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

With such a Collector, as you may suppose, the free trade in Mount’s Bay found itself in easy circumstances; and the Covers (as they were called) took care in return to give Mr. Pennefather very little trouble. In particular, Dan’l had invented a contrivance which saved no end of worry and suspicion, and was worked in this way:–Of their two principal boats Dan’l as a rule commanded the Black Joke, a Porthleven-built lugger of about forty tons, as we measure nowadays (but upon the old plan she would work out nearer a hundred and forty); and Phoby a St. Ives ketch, the Nonesuch, of about the same size. But which was the Black Joke and which the Nonesuch you never could be sure, for the lugger carried fids, topmast, crosstrees, and a spare suit of sails to turn her into a ketch at twenty minutes’ notice; and likewise the ketch could ship topmast, shift her rigging, and hoist a spare suit of lug-sails in no longer time. The pair of them, too, had false quarter-pieces to ship and unship for disguise, and each was provided with movable boards painted with the other’s name, to cover up her own. The tale went that once when the pair happened to be lying together in New Grimsby Sound in the Scillies, during an eclipse of the sun, Dan’l and Phoby took it into their heads to change rigs in the darkness, just for fun; and that the Revenue Officer, that had gone over to the island of Bryher to get a better view of the eclipse, happening to lower his telescope on the vessels as the light began to grow again, took fright, waded across to Tresco for his life (the tide being low), and implored the Lord Proprietor’s agent to lock him up; “for,” said he, “either the world or my head has turned round in the last twenty minutes, and whichever ’tis, I want to be put in a cool place out of temptation.” But the usual plan was, of course, for the two to change rigs at night-time when on a trip, and by agreement, and for the one to slock off suspicion while the other ran the cargo. Yes, yes; Dan’l Leggo and Phoby Geen were both very ingenious young men, though by disposition so different: and when John Carter in his retirement heard of the trick, he slapped his leg and said in his large-hearted way that dammy he couldn’t have invented a neater; and at the same time fined himself sixpence for swearing, which had been his rule when he was Cove-master. I once saw a bill of his made out in form, and this was how it ran:–
John CARTER in account with ROGER TRISCOTT otherwise CLICKPAW.

To I weeks arnins. . . . . . . . . . . . ten shillin

Item share on 40 ankers at sixpence
per anker. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one pound
less two dams at 6d. and a worse word
at (say) 1s. but more if it hapn again. two shillin

Balance due to R.T. . . . . . . . . . . One pound eight
or value recd, as per margin.

But the mildest of men will have their whimsies; and for some reason or other this same trick of the two boats–though designed, as you might argue, to save him trouble–made Pennefather as mad as a sheep. He couldn’t hear tell of the Black Joke or the Nonesuch but the blood rushed into his head. He swore to old Dr. Chegwidden that the Covers, by making him an object of derision, were breaking all bounds of neighbourly understanding: and at last one day, getting information that Dan’l Leggo was at Roscoff and loading-up to run a cargo into St. Austell Bay on the east side of the Blackhead, he so far let his temper get the better of him as to sit down and warn the Collector at Fowey, telling him the when and how of the randivoo, and bidding him look out as per description for that notorious lugger the Black Joke.