it's a tale you're wantin'? One of something fer which I'm grateful to the
Good Lord and all His Saints?
Well, let me ponder a moment... Aye, this one will serve, sure and true.
I'll tell ye the tale of that Island, the other one that none can
find, none save those who knows where 'tis, already. She's a low coral
atoll, the Sea sloshin' around 'er circle, the sand soft as silk and shining
salt-white. The red mangroves risin' rough from the water, and revealin' the
rich rainbows of little fish, swarmin' in clouds like butterflies.
We called 'er Desolation. T'was apt. Smack in the middle o' the doldrums,
almost ne'er a drop of rain t'fall on 'er; a desert island with all her
abundance either under the sea or with its toes dipped in it.
We hauled up on 'er on the twentieth of October, pumpin' the bilges as
speedy as may be, leakin' in the Sea even speedier; shuuush. creak.
shuuuuush. creak. The watch had t'be doubled, t'make enough hands to
keep the Chetsworth afloat. Twenty-two inches in the hold and she's
startin' t'wallow. E'en so, we might rather 'ave moved on t'seek more
suitable berth, had it not been fer the sharpenin' breeze and the burgeonin'
swell that foretold of hazardous weather. The glass went t'drop, and we knew
it were the season for the full gale.
Me an' Cotton an' Maher, we was set to work fer th'carpenter, Mister Hoggett.
Sweat was pourin' from our brows, soon enough, pounding in the staves and
makin' her more seaworthy, as best we could with the supplies to hand. We'd
had a keen eye out for a wreck for some weeks, as worked timber would be the
easiest to wright into place. But we'd no luck on that score, not so much as
a log adrift in the current. So we put to service all the lumber we had.
Cap'n Hamlyn was not long in his epaulets, we was all in a bit of a muddle,
sorting the new command. Some of the more senior Leftenants had shipped off
with the Martinet, and we was left with a still-green commander, and
none much better among the senior officers. T'was more'n a bit of a grumble
when the order come down to carve up the last of our spare yards to use in
elsewise fashion, below decks.
S'bad luck t'sail without a spare tops'l yard. Bad luck, indeed.
Sure as the sun rises, as soon as that yard was down under the carpenter's
plane, we sighted sail. Big black galleon, Spaniard by the look of 'er, at
least 48 guns if she'd a one. She'd sighted us first, and was on a bearing
We were a fly with but one wing, leaky-hulled, masts atilt, and keel showin'
on the sands. Fish in a barrel. Duck a-set on her nest.
My days might well have ended there, but for a sudden shift in the winds.
The squall appeared just behind the menacing hulk of our adversary, an'
quick as ye can say Constantinople she'd disappeared in the pounding sheets
of rain. T'were only a matter of moments before we were struck by one of the
fiercest blows I've e'er experienced.
In hindsight, we should have named that island "Hurricane."
The Chetsworth was fair torn asunder; would surely have been, but the
faint shelter of the mangroves kept her from the worst of the pounding surf.
When the tide surged with the further drop of the weather-glass, we somehow
managed, by dint of commingled curses and prayers, to pilot 'er off the
shoals to deeper, safer waters. I've always consid'red it an act of Divine
Providence that those hasty repairs held us out of the Sea's embrace long
enough to deliver us to Anguilla.
T'was nearly 20 years, before I laid eyes on that Spaniard ship again.
Never thought I'd be the Quartermaster on 'er.
Sometimes, I wish she could tell me her side of that story, regardin'