*PART 1. IN THE OLD GOOD BULTON*
1. MR. MORTON`S MANUSCRIPT
“Se non e vero, e ben trovato.”
[Even if it is not true, it is a good story]
The oldspoken Italian lemma.
Andrew Lowson, who usually leased his small house in harbor for “respectable arrivals”, was standing in his dooryard and trimming jasmine bushes with garden scissors. The old poodle, owergrown by its curly pelage to the very tip of its nose, reposed near the flowerbed and glanced over its master. The July sun raised over sharp-topped Bulton roofs just now.
The scratch of footsteps on small pathway, strewn with pebbles, had alerted the poodle`s drowsiness, and the dog growled on the unfamiliar man in hawker`s clothes, who had stopped in front of flowerbed. Behind the man`s back there was a small travel bag, and he had a stick in his arms.
– Please, may I see mr. Lowson? – stranger asked with light foreign accent. Nevertheless his appearance wasn`t show up that he can be a foreigner.
– How can I help you? Sorry, I still struggle to be steady on my feet: I had been ill and got up from the bed only today.
– I have a strong necessity to talk eye-to-eye about one exceedingly important matter. And this matter make our meeting stood in deep privacy…
Lowson bended his grey-heared brows:
– I`m an old man, so I have no desire to step into any secret matters. But who had directed you here, and where are you from?
– My name is Rodgers. I`m a trader, but rather poor trader. At yesterday I`d came to the local jural bureau`s chief, Mr. William Thompson, and he advised me to visit you with inquiries, which I need for… You, Mr. Lowson, had been a gem valuator in Bulton firm, which was belonged to deceased Nathaniel Gardee, isn`t it?
– Yes, it is, but from that time, there were about four years. The bureau was closed to the end of 1768. What do you need from me, mr. Rodgers? Don`t worry, you may tell it to me: no one could listen us, except this poodle.
– Mr. Lowson, I`m interested in what happened in sixty-eight year exactly. Please, can`t you say, if Mr. Gardee`s firm drove a trade in jewelry with continental countries?
– Yes, commercial operations like these were usual for us, but they were passed through our bureau mainly. Why did you interested in business of firm, which was closed down long time ago?
– If you see, I`m seeking for any trails of one precious stone, which was reaved away in 1768 from… from my friends. And searching for that lead me here, to Bulton. I`m suspecting, that reavers could be settled here too. Also, I had even seen one of them… Tell me, please, has a roughly faceted, bluewater-colored diamond as big as… as that pebble, been through your arms? On this flat of it, here, there was a tiny yellowish spot. The price of that stone could have been about four thousand guineas. Don`t you remember any stone like that?
Lowson meditated a bit and stared at the stranger narrowly:
– I`d seen and valuated that diamond. If it wasn’t for the spot, it will cost more. Yes, such stone really passed through my arms, but it`s future remained unknown for me. I don`t know, if it would have been purchased by the firm.
A joyful flash, nearly brightened stranger`s dark eyes, went out.
– Who had owned the diamond in that time? – he asked quickly.
– I`m not have any right to reveal it for you.
– Oh, consarn it! But if I tell you the name by myself, do you confirm my rightness? The current owner of the port tavern “The Whale`s Belly”, Mr. Woodrow Crage, offered you this stone, isn`t it?
Lowson shrugged his shoulders.
– Listen please, Mr. Lowson, I`ll reveal you much more, than I told before. Initially, that blue diamond had been stolen, and then the reavers took a possession of whole treasure, which counted of twenty precious stones! All together, they cost a fabulous amount of money – sixty thousand pounds sterling! Might be, when I reveal the trails of one stone, I would be able to find other ones. May you have a little trust to me, tell me, that I`m not mistaking: Woodrow Crage offered you the stone for sale, isn`t it? Or… might be… there was Woodrow`s masked accomplice, who did it? Oh, I know who his accomplice is! He`s one important person in that town, and his name is…
– Eh, Rodgers, now listen to me, to the old man. I`m having got one hip in the grave and I know better, that anyone, how much dirt and blood sticking to glistening verges of diamonds and brilliants. That stone had passed through my arms such long ago, and I don`t want to trouble the past and involve the quicks into old mysteries. Let this stone laying on the bottom of any chest. And I`ll give an advice to you to forget about it. You would have no luck owning that stone!
– Mr. Lowson, don`t you afraid to overshadow the name of your former proprietors? I promise you, it will remain untainted by nothing. Tell me, please, has the deceased owner of the firm really had no heirs, who can to give you the right of revealing me all that, what the firm been aware of this stone?
– Mr. Gardee had got the daughter. You may contact to her. She is living in twelve miles near the Bulton, in the Chancefield estate, and her name is Emily Ryland now.
Beads of sweat were forming on the stranger`s forehead, and he wiped it by the wrap. When he did it, Lowson spotted, that the stranger had no ring-finger on his left arm.
– For goodness sake, – the trader said silently, – do not tell anyone about our converse. One slip of the tongue will be the end of you and mine!
The chief of the biggest law firm in Bulton, “Thompson&Son”, the Queen`s counsel and learned sargent, mr. William Thompson was sitting in his home office and learned the paperwork, which were laid out on his table, attentively. He was so deep into his work that he didn`t noticed, how his aged servant came to the table and snuffed two candles, which had been lit in massive candlestick, with small tweezers from time to time.
The paperwork, which were laying in the front of the sargent`s face, could tell for anyone, who may been interested in them, a story how “The North-Britain commercial company” had been established and about it`s activity. The documents indicated about immaculate and excellent state of affairs of that company. It`s commercial director, mr. Ralph Norvard had maintained friendly relations with mr. Thompson since olden times.
The counsel knew that the initiator and majority owner was the new and important person in the town: sir Frederic Jonathan Ryland. This titled nobleman had settled in Bulton only four years ago. Appeared to obviously proud of his energy and resourcefulness, he recently inherited his ancestral estate, Chancefield, and a title of viscount, but he tend not to limit his matters by only traditional nobleman`s amusements like the war, hunting or evil-speaking. He was succeeded in engaging the honorable, highly respected merchant, mr Norvard, with his plans.
Using the money, which had been invested by sir Frederic Ryland in the business, the big rope plant had been launched, the sailcloth factory had been built, the Bulton cloth manufactory had been bought and expanded, and first three ships had been purchased.
The investment, which was made in all this business, brought an income in short space of four years and allowed for sir Frederick Ryland to expand his small landholding on the north of England. He started a new profitable business on these newly purchased lands - the fine-fleece sheep breeding.
All three ships have continued to multiply income of a firm by conducting for faraway voyages, and the vast workshops of new manufactories already did delivered fine cloths for tunics of officers of King`s Army, rough fabric for oversea colonists, ships` gears and cloths. The stocks, which were issued by the firm in a greatly limited number, were stood highly, and the recent stock exchange panic of 1771-1772 years hadn`t weakened the reputation of “The North-Britain company”.
The aged servant distracted his master from reading papers.
– Mr. Samuel Landee and mr. Robert Patterson, - he reported with opening up the door.
Wiped his bald head, sweared from labours, by foulard wrap, mr. Thompson took the old-fashioned, braidless periwig of sizeable amounts with long curls, from the holder. Mr. Thompson mounted it on his head, which made it disproportionately large compared with his puny figure. This heavy decoration give to mr. William a resemblance with a lion – with that curly pet, which is usually made looking like the animal king by vain owners with using scissors, actually.
Mr. Thompson caught both gentlemen, who had come for traditional game of cards, in living room in the society of his son Richard, the co-owner of law-firm.
The clutched card table with still unerased results of previous cribbage on green cloth, wax crayons and small circular brushes, with two unpacked decks of cards and heavy bronze candlestick in the middle, waited for partners. Next to it, by the hot flaming fireplace, the punch heating in capacious vessel, looking like cask with cover, on the little table. The enticing scent of fragrant spices were beginning to spread across the room. A servant was working behind the small table, setting the cold veal, cheese, oysters and bisquits.
The place at the card table of absent family friend, pastor Radleeng, had been taken by mr. Thompson-junior, twenty-eight-year gentleman with a very neat hairdo, made of his own hair like Charles Grandison, the hero of famous novel. All four gentlemen remain silent at the tables. They despised usual buzzwords and remarks, which usually accompanied the game in the less special range, and expressed themselves by gestures and gracious smiles.
But when the cask with cover was emptied by half, and the partners` faces had reached in color with the drink, the conversation had been started up. From the situation of European war, which finished by the division of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth between Russia and Prussia, gentlemen got on a subject of domestic politics.
- It`s hard time! The danger is increasing, and we all need in strong arms for saving the best interests of England, – mr. Samuel Landee told, the banker, the fifly-five-year man, wearing the long old-fascioned cloths. – The world is trembling, we`re living like on volcano. America is almost lost our colony. It`s doers, all these Adamses, Jeffersons and Franclins, pursue openly hostile policy to us, and the confrontation with the dragon of American revolution is inevitable. It`s particulary dangerous, that the France population is fluttering, it`s poor peasants rebelling, and Paris became a capital of godless and scandalous doctrines. Russian tsarina Catherine expands her holdings to the south and the west every year, and her navy already crushed Turkish power. Ancient Porta is doomed. It`s dangerous… – After taking a hefty swing he were continued: – The worldwide pot is boiling. England needs in quick and grippy hands nowadays. We need to snatch the biggest pieces from this pot until others do that. I see no determination in action of our government. Sometimes you have to be a wolf in sheep`s clothes, but it`s impossible to be a sheep in wolf`s clothes. It`s a disgrace! I say: we can`t indulge American colonists anymore. We can permanently lose America.
The counsel`s son, mr. Richard Thompson listened for old banker with a barely hidden outrage.
– I`m finding, – he uttered strongly, – that our politics in colonies is truly wolfish. Colonists in America want to be a hosts of their country by themselves, which our government, lords Bewtt and Granwill want to bind it`s hand and foot.
Mr. Landee frowned and nearly would like to argue weightly with this heated opponent of lords Bewtt and Granwill, when new person came to the living room. It was Bulton Caphedral Vicar, Reverend Thomas Radleeng, who was late to the piquet. He explained his delay with what he had participated in honored parishioner`s family holyday.
– I`ve spent a nicest day today with lord Frederick Ryland in his country house! God has blessed the young couple with beautiful firstborn two years later. It`s my godchild, I named him Charles. The couple Rylands were celebrating their child`s birthday… My dear mr. William! Sir Fredrick asked me to convey his best wishes of your good health.
To pastor`s surprise, the host accepted his words quite dryly.
– Interests of «The North-Britain company», owned by mr. Ryland on nine-tenths, are protecting by me for three years now, but this business side have not yet been encourage neither me, nor my notable client to personal knowledge. I maintain relations with the company through it`s commercial director, my friend mr. Norvard.
With those words, mr. Thompson raised the glass, squinted his eyes and started staring through wine, poured into the glass, at flame of fireplace`s ember. Pastor Radleeng chocked up and silenced. Then came awkward silence.
– Mister Thompson! – shipbuilder Patterson did speak, thus far silent. – Old friends of your family are here. Maybe you will finally tell us about these underwater reefs between you and sir Fredrick, which are so noticeable for your friends?
– Mr. Patterson was surprisingly definite with anticipating my thought! – Landee exclaimed. – Lord Ryland`s appearance in our town caused many talks because of tragic circumstances, which have marred his move from India to Europe. It was printed in the newspapers, I remember, but very poorly.
– I`ve known him for the long time, gents, – Patterson continued. – My shipyard built for the company two schooners – “Gloria” and “Dorothea” – and brig “Orion”, and is working on fourth ordering now. It`ll be the best ship ever released from English shipyards. I`m pleased to cooperate with this gentleman: he has courageous nature and wide spread. However, I confess: this private person and his quiet wife with sad eyes are still a half mystery for me!
– Dear mr. Patterson and you, my old friend Samuel, – mr. Thompson uttered a few pathetic. – I would be happy to grant your wish, but I must ask for Richard`s permission to announce on detail, which still known only for us, Richard`s parents.
In so doing, Thompson-major took quizzical look on his heir. He nodded affirmatively and added:
– I hope for the honor of our friends, father. That family secret got to be kept off public record…
Gentlemen bowed their heads in agreement, and sir vicar even upraised his arms to the mountain. However, he, as a priest, already knew about this intimate detail. He knew, that sir Fredrick Ryland poached the fiancé from mr. Richard, but he was anxious to know, how and under what circumstances it happened.
– In that cause, gentlemen, you`re about to hear one of amazing modern tragedies. It would brought the honor of Drury Lane Theater, if it fall under the quill of Marlowe or Shakespeare. Let me read the interesting document, which was given to me for safekeeping. The author, providing the document at my disposal, allowed it`s publicity within the limits I may consider appropriate.
With these words Queen`s counsel headed to his office and come back with notebook, bound with brown tooled leather. Put glasses on, the old gentleman began to read.
“To my dear daughter Mary from her father, Thomas Morton, attorney of Calcutta notary office “Noel-Abraghames&Mokhandas Madjarhamie”.
My dear daughter!
This notebook contains genuine travel notes I have begun in Calcutta and finished in Bulton of this December 20th day 1768 year . I started these notes before my departure with unrelenting thoughts about you and with heated prays about sending to me a happiness of putting my arms around my dear daughter, and then continued them in my travel, swallowing tears of grief and despair. Save that notebook, where circumstances of the our vessel`s loss and also details of our imprisonment and salvation were imprinted. In the will of God only I and two my companions got through these omnious events. The names of untold number dead – their names Thou knowest! In sanct martyris sanguis – est salus tuus, Britfnnia!
Thomas Morton, solicitor.
Calcutta February 19th, 1768 year
My decision to leave Calcutta and to move into Europe induced my chieves, mr. Zilomone Noel-Abraghames and mr. Madjarkhamie, on entrusting to me two cases in England, after completion of which I can consider myself off-duty and already live on my savings and small pension without business care.It`s my fervent hope to find a place to live in my hometown, Portsmouth, which I left exactly forty years ago, when I was ten-year boy. There, in Portsmouth, my daughter Mary, who were deported to England twelve years years ago when I lost my excellent wife, waiting for me.
Two causes, entrusted to me, are both connected with Bulton law-firm “Thompson&Son”, which has a reputation as one of the most solid law-firms in metropolis.
The first assignment concerns introduction esquire Frederick Johnathan Ryland, the client of our Calcutta law-firm, into his right of inheritance.
Distant ancestors of mr. Ryland were originally from Netherlands and were related matrilineal with the Orange House. Under king Wiliam III Orange mr. Francis Ryland obtained the title of viscount and small Bulton estate, Chancefield.
Henry Ryland,the son of first viscount Chancefield, been persuaded by his nobled neighbour, marquis Blandhill, the fierce defender of Tory party, took part in plotting aganist the king George I and, deprived of his peer`s title, ended his life in Chancefield exile. Until recently, the son of disgraced sir Henry -sir Edward Ryland – owned an estate Chancefield. His younger brother, the royal officer William Michael Ryland, went to the India, to Calcutta, where in 1742 he had a son, Frederick Johnathan Ryland.
Mr. Frederick lost his parents too soon, and my father, who had served as jurist in the same law-firm, which I joined with later, became his caretaker. After finishing college in Madras young mr. Ryland have made several marine expeditions as junour mate, demonstrated his good knowledge in astronomy and navigation.
Mr. Fredrick Ryland moved to the Europe at 1763 and visited his uncle in London, sir Edward, viscount Chancefield, who owned Bulton estate.Childless widower, sir Edward, who owergrown to hate Chancefield as destination of his father`s exile, had lived in London the oblivious way of life, providing the management of the estate to mr. Montegue Went. The neglected estate generated little income. Sir Edward gave a quite cold shoulder to his nephew, and he returned back to the India in 1767, where he was interested in scientific pursuits and spent some months in deep Indian jungles with research purposes.
Mr. Edward died into the end of 1767. His nephew, sir Fredrick, inherited a small capital and the ravaged Bulton estate. The title of viscount also may be shifted to him, if the rights on it, which have been interesting Edward so little, are`t hopelessly lost yet. Bulton law firm “Thompson&Son”appealed to ours for seeking for the heir. Sir Fredrick`s papers been kept my chieves, and bearing in mind my desire to return to England forever, they granted me a power of appointment on producing all formalities, which are connected with introduction sir Frederick into his right of inheritance.
The second assignment of my chieves include the elimination of business and property of little Bengal firm “Gardee&Demuriee”, by decision of it`s sole owner, mr. Nathaniel Gardee. Mr Gardee was born in Bulton, but spent most of his life in India, where he purchased silver mine in Bengalia along with French engineer monsieur Demuriee. Of this marriage mr. Gardee and his companion`s daughter the girl was born in 1749, had a Catholic christening. At the insistance of her mother, she was raised in the one of French abbeys, where she lived until her age of eighteen. In 1767 year she made her journey to Calcutta to her parents, but didn`t catch her mother alive. Missed his wife,as well as his companion, mr. Gardee, as like me, felt a deep yearning for old good England. He sold the mine and decided to close up his small offices in Bulton and Portsmouth. All preliminary troubles of his businesses were taken by our office, with assigning them to me.
At that moment, as I write these lines, mr. Gardee with his only dauther Emily, as well as the heir of sir Edward mr. Frederick Ryland, the future viscount Chancefield are preparing themselves for a long way carefully. Their preparations, as well as mine, are already coming to an end. The big convoy of vessels comes out from Calcutta at the beginning of March. I`ve already bought two staterooms on English brigantine “Ofeira”: one of them is intended to mr. Ryland and me, and the second – for mr. Gardee and miss Emily. Mr. Gardee is the kindness himself. He is nice to me and calls me his governer. But I didn`t had a chance to see his daughter yet.
The port of Calcutta, March 3th 1768 year
So, the both holds of “Ofeira” took last tons of cargo. The brigantine will deliver very valuable goods to Europe – precious fabric paints, noble metal bars, gemstones for Dutch jewelers, the silk for domestic fancy women and medicines for European pharmacists. The larger and most valuable part of cargo – silver bars and beautiful gemstones – belongs to mr. Gardee.
Passengers have got their place in staterooms already. The brigantine is too small for having our own staff, so that we have to make do with the services of crew. Miss Emily, the dauther of mr. Gardee, is a truly charming young lady! It would seem, mr. Ryland takes the same view too. However, my client is not saying much and not pacticularly courteous to me.
Tomorrow at dawn, we`ll weigh anchor. Other vessels of our convoy are loading nearby. Armed military vessels are already waiting for us on an ocean raid. The convoy consists of eight merchant ships and four guarding ships. Merchant vessels are armed too – I`ve seen two copper cannons on our brigantine. May God in His mercy take care of us in our long trip!
The Bay of Bengal, on board of «Ofeira», March 5th
Today we said our last farewell to the mouth of sacred Ganges. That`s the second day of our sailing, and majestic mouth of the river, low-lying coast with lush greeners and massive pagods are already disappearing on the horizon. The ocean is calm, and our trip is still very pleasant. The convoy steers the course to the Madras.
The 100 gun third-decked ship “Hampshire”, which arrived in our waters from West Indies, is moving in front of convoy. She`s heading to Plymouth – so, we will go under her proper guard for the rest of the journey. Two light frigates are protecting flanks of convoy, one corvette brings up the rear. Our brigantine is following in the end of convoy, under guard of corvette`s cannons.
All of yesterday I spend talking on the deck with mr. Gardee, about whom I`ll keep the most pleasant memories forever. My interlocutor gave me a pleasure by news, that the head of Bulton law firm mr. Thompson-major and mr. Gardee himself are not only counrymen, but also schoolfriends. There is even extended relation exists between them. During the past thirty years old men has maintained their correspondence, being in different parts of the world. The children took a place in it too after mr. Gardee sent his watercolor portrait, showing him with his daughter, to his old friend . And soon, father and dauther received in response a picture of mr. William Thompson with his son Richard. The young people liked each other on from a distance, and their parents consider their betrothal, which is stil not disclosed because of difference of their beliefs, definitely considered. The forthcoming marriage of Richard and miss Emily was also one of the reasons,which encouraged mr. Gardee to hurry up with his departure to England.
Young Fredrick Ryland managed to get out the last lotus in the mouth of Ganges from the water and present it to miss Emily. While we were having a talk, sir Fredrick and our kind captain dedicated miss Emily into the secrets of sea-giong skill. Sir Fredrick Ryland is very calm, self-confindent man. He`s holding himself with great dignity. His face is friendly and the features are distinguished by their nobility. He have a nice aquiline nose, dark hair...”
- Here, in this place, the notebook were a little damaged . It has many slightly wet pages, and the lines are almost washed away somewhere, - mr. Thompson interrupted his reading.
- I think, only the friendly panegyrick to mr. Ryland had been damaged. That loss does not seem to be irrepatable for me, - mr. Landee uttered grumpily. - We ask you to read more, where the text is a bit clear.
So well, comrades. I`m sure, anyone, who read any novels like "Treasure Island" will love it too.
"The Heir from Calcutta" was written in 1952 by Robert Shtilmark, and until nowadays had not been translated in English. Until someone in 2014 translated only prologue... Hah, but I have a plan to translate it whole. So let`s read and enjoy.
There is no worse sorrow than remembering…
Alfred De Musset
Two men carefully made their way on a rocky path toward a small bay, surrounded by cliffs. A tall, hook nosed gentleman in a dark green cloak and a triangular hat walked out front. A pigtail wig glistened in silver beneath the hat. It was tightly tied with a black ribbon, so the wind wouldn’t disarranged it. Sea boots with raised flaps didn’t interfere the lithe tread of the man. A tread one learned not on the saloon parquets but on the rickety deck of a ship.
The cloaked man’s companion, a handsome youth in groom’s coat, bared a small telescope in a black case and a hunting rifle. The rifle trunk was made from the finest Damascus steel and it’s smoothly polished butt was decorated with pearl inlay. The weapon didn’t have any strap or even strap tabs. There was no need for the owner to carry his hunting equipment on his own shoulders, he never went out hunting without his squire.
Grey granite cliffs fringed the semicircle bay. The fishermen called it the Old King’s bay for the jagged peaks of the median rock resembled a crown. Gulls flew right above the grayish green, smelling like iodine, water. The morning was gloomy with a drizzle of rain. This kind of weather was usual even in the summer, here, in northern England, on the coast of the Irish sea.
The first shot echoed in the desert cliffs. A disturbed pack of gulls soared skyward and scattered in all directions with shrill cries. In small flocks, the birds rushed to the nearby cliffs, and there, on the other side of the bay, began to decline again. The gentleman obviously missed. No shot bird trembled on the foamed water.
“The rifle is recharged, Your Grace!” The young groom handed his master the gun, ready for a new shot. The shooter and his companion had already reached the top of a low cliff and looked down from it’s edge. “The birds will calm down soon and land back again.”
"The hunting never goes well for me if I missed the first shot” the gentleman replied. “I think our walk today is useless anyway. No sails on the horizon. Probably our “Orion” is also anchored somewhere in safety. But still, I’ll stay here for a while. Take the gun, Anthony, give me the telescope and wait for me down near the horses.”
The groom handed over his master’s tube and went down the trail. Soon, the rustle of the bushes and crumbling pebbles under his feet faded away. The gentleman stood on the cliff alone.
The sea tossed restlessly under the rocks. Slowly growing and covering the curves of the coast, came a cloud from the ocean. The outlines of the distant headlands and small islands gradually disappeared under the veil of rain and fog. From beneath this low shroud arose rows of huge brown waves. The beach opened its stone embrace of bays and coves to meet them. Slowly flapping their shaggy manes, the waves rammed at the foot of the cliff.
To the man who stood at the top of the cliff it seemed like the rock itself moving toward the ocean waves, cutting them with his stone chest like with the stern of a ship. Wind gusts scatter around the thin dust of salty water. And it settled on the man’s hard, curly sideburns. Without looking away he watched the surf and counted every ninth wave, always the largest and bearded with foam.
The waves crashed on the rock and then rolled away, dragging boulders and gravel back to the sea until a new wave picked those stones and threw them again at the foot of the cliff.
His thoughts were already far from this bay, from the gray rocks and the shrill voices of the gulls. He stopped to notice everything around. Everything but the angry, shaggy waves. It is not a rock beneath his feet anymore! He is recalling a long lost ship…
Again, like in old days, he is standing with his feet wide apart on the bowsprit of the lurching, as if flying over the waves, ship. The wind whistles through the rigging, filling the sails… The waters of a warm sea gleaming overboard. Beyond the masts, in the deep black of the night skies he sees not the three-star belt of the Orion but the shimmering gold of the Southern Cross. He had always believed that among these most beautiful constellations of the northern and southern skies, there is also his star. The star of his good luck!
Farther and farther away from the British coast carries the man the ghostly ship of his memories…
…It’s The third month of the schooner’s journey. After a few short stops in small harbors and secluded coves on the western African coast, the schooner rounded the Cape of Good Hope, visited the southern part of Madagascar and delved into the waters of the Indian Ocean.
The schooner’s captain, the one-eyed Spaniard Bernardito Luis El Gorra, gathered together some good men for the long sailing. Forty six sailors, covered with tattoos head to foot who had already smelled gunpowder in their lives and knew third way with the sails and weather, the old boatsman nicknamed Bob Shark for his ferocity, the first mate Giacomo Grelly who earned in boarding battles the nickname Leopard Grelly. And finally, Bernardito himself, the One-Eyed Devil. This was the crew of the “Black Arrow”.
More then two weeks have passed since that early morning when the rocky coast of Cape Agulhasi, where the waters of the two oceans ever argue with each other in the blue immensity, melted away in the southwest stern of the schooner. But still not even one unguarded merchant ship encountered on the way of the pirate schooner in the wilds of the Indian Ocean.
"Blood and thunder!” cursed Red Pugh on the forecastle, flinging his pewter mug on the deck. “Why, in devil’s name, did Bernardito dragged us on this bowl of his to this shark’s hell? I should think that Spanish doubloons ring no worse than Indian rupees!”
“This is my third month sailing with you, but not even a single farthing hasn’t got lost in my pockets!” Answered Red Pugh’s companion, skinny, tall man with a gold ring in is ear, called by the team Jacob the Skeleton. “Where are these cheerful yellow circles and the pretty rainbow paper? What will I appear with in the tavern "The Salty Poodle” where God himself gets its punch only for cash? Where is our ringing joy, I wonder?!“
The day was coming to an end. The sun still stood high but was hidden in misty haze.
In that morning, the captain reduced the portion of water and win issued the crew. The thirsty sailors worked slowly an sullenly. The air was hot and wet. A light breeze from the shores of Madagascar filled the sails but its breath was so warm that it didn’t brought any refreshment to the heated faces and bodies.
"Let’s sit, Jacob. Here, under the boat it’s cooler. Our watch starts in half an hour and my throat is dry as if I chewed and swallowed the bible. Axe and gallows! When Black Woodrow was our boatsman, he always had en extra pint of dry Aragon for me.”
“Quiet down, Pugh! They say that the captain doesn’t like to mention Woodrow or Giuseppe.”
“No one hears us up here.”
“Tell me, Pugh, is it true what the guys whispers, that Woodrow and Giuseppe stretched their paws for Bernardito’s leather bag?”
Red Pugh smeared the sweat on his copper forehead with greasy palm.
“If these old wolves were still in our pack, we wouldn’t hang out here in this Indian basin like a dry cork. And wouldn’t suffer any need in anything.
But, Jacob, I advise you to keep quiet about that leather bag. Bernardito has long hands and he know to pull the trigger faster than anyone. I sail the "Arrow” over a year now and saw that bag with my own eyes but the thunder struck me if I say a word about it! Once I even looked through the captain’s cabin’s window when The One Eyed untied his bag…
Breath of wind rocked the schooner and a stronger wave splashed the board. Red Pugh paused and looked around.
“Look, Pugh, last night, Leopard Grelly, our mate, called me to talk about something. It seems to me that he doesn’t like the One Eyed. Grelly says that Woodrow and Giuseppe were real men. Tell me, Pugh, why Bernardito dropped them on the shore?”
“nobody knows exactly. But I could tell you something. Just watch your tongue or even the Leopard won’t help. Bernardito will send us to the bottom of this Indian hell and probably will stitch our mouths in addition. The One Eyed knows no mercy!”
“Let me drink goat’s milk instead of gin for the rest of my life if I spill the beans!”
“So, Jacob, just before the start of this sail, our "Arrow” got into an ambush…“
"That’s what I heard. The guys bragging that the "Arrow” fought of a whole squadron.
“What? Bragging? Well, I can see you still don’t know the One Eyed, Skeleton!
You have to keep an eye on him ‘cause he sleeps with his finger on the trigger, but, I swear in my mother womb that you won’t find a finer sailor in the whole Royal Navy!”
“So how come you fled?”
“How come we fled? I’d like to see some brave guy like yourself, Jacob, taking a fight on our pot with British frigate and French double-decked brig! Oh what a fine deal it was! Only the fog rescued us then. With a hole in the stern we barely made to clear out from the Frenchman in a narrow Catalan bay… Bernardito fooled all the hounds from Crete to Gibraltar! Two weeks the looked for us more diligently than a sober sailor looking for a penny in front of the counter. But the One Eyed left only a tuft of wool in their teeth and even stood a fight with watchdog Spanish corvette in that damn bay.”
The memories caused Red Pgh a rush of pride. He was waving his hands in excitement right in Jacob’s face who calmly nuzzled his pipe.
The storyteller stuffed in his mouth a portion of chewing tobacco with betel and went on:
“That’s when the captain decided to leave the good Mediterranean sea and go here, to the Indian waters. The navigator Giuseppe Lorano and the boatsman Woodrow Craig didn’t agree with him. Bernardito planned to slip through Gibraltar at night and Woodrow and Giuseppe started to fix the crew against him. There were plenty goods in the schooner’s holds from a Greek ship. But when the “Arrow” anchored in the Catalan bay and we began to mend the stern, Bernardito gathered us all on the poop deck and said, “We’re not sharing the booty!”
"And that the captain you put out with over a year?! In your place I would…”
"Wait a moment, you! The captain said that the goods to be sold in Portugal so we can patch the schooner, buy supplies and equip the “Arrow” for the long-haul sail.”
"So What did you did?”
“Well, you see, no one has tried to argue with him openly. That night Woodrow and Giuseppe schemed to kill him secretly. But Fernando Diaz, the helmsman who Bernardito once saved from the gallows, revealed the plot to the captain. Bernardito to slash both their throats but Leopard Grelly, the mate, didn’t let him. The midnight approached and the leaders still yelled and swear in the captain’s cabin. Then that Spanish guard corvette crept up on us and a hot brawl started under the torchlight…
"The Spaniard attacked you from the stern?”
“Yeah, and the captain sent Woodrow and Giuseppe into the worst fight, to protect the stern gap. He ordered Fernando Diaz to keep an eye on them and I took the wheel instead Fernando. The fight was bloody! The Spaniards won’t forget the "Black Arrow” for a long time now! We got out of the bay but Woodrow got his both feet blown off, Giuseppe got a holed side, Fernando had also earned two wounds and I got stunned by a volley of buckshot.“
"Pity I wasn’t there with you! So how’s the deal ended with those two?”
“How ended? We sailed in the dark, the dawn was close and we still had to sneak away from Gibraltar forts and guard ships. We had four wounded on board. Woodrow, Giuseppe, Fernando and the mulatto Enrico Roy. The captain decided to drop the wounded ashore 'cause on the ship they all would have certainly died. Our physician feed the fish in the last battle. Leopard wanted to give the wounded their share of the booty but the captain refused it.”
“Hell! I’ll be dead and still have my share from him!”
“Perhaps he would have been more amenable with the dead, but he refused the living. Only Fernando and mulatto Roy were on their legs among the wounded. Woodrow and Giuseppe laid unconscious. Bernardito ordered to carry Fernando to his cabin, the one by the wheelhouse, you see? The wind lifted the curtain in the cabin and I saw how One Eyed poured some diamonds in suede cases out of his bag, he picked the largest and another smaller one and gave them to Diaz. I heard Bernardito said: 'Here, take this blue diamond with yellow speck, to my mother in Greece so she won’t suffer any needs if I’ll die. Take the second stone to yourself, Fernando, and do whatever you want with it!’ Then all the wounded were pulled down into a boat and Enrico Roy grabbed the oars, his wound wasn’t heavy.”
“Wait a moment! They say Enrico Roy was Leopard’s pal?”
“Grelly kept him instead of a servant or so. He was one lazy glutton, that Enrico, I’ll tell you. So, Grelly whispered something to him while One Eyed talked to Fernando, gave the mulatto a handful of coins and the boat sailed to the Spanish coast in the darkness. No one knows if the wounded were killed or rescued. We were lucky, early in the morning, the schooner slipped the strait in the fog. Then we hide off the Portugal coast, repaired the ship at the Azores and equipped it on the Moroccan coast where you came aboard from the Turkish vessel. And so we sail for three months now, but to what end?”
A flock of flying fish with round, like lace collars, wings swept over the sea swell and splashed again, plunging into the depth.
“Coffin and corpse! Look, Jacob, Here his one eyed Grace leaned out of his cabin. The fever struck him down. He turned yellow as a Louisdor and lying on his bunk for days while we rub our hands bloody on the rigging. That devil will get the canvas bag and a rock on his chest but still insist to be stubborn and won’t leave those damned waters, hot as in the forge… But wait, what’s that on the horizon? Hell and devil! It’s a fire!”
At the same moment the sentinel’s cry 'Fire on the horizon! To the left stern!’ roused up the whole crew.
Tattoos on chest and arms, with unimaginable headdresses from palm leaves and even some pages with biblical text, the sailors of the “Black Arrow” poured out onto the deck.
Leopard Grelly went up the command bridge with a telescope in his hands. Only captain Bernardito was chained to his bunk by the Tropical Fever. At times, almost fainting from the internal heat, he swallowed, choking, buckets of cold water. And a quarter of an hour later he was shocked by the chills, tapped his teeth and wrapped up himself in wool blankets.
Leopard Grelly gave the command, and the sailors, driven b the boatman’s whistle, rushed to the rigging. The schooner, trying sails, fell on reverse course. When the turning maneuver was completer, the schooner moved in short tacks to the fire and soon was much closer to it. Meanwhile, a dark cloud grew on the horizon and the column of the barometer fell as low as Leopard Grelly ever saw. The wind had suddenly died and the sails dropped helplessly. The fire blazed declared and ominously in the quickly gathering dusk. Not one, but three giant bonfires raised to the sky almost vertical columns of flames, sparks and smoke. It seemed to be that the burning ships were a part of the recently encountered caravan.
Soon the crew on the “Black Arrow” discerned against the glow of the fire the two ships which, apparently, were separated from the caravan and now unfolded to meet the schooner. The closest of them, a small brigantine, was just a five or six cables from the “Arrow”. Another ship, an army corvette, was seen half a mile behind the first.
Even from a distance it was clear that the corvette’s masts were damaged in battle, and the brigantine’s sails are tattered and frayed.v A muffled thunder of an artillery fire came in the quiet evening.
The calm that came before the storm has forced both damaged vessels as well as Bernardito’s schooner, to lie down in a dead drift. The distant glow casted a fixed, black shadows of three ships on the ocean surface, and a thundercloud already loomed over the moon.
“Leopard can feel a prey!” Whispered Pugh to his pal, Jacob, “I’ll be damned if he won’t find some pickings in other’s fight. Get ready for work, old whale! Finally we got ourselves a real deal!”
Captain Bernardito Luis El Gorra was an experienced, brave and ruthlessly cruel in battle pirate. Perhaps, at he times of Cortez or Pizarro, he would enter his name into the history of conquest of Mexico, Brazil and Peru, but he was born in the century, when the white spots on the globe disappeared with the speed of melting snow in the spring. The East-India, South-Africa and other trading companies asserted their authority over the captured overseas possessions and robbed them under the protection of state laws in their countries.
Bernarduto found that making gold out of the blood and sweet of the colonial slaves, It’s a slanderous and not very honorable deal. It was more profitable and easier to extract this gold directly from the merchant’s pockets! His schooner, with a handful of desperadoes who have never looked into the future more than for the next two hours, caused such a damage to the merchant ships of the Mediterranean and adjacent seas, that all the English, French, Spanish and Turkish authorities tried to capture the corsair Bernardito.
From all his pursuers, who, no doubt, would catch the bold pirate if only they could to cooperate with each other, Bernardito cleverly escaped and now slipping under the noses of the military ships, led his schooner in the distant journey.
Only this time the gods of fortune seemed to have deprived the one eyed captain of their favors. Even before the voyage he, in the first time in his eventful live, found a conspiracy against him on board. Someone acted among the team, carefully and persistently. Defusing the conspirators, the captain lost one of his devoted sailors, Fernando Diaz. Bernardito guessed that the secret spring of the failed coup was none other than his first mate, who was adopted by the “Black Arrow” three years ago. Now, using the captain’s disease, Giacomo Grelly was only waiting for a chance to become the leader of the gang and the captain of the “Arrow” himself.
Bernardito awoke in his cabin from a heavy slumber and rose on his elbow. The cabin was empty. Outside the window was visible only the back of the sailor at the sheering wheel.
Bernardito pressed a button on the wall. From the opened small safe he took a leather bag and laid out on a blanket over two dozens of suede pouches with precious stones. After counting them he placed back the stones in the bag, closed the stash and called for his servant. No one responded.
“Dirty Sluts” Bernardito muttered through clenched teeth. “Pedro! Where are you, son of a pig and a monk! Wait, I’ll teach you to scream 'Sacramento’!”
But even giant Pedro, captain’s bodyguard and servant, was on the deck, straining to see the details of the battle. The helmsman also stared to the side instead of watching the course.
“I’ll teach you to keep order on the ship” Angrily said Bernardito.
He reached for the gun hanged over his he and without aiming, shot the braided straw hat from the helmsman’s head. At the sound of the shot, Leopard Grelly came running into the cabin. Together with Pedro he helped The One-Eyed out of the cabin and up to the bridge.
Cursing, the captain reinforced himself with a gulp of undiluted Jamaican rum and took Grelly’s telescope. No detail escaped his single but watchful eyes. The events of the battle, not yet understood by the rest of the crew, were quickly unraveled by him. He guessed that the last ships in the Dutch caravan were suddenly attacked by two enemy’s, probably French or Spanish, corvettes who crept up to him under the cover of of the low clouds before the storm.
However, the guns of the caravan’s patrol vessels, succeeded to open fire and ignite one of the attacker’s corvettes. The two merchant vessels burned in the ensuing artillery duel. Finally, the survived enemy corvette managed to cut off one of the caravan’s English brigantine which had to change its course and flee.
It moved exactly toward the pirate schooner.
The battered corvette came out of the fight and set off to chase the prey but lost its speed due to damaged sails. When the dead calm stopped the two vessels, the brigantine was just beside the “Black Arrow” but e corvette left far behind its victim.
“Karramba! Another hour and the booty which came to our hand itself would have been lost!” Yelled Bernardito, “Where were your eyes, Grelly? What the damned boatsman is waiting for, that cross of ugly monkey and old whale! Oh, men! Pull down both boats! Put in each twelve devils, in half an hour they have to be on the brigantine. Grelly and Shark will lead these boats in battle. The rest, remove all sails and tie those cannons on deck! A storm is coming, one hundred bullets in a boatman’s waist! Hurry up, children of grief!”
A few minutes later two boats with heavily armed pirates took away from the schooner and flew to the brigantine.
Meanwhile, Bernardito saw in his telescope that the corvette also lowered three boats on the water. Obviously, the corvette’s captain decided to attack the brigantine. But the advantage was on Bernardito’s men’s side. The boats from the “Black Arrow”, following each other, already passed half the distance the brigantine.
The ominous calm, the smooth rolling of the ocean swell and the distant glow of light, favored the attack. Meanwhile, the corvette’s boats only now has taken off the board of the ship.
On the brigantine, which bore the name “Ofeyra”, noticed the approaching danger from two sides. Two small cannons, fore and aft, were all the armament of this ship that sailed out under a reliable escort.
When Grelly’s boat approached the brigantine at one cable length a shot boomed out and iron cannonball fell in the water behind the boat. Grelly turned his boat toward the center of the ship’s right side and boatsman Bob Shark prepared to attack the brigantine from the left. Both of the boats were already out of the cannon’s fire. A volley from rifles and pistols of the defenders killed one and wounded two Leopard’s men and bullet blew of his hat.
But there it is, the board of the ship! Grappling hooks digging into the wood, Grelly’s pirates instantly found themselves on deck. At the same moment Bob shark’s gang broke through the left gunwale. The captain and other officers of “Ofeyra” fell first in a short fight. Rest of the crew fled the onslaught of the ferocious bandits. The sailors searched salvation in the ship’s deck hatches, trying to burst the wooden doors, but all fell under the fire and blade strikes.
Meanwhile, the boats from the corvette approached the captured vessel. A timid dawn allowed to discern their commander, dressed in French uniform.
Grelly stood on the bridge of “Ofeyra”, preparing his pirates for a new battle. According his orders, they dragged both cannons to the starboard of the brigantine and loaded them with buckshot. When the first French boat came close enough, not expecting to meet onboard fire, an accurate volley struck and immediately sank the boat. Another volley brought a destruction on the second boat, killing the officer on the stern and half the sailors. The third boat could only to pick up the wounded and retreat under a hail of rifle and pistol bullets which the pirates showered on the French.
Grelly and the boatsman with guns in their hands, blocked their men from the cabins and holds of “Ofeyra”. It was first necessary to tow the ship to the schooner, since the French, en enemy certainly more powerful than a bunch of pirates mastered the brigantine, could resume the attack.
But there was no longer need to tow the brigantine using the boats. The morning breeze brought the first drops of storm rain and in the same time filled the brigantine’s sails. The sailors rushed to the masts, Grelly himself took over the wheel, stepping on the back of the slain helmsmen.
In a quarter of an hour the brigantine was moored to the dirty board of the “Black Arrow” under the triumphant shouts of the pirates who have forgotten all about the enemy corvette and the impending thunderstorm.
The pirates, throwing all caution, rushed with axes to the holds and cabins of the captured ship.
There were two cabins on the brigantine. A small one on top, near the captain’s place and a spacious lower one, located in the vicinity of the small, cozy saloon. Apparently, “Ofeyra” was equipped for rich passengers.
There was no one in top cabin, hacked by Bob Shark but it contained a lot of expensive dishes, bulky bags and man’s clothes. In the saloon the pirates found only four wounded Indian sailors who was immediately finished off.
But when Grelly, Red Pugh and Jacob Skeleton broke with axe blows the lower cabin’s door, a pistol shot rang out of the room. The bullet scratched Grelly’s shoulder and landed in Jacob’s chest. Blocking the entrance, the dead man fell inside the cabin. Grelly fired his two guns at once and stepping over the corpse, rushed into the depth of the cabin which was filled with acid smoke.
An old man in curled wig and old fashioned waistcoat with lace jabot and wide Barbant cuffs, stepped forward to meet the pirate. The man threw away a smoking gun and snatched his sword, pointing it to the pirate’s chest.
Grelly would be inevitably pierced through and through if not for Red Pugh who discharged his heavy pistol in the old man’s head. The old gentleman crashed to the floor. Grabbing his sword, Grelly jerked the brocade curtain separating the back of the cabin and… Froze in amazement. On the lace bedspread bed laid an unconscious beautiful young woman. Beside the bed, blocking access to it, stood a tall, young man with an aquiline nose and short sideburns at the temples. He calmly raised his pistol and pulled the trigger, but no shot followed. The gun misfired and again Grelly was saved. With a powerful sword blow, Grelly pierced the young gentleman’s shoulder. The man took a step back, kept his balance and grabbing the failed gun by it’s barrel, paid the pirate with a severe blow on the head with the handle. Grelly staggered and fell on the arms of his fellow robbers.
“For God’s sake, stop the resistance, Mr.. Ryland!” A voice emanated from under the bed. And a bald head of en elderly, fat man appeared under the canopy folds at the feet of the young lady’s tall defender. He found a refuge under the bad to the surprise of not only the pirates but also of the young gentleman.
“I beg you to stop, dear Sir Frederick!”
“Your behavior is unworthy of a gentleman, Mr.. Thomas Morton!” angrily replied the young man, named Sir Frederick Ryland.
He was bleeding from his shoulder but he drew his sword and rushed at the pirates. However, Grelly had already recovered. Someone handed him a loaded pistol. A shot rattled the walls of the cabin. Grelly saw how the face of the young man turned pale and he fell under the feet of the pirates. A half of a dozen Leopard’s men, rushed to the emotionless girl, trampling the fallen body. They wrapped her in a blanket and carried her to Grelly’s cabin on the “Arrow”. There they dragged also the frightened to death fat old man.
Reeling, Grelly came after the pirates. On the wet deck he seized on a rigging and scanned the horizon. A black wall of a hurricane loomed from the north. The wind already tore the tackle and a terrible downpour dashed down on the brigantine’s deck structures.
The moorings kept her at the side of the pirate schooner and a narrow ladder was already thrown between the two ships.
Only a mile away in the sea stood the French corvette. Its crew was hastily removing the last sails…
The gentleman standing on the top of a cliff in the Old King bay with a telescope in his hands was again approached by his servant. Struck by the strange expression on his master’s face, the groom hesitated to call out to him. Finally he spoke quietly and respectfully. The gentleman started, and turned to the young man.
“Is that you, Anthony?” He muttered as if waking from a dream. With some effort he returned from the memories to reality.
“Sir Frederic Ryland” Addressed him the groom, “You are long expected at home for breakfast. And you planned to visit the Mr.. Patterson’s shipyard today. The horses are saddled, my lord…”