Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/167

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Yankee commodore, who fell in with a strange ship one black night in the Straits of Gibraltar. From the quarterdeck of the Constitution he trumpeted a hail, but the response was evasive, and both ships promptly manœuvered for the weather gage.

"I hail you for the last time. If you don't answer, I'll fire into you," roared Preble. "What ship is that?"

"His Britannic Majesty's eighty-four gun ship-of-the-line Donegal," came back the reply. "Send a boat on board."

Without an instant's hesitation the commodore thundered from his Yankee frigate:

"This is the United States forty-four-gun ship Constitution, Captain Edward Preble, and I'll be damned if I send a boat aboard any ship. Blow your matches, boys!"

Until the hordes of Moorish and Arab cutthroats and slavers were taught by force to respect the flag flown by American merchant-men, there was no fate so dreaded by mariners as shipwreck on the desert coast of northern Africa. For a hundred and fifty years they risked the dreadful peril of enslavement under taskmasters incredibly inhuman, who lashed and starved and slew them. In the seventeenth century it was no uncommon sight in the ports of Salem and Boston to see an honest sailor trudging