The Adventures Of Miniator -- Chapter 7 Swing's Tale
The Adventures Of Miniator Chapter 7) Swing's Tale
'I have few memories of my father, who was a merchant seamen, and so very rarely at home, And as an only child I was very close to my mother. We lived in the seaport of Bristol, in a small house on the outskirts of the town. These were the happiest days of my life. My mother was what they call a bright woman, and she taught me my letters and numbers. On spring days we would walk together here and there, sometimes into town or the great houses for special festivals, and in the parks to hear the kind of music I heard coming from this house today.
'But it wasn't to last...,' Swing paused a moment to regather his poise, he touched the black patch over his eye. 'When I was twelve my father's ship was lost with all hands off the coast of Spain. A man on a horse rode out to the house to break the news to us. He brought a purse of sovereigns, which he called compensation, of which it never was for my mother and me. A year later my mother died suddenly, the doctor called it a broken heart.
'I was taken to Bristol to live with my mother's aunt, and put to work as a chimney sweep, which being forced up black chimneys didn't agree with me, so one night I ran away, and took to wandering the harbour, and finally I talked a captain into taking me to sea, as a cabin boy.
'The ship was a coaster trading around Britain, and Europe. The life was hard, the work was hard, and the men were hard. The discipline and forms of punishment were extremely hard. I soon became a deckhand and continued this life, spending very little time ashore, estranged from a normal life.
'While coasting Africa, under one Captain Crab – a cruel black hearted scallywag, who gave all the men hell – we were given cause to land in Madagascar. A few of us malcontents fled and signed on to the York, a merchant ship bound for the Caribbean, and the coast of Southern America to take-up tobacco. I had it in my head to give up the sea and make a new life there in the New World. But before reaching our destination we were accosted by a heavily armed three-masted, modified merchant ship. She had forty guns and flew the blood red flag, that signalled that no mercy would be shown if once battle ensued. Our Captain knowing we were not equipped to put up a fight surrendered to save all our lives.
'The captain of these Buccaneers was Captain Bird, who had been an English navel captain. He had seen much action during the conflicts with the French and Spanish. He was a tall man with a booming voice. But was popular with his crew; known for his fairness, and good treatment of his men. He offered every man of our ship the choice to join him or be put ashore on the nearest island with enough supplies to keep us going till we would be rescued. Of the crew, I along with around twenty men, with promises of a good life and the chance of getting rich, chose to join him. Each of us took on new names. And took the oath to the Captain. And was awarded with a seaman's half share of all booty. I was now called Swing because of my abilities to move swiftly in the rigging. But the name Blood I took-on to sound more fearless.
'In the following two years I lived this life of adventure... though much of the time was spent waiting for passing merchants ships, or avoiding the navel ships, or selling, trading, and spending the loot in the safe havens such as Port Royal, in Jamaica, or Tortuga, an island near by Hispaniola, which were nests of thieves and blaggards. Captain Bird had begun to establish his own safe heaven up a well hidden river on the South American Coast, Which he called the Safe Nest. There we would lay-low from the European navel fleets, which would at times scourer the areas of those notorious known safe havens, thus forcing the ships to stay in port. In his Safe Nest, which he had begun to fortify, he could convert the ships we had taken; fitting them out with more canons. We would spend hours training for battle. His crews, many of which had taken native wives, could reside peacefully between escapades.
'One day while the captain and ten of us crewmen were out in a shiff at the mouth of that river, we spotted a navel frigate coming near. Not wanting to be seen, we quickly rowed a ashore, dragging the boat a little on land and out of sight to wait for the frigate to pass.
She had just passed the mouth of the river, when a shower of arrows came from behind us with a swoosh and thud as they hit the trees we were sitting against. Three of our company were killed where they sat. We fell behind the trunks of the trees and pulled our weapons, just in time before a dozen or so fearsome looking natives came charging upon us. They were big men, their faces painted and their heads brightly feathered and their almost naked bodies fully tattooed
'Our blasts of shot brought four of the nearest savages down, and the sound of the blasts made them fall back and take cover. A silence thick with fear fell over the forest. The Captain's voice broke the silence, ''Steady men! Watch the flanks, and ready your weapons, me hearties!'' We all carried at least three pistols. One of our dead; Red Jones, lay a mere meter from me, and his musket lay beside him. I stretched out my hand and quickly took it up, then another charge came upon us. I fired the musket, and stopped one of the blighters in his tracks. But then they were so close we fought with swords and pistols.
'The Captain's voice again came, ''Make for the boat, boys'' We were about twenty meters from the boat, which was also well stocked with primed muskets. We backed off slowly facing the savages. I had one primed pistol still in my belt, and my cutlass at the ready. The men behind pulled the boat into the shallow water, then took up the muskets. I was about to make for the boat when I saw the Captain laid to my left of me with an arrow in his shoulder. ''Run for it boy,'' managed to wheeze. But I could not leave him... So I pulled him to his feet and put him over my shoulder. It was slow work, as I said he was a big man. I drew my last pistol in my free hand, and at that very moment a savage came upon me. He was one meter from me with a raised axe when I discharged my pistol in his face. We struggled to the boat under the cover of fire from the remaining men in the boat, and I dropped the Captain into the boat and pushed it into deeper water, then jumped aboard. We lay in the bow of the boat, now studded with arrows, firing our muskets at anything that moved onshore, while the boat drifted slowly back down stream and to safety.
'The ship's doctor tended the Captain's wound and put him to bed for a week. The captain never failed to show his gratitude to me, always praising me to all the men. He often called me to his quarters to spend time with him. He told me of his life and taught me chess, though not well enough to beat him. He began referring to me as 'My Son,' which was not well received by some of the crew.
'When later I lost the sight of my eye from a powder burn from a musket, he also came to see me everyday, to lift my spirits.
'Around a year after this the captain sent for me one day. It was onboard the Sparrow. He was in his quarters looking over his sea-charts as I entered. He asked me to sit with him a while, for he had something to talk to me about. He asked me how I liked this life. And what my plans were. I told him, that before joining him and becoming an outlaw, I had thought to make enough money to make a life for myself in the New World; to buy land, a small farm, perhaps. But that I had little saved so far.
''I have a proposition for you, my Son, for I have trusted you with my life, and you have earned my affections,'' he said putting his hand on my shoulder, ''I too have plans to do such a thing you talk about, it is the dream of many men in this uncertain life we lead. I have over many years collected my booty; it is a large hoard... Oh! not here. He stood, looked around furtively, before going over to the the corner of his berth, and pulling a large chest away, before prising up one of the floor boards with his knife, and reaching in and taking out a heavy looking key and a roll of parchment tied with a red ribbon. He unrolled this on his large desk. The first Parchment was a sea-chart showing how to navigate to an small island, and was marked with details of rocks, and the word cave, and then a cross marked with the distances from the cave. ''There!'' he said pointing to the cross.
'''But it is not easy,'' he went on, ''for a man as notorious as myself to return to a law abiding life, I am sought by many countries as a criminal... but for the last year I have been in correspondence with an English official in North Carolina, who, for a hefty price, managed to obtain this...'' He lifted a second parchment… ''it is my pardon from the English King.'' He looked at me with a gleam in his eye then said, ''I would like it very much if you would come with me, I would like to adopt you as my legal son. You would be my greatest asset. But if anything happens to me my hoard is yours, My Son. That is why I show you this now.'''
'I admit I cried, and told him I accept his offer, and would be very proud to be his son, and I hoped I could live up to his expectations...
''No fear of that My Son, you have already.''
'He told me to keep all that I had seen and heard secret, until it was the time to leave, and put it all into action. For it would be better to announce it to all when that time comes. But little did I know then, that at that very moment there was a sly ear to the wall….
'That sly ear belonged to Mr Craft, or aka., Black Dog, the ambitious mate of the Sparrow. He, a navel man, had been captured with the Sparrow and its crew two years before, and had along with most of the crew joined our company rather than be marooned with his captain.
'Around three weeks after my talk with the Captain I was on night watch. I saw from my position dark figures with muskets moving furtively around, the decks. And I heard the voice of Black Dog whispering to a group of them. I stole away from my position, and carefully made my way to the Captains quarters. And knowing him to be a light sleeper, I rapped quietly on his door.'
'''Who is it?''
'''It's I Captain, Swing... there is trouble brewing.''
'He came quickly to the door threw back the bolts, and still pulling up his breeches, let me in. I told him what I'd seen, ''Mutiny,'' he said, then he flew into action. Throwing the bolts across the door, then taking the four or five muskets from their rack on the wall, and gathering pistols from here and there and placed them on his desk. And giving me a wink, he took out a small casket of gun powder from under his bunk. ''For just such emergencies;'' he said. We then began loading the muskets and pistols. Then sat quietly waiting. We heard some shouting, and some shots rang out, then the shuffling of feet coming nearer. They stopped outside the door, then we heard voices whispering, before there was frantic rapping on the door. Black Dog's voice began shouting. ''Captain, Captain wake up! there is mutiny above...!''
''Hi! And a mutiny below, Mr Craft!'''
'There was a silence, then Black Dog said. ''Well, Captain, everything is secured, so you can come out!'''
''Secured is it, Mr Craft? then you can go back to your duties, or is there something else you want to tell me.''
'There was a silence then a heavy banging began on the door. We dropped behind the desk took our weapons and fired off a volley of shots at the door. And the banging stopped. We knew our shots didn't go through the door, but we also knew there was little space for them on the other side to apply much force. They would have to break the door with axes, then they would be vulnerable to our muskets shots.'
'The captain shouted, ''Mr Craft, what are you hoping to gain from the escapade?'''
'''Why, the very things you have in your possession, Captain! This ship, which you stole, your booty, which I overheard you talking about to your soon to be Son. And your little Safe Nest! And if you don't give them up I'll take your lives!'''
'We remained silent, the captain was deep in thought. He lit a candle on his desk.'
'''Come, Mr Bird, give me what I want and I will leave you and your son wherever it is you have your hoard, and I will tell all those back at the Safe Nest how brave you were to the very end fighting those French soldiers.''
'The captain, recovered his treasure map from under the floorboards. Then he studied it for awhile and said, ''Mr Craft I have that Map, showing where my hoard is, in my hand at this moment, And I'm about to put a flame to it.'' Which he did. The banging began on the door again but even more frantic, and the blade of an axe pierced the wood. I discharged a musket at the hole it had made, and the banging ceased again.
'''Now, Mr Craft, I will give you my proposal: The map is no more, but remains embedded in my mind... I will give you the compass bearings of the island, where the hoard is buried; one day's sail from here. You will then permit us to abide in these quarter until we arrive... at which point we will give ourselves over to you, to go ashore, at that point you will free my Son, and I will show you where that booty is buried, then you can depart that island without violence... Agreed?' There followed a silence.
'''Then came the answer: ''Very well, Mr Bird, agreed! Give me the navigation setting.''
'The captain wrote the setting on a piece of paper, then pushed it through the new hole in the door.
'We sat rejected, and spoke about the situation, neither of us thought we could trust Black Dog, but we had no other option. And he would have to keep his promise until he has the hoard.
'It was a day and an half before we reached our destination. And we opened the door and we were taken under heavy guard onto the deck, where the captain pointed out the place to go ashore. After being bungled into the shore boat with Black Dog and ten armed men, we made land. And there the captain insisted I should be immediately freed, before he took another step. We had arranged that we would stand firm to our agreement regardless of any threats to either of us. So the captain refused to go further, when Black Dog threatened my life if he did not show him where that booty was. ''If you kill my son, Mr Craft, you will never get your hands on that booty.'' And so they released me and I set off into the woods, and then climbed a high buff, where I could watch with my spy glass, for their departure, to make my planed rendezvous with the captain at the place of landing. I could see two men left guarding the boat.
'Around an hour later, when the others re-emerged from the trees, two of them were carrying a large casket, and the captain was with them, but his arms were now bound behind him. So, Black Dog had broken his word in the last detail. They put the booty and the captain in the boat and rowed back to the ship. And that was the last I saw of the captain.