Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/394

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CHAPTER XV

THE BRISK YARN OF THE SPEEDWELL PRIVATEER

CAPTAIN GEORGE SHELVOCKE was one of many seamen adventurers unknown to fame who sought a quick and bloody road to fortune by laying violent hands on the golden ingots in the Spanish galleons of Mexico and Peru. A state of war made this a lawful pastime for lawless men, and such were those that sailed from Plymouth on February 13, 1720, in the little armed ship Speedwell, bound out from England to South America with a privateering commission. She was of two hundred tons burden, and there could have been no room to swing a cat by the tail, what with eighteen six-pounders mounted between-decks, a fourteen-oar launch stowed beneath the hatches, provisions for a long voyage, and a crew of a hundred men. Most of these were landlubbers, wastrels of the taverns and the waterside, who were so terrified by the first gale of wind that seventy of them "were resolved on bearing away for England to make a complaint against the ship. They alleged that she was so very

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