Captain Black (Pemberton)/Foreword


It is nineteen years since Captain Black first sailed from Spezzia upon the Nameless Ship, and taught the world the meaning of the new piracy. A gigantic hull of phosphor bronze harboured the gas-engines by which the great vessel was driven; an inlet upon the shores of Greenland, known as Ice Haven, received the treasure and the ship when the Governments of the world awoke to the truth. Black and his men fell by a great mischance, and rumour said that he was dead. The ship that he built, then derided by the experts, is the ship of the new century, and the yards are already resounding with the bruit of a copy which shall be driven by oil-engines and banish steam from the high seas.

The Nameless Ship was sunk in the Atlantic; but the man who commanded her did not die. Just as, twenty years ago, he taught the experts what the naval battle of the future must be, so now it is possible that they may learn a further lesson from this new record of his daring. Possessed of a submarine, which would seem to embody the dreams of the scientist, the great Captain sails the seas to-day. Whatever mad impulse may lie at the back of his emprise, whatever gospel of plunder may excuse his assault upon the commerce of the world, the fact remains that no wit has yet been able to ensnare him, no ship to make him captive.

Deep down in the heart of the ocean, the pirate lies. The dogged persistence of the youth, Mark Strong, whose life the Captain spared, has permitted this further account of him to come into my hands. It is the story of the treasure which Black amassed when the Nameless Ship was the mistress of the ocean and the cities echoed the seamen's fables and learned at last that they were true. At the bidding of one man's voice, the nineteenth century came to understand the peril of the deep as the seventeenth century had known it. Shall we say, while Black lives, that our own age has less to fear from such a menace and may despise it?