**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Black Joke, A Reported Tale Of Two Smugglers
by [?]


My mother’s grandfather, Dan’l Leggo, was the piousest man that ever went smuggling, and one of the peaceablest, and scrupulous to an extent you wouldn’t believe. He learnt his business among the Cove boys at Porthleah–or Prussia Cove as it came to be called, after John Carter, the head of the gang, that was nicknamed the King o’ Prussia. Dan’l was John Carter’s own sister’s son, trained under his eye; and when the Carters retired he took over the business in partnership with young Phoby Geen, a nephew by marriage to Bessie Bussow that still kept the Kiddlywink at Porthleah, and had laid by a stockingful of money.

These two, Dan’l Leggo and Phoby Geen (which was short for Deiphobus), lived together and worked the business for five years in boundless harmony; until, as such things happen, they both fell in love with one maid, which brought out the differences in their natures to a surprising degree, converting Dan’l into an Early Christian for all to behold, while Phoby turned to envy and spite, and to a disgraceful meanness of spirit. The reason of this to some extent was that the girl–Amelia Sanders by name–couldn’t abide him because of the colour of his hair and his splay feet: yet I believe she would have married him (her father being a boat-builder in a small way at Porthleven, and beholden to the Cove for most of his custom) if Dan’l hadn’t come along first and cast eyes on her; whereby she clave to Dan’l and liked him better and better as time brought out the beautiful little odds-and-ends of his character; and when Phoby made up, she took and told him, in all the boldness of affection, to make himself scarce, for she wouldn’t have him–no, not if he was the last man in the world and she the last woman. I daresay she overstated the case, as women will. But what appeared marvellous to all observers was that the girl had no particular good looks that wouldn’t have passed anywhere in a crowd, and yet these two had singled her out for their addresses.

Dan’l (that had been the first in the field) pointed this out to his partner in a very reasonable spirit; but somehow it didn’t take effect. “If she’s as plain-featured as you allow,” said Phoby, “why the dickens can’t you stand aside?”

“Because of her affectionate natur’,” answered Dan’l, “and likewise for her religious disposition, for the latter o’ which you’ve got no more use than a toad for side-pockets.”

“We’ll see about that,” grumbled Phoby; and Dan’l, taking it for a threat, lost no time in putting up the banns.

Apart from this he went on his way peaceably never doubting at all that, when the knot was tied, Phoby would let be bygones and pick up with another maid; whereby he made the mistake of judging other folks’ dispositions by his own. The smuggling, too, was going on more comfortably than ever it had in John Carter’s time, by reason that a new Collector had come to Penzance–a Mr. Pennefather, a nice little, pleasant-spoken, round-bellied man that asked no better than to live and let live. Fifteen years this Pennefather held the collectorship, with five-and-twenty men under him, besides a call on the military whenever he wanted ’em; and in all that time he never made an enemy. Every night of his life he stepped over from his lodgings in Market Jew Street for a game of cards with old Dr. Chegwidden, who lived whereabouts they’ve built the Esplanade since then, on the Newlyn side of Morrab Gardens; and after their cards–at which one would lose and t’other win half a crown, maybe– the doctor would out with a decanter of pineapple rum, and the pair would drink together and have a crack upon Natural History, which was a hobby with both. Being both unmarried, they had no one to call bedtime; but the Collector was always back at his lodgings before the stroke of twelve.