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Under A Renegade Flag (Part One)

Novel By: achristop
Action and adventure



UNDER A RENEGADE FLAG (Part One)
June the 21st 1725 AD......My family were hungry...we had
bread in a small amount, but very little else!!!...I had
waited until nightfall to take my light, and my trusty bow,
and venture into the woods to try and illegally bag a rabbit
for the pot!! I left my beautiful wife Cassie and my 15 year
old daughter Clarry (short for Clarissa) cutting up woodland
roots to go into a stewing pot....We would have meat tonight,
I could not see them go hungry, at least, not whilst there was
game in the New Forest to be had!!
Poaching, if you were caught, invited severe
punishments...flogging, imprisonment....loss of a limb! I
would gladly suffer these, sooner than see my daughter crying
with hunger again!
I had worked for the Landowner, Arnold Bulteel, as a farm
labourer...I had earned barely enough to keep the wolf from
the door, but we managed to survive....then.....3 months ago,
a travelling minstrel had toured the area, called at the great
house, entertaining the Master for the evening....next
morning, money was missing from the great house study...I had
been there early that evening, to report the deer count
figures!!!...I was a witness to Sir Arnold placing £8126d in
a large tin container,secreted behind some books in the study
library shelves!
Next morning, all hell broke loose....I had to report to his
Lordship, who asked me to return the money I had stolen....my
denials and protestations were all in vain....I was told I was
no longer in his employ...I had also to leave the cottage (if
you could call the hovel a cottage) that he leased to me at an
extortionate rate!!!......I had no job...we were homeless!!
I had found, by much hard surveillance work, the whereabouts
of the minstrel....he was with a travelling fair in the next
town of Havelot....I turned up there, challenged him over the
theft!!!....sneering...he and his 3 friends bade me begone
before I lost my manhood! A brawl ensued, whereby I took a bad
beating...My face was bloody, my eye nearly shut! I should
have known better than to go against three!! So I returned to
the forest (We now lived in a ruined woodcutters shack with no
roof) a beaten man!!
I set about repairing the tumble down hut...the basic four
walls remained....a roof had been made from cut branches and
interwoven grass and reeds!!! We were hungry and
cold...relying on anything we could find to survive!! Knowing
it was against the law..I had taken the decision to shoot game
to feed my family!!
I had been out in the forest for about an hour, it was a
moonless night, intermittent drizzle, I was wet tired and
hungry...suddenly, there, in front of me on the path was a
hare...I reached for an arrow, slotted the cord...drew back
the rawhide....loosed the arrow, which ran true!! A small
squeal from my kill, and we had food for tonight! I quickly
knelt and skinned the hare, throwing the pelt deep into the
undergrowth....tomorrow all trace would have been erased by
the forest fauna!! I had a long walk home...but my family
would eat well tonight!!
I plodded steadily on in the driving drizzle...suddenly a roe
deer jumped across the path in front of me!!! GOD!! It made
the hair stand out on the back of my neck!! My heart pounded!
It disappeared into the deep undergrowth....I wondered what
had scared it....then....I smelt woodsmoke!! I tied the
hare's carcase to my belt...put another arrow in the View table of contents...


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Submitted:Feb 1, 2007    Reads: 302    Comments: 5    Likes: 0   



UNDER A RENEGADE FLAG (Part One)
June the 21st 1725 AD......My family were hungry...we had
bread in a small amount, but very little else!!!...I had
waited until nightfall to take my light, and my trusty bow,
and venture into the woods to try and illegally bag a rabbit
for the pot!! I left my beautiful wife Cassie and my 15 year
old daughter Clarry (short for Clarissa) cutting up woodland
roots to go into a stewing pot....We would have meat tonight,
I could not see them go hungry, at least, not whilst there was
game in the New Forest to be had!!
Poaching, if you were caught, invited severe
punishments...flogging, imprisonment....loss of a limb! I
would gladly suffer these, sooner than see my daughter crying
with hunger again!
I had worked for the Landowner, Arnold Bulteel, as a farm
labourer...I had earned barely enough to keep the wolf from
the door, but we managed to survive....then.....3 months ago,
a travelling minstrel had toured the area, called at the great
house, entertaining the Master for the evening....next
morning, money was missing from the great house study...I had
been there early that evening, to report the deer count
figures!!!...I was a witness to Sir Arnold placing £8126d in
a large tin container,secreted behind some books in the study
library shelves!
Next morning, all hell broke loose....I had to report to his
Lordship, who asked me to return the money I had stolen....my
denials and protestations were all in vain....I was told I was
no longer in his employ...I had also to leave the cottage (if
you could call the hovel a cottage) that he leased to me at an
extortionate rate!!!......I had no job...we were homeless!!
I had found, by much hard surveillance work, the whereabouts
of the minstrel....he was with a travelling fair in the next
town of Havelot....I turned up there, challenged him over the
theft!!!....sneering...he and his 3 friends bade me begone
before I lost my manhood! A brawl ensued, whereby I took a bad
beating...My face was bloody, my eye nearly shut! I should
have known better than to go against three!! So I returned to
the forest (We now lived in a ruined woodcutters shack with no
roof) a beaten man!!
I set about repairing the tumble down hut...the basic four
walls remained....a roof had been made from cut branches and
interwoven grass and reeds!!! We were hungry and
cold...relying on anything we could find to survive!! Knowing
it was against the law..I had taken the decision to shoot game
to feed my family!!
I had been out in the forest for about an hour, it was a
moonless night, intermittent drizzle, I was wet tired and
hungry...suddenly, there, in front of me on the path was a
hare...I reached for an arrow, slotted the cord...drew back
the rawhide....loosed the arrow, which ran true!! A small
squeal from my kill, and we had food for tonight! I quickly
knelt and skinned the hare, throwing the pelt deep into the
undergrowth....tomorrow all trace would have been erased by
the forest fauna!! I had a long walk home...but my family
would eat well tonight!!
I plodded steadily on in the driving drizzle...suddenly a roe
deer jumped across the path in front of me!!! GOD!! It made
the hair stand out on the back of my neck!! My heart pounded!
It disappeared into the deep undergrowth....I wondered what
had scared it....then....I smelt woodsmoke!! I tied the
hare's carcase to my belt...put another arrow in the bow...and
crept forward....was it a camp fire...I wasn't far from home
now.....but was someone camping near our hut....as I crept
further along the path...the smell of smoke grew....it was
more than a camp fire!!!! I started to run!!! It was a lot of
smoke!!!.....It was coming from the direction of our hut!!! I
increased my running pace...then saw in the distance
FIRE!!!!.....As fast as my legs could carry me I ran for our
home!!
CASSIE CLARRY I shouted as I ran...breathless, I
broke through the tree cover....Flames engulfed the whole of
our hut....timbers I had cut for the roof were well ablaze!!
Where were Cassie and Clarry Were they safe....I ran
directly at the inferno!!...Cassie Clarry...There was no
means of dousing the flames...I hunted around for something to
try to extinguish the worst of it!....Where were they I ran
around to the water butt I had made from a hide that hung at
the back door....turning the corner...I stumbled into my wife
and my daughter....I looked in horror at the spectacle that I
had charged blindly into!!! They were both naked!!....by the
amount of blood, and secretions, around their nether regions
they had both been raped!! Then!!!....They had been crucified
with knives!!!!!....My wife to the door!!!!....My daughter to
the wooden window!!!!! I wailed my anguish to the Gods...If
there were any gods!!! I knelt before the body of my daughter,
my head in may hands! In a complete state of shock!!! Why
Why Who...I stood, and, with tears streaming down my face,
pulled the knives from the palms of my daughter, laid her on
the ground, closed her eyes, took off my cloak and placed it
over her! I turned to my wife...I pulled the first knife, and
was about to pull the second one from her hands, when I
realised I had seen this very knife at the belt of the
minstrel, the thief I had challenged in the town!!! My anger
gave way to rage! Blind, unspeakable rage!!! I would find him,
and I would kill him!!! I would hang him, draw him and quarter
him...and leave him as food for the dogs!!! I knelt beside my
family and wept an ocean of tears!!!
I cried for most of that night!!! What was I to do...My world
had collapsed in a matter of moments!!! As I sat around the
embers of both our hut, and my family...I plotted my
revenge!!! I would kill him!...I would make him scream, as my
family must have screamed!! I was wet, tired and hungry...but
these things seemed nothing to the hot fires of hate I felt
burning inside!!! Was it this man Of course it was! All
indications were that they had exacted hideous revenge for my
challenge over the missing money...and taken great pleasure
doing it!! Fresh tears ran down my cheeks!! For you Clarry and
for you Cassy, he would suffer! He would suffer more than
anyone I had ever known!!
I was in a quandry over the bodies of my family! What to do
with them Report them to the authority and I could be
interrogated!...But much worse than this...I would be
restricted in my movements, unable to go about the task of
retribution, without being scrutinised!! I decided, after much
heartrending thought, to bury them in the area of the hut!! I
spent an hour digging graves for them both!! I covered their
bodies with bracken once they were esconced in the
pits....said a silent prayer (Or what I could remember of one)
and covered them with leafmould soil!! I decided to mark them
also with a memorised cross reference...I took paces from the
back door of the hut, then, took another two from two of the
largest trees...pacing in this manner, I was able to lock in
my memory, the exact location of their burial!!! I took stone
work from the hut walls, laid it a foot from the top of the
pits, then covered the rest in leafmould from further afield!
This I scattered with a fir branch....when I had
finished...the ground looked as I had found it!! Now for you
fella!!
After eating some bread and mouldy goat cheese, I set off for
the town of Havelot....arriving at noon..I went straight to
the field which housed the fair....I looked in vain for the
minstrel! He was nowhere to be seen!
On my way to the fair, I had noticed a smallholding. Just half
a mile further on, horses were grazing in a paddock. I left my
surveillance and retraced my steps towards the way I had come.
Sure enough, when I reached the paddock, the horses were still
grazing....and there, on the right, at the far side of the
field was a small byre...or maybe a stable shed. Looking all
round me, I climbed the fence, dropped into the paddock,
keeping close to the hedges, I made my way to the
building...reaching the doorway at the entrance, I spied what
I had been looking for....saddles and tack!!! Then, in a very
fortunate stroke of luck,at the far end of the shed, happily
munching on some hay, stood a fair sized chestnut mare, still
saddled!! I walked over to her, and gently stroked her muzzle,
she had been ridden recently, her flanks were hot and still
damp with sweat...I saw, through a hole in the window frame,
that there was a back gate to the paddock...I led the mare to
the door, checked the area...No-one around! I casually walked
her out of the stable...along the hedgerow for 50 yards or so,
opened the gate....and we were gone!!! I was now a horse
thief!!!
I rode my new found friend back to the town, keeping to the
side of the track all the way! I decided to call her
Cassie....scouting the area where the fair was, I found a
place on the edge of the wood, to tether the horse until
later! I then returned to scouting the area around the
fair.....people were still milling around, although evening
shadows were approaching fast! Still no sign of my quarry!
Then, in the distance, I heard the sound of drunken carousing,
I crept along the hedge until I could see the campfire and the
small settlement from whence the singing came! Three
tents!....4 men, drinking from cider flagons...one of whom was
my prize!!
I settled down and waited, hoping my horse would no be too
restless....At about 1030, the minstrel collected up his lute
or lyre, I knew not which...and bidding his colleagues good
night...sauntered off towards the tent that was the furthest
from the group! I waited a further hour...during which time
the others also packed up for the night and headed for their
beds! A little longer!!!.....I crept over the hedge, and stole
towards my quarry's tent...as I approached I heard the snores!
he was out for the count!! Good!! That made my job easier!!!
I used my hunting knife to slit the back of the tent, peered
inside, the minstrel was sound asleep...it smelt as if he was
in a drunken stupor, but I had to be wary!!...I crept forward,
took the rawhide thong I had prepared as a garrotte...In a
flash I was upon him!!! I whipped the thong around his throat,
pulled as tight as I could, to cut off sound...he fought like
a mad animal, but the cider had done it's work! It had helped
do mine for me too!! Still with the tightened garrotte in
place...I dragged him bodily through the hole in the back of
the tent, and with a struggle, got him to the hedgerow!
Now my friend!!! Are you going to co-operate Or do I have to
kill you now I tightened the cord even more...there was a
frantic nodding of his head! Sensible fellow!! I turned him
onto his stomach, then felt for the club I had whittled
earlier....I gave him a hefty blow behind the left ear....I
might have fractured his skull I really didn't care!...He lay
unmoving!! I hoisted his dead-weight over my shoulders and
neck, threw him onto the hedge....climbed over, picked him up
again, and within 10 minutes we were at the tethered horse!! I
bundled him over the rear of the animal, lashed his hands
together with the rawhide garrotte....then, in an act of
savagery, born from the memory of the suffering of my wife and
daughter...took off his hide boots and hose, and sliced
through his right Achilles tendon....Blood ran freely down his
ankle, dripping to the floor!!! My charge would not be walking
far....leastwise, aided by me, until he walked through the
gates of Hell!!!!!
As we headed back to my hut in the forest, my captive moaned,
cried out, screamed!!!...in fact, made a hell of a din!!!...So
much so, that I had to bend to his head, and tell him that if
he didn't stay quiet, I would cut his tongue out to ensure his
quietness! This had the desired effect, and we proceeded apace
in silence! At about midnight or thereafter, I had no
timepiece, we arrived at the path leading to our forest
hut....the cold smell of burnt wood still hung in the air!!!
"Remember this place you scum?" I asked of him! There was no
reply! He was learning the lesson well! I had made two
purchases at the fair, one had cost me 9d, the other a half
sovereign....I now checked to make sure they were still riding
in the quickly made -up pouch hitched to the saddle girth
buckle! Yes! They were riding safely!
Another 15 minutes and we were deep into the forest, about a
mile from my hut! I stopped in a small clearing, the moon had
broken through, enabling me to see where we were! Another half
mile I reckoned! There remained enough light for me to follow
the trail easily, and, within 20 minutes we were at the place
I had chosen! It was a small glade where I had set snares for
rabbits, but succeeded in only trapping a fox, this fortunate,
inedible animal, I turned loose...with a partly severed foot
it's true! Now this small clearing with it's large old oak,
would serve my purpose admirably!! This area had been rooted
by burrowing wild boar! Great mounds of earth had been
snuffled through, in the usual boar's search for fungi and
other root foods....After dragging my unfortunate captive from
his perch,I patted the horse and turned it loose to graze on
the grass at the side of the glade....!
I half dragged, half carried the minstrel to the large oak,
and with the sisal rope that I had bought for 9d, I securely
lashed him to the tree!...The rawhide thong still held his
hands at the wrists...I used some of the water from the
goatskin bag, that had been laid on the horses flank when I
had stolen it, to make sure it was wet, I stripped a piece of
my shirt, soaked it in water and wrapped it round his wrists!
It would now get tighter and tighter!...No escape for this
murdering scum! I took my hunting knife and cut the clothes
from his body! His eyes held abject terror!!! I smiled at
him....He started to say something, another piece of my shirt
was cut, and thrust into his mouth!...I then retrieved my
other purchase from the saddle....I walked up to him, untied
the muslin lid of the glass jar, and proceeded to empty the
contents over his body!! Many forest insects loved molasses!!
I could see that many would enjoy this feasting at sun up
tomorrow!....But now, my vengeance was at hand! I knelt! And
in one quick slice, severed the scrotum of the rapist of my
wife and daughter! He screamed beneath his gag..His eyes
rolled back in his head with the agony of it!...I removed the
gag from his mouth, and replaced it forcibly with the severed
manhood!!! This was an isolated place....seldom had I known
anyone come this way, other than me...I hoped, with every
fibre of my being, that it wouldn't be hours, but days before
he was found!! Another thing I had purchased at the fair from
the molasses vendor, was a note, written on parchment, and
sealed in an oilskin pack, that I had asked the woman at the
fair to write for me, as up to now I had not mastered the art
of the written word! I hung it around his neck....the syrup
seller had assured me she had written as I had asked...."THIS
MAN RAPED AND MURDERED MY FAMILY, AT THE WOODCUTTERS HUT!
THEIR BODIES LIE AT THESE COORDINATES" The enclosed figures I
did understand! Hopefully someone one day would find them, and
give them a decent burial!
I said a small prayer for forgiveness, then lifted the head of
my captive by his hair...looked deep into his eyes, and said
"This is for Cassie and Clarry! Your swine friends will join
you shortly, as soon as they get the scent of your blood! So!
I bid you farewell Minstrel!!" I called softly for the horse,
which came obediently out from the tree line, jumped into the
saddle and rode back down the path up which we had come! I had
no qualms about leaving the fiend to his fate!...But now I
would really be a hunted man!!! I had only one plan!...I would
ride to Portsmouth, and there, hopefully get a berth on a
ship! They would have to search far and wide to find me!!!!
By sunrise I was crossing the hills of Hampshire.....Dawn had
broken damp and cold, I had no food for the horse, so it was a
case of keeping in the saddle until we reached our
destination! We trotted along rutted cart tracks, this was
causing us to slow to avoid the horse becoming lame from the
uneven footing! Then...at a small village called Meon, my
horse stumbled! I jumped from the saddle, stood at her head,
stroked her muzzle and talked gently to her! She had been on
her feet now for 12 to 14 hours...she needed rest and feeding!
I walked her slowly into the village looking around for some
means of feeding her.....There on the right hand side of the
narrow highway, was a Smithy's shop, I would ask there! The
Smith was a big bluff individual, florid of face, with biceps
like tree trunks! His leather apron was emblazoned with the
name Harold in black dye, as I entered the forge area, wherein
he was beating red hot metal, I saw him look at me with
suspicion from under bushy brows!
"Whadya want?"
"I would like to purchase some food and water for my horse my
good man" I replied.
"Got'ny money?"
"Enough I hope"
"You wan' food fer yerself too?"
"My horse is more important at the moment thankyou! I need to
be on my way to Porstmouth!"
"Portsmouth ya say? An' what would yer be wantin' at
Portsmouth?"
"That'll be my business...and mine alone Smithy!" I hissed!
"Suit yerself!...Feed will cost ya 1/6d...water will costya
2d!"
"I'll take both! And you'll get 1/6d...and not a penny more!"
I said, and, reaching for my purse, tied to my belt, I ensured
he had a good look at my hunting knife, with it's browning
blood stains on the hilt!
"I wan' no trouble from the likes o' you! D'ya hear me!"
"And I wish no trouble from the likes of you Blacksmith...just
feed for my horse at a fair price! Then I'll begone!"
He relented, dropped his hammer onto the anvil, placed his hot
iron tongs back into the forge with the piece he had been
working. He led my horse around the side of the forge and into
a stable....there he filled a tin bowl with an oat mix and
laid a pail of water beside it! I thanked him and gave him the
shilling and a sixpence I had agreed...he looked me in the
eye! I held his gaze, for a full half minute we locked minds!
Then, with a grunt, he lowered his head, and walked off,
cursing an oath as he went!
He would remember me to be sure! If and when someone came
asking...he would remember! And like a fool, I had told him my
destination! Ah well! it mattered not! I would be long gone!
I rested the horse for half an hour...then without another
word, rode past the forge entrance, and back onto the highway!
About 3 miles down the way, I came upon a waymarker...it read,
PORTSMOUTH XV....I knew enough to understand that it meant I
had only 15 miles to go! I would be there late this afternoon!
The rain had eased, I was glad, my clothes were sodden...my
horse was uncomfortable too, the saddle was moving on her
flanks, probably causing a burn!
The sun was well down in the sky when I came to the outskirts
of Portsmouth! I had one thing on my mind...to rest the horse
and find food myself! I had little money left! I took out my
purse, opened the drawstring and counted what I had
left...3/8d! Not enough for a meal and bed for a couple of
nights! I would find a Post Inn, or a Staging Post and go from
there! Leading the horse along the main highway into the port,
I spied on my left a chandlery...I tied the horse to a gate,
walked up the wooden steps, and entered the shop. The door
tinkled a bell as I entered, a little man in apron and glasses
came bustling around from the rear of the store..."Good day
Sir! How may I help?"
"Because I have no further need, and intend to join my ship
tomorrow, I wish to sell my horse...However, she is a trusty
animal, and I wish her to be in safe and gentle hands!"
"Look no further sir! I always have need of a bargain!"
I bade him step outside and inspect the said animal...he did
so, tutting and muttering, umming and ahhing....
"She's been worked 'ard sir! Thats for sure!" He looked in her
mouth...she didn't take kindly to this, and attempted to nip
him! "A mite nippy too sir!"
He stood looking at the mare for a full 2 minutes, then turned
to me.."I'll give you 10/-d my man, and risk being seen off!"
I turned my coat to the side, ostensible to reach my purse,
but to enable him a view of the bloodied knife in my
waistband! "You'll not get her for less then a guinea!!" I
said with menace. "You're wasting your time and mine in trying
to get her for less!"
He stared at the knife, licked his lips, looked into my eyes
and stuttered "T-t-twelve and six is my final offer!"
"Seventeen and six!" I said in a low voice full of menace....I
took out the knife and cleaned the blade on my sleeve.....
" F-f-f-fifteen shillin's and not a penny more!"
"You pay for a meal at the inn and we have a deal!!"
"You strike a hard bargain sire...indeed! Very well 15/- and a
meal it is!"
I left the horse with him and proceeded to walk down the
street...the inn was in a lane off the main street, to the
left he had said!!!...mention his name he had said!!!...Tobias
Nute....At least we would both eat tonight..me and the horse!
I opened the iron bound stable door that led into the inner
court of the Lennox Inn..crossed the cobbles, and entered the
bar...it was crowded, the air thick with blue smoke from clay
pipes...as I entered, a hush fell over the interior...I looked
around, every set of eyes that met mine were challenging!....I
looked in vain for a seat....there were none! The silence
held...in the corner I beheld a man, swarthy in appearance,
leather sleeveless jacket, calf length black riding boots
turned over in a cuff....long, lank, greasy black hair, one
grey eye and one pale blue one....he sat with his feet up on a
chair! I sighed...walked slowly across the bar, looked him in
the eye, put my hand on the back of the chair, and in one
swift jerk, pulled the chair from under his feet, which fell
to the floor with a crash! He leapt from the chair, eyes
blazing, only to be met by my trusty knife at his throat...One
against 50 or more! Not very good odds!!!!
The point of my knife made an indent in his jugular area!
"I have killed men for less than that!" He hissed, eyes
blazing with anger!
"Is that so? I'll have to remember that won't I?! I replied
calmly, although inside my stomach was trembling with nerves,
my blood singing with adrenalin!!
"Yes it's so! No man treats "Jez" as you have just done and
lives!" I could see now, his blue eye was in fact a blindness
affliction, more opaque than blue!
"Then we are fellow vendors of death my friend!" I stated
solemnly, "You may chance your luck if you trust your
judgement!..If you trust mine...you won't!!"
I saw the momentary flicker of apprehension in his eyes, saw
the split second of hesitation, I eased the pressure of the
knife point, and, as he didn't make a sudden move or lunge at
me, I took the point away, but held the knife in front of his
face! He cast a look at the blade with his good eye, saw the
congealed blood around the hilt and the serrated back of the
blade...any thought he had of reprisal, of making a surprise
attack, was momentarily dispelled as he thought over his
options!
"Now! Why don't we sit, and enjoy a drink together...or we can
finish this here and now!"
He stood there in silence, I still held him by his
neckerchief, stretched on tiptoes...I waited, my left leg
across my right, slightly off balanced, to avoid a knee to the
groin! We looked into each others eyes for a full minute...he
was breathing hard, trying to control his rage...my blade was
a mere 2" from his throat, one move, and I could slit him from
ear to ear! He glowered at me...then suddenly broke into a
grin,"You may be a bilge-rat....but by thunder, a bilge-rat
with guts!!! That I can accept!"
"MOSES!!!...MOSES DAMN YOUR HIDE!!!!"
"Aye Jez?" A negroid giant, all of 6ft 3inches, as broad as he
was tall, sauntered over to the both of us..
"Aye Jez? Do you want me to break a few of his bones?"
"No!.. by Jupiter, we have a wharf rat with balls here! Stands
up to old Jez he does! That takes balls I tell 'ee!
Balls!...Fetch us some ale"!!
"But Jez! He insult......!"
"By thunder! Do as I say!!!" His fist smashed onto the table,
making everything and everybody jump! "Do as you're ordered Mr
Samuels! NOW!!!"
The big fellow gave a slight bow, turned and walked to the bar
where the innkeeper stood wiping his face with a bar cloth! He
was obviously concerned for the furniture and contents of his
Inn!
"Take no notice of Moses! He harmless really! But a good hand
in a brawl!!"
I said nothing, but thanked fortune for sparing me from
meeting him on a more personal basis! I sat, after my host had
retaken his seat....on edge! Still wary of a trap!
"So Mr brave balls!...do what do we owe the pleasure of your
company?" He shook his head, still musing at my foolhardiness!
"I am looking for a berth, any berth... I have to leave
England for a while!"
"Aha! So! A woman eh? Or the King's tax collector? Theivin'
swabs the both of them!!"
"Neither!" I replied, I would enlighten him no further!
"The blood!!! So! You've shed some blood!!! Running from a
lynch mob is it?"
I still refused to answer....but he took my silence to mean he
was right!
"Aha!!!...so you're running from the law eh??? Looking for a
berth eh?"
I remained silent!
"Someone cut out you're tongue Mister? I asked you a
question!! Answer me goddamn you!!"
I kept silent, however, as I laid my hunting knife on the
table in front of me, and undid my top coat, he was able to
see the blood of the Minstrel on my shirt and undergarment!
"By Jupiter! You killed someone?" He stared hard into my
eyes...I held his gaze, but said nothing!...He stared for
several seconds, then broke into a smile!
"We could use a good knifeman on the "Pelican"!!..Ever been to
sea before!"
I answered in the negative...!
"Got a woman?.... brats?"
Again I replied in the negative....should I sign on this
berth?....the crew looked a bloodthirsty bunch!!
"It's a hard life you'll be leading for very little pay! With
long hours flensing, and the smell is bad! But, if you're good
with a knife, and quick with your hands, you'll do well!! So
what say you....."Ballsy"....yea or nay??"
I sat in silence, unable to make up my mind what to do! I
didn't like the idea of sailing with this bunch...but I had no
choice really, if the Sheriff and his men caught up with me,
it would be the hangman...or at best transportation to the
colonies!
"By God! You'll answer me or I'll have your liver!!!"He
bellowed...I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the mighty
Moses approaching with a large flagon of ale.
"Aye! Is what I say "Bluey"...I'll be grateful for the
berth...but that's all!!"
His flinty glare, his black scowl, his tic under the blue
eyelid told of his anger at this fresh insult...then he
laughed...
"Ha! Ha! "Bluey" is it?? By thunder you have guts Mister I'll
give you that!!"
"Moses!!! Lads!!!... This 'ere Lubber has given me a new
name!! He's taken to callin' me....Jeremiah Ezekial Stone....
Bluey!!!!"
There was complete silence, a hush had fallen over the room
again!! He looked me up and down for a full minute, the bar
stayed silent, I matched his glare....Suddenly he burst out
laughing!! "Bluey eh" You hear that ya swabs? Bluey it is!!!
This here's "Ballsy"...He'll be shipping with us!!"
He slapped me on the back...it nearly knocked my breath out!!
Hell's teeth....what had I just done!!!
Moses Samuels left the flagon of cider upon the table, as he
left, I caught a flicker of contact between Jez Stone and him!
The merest signal, but, enough for me to pick up! What the
hell was going on now?
"Well Ballsy! Ye've never shipped aboard before then eh?"
"No! Never!" I replied, "What sort of ship is it that I shall
be joining?"
"We're a whale catcher me lad! We catch the whale...we cut 'im
up, and we makes meat and oil from 'im!"
A Whaler!! I had heard stories of a whaling ships make up and
methods! I didn't now think I would be able to handle a berth
on a whaler!!! However, I really had no choice....If the
Sheriff came a callin'....I had better be gone!
"And where are we headed Bluey?...To what part of the world?"
"We be goin' to the Americas lad!! A place called New Bedford,
a waterside town in the state of Massachusetts! There be a
whalin' company there! We kill the beasts for their profit!
Not so much for our profit you un'erstand!"
He turned and spat on the sawdusted floor! He obviously had no
love for the whaling company!
"What duties shall I have aboard Pelican?" I asked.
"Ye'll be a Flensman! Ye'll be a cuttin' the whale! Making her
into blocks of blubber and whale-meat! The blubber'll then be
rendered! 'Tis what runs yer lamp lad! Runs yer lamps in yer
posh 'ouses!!"
"And what pay will I receive......... Bluey?" His eyes
glittered! He still didn't like, or accept, the nickname I had
given him....but until he asked for my real name!...That's how
it would remain!
"Ye'll get yer food, and yer berth! That's it!!! Ye might get
a share of any profit made if we kill enough whale! But...We
need ta find 'em first lad!"
"Ye'll be berthin' with Moses! The two of ye'll get along
fine! Just fine!"
I turned and caught the wink and smile passing between the big
black man and Stone!! What gave???
Moses Samuels spoke in a loud rich voice..."Yo 'ave a God Mr
Ballsy? Yo gonna need one! If I'se yo...I'd pray!! Yo gonna
need to pray! Yo shippin' wid Moses, yo gotta learn to
pray!!!"
"When do we sail?" I asked of Jez Stone....The sooner the
better for me!!
"We sail on the midnight tide! We need to be shipshape by 23
'underd!"
"Moses'll see yer kitted out and signed in!!....MORE ALE
INNKEEPER!!! MORE ALE FOR MY FRIEND!!!" He shouted at the top
of his voice! The Innkeeper bustled around the back of the
bar, selecting a new flagon to bring to our table!!
"Shipmates!!!" There was still chatter and hubbub around the
room.."I SAID SHIPMATES!!!!" He slammed his fist hard on the
pinewood table!!...a hush fell over the entire
crew!...."Shipmates!! This 'ere Ballsy is shippin' with us! I
want ye all t' 'elp 'im settle in!! An' no games! 'Ear me? No
games!"
"Now fill yer yards 'n let's drink t' a good voyage and a good
catch o' whale!!!"
A chorus of "A good voyage and a good catch of whale!!" echoed
around the Inn!...Tankards of ale were downed in one!! I was
very apprehensive of sailing with this gang of
cutthroats...but I had no choice really did I??
Moses Samuels saw my look of apprehension, left the serving
whench he had purloined, and made his way back to our table...
"Well Mr Ballsy!! Ye're part o' the crew now! Wid all da
priveledge, an' all da bad luck that go wid it!!....We get
whale...we eat...no whale...no eat! Simple ain' it??"
"An' yo watch out fer Jez Stone!! Ya 'ear me? 'e ain' gonna
forgive yo fe what yo done!!"
He looked me in the eye and gave a broad smile...then a large
wink!!!
"Nosiree! 'e ain gonna forget neether!!!"
God!!! What a voyage this was going to be!! I would have to
have eyes in the back of my head to keep tabs on all of
them!!!
Our evening passed slowly, at least for me!! I refused to
drink more than the two glasses that I had had earlier in the
evening!! I needed my wits about me, just in case any untoward
move was made by Jez Stone, to exact revenge! However, nothing
occured, and we all left the Inn, and made our way towards the
sea front....some rather precariously stumbling, others
dancing reels and jigs! it had obviously been a good night
ashore for some of the crew...now it was time to pay for the
enjoyment! There would be several sore heads in the morning!
Moses would show me to my accomodation area!...but not before
Jez had enlightened me as to why new recruits were alloted
hammock space in the forends.....!
"'Tis where the smell is baddest young Balsy! 'Tis also where
the ship goes up 'n down like harlot's pantaloons! Ye'll be
glad to have a work station aft, if'n the weather gets bad!"
As we approached the quays, I needed no directions to point
the way to the "Pelican"....I could smell her! The smell was
unpleasant! It was a cross between decaying flesh and warm old
axle grease...it assailed the nose at a mile distant! She lay
next to a whitewashed wall of the quay, her yards and canvas
were all awry, not shipshape by any means...but then- perhaps
I was expecting too much from such a motley bunch! She
certainly needed to be maintained a little better than she had
been...peeling paintwork, torn canvas, rope just cast down and
not cheesed-down, some of the running blocks and sheeves
looked as though they might disintegrate at any moment!!! This
was to be my home for the next few months!! Ah well! I might
change ship in America!!!
"This 'ere 'twould be yo 'ammock space Balsy!!" Said
Moses...We had climbed the rickety gangway, crossed a deck
covered in congealed blood and yellow grease, dropped through
a hatch in the foc'sle, into what I now knew was the flensing
crews mess!! God!! It stank...My alloted space was a pair of
hooks set in the deckhead,about 8ft apart, I would sling my
hammock jammed between two other crew, their hooks were about
2ft 6" away from mine!!! Close quarters!!!
Moses showed me where to pull a dilapitated hammock from the
pound, and then showed me how to string my acquisition, and
how to carve a "'Mick" stretcher, to sit between the outside
pair of strings at each end!!
I also drew two mouldy, damp smelling blankets from the same
pound, and set to work rigging my hammock!
"Yo be mite careful o' Mister Jez Ballsy!!! 'E runs this ship
'o ours...what 'e sez do go!!"
"I'll remember that Moses! Tell me! Who's the Captain? I take
it there is a Captain!"
"Oh Aye! There be a Cap'n alright! Yo met'n yo did!! 'E be
Jez!! Jez Stone be our Cap'n!!!...."An' yo idn see more 'o him
until we 'its the whales!!"
"When and where will we hit the whales Moses?"
"Yo can nebber be certin young Ballsy...nebber be certin!!
Some day we meet 'un two days out, 'nother time, we don' meet
un at all!"
Amid loads of shouting and clanking, Pelican was made ready
for sea! As the tide encroached, and the time approached, I
felt nervous!! Did I really want to sever all ties with
England...would I make it as a flenser? I had no choice...it
was leave, or risk being strung up by the neck by the Sheriff
and his men!!
We hadn't left the harbour wall, and I was feeling the
movement of the ship!! I felt a little unsteady on my feet...I
felt I needed some air..the unwashed bodies lying around the
mess gave off a certain unpleasant odour, which was cloying in
the extreme!! I climbed the ladder and stepped on deck!! Men
were busy getting the ship ready for sea!...I walked over to
the quayside rail..
"GODDAM MY RAGS BALLSY!!!! GET YER LANDLUBBERS ARSE BELOW
DECKS!!! THIS 'ERES FOR SEAMAN ONLY!!! WE'RE ABOUT TO LEAVE
'ARBOUR GOD DAMN YER EYES!!!...I jumped as the bellow from
behind me issued forth from the mouth of our "Captain"....
" I beg pardon! I didn't know!!" I replied! I turned to go
below...and in that split second Jez Stone was at my side,
another split second and he held a knife at my throat, I
looked into his good eye..."You'd best learn a lesson
"Bluey"!!! Take that knife out in my presence and you'd better
use it!!! Or....I will!!" I calmly raised my hand, gripped his
wrist like a vice, and twisted until his hand moved the blade
clear of my throat!
"There be a time a'comin Ballsy!! There be a time a'comin!"
His face was a mask of fury!!
"Then I suggest you do the job properly when you do try!!!
Otherwise.... YOU might need to befriend an undertaker!!"
Internally, I was shaking, but externally I exuded an air of
calm....this was enough to defuse the situation somewhat....I
turned and walked away....I expected at any moment to feel a
knife slide between my ribs!!!!
So-we set sail, the feel of the ship moving beneath my feet
was an alien experience, it took me quite a while to get use
to walking as the ship moved about me...I sometimes staggered,
looking for a hand hold, whilst some of the seamen expertly
dodged around me and went about their business as though their
feet were glued to the deck!!! I wondered how long I had to
remain below, before being able to take in the air and the
view of the sea! Moses came below as I was pondering on these
thoughts...."Ah thought yo'd be up'n the deck Ballsy!!..Yo
look a mite green ta me!!"
"I'm fine Moses!! Absolutely fine!! Just trying to get my feet
to do as my brain tells them!!..I want to go on deck!!...But I
was banished below decks as we sailed!"
"Ahh!! Take no notice of Jez!! He be a little excit'ble when
we running to sea!!....Now!! I have bin tol' to show yo de
ropes wid the flensin' knife!" He walked over to a small
cupboard door set into the after bulkhead of this
accommodation mess, and, returned carrying a long pole with a
huge knife like blade attached to the end..
"See Ballsy!! This 'ere is de knife we cut da whale wid!...We
need to go deep...deep after cutt'n the hide...then come da
blubber....then come da meat!..So we cut tru da hide, tru da
blubber, but not da meat!! yo get dat??"
I said I did indeed! "Then we cuttin' lon'ways...up da lengt'
of da whale!...then we cut da blubber away f'om da meat! Da
blubber then go in da big vat bins an' is boil down...make
good oil Ballsy...Good oil!!!"
I told him I understood the theory....
"F'om early in da mornin' we lookin' fo' da whale! Yo be
lookin' too Mr Ballsy!! We lookin' fo' his blow!...his water
blow!! He come up to breathe! 'e 'ave to breathe...when 'e
breathe, he blow da water outa hisself! Then we see un...and
we lower da boats...men row like crazy!! They spike da fish,
'n get pull alon' behin' him!! Soon as 'e tire hisself
out...we pulls 'im in and then yo sets to work flensin'...!"
I picked up the flensing knife, turning it upside down, I felt
the blade...It was razor sharp!! My thoughts at that moment
were on Jez Stone!....I now knew where the weapon of choice
was stowed!
"Right Moses! Take me topside! I want to see where I shall be
working!!"
We scrambled up the ladder to the upper deck...I stepped
through the hatch, onto the deck and walked to the rail...we
were already well at sea....the swell was long and low, we
rode easily...I looked aloft, the sails were taut and Pelican
was fair skipping along!! Daylight would show me more of my
new home, now all I needed was sleep!
"Moses! I'm going below, I need some sleep! Can you show me
how to get into this hammock?"
"I do that Ballsy....c'mon below wid me!!"
We crossed the deck and dropped down the ladder...some of the
crew were already in their "micks"...some even snoring!...this
was going to be a new experience sure enough! I could not see
how on earth I could climb into somethin suspended from the
ceiling? I didn't have long to wait for a demonstration! Moses
stood beside my hammock, his face quite solemn, ..."Now Mr
Ballsy! We stan' an' look aft! We grab ho'd da bar above yo
head? (I hadn't noticed the ceiling rail that ran across the
ship...looking around I saw that each hammock line had a
rail!) Then we pull ow weight up an' swing da legs in!!...Yo
wanna try?"
I watched as he did it time after time...he pulled himself up
until his chest was against the rail...threw his feet to the
right....then dropped them into the hammock, and then walked
the rest of his body slightly along the rail and dropped
neatly into the "mick"!!! Getting out was achieved in the same
manner...he lifted his head...grabbed the rail pulled himself
up to it...and holding the stance, threw his body to the left,
and dropped to the deck!!!....We had now gathered a large
audience!! Sniggers and remarks were made...I was waiting for
someone to lay odds!
My first 12 or 15 attempts were feeble in the extreme...I
pulled my weight upwards to good effect...but trying to throw
my feet to the right and into the "mick" proved
elusive....chuckles from the gathered crew members drove me
on!! Eventually, the odds of achieving my aim by fluke won
through, and I landed my feet...then crabbed my body.... into
the hammock, which promptly closed around me!!! Moses quickly
inserted the wooden stretchers, and I lay there thinking how
comfortable this mode of bed was!! It stayed completely still
as the ship moved around you!! It felt like a cocoon!!!...More
fun followed as I tried to extricate myself!!! This comical
manouvreing lasted half an hour!!! Then...at last I had
mastered the technique!!...When I eventually stood on the
deck, pulled myself up into the hammock, then nimbly reversed
the process to return to the deck...a rousing cheer broke from
all watching!! I had learned my first seaman's lesson.....!
"Mr Ballsy...Yo take 'eed what I is gonna say! Yo sleep
'ere...yo need some protectin'....!" He drew his knife from
the sheath at his belt..."yo sleep wid one o' thees next to yo
body!! Always and ever...Yo hear?"
"I hear you Moses! And thank you for the lessons!"
"That ok shipmate!....But you watch for Jez! He a bad piece o'
work das fo sure!!"
"Thanks Moses! I'll remember!"
He bade me goodnight, the rest of the crew had
dissipated...going to their respective slumber...For the final
time, after stripping of my clothes, I grabbed the
rail...and...lo and behold..achieved entry to the hammock in
one go!!! Success.....I felt beneath me for my trusty
blade...slipped it under my bolster....I shall be ready if you
decide to call Jez!!! I shall be ready!!!
Over the next few days, I got to know a few of the faces,
shipmates I was sailing with... One who made a lasting
impression, was the Mate...a Dutchman by the name of Jan Van
Eike....he hailed from Groningen, a sea port, noted for it's
hospitality to slave ships! He told highly embroidered tales
of the slavers, their quarry and the ships that carried on the
trade....!
It was on the morning of the 5th day out from England, Moses
was giving me lessons in Nautical terms!...I learned that the
"ceiling" was in fact a "Deckhead"...My "floor" was the
"Deck"...My "wall" was a Bulkhead...My "living space" was my
"Messdeck"...I learnt what a Gunwhale was, what a yard was,
what ratlines were...my knowledge was increasing by the
day!...I was listening intently whilst he taught me about star
and sun sights for Navigation aids...when from aloft (I now
knew the right terminology) came the cry-"She blows!!!!"
Van Eike-who was at the helm with the helmsman,
shouted.."Where away?"
"Two points on the Starboard bow!!...three maybe
four!....NO!!! A whole pod of 'em!!! Maybe a dozen Sir!"
Suddenly there was a pounding of feet on ladders, and crew
members, some of whom I'd never set eyes on, bounded onto the
deck and set about unlashing the numerous boats that I had
noticed were battened down along the ship's sides!....At high
speed, the covers were taken off, and the boats manually
worked on small jibbooms out over the gunwhales, lowered to
within 3 or 4 feet of the surging Atlantic swell!....I looked
to where Moses was pointing, and, there were several spouts of
water to be seen! This was my first sighting of the creature
they called a whale!...."They be Sperm whale Mr Ballsy! They's
gold fo sure!!!"...The ship heeled over as the helm was put
over to bring the ship round to where we could now sea the
large black shapes of the whale's backs....The...one lifted
it's tail high into the air...I was amazed at the size of it!
We were still a couple of miles distant...but it was
incredibly large!!! The black and white tail stood about 20 or
30 feet into the air....I watched astounded!!..."She be goin'
deep!!!..Yo watch Ballsy! They all gonna go deep too!"
The crew meanwhile were clambering into the boats...I heard
the cry "Slip!!"....boats splashed into the water, and the
oarsmen set about their task with a vengeance!! The "Whalers"
veered off from the ship and headed for the sighted
whales....In each boat...at the bow..stood a man with a long
pole harpoon...coiled rope was tied to the shaft of the
harpoon...I presumed the unfortunate whale would be harpooned
and would then be brought to the ship's side! What I didn't
expect, was the spectacle of the whale towing the boats that
had harpooned it...the first whaler had approached the nearest
whale....the man in the bow with the lance stood high on the
fore thwart....and from what I could see, as the whale
broached...he flung the harpoon with all his might...it
entered the side of the leviathan...and the chase was on!! The
whale lifted it's huge tail from the water, and smashed it
down again, several times, before standing it on end...and the
whole thing sinking below the waves....I looked around...other
boats were doing the same thing with other whales!! I looked
back to where the first harpooned whale had disappeared....I
could see rope flying out over the side of the bow!!!
"She soundin' Ballsy!! She gon' real deep!! Wud crush da man
if'n he go as deep as she go!"
"Is there enough rope?" I asked.
"Yes'm there be plenny rope! But she gotta be tire' out fo
they brings her 'lon'side!"
I could imagine the fear and the pain the whale was going
through...I thought it cruel in the extreme...but I was new to
the whaling business...I could only look and learn! As
suddenly as it started...the rope in the bow of the first boat
stopped flying out..all was still!!!
"What's happening Moses?" I could see all action in some of
the other boats had also ceased....
"They gonna com' back up in a while now!! Then other boat
strike home too!! They tire da fish out!...Then we gonna get
to work fo' flensin'!"
I watched spellbound..in the bow of the lead boat, the
harpooner was feeding the slack rope back into the boat, yard
after yard, hand over hand!..."She risin' Mr Ballsy! She
RISIN!!!" Suddenly...with a huge upheaval of the sea, right
alongside the lead boat, the huge whale emerged from the
depth...stood about 15 to 20ft into the air, and crashed down
again....just before it hit the water...the second boat
struck!!! A harpoon was hurled...and caught the whale behind
the head!....With a massive thrash of it's tail, which almost
upended the boat, the whale made a high-pitched wailing sound,
it echoed all around us, other whales joined in it
seemed!!!....Then! As it submerged partly...it started to
streak off towards the open sea! I could see the leading boat
harpooner, quickly taking a turn around the seat in the bow of
the boat...it was now being towed along behind the whale at
high speed!!...The second boat also suddenly buried it's nose
into the water, threatening to swamp it and drown it's
contents!!! Both boats now streaked off across the sea,
smashing into the wave crests....men in the crew's holding on
for dear life!!
"They tire 'er out Mr Ballsy! This might go fo an 'our or
mo'!"
Other boats were tangling with other whales I thought...but as
yet, were not "into" the whales, as the first two boats were!
They were disappearing fast...we stayed on course! Following
much more slowly astern, waiting for the whale to tire itself
out I presumed!!
"How do they get it alongside Moses? How do they get it
aboard?" I asked.
"She float ok...they bring aboard in da pieces! Hoist on da
Jibbooms!"
Suddenly a smell wafted to my nose...it almost made me retch!!
A warm, greasy smell I had smelled as I had boarded the
"Pelican"....That smell of hot axle grease...and dead animal
flesh! It was cloying....The boiling vats had fires underneath
them now I could see!!! How could they work in this stink all
the time?
"They say yo can smell a whale ship f'om 20 mile Mr Ballsy!!"
A voice at my side, combined with a whiff of halitosis,
announced the arrival of Jez Stone!!!
"Well! Well!...What 'ave we got 'ere then?? Our Landlubber
friend, on deck watchin' the action eh?...Your time is very
short my friend! Your whore of a mother won't be able to wipe
your bottom fer ya out 'ere Ballsy! No Sir!!! ..........
How many diseased sailors did she lie with before she got you
eh???"
I felt my anger rise!....I looked into his eyes...they were
laughing...I couldn't rise to the bait! He was the Captain of
this ship!...Not yet!!! But my time would come!!! Soon!!! My
gaze fell upon the Flensing Knife Moses held.....SOON!!!
(To be cont.............)




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