On the High Seas
On the High Seas
The morning air was still. No breeze could be felt anywhere on the Horizon. Its front two masts now looked like pylons protruding up from below the decks. Their jagged tops ominous looking, splintered and damaged from the storm, were being dismantled and made ready for the new topmast by the crew. Captain Stephens slowly walked the deck viewing the damage on the lifeless ship. Her remaining main sails hung like sheets of laundry yearning for the breeze on a hot summer’s day. He gazed out across the sea, and its glass smooth surface. A portion of the Gunwale was missing where the foremast collapsed on it and fell overboard. The damage he felt was minimal considering the severity of the storm. His mind still flashing back to the previous night and remorse he felt over the injured sailors below and the one’s lost.
“Capt’n Sir?” Topper said as he approached.”
Captain Stephens removed his pipe, and then answered. “What report do you have for me?”
“We’re almost finished removing the damaged portions. the men are working below to bring topside the new mast pieces. I believe the last two sections can be hoisted out by using the main’s lower yard arm as a fulcrum.”
“Judging by the wind today, I see no hurry. Take your time; I can’t afford to lose any more men.”
Aye Aye Capt’n, I just can’t help but…” he stopped short and shook his head mumbling incoherently to himself.
The Captain could see the distress in his face, “Something bothering youTopper?”
“Yes Sir, it’s the men we lost…”
“I don’t hold you responsible; you could not have seen that coming. If anything, I am to blame. I ordered the full cloth.”
“Aye sir, But I was the one that sent the new recruits to tend the top gallants.”
“We were at all-hands, every man was working.” The captain tried to ease his guilt. "You couldn’t know that mast would snap. If you had sent up a seasoned man, he might have been just as easily lost and we’d be in no better.”
“But even Suds said I was wrong, he tried to get me to post them on a lower yardarm. At least until they got their feet wet. now one’s dead and another lost at sea, probably dead as well.”
“I respect Suds, but he is not my first mate.” Captain Stephens said to Topper; "you made a decision; don’t second guess yourself. If the men, see doubt in you of your ability they’ll lose respect for you. You made a decision, one you felt was right at that time. It was the first storm of this voyage, and there may be others. The new recruits have been on-board three weeks now. , They needed the experience that you afforded them. I would have made the same decision.” He took a pull from is pipe and looked blankly at the ocean before them. after a pause he continued. “The burden falls on me, it will be my job to inform their families and…” The Captain took a deep breath and let it out with a heavy exasperation, “and a fiancé” He regained his composure and turned to Topper, “See to the mast and get her refitted. We need to get back underway should the wind return.”
“Aye Aye Sir, I’ll report to you in a few hours.”
“Don’t waste your time with that, I’ll see things as they happen. Now I will need to write down some things in the log. Carry on!”
“Aye Aye Captain.” And Topper turned and walked amidships where men were working.
The lookout perched high above a three masted schooner, searched haphazardly across the water. The suns ray reflecting off the water brought his attention to an image on the surface. He looked through his telescope, then shouted below; “Off the port bow!”
The captain and his first mate came forward to the focsal and looked off in the direction the lookout indicated. “I’ don’t see it.” he shouted up to the crow’s nest. “What can you see?”
“Not sure Capt’n, looks like debris but I think there’s a man hanging on to it!”
“Come about Lieutenant, and strike the sails,” the captain gave orders to his first Officer, “Give her her keel and weigh anchor. We’ll drop the longboat and have a look.”
Aye Aye sir,” his first replied and walked amid ship. “Alright men Look lively, an up the rigging. Prepare to come about! strike the sails on my order….” his voice faded off as the Captain’s mind studied the object in the water.
A mixture of wood and torn sails floated freely in the water. “Oars in!” the Lieutenant ordered as they approached, “Use the grappling hook to catch some of the cloth floating there.”
The mid shipman tossed out the hook and pulled back against the rope catching the sail remnants on the first try. As the line tightened, he gently pulled the long boat over to the floating debris and the sailor lying motionless on top. Once alongside, the oarsman moved over to help the midshipman pull the lifeless body into the longboat.
“Is he alive?” asked the lieutenant as the laid him down inside the boat.
“Barely, has a nasty head wound he has too!”
“Let’s get him back onboard the Endeavor. Put your backs into it mates, you know how much Captain Hicks likes delays”
Danielle sat at her table working on sail orders when she was approached by a British soldier. “I need to see your purchase bill on that sail cloth!”
“Excuse me?” Danielle replied curiously.
“You are under British mandates and trade restrictions. I need to see purchase documents for that sail cloth.”
“I purchased this cloth two seasons ago, long before your King emplaced trade restrictions on the Colonies!” Danielle’s dander was up, and she heavily resented the accusations of the Sergeant.
“King George is your king as well or have you forgotten?” the sergeant reminded her. “You people forget everything his majesty has provided for you. Perhaps his decision to send us here was just in time. Now you will be so kind as to show me your records.”
‘That will be enough sergeant,” A British officer approached them from the front of the store. “My apologies Madam, the sergeant was following orders. However, my orders were with those who are opposing the King's mandates. You and your father’s establishment are well known in England, as are your chandler services.”
I don’t believe I know you,” Danielle replied. “Have we met?”
“Please forgive my impertinence, Lieutenant Colonel Farthington at your disposal.”
“I see,” Danielle replied unimpressed. “And I am Miss Castleford. If I may be so bold; is it your custom to accuse His majesties subjects without validation?”
“A simple misunderstanding, I assure you. Miss Castleford. These are difficult times, with the distention and protest against England we are forced to take more stringent policies.” He bowed to her half heatedly, “Please forgive me.”
“I will not forgive you or this intrusion.” Danielle stated adamantly. “You come into this proprietary and demand records of His Majesties loyal subjects, accusing us of actions contrary to England’s edicts!” She shook her head, “Your actions might well serve to turn loyal subjects into dissidents!”
“You will guard your tongue ma-am. Comments of that nature might be deemed seditious!” Farthington warned her sternly.
“Here here,” Mr. Castleford interrupted as he approached from the opposite side of the mercantile. “What seems to be the trouble?”
Farthington turned to Danielle’s father “Sir I was simply waning her of statements that might deemed improper.”
“Danielle is a strong individual; that I will not deny. However, I know my daughter well enough to state with confidence that she does not approve of the actions taken to resolve our issues here within the colonist and England!”
“Very well; again I apologize for any misunderstanding. One more thing Sir.”
“His majesty’s men will need lodging. I understand your home has adequate space to accommodate.”
“I have my family with three daughters and my wife at present to consider.” Castleford retorted. “As deacon in my parish, I cannot condone men, your soldiers, living under my roof with my family’s honor at stake!”
“I did not ask sir, it is an order by his majesty,” Farthington explained. “I can well understand your reservations and will take that into consideration. You will accord some of my officers and rest assured they will respect your family and your wishes or answer to me!”
“So this is another show of our King’s appreciation to his subjects then?” He recounted sarcastically.
“These are difficult times, Mr. Castleford, Hopefully this will all be over soon and we can come as friends instead of the situation that exist.” He put on his gloves, “Expect my men this evening, and I will bid you good day.” he dipped his head slightly then turned to Danielle, removing his hat then bowed more deeply to her, “Miss Castleford.” then he turned and left with the sergeant following behind.
Danielle turned to her father, “Why did you lie to him?”
“It is best not to place our thoughts in the open dear, not with all that’s going on.”
“I hate the king and his edicts! However, I still am opposed to deceit.” Danielle’s face showed confusion. “If we lower ourselves to their level then are we no better?”
“I understand your feelings daughter, but we must not invite their anger, we do not know how long this discord will take.”
“He’s commin around now Sir.” the ships medic said as Brock’s eyes began to flutter open.
“Good,” replied the Lieutenant, turning to an assistant standing close by. “Inform Captain Hicks the prisoner is awake.”
“Prisoner? Beg pardon Sir, I thought he was rescued. Why is he a prisoner?”
“By elements of reason Peters. Because of his manor of dress, he must be a colonial sailor and privateer. That we will have record of shortly. As to where we found him floating, based on his condition and exposure, he was only in the water a short time. That would imply his ship was on route to southern Europe or Spain. Colonists are forbidden to trade outside English companies. Therefore, his actions were contrary to mandates set forth by King George. Until evidence to the contrary is provided, he is charged with crimes against the King, and therefore now a prisoner. Now please apprise Captain Hicks that he is coming around."
The Horizons, back under full sail continued towards France. The new mast portions and replacement sails were deployed, and lookouts posted in the crow’s nest. Topper leaned against the port side gunwale gazing off indiscriminately deep in thought. Suds walked up from below decks, carried a pot of scraps to the railing and dumped it overboard. “Yer back minded on the ones you sent up?” Suds quipped.
“Aye, and why would I not be, they were the first men lost I was responsible for.”
“An the first ones lost in a fort-year fer the Capt’n as well…” Suds set down the pot and leaned back on the rail glancing up at the top-gallants. “I had no call to come against you. yesterday morning. It was a wicked blow an ye had more than aplenty on yer mind. I don’t blame ye for those Greeners lost.”
“Thank you, Suds, but it won’t lesson my remorse.”
“Aye Topper, it won’t at that,” Suds replied puling on his beard. “But that’s something time tis own-self will give way.” He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “Best be gettin back to me stew. Boot I felt I’d thoughts to get off my chest and clear air between us.”
“I feel the same. I’m glad we talked.” and with that Suds picked up the pot and went below. Topper walked to the front of the boat, lighting a pipe as he went.
“Here he is Capt’n” Peters said as they walked into the birthing chambers where Brock was resting.
Brock tried to sit up when he saw the officer and sailor approaching. The Captain saw his attempts and stopped him. “Rest easy, you’ve gone through quite a bit. Sit back and relax while we get to know each other.” Captain Hicks removed his head dress and sat on the berth across from him. “First I suppose you will want to know where you are. This is the HMS Bark Endeavor, in His Majesties service. Our look-out saw you and directed us towards you. Can I know your name?”
Brock pulled himself to a sitting position on the bunk and replied, “Malloy Sir, Brock Malloy, I was sailing on the Distant Horizons.”
“And tell me Mr. Malloy, how did you come to be separated from your ship?”
“A storm sir, I was tending the top-gallants when a sudden gust of wind snapped the mast. I felt the yard arm give beneath me and I went down. I don’t remember anything after that.”
“Well he knocked his head sure enough, got a nasty bump on it he does!” Peters observed.
Captain Hicks rubbed his chin and looked over Malloy, Can you tell me where your ship, “The Horizons” was bound?”
“I’m not sure Sir, I only signed on just. I was to become a deck hand and told the journey would take six months.” Brock explained. “We were only three weeks into the voyage when the storm came.”
“So, you weren’t heading for England then?” Captain Hicks queried.
“I don’t know where we were heading Sir, it wasn’t my stead.” Brock continued, “Captain Stephens told me I was to be under Topper, the first mate, and I would learn my job as the voyage went on.”
“I am unfamiliar with the ship or it’s captain, but I am familiar with English law.” The Captain explained, “Because of where we found you, I can only assume you were heading south east away from England, there-by deduce you were trading outside of The Kings mandates.”
“But sir, I don’t know of such mandates, they were not in place when we sailed.” Brock tried to defend himself. “What mandates and when were they set?”
“When, is not your concern. The fact that you were unaware of them does not excuse you from following them or the ramifications for disobeying them.” The Captain rose to his feet, “Once you are fully recovered, you will be held on this ship and serve His Majesty as a prisoner on the Endeavor. Disobedience of orders to either me, or my officers will be dealt with accordingly. When we return to England, you will be tried and sentenced. Should any information to the contrary be made, you will have opportunity at that time to provide a possible defense. Your status, performance of your duties, and mannerisms on this ship will be brought into account. Accordingly, your service to the King will be made record and provided as well. You will have three days’ rest and rations, from that point on you will be required to report for duty in service to this ship and your King. Have you any questions?”
“Yes sir, I am engaged, and I wonder if I might get a message to my betrothed in Boston?”
“That might be possible once we return to England, for now let’s get you back on your feet” with that the captain turned and walked out. Brock shook his head and took a deep breath of exasperation. “I must get a message to her and let he know I’m alright, he thought to himself. He pursed his lips and then felt his head begin to throb. He laid on the bunk and fell back asleep.
must65gt (author) on August 29, 2010:
Thanks to all of you for following the story and your kind remarks. This story has been a challenge and I am having fun writing it. Although the Horizons is fictitious, the other ships that will be mentioned are real. The difficulty was the locations and travels of the ships and dates that will play an important role in my story. Thanks again for stopping by and please stop in again as more unfolds.
Hello, hello, from London, UK on August 29, 2010:
It is a page turner and thank you for the joy of reading it.
Sam from Tennessee on August 28, 2010:
voted up & beautiful! Well written, attention getter.
"Quill" on August 28, 2010:
Well done must65gt... well done, so loved the way I was able to step right into the story and be present...