Now, we sailed as fast as the wind could take us from that dreadful place. We called it the “Windy Isle” after observing the patterns nearby. I spent a few days recovering after my going overboard and becoming lost, and, needless to say, I was in distress. In search of another isle, we were miserably hungry, for our stock was utterly expended!
I called Tom from deck. “A storm lies up ahead, sir! Shall I steer her towards land?”
“I am afraid not, cap’n,” Tom spoke, reading a chart, “our passage is leading us through a small channel between rocky isles. There shan’t be resources here. A larger isle lies ahead; I do believe it will provide us with food.”
My log says that we were at a latitude of twenty-five and a longitude of three-hundred and twenty-five. It had been only two days since my devastation on the Windy Isle. We were now headed into another storm and I despised the idea, although I trusted Tom.
It was true that we were starving; I had only eaten a few pieces of fruit and a small biscuit since my last visit to land, and this was more than anyone else. As I recall, the east winds were surprisingly strong for the month of March.
“Captain,” Billy spoke, “I best go below deck and watch after our things to see that nothing crashes or comes loose.”
“Have yourself a good time.” I answered, intent on sailing past the dark, grey clouds. The wind was against us and the large, metal wheel was particularly difficult to steer. I was concerned that we were about to lose another hand from this new development.
My fearing proved to be futile, in the end. Something unusual happened instead. And with this absurdity came a frightful mystery to which my abilities were tested.
We hauled wind and were nearly becalmed. An hour passed and the storm suddenly faded. Tom soon discovered broken bits of wood floating amongst us in the waters. As the sun broke through the clouds, a man was found, floating on a plank in the wreckage. He was coughing up saltwater when we pulled him onto our deck. “Thank you.” said the man, and after some time.
“You are very welcome.” I answered him, observing two large incisions on his shoulder. I helped him take off his vest. I asked him his name and he answered “Francis Goodwyn” with a smile.
My men stood round him silently for multiple moments. He had brown hair and I guessed he was as old as I was. He appeared to be very weak.
Billy then asked him where he had come from and how he became stranded.
The man took a few breaths and told us: “I have come from New England. I was on a whale-hunting expedition when a large storm took the Sirena into the waters; I’ve been separated from my mates.”
“Our condolences.” I said, on behalf of my crew. I told him I would have surely offered him something, but that we hardly had any ration available on the “grand ole’ Seatrail”.
“Oh! there is an isle yonder. I believe it should have food for us!” Mr Goodwyn said.
Tom nodded at me for this was where we were already going.
“Alright. Men to their positions!” I exclaimed.
Goodwyn sat down beside me as I took command and we made our way towards the large, green isle. For a time, I believe I saw smoke rising up from the island so I asked the man if he had visited the isle beforehand.
He seemed though he had not heard me and then answered: “Never! We were going towards the isle from the south when the storm came upon us.” He spoke in a strange manner.
“What is America like?” I asked him.
“Oh, ‘tis wonderful,” he said, looking away from me, “it’s rather like this. But more land and many more people! Have you heard of what has now become of the nation?”
“The war with the French?”
“Oh yes! Just terrible. The unresolved is intolerable. You are English, am I correct?”
“Have you fled like the others? Or are you seeking pleasure?”
“I suppose I am seeking pleasure. But I like to think I am exploring. Yes, exploring. And is whale hunting your business?”
“Why, of course! The oil, you know, is so heavily sought after as of now and we do make a massive profit! I have not the closest idea about what I will be doing next, though.” he said, looking off again.
We were letting down our sails when Tom claimed he had sighted Goodwyn opening the hatch to my quaters. “He was peering inside-looking for loot!”
“I was simply helping myself to some grog. I swear!” he cried.
“We have no ‘grog’ onboard the Seatrial, my Goodwyn.” I told him, not knowing whether to believe the wholly-suspicious Billy
He seemed startled and said, “I am so sorry, sir. It will not happen again.”
I kept a closer watch, but refused to investigate his true motivations.
We anchored off the west coast of the island and took our fifteen-foot rowboat to the shore. The smoke I had seen was now gone and I wondered if it were an illusion or if there could truly be natives living there. The island had a very flat terrain, but the hill in the center which had a cliff on one side.
We carried guns and daggers on the beach. The sand was quite clean and the palms were as high as the apartments back in London. It was pleasant for me to be back on land with proper equipment in contrast to my previous catastrophe.
“Sir,” said Tom. And he gave me a green and orange fruit which I found to be a Papaya. I thanked him and ate it very quickly. Goodwyn ate some fruit as well.
“Shall we venture inland and look for any meat?” asked our guest, seeming eager to leave the beach.
I supposed that it would be a good idea, and we went on our way. Stephan shot two chickens and we found a pond. There was still no signs of habitation.
“Billy,” said I, “go back to the Seatrial and fetch us some salt and our compass, will you?”
Billy said “yes cap’n” and started off and Goodwyn said something to himself. “Pardon?” I asked. He said that he was merely excited for a chicken meal.
We all sat by the pond and threw sharpened sticks at fish. Goodwyn washed his arm in the water and I observed that he had several scars below the new wounds.
“Those whales must put up a fight!” I said to him, joining him in the pond and pointing to his arm. The man nodded. “Have you learned the methods of navigation?” I asked.
“A whaler must know how find his way.” he said, proudly. “But navigation, I have always had a fondness of.”
“I enjoy using the sextant.” I said.
“I use the reflecting quadrant.” he stated. “I prefer those older methods.” Goodwyn then unexpectedly said, “Your crew. You and your mates seem to cope very well.”
I laughed at the irony and admitted, “We truly are a splendid band of friends. I hope you find yours.”
An hour past and Billy was still absent. “Where has Billy gone?” inquired Stephan. I told him I didn’t know and I looked towards the sound of the waves.
“Perhaps he has forgotten where the pond is.” Tom said. “I should go look for him.”
“No!” cried I. “We will stay together.” I began thinking of the possibility of hostile natives, and of cannibals.
“How far away was your ship when the storm took it?” I asked Goodwyn.
“I reckon three or so leagues west. If that be west.” he said pointing with a stick.
“Mates! Back to the beach.”
Stephen held the chickens by their necks and Tom led the way with a machete. Billy was still gone.
The heat was now intense and it was past noon. Flying critters buzzed all around us, taking our blood and making us itch all over ourselves. “How are you feeling?” I asked Goodwyn.
“Better all the time.”
I noticed that the sea breezes had come up double as we came back onto the beach. And there was our rowboat on the sand, exactly where we had left it!
“Good heavens!” cried Tom. “Nothing good has happened to Billy!”
This was a terrible sight. I began looking around. Prints in the sand came near to the rowboat, then bunches of displaced sand led into a nearby ravine. “Come men! Into this river!”
I gathered that Billy had been snatched and I feared he was in danger.
Stephen set down the chickens and now handled his flintlock. The wind sent sand into our eyes and we were all miserable. Beside the howling of the wind, the isle was utterly silent.
“Stay close!” I cried. Looking back I sighted Goodwyn, Tom, and Stephen trudging. We crossed the river and kept following the prints in the sand until we came to a rock gathering. Where the unforeseen kidnappers might have taken poor Billy was a mystery. The sun was hot and we yelled many a time Billy’s name.
“Mates,” cried Goodwyn, holding up a shoe, “I believe he might have gone this way.” The shoe belonged to Billy.
We began running into an open field full of long weeds and prickly things. A waterfall stood ahead.
Suddenly, I heard shouting! “Prepare weapons.” I said to my mates.
The shouting soon stopped and when I turned around, Stephen was gone.
“Stephen!” I shouted.
“Stephen!” Tom cried, but he was gone. “Come at us! Come at us!”
The waterfall was spraying mist all about the field and my heart was beating exceedingly fast. Stephen I thought. Poor Stephen. My flintlock was now fully loaded.
Goodwyn seemed somewhat afraid, yet he stood tall and confident. “Savages.” he muttered. But it was clear that whoever it was that was taking our men was planned and crafty.
“Back to the beach.” I said. “Slowly.”
We stayed very close to each other as we came back to the sand. Many birds were singing and the tide was growing. Stephen and Billy were gone like the smoke, abruptly and mysteriously.
Tom looked to me, as though he expected that we were about to become separated. We then stood with our backs to each other and our handhelds drawn while Goodwyn crouched by the lapping water.
We had not seen one individual yet. It was obvious me that these were not cannibals, nor were they like those whom I had found on the Windy Isle.
These were pirates.
I was well read on these prominent barbarians; I despised them, though I had not yet come upon one myself. My skipper and I waited, yelling things.
We left them no choice but to face us on the beach. Shortly after, some nearby bushes rustled. I shot once into the green by instinct.
The sound of jangling metal and yelling came deliberately from the jungle. “Stay down!” I yelled to Goodwyn.
The first man was very dark and was dressed in all kinds of colors. He carried a long cutlass and yelled something foreign. He charged me and I shot once, but missed. He knocked me down and put his edged weapon to my throat. He was well trained and I expected him to finish me there, but Tom pushed him off. Then, another pirate with long hair kicked Tom onto the sand, making him land a distance away.
I stood and found my flintlock buried in the sand near the dark pirate. I grabbed the weapon, but a familiar, black-haired man appeared before me and shouted “Avast!”
We immediately stopped. This surprisingly dashing man looked at Goodwyn, who was standing and in good condition, and said, “Blimey ho, Mr Irkwood. You have earned your wages today!” He then came near and looked at me: “Captain Nathan Davies, I presume?” his breath smelled of rum. “How long has it been?”
Goodwyn, or Irkwood, passed Tom and I and joined the pirates.
I should have known: He was one of them.
To be continued