a backdrop layered much like a pop-up book. A small cut-out of a pirate
ship passes between the cut-out waves of the drop, firing a cannon to
mark its entrance. The pirates themselves appear, celebrating because
their young apprentice, Frederic, attains adulthood today, and is now a
full-fledged member of their band. But Frederic announces that he will
leave the pirates immediately. He had done his best for the pirates
until now only out of his deep devotion to his duty under his
apprenticeship which, after all, had been a mistake.
are deeply wounded, and Ruth, Frederic's nanny, explains. She had been
directed by Frederic's father to apprentice Frederic to a pilot, but
misheard, and bound him to a pirate instead.
forgives Ruth her mistake, and addresses the pirates: "Individually, I
love you all with affection unspeakable, but, collectively, I look upon
you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation." He tearfully
vows to exterminate them all. But, since the time is only half-past
eleven and he is a pirate until twelve, he explains why they don't make
very good pirates: their reputation for nobleness has gotten about, so
that every person captured claims to be an orphan and invokes the
worried about her own fate, and proposes herself in marriage to
Frederic. Frederic accepts, but with some reservation. Ruth is the only
woman he knows; what if he meets another and finds out that Ruth is
plain? The pirates, only too glad to let her go, assure him that "there
are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth." The Pirate King bids Ruth
and Frederic farewell, joyously returning to his pirate's life .
Frederic seeks reassurances from Ruth about their upcoming alliance,
which she gives as best she can without outright lying. Their parley is
interrupted by singing voices, and Frederic spies a group of beautiful
young women. Looking upon them, he realizes he has been tricked by Ruth,
and dismisses her. Frederic, ashamed of his piratical appearance, hides
from the approaching young women.
Stanley's daughters enter, seeking a secluded spot for a picnic. Seeing
them about to take off their shoes and play in the water (how
indecent!), Frederic reveals himself to them, warning them that their
picnic spot is a pirates' lair. The daughters are frightened of him as a
pirate, but attracted to his youthful good looks. He proposes marriage
to all of them at once, but they reject him.
Mabel appears. She is another of the Major-General's daughters, and she
is astonishingly beautiful. She chides her sisters for their lack of
pity, and consoles Frederic. As Frederic and Mabel make each other's
acquaintance, the other daughters pretend to give them some time alone
while they chat about the weather.
hears the pirates approaching, and urges the daughters to flee before
them. But they stand so long singing about their need to escape that
they fail to actually do so. The pirates capture the girls, although
their notion of "rape" is to carry the girls off to a minister and marry
them on the spot. Mabel stops them, warning them that their father is an
illustrious personage: a Major-General! And he appears, boasting of his
knowledge and abilities.
Major-General has been apprised of the situation, he objects to having
pirates as sons-in-law. The Pirate King responds, "We object to
Major-Generals as fathers-in-law. But we waive that point." The
Major-General begs them not to rob him of his daughters, "the sole,
remaining propos of [his] old age," as he is (of course) an orphan boy.
The pirates let him go, and everybody celebrates, except poor abandoned
Major-General's daughters try to comfort him. He is disconsolate because
he has dishonored his ancestors by escaping the pirates through a lie.
Frederic reminds him that he has only recently bought his lands and
title, and therefore cannot do too much damage to his family legacy. The
Major-General explains that there are indeed somebody's ancestors buried
on his land, and since he bought the land and all its contents, they are
therefore his ancestors.
Major-General says he will be much more comfortable when Frederic has
exterminated the pirates. Frederic summons his army of policemen, who
are less than eager to go to battle. Mabel and the other daughters urge
them on, and the policemen vow to go and do their duty. But they keep
vowing for a long time before they are finally persuaded to go.
relief at finally atoning for his years of piracy is interrupted by none
other than Ruth and the Pirate King. They know of Frederic's love of
paradoxes, and propose a most ingenious one to him. It seems Frederic
was born on Leap Day, February 29, which only comes once every four
years. Frederick is twenty-one years old, therefore, but has had only
five birthdays. Unfortunately, the terms of his pirate apprenticeship
are until his twenty-first birthday. By the terms of his indenture, he
will remain a pirate until he is eighty-four years old! Frederic, bound
by his sense of duty, agrees to go with them, bemoaning his fate and his
consequential loss of Mabel. Further constricted to duty, Frederic
informs the Pirate King of the Major-General's deception. The Pirate
King vows revenge.
left alone with Mabel, and he informs her of the sad situation. She begs
him to ignore his duty, but he cannot. They vow to remain true until
Frederic is free to marry her, in 1940. Frederic leaves to join the
pirates, and Mabel mourns. But she is determined to go on and urges the
policemen on to fight the pirates even though their commander has
switched sides. The policemen don't like their job - after all,
criminals are people too - but they set off to do it.
approach to get their revenge, and the policemen bravely hide. The
pirates plot their burglary. Frederic quiets them as the Major-General
approaches, kept from his sleep by a guilty conscience. Just as his
daughters come out to comfort him, the pirates ambush them, and are in
turn ambushed by the police.
ensues. The police duel with billy clubs, the daughters with parasols.
The pirates win the battle, but the sergeant of the police calls on them
to yield in Queen Victoria's name. The pirates surrender immediately,
because "with all their faults, they love their queen."
pirates can be led away, Ruth steps forward and reveals them as prodigal
sons of titled families. The pirates are instantly forgiven, as "peers
will be peers." Frederic is reunited with Mabel, Ruth is swept up by the
sergeant, the pirates and daughters pair off, and there is a happy
ending for all.