The Ruby Of Kishmoor by Howard Pyle

Story type: Literature


Prologue

A very famous pirate of his day was Capt. Robertson Keitt.

Before embarking upon his later career of infamy, he was, in the beginning, very well known as a reputable merchant in the island of Jamaica. Thence entering, first of all, upon the business of the African trade, he presently, by regular degrees, became a pirate, and finally ended his career as one of the most renowned freebooters of history.

The remarkable adventure through which he at once reached the pinnacle of success, and became in his profession the most famous figure of his day, was the capture of the Rajah of Kishmoor’s great ship, The Sun of the East. In this vessel was the Rajah’s favorite Queen, who, together with her attendants, was set upon a pilgrimage to Mecca. The court of this great Oriental potentate was, as may be readily supposed, fairly aglitter with gold and jewels, so that, what with such personal adornments that the Queen and her attendants had fetched with them, besides an ample treasury for the expenses of the expedition, an incredible prize of gold and jewels rewarded the freebooters for their successful adventure.

Among the precious stones taken in this great purchase was the splendid ruby of Kishmoor. This, as may be known to the reader, was one of the world’s greatest gems, and was unique alike both for its prodigious size and the splendor of its color. This precious jewel the Rajah of Kishmoor had, upon a certain occasion, bestowed upon his Queen, and at the time of her capture she wore it as the centerpiece of a sort of coronet which encircled her forehead and brow.

The seizure by the pirate of so considerable a person as that of the Queen of Kishmoor, and of the enormous treasure that he found aboard her ship, would alone have been sufficient to have established his fame. But the capture of so extraordinary a prize as that of the ruby–which was, in itself, worth the value of an entire Oriental kingdom–exalted him at once to the very highest pinnacle of renown.

Having achieved the capture of this incredible prize, our captain scuttled the great ship and left her to sink with all on board. Three Lascars of the crew alone escaped to bear the news of this tremendous disaster to an astounded world.

As may readily be supposed, it was now no longer possible for Captain Keitt to hope to live in such comparative obscurity as he had before enjoyed. His was now too remarkable a figure in the eyes of the world. Several expeditions from various parts were immediately fitted out against him, and it presently became no longer compatible with his safety to remain thus clearly outlined before the eyes of the world. Accordingly, he immediately set about seeking such security as he might now hope to find, which he did the more readily since he had now, and at one cast, so entirely fulfilled his most sanguine expectations of good fortune and of fame.

Thereafter, accordingly, the adventures of our captain became of a more apocryphal sort. It was known that he reached the West Indies in safety, for he was once seen at Port Royal and twice at Spanish Town, in the island of Jamaica. Thereafter, however, he disappeared; nor was it until several years later that the world heard anything concerning him.

One day a certain Nicholas Duckworthy, who had once been gunner aboard the pirate captain’s own ship, The Good Fortune, was arrested in the town of Bristol in the very act of attempting to sell to a merchant of that place several valuable gems from a quantity which he carried with him tied up in a red bandanna handkerchief.

In the confession of which Duckworthy afterward delivered himself he declared that Captain Keitt, after his great adventure, having sailed from Africa in safety, and so reached the shores of the New World, had wrecked The Good Fortune on a coral reef off the Windward Islands; that he then immediately deserted the ship, and together with Duckworthy himself, the sailing master (who was a Portuguese), the captain of a brig, The Bloody Hand (a consort of Keitt’s), and a villainous rascal named Hunt (who, occupying no precise position among the pirates, was at once the instigator of and the partaker in the greatest part of Captain Keitt’s wickednesses), made his way to the nearest port of safety. These five worthies at last fetched the island of Jamaica, bringing with them all of the jewels and some of the gold that had been captured from The Sun of the East.

But, upon coming to a division of their booty, it was presently discovered that the Rajah’s ruby had mysteriously disappeared from the collection of jewels to be divided. The other pirates immediately suspected their captain of having secretly purloined it, and, indeed, so certain were they of his turpitude that they immediately set about taking means to force a confession from him.

In this, however, they were so far unsuccessful that the captain, refusing to yield to their importunities, had suffered himself to die under their hands, and had so carried the secret of the hiding place of the great ruby–if he possessed such a secret–along with him.

Hereupon she took the little ivory ball in her hand, and, with a turn of her beautiful wrists, unscrewed a lid so nicely and cunningly adjusted that no eye could have detected where it was joined to the parent globe. Within was a fleece of raw silk containing an object which she presently displayed before the astonished gaze of our hero. It was a red stone of about the bigness of a plover’s egg, and which glowed and flamed with such an exquisite and ruddy brilliancy as to dazzle even Jonathan’s inexperienced eyes. Indeed, he did not need to be informed of the priceless value of the treasure, which he beheld in the rosy palm extended toward him. How long he gazed at this extraordinary jewel he knew not, but he was aroused from his contemplation by the sound of the lady’s voice addressing him. “The three villains,” said she, “who have this day met their deserts in a violent and bloody death, had by an accident obtained knowledge that this jewel was in my possession. Since then my life has hung upon a thread, and every step that I have taken has been watched by these enemies, the most cruel and relentless that it was ever the lot of any unfortunate to possess. From the mortal dangers of their machinations you have saved me, exhibiting a courage and a determination that cannot be sufficiently applauded. In this you have earned my deepest admiration and regard. I would rather,” she cried, “intrust my life and my happiness to you than into the keeping of any man whom I have ever known! I cannot hope to reward you in such a way as to recompense you for the perils into which my necessities have thrust you; but yet”–and here she hesitated, as though seeking for words in which to express herself–“but yet if you are willing to accept of this jewel, and all of the fortune that belongs to me, together with the person of poor Evaline Keitt herself, not only the stone and the wealth, but the woman also, are yours to dispose of as you see fit!”

Our hero was so struck aback at this unexpected turn that he knew not upon the instant what reply to make. “Friend,” said he, at last, “I thank thee extremely for thy offer, and, though I would not be ungracious, it is yet borne in upon me to testify to thee that as to the stone itself and the fortune–of which thou speakest, and of which I very well know the history–I have no inclination to receive either the one or the other, both the fruits of theft, rapine, and murder. The jewel I have myself beheld three times stained, as it were, with the blood of my fellow man, so that it now has so little value in my sight that I would not give a peppercorn to possess it. Indeed, there is no inducement in the world that could persuade me to accept it, or even to take it again into my hand. As to the rest of thy generous offer, I have only to say that I am, four months hence, to be married to a very comely young woman of Kensington, in Pennsylvania, by name Martha Dobbs, and therefore I am not at all at liberty to consider my inclinations in any other direction.”

Having so delivered himself, Jonathan bowed with such ease as his stiff and awkward joints might command, and thereupon withdrew from the presence of the charmer, who, with cheeks suffused with blushes and with eyes averted, made no endeavor to detain him.

So ended the only adventure of moment that ever happened him in all his life. For thereafter he contented himself with such excitement as his mercantile profession and his extremely peaceful existence might afford.

Epilogue

In conclusion it may be said that when the worthy Jonathan Rugg was married to Martha Dobbs, upon the following June, some mysterious friend presented to the bride a rope of pearls of such considerable value that when they were realized into money our hero was enabled to enter into partnership with his former patron the worthy Jeremiah Doolittle, and that, having made such a beginning, he by and by arose to become, in his day, one of the leading merchants of his native town of Philadelphia.

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