There was a man who loved his daughter and wanted her to be most happy. The problem was simple: She wished to marry. Very beautiful, she should have no difficulty finding a husband; but her loving father was a pirate, who sailed the Caribbean preying on merchantmen from every land.
Although the father was a buccaneer, he would not accept a scurvied sea dog for a son-in-law. His knew daughter deserved more. Having lost his own wife overboard—she ran off with a merchant who was being held for ransom—the pirate knew his daughter might run away rather than spending a lifetime pining for love.
The captain did not quail at battle nor fear death, but the thought of losing his daughter was more than he could bear. He contemplated surrender. He would sail close enough to the coast of some land of decent suitors and in the middle of the night steal off with the girl, throw himself on the mercy of the courts, and be content knowing that his daughter would be free to find her man.
That would be a plan; he could at least spend the later years of his life waiting for his daughter and his grandchildren to visit him in prison; for to prison he would surely be sent. He would be sent, that was, if he turned over the treasure which his pirating had earned. Without the treasure, he was sure to be consigned to the gallows. After all, without wealth he was just—and he knew what the word might mean— a pirate. From the gibbet there would be no visits, no grandchildren to dangle on his knee.
On the other hand, if he were to try to take the treasure with him, his crew would turn on him. Not only would he be killed, but what would happen to his daughter, especially as there was not a man aboard who did not from time to time drool in her direction.
The captain anguished, thought, reflected, schemed, and even prayed. He resolved to find a likely lad, one bright, handsome, and to his daughter’s taste. He would take this young man as an apprentice, teach him the pirating trade, and make him—with the aide of his daughter’s marriage bed—his heir. Of course the young man would have to prove willing, but he knew that fortune had wooed many a man and that a great dowry would bait the hook.
An advertisement was sent around the world. Three photographs were supplied: one the beautiful young woman, a second of chests of treasure, and the third? Why the pirate ship herself.
At the appointed hour and place a large number of suitors presented themselves. The captain and his daughter arrived and quickly discarded those men who were not comely, lacked strength and athleticism, and of course those who, although now on land, still showed the ravishes of le mal de mer. For all this culling, the number was still substantial.
A question was then proposed, and each man responded privately. The question: The same three photographs were displayed. Each man was asked which had moved him most and why. At the end only one man remained:
“Why the ship,” he had replied. “A beautiful woman no matter how loved still grows old. Treasure is grand, but one can find another prize. But a ship with which to seek all that one desires, that is happiness enough for life.”
This story is told among the pirate race. The man who loves his ship the most of all will be the master of the trade.