FORTY FATHOM TRAWLERS
The Frozen Pirate
William Clark Russell
Radio Adaptation by James Whipple
EIGHT BELLS: BELL.
EIGHT BELLS: QUARTET.
SEA THEME: ORCHESTRA.
ANNOUNCER: Commercial copy followed by:
And now let's go below and see if we can't get the boys to sing some sea
chanties for us. We might even get Old Forty Fathom to spin us a yarn. If
young Peter Pillbeam is below he'll get a story out of Old Forty
Fathom, so leave your troubles ashore and (fading) let's see what we can scare
up for entertainment this cruise.
CROWD: FADE IN VOICES OVERLAPPING.
SAILOR 1: Aw, be a good scout, Alf.
SAILOR 2: How about a little Java, Alf, old ship?
SAILOR 3: Aye, and a hunk of apple pie.
SAILOR 4: Any of that duff left, cookie?
ALFRED: 'Old on there--Get out o' that icebox, Peter. Get away from them pies,
Danny! Blyme if ye ain't worse than them newspapermen wot was aboard the
Flow last week.
PETER: No, we ain't, Alf. Gosh, I never saw anyone eat like those fellows!
SAILOR 1: Yeah. We did all the work and those newspaper men did all the
ALFRED: Yes, they did! You fellows ate your share, right enough.
SAILOR 2: Well, what are you kicking about? You didn't have to cook it.
ALFRED: That I didn't but you're on the Spray now and I ain't washin'
extra dishes for no one.
SAILOR 3: Not even for a song, you old grouch?
ALFRED: Well now, I ain't sayin' that if ye'll pay for the extra trouble with
a little song that there might not be an extra pie or two.
COTE: Come on, boys. We didn't expect to get away with it anyhow so let's pay
SEA SONG: QUARTET.
CROWD: MEN ALL ASK ALFRED FOR THE PIE, ETC.
HAFT: (Fading in.) Did I hear something about pie?
PETER: You sure did, Old Forty Fathom. We just paid in advance for ours and--
ALFRED: We paid in advance! Wot did you do?
ANNOUNCER: (Fading in.) Pie! Why I don't care if I do, Alfred. Thanks.
ALFRED: 'Ello there, Mr. Ball [announcer]. I thought you was up on deck
talkin' about Forty Fathom Fish.
ANNOUNCER: I was, Alfred, until I heard something about apple pie.
ALFRED: Well, 'ere's the pie and I'll make some Java in a jiffy. Now, Peter,
me lad, will ye help me with the dishes afterwards?
PETER: With pleasure, Alfred.
HAFT: Well, now, and can you beat that! That's the first time I ever saw you
so willing to help, Peter.
PETER: Don't you think that a request, nicely asked, should be granted, Old
HAFT: Of course I do, Peter. Any man that won't put himself out a little in
this world is no good.
PETER: Well, if that's the case, then get ready to spin a yarn.
HAFT: You don't catch me that way, Peter. Besides, you didn't request a yarn
PETER: Oh, I'm not asking you to tell a story, Old Forty Fathom.
HAFT: What are you driving at then?
PETER: Mr. Ball has letters from over two hundred people asking you to tell
the story of the Frozen Pirate again, and I'm sure you wouldn't refuse a
request like that.
ANNOUNCER: That's right, sir. Here are the letters. Now you can't refuse all
these requests, can you?
HAFT: I actually think you and Peter plot together to see how you can trick me
into spinnin' yarns. (Laughs.) Well, I'm as good as my word and if you have
all those letters asking for the yarn of the Frozen Pirate, they'll have it.
BIZ: COMMENTS FROM MEN.
HAFT: If I'm not mistaken, the last time I told you lads that story you were
all around the galley stove drinking coffee and that's just the way this yarn
begins. It was during a terrible gale off the Horn that the crew of the brig
Laughing Mary was huddled around the stove in the cabin. The decks were
awash, the brig was at the mercy of the gale and with the helm lashed they
were waiting for the gale to abate or a watery grave for all hands. The black
cook, Sam, and an ordinary seaman were fo'ard, but the rest of the crew was
aft in the captain's cabin. The wind was like the shrieking of devils--icy and
blowing right from the south polar regions. (Fading.) But even in the face of
almost certain death they were brave.
BIZ: STORM EFFECTS.
RODNEY: (On cue.) We're in an ugly part of the world, Captain Rosy. When bad
sailors die they're sent here, I reckon.
CAPTAIN ROSY: I've been hove to under bare poles more than once in my time,
but never through so long a stretch.
RODNEY: What southing do you allow our drift will be giving us, Captain?
CAPTAIN ROSY: All four miles an hour, Mr. Rodney; and let me tell you, Mr.
Mate, the Antarctic Circle won't be far off presently, and boil me if I don't
have the naming of the tallest land; for, d'ye see, I've a mind to be known
after I'm dead, and there's nothing like your signature on a mountain to be
RODNEY: Thank God for your sense of humor, sir,--it has kept us all up these
CROWD: WARNING CRIES FROM DISTANCE.
CAPTAIN ROSY: What's that? Man washed overboard?... What is it, man? Speak up!
SEAMAN: No, sir--iceberg dead ahead.
CAPTAIN ROSY: Merciful heavens!
RODNEY: An iceberg!
CAPTAIN ROSY: Cast the helm adrift! Two hands stand by it. Fo'rd, some of ye,
and loose the forestays'l, and show the head of it.
CROWD: MURMUR FROM MEN.
SEAMAN: No man can get fo'ard and live, sir--he'll be washed overboard.
RODNEY: I'll lead--follow me who will!
SAM: Ah'll hep you, Massa Rodney. (Fading.)
CAPTAIN ROSY: Another hand lay aft and help with the helm -- quick.
RODNEY: (At distance.) Get a drag upon the sheet, lads, and then aft with you
for your lives.
CROWD: YELLS OF FRIGHT AND GENERAL CONFUSION.
BIZ: CRASH AND SPLINTERING OF SHIP AND ICEBERG.
CROWD: AD LIB. OF CREW.
BIZ: FADE ALL NOISES.
HAFT: (Cue.) Well, lads, the mate Rodney and Sam, the negro cook, were the
only men left alive after the brig crashed on that iceberg.
CROWD: MURMUR FROM MEN.
HAFT: Rodney and the cook found that one boat had escaped being stove in and,
with a few provisions hastily gathered, they launched the boat just before the
brig sank to an icy grave. For five days they were blown before the gale, and
they were very near death when they came in sight of an icy coast where they
landed and fell exhausted on the hard snow. (Fading.) When they came to, their
boat had drifted far to sea and they were left to face a frozen death with no
shelter or food.
BIZ: WIND, NOT TOO HEAVY.
SAM: Oh, Lord, fo'give me fo' my sins--Ah never meant to steal dat watch from
de bo'sun-- Oh, Lord, we is done goners now-- Oh, Lord--
RODNEY: Now quit that, Sam--we're in a tight fix and the Lord will help us
much faster if we help ourselves. Get up off your knees and let's look around.
SAM: Oh, Massa Rodney, don't you go fo' to leave me. De good book done say it
ain't right fo' man to be by himself.
RODNEY: Well, come on with me, then. Keep your eyes peeled and let's see if
there's any shelter.
BIZ: CRUNCHING OF SNOW AS THEY WALK.
SAM: Lawdy, but dis icy snow am hard to walk on. Does you suppose, Massa
Rodney, does you suppose dat--(Yell from Sam in mortal terror.) Look yonder!
Look yonder! Hit's a ghost! It's de debil hisself. (Starts to moan.)
BIZ: CRUNCHING OF SNOW STOPS.
RODNEY: Am I going mad, too! A dead man, but what an outlandish costume--
plush breeches--high leather boots--an ermine cape! Why, he's dressed in the
clothes of a century past.
BIZ: CRUNCHING OF SNOW RESUMES.
SAM: Don't go near him, Massa Rodney--as sho as you live dat's de debil and
he's come to take dis cullud boy. (Moans.)
BIZ: CRUNCHING STOPS.
RODNEY: Quiet, Sam! I thought I was mad or dreaming for a moment. That man's
dead--frozen--he must have been shipwrecked or marooned years ago. Look, Sam--
even his beard and hair are frozen like wire--poor devil!
SAM: (Awed voice.) How long you suppose he been dead, Massa Rodney?
RODNEY: I don't know, Sam. But this cold has preserved him as he was the day
he died. What an evil, leering face! If he wasn't a pirate I'll miss my guess.
Well, I wonder if he has flint and steel in his pockets--it may save our lives
if he has, though heaven knows what we'll find to eat.
SAM: You look, Massa Rodney, Ah ain't goin' to tech dat pirate--
RODNEY: Look here! Gold--Spanish pieces of eight! And look at this
SAM: Golly, is dem white stones diamonds?
RODNEY: They are, Sam,--and worth a fortune.
SAM: Ah'd give fo' of dem watches right now fo' one small, measly, half-
RODNEY: So would I, Sam. Here, let's take this chap's cutlass--We may need it
to chip a hole in the ice to shelter us from this wind. Well, there's nothing
else in his pockets. Here, Sam, take this velvet waistcoat--I'll take the fur
cape. Poor devil, he's beyond needing their warmth. And now let's make a
BIZ: CRUNCHING SNOW.
SAM: All right, Ah's comin'--But if Ah wasn't so cold Ah sho wouldn't put on
no dead pirate's clothes. (Fading.) Hey, wait fo' me, Massa Rodney.
BIZ: FADE EFFECTS WITH VOICE.
PETER: (On cue.) Gee, Old Forty Fathom, I think I'd be as scared as Sam.
ALFRED: Keep quiet, Peter, and let's hear how they come out.
HAFT: Well, boys, they found food and they found shelter--but I doubt if
anyone here would care to face what they did for all the food and shelter in
CROWD: AD LIB. QUESTIONS FROM CREW.
HAFT: They found an ancient ship, so covered with ice that they had to hack
their way into the cabin, and there at the table were two members of the crew,
frozen to death. They found cheeses, hogsheads of wine, flour and everything,
frozen like iron, and a vast amount of richly ornamented pistols and cutlasses
which assured Rodney that they had stumbled on a pirate craft of a century
past. They found flint and steel and started a fire in the stove and thawed
out some food and brandy; then they decided to get rid of the two bodies. The
first one they managed to get on deck with ease, but the second man weighed
well over two hundred pounds and was frozen in such a position that he
couldn't get through the small door so they propped him (fading) in a chair
near the fire to thaw out so they could straighten his body and pass him
through the door.
RODNEY: (On cue.) Sam, as soon as this fellow is thawed out and we get him on
deck, gather the warmest of those clothes and make up two berths. At least we
won't freeze with warm clothing and a fire.
SAM: No, suh, we sho' won't. Dar's enough food to last us fo' evah, Massa
Rodney, and Ah done found a lot ob coal fo' de stove.
RODNEY: Put some of those hams in the oven and thaw them out. Sam, there's
enough rare wine aboard this ship to make us rich if we could get it to
England. Just think, old Spanish wine nearly a hundred years old.
SAM: Den if dat wine is dat old, dis heah pirate would be ovah a hundred years
old if he was alive?
RODNEY: That's right, Sam, over a hundred years old and this ice has preserved
him so that he doesn't look a day over forty-five--just as when he died.
SAM: He sho' am a mean-lookin' pirate--look at dat nose--just lak a poll
parrot--ain't he de fierce-lookin'--(Yell from Sam in mortal horror.)
RODNEY: Sam! What's wrong?
SAM: His leg! De pirate's leg done moved! Oh, Lord, save mah soul!
RODNEY: Quit that, Sam-- Of course his leg moved--his body was stiff from cold
and he's thawing out, that's all. That's why I put him by the fire--so we
could straighten him out.
PIRATE: (Long groan and sigh.)
SAM: (Yell.) He's alive, Massa Rodney--he's alive--(fading) It's de debil
himself and I'se not waitin' fo' him to catch me.
PIRATE: (Groans again.)
RODNEY: Great heavens, he is alive! Here, get me some brandy! Quick! If
this man's alive we've got to save him.
SAM: (Frightened; fading in.) Oh, Lord, Massa Rodney, Ah hopes you knows
what's you is doin' -- bringin' de debil back to life....
RODNEY: Quiet, Sam. Now strip his clothes off and rub his feet well while I
force this brandy down his throat.
SAM: Oh, Lord, fo'give dis heah darky for what he gwine t' do.
MUSIC: MUSIC IN, UP AND OUT.
PIRATE: (Heavy snoring.)
SAM: (Whisper.) He been asleep now about twelve hours.... You suppose he gwine
to sleep fo' fifty years lak when he was friz?
RODNEY: This is the most miraculous thing I've ever heard of. If we're ever
saved and tell this story, we'll be laughed at.
SAM: Ain't nobody gwine to laugh at me. No, suh, Ah ain't never gwine to tell
PIRATE: (Snoring ends in big snort and half growl.)
SAM: Oh, mah Lord!
PIRATE: (Yawns heavily. Then fiercely.) Sacre mon dieu! Qui Ítes vous?
RODNEY: Don't try to get up. Lie quietly for awhile, you'll--
PIRATE: You speak the English, eh? Sacre, where you come from?
RODNEY: We are two shipwrecked sailors, blown ashore on this iceberg like
PIRATE: How long you been here, eh?
RODNEY: Three days.
PIRATE: Three days! and I have slept for three days?
RODNEY: I think much longer than that....
PIRATE: What month is this?
PIRATE: July? Impossible. Let me think--now I have it--Guiseppe Trentanove and
I were in the cabin. He had fallen blind with the glare of the ice. He fell
asleep at the table and then I, too, feel drowzy and fall asleep. Sacre, now I
remember. We were locked in the ice in November. We stay six months here. The
crew will not wait. They take to the small boats--all but three of us....
Where they are?
RODNEY: One man is frozen on the ice, the other we placed on deck. They are
PIRATE: And you say this is July--four months I sleep? Impossible.
RODNEY: What year was it when you fell in with the ice?
PIRATE: What year? What year could it be but 1753.
RODNEY: Great heavens! And this is 1801.
PIRATE: (Laughs.) Bah! Your mind is a little crazed from hard-ship. Shipwreck
shuffles dates as cardplayer does cards, and the best of us go wrong in
famine, loneliness and cold. Never mind, all will return to you like it did to
SAM: (Whisper.) He's crazy hisself, Massa Rodney--he don't know he done sleep
fo' fifty years.
PIRATE: (Fiercely.) What's that, you black--
SAM: Ah didn't say a word, Mr. Pirate-- Ah was just yawnin'--
PIRATE: Pirate! No man lives who knows that much!
RODNEY: Here, let's not quarrel. Couldn't we know the nature of your craft by
its very looks--and by this watch here?
PIRATE: True--but that watch--it was Mendoza's, the captain's. So he is frozen
dead--served him right.
RODNEY: Tell me more of your ship. What ship is this?
PIRATE: The Boca del Dragon. Well, why not the truth? We flew the black
flag, as you have guessed. I am Jules Tassard, third in command. We took what
we wanted. One ship we took--a very rich prize--then we lock her people under
hatches, set fire to the ship. No witnesses, n'est ce pas? Who gives us
quarter but to hang us? Then we hit the storm. Sacre! how she blow! No sun for
weeks--colder all the time. When the sun she shine again we find ourselves
lock in the ice (laugh)--and you say that happen fifty years ago! Soon you get
back your senses like me. Fifty years! (Laughs heartily.) Hey, where you go?
RODNEY: (Off slightly.) To bring your companions here to the fire, to rub them
like we did you and to bring them to, if possible.
PIRATE: Fool! They are stone-blind. Unless you could return them their sight
with their life, they would curse you for disturbing them. Let them sleep!
They are dead! But I, Jules Tassard, live! (Laughs.) The devil is loyal to his
own! And now, bring me some broth and brandy and I will sleep again. (Yawns.)
And then I will show you treasures such as you never dreamed of--the ransom of
kings--there were three of us left to share this treasure before I fell
asleep. Now there are three of us again--that is, if we all live.
PIRATE: (Laughs.) But come, make haste with the food--I am starving and must
get back my strength.... (Fading.) ... Strange how my bones ache--I'm as stiff
as an old man.
MUSIC: MUSIC IN, UP AND OUT.
PIRATE: (Low voice, full of excitement and greed.) And these diamonds I tore
from the ears of a haughty Spanish lady.
SAM: (Awed voice.) Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Massa Rodney, a whole chest full ob
PIRATE: And chests of minted gold--Spanish gold, pieces of eight.
BIZ: CLINK OF MONEY AS IT TRICKLES THROUGH HIS FINGERS.
PIRATE: Two heavy chests of solid gold bars! Now my friend, talk to me of
honorable life after seeing this! Is not here something worth going to the
RODNEY: 'Tis a pretty pocketful. How much do you reckon it at?
PIRATE: Close to one hundred thousand pounds.
RODNEY: Five hundred thousand dollars! And the wines! Another large fortune in
wines--rare wines, fifty years old.
PIRATE: (Laughs.) Your mind is still weak from your adventures, my friend. You
still think it is the year 1801, eh?
RODNEY: Never mind--perhaps my mind is wandering a bit. Five hundred
thousand dollars and a cargo of rare wines, worth its weight in gold. But
come--enough of this--all the treasure in the world won't avail us--
PIRATE: You still think our prospects black?
RODNEY: As black as the flag you sailed under, Jules Tassard.
PIRATE: I have cut men's throats for less than that! It is a jolly flag--The
Jolly Roger! But we will not quarrel. How about your clever plan of blowing
the schooner free with gunpowder?
RODNEY: I have been thinking of the age of this ship. She might leak like a
sieve and then we'd lose everything, even our food and shelter.
PIRATE: Age? She was only built four years ago and she has not been strained
by the ice. The ice she just close in and....
RODNEY: Well, have it your way about her age. If we do get her free we can
make shift to the nearest port and ship a crew.
PIRATE: Do you want to be hanged, you fool? You would convey the most noted
pirate of the age, with plunder in her, to a port where we find ships of war?
Ma foi, Mr. Rodney, you are more crazy than I thought.
RODNEY: After all these years she'll be completely forgotten.
PIRATE: Look here--let's have no more talk about years. You may be as mad as
you please on that point, but they don't hang me. We will bury this treasure
on an island--then for the Tortugas where we find men to defend the treasure
which we recover from the island. But to go in this ship with no crew but
ourselves! Ma foi! Sacre! The first cruiser take us and then, ho! for the
RODNEY: All right, but let's get the schooner free first. You have plenty of
powder and slow matches?
PIRATE: Plenty in the gunner's stores.
RODNEY: Then tomorrow we'll all three break out the powder and try our luck.
PIRATE: Now you are talking sense! Some more of that brandy, black boy.
(Fading.) Let's make merry tonight--tomorrow we may be blown up with the ship.
PETER: (Cue.) Did they get the schooner free, Old Forty Fathom?
ALFRED: Blyme, will ye keep quiet, Peter? Always interruptin' a good yarn with
questions. 'Ow about it, Captain, did they get blowed up and lose the
HAFT: (Laughs.) Just pipe down, both of you, and I'll tell you. Rodney, Sam
and the pirate rigged up tackle, hoisted the kegs of powder on deck, slid them
ashore and went to work layin' their mines. They had to remain aboard and run
the risk of being blown up because if the schooner did free herself they'd be
out of luck ashore. (Fading.) It was a terrible risk, but it meant freedom and
wealth on one hand or the prospect of ending their days on that iceberg.
RODNEY: (Cue.) Are you ready, Sam?
SAM: (Stuttering in his fright.) Y-y-yas, sir....
RODNEY: Jules Tassard, you have made your peace with God?
PIRATE: With the devil, you mean. I'm ready. Yo-ho, for the open seas!
RODNEY: Then light your fuses when I give the word and get on the schooner as
fast as possible. I don't trust these old slow matches.
PIRATE: Fifty years old, aren't they, Mr. Rodney? (Sneering laugh.)
SAM: (Low voice.) But you is mo' dan a hundred, you rambunctious old pirate.
RODNEY: All ready! Light your fuses! ... and may God have mercy on our souls!
BIZ: FUSES: SOUND OF HURRIED FEET ON CRUNCHING SNOW: PAUSE.
SAM: (Scared.) Is it gwine to work, Massa Rodney?
RODNEY: Quiet, Sam! (Pause.)
BIZ: SERIES OF EXPLOSIONS FAIRLY CLOSE TOGETHER.
SAM: (Through explosions.) Oh, Lord, Ah'm gwine to fly to heaven on wings.
PIRATE: (Disappointed.) She has not moved--your scheme is a failure....
RODNEY: I don't know that my scheme is a failure. Did you expect that the
blast would blow the ice with the schooner on it clear into the open sea? If
the ice is so shaken that the waves will separate the pieces, my scheme will
prove all right.
PIRATE: (Passionately.) I tell you the schooner is fixed in the ice. It is
your fault--but you will meddle no more! The Boca del Dragon is mine--
mine, do you understand? (Voice breaks.) What made you awake me? I was
at peace. What demon forced you to bring me back to this disappointment?
RODNEY: (Coldly.) I have no apology to offer for saving your life nor for this
scheme of mine.
PIRATE: (Old man's voice.) I feel dazed. I am weak and giddy. Strange, I find
my speech difficult. Do you notice I halt and utter thickly?
RODNEY: You are all right--we are all disappointed. You probably hurt your
head when you fell on the deck just now from the explosion.
PIRATE: (Thickly.) No--it is my whole body--Mon dieu--my bones ache and
everything is getting dark. How faint I am....
SAM: Look at his hair, Massa Rodney--it's white! Oh, Lordy, he's
turning into an old man.
RODNEY: Quick, Sam, some brandy. (To pirate.) Here--lean on me--you'll be all
right in a moment.
PIRATE: How's that? I can't hear you.
RODNEY: (Loud.) You'll be all right. (Lower.) My God, Sam, what a sight! A
moment ago he was a middle-aged man--now he looks to be over a hundred. Hurry
with that brandy.
PIRATE: 'Tis a cold I have, my friend, just a cold. Now I know what rheumatism
is--ha, ha, ha. Jules Tassard, strongest man on the seven seas--rheumatism,
ha, ha, ha.... But my capers are not over yet--he, he, he; no, no! Vive
l'amour! Vive la joie! The sun is coming--the sun is the fountain of youth,
he, he, he. Aye, mon brave, there are some shakes in these stout legs yet. He,
he, he. (Starts muttering to himself.)
SAM: Now he ought to have a lookin' glass, Massa Rodney,--den he won't argue
no mo' about how old dis heah boat is.
RODNEY: Poor devil--This disappointment has shocked him so that he has aged
fifty years right before our eyes. Let's take him to his--
BIZ: CRACKLING NOISE: EXPLOSIONS LIKE CRACKING STICKS.
SAM: She's slidin' to de water--she's sliding to de water--Oh, Lord, ah thank
you on my knees!
RODNEY: Get up and stand by, Sam, or we'll be swamped. If she slides free and
floats there are only two of us to sail her. (Pause.) She's free! (Fading.)
Sam, she's free and she floats! -- Now pray for our souls.
MUSIC: MUSIC IN, UP AND OUT.
HAFT: Well, lads, the old pirate died that night, calling on God to forgive
his sins, and the negro cook and Rodney, the mate, sailed that old pirate
schooner through ice, through storm and peril, until they came near the Horn
again and there they sighted a New Bedford whaler who loaned them four men
from their crew in exchange for many casks of valuable wine. Nothing was said
about the treasure and they finally landed in England, safe from their
hardships and rich beyond their wildest dreams.
CROWD: AD LIB. COMMENT.
PETER: But, Old Forty Fathom--how could a man really be frozen stiff for so
many years and return to life? Honest now.
HAFT: Now, Peter, why spoil a good story? (Laughs.)
SEA THEME: DOWN ON CUE.
Originally broadcast in 1929 or '30.