Once upon a time there was a terrible pirate named Captain Stumpy who thought he was the scariest pirate to ever sail the seven seas. He was meaner than the meanest bully and greedier than the greediest miser. He woke up in the morning and started stealing before breakfast and he didn’t stop murdering until he went to bed at night. He had heaps of treasure stored in chests on his ship and he never, ever shared any of it with anyone.
Then one day, after a particularly fierce battle, in which he sunk an unsuspecting ship after carrying off two big trunks of gold, he tried to sail away with an evil laugh as usual. But he couldn’t. His ship wouldn’t move even an inch. Captain Stumpy could see the wind blowing and the sails getting bigger and bigger. But the ship didn’t budge. Captain Stumpy got red in the face. He cursed and yelled and jumped up in down in anger. But none of that helped the ship move at all. The truth could not be denied. The ship was too heavy. All that treasure that Captain Stumpy had stolen was weighing it down. He tried to lighten the load by throwing all his crew into the sea, but it wasn’t enough. So finally, Captain Stumpy loaded four great chests full of treasure and put them in a little boat and rowed them over to a deserted island to find a place to hide them. Captain Stumpy went all the way to the middle of the island and dug a big hole. Then he put all four chests into the hole and covered them over with dirt. Then Captain Stumpy sailed away to steal some more, and he was happy. He knew that no one would ever find that buried treasure.
He was wrong.
What Captain Stumpy didn’t know was that a few weeks before there had a been a shipwreck near that island. A shipwreck with only one survivor, a little boy named John. John had been living alone on that island, eating fish and coconuts and sleeping under the stars. When he saw Captain Stumpy coming, he thought he was going to be rescued. When he saw the black eye patch and the wooden leg and realized who had landed on his island, he was very afraid and hid himself behind some rocks. Still, he spied and saw where Captain Stumpy buried that treasure, and when the pirate was long gone, he went and dug up that treasure and laughed and laughed because now he had enough gold pieces to fill a bathtub but not one place to spend them.
For a whole year, John lived on that island with that treasure before one day a ship came along and rescued him and took him back to the town where he lived. John showed the captain of the ship the pirate treasure swore him to secrecy, and they agreed that half of it would belong to the captain and the other half to John, so that when John finally came home to his aunt and uncle’s house, he had four great chests of gold with him. John and his aunt and uncle were scared to tell anyone about the treasure. They were afraid that bad people might try to steal it or worst of all that Captain Stumpy might hear about it and come looking for John. So instead of buying a big house and new clothes and expensive food, they kept the treasure hidden in a closet and only bought things they needed. And anytime someone in their town fell on hard times or had a special need, John would take a little treasure from the chests and see to it that the person got whatever they needed.
No one ever knew where the money came from until one day when a young washerwoman was in the house washing clothes and she accidentally opened the closet where the chests were kept. She saw the big wooden chests with their iron bindings and she saw the mark of Captain Stumpy on the their lids. The washerwoman didn’t mean to do any harm; she never meant to talk about the chests, but she couldn’t help but tell her very best friend. That friend told just one more friend, and that friend just one more friend, and before long the rumor had been spread that young John had a house full of pirate treasure stolen from Captain Stumpy.
When Captain Stumpy heard this rumor, you can guess how furious he was. He immediately rushed to the deserted island to check on his treasure, and when he found it was missing, he went into such a rage as has never been seen before. He stomped his feet. He screamed and wailed. He hacked at trees with his pirate sword. He pulled out tufts of his beard. That last bit hurt quite a lot, and that calmed him down just a little. Then he jumped onto his ship and sailed as fast as he could to the town where John lived. It didn’t take him long to find John’s house, and when he got there, he cried out in a terrible pirate voice, “AAAAAARRRRRGH! Where is the boy who dared to steal treasure from Captain Stumpy? Come out and show yourself!”
Everyone on the street heard him yelling, and everyone quailed with fear and hid inside their houses. But young John was very brave. He sent his aunt and uncle out the back door to safety and slowly went out alone to meet Captain Stumpy.
When Captain Stumpy saw how young the boy John was, he was angrier than ever, but he just laughed a very evil laugh. “You! You stole from Captain Stumpy? You may be just a child, but that is all the more reason why I should kill you. I won’t have anyone saying that Captain Stumpy could lose gold to a lad. Aaarrrm yourself, boy. My sword is ready for you.”
John did not have a sword or any kind of weapon, so he picked up the only thing he could see that might be of use: an old umbrella that was lying by the front door. With a roar of rage, Captain Stumpy ran toward John and they began to fight. It didn’t take long for Captain Stumpy’s sword to completely destroy the feeble umbrella, and if John hadn’t been so little and quick he would soon have had his head cut off. As it was, he found it very difficult to stay out of reach of that terrible sword. But just when he thought that all hope was gone, he heard a great roar from all around him.
The whole street was full of people. While the two had been fighting, every man and woman who had ever been helped by John had come creeping up, armed with fireplace tools and frying pans, pitchforks and paperweights. When Captain Stumpy saw that he was surrounded, he shook in his boots. In all his days as a pirate, no one had ever stood up to him, and he found it quite terrifying. With amazing speed he took off down the street, leaving John, leaving the treasure, leaving the townspeople. He was happy to have escaped with his own life.
After that story got around, no one was afraid of Captain Stumpy any more. In every port they would laugh when his name was mentioned. Captain Stumpy was so ashamed that he never sailed the seven seas again.
And as for John, he went on living quietly in that town among the best friends a boy could have.