**** 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 [?]

The letter was scarcely sent before the good soul began to repent. He had an honest liking for Dan’l Leggo, and would be sorry (even in the way of duty) to see him in Bodmin Gaol. He believed in Mount’s Bay keeping its troubles to itself; and in short, knowing the Collector at Fowey to be a pushing fellow, he had passed two days in a proper sweat of remorse, when to his great relief he ran up against Phoby Geen, that was walking the pavement with a scowl on his face and both hands deep in his trousers, he having been told that very morning by Amelia Sanders, and for the twentieth time of asking, that sooner than marry him she would break stones on the road.

‘Tis a good job, I reckon, that folks in a street can’t read one another’s inside. Old Pennefather pulled up in a twitter, tapping his stick on the pavement. What he wanted to say was, “Your partner, Dan’l Leggo, has a cargo for St. Austell Bay. He’ll get into trouble there, and I’m responsible for it; but I want you to warn him before ’tis too late.” What he did was to put on a frown, and, said he, “Looky here, Mr. Geen, I’ve been wanting to see you or Leggo for some days, to give you fair notice. I happen to have lost sight of the Nonesuch for some days; though I conclude, from meeting you, that she’s back at Porthleah at her moorings. But I know the movements of the Black Joke, and I’ve the best reason to warn you that she had best give up her latest game, or she must look out for squalls.”

Well, this was a plain hint, and in an ordinary way Phoby Geen would have taken it. But the devil stirred him up to remember the insult he’d received from Amelia Sanders that very day; and by and by, as he walked home to Porthleah, there came into his mind a far wickeder thought. Partners though he and Dan’l were, each owned the boat he commanded, or all but a few shares in her. The shares in the Black Joke stood in Dan’l’s name, and if anything went wrong with her the main loss would be Dan’l’s. All the way home he kept thinking what a faithful partner he’d been to Dan’l in the past, and this was Dan’l’s gratitude, to cut him out with Amelia Sanders and egg the girl on to laugh at the colour of his hair. She would laugh to another tune if he chose to hold his tongue on Mr. Pennefather’s warning, and let Dan’l run his head into the trap. The Fowey Collector was a smart man, capable of using his information. (Phoby, who could see a hole through a ladder as quick as most men, guessed at once that Pennefather had laid the trap, and then repented and spoken to him in hope to undo the mischief.) Like as not, St. Austell Bay would be patrolled by half a dozen man-of-war’s boats in addition to the water-guard: and this meant Dan’l’s losing the lugger, losing his life too, maybe, or at the least being made prisoner. Well, and why not? Wasn’t one man master enough for Porthleah Cove? And hadn’t Dan’l and the girl deserved it?

I believe the miserable creature wrestled against his temptation: and I believe that when he weighed next morning and hoisted sail in the Nonesuch for Guernsey, where the Black Joke was to meet him in case of accident, he had two minds to play fair after all. ‘Twas told afterwards that, pretty well all the way, he locked himself in his cabin, and for hours the crew heard him groaning there. But it seems that Satan was too strong for him; for instead of bearing straight up for Guernsey, where he well knew the Black Joke would be waiting, he stood over towards the French coast, and there dodged forth and back, under pretence of picking her up as she came out of Roscoff. His crew took it for granted he was following out the plan agreed upon. All they did was to obey orders, and of course they knew naught of Mr. Pennefather’s warning.