing her logbook to prove that she had picked it up far at sea. The salvage was paid; but, as her reputation spread, there were those who declared that she herself had sent the buoy adrift.

As poets and sailors believe that ships have souls, it may be that she gloried in her shame, like other fallen creatures; for her large, slanting oval hawse-pipes and boot-top stripe gave a fine, Oriental sneer to her face-like bow, and there was slur and insult to respectable craft in the lazy dignity with which she would swash through the fleet on the port tack, compelling vessels on the starboard tack to give up their right of way or be rammed; for she was a large craft, and there was menace in her solid, one-piece jib-boom, thick as an ordinary mainmast. An outward-bound coasting-schooner, resenting this lawlessness on one occasion, attempted to assert her rights, and being on the lawful starboard tack, bore steadily down on the Ishmaelite,–who budged not a quarter-point,–and, losing heart at the last moment, luffed up, all shaking, in just the position to allow the ring of her port anchor to catch on the bill of the Ishmaelite’s starboard anchor. As her own ring-stopper and shank-painter were weak, the patent windlass unlocked, and the end of the cable not secured in the chain-locker, the Ishmaelite walked calmly away with the anchor and a hundred fathoms of chain, which, at the next port, she sold as legitimate spoil of the sea.

As her reputation increased, so did the hatred of men, while the number of ports on the coast which she could safely enter became painfully small. To avoid conflict with local authority, she had hurried to sea without clearing at the custom-house from Boston, Bangor, Portland, and Gloucester. She had carried local authority in the persons of distressed United States marshals to sea with her from three other ports, and landed it on some outlying point before the next meal-hour. With her blunt jib-boom she had prodded a hole in the side of a lighthouse supply-boat, and sailed away without answering questions. The government was taking cognizance, and her description was written on the fly-leaves of several revenue cutters’ log-books, while Sunday newspapers in the large cities began a series of special articles about the mysterious schooner-rigged pirate of the fishing-fleet.