Captain Cartwright # 1 – To Soar on Albatross Wings (by Krystyna)

Welcome to the world of Captain Cartwright; this is the first story in this continuing saga.

Summary: This story includes an alternative introduction of Candy to the Cartwright family, where he finds a restless Joe Cartwright who resents the fact that his eldest brother left the Ponderosa. Adam meanwhile has adventures of his own far away at sea … This story begins my Captain Cartwright series, however, it was preceded by, I Shall Cherish You Forever.

Rated: K (72,755 words)

The final page contains reviews/comments from the Old BonanzaBrand Library

Captain Cartwright Series:

To Soar on Albatross Wings
To Fly with Eagles
Captain, Oh My Captain
The Commodore
Invictus
Carpe Diem
A New Command
A Duty to Live
All Those Tomorrows
Written in Stone

 

To Soar on Albatross Wings

The men in the bunk house gave the newcomer a cursory glance before returning to their respective tasks. Some grunted a greeting and someone asked him if he would care for some coffee. The young man nodded, looked about him and threw his saddlebags and hat upon the one unused bed. This was followed by himself, cast down and stretched full length with his arms folded behind his head.

“Here -”

He looked up to see a big man standing beside the bed with a mug of steaming coffee in one hand. Sitting upright and swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he gratefully accepted the hot drink, took a sip and nodded in approval,

“Good stuff. I like it strong.”

“I’ll try and remember,” the other cow hand said and extended his other hand “Eddy Davis.”

“Canady” the other replied, and shook the other mans hand.

“You did a good day’s work today, Canaday. I was watching you. You know your way around cattle pretty good.”

“I’ve worked with them long enough to have learned something.” Canady replied with a slight scowl on his face. He gulped down the coffee, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and looked over at the other men. Some were watching him and Davis now, listening in on the conversation with the natural curiosity of men who when confined together in a small space find any diversion of interest. A New hand being one of them,

“Most folk call me Candy, on account of my name,” the young man said by way of introduction and he smiled pleasantly, which lightened the sallow features and made the blue eyes sparkle, “I was wondering what to do as I was running low on provisions and funds. A guy in Virginia City said to try the Ponderosa, said the boss here was taking on new hands.”

“It’s a busy time of year,” Eddy replied, “I’ve worked with the Cartwrights for five seasons now. They pay well, and the grubs good. All they expect from their hands is honest work, and keep the bunk house clean.”

“Yeah,” Candy glanced around the bunk house, “I did notice that the lady of the house likes to keep things in order. This is about the neatest bunk house I’ve been in for some time.”

“Ben Cartwright’s a widower.” another man volunteered and paused in the act of pulling off his boots, “Ain’t never bin no woman on the ranch since his third wife died.”

“THIRD wife?” Candy raised his eyebrows, “Case of lock up your daughters, huh?”

The boot clattered to the floor, swiftly followed by the other,

“Nothing like that,” the cowhand wiggled his toes and shook his head at the sight of the hole in his sock, “Mr Cartwright’s wife died over 20 year ago. “

“The only one that applies to now is his youngest son, Joseph.” Eddy chuckled, “Now, HE is one to watch where the ladies are concerned. Pretty lad he is, and as full of pepper as a man can be.”

Candy, as he preferred to be called, frowned,

“So who was the big guy that hired me on today?”

“Oh, that’s Mr Cartwright’s middle son, Hoss. He’s Mr Cartwright’s second wife’s son.”

“There’s another one then?”

“Was three of ‘em” Eddy nodded, took Candy’s mug and took it back to join with a line up of others on a ledge near the stove, “The eldest left the Ponderosa about a year or more ago.”

“Don’t tell me, he’s the first born from Mr Cartwright’s first wife?” Candy allowed a half smile to grace his lips and his eyes twinkled.

“S’right,” Eddy replied, “He was a good boss. Sure miss him.”

“Sure do,” the other man sighed, and there was a mumble of agreement from some of the others.

“So what’s the matter with the others? That Hoss fella sure seemed to know what he was doing.” Candy said a she resumed his seat on the edge of his bed.

“Oh they do, don’t you worry none about that, there ain’t no flies on the Cartwright boys. They sure do know all there is to know about how to run this ranch. It’s just that they just don’t seem to have got things sorted out yet since Adam Cartwright left here..”

“Ain’t something you can rightly put your finger on, because they’re all good at what they do and Mr Cartwright is just about the best boss a man can get, but Adam was disciplined and expected us to work according to his standard or else. He was a loss to the place, and that’s a fact.”

“And it came to ‘em as a shock, his deciding to get up and leave here. No one expected that to happen, not in a million years.” Eddy sat down on his bed and stretched out his long legs. “Anyways, Candy, where’s you from?”

“Round and about Yuma way.” Candy replied as he slowly unbuckled his gun belt and coiled it carefully upon the end of the bed. “I worked for Jack Griffiths for some time, until he decided to sell out to Colonel Peterson.”

“Huh, I heard tell about that Peterson fella. Mean streak in him, I heard.” the man with the hole in his socks muttered, “By the way, my names Andrews, Jake Andrews.”

Candy nodded an acknowledgement to the man and pulled off his boots. He settled back upon the bed and once again folded his arms behind his head. He closed his eyes and hoped that the conversation would no longer concern him. He needed to think and plan for the future.

Life hadn’t been so good over the past few years. There was no doubt about it, meeting Ann and falling in love with her had been like soaring heavenwards and catching stars. Getting married had been the first great commitment of his life, but then that was when everything had gone wrong. Everything. He squeezed his eyes shut to blank out the hurt. Even now, even after so long, it still hurt. He could still see her face. He could still hear those words ‘marriage is over’ ‘annulment’ ‘over for good’

How could something so wonderful, something that made them so happy suddenly have become so bad, so wrong? He had loved her and she must have loved him after all she had said ‘Yes’ to the marriage vows, and she had taken his ring and put it on her finger, kissed him and …

“Hey, Candy -”

Eddy’s voice broke into his memories and he forced his mind to return to the now and present time to look over at his newly found associate. Eddy smiled,

“Time to eat. Hop Sing’s brought us over something for us to eat. Best cook in the world. Another reason why I keep coming back here season after season .”

Candy nodded, rubbed his face with his hands and then raked through his thick dark hair with his fingers. Good food, clean bed, decent workmates, what more could a man want? He knew the answer to that one … a good wife who would love him forever.

………………………

“So what’s he like, this new hand?” Joe Cartwright looked up at his brother and raised a questioning eyebrow, while at the same time he speared a good sized steak onto his knife and dropped it onto the plate.

“He’s a good worker.” Hoss replied, carefully cutting into his meat, “Just rode up and asked if he could be signed on. Roy sent him along. Good thing too, we were short handed.”

“So, he’s a good worker. What else?”

“Well, he’s quiet. Efficient. Works at a quicker pace than some. Knows his way around the cattle, and a good horseman. Pleasant enough I reckon.” Hoss continued to tackle the steak and looked over at his father who was ladling potato onto his plate, “You okay, Pa?”

“I am, Hoss.” Ben replied in his deep even voice and he glanced over at his son and smiled, “So what is this new efficient worker‘s name? Do you think he’ll last here long?”

“Hard to tell, Pa. He seemed the kind that would be content to just drift for some while. His name’s Canady, but I heard the men calling him Candy which he didn’t seem to object to at all.”

Ben nodded and picked up some bread. Joe was deep in thought and concentrating on his food with a furrowed brow,
“Anything on your mind, son?” Ben asked kindly, and when Joe looked up at his father Ben smiled reassuringly,

“No, Pa, I was just thinking about what time to leave tomorrow, that’s all.”

“Oh, you weren’t frettin’ over that little gal of McDonald’s were ya?” Hoss grinned and raised an eyebrow in fun, “I heard tell -”

“You shouldn’t listen to gossip. Anyway, it hasn’t anything to do with you.” Joe retorted sharply, and his lips thinned in annoyance, “Seems to me a guy can’t be doing anything around here without some one poking their big fat noses into it.”

“Shucks, Joe, there ain’t no need to go on so,” Hoss cried, “I weren’t gonna say anything .”

“Well, you already did.” Joe snapped and pushed himself away from the table, throwing down his napkin and about to stride away when Ben’s hand grabbed at his wrist and brought him to a halt,

“That’s enough,” Ben said quietly and calmly, “Now, young man, I suggest you just set yourself back down there and finish the meal Hop Sing has provided for you and apologise to your brother.”

“But-”

“No but’s -” Ben replied softly, “And no more of this nonsense.”

“Yes, sir,” Joe sat down heavily on the chair and glanced over at Hoss, who lowered his eyes rather than be even more hurt by the anger on Joe’s face, “Sorry, Hoss.”

“Huh, yeah, sure.”

“I said ‘sorry’, “Joe snapped again, “Can’t you-”
“Joseph!”

Ben looked at Hoss sternly and then at Joe, then he shook his head and sighed, as though the bickering at the table was beyond his patience. Both Joe and Hoss resumed eating but both did so with a lack of appetite now, as though the harsh words had robbed them of the enjoyment they had previously.

“Now, back to what you were saying, what have you decided to do about leaving tomorrow?”

“I’ve got it all fixed, Pa. Hoss, do you reckon the new hand will be prepared to work along with us on the drive?” he shot a sharp look at his brother, barely an acknowledgement but it was better than nothing.

“I don’t see why not,” Hoss replied in his normal manner, always prepared to let bygones be bygones just as quickly as possible, “Talk was about nothing else at the camp so he’ll know we’re about to move them out anytime now.”

“Well, I’ve four more men joining us in the morning. Should be here by dawn. Sam Downing has the chuck wagon already provisioned for and is ready to go. I guess we should be moving out by noon.”

“Mmm, well, it isn’t as large a drive as we usually have at this time of the year.” Ben sighed, “Old man Wallis didn’t want to join with us this time. First time he’s missed sharing our drive with us for ten years.” and he frowned thoughtfully, as though there was some other reason than the one Wallis had provided them.

“Huh, spares us having to share his men as well. That foreman of his was always trouble.” Joe retorted sharply and pushed his now empty plate away but drew the coffee pot closer.

“You mean Jed Orton? He signed off several months ago. Decided he wanted to go to Sacremento and have a life.” Hoss grinned, recalling to mind the conversation he had had with the Wallis’ ex foreman.

“Oh sure, another one who thinks he has to move away from here to get a life …” Joe muttered and scowled at the coffee pot.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ben snapped, “Are you implying that life here is boring or something?”

“Not me, Pa. After all, I’m still here, aren’t I?” Joe picked up his cup and saucer and excused himself from the table to take a seat on the settee opposite the fire.

Hoss and Ben raised their eyebrows at one another in mutual sympathy. They both knew exactly what Joe was implying for they had heard words of similar effect for over a year now. Ben cleared his throat and continued to eat, while Hoss filled his own cup with coffee and allowed himself to drift back in time.

It had been early one morning, springtime and with soft sun shining through the windows. A balmy breeze made the curtains drift too and fro over the floor. Sun beams made the dust motes dance in their light.

Hoss could recall the amount of time it had seemed to take his brother to come from his room. He had realised, of course, that despite all the hours of talking, planning, and anticipating the actuality of leaving home was going to be much harder. Naturally it would take longer but, and Hoss could recall the feeling so well, it sure made him as nervous as a kitten hanging around downstairs waiting.

“Ready?” he had bellowed up the stairs and had been surprised at how his voice had cracked on just that one word. At the answering silence Hoss had cleared his throat and yelled, “I said, are you ready?”

Looking back now Hoss remembered the sound of Joe hurrying into the room, and had noticed his brush his sleeve across his face while at the same time he had yelled,

“C’mon, Adam, that stage ain’t gonna wait all day for you.” and there had been a catch in his voice as well. Hoss knew that Adam would have noticed, after all, he had.

They had heard the door shut a firm determined slam. Hoss could remember to this day how he had felt a shiver run down his spine and had wondered if Adam would ever come back home, if he would ever step through that door again. He could remember thinking it and then hearing his father speaking, obviously to Adam, but loudly enough for both Joe and Hoss to hear as well,

“I guess no one is ever really ready to say the last goodbye, are they, son?”

Adam had turned to look at his father. The deep voice so gentle, so reassuring, so sad. Ben had smiled, his black eyes tender. Watching the two men as they had stood together on the stairs Hoss could remember sensing how his father was forcing himself to keep all his emotions in check. The anger, the misery, the pride and the love must have been all tumbling about inside him, just as they were churning away inside of himself. Hoss remembered, however, that the look on Ben’s face had been only that of tenderness.

“No, Pa, I guess not,” Adam had replied in a voice barely a whisper, in fact; Hoss remembered he was straining his ears to catch the words.

“We’ll always be here, you know.”

Hoss had looked away then and he heard Joe sniff. Sure, they’d be here, but Adam wouldn’t be, he’d be gone, far away and life here on the Ponderosa would never be the same again. When he had looked up he had seen the sudden grief in Ben’s eyes and knew his father had thought the same thing.

Hoss sighed now, and brought his mind back to the present. Tomorrow they would be starting a cattle drive. He made a mental note that it would be the second one without Adam riding along as trail boss. This trip it was going to be Joe’s task, while he went along as ram rod. With the four men joining them in the morning, the new hand, Candy, and the other twelve ranch hands they had a full contingent of men to handle the drive. He looked at his father who was pouring himself some coffee,

“Do you think that deal for the timber will work out with Jefferson?”

“I don’t see why not,” Ben replied, “As soon as I’ve got the contract signed I’ll cable you. You should be at Boulder’s Creek by then.”

Hoss nodded in agreement. Boulder’s Creek was a regular stop over point. He glanced across the room down to where Joe sat in silent contemplation of the fire.

“You alright, Joe?”

“Sure. I’m fine.” Joe replied still staring into the flames.

“How about a game of checkers?” Hoss pushed away from the table and smiled at Ben as he passed his father to join Joe at the fireside.

Joe nodded and turned his attention away from the flames. There was little point in dwelling upon the matter anymore, he told himself. But then he had said that oh probably a million times, every time, in fact, that his mind had trickled back to times before, when Adam had been there, been home, sharing the banter and the love. He looked at Hoss and smiled but his mind was saying “He didn’t have to go and leave us, he didn’t, not really.”

Chapter 2

The four men arrived in the yard of the Ponderosa just as dawn was breaking. Sam Browning had already driven the chuck wagon to the location where the cattle had already been rounded up and most of the men in the bunkhouse had themselves ready for departure. Breakfast had been earlier than usual, and horses and equipment checked over and ready to leave the ranch.

Candy, as he appeared to prefer being called, fastened his horses’ girth strap securely and glanced around him thoughtfully. He had worked on a number of fair sized ranches over the years since he had chosen an independent life and he was impressed by the way in which the ranch hands on the Ponderosa were organised for what was not the largest cattle drive of the season. Not a man there grumbled at the early start but were good natured, anxious to be off, and already planning what to do with their earnings at the time of pay day which was six weary weeks away.

He led his horse from the corral by the reins his eyes watchful of the men there as they saddled up and made their way, at a comfortable canter, to the designated spot for departure. His eyes caught sight of the four new cowboys who had ridden into the yard and he was wondering where they would fit in when the door of the house opened and a young man paused at the threshold, and upon seeing the men walked towards them.

There was some discussion between them and what appeared to be a package passed from the main spokesman into the younger mans hands. It was at this point that Joe, for it was him, glanced up and saw Candy observing them. He beckoned the man over to join them, watching him all the while as Candy strolled over towards them, his horse loping behind him.

“Are you Canady?”

“I am.” Candy nodded and looked straight into Joe’s eyes, as though to indicate that although Joe may be paying him his wages at the end of six weeks he, Candy, in no way felt himself his inferior. He kept his hat on his head and raised his chin defiantly.

Joe nodded, a slight grin passed over his lips in acceptance of Candy’s stance, and he turned his attention back to the four men who appeared to be waiting for his instructions.

“Candy here will take care of you, if you’d care to ride out with him. He’s new here too so don’t worry too much if you happen to lose your way.” there was a twinkle in his eyes as he spoke and he glanced over at C andy to see how the man accepted the sarcasm. “Candy, that is what you prefer to be called, isn’t it?” and as Candy nodded, he proceeded “Candy, this is Tom Matthews, Phil Jackson, Andy Cooper and Travis Mayhews. Andy and Travis have ridden on our drives before now, so they can take their usual positions on the left flank. Tom and Phil join the men on the right flank.”

“And where do you want me to ride?” Candy said quietly.

Joe raised his eyebrows slightly and tugged at his ear lobe before he said quietly,

“Well, you had best ride drag.”

Candy nodded. The worse place to be on a cattle drive and for some reason not unexpected to have been given him. He showed no irritation or annoyance but the way he flicked the reins too and fro between his fingers indicated that he was to the observant young Cartwright who gave them all a curt nod and turned into the house. The door closed behind him.

“New here are you?” Travis asked as he turned towards his horse.
“Came yesterday.” Candy replied.

“They’re good folk to work for,” Travis observed as he mounted his horse, “Just keep your nose clean and give ’em a good days work for your pay. You’ll be alright.”

Candy nodded and turned away. ’As though I asked your opinion,’ he thought as he slipped his foot into the stirrup and took his seat in the saddle. He lowered his hat and led the way out of the yard.

In the house Joe walked to the study area where Ben was following with his eyes the route Hoss’ finger was tracing out on the map. Both men glanced up as Joe walked into the room,

“Travis brought the mail with him,” Joe said and tossed it onto the desk.

“Were they alright?” Hoss asked, his finger poised at the place at which he had been interrupted by Joe’s entrance.

“Sure, all eager to go. Oh, I met that Canady – Candy fellow as well.”

“Oh sure, how is he?” Hoss grinned and his blue eyes lit up, “What did you think of him?”

Joe shrugged, more interested in watching his father shuffling through the letters than anything that Hoss had to say. It h ad been a ritual now, every time the mail arrived. Ben would go through each envelope one by one, glance at the address as a means of identifying the writer, and then putting it down to pick up the next. Always hopeful. Joe sighed and was about to make some comment to Hoss’ question when Ben announced that there was a letter from Adam.

“At last, only took nine months.” Joe responded with a brittle tone to his voice.

“I’ve told you before, Joe, it isn’t so easy to send mail when at sea.” Ben said tersely as he ripped open the letter.
He scanned it quickly, and the two younger men watched their father’s face as though each shadow would give them some indication of what the writer was saying. He paused and looked up at them,

“I’m sorry, boys, I should have realised you’d be as impatient as myself to hear what Adam has to say. “

“Sure am, Pa.” Hoss declared, “What’s he say? Where is he? Is he alright?”

“How’d we know if he’s alright?” Joe snapped, “The letters nine months old already, anything could have happened since then.”

“I know that -” Hoss said with some impatience in his own voice, and he gave his brother a cold blue glare, “Read it out aloud, Pa.”

Ben nodded, cleared his throat and began to read:

“Dearest Pa, Hoss and Joe,

As you will see from the envelope this letter is posted to you from Nottingham in the country of England. It has been my first opportunity to sit and write to you for weeks now and I am hoping that the mail boat will get round to seeing it arrives in America for you to receive it at the very first opportunity.

Are you all well? My thoughts are with you all every day, believe me, they really are. I find myself closing my eyes in order to conjure you all up before me again. I miss you all. I never thought a man could miss his family so much as I do mine. I worry about whether or not there were floods this winter. Are you keeping out of trouble, Joe? Hoss, don’t work yourself too hard, you can’t do everything at once even if you want to, it just isn’t possible. Pa, take good care, won’t you?

My thoughts are disorganised right now. The first chance to write and I can’t think of what to say. I want to be able to write so much and fill in every moment that I have been absent but of course that isn’t possible nor logical.
Let me tell you about where I am right now. It is spring time here in England. We berthed yesterday evening and have two days shore leave. I am sitting in a tavern or hostelry (they all them public houses here) with a steady floor beneath my feet for the first time in months.

Nottingham is a cotton mill town, dependent on the cotton that comes from the south (America) for its industry. They make a lot of lace here it seems as well as other cotton materials. The Civil War in the States have ruined a lot of the mill owners here and from the looks of things it’s going to take some time for them to recover. The high prices of the bolls we have delivered wasn’t received very happily. Looking out onto the high street of this town I can see a lot of poverty. We thought our little ’trouble’ just affected ourselves, but it’s plain to see that it was reached far wider than we could have realised.

In some ways the town reminds me of Boston, I guess that is because of the age of the buildings. It’s quite cool, lots of spring flowers about, some I’ve never seen before, lots of trees and it’s very green here.

There was some trouble in the North Sea. We floundered badly during bad weather. The squalls were heavy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such waves before and often I thought on the way down into the troughs that we would never rise up again. We lost our main mast and two men were washed overboard.

I shall write again soon. I’m not sure where we will be going next as the Captain hasn’t opened his orders yet. I shall write again though as soon as I possibly can.

Your obedient and respectful son, and brother,
Adam

Ben sighed, put the paper down and for a while didn’t raise his eyes to meet those of his sons. He didn’t want them to see the moisture that pricked beneath the hooded lids as he thought of the dangers his son had endured, and of how little he had told them of himself. It was Hoss who spoke first,

“Do you think he’s alright?” he asked in a rather anxious voice.

“Then or now?” Joe murmured and Hoss looked up at him as though surprised that his brother could have asked such a thing.

“Now, of course.”

“He doesn’t say much about himself, does he?” Joe addressed his father, who had looked up now and was slowly folding the letter to place back in its envelope, “Only the second letter we have received from him since he left and -”

“He told us all he could at the time. There must have been a problem for it to have taken this long to be delivered.” Ben frowned, and drew in his breath, “Well, no doubt there will be more letter s to come. Probably several will arrive all at the same time, that often used to happen when I was at sea.” he forced a smile but it was obvious to his sons that the letter had depressed rather than enlightened their father.

“Sure, Pa. I guess that’s exactly what’ll happen.” Hoss nodded and looked at Joe as though daring him to say anything different.

“Do you think he’s getting our letters through alright, Pa?” Joe asked, looking rather anxiously at Ben who shrugged,

“No doubt the same applies, Joe. He’ll get a pile of them when he docks.” Ben pushed the envelope into a drawer and then looked at them both, “Anyway, we had best get on with business here. Where were we?”

Chapter 3

The Ainola had been becalmed for three days and sat listlessly in the waters with her sails hanging from the masts as forlornly as great sheets put out on the line to dry in many a housewives back yard when not a breath of air came near to touch them. The Captain paced the bridge with a furrowed brow and his hands clasped behind his back while his chin was lowered upon his chest. This did not augur well for them and being superstitious, like many seamen, he was of the opinion that the trip was doomed and greater misfortune was to befall them.

The heat from the sun provided no problem as it was not unpleasant and the men were able to perform their tasks on board without difficulty or discomfort. But being on board a ship that was going nowhere was particularly difficult for the seaman as it forced a restraint upon them that was not so noticeable during days of activity at sea. Confined to the restricted space of the ship there were often personality clashes that burst forth during those days, for it was difficult to restrain ones mouth or fists when forced to be in the company of those that aggravated and annoyed so much.

There was also the forced restriction and rationing of essential supplies for when the indications were such that the weather was not going to change for the foreseeable future to be unduly cavaliar about their provisions was to eventually reap disaster.

Captain Greaves had already been forced to put two men in confinement for disobedience to the officers and disorderly behaviour. They had been denied their regulation tot of rum with their ration of water and the Sargeant of Marines had been ordered to ensure that they had smaller rations of food and water throughout the time of their confinement. It was his opinion that men who did not work would not have as great a need as those who did. So the two men who hated one another the most were forced to spend their days in even closer confinement than they had anticipated.

The sky remained as clear and cloudless as the previous days. The ship swayed back and forth in a slow monotonous motion that became increasingly irritating as the hours ticked past. There were no birds in the air to give them hope of land close by . Only the sound of bare feet on the boards of the deck as the men ran to do their work, and the constant creak of the ship as it lolled back and forth could be heard.

“This isn’t good, Mr Cartwright.” Greaves muttered to the young man standing on the bridge by his side, “We need to have wind soon.”

“Yes, sir.” Adam Cartwright inclined his head and glanced up at the sky above him with a rueful air.

“How much water do we have now?”

“Not enough to last two more days.” came the reply.

“And provisions?”

“We can manage a while yet, the men have been fishing and caught enough to augment their rations.”

“Aye, that’s the way of it and no mistake.” Greaves mumbled and with a sigh continued to pace back and forth.

Adam Cartwright cleared his throat and sighed. With the Captain’s pacing one way and the ship listing the other Adam was beginning to feel claustrophobic. He walked to the side of the ship and looked over it to where six men were sitting in one of the boats, each one of them with a fishing rod and line and taking their ease as happily as though sitting on a river bank back home.

“Any success?” he called down to them forcing himself not to let his mind wander to a certain brother of his who loved fishing.

“Good enough, Mr Cartwright, sir.” one man called up with a big grin on his face. He had managed to convince the Master’s Mate that he was the best fisherman on board, and succeeded in getting out of keelhauling the deck as a result.

“Another hour and then you and your catch will have to come on board.”

“Aye aye, sir.” and a snappy salute accompanied by a wide grin followed the words.

Adam nodded and turned back to return to the centre of the bridge. How small his world was now, he thought, as he glanced up at the rigging and saw the drooping sails. How small and how confined. He walked to the other side of the ship and glanced down over the side to where the water lapped against the ship’s haul. How the vessel creaked, was there ever a ship that was so noisy? He glanced now up at the sky and saw nothing but blue sky.

Times past he would be sitting in a saddle and looking up at the sky, feeling the heat of the sun on his back, tasting the dry heat and dust in his throat. Times past he would have his brothers by his side, grumbling, joking, teasing, just talking. He sighed and turned away to return to the centre of the bridge once again, and to meet the Captain who was returning from the other side.

The bell tolled and there was a scampering of feet upon the deck as the men made their way below decks to where they could get their mid-day meal. The men in the boat below continued their fishing, knowing that their haul for the day would be used for the evening meal and salted down for use another day. The Captain and Adam descended the steps down to the lower deck and entered the dining room where the Doctor, the second Mate was already seated at the table. Both men rose to attention upon the Captain’s entrance and it was Adam who closed the door behind them.

“Captain, there’s sign of scurvy on board. Several of the men -” Doctor Howard rubbed his temples and shook his head, “One of the men looks like he has a fever. I’ve had to bed him down.”

The Captain scowled and took his seat

“Can’t you at least wait until we’ve eaten before you tell me these things, Doctor? We need to find some land and get fresh provisions. It doesn’t take a doctor to know the remedy for their ills here, does it?”

“No, but I thought I should mention it.” Howard sighed, and glanced over at Adam as though for help.

“It’s always best to know the worse first,” Adam said immediately, “Then whatever else is said can only be better and an improvement.”

Greaves looked at Adam as though he were mad but let the comment pass. The second Mate sighed and poured out the wine,

“If we don’t get moving soon whatever the wretch is suffering from will spread like wildfire. What is it exactly, Doctor?”

“It’s nothing to worry about too much, just yet.” Howard replied, and with another sigh he picked up his glass, “Water’s low.”

“Oh for goodness sake,” Greaves groaned, “Do I really have to share my table with such a Job’s comforter as yourself, Doctor. Of course the water’s low, don’t you think I am well aware of that? I can’t create miracles, you know. I don’t have command over the sea and the air, do I?”

Adam pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows. He decided that silence was the better course of wisdom. The door was opened and the cook came to serve up the meal. It was served in silence. No one spoke and the meal was eaten in an uncomfortable atmosphere. As he ate the food Adam recalled to mind the big room where he would sit to eat his meals with his father and brothers. What feasts they enjoyed really, and how much they took it all for granted. He looked at the food he was eating now and wondered what Hop Sing’s reaction would be to it. He smiled briefly to himself at the thought,

“Is something amusing you, Mr Cartwright? If there is, perhaps you would care to share it with us?” Greaves snapped.

Adam picked up his wine and raised his eyebrows, Greaves was in a formidable mood and the wrong word would mean dismissal from the dining table until he was in favour again. He smiled and looked at the Captain

“I was remembering times with my family, Captain. We had a Chinese cook who made the most wonderful meals for us…”

“Implying that what we’re eating now is not so wonderful.” Jenkins, the second mate chuckled.

“I was wondering how Hop Sing would handle situations like these … restricted rations, limited water … it would certainly test his mettle as a chef.” Adam replied carefully.

“Huh, I had a Chinese cook when I was in Singapore. “ Greaves mumbled, “Great little chap, could create anything from nothing.”

Adam nodded and kept silent. Navigation at sea was of paramount importance, even when it came to conversation.

………

The second Mate closed the door of the cabin he shared with Adam and sat down on the comfortable chair which he had turned to face Adam who was reclining on his bunk. Adam remained where he was, his arms folded behind his head and his eyes closed.

“Cartwright, how about a game of chess?”

Adam said nothing, but he could hear Jenkins setting out the pieces on the board. He had hoped for some more time alone. He had re-read the letters his father and brothers had sent him and which had arrived just before they had set sail for the Polynesian Islands. Three letters from Pa, two from Hoss and four from Joe. All dated at different times and all requiring him to set them out in chronological order to be able to make sense of them.

Thus he had learned that Pa had sprained his ankle and twisted his shoulder trying to brand a cow that was determined NOT to be branded. Joe had had to come to his rescue and had landed ignominiously on his back in the middle of a cow pat. Through the letters he received from Hoss he recognised a gift in the man that he had never noticed before in that Hoss could write a letter that was a novelists dream. Adam had recalled to mind that Hoss had been particularly friendly with Mr Charles Dickens on his visit, so perhaps something of the gift had passed on from him. Joe’s letters had been – well – interesting.

Even as he listened to Jenkins’ humming under his breath and setting out the chess pieces Adam recalled to mind the content of Joe’s letters. He knew all the letters by heart now but nothing gave him greater pleasure and pain than taking them from his note book and re-reading them when he had time for it. Joe’s letters … the first had been angry and hurt, scolding words from a pain stricken young man who had not understood why his brother could have left them. The second had been reconciliatory, excusing himself from the first letter and explaining to Adam that it was because of their father he had been angry, after all, he would surely realise his leaving would hurt their father more than anyone. The third had been pleasantly cheery, telling his brother of a beautiful young girl who had moved into the town and how glad he was that Adam was no longer around as it left the way clear for himself. The fourth had been a letter from Joe, untidy and scrawling, snatches of this and that, but Adam could imagine the twinkle in Joe’s eyes as he had written it, and the smile on his lips as he had signed it with a flourish.

“Ready?” Jenkins said, and Adam could hear the man rubbing his hands together. He obviously had high hopes of beating him this time.

Chapter 4

The term Clipper was first used in the United States soon after the War of 1812. It was a term used to indicate any fast ship. The Ainola came under the heading of being an extreme Clipper as she was sharp bowed in order to give her maximum speed. The upward curve of the lines of the hull was a graceful sheer, with a simple high arched stem fitted with her figurehead. She had a square stern, a very sharp bow and a large sail area. She was capable of achieving speeds from 16-18 nautical mph and had notched up the exceptional speed of 20 knots in prime weather conditions.

She was strongly built with iron strapped over the frames and on the sides of the inner keels. Her main expense was in the repair of any damage done to the spars, rigging, sails and topside fittings. In length she maximised at 210 ft. This placed her in as well in proportion for the longest clipper ship, mcKay’s Great Republic was 302 ft in length, and the most common length was about 185 ft.

The Ainola carried a crew of 645 sailors. There were also 50 marines on board under the command of a Sargent at Arms, John Smith. Adam Cartwright ranked as the First Mate, Jenkins was Second Mate. There was a Doctor, a carpenter, and a sail maker. The Ainola’s Captain maintained a Steward by name of Frederik Franks, not the most popular man on board, particularly at this moment of severe rationing as he had charge of the pantry. There was also on board a cook, Howard Dix by name. As he was in sole charge of the only source of fire in his ovens it was only by his ‘mercy’ that wet clothing could be dried. There were two cabin boys on board the Ainola who made every attempt possible to avoid work.

Adam’s duties as First Mate involved all the tasks expected of first lieutenant, boatswain, sailing master and quarter master. The Captain would tell him what was required to be done, and it was Adam’s role to see it was done, by either doing it himself, or of assigning the task elsewhere. It was also his task to keep the log book, for which he was responsible to the Owners and the Insurers of the Ainola. It was also among his responsibilities to have charge of the stowage, and safe keeping and deliver of the cargo.

Jenkins as the Second Mate would have to carry out the tasks assigned him by Adam, as well as go aloft to reef and furl the topsails and to muck in with the rest of the men. In some respects he was neither Officer nor crew. It was customary for him to be on deck nearly all his time and only occasionally was he considered worthy of a seat at the Captain’s table. It had taken Jenkins some time into the journey befor e he was able to forgive Adam in achieving the rank of First Mate over himself.

The crew were divided into two watches, of these Adam commanded the larboard and Jenkins the starboard. They divided the watches between them at four hourly intervals, so that when Adam with the larboard watch had the first night watch from 8 – 12, at the end of the four hours Jenkins would be called for the starboard watch until 4 in the morning. There were also the dog watches which would come during twilight and before the night watch was set. This was the time everyone was on deck but at 8 o’clock when 8 bells is struck, Adam had to enter the log, set up the watch for the first four hours, relieve the wheel and shut up the galley.

So it was this particular evening as Adam entered the day’s entry into the log Jenkins voice yelled that a wind was bearing upon them. Adam paused and raised his head to listen to the familiar sound of the sheets swelling in the ripening breeze, the feet thudding along the decks in order for every man to be in position and Jenkins himself opening the door and announcing with glee

“A freshening wind at last, Cartwright. We’re heading due east.”

Adam nodded and made the entry accordingly. Now all they needed was to sight land.

Chapter 5

The sails filled and the ship seemed to lift itself above the water to settle once again upon the most unstable of elements. Adam left the fo’c’s’le (forecastle) of the ship to mount the steps to the bridge and to watch as the wind brought life back to the limp sheets at last. A slight smile drifted over his lips as he remembered the days when his father would tell him of the way his own heart would swell with the sails when the wind first caught at them and would send the ship scudding over the sea. It had been a romantic picture planted in the mind of the boy, but even now Adam could recall his father’s voice and echo it with his own. There was such a feeling of buoyancy, renewed vigour and hope when after days of being becalmed a ship once again came to life.

Beneath his feet he could feel the vibration of the vessel as it now scudded over the sea. The sails snapped and made a loud ovation as they billowed out and sent the clipper on its way once more. When he looked at the men at their work on the deck Adam could see the anxious faces now bearing smiles of relief and men would look up at the bridge and upon seeing him they would raise a finger to their brow in acknowledgement of his presence. Everywhere was a sense of buoyancy and optimism.

“All’s well, Mr Cartwright, sir.” the helmsman said as he held his hands steady on the wheel.

“All’s well, Thompson.” Adam replied without taking his eyes from the sight of the sails.

“Set course east, Mr Cartwright?”

“Yes, east it is.” came the reply and Adam stepped to the ships port side to survey the waters as it parted to let the ship pass through the now cresting waves.

People have such romantic notions about clipper ships, the sails are always full and billowing white, the ship always proud and majestic ploughing through smooth crystal green grey and blue seas with perfect blue skies above, but Adam had been at sea long enough to have experienced those pleasant waters turn to molten black and boiling turbulence when water and sky combined to subdue the little vessel to their will. He had seen the sails snap and break, the masts creaking and breaking, the men lashed by the trailing ropes and cast overboard as mast and sails descended upon the decking.

But now at this moment he felt relief just like the men who were busy on the decks below. The day was going to draw to a close very pleasantly and he smiled once again at the thought of fish for supper, freshly caught that day.

Captain Greaves was in a far pleasanter mood as they ate they evening meal together. Jenkins was on watch duty and the doctor attending to the sick man in the sick bay. The cook had provided a substantial meal obviously feeling it was safe to cast caution to the winds, so to speak, and not worry about where the provisions were going to come in a few days time. The steward hovered until he was dismissed and Greaves leaned back in his big leather chair and relaxed.

“Cartwright, when do you think we should see land?” Greaves asked as he unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his cravat.

“If we can maintain this speed we should see the islands by to-morrow afternoon.”

“What do you know about them?”

“Most of them are uninhabited, we should be able to find fresh water and food there. Those islands that are inhabited -” Adam’s brow creased slightly and he looked thoughtfully at the wine in his glass before speaking, “the last report about them was that they are not friendly. They murdered a missionary and four sailors the last time anyone attempted to disembark.”

“In that case we had better make sure that we find an uninhabited island, huh?” Greaves chuckled.

After a silence of a few moments he looked thoughtfully at his first mate and as he raised his glass said

“I doubt if a few wild savages on those islands would worry you over much, Cartwright. After all, from what I hear of your past history, you’re more used to seeing them than anyone else on board ship.”

“I’ve not visited these islands before,” Adam said thoughtfully.

“I wasn’t meaning that,” Greaves replied, “But it’s true, isn’t it? You’ve fought the wild Indians out west where you came from, haven’t you?”

Adam nodded, “That’s true enough.” he agreed, “Yes, quite true.”

“Then in that case you are probably the best suited person to take the skiff over to the islands tomorrow. Take the Sargent of Marines as well and some of his men. Make sure everyone is well armed. Try and come back with enough water to last us until we rendez vous with McKenzie’s ship.” he refilled his glass and gave his companion another searching look, “You don’t talk much about your past, Mr Cartwright, yet there must be many an exciting tale you could tell us.”

Adam smiled politely and was about to speak when eight bells tolled. He stood up and made his excuses, it was time for his watch.

As he walked pass the fo’c’s’le, which was the open deck at the bow and where the anchors were secured, several off duty sailors, who had gathered there to enjoy the evening and to talk and smoke their pipes, stepped to attention and acknowledged him with the respect due to his station. He accepted their salutations and continued on to the bridge where after a few words with the helmsman, John Ratcliffe now, he clasped his hands behind his back and allowed his mind to wander.

Why should he, he mused, talk about his past for the amusement of these men with whom he had to share his every waking moment now.? Why should he expose to them all the things he treasured and had cast aside so ruthlessly.? True enough he had learned and achieved much over the past years, and he had seen sights and marvels that his eyes would never have known had he stayed on the Ponderosa, but even so … even so his desire for such was sated, his heart longed for only one place and that was his home – the Ponderosa.

He raised his eyes to the sky and looked at the sky. It was a different sky to the one they would be seeing in Nevada. But the stars shone as brilliantly, and the moon was bright. There was a ring around the moon he noticed and he pursed his lips thoughtfully, that indicated rain.

For a while he indulged in searching through his mind and dwelling on memories. On nights like this he tried to conjure up their voices, imagine what they could be doing. Sometimes he would close his eyes and imagine he was in his room and they, just a door’s distance from him. He could see them in the big room, Hoss and Joe playing checkers, and his Pa puffing some villainous pipe with wreaths of smoke swirling upwards while he read his newsheet and muttered comments to which no one paid any attention.

“Mr Cartwright, sir?”

He opened his eyes and observed one of the cabin boys looking up at him.

“Yes, John?”

“Your coffee, sir. Cook thought you would like it hot about now, sir.”

Adam nodded and took the mug of coffee which was steaming hot. The boy smiled, turned and then hesitated before turning back to him,

“Mr Cartwright, sir?”

“Yes, John?”

“I hear you’ll be taking the boats to land tomorrow, sir.”

“If there is land, yes.”

“Please, sir, could I come too? I’ve not been off this ship for so long now and I’ve not been on an island before. They said there are things like I’ve never seen before on those islands, sir.”

“No doubt. If you’re here when we set off, John, then I think we may be able to find some room for you.”

John opened his mouth and then shut it abruptly. His first instinct had been to cheer aloud, but memory served him well, one did not do this in front of an officer. He thanked Mr Cartwright very nicely and hurried away. Adam set the coffee down and watched the boy go. He wondered briefly if he had ever been so young, and for some reason, he found himself rather doubting it. He sighed, a nonsense thought which he tried to dismiss, but found that he could not. He picked up his coffee, and drank it, knowing it would not be as good as anything Hop Sing would have brewed, and upon drinking it, confirmed the fact.

Chapter 6

There had been a light rain during the night such as one would expect in the climate in which they were sailing now. It gave the air a less heavy feeling and for a while lightened the atmosphere.

It was Jenkins who was on watch duty at day break and it was his responsibility to check the men on the deck’s ’turning to’ when all the men would report on deck for roll call, thereby ensuring that no one had fallen overboard since the previous day. Now there was the washing down, scrubbing and swabbing of the decks and the rigging was coiled and rechecked. By the time seven bells was sounded all hands were ready for a good breakfast, providing of course the cook was in a good humour and there was sufficient provisions available.

At eight work begun under a blazing sun and azure sky. The ship was making good speed and Adam Cartwright was on the bridge with Captain Greaves when the cry went up from the crow’s nest “Land Ahead”

Immediately Greaves and Cartwright had their telescopes to their eye and scanned the horizon to confirm the look outs cry. There had been some sign that approaching land was nigh for clouds were visible on the horizon and now they could see birds in flight and the dark outline of the first of the islands. Seamen enjoyed anything that would break the monotony of their day on board ship, so all rushed to the sides to get their first glimpse of land and were allowed by the officers to cheer and shout and make a general hallaballoo.

“Helmsman, give her more speed.” Greaves barked at Thompson and then he smiled over at Cartwright with a nod of satisfaction, “You were right, Cartwright, we should be there shortly after dinner.”

Adam nodded. He held the telescope to his eye and watched keenly as the island began to grow from a dark outline on the horizon to something larger and larger. He turned to Greaves

“Permission to select men for the boat party, sir?”

“Permission granted.” Greaves replied “Report to me before you leave.”

Adam nodded assent and watched as the Captain left the bridge. All hands in the vicinity jumped to attention and cleared the way as the Captain, king of all he surveyed, passed through their midst. Adam watched them for a moment or two before calling out to the Sargeant of Arms who was surveying the landscape from the port side of the deck,

“Sargeant Smith, I’ll need you and six of your men to join with me on a sortie to the islands this afternoon.”

“Yes, Mr Cartwright, I’ll see to it right away.”

“Make sure all men are fully armed with ammunition to spare.”

“Yes, sir.” John Smith saluted good humouredly, gave his moustaches a twirl and descended to the lower deck where the marines had their quarters. It was here that the ship had its armoury.

He called his men to muster up and then selected the six men who would accompany him to the islands later that day.

The Ainola sped by at a fair rate of knots, cutting through the waves and sending spray foaming in her wake. Closer and closer came the island they had first sighted. Silver white sands, thickly shrouded woodland, craggy rocks and a hill high enough to be considered a mountain came into view. Birds now thronged the skies adding their cacophony of bird song to the sound of the boat dashing through the water and the sails burgeoning out to the wind.

“Any sign of human life?” Jenkins murmured as Adam once again viewed the island through his telescope.

“Smoke -” Adam muttered, “Several camp fires I would say.”

“Where?” Jenkins narrowed his eyes in an attempt to locate them.

“South east, just below the knoll . Yes, quite a large village.”

“Do you think they’re friendly?” Jenkins asked.

Adam remained silent for a little while as he surveyed the people in the camp through the telescope. It was hard to know if they were friendly or not. He was used to Indian tribes who painted themselves for war that made a quite definite indication of their intentions but these people were so remote from human civilisation that their mores were obviously going to be totally individual to themselves.

“Ah” he exclaimed eventually, “Some one has seen the ship. From the way they’re dancing about I don’t think I would assume that they are very friendly.”

“Rocks ahead, Mr Cartwright,” yelled the look out so that Adam swung the telescope to the shore line and nodded in agreement,

“Thompson, steer north by north east. Clear the rocks. We don’t want her grounded here.”

“Very well, sir.” the helmsman replied and swung the wheel accordingly.

Adam scanned the shore line once again through the telescope and allowed a small smile to flicker across his lips, he handed the telescope to the bo’sun (boatswain),

“Well, Mr Jenkins, I think we can safely say they are not friendly at all .”

“Do we fire upon them?”

“Certainly not.” Adam replied with the trace of humour in his voice, “They’re warning us off not making war on us.”

On the shoreline the men of the village had gathered to shake spears and other weapons at the ship that sailed gracefully beyond their reach. They were dark skinned and most of them naked, with only jewellery made from shells and stones their adornment.

“Over to the port side, Mr Cartwright.” Thompson yelled and one and all they turned their attention to the left of the ship where they could see some men leaping into slim long boats, gaily painted and decorated. The men themselves were now paddling furiously towards the ship, and from their throats rose a loud chanting that ended in a war cry of some ferocity.

“Put some distance between us, Thompson.” Adam ordered.

The clipper curved gracefully away from the islands, caught the wind fair in her sails and sped along leaving the infuriated villagers waving their fists and spears at them, and screaming out their imprecations and curses like men demented.

“Some shot would have sorted them out,” Jenkins muttered, watching the several boats turning round to return to the shoreline.

“You’re too blood thirsty by half,” Adam replied, “They’re only doing what they feel they must to protect their families, as we would do, even if the odds were against them.”

“You’re too lenient.” Jenkins said with a slight shrug of the shoulders.

Adam said nothing to that, although it caused him to narrow his lips and turn away from the man. He had found over the months that he would never be able to make a friend of Jenkins, and often there had been occasions when as a superior officer he could have had Jenkins before the Captain. But the Ainola for all her length was still small compared to a township and the vastness of the Ponderosa. He would have to live with the man and swallow the insults, for it didn‘t do to make an enemy of ones fellow officers.

“We’ll talk about it later,” he eventually said, feeling that something needed to be said in view of the number of men who would have heard the comment.

The Ainola continued on her way and by the time dinner was being eaten they had left the island far behind them with another looming right ahead. Over dinner they had discussed the islands, located them on the map and noted that they were a cluster of five. Greaves declared that the need for fresh water was paramount, if they didn’t have it soon there would be typhus on board and who would want dealings then with a plague ship.

Chapter 7

The two boats made good headway towards the island that existed at latitude 20.00 S outh and 175.00 West in the South Pacific Ocean. The island of Tongo existed some miles west and had, in 1845, become part of the Polynesian territories. The islands existing on its far perimeters were still unsure of what existed beyond their boundaries and the inhabitants were still prepared to repel invaders at all costs.

The silver sands upon which the two boats beached were untouched by anything more dangerous than some turtles which scuttled quickly into the sea. Adam was the first to leap into the water and wade to the shore swiftly followed by his men and John. The sailors in the other boat, along with the marines, were not many minutes behind them.

Birds sang love songs to one another, trees rustled pleasantly in a cooling breeze and the waves drifted up to the shore with a lazy melodic rhythm that seemed to confirm the innocence of the island. Adam, pistol in hand and eyes wary, glanced at the treetops and saw nothing to indicate danger and yet he remained wary. John Smith approached him,

“Well, Mr Cartwright, what do you think?”

“It all looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?” Adam replied, his pistol still in his hand and his eyes roving from one point of the beach to the other.

“We’d best look for water while it is then,” Smith grinned and Adam nodded,

“Get the barrels from the boat. Follow me …”

He led the way forward wondering just how safe they actually were as they entered into the thick undergrowth of tall fronded shrubs that bore fruits that they had never seen before. Above them trees towered, shielding them from the sun light and momentarily blinding them by the shadows. He stopped and the men behind him likewise paused and when he raised a hand for silence there came not a whisper from any man there.

“Over there -” he pointed to where he had heard the sound of trickling water sounding as pure and cool and inviting as only a thirsty man could picture it.

Birds were chattering now, scolding at the intruders and animals soft and small but fleet skittered along the trees limbs adding their shrill cries to that of the birds. Adam knew they were the invaders upon this tranquillity for his men were noisy now with the excitement of finding the water and knowing that they would be in a position to indulge in revelling in it for a moment or two.

“Keep the noise down,” Adam hissed and he heard his order repeated by Smith further along the line.

The men obeyed as disciplined men should do, and now in silence and with some stealth they approached the water.

Every man there paused to take in the sight of the waterfall as it tumbled unceasingly from the hillside. It was not a crescendo of a fall, nothing so grand as some could recall back home in the various States they came from, but it was still beautiful as it tossed itself over the rocks and boulders, foaming at its meeting with the river that swirled and twisted its way through the thick foliage that grew along its banks.

“Hurry. Full the barrels and make for the boats.”

“Anything wrong, Mr Cartwright?” Smith asked in an undertone as he watched the men roll the barrels forwards.

“Just a gut feeling borne from long experience, Sargeant. Get your men on alert.”

Smith looked at Adam rather doubtfully but nevertheless he did as he was told, and drew his own pistol from its holster, slipping off the safety catch as he did so. The marines held their muskets at the ready and positioned themselves in order to protect the sailors who, as well as filling the barrels and casks, were dipping themselves into the cool waters as though they had forgotten just how wonderful it was to feel cool water caress burning skin.

The cabin boy, John, had never experienced such sights before and relished the time he had to splash in the water. He tossed it high and watched it fall back sparkling in the sun like so many diamonds.

“Are the barrels full now, Mr Jones?” Adam called to one of the seamen who was hauling out one of the barrels, along with himself.

“They are, sir.”

“Then get back to the boats. All speed now.”

“Aye aye, sir.”

There were some secretive smiles slipped among the men as they pulled the barrels from the water and thumped in the bungs. Mr Cartwright was twitchy, they whispered and smiled. Mr Cartwright was acting like a cat on a hot tin roof and they sniggered, just a little, between themselves.

The marines flanked them as they made their way back. Some men pulled fruit from the trees and loaded the sacks as full as they could; some wild roots were pulled up and joined the fruit. They were well loaded down and the return to the boats took longer . Adam remained in the lead and Sargeant Smith brought up the rear. The cabin boy stayed as close to Adam as he could without falling over him.

The beach appeared before them like a silver line between jungle and sea. They bent their backs to roll the barrels over the soft sand, two men to a barrel for the task was not an easy one. They had reached the boats and loaded on two of the barrels when a wild cry ripped through the still quietude, there was a grunt and a gasp as Mr Jones fell upon his face into the sand with a spear in his back.

“Into the boats. Take what you can with you. Hurry.” Adam shouted as he fired into the trees.

Apart from the sounds of the men panting and gasping, the slop of water from inside the barrels, and the grating of the boats upon the sand there was now silence. Even the birds made no sound.

The marines took their positions to protect the boats and the men who were struggling to get into them. Sargeant Smith stood next to Adam both of whom had their pistols raised.

A swift glance over his shoulder was enough to see that the men were in the boats. Backing into the water the marines, Smith and Adam pushed the vessels free from the sand and clambered in with the men. It was then that their opponents emerged from the background of jungle and with ferocious cries and screams ran towards them casting their spears recklessly at these ‘devil invaders’ who were now rowing as hard as they could to get away.

“Row harder, harder.” Smith yelled firing at the beach and seeing one man fall.

The men bent their backs with that panic stricken discipline that made the boats seem to fly over the waves but even so a spear glanced against the side of one to show how they were still within range of the wild men on the shore.

The marines fired a round and saw several men fall, the distance was lengthening, the ship was getting nearer. Adam and Smith both fired off their guns again into the group of men who appeared to be dancing with rage on the beach while others had waded waist deep into the sea, flourishing their spears above their heads as though warning them of what would happen to them were they to approach their island again.

“Alright men, at ease now.” Smith murmured in a low voice to the marines.
“Any injured?” Adam asked turning to look at the men who were rowing with a consistent action towards the boat.

“Hadcroft got it in the leg, sir.” a sailor volunteered on behalf of the injured man.

“Hughes is dead. Spear got him in the throat before we got into the boat, sir.” another said.

“Any one else?” Adam glanced at the faces. “Where’s the boy?”

“The boy, sir?” Smith frowned.

“The cabin boy, John. Where is he?”

The men looked at one another, shook their heads, continued rowing until one of the marines said

“I saw him on the beach, Mr Cartwright. He was right behind you one minute and then he wasn’t. He was taken, sir.”

“Taken?” Adam echoed, but the question was rhetorical, he already knew the answer.

Chapter 8

“He did WHAT?”

John Smith straightened hi s back and raised his chin. Greaves was always an uncomfortable character to discuss anything with as he was petulant, moody and incapable of making a decision on his own. He was the typical commissioned officer who had gained his promotions on the back of other officers, whether commissioned or non commissioned. As a result he was never sure of what he should do and in a sad way felt inferior to those who had gained their privileges by working through the ranks. This flaw in his character was well hidden beneath his posturing and bombastic attitude towards his officers and men.

“Mr Cartwright dived overboard as soon as he realised the boy had been left behind, Captain.”

“Dived overboard?” Greaves blustered, “But how’s he to know the boy isn’t already dead? And how many others were killed, did you say?”

“Two men , sir. We had to leave Jones on the beach but we brought Hadcroft with us.”

Greaves stared coldly at Smith, his lips compressed and his pale greengage coloured eyes looking like glass,

“Did you do nothing to try and stop Cartwright going over board?”

“I tried to persuade him that there was little point in going back for the boy. But Mr Cartwright just took off his jacket and laid it aside with his pistol. He took a knife with him and then went over the side.”

“You should have stopped him,” Jenkins muttered with a slight frown furrowing his brow, “After all it leaves us an officer down now.”

“Excuse me, sir, but it is not my place to prevent an officer from carrying out what he considers to be his duty.” Smith replied evenly, giving Jenkins a long cold look of appraisal.

Greaves shook his head and turned to the starboard side of the ship to look back at the beach where Jones’ body no longer sprawled like a black spot upon the pristine silver sands. He clasped his hands behind his back and stared out to sea with his chin resting upon his chest.

“Well now, Mr Jenkins, this is a fine kettle of fish we’re left with now. What do you propose we do about it?”

“I think it may be wise to move away from here, Captain Greaves. It will be night soon and who knows those devils could well paddle their boats here under cover of darkness.”

“Sir -” Sargeant Smith began but Greaves and Jenkins turned their back upon his and effectively cut him out of the conversation. He was left to stand there at attention until his superior officers remembered he was there and dismissed him, or, perhaps, paid him the courtesy of asking his advice.

………………………..

From his shelter among the black seaweed encrusted boulders and rock, Adam was able to watch the proceedings that had taken place on the beach. Before he had dived into the sea he had seen that the natives had found the body of Jones to be of more interest than the boats that were now out of the reach of their spears. His entering the sea at this point would not, therefore, have been noticed unless there was a look out whom he had not noticed. With strong measured strokes and the help of the current it had not taken him long to reach the outcrop of rock that formed a circle around the beach, creating a semi lagoon effect.

The cruel abuse that was meted out to the seaman’s body by the angry mob would have made a more squeamish man weep, but Adam knew that he had to keep his senses in order to find the boy, of whom there appeared to be no sign.

Small wavelets dashed against his face and eyes, so that it soon became necessary to move from the sheltering rocks more closely to the beach. The natives were obviously still hot from anger and had turned again towards the boats and ship, shaking their spears and shouting out their challenging war cries to the unwanted invader. Slowly Adam swam his way closer, until he was able to tread water to gain the beach. He paused to do so indeed, until the natives had disappeared taking the body of seaman Thomas Jones with them. Adam watched as they hauled away the man’s body with as little care as that given to a deer that had been hunted down and was to be taken to the home to be quartered and butchered for the next meal.

He waited some moments and then made his way to the beach. Treading carefully now and with knife in hand he walked to where the boats had been beached and looked at the footprints that had made the beach a medley of churned sand. Footprints overstepped onto footprints making them indistinguishable from one another. He was on his knees now, his eyes scanning the mess and praying for some distinguishable sign. Every so often he would raise his eyes to look at the dark shadows of the wilderness into which the natives had vanished. One should never under estimate the enemy and he couldn’t imagine that they would feel safe and secure with an American Clipper ship so close to shore.

As anxiety bit into his nerves he found what he was looking for, a smaller imprint than the others made clearer due to the fact that the boy had obviously stepped into Jones’ blood . Leaning down more closely to read the sign written down upon the sands Adam felt a sense of relief as he saw that the boy had not been carried off but had panicked and ran to the rocks higher up on the beach. Following the footsteps closely Adam reached the outcrop, he saw where some sea weed had been dislodged from a boulder, and further along the mark of the boys’ toes clearly discernable in the sand that filled the hollow in a rock.

The birds were singing again. At the back of his mind he was conscious of their songs, and the sounds of other animals that came from the trees of the forests. Slowly he followed the trail, glancing occasionally over his shoulder to ensure that he himself was not being followed. The sky was turning red and orange with streaks of gold and he knew that within minutes he would be plunged into the darkness of a tropical night. He had to find the boy before then and he cursed inwardly at the realisation that he had not thought out a plan thoroughly enough.

He was at a reasonable distance now from where the natives had disappeared so he cupped his mouth with his hands and called out as loudly as he felt would be safe,

“John. Where are you?”

There was no answer and anxiously he looked over his shoulder, then ahead of him where he saw several foot prints clearly defined and indicating that the bearer of them had walked into the sea. Surely, Adam asked himself, the boy didn’t think to go swimming to the ship? Having thought such a thing he turned to look back at the Ainola and in amazement saw her skimming over the waves and away from the island.

Chapter 9

For a moment only Adam felt the blood freeze in his bones. There was something so devastatingly dreadful about seeing his ship sailing away from him that he felt momentarily paralysed. The ultimate betrayal? For what reason? He tried to put coherent and logical thought into his head but he was too dumb founded to think. His fingers tightened on the handle of his knife and he bowed his head while a deep sigh passed from his lips.

“Mr Cartwright – sir?”

A thin tremulous voice from nearby and he turned to see the white face of the boy looking up at him from among the boulders. He turned aside from the sight of his betrayal and waded quickly through the water to where the boy was crouched.

“Are you alright, boy?” he whispered and crouched to his haunches in the water to look at the lad more closely, “Not hurt, are you?”

“Did you – did you see what they did to him? To Jonesy?” John stammered, his voice shaking along with his body, his teeth chattered and his eyes seemed to be rolling in their sockets, “Did you see?”

“Yes,” Adam replied and put his hands on the boys’ shoulders, “Look, John, we can’t skulk around here now. We have to find somewhere to hide and where we can be warm. It’ll be dark very soon and -”

“But the ship, the Ainola, she’s near, she’ll come for us, won’t she? I saw her just now. I saw her, Mr Cartwright.” his fingers tightened on the man’s shirt, screwing it into a ball

“Evenso, John, we have to leave here. We’re too exposed to the natives and when the tide comes in we could be in danger from the rocks. Come with me now, John.”

“Yes, but -”

“That’s an order, John.”

The boy gasped, a sharp quavering intake of breath, but he didn’t make any more fuss. He sloshed out of the water u p to the beach and stood there, looking at Adam expectantly.

“Come along,” Adam said, “We need to be near fresh water. We’ll head where the river must flow into the sea and take our chances there.”

He glanced up at the sky. There were only minutes left before darkness descended. The tide was coming in which was good for it would wash away signs of their foot prints. He took the boy by the arm and half dragged and half carried him across the beach to the darkness of the undergrowth.

He took some time to remove traces of their prints which were above the tidal line and would be like a red arrow pointing to their whereabouts to any curious native who would pass by when day light came. After a last quick glance to sea where the Ainola could be see passing the point, he plunged into the forest, with John tagging as close to him as a hound dog.

The darkness was not quite total for the moon that shone upon them was fat and round and shed down silver light. With reasonable care they were able to pick their way through the undergrowth towards where the river could be heard tumbling towards the sea. To return to the waterfall would be going too far, and possibly the natives having knowledge of where their enemies had previously gone would make sure there were ones posted along the way to watch for any others who would take the chance to reach the site.

But the river soon came to view. Adam estimated they were merely half a mile from the sea yet well hidden by the abundance of foliage. The boy ran ahead and fell face first into the water to drink heartily. Adam, more cautious, followed, cupped his hands and raised the water to his lips. It tasted like nectar.

“Where are the others, Mr Cartwright? Ain’t they with you?” John whispered as they sat side by side under cover of some broad leaved plant.

“No, they went on to the Ainola. We didn’t realise you weren’t with us when we left the beach. I came back for you.”

“Oh.” John’s brow furrowed, “Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t mention it.” Adam smiled. “Try and get some sleep.”

“But what if ‘they’ come?”

“I’ll stand guard and wake you if they do.”

“I should take my turn, sir. I’m part of the ship’s company after all, and you’re in this trouble because of me, ain’t ya?”

Again Adam smiled and shook his head,

“Just get some sleep. I’ll wake you when it’s your turn to stand watch.”

John closed his eyes after he had wiggled about a little in the dry leaves of seasons past. He had made himself quite a comfortable little nest when he opened his eyes and tugged at Adam’s sleeve

“Thank you, Mr Cartwright, thanks for coming back for me.”

Adam nodded, put a hand on the boys head and pushed it down as though to emphasise the boy needed to sleep. Despite the wet clothing, the fears from without, it took less than five minutes before the boy was asleep. His heavy breathing indicative of the toll fear had taken upon him.

Adam also made himself a nest into which he could recline. Then he lay upon his stomach, folded his arms and rested his chin upon them. In his hand he held his knife. It was his resolve that no one would take them alive.

………………………..

John woke much sooner than Adam had expected. For a few moments they remained as they were, side by side, without speaking.

“How old are you, lad?” Adam finally asked, “12 perhaps?”

“Nearly 12, sir.”

“What made you take to the sea?”

“Wal, I’m the sixth of ten children and my Ma was expecting another. My Pa was a seaman. I thought I should go and earn some money so I could send it to my Ma and help her raise those kids. It ain’t easy for her.”

“Did you tell her your plans or did you just run away?” Adam stared out into the darkness, thinking of the careworn woman with all those children and, obviously, a feckless husband as well.

“I – I told my eldest brother. He said he’d explain to Ma.”

“Why didn’t he work to get some money?”

“He did, sir. He was working on the docks with my Pa. That’s how I knew the Ainola was sailing when she did and got on board ship. I lied about my age though.” he frowned, “Not that Captain Greaves would care, he’s -”

“Hush, John. You know I can’t listen to talk like that?”

“Sorry, sir. I forgot.”

Adam said nothing but looked out to the outline of the bushes ahead, beyond that he could see the silver of the moon’s light upon the river. It was a rule on board any vessel that no seaman of any rank spoke derogatorily about any officer, particularly the Captain. Small petty complaints on board a ship soon gathered momentum and could result in out right mutiny. Best to nip it in the bud before it began. Depending on the tolerance of the Captain and first officer the discipline for ‘loose talk’ could be anything from loss of privileges to a flogging.

“Mr Cartwright, can I ask you something now?”

“Go ahead. Can’t promise you’ll get an answer.” Adam grinned, it softened the words.

“What made you become a seaman?”

“Ah, what indeed? Now there’s a question and a half.” Adam replied and raised his eyebrows. “Well, John, my father was a seaman. His father and grandfathers were all seamen. My mother’s father was a seaman, Captain of his own vessel, The Wanderer. His father, brother, Uncle and Grandfather were all seamen. “

“Guess you had no choice then, huh? It was kind of in your blood.”

“Oh, I had a choice.” Adam replied softly, “The thing is, I’m not sure I made the right one now.” he frowned slightly and lowered his head so that once again his chin was resting on his folded arms.

“Have you always been a seaman, sir?”

“No, not always. There was a time when I had another life … not so long ago either.” he paused and the frown deepened. “Sometimes in a man’s life there comes a time when he has to decide whether to stay put or get up and go. I chose to get up and go. My grandfather -”

“- the one with the ship?”

“That’s the one. He wrote to me before he died. He wanted me to go to sea, like himself, and his family. My father had spoken so often about the sea and the ships he had sailed in … like yourself, my Pa had run away when he was 14. He worked his way up to Master’s Mate before leaving. He taught me all about navigation, the stars, everything a seaman should know. When I was a boy we were always on the move, travelling in a wagon across the states until we found …” he stopped and gulped down the lump in his throat.

Oh how clearly he could remember the day. Pa had said simply ‘This is it, this is our Eden.’ They had clambered down from the wagon , he and Hoss, and they had chased one another across the long grasses to the river. Then Pa had called them together and placed a hand on their shoulders as they stood side by side of him. He had prayed then. Thanked God for deliverance, and asked Him for help and wisdom.

“So when you got your Grand pa’s letter you up and left, huh?”

“Not for a long time. Then some things happened in my life and I thought – I need to get away from here. I remembered the letter. There was information there telling me how to get a Commission, all I had to do was apply to the President, tell him about my college education and my life … next thing I knew I was in Boston, visited the Admiral and stood in front of various Captains and the Admiral who asked various questions and before I knew it, I was on board the Ainola with the Commission in my hand. Just like that …” he sighed heavily. Just like that …

He turned his head and glanced down at the boy, John was asleep, lightly snoring. The night was growing lighter. Soon it would be daybreak and a new day would begin.

Chapter 10

They slaked their thirst from the river, cupping their hands they splashed water upon their faces and around their necks and then drank a little more. John looked anxiously up at Adam

“Mr Cartwright, are we going to get back to the ship now?”

Adam heaved in a deep breath and then exhaled slowly, he pursed his lips and frowned before shrugging

“We’ll have to see, John. Let’s find something to eat, shall we?”

“Can’t we light a fire, Mr Cartwright?”

“No, John, others may see it.”

The boy nodded and Adam noticed a tremor run down the boy’s back. Perhaps having slept so well John had forgotten just how dangerous the situation was for them.

“No talking now, John. Just follow me and do whatever I tell you. Trust me, huh?”

The boy nodded. He clapped his hand to his belt and drew out a knife which he showed to Adam with a glint of pride in his eyes. With a smile Adam acknowledged the boys determination and ruffled his hair before turning and beginning to walk warily back to the beach.

They plucked wild fruit from the shrubs as they walked along. Some were too bitter to eat and was promptly spat out, but some were ripe and sweet. Adam found his energy levels boosted after a short while and felt more optimistic as a result. They reached the fringes of the forests where it met the beach, and crouched down. Looking towards the sea both of them searched for a sight of the ship. The horizon however, was empty.

“Where’s she gone?” John cried involuntarily.

“Hush.” Adam put his finger to his lips and pointed to the left of him which caused John to freeze and go white as he saw the sight of several natives approaching the beach. A skull adorned a pole which was driven into the sands. Neither Adam nor John had any doubts as to what this meant – Mr Jones’ skull was there as a warning to the white invaders and the thought of what those savages had done to Mr Jones made John heave up vomit.

The natives were well built men, adorned with very little. They talked shrilly to one another, gesticulating wildly and pointing out to sea. From what Adam could interpret from their body language and signs some wanted to get into their boats and attack the ship, but others were advising caution. From their vantage point, stretched out on their bellies, Adam and John could see the whole scene clearly. John tugged at Adam’s sleeve and signalled his desire to leave, but Adam put his hand upon the boy’s arm and shook his head.

Finally the natives departed. The skull stared out to sea from its eyeless sockets. Waves lapped against the beach invitingly. For some moments Adam didn’t move as he looked out upon the scene. Overhead birds sang and there was the rustle of things moving in among the trees but Adam still didn’t move.

“I’m scared, Mr Cartwright.” John whispered, “Why isn‘t the ship there?”

“Well, the Captain has to think about the welfare of the crew, John.” Adam replied steadily, “he can’t put them at risk just for the sake of two people, can he?”

John lowered his eyes, he nodded, but couldn’t raise his eyes to look at Adam for shame, knowing it was his fault that they were stranded there now.

“I thought they were going to grab me after they struck down Mr Jones so I just ran, I didn’t think I’d be left behind.”

“No point thinking about it now, we’ve things to do.” Adam replied and raised himself to his knees, “Look, we need a boat, don’t we? So -” he paused at the way John’s face lost colour, “It’s the only way off this island, boy. Now, just do what I say. Follow me and not a word.”

When one is too scared to think the best thing is to left the thinking to someone else and just mechanically do what one was told, that way any mistake was someone else’s responsibility. Thus reasoned young John as he began to walk closely behind his Officer.

They skulked along the edges of the forest keeping the sea close in view until Adam seized John by the arm, forced him down onto his belly and put a finger to his lips for silence. Then he pointed towards the sea.

At least a dozen boats were beached upon the sands. There were signs of fishing implements strewn around, primitive style harpoons. One man was walking among them, seeming to be looking for something or someone. Eventually he found what he was looking for and turned to walk back to the village. Adam wished now he had pocketed his telescope but as it was he didn’t have it so would have to hope for the best. He tugged at John’s sleeve and beckoned him to follow

Keeping low to the sand and hastening to the cover of the rocks Adam and John made their way to the boats. Along the way Adam picked up one of the harpoons, as sharp as a razor, heavily weighted. He balanced it in his hand and then with a nod pointed over to the boats, indicating to John to move forwards.

He holed the first boat easily. The second boat took no time. At the third boat however there was a problem. As he struck in the harpoon head a dark face reared itself up from the inside of the boat and glared down at him. It’s possible that the dark face paled at the sight of the white man who stared back at him. He opened his mouth to shout a warning only to have Adam’s hand clapped over his mouth instantly and even as he writhed to free himself the other man brought down the weapon. The savage sunk down into the boat and Adam struck the harpoon into the boat’s side to hole it.

He glanced over to where the other man had walked in what he has assumed was the way to the village. There appeared no sign of anyone although the sounds of the people could be heard quite clearly on the breeze. It was a warm and pleasant breeze and cooled him in his exertions. John, realising what Adam was doing, was using his knife to good effect, gouging out holes in the side of the boats as he dodged his way in and out of them.

The boy jumped when someone tapped him on the shoulder, and he was obviously relieved when Adam Cartwright looked down at him, then hauled him up over his shoulder and swung him into one of the boats.

“Keep your head down.” Adam whispered, “So far we’ve got away with the damage we’ve done, but I can’t guarantee just how much longer our luck will hold.”

Very carefully Adam pushed the boat away from the beach. It slid along smoothly, and slipped into the water as naturally and easily as could be while Adam swam alongside it, one hand hauling the boat along . No one seemed to notice the boat now loose upon the waves with seemingly no one in it. The sound of the villagers grew further and further away until Adam felt it was safe to get into the boat himself.

There were paddles cast casually in the boat as though the owner had been glad to have the days fishing over with and happy to be home. Adam, accustomed to paddling the bark canoes of the Paiute took his position and indicated to John to pick up the other paddle. With his eyes still on the shore Adam began to paddle the boat away and John, raised on the coastal line of New England, used the other paddle to good effect.

The shore receded at each stroke of the paddle. They were now at good way to sea and following the direction that Adam recalled the Ainola had taken. The paddles flashed in and out of the water and John, young though he was, proved himself to be an asset that day as he put his strength and power into the task. Too terrified at the thought of being caught he only wanted to have as much distance between himself and the natives as possible.

They saw as so many dots on a canvas the sight of the natives on the shore lining up and no doubt shouting their frenzied curses at the receding little vessel. It was too late for them to retrieve it or to capture the thieves. Even if they had tried they would not have got far before their own little boats would have filled with water and capsized.

“Well, John, we won that round,” Adam said with a smile.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Yes, they had won that round, but there were still others to confront.

Chapter 11

There was no respite from the sun. The heat sapped their energies and it wasn’t long before the boy had abandoned the paddle and fallen into the bottom of the boat curled like a baby with his arms flung either side of him.

Adam paddled slowly now that the island was a single dot on the horizon. He had thought of circling the island and landing elsewhere so that water and food could be gathered, but the island was small in circumference and the anger of the natives considerable. He had no doubt that they would be on guard against his return, especially as it would take time for them to repair the boats.

He glanced behind him and to the left and right of him. Where had the Ainola gone? He couldn’t accept the thought that they had simply abandoned him. Even though what he had said to John was the truth, a Captain’s first duty was to his crew and ship, it was still the right and proper thing to rescue those in need of help.

He looked at John and knew the boy was exhausted. There was little hope of him being of any use now and it made Adam wonder whether he had made the right decision to leave the island. The boy was making little whimpering sounds now and it smote Adam’s heart to hear them. Resolutely he knew there was only one thing he could do, and that was to return to the island and find food and water.

He paddled slowly first to the left and then to the right, conserving his energy and allowing the current to drag them towards the undertow which would take them to the island. As he paddled he thought back to his conversation with the boy the previous evening. He smiled a little remembering that the boy had fallen asleep while he had rambled on with his story.

He remembered how he had mentioned that there had been events that had caused him to make the decision to leave home. As he drove the paddle into the water, his back straight and eyes alert, and the sun burning through his shirt, Adam tried to recall to mind the events that he had referred to so briefly.

Well, there was that situation with Peter Kane. Even now he would dream about the wretched man, no, not dream, that was not the right word at all, he had nightmares about the mine, the heat, the humiliation. Kane. That was a name to conjure with… no one had seemed to have really understood why that had had such an effect on him. Even now, thinking about it here as he paddled this boat upon the bluest of waters and the calmest of seas, even now he couldn’t put the horror of it all into words.

Pass on then, what was the other thing? The day he shot Joe. He closed his eyes and shuddered. There had been that couple in the buggy who had come to help them. Mr Rearden and his daughter, Sheila. ‘Beautiful vistas and perfect sunsets’. He could hear that girls voice now and the way she had said ‘I hate it here’ with such vehemence and he could remember the way his own heart had jumped at the words because at that moment he had understood how she had felt.

Adam bit his lip and applied himself to paddling furiously now as though he wanted to get away from his own memories. An impossibility. He paused, and put a hand to his forehead to wipe away the sweat. When the Rearden’s had gone and he had been alone with his father … he could remember so well, so clearly, how he had felt.

It was strange how a hand on one’s arm can be a source of comfort and encouragement one moment and of dread and consternation at another. When Ben placed a hand on Adam’s arm the younger man felt a worm of misery crawl within his stomach. He looked up anxiously, his dark eyes taking on an even darker tone as he scanned his father’s features.

“Do you want to talk about it now, son?”

Adam had drawn in a deep breath and as he exhaled he lowered his head and looked away. The hand on his arm was warm, gentle but it felt like a ton weight. He had longed to shake it away, get up and run from the room but his own pride and respect for his father had prevented him from doing so.

“I’m sorry, Pa.”

“I know you are, Adam” Ben had moved his hand away and had placed it upon his son’s shoulder, unbeknown to him causing his son more irritation and annoyance as a result.

“I just didn’t see him there, Pa.” Adam had raised a hand in a gesture of self disgust. “I’ve gone over and over it in my head and I still can’t see him there. When I fired, all I saw was that wolf, I never saw Joe. I never saw him.”

He had straightened his back, more as a means of removing that hand upon his shoulder, a hand that now seemed as hot as a branding iron. It had been unnecessary for Ben moved away, and had sat down in his chair and surveyed his son thoughtfully.

“Adam, accidents happen. You mustn’t blame yourself any more than you have done all ready. I know from what the Reardons have said, and from Hoss, that you have punished yourself relentlessly over this accident. At the same time, you seem to have forgotten that you saved your brother’s life.”

He had glanced over at his father then and grimaced. Then he had shaken his head,

“Pa, none of what happened -” he had paused as he saw the look on his father’s face, one of impatience and it had caught him unguarded, “You’re angry with me? Of course you are, you have every reason to be. I acted like some greenhorn rookie running in and firing off in all directions like I did. The stupid thing is that I thought I was protecting Joe. When I saw him there on the ground and knew it was my bullet that had brought him down …”

Adam remembered the tears that had stung his eyes then, how he had brought his hand to his mouth and clamped down his teeth to prevent the tears from falling.

“Son, I’m not angry with you. I could not be angry with you over this. I just want you to stop punishing yourself. I want you to stop thinking that this place is barbaric and cruel. I want you to remember the things we love about it…” he had leaned forward, his near black eyes forcing Adam to look into his face, “Remember how we found the Ponderosa? Remember how hard we worked to bring it to life? You, I and Hoss?”

Adam recalled that moment now more clearly than he had ever done. The realisation that his father had been told about the discussion he and Hoss had had the previous evening. How Hoss had waxed lyrical about the Ponderosa and he had spouted Thoreau. Then he had railed at the Reardens about the heathenish place it was, no doctors, no refinements. Sunsets and wide vistas. He had remembered the words, they spun round and round in his head even now, hammered there like nails in a coffin.

“The land was more outlandish then than it is now, remember? We relied on the help of others. When Joe was born who was here to help us? But we are on the threshold of a wonderful future for this country. The Ponderosa is …”

“Pa -”

“I haven’t finished speaking yet, boy.” his father’s voice had gone harder, the mouth a firm line in the lean tanned face, “Look, I don’t want you to be using this accident with Joe as the excuse for you to run out on what is, what has been, a wonderful thing here. I want you to stay, I want you…”

“You want? What about my wants?” the words had been blurted out, hot, quick, hasty.

“I always thought they were right here, on the Ponderosa?” Ben had leaned forward again, his dark eyes scanning his son’s face, “I remember what it was like back East. The refinements, the easy way of living , the accessibility of everything. Sometimes I ask myself, why did I leave?” he had stood up then, and turned to the hearth, observed it for some seconds and smiled, “You remember when we built this chimney? How we had cheered when the last stone went into place? Well, we’re like those stones. Each one of us is a rock, supported by the other, each in their right place. The cement that binds them is the love we have for one another.”

He had placed his hand upon Adam’s arm, and smiled. It was strange, Adam thought now when recollecting that time, how the touch of a hand on one’s arm can be a source of irritation and annoyance one moment, but of consolation and comfort the next.

A soft sigh passed through the lips of the boy and Adam snatched himself away from his memories. He raised his hand to his face to wipe away the sweat . This, he told himself,, was hardly the time to be spent in self pity and recriminations.

Chapter 12

He was careful to paddle the canoe just far enough away from the shoreline and out of reach of any optimistic spearsman. On the east side of the island the sand began to give way to coral and boulders over which the waves flung themselves with an energy that caught Adam by surprise. It was a struggle to single handedly manage the boat now and more than once the boat seemed determined to hurl itself upon the rocks along with the waves.

Kneeling in the boat now he paddled Indian style away from the rocks. Once more he drove the boat away from the shoreline and out to sea, away from the danger of being dashed against the rocks and lost forever. The temptation to scoop a handful of water to drink was cruelly tantalising although he did scoop some to tip over his face which he felt was now burning from his exertions and the heat of the sun.

He now skirted the eastern shore, avoiding the rocks and steering towards the southern side when, upon glancing along the horizon he noticed another island. Momentarily he paused to consider his options.

He recalled that there had been four islands shown on the map which was seriously out of date. They had avoided the first island due to the attentions of the natives, they had visited the second island, the one at which so much had happened. Perhaps he should attempt to reach the third of the islands and see whether or not there would be greater success in providing water and food than anywhere else.

Determined now he drove the paddle into the sea. They had several assets to hand, two knives, a primitive harpoon, a decent enough boat, courage and determination. There were times in the past when he had had far less but had won through. Thus, gritting his teeth Adam strove forwards.

The warm breeze was pleasantly cooling and much stronger than it had been when they had been on shore. Wavelets were now becoming quite forceful waves that seemed determined to drive the little vessel back against the rocks. He was paddling frantically against the tide and the currents were becoming fiercer by the moment.

He would have preferred not to have disturbed the boy, but there was nothing else he could do. He was not built on Hoss like proportions and powers and rather than be defeated by the waves he had to have some form of help. He shook John gently and roused him from his sleep

“Take the other paddle, John. We’re heading for another island.”

John rubbed his face, yawned and picked up the other paddle. Imitating Adam’s style he knelt in the boat and began to paddle. The little boat struggled but maintained its course, dipping into the waves as they went and water flowing over the sides of the boat to such an extent that Adam was fearful of them floundering before they could ever reach the shore.

Approaching the island they could see it was much smaller than the others. Once again they were dazzled by the brightness of the beach behind which grew an abundance of plant life and tall trees with large umbrella like leaves. The closer they got the smaller the island appeared in proportion to the other two islands. It also became easier to paddle now as the natural tide around the island drew them towards it.

John glanced anxiously over his shoulder at Adam. It had taken several hours to reach the island and now as they drew close enough for the bottom of the boat to grate against the sand below the water the fear that the inhabitants were like the previous natives they had met quite over whelmed the boy.

Adam was out of the boat now, pushing it up to the shore and pulling it onto the beach. He looked warily about him and drew out his knife. John did likewise, keeping as close to Adam as he possibly could.

The first thing to find was water so they walked into the mass of plant life. Adam paused and looked back to make sure of his bearings in order to relocate the boat later. The only foot prints on the beach were there own. Nothing else was there to mar its splendid perfection.

Feeling reassured by this Adam walked deeper into the cool damp interior of the forest. Keeping a watchful eye about him he would pause occasionally to strain his ears for any untoward sounds that would warn him of approaching feet, or even of the sound of a stream.

“Mr Cartwright -” John grabbed at his sleeve after they had been walking for twenty minutes, “Over there. I saw something.”

Adam could see it now, the flash of silver that indicated water, a stream, a river, maybe just a big puddle, but they both began to run towards it without any heed to the danger they could have brought upon themselves at the noise they were creating as they dashed through the plants and crashed down leaves. Only those who had been deprived of water for so long in such heat and having undergone such exertion could have understood as they now flung themselves into the water.

It was fresh and cool and intoxicatingly refreshing. They drank it, threw it over their faces, down their necks and over their bodies. It was wonderful for five minutes. Then sense prevailed and they hurriedly moved away and back into the shadows of the trees.

Once again they ate fruit that grew abundantly around them. Using his knife Adam dug up roots of plants he had seen in a botany book on board ship and recognised as good to eat. They were tough and chewy, but edible.

“How are we going to get water to the boat, Mr Cartwright? We’ll need water if we’re going to get to the Ainola.”

Adam nodded. He didn’t say anything about the Ainola, it would be cruel to dash the boy’s faith in his fellows. The problem was, as John said, how to get the water to the boat. Then he gave a low chuckle and ruffled Johns hair before pointing upwards to the trees around them

“John, do you know what they are?”

“No, sir, what are they?”

“Why, they’re coconut palms. These islands are volcanic in origin, John, that’s why there’s such an abundance of plant life. See -” he pointed to some round objects that lay about the ground, “That’s what we can store the water in. Idiot that I am …” he slapped himself on the brow (not very hard) and shook his head, “I should have noticed them before, what was I thinking about!” he exclaimed.

John picked one up and shook it, his eyes rounded in surprise

“It rattles. There’s something inside.”

“You’ve not seen a coconut before, John?” Adam smiled and taking the hilt of his knife he shattered the shell, and the cut across the top of the nut much like one slices the top of an egg, “You’ll know what it is now, won’t you?“ his smile widened as he held the hairy ovoid in front of the boy,

“A coco nut!” John exclaimed, “I’ve seem ‘em before, Pa brought one home once when -” he paused and his voice wobbled.

John took the coco nut and raised it to his mouth, rather carefully he tilted it and let the fluid inside trickle down his throat.

Adam sat down on the ground, having found himself a decent sized one he tilted it up and drank the juices,
“I am sorry, John, I should have looked out for these on the other island. We would not have had such a hard journey.”

John shrugged, smiled and felt awkward. It was an unusual thing for an Officer to apologise to him, a mere cabin boy. He stretched, yawned, and looked about him,

“Do you think there are any bad men here, sir?”

“I don’t know, John. I rather doubt it. The island is very small and hardly likely to sustain a community of people. They may come over here at times in their boats -” he shrugged now, and glanced about him. “Are you tired?”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am”

“Don’t expect too much from yourself, boy. Here, curl up and sleep. I’ll collect up some food and water, and when I’m ready for leaving I’ll wake you.”

It wasn’t long before John was asleep again. Adam collected up more fruit of which there was an abundance. He thought of the number of lemons and limes that had been gathered up by the sailors of the Ainola. The Doctor would be pleased, it would keep the scurvy down. He cut down the large palm leaves and bundled the fruit into them, he did the same with the coco nuts. Now he had only to think of a means of transportation.

Birds trilled as they flew from plant to plant, tree to tree. For a moment Adam allowed the beauty of the place to steal over him. He wished that it were possible to have a machine which could capture the scene, like a picture. He nudged John and within minutes they were walking back to the boat with their arms laden with their bundles.

“Stay here.” Adam cautioned, putting his arm across the boys chest and preventing him stepping any further onto the shore.

“But -”

“Hush,” he put down the bundles and drew out his knife.

There was another set of foot prints leading to the boat, footsteps that walked away from the boat and towards the forest. With foreboding in his heart and his knife in his hand Adam ran to the little vessel to find, to his dismay, that a hole had been violently smashed into its side. There was no possible way that they would be leaving the island now.

Chapter 13.

Adam turned away from the boat and knelt down in order to examine the footprints. For a moment he was puzzled for he had expected to see the inprint of a naked foot, but instead he saw that of a mans booted foot. Square toed at that and the heel light, toe print deep indicating that the man had ran from the boat.

He glanced over to where John stood, a pale faced little boy with big frightened eyes. He was about to call out when the boy was lifted off his feet as an arm seized him from behind and dragged him out of view.

Adam was running now, sprinting as fast as he could to wards where John had been standing. His knife in his hand prepared to strike out. When the form of a man appeared before him strike out he did, only to be greeted with a hearty chuckle.

“Mr Cartwright. Lord love us, sir, what do you think you’re a-doing of?”

“Smith? Sargeant Smith? What are you doing here?” Adam exclaimed, and in his voice there was sheer relief as the Sargeant of Marines stepped forward with a smart salute and wide grin on his whiskered face.

“My men and I came across from the Ainola on the jerry boat, sir. Sorry about the little boat yonder, sir. Thought it belonged to some of them barbarians and thought better to hole it in case they got it into their scurvy heads to come and ambush us.”

“I can’t tell you how delighted I am to see you, Sargeant. Did the Captain order you to look for us?”

Smith grimaced, a rather comical twist of the lips, he raised his eyebrows and shook his head,

“To be honest, sir, he sent us to get more fruit and water. We could see the island was uninhabited. The doctor wanted to get more fruit to stave off the scurvy.”

“I see.” Adam nodded, narrowed his eyes and hid his disappointment as best he could.

“Mr Cartwright, if I may have a private word with you … in private”

“Yes?” Adam nodded, and stepped closer.

“Just by way of a warning, sir. There’s a certain person on board ship who, to put it bluntly, don’t think too kindly of you, sir and -”

“That’s enough, Sargeant.” Adam stepped back, “Don’t say anymore.”

“No, sir, quite right, sir. It was just private talk, sir, between two officers.”

“Of course.” Adam nodded, and put his hand reassuringly on the other mans shoulder, “Let’s get back to the boat. It’s been a very hard time for the boy.”

“Yes, sir, I can well imagine it has been.” Smith replied and obliged with a very smart salute.

Adam nodded and followed them slowly. He picked a bundle of fruit up but after a few steps dropped it. It didn’t seem to matter now. He had an enemy on board ship. There were no prizes for guessing exactly who it was for he already knew.

For Adam the return to the deck of the Ainola was a great source of personal pleasure as the men, upon seeing their First Officer step on deck, gave a resounding cheer. Several men called out to him – quite contrary to Ships Regs – saying how pleased they were to see him again. Young John was whisked away below decks to be cross examined by the curious, and particularly so by 14 years old Robin, the other cabin boy who wished more than anything now that he had gone on the trip instead.

Captain Greaves was smoking his pipe and playing a game of backgammon with the Doctor when Adam knocked and upon being invited in, stepped into the Captain’s private quarters.

“Bless me,” the Doctor exclaimed, “Mr Cartwright!”

“Reporting for duty, sir.” Adam said standing very erect and tall and saluting his superior officer as required.

“Cartwright,” Greaves the hypocrite said silkily, “Well, man, come on inside and take a glass of wine with us. My goodness, this is a pleasure. We were told that you had been taken captive with the boy.”

“Really, sir? I can’t understand where you got such a tale from as nothing of the sort happened at all.” Adam replied with his face calm and placid.

“Jenkins was of the opinion – Doctor, pour out some wine for Mr Cartwright, thank you – yes, Jenkins was of the opinion that that was what had happened. No doubt things got a bit garbled in the translation. You know how it is.” Greaves smiled as the wine was handed to Adam by the Doctor who looked very pleased to see him, “It’s a really good Chardonney, Cartwright.”

“Thank you, sir.” Adam nodded appreciatively and took a sip before replacing the glass on the table, “Is it in order for me to return to my duties, Captain?”

“Certainly, of course.” Greaves cried as though there could not possibly be any doubt in the matter, then as Adam turned to leave the room he murmured as an aside to the Doctor, “Jenkins is not going to be too happy about this, he thought he had promotion in the bag. Apart from which he owes me $50, I bet him Cartwright would come out of this alive, and I was right” and he burst into a peal of laughter.

Adam closed the door smartly behind him. For a moment he stood there very calmly, took in a deep breath, and then walked to his cabin.

“Ah Cartwright,” Jenkins had the door open even before he had reached the cabin, “I heard you were on board, congratulations.”

“You ordered the Ainola to leave the island, didn’t you?” Adam said quietly as he closed the door behind him and leaned against it.

“No, well, actually, you see, the Captain …”

“You told the Captain that the boy and I had been taken by the prisoners and that as there was no hope for us it would be better to leave the vicinity of the island in order to protect the crew from attack.”

“I – I can’t quite remember if that was actually what was said. There were concerns for the safety of the ship’s company, you understand. Regulations say …”

“I know what regulations say, Mr Jenkins. But you left a man and a boy on that island at the mercy of those savages …” Adam paused and stepped further into the room, Jenkins stepped back several paces in order to put some distance between them. “And you made a bet of $50 with the Captain that we would not be seen on board ship again.”

“You know what the Captain is like -” Jenkins stuttered.

Adam reached out a hand and grabbed hold of Jenkins’ shirt front, hauling the man towards him so that they were nearly nose to nose,

“Listen and listen very carefully, Mr Jenkins, I have no wish to be your enemy, or your rival. I would be very grateful if you would just remember that while we are on board ship you forget your petty little animosities and keep your nose out of my life. If I find you causing me any further trouble, in any way whatsoever, large or small, you’ll find out what having a Cartwright as an enemy really is all about!”

Jenkins gulped. His mouth went slack and his eyes bulged a little more than usual. Adam gave him a slight shake,

“Understood?”

“Yes, understood.”

“Good. Now, as far as this ships’ company is concerned you and I are the best of friends. Right?”

“Right. Could you let me go now, please …”

“And when I leave this ship, I’ll make sure that you get your promotion. Is that understood?”

“Yes,” Jenkins whispered, his face almost as white as his shirt which Adam now released letting the man stagger back befor e regaining his balance.

“I’m glad we understand one another, Mr Jenkins. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have the cabin to myself for a while. I’ve not slept since yesterday morning.”

The door closed. Adam looked at his bunk and then at his book shelf. Taking down a book of poetry he opened it, and took from within its pages his father’s letters. Then he settled down on the bed and began to read the well worn pages, the words of which he already knew by heart.
Chapter 14

`At the end of the day it truly was a blessing that no one had been killed. As Hoss Cartwright narrowed his eyes to peer into the dust his heart was pounding so loudly within the confines of his rib cage that he could barely catch his breath. Slowly, bit by bit, figures could be more clearly discerned through the gloom and as the dust ebbed away so, one by one, the horsemen became more sharply defined as they rode wearily towards him.

“That was close,” Candy Canady muttered as he drew alongside the trail boss, and wiped sweat and dust from his face.

“It was,” Hoss replied, his eyes sweeping over the other mans face and noting that apart from weariness and anxiety Candy had emerged unscathed from the chaos of the stampede.

“Where’s Joe?” Hoss asked, turning in his saddle to find his brother, his breathing was harsh, mirroring that of Chubb who was snorting and fighting the bit in his mouth as though despite the perils he had undergone he was more than willing to re-enter the fray.

“I’m here,” Joe said quietly wiping his brow with the back of his arm, “I’m alright, how about you two?”

“We’re alright,” Hoss replied giving his youngest brother a quick scrutiny to ensure the truth of his statement, and relieved to see that his brother was indeed, unharmed.

“No men hurt?” Joe asked, bringing his canteen to his lips and taking a long few swallows of the cool water.

“None,” Hoss leaned on the pommel of his saddle and frowned, “I reckon those cows ran off quite a few pounds of fat in the run off of theirs.”

“How many head did we lose? Do you know yet?” Candy asked, he took the canteen from his saddle horn and opened it, then tilted his head up to pour refreshing cool water over his face before he put it to his lips to drink long swallows of the liquid.

“No, I was about to go in with Jake and Zeke to find out. You two had better get to the chuck wagon. Sam’s fixing up some coffee.”

Candy and Joe said nothing to that, but turned their horses heads and walked them towards the camp. They rode side by side, and for an instance, just an instance, it seemed to Hoss that he had gone back in time and saw his two brothers riding back to camp.

No man there grumbled about the dangers they had just encountered. They waited in line for their coffee and whatever there was that Sam could provide to go along with it. Danger was all part of the work for which they were being paid and the cattle could spook at anything. They looked up at Joe and Candy as the two men rode into the camp, nodded as though pleased to see them both and returned to their drink. From the oldest to the youngest, each and every one of them had been near death that day. Whether from falling from their horses into the path of the pounding hooves of the cattle or from the horns that could disembowel a horse as easily as a butcher’s knife, or could tear off the leg from a man, each one of them had survived.

They counted it a blessing and those that had a faith thanked God for it, while those without faith just put it all down to a days work.

“You did well today, Candy.” Joe said as they waited for Sam to pour out coffee and provide them with a hunk of bread to go with it.

“I didn’t realise you were watching,” came the rather sarcastic reply.

“Well, I wasn’t, too busy like everyone else, but it just seemed to me that you kept coming into my line of vision… thanks, Sam” he took the mug of hot liquid and nursed it between his hands, declining the bread.

“Funny how that happens sometimes” Candy replied and shrugged slightly as though it didn’t really matter to him one way or the other.

“How are you getting on with the men?” Joe looked up at the other man, to observe the eyes of the man.

“Well enough. There’s just one guy gives me some bother now and again, but I don’t let it get under my skin like some may do. He’s only a little problem after all.” and Candy raised his eye brows and looked directly at Joe over the rim of his cup as he drank his coffee.

Joe smiled slowly, shrugged and finished his coffee, he threw the bitter dregs onto the ground and then turned to walk back to the chuck wagon, then he paused,

“We should hit Boulder’s Creek tomorrow. How about riding in with us?”

“Who exactly is us?” Candy asked with a slight twinkling of the blue eyes.

“Hoss and me,” Joe shrugged, “Some of the men who aren’t on shift will be going in too. “

“Sure,” Candy nodded, “You can count me in.”

“Good,” Joe nodded, and walked away, put the cup down and then returned to Cochise. He swung himself into the saddle and rode slowly out of camp and back to the cattle. ‘Just a little problem was he?’ Joe ground his teeth, well, he thought, you’ll soon find out how big a problem I can be, Mister Clever Canady. You’ll see!

Chapter 15

Boulder Creek had grown since the last time the Cartwrights had passed through town. Like many ’mushroom’ towns it was prospering from its location near a river and being on the regular route for cattle runs. No one paid much attention to the half dozen men who rode into the town late in the day. Hoss dismounted outside the telegraph post office and after a brief exchange of words with Joe disappeared inside the building. Joe walked Cochise to the hitching rail outside the saloon where the other men, including Candy, had tethered their horses.

The bar keeper looked up and recognised some thirsty men with a gleam of pleasure in his eyes and the saloon girls suddenly appeared from various locations in the building to sashey over to them and drape themselves around the men. Joe watched in the mirror as the Ponderosa men drifted to various tables, some to play a serious game of poker with the resident diehards in the saloon and about to start a new game, and others to enjoy the flirtation with the girls. He watched as Candy sought a table to himself and seemed to drift into deep thoughts of his own. When a pretty girl strolled over to Candy and sat at his table to lean provocatively over at him, Candy said something in a quiet tone that made the girl flounce away with a petulant look on her face.

Joe took his beer and the one that he had paid for Hoss and walked over to Candy’s table,

“Don’t mind if I join you, do you?”

Candy looked up as though surprised that Joe would be the one to ask the question but muttered that it was all the same to him whatever Joe decided to do, upon which gracious invitation Joe put down the glasses and pulled out a chair.

“Like your own company, Candy?” he leaned back in his chair, “She was a pretty girl.”

“Well, she’s all yours, Joe.” Candy swept his hand in the direction of the girl, and smiled with a bitter twist to the lips, “I prefer to keep my own company when I get the chance to do so.”

“Oh, you want me to leave then?”

“You can do whatever you wish.” Candy shrugged.

“You’re not actually going out of your way to be friendly, Canady.” Joe murmured, then glanced over to the doors of the saloon as they swung open, “Hey, Hoss, over here.” he smiled and then turned to his companion, “You don’t mind, do you?”

Again Candy only shrugged, but smiled a greeting at Hoss when the big man came and pulled out a chair to sit down. Hoss set down a package of letters, then picked up the beer which he gulped down much like water goes down a plug hole.

“Another?” he smacked his lips, “Candy?”

“Sure, thanks.”

“Three more beers over here, mister.” Hoss boomed and then he took off his hat, wiped his brow on the back of his sleeve and sighed, “Sure needed that. For some reason Sam’s cooking just ain’t doing it for me anymore.”

The three of them took their glasses and Candy was about to say something when there was an angry shout from one of the tables which drew their attention. Big Zeke was standing up, his cards thrown down on the table

“You twister, I saw where that card came from and it weren’t from where it should have done either.”

“You calling me a cheat?”

Joe and Hoss exchanged glances, how many times had this happened? It was such a regular occurrence that they turned away to leave Big Zeke to deal with it himself,

“Happens all the time,” Joe muttered in explanation to Candy who had also resumed drinking, “Zeke is pretty hot headed at times.”

“Almost as bad as you, huh?” Hoss grinned.

There was the sound of a gun being fired and again they turned to see what had happened. A girl screamed “You killed him” and suddenly all the Ponderosa men were on their feet. Zeke was protesting that it was self defence, but another card player claimed it was no such thing. The ’dead’ man suddenly had a resurrection and pulled out a gun which he aimed at Zeke who proceeded to flatten him by a punch on the nose. The girl screamed again “You killed him” and immediately there were fists flying, tables being overturned and chairs being thrown about.

“Aren’t you going to help them?” Candy asked, looking at Hoss and Joe who were cradling their beers against their chests to ensure they didn’t get knocked over in the event of some clumsy cow poke falling into their table. Hoss looked surprised at the question,

“Why?”

“Yeah, why? They can take care of themselves. Not too sure about the townsfolk though, they do seem a scrawny bunch, don’t you think so, Hoss?”

“Yeah, I feel sorry for them,” Hoss said in a melancholy tone of voice, “Zeke and Hank carry a lot of weight behind their punches.”

“Yeah,” Joe sighed and raised his glass to his lips.

The batwings flew open and several more men piled into the melee. Hoss and Joe exchanged a look and grimaced

“Looks like the odds have turned.” Hoss sighed, gulping down the last of his beer.

“Wouldn’t you just know it, just when I thought it was about over.” Joe grumbled and put his empty glass on the table.

Candy watched as his trail boss and ram rod weighed into the battle. He stepped to one side, holding tightly to his glass, as he watched Hoss pick up one man by the scruff of the neck and cast him casually over the counter. Joe was entangled with two men who seemed to think he was some kind of punch bag to practise on until he hit back much like a Jack in the box. There were screams from the ladies, curses from the men, thumps and thuds from all parts of the room, the crashing of furniture shattering as bodies landed on them, or they were smashed over bodies.

“Here’s one for you, Hoss.” Joe cried pushing one burly cowboy over to his brother who gave him a neat thud on the head which sent him sinking almost gracefully to the floor.

Joe laughed and he turned to grab at a man who had sneaked up behind him. As he did so one of the gambling men took out a gun and aimed it at Joe’s unprotected back.

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Candy suggested ramming his own pistol barrel into the man’s back, “Just put it back in its holster – nicely.”

The fight seemed to die its own death at that point, Candy re-holstered his gun and Joe and Hoss returned to their table, set it upright and beckoned to the bar keeper for three more beers. Throughout the saloon tables were being set to rights, chairs turned right side up and order slowly being restored.

The bar keep brought over the three beers and set them down on the table,

“Who do I send the bill to? There’s a lot of damage your men did here.” he grumbled.

“It wasn‘t just our men, and it wasn’t our men who started it.” Joe said wiping blood from a cut in his lip.

“That’s right, your gambling friend over there started it all. You should see to him for damages.”

“All the same your men still did a lot of damage here even if they did have help from Simpson and the others.”

Joe pulled out his wallet and carefully withdrew some notes from it which he folded and pushed into the bar keepers hand. Satisfied with that he trundled off back to the counter, counting out the dollar bills and feeling smugly pleased with how it had turned out to his benefit after all.

“You gave him too much,” Candy said quietly.

Joe shrugged, and looked at Hoss but his brother was saying nothing, so he looked over at Candy and raised his eye brows,

“I’ve seen enough of these brawls -”

“And been in enough” Hoss quipped.

“- to know roughly how to estimate the damage. Thanks, anyhow, for your advice.” there was an edge to his voice which made Hoss sit up and take notice.

“Hey, Joe, you should be thanking Candy here. He saved your life.”

“How come?” Joe’s eyes narrowed and he looked at Candy doubtfully, even a trifle angrily as though the last thing he wanted on earth was to be beholden to this man.

“He stopped a guy shooting you in the back, that’s how come.” Hoss informed him, and he looked over at Candy and nodded his thanks.

“I didn’t see you in the fight, thought you were sitting out of it.” Joe said begrudgingly.

“It wasn’t my fight, couldn’t see the point in getting busted up over nothing.” Candy replied, “But it’s always worth watching and seeing what goes on.”

“Yeah, so it seems. Thanks anyhow.”

Candy nodded and raised his glass to his lips. Hoss started scrabbling around on the floor to collect up the letters that had spilled onto it, and he placed them carefully in his pocket.

“Weren’t we supposed to be meeting Mr Cartwright here?” Candy observed, pushing his glass away from him, and leaning back in his chair.

“Yeah, that’s why we stopped over.” Joe replied.

“He’ll find us.” Hoss said nonchalantly and was about to speak when Joe excused himself and left the saloon, alone.

“What’s wrong with him?” Candy asked, “It seems that nothing I do pleases him, not even when it comes to saving his life.”

Hoss frowned, pursed his lips and shook his head,

“Wal, I got me an idea, Candy, and I may be way off the beam with this one, but it might be because of how he feels about our brother, Adam.”

“Adam? Sure, I heard of him. But what does he have to do with me?”

Hoss sighed and cradled the half empty (half full?) glass in his hands, he shrugged,

“You dress in black, you’re his colouring, kinda. In some ways you have a lot of his way of doing things … like just now in that fight, you acted just how Adam would have done.”

“Well, I can’t rightly help that,” Candy said after he had taken a few minutes to think it over, “I’m who I am, people have to accept me for who I am and for who they think I may be like.”

“Sure, I know that,” Hoss sympathised, “I did say it was just an idea of mine. I ain’t sure I’m right. It’s just that my little brother – well, he kinda had a special relationship with Adam, and – and I guess there’s a whole lot of anger still boiling away there over his leaving.”

“Did he have to leave?”

“Adam thought so. Joe didn’t.” Hoss shrugged, picked up his glass and emptied it. He pulled out his watch and frowned, “Guess I’ll be heading back. I don’t want to be here too long with those cows still restless after what happened yesterday.”

“What about your Pa? Ain’t ya waiting for him?”

“He knows where we are,” Hoss smiled amiably, “I’ll see you back at camp.”

Candy nodded and watched the big man leave the saloon. The batwings swung too and fro and then stopped. With a sigh Candy Canady found himself on his own, again.

…………

“This came through, Mr Cartwright, Glad I caught you before you left town.”

“Thanks, does it require a reply?”

“I guess it does, sir.”

Hoss nodded and then seeing Joe walking towards him beckoned to his brother to join him. He had read the cable by the time Joe had reached him and passed it to Joe without a word. He could see his brother’s face go pale upon reading the cable and the large eyes widen, flutter as though trying to comprehend the message and then looking up at him,

“We’d better get back.” Joe cried, “I’ll cable Dr Martin and tell him we’re on our way now.”

“Look, Joe, I’ll have to arrange for someone to take on the responsibility of the herd.
Send the cable and then get some food packed up for us. Shucks, Joe, this isn’t good.”

Joe said nothing but could only shake his head as though in disbelief, before gulping rather loudly,

“He will be alright, won’t he, Hoss?”

“Sure, you know our Pa, he’s too stubborn to just go and die before we get home. I mean, he won’t die, Joe. He won’t…” and Hoss’ earnest blue eyes glared into his brother’s face as though earnestly wanting Joe to confirm the truth of the matter, Pa wouldn’t die, no, so that was it, final say on the matter. But Inwardly he was praying hard, and crying too.

He watched as Joe returned to the Telegraph Office with the Clerk, and then quickly returned to the saloon where he found Candy still mulling over his beer. He hurried to the table and pulled out a chair, then sat down so heavily that the chair nearly gave way beneath him.

“Candy, we’ve had some bad news.”

“Yeah? Such as what?” Candy straightened his back, his face anxious and eyes alert. It was a reaction that gave Hoss some measure of comfort with regard to what he was going to request of the man,

“We just got a cable to say our Pa was ambushed just outside of Virginia City. Roy’s got the shooter, and Dr Martin’s seen to Pa, but he’s awful ill.” Hoss paused to bite hard on his bottom lip, it was the only way he knew how to stop it from quivering. “Look, I know you ain’t been part of this outfit for long, but I feel I can trust you -”

“You can, Hoss. What do you want me to do?” Candy replied with a nod of his head.

Hoss said nothing for a moment, doubtful now of his actions, and wondering if he should have consulted Joe in this decision. He glanced around the saloon and saw the Ponderosa men there who were half intoxicated with drink, gambling or flirting with the girls. He nodded as though he had seen enough to confirm his thoughts, and having done so he took out the letters from his pocket.

“Candy, you’ll have to take over the cattle drive, I’m asking you to take over as Trail Boss. Just say if you feel you can’t do it…” he stared into the other man’s eyes and saw there no hesitation, no doubt whatsoever, “Fine, that’s good. Now, I’d recommend that you get young Hal Pickering as your ramrod, he’s been with us about two years now but he’s still young and the men won’t respect him like they will you. Do you want me to put this in writing?”

“If you feel better about it that way,” Candy shrugged, then glanced around the room, “Why not just tell the men here what your intentions are, that should be enough I would think.”

Hoss nodded, and got to his feet. He walked to where Zeke was pouring some whiskey into a glass and called for their attention. When he mentioned about Ben’s condition there was a concerned murmur but that was silenced when he told them his decision to transfer trail boss duties to Candy, and that Hal Pickering would be ramrod. He noticed some sharp looks between the men and Zeke didn’t look overly pleased but no one said anything to contradict the decision, several nodded in acceptance of it, then they returned to what they had been doing prior to his announcement.

“Wal,” he muttered as he resumed his chair, “I can’t guarantee that it’s going to be the easiest job to take on, Candy, but I do have confidence in you. Now, this is the mail that came today for the men. When you get paid for the cattle contact us and I‘ll send on details to you about anything else you need to know. How’d you feel about doing this, Candy? Is it alright by you?”

“Look, Hoss, if it wasn’t I would have stopped you in your tracks before you’d got started. Best thing if for you to get back to the Ponderosa and make sure Ben is alright. Oh -” Candy raised his eyebrows, “does Joe agree with this arrangement?”

“He doesn’t know about it yet. Look, I’m trail boss and it’s my decision. To tell you the truth, Candy, I’ve been on cattle round ups before with most of these men, and there’s not one I have as much confidence in as yourself.”

“I won’t let you or Mr Cartwright down, Hoss, I promise.” Candy stood up and extended his hand which Hoss shook warmly. “I hope you find your Pa in good health when you get there, Hoss.”

Hoss murmured his thanks, turned and made a hurried exit from the saloon leaving Candy to finish his drink and to come to terms with his sudden promotion.

Joe had sent off the cable by the time Hoss joined him and it took little time to get food purchased for the trip back home. Neither of them spoke, it was as though speech would rob them of time, and time, they felt , was of the essence. The thought that their Pa could be dying was something that they couldn’t envisage, couldn’t and wouldn’t believe possible. When it crossed Hoss’ mind he found himself breaking out into a sweat and coming over all shaky and sick feeling, whereas with Joe, well, he was just a bundle of nervous energy and fidgets.

“Hoss,” he said as they were about to mount their horses, “What about the cattle? Who’s going to take charge?”

“Don’t worry none, I’ve already dealt with all that.” Hoss replied hurridly, “Let’s jest git going.”

“Who’ve you put in charge then?” Joe asked, his hazel eyes hooded beneath his eyelids and his lips pursed as though he already knew the answer he was about to get.

“Candy and Hal Pickering.”

“Why Candy?” Joe snapped, and yes, that had been exactly the answer he had expected which made him even angrier.

“Because I trust him, Joe. Now, leave the subject be, I jest want to git home to Pa.”

Joe said nothing as the thought of his Pa needing them back home drove any other consideration out of his thoughts. Together the two brothers urged their horses forwards, towards home, towards Pa.

Chapter 17

“Ben? Ben? Stay with us, old friend. Stay with us …” Paul Martins voice faded into a sigh as he stepped back from the bed. He bowed his head and looked at Hop Sing and Roy Coffee.

“Well? How’s he doing?” Roy wanted to know, while Hop Sing said nothing but only stepped nearer the bed and looked down at his dearly beloved friend.

“Not good. He lost too much blood before he was found, Roy. I still can’t understand why Jefferson did this to him.” he rummaged about in his medical bag and checked through his instruments, “The first bullet could have killed him, there was no need to fire the second.”

“I know. Jefferson said that after he’d fired the first bullet it just didn’t seem to mean anything, made no impact on him, so he fired again, to make sure, and -” Roy shrugged, “The man’s been boiling over an imagined slight by the Cartwrights for years, since Cilla died there was no one at home left to argue with him and get him to reason on things. He just brooded …”

“Are you trying to put forward some kind of defence for him?” Paul cried, “He’s a killer, Roy.”

“Ben’s still alive, Paul. At present Jefferson is just an tired world weary old man who couldn’t handle life anymore.”

“He had no right to try to take someone else’s life before his ended though.”

Once again Paul leaned over the wounded man and checked his vital signs. He lifted the heavy eyelids and felt the pulse beat at the neck, and listened to the heart beat. Once again he stepped away from the bed and shook his head,

“It would help if his boys were here right now. At this rate Ben could be dead before they get home.” he looked at Hop Sing who was struggling to stop the tears from welling up and overflowing, “Hop Sing, I’m going to have to turn over the care of Mr Cartwright to y ou. I’ve other people to see,” he paused and heaved a deep breath, “if only there were more doctors, or even nurses who could help in these situations. I feel so inadequate at times.”

“Inadequate perhaps, indispensable definitely,” Roy said in his calm slow voice, he placed a friendly hand on the doctor’s shoulder, “Look, Paul, you’ve done what you could, best you go and see to those other folk and when you can, come back and see what’s happened here.”

Paul nodded again, once more he looked over at Hop Sing who had stood now at the foot of the bed as though carved in stone. He snapped the medicine bag shut,

“Hop Sing?”

The man turned to face him, and it was only then that the doctor could see more clearly the effect Ben’s illness was having on him. Hop Sing looked ravaged, and aged, the friend with whom he had shared half his life time could soon be dead and Hop Sing was bereft.

“Look after him, won’t you?”

There was really no need to even have said the words. There was no doubt at all that Ben Cartwright would be lavished with the most gentle tender care any man could wish for in such circumstances.

Roy left the house with Paul, he also had duties to other people to attend to and his responsibilities to one man could not be allowed to intrude on those to others. He rode alongside Paul who was in his buggy, once out of the Ponderosa entrance they went their separate ways.

Time ticked loudly by for the ticking of the clock was almost the only sound in the ranch house. In the big bed Ben Cartwright remained prone and still, the most shallow breathing the only indication that he still lived. Just occasionally his eyelids would flutter and there would be perhaps a sigh pass his lips. The attentive Hop Sing never left his side but stood with hands clasped at the head of the bed.

“ADAM!”

The name was shouted out and Ben sat up in the bed as though some electric shock had galvanised him into action. He sat with his eyes staring at the far wall and his hands clutching at the bed covers

“ADAM” he cried once more before he crumpled and the gentle arms of his friend gently lowered him down again upon the pillows.

Another hour and the pale face became rouged with the blush of fever, his lips moved as rapid words, incoherent and disoriented were at times whispered, at times shouted aloud into the room. His hands twitched nervously and plucked at the covers, or flailed from side to side so that Hop Sing had to reach out to hold them down upon the bed.

“Is he alright?” Ben whispered, “Such a little chap. Marie, don’t let him near the horses. Adam. Adam. The sea calls my name. No, not Abel’s, not his name. Get Hoss, get Hoss to do it, he’ll know, he’ll know what to do. Hoss, don’t know what I’d do without him here. Good … good …”

Gently Hop Sing bathed his face and moistened his lips with clean cool water with something added that he knew would calm the fever. Once Ben opened his eyes and looked up at Hop Sing and smiled,

“Hop Sing? You here?”

“Yes, I not go away, Mr Cartwright.”

“You’re a good friend, Hop Sing.”

“You also are Hop Sing’s good friend.”

Ben’s lips had parted in a smile and he closed his eyes,
“Best get some coffee ready, the boys will be here soon. Tell them I want to see them in the study.”

…………………

“How is he?” Paul Martin entered the house and looked like a man in need of a doctor. He put the heavy bag down on the bureau as though he no longer had strength to lift it.

Hop Sing felt a surge of sadness for the doctor who had been their friend for so long. H e wished that he could have offered his services and eased the burden for him, but knew that was not acceptable in a country that was still struggling to accept his race.

“I do get you some good coffee. You see Mr Cartwright now and come down to have good breakfast and coffee.”

“That’s good of you, Hop Sing, but I have to get to Murphy’s place after I leave here.”

“Sheriff say last night, you indispensable Hop Sing know meaning of word. Sheriff right. You have breakfast and coffee before you leave Ponderosa. You see, Mr Cartwright much better now.”

“Really?” Paul turned a hopeful face to the other man and smiled, “Are you sure?”

“Hop Sing stay all time with him in room. Have much fever but Mr Cartwright very strong man. Very stubborn. He fight fever very much”

“Thank God,” Paul Martin murmured and hurried up the stairs to his friends’ bedroom.

Hop Sing had not been wrong. Although definitely very weak still Ben was safely out of the danger zone. He would require careful nursing for a while of that there was no mistake, but there was no longer the lingering fear of death. The steady breathing, the calm features and the good colour of the man all spoke of one who was now in recovery.

After a short while Paul left the sick man and upon gaining the main room saw Hop Sing standing behind a chair at the table. The one place was set with a plate laden with good food, the coffee pot, milk … he smiled and walked slowly to the table and sat down,

“Hop Sing, aren’t you going to join me?” he said softly.

Hop Sing smiled, bowed politely,

“Hop Sing eat already. I bring you more bread.” he nodded in acknowledgement of the invitation and appreciated it for all that it was worth.

………………….

The day ended. It had been a quiet day and for Hop Sing a busy one tending to the needs of the injured man. Bandages had to be changed, the wounds cleaned, soiled linen removed and replaced. Ben floated in and out of consciousness, sometimes aware of what was happening but mostly totally unaware. By days end he was in a deep sleep in a warm and clean bed with his good friend seated in a chair by his side.

When he heard the sound of horses Hop Sing immediately thought it was Paul back to check over the patient. It was only when the door slammed upon being opened and then slammed again when it closed that he had an inkling of who was now home. He stood up and hurried to the door,

“Pa? Pa?”

Anxious voices called from below, fearful steps took the stairs two at a time and then the door was thrust open.
Hoss and Joe stood in the doorway and stared at the recumbent body of their father, then looked at Hop Sing,

“Pa?” Joe croaked through a throat that was so dry the word could barely pass through the tubes.

“Is he – how is he?” Hoss whispered, wiping his cheeks from sweat and tears, leaving streaks down his dust covered face.

“Mr Cartwright much better. Soon be even much more better when he see you home.”

Hop Sing smiled as the two men stepped gingerly into the room and pulled out chairs upon which they could sit by the bedside. Both men took a hand of the beloved one in their own hands and gazed upon the face of their father.

“I go now, make coffee.”

There was no answer. Hop Sing had not expected one. He closed the door behind him and walked down the stairs to the kitchen.

Chapter 18

A week dragged wearily along during which Ben made a slow but steady recovery. Long hours were spent at his bedside by his sons, who willed him to strength and would willingly have given their all to see their father strong once again. Hop Sing was the equivalent to a fussy mother hen, always there with the right remedies, the perfect coffee and the strengthening meals. By the end of the week Ben was sitting up in bed and able to eat at last, although it was little in comparison to the meals his sons tucked away.

By the beginning of the following week Ben was demanding to be allowed out of bed and down stairs. There was work to be done and he needed to attend to it. Jefferson’s trial was given a date, which was two weeks ahead, and an appointment that Ben insisted he would be attending.

He listened to their account of the cattle drive attentively, and picked up on Joe’s reluctance to talk about somethings whereas Hoss, as always, held nothing back . When Hoss told his father that he had arrange for Candy to take control of the herd and the men Ben nodded his approval, but his sharp eyes noticed the tautening of Joe’s jaw and the tension in his shoulders.

“A good choice, Hoss. Young Canady is good material. I like him a lot. He’s honest, looks you in the eye when he has something to say, and doesn’t quibble when there’s things to be done that he’d rather not do. Have you heard from him yet?”

“Shucks, Pa, we bin too busy here looking after you.” Hoss protested.

“Well, I don’t need wet nursing any longer. Why don’t you two go into town and relax for a while. Oh, and take those letters to be posted off to Adam.” he didn’t add that just perhaps there would be some letters from his son awaiting for collection, but they knew that would be at the back of his mind, unspoken but there all the same.

“Wal, if’n you’re sure.” Hoss sighed, his brow creased and he looked at his father steadily, “We won’t be gone long.”

“Just get from under my feet will you,” Ben chuckled but as they rose from their chairs to leave the room Ben called out “Joseph, one minute.”

Joe hesitated by the door, then turned reluctantly back into the room and stood in front of their father. He could hear Hoss cluttering down the stairs and wished he had been with him for he was more than aware of what was about to be said.

“What’s the problem you have with Canady?” Ben asked, coming immediately to the point as always, for he never did believe in beating around the proverbial bush with his boys.

“No problem, Pa.”

“Don’t lie. It’s obvious that there is one, equally obvious that you didn’t agree with Hoss’ decision to have Canady take over the cattle run. Why not speak out, boy, and get it off your chest.”

Joe sighed and shook his head,

“If I could understand what was wrong I would tell you, Pa. There’s just something about him that I don’t feel comfortable with and it’s got under my skin. I don’t think he has much of a n opinion of me either, come to that-”

“If you keep giving him the edge of your temper one couldn’t blame him, Joe.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It hasn’t been easy for him, son. I’ve had several long chats with him and he’s told me some of his life, some of the things that have happened. He needs friends, just like we all do, so why not try and make a better effort at being one.”

“Yes, sir.” Joe paused and bit his bottom lip, then raised his hazel eyes to his fathers, “Can I go now, sir?”

Ben nodded but his own smile faded as Joe left the room. He listened to the sound of the door closing and eventually the horses leaving the house. He shook his head, poor Joe, when would he ever learn. He swung himself out of the bed and pulled on his dressing gown, shuffled his feet into his slippers and carefully walked to the window.

…………….

There were letters from Adam. Two for Joe, as well as for Hoss, and three for Ben. It took a lot of self discipline not to open them until after their meal when they were seated by the fire. Talk at the table had been the success of the cattle run, a cable from Candy had confirmed that all had gone well. Prices had been high and he was waiting for confirmation about giving men a bonus. There had been some trouble on the way and two men had been killed, one of them had been Zeke.

“It’ll be interesting to find out what the trouble was with Zeke,” Joe muttered.

“Doesn’t mean that Zeke caused the trouble, he could have just been the victim of it.” Ben commented slowly.

“I don’t know about that,” Hoss sighed, “I recall the look he gave Candy jest before I left. I wouldn’t mind betting that Candy had more than cows to worry about en route.”

“Did you tell him to pay the men their bonus’?” Ben enquired and was given an emphatic nod of the head in reply.

Now here they were and the envelopes were ripped open and the letters pulled out, dates scanned, placed in chronological order and then read in silence. There were the usual enquiries into their healths, what had been happening there, had Joe married yet and were there any Grand children on the way for Ben to dangle on his knee. The major news was the adventure of the hurricane which Ben read out when the other letters had been chewed over and discussed for over an hour.

So, as lamps glowed and the fire cast its flickering light over their faces, Ben began to read the account as written by his son some months previously:

“I was in command of the launch with several men and heading for the harbour of St Pierre’s when Jackson mentioned to me that we should perhaps get a move on as there was an intense heat, the sky was misty and the water as still as a mill pond. The sun had swollen to three times its size and he mentioned that he had been in this area once before when conditions had been like this just prior to a hurricane.

The darkness fell suddenly, but the heat seemed only more intense as a result. The mist obscured the sky, and the atmosphere was such that it was hard to breathe. We had been near the harbour mouth but now we could see nothing, we were rowing blind.
Jackson said once again that the signs were not good, and he asked my opinion as to whether or not we should head back to the Ainola. I knew that if there were to be a hurricane then the ship would certainly be in need of all her hands.

So we went turn about and the men rowed willingly to get back to the boat although we could not see any of her lights for the darkness was that intense. I didn’t think that it could possibly get worse when there came a very strange moaning sound. It grew louder, like a loud keening though the air. Each and everyone of us stopped what we were doing, listening and waiting with the realisation that there was no escaping whatever was about to befall us.

The hurricane came with such a force that we had no time to do anything other than sit there waiting for it to come. Out of the darkness an even greater darkness enveloped us with a huge roar, the sea was of the most eerie milk white, and the mist looked like foam. The wind caught beneath our oars and the men were tumbled forwards, then the wind caught our boat again and tossed her about until she was driven forwards at a great speed. We were unable to regain our seats, our oars were dashed and all we could do was sit at the bottom of the boat and hold on to the thwarts.

Out of nowhere the sea rose up in a huge mass before us. One moment we were in a heavy swell and the next born aloft and then dashed to the bottom. Spray from the waves fell upon us like showers of rain, the wind was like a knife, there was no possibility of speech for the wind drove the words down ones throat and the noise all around us made it impossible anyway. The boat began to fill with water which we were baling out with our hats . I think we all knew that it was inevitable that the boat would sink but none of us wanted to give up too easily. I don’t think any of us really know what to do were she to sink. We had lost our bearings totally now, and could not see whether we would cast up on the beach or upon the rocks or be dashed against the harbour walls.

Then it happened, the boat was dashed to pieces by the waves and we were all cast into the waves. There was no time to think now, the mind closed off and one was at the mercy of the elements. I found myself upon the beach. I must have been knocked out of my senses for I recall opening my eyes as though I had been asleep and seeing Jackson seated next to me, looking anxiously into my face.

Five of my men were killed that night. The rest of us had some kind of injury, broken legs, arms, ribs. The hurricane stormed on for hours and then gradually eased into a force 10 gale. The sky lightened and we could see the stars . We, the survivors from the launch, grouped together to sit out the storm and to look out for the Ainola. Daylight came, the gales eased and the rain stopped. There was nothing more to do now but to walk into the town, which we could see had been ravaged by the storm.

Debris of all sort had been cast upon the beach, and it was as we were walking towards the town that I saw the Ainola. Smashed, crushed, broken. Her masts were hanging in shreds upon the deck, the masts were snapped apart. At that point I could see no one human being alive and we, who had survived in a frail launch, stood together to say some kind of farewell to those who had died.

Well, Pa, I don’t know if you ever survived a hurricane but the sights we saw that day were heartbreakingly sorrowful. No one took any notice of us, they were so numbed by their own misery, the loss of their families, children, homes. We offered help, which was accepted so those of us who could set to as best we could.

We walked further into town to help where possible, and even this far we could see the wreakage of ships, with masts ploughed deep into the sand, bodies strewn everywhere. The roar of the hurricane was now replaced by the howls and cries of the broken hearted. During the course of the day more of our shipmates, who had survived the hurricane, met up with us and assisted with doing all we could to help these unfortunates, and in between times they told us of what had happened to the Ainola.

So, that was the end of my time with her, Captain Greaves had survived and was safe in the Governors home, and Jenkins although injured, was with him. Most of the ships crew had died, taken down as the ship keeled over and was sucked into the maelstrom.

We spent several weeks there doing what we could to assist the people and recovering from our injuries, also awaiting orders from the Admiral. I am now serving under Captain Andrew Webster on board the Redoubt. She is a good clipper, about 112 ft long with a good turn of speed. There is talk, and has been for some while, that the days of the clipper ships are over. If so, it is a shame, for they hold their own beauty and I doubt if a steel ship will ever have such dignity on the seas.”

Ben folded the letter and slipped it back into its envelope. Hoss sighed and relaxed, for so engrossed had he been in the story that he had imagined himself there and was so tense and knotted up that upon relaxing he found himself feeling quite exhausted. Joe sat very still and quiet.

“Are you alright, Joe?” his father, upon noticing, asked him.

“He could have been killed.” Joe replied, “And we’d not have known it.” he stood up and clenched his fists, “He writes about it as though it’s a great adventure but -”

“But what?”

“It wasn’t just an adventure, it was what his life is now, away from us, from here.” and without another word he hurried from them, mounted the stairs and went to his room.

Chapter 19

Whatever Candy’s feelings were when he galloped into the yard of the Ponderosa he kept them well hidden. He knocked on the big door and waited to be invited in as any good hired hand would, not presuming too much on the friendship of some in the family. Ben was crossing the floor to his study and paused to look up at the young man with a smile,

“Ah, Candy, welcome back, how did the trip go?”

“Well enough, sir, and more than pleased to see you‘ve made a good recovery from your illness. ” Candy smiled, pulled some papers from his vest pocket and handed them to his employer, taking off his hat with his other hand as he did so. He felt rather gauche and awkward standing in the big room in front of Ben who was now scanning through the paperwork carefully while walking thoughtfully into the study area of the room.

“Thank you,“ Ben sat down, smiled at the young man, and for a few moments continued to look through the papers. The money he placed in the top drawer of his desk, “Were the men pleased with their bonus?“

“Definitely.” Candy smiled more broadly, “Mind you, I haven’t see hide nor hair of them since they hit the first town that we came to.”

“Oh, don’t worry, they’ll trickle back before long.” Ben glanced up at him and raised his dark eyebrows, “This trouble you had on the journey, Candy. Did it involve any of our men at all?”

“In what way do you mean, Mr Cartwright?”

“Well, my illness was caused by two bullets that I received from the end of a rifle, a neighbour of mine was at the other end. He was put on trial a two weeks ago and it came out that he had paid some men to prevent the cattle getting through. He wouldn’t give names, and went off to serve his sentence without revealing more. I just wondered if Zeke -”

“Zeke?” Candy opened his eyes wide and then shook his head, “Well, if he was in Jefferson’s pay he never said anything to anyone about it. He caused trouble, he refused to do anything I asked of him and was a liability.”

“So what happened?”

“He pushed it too far, had the men doubting their confidence in me, so it came to a fight.”

“You killed him?” Ben raised his eyebrows higher, such things were not uncommon, and he wouldn’t have been surprised had Candy said yes, but the young man shrugged,

“He was drunk, lost the fight, drew a knife on me and one of the other men shot him. Saved my life.”

“I see.” Ben nodded, “And you had no other trouble than that?”

“None at all.”

“That’s all well and good then, Candy. I’m really pleased. Hoss is seldom wrong when it comes down to knowing whom to trust with responsibility.” and Ben extended his hand to him, which was shaken with great warmth. “Look, why not clean up and join us for dinner tonight? I noticed that Hop Sing had picked out a particularly plump chicken -” and he smiled so pleasantly that Candy had not other recourse than to accept even though his heart sank at the prospect of sharing a meal with Joseph Cartwright.

……………….

Joe glowered a little when Candy came into the room and took his place at the table. Hoss was more than pleased and made such a fuss over Candy that Joe felt even more annoyed that he had done when Ben had told them of the young man’s invitation to the meal. However, after having received several stern looks from his father and a kick on the ankle from Hoss he put himself out to be as friendly as possible, actually laughing quite naturally at some of the things that were being discussed.

Candy told them about the fight with Zeke, and also told them about the death of another of their employees, a young man who had fallen in the way of a steer when his horse had broken its leg when stepping into a gophers hole.

“I’ll contact his mother tomorrow, Pa.” Hoss said, “She would want to know what happened and being a widow as well -” he paused and raised his eyebrows, indicating that perhaps they should do the right thing by her.

“Yes, he was a good worker and a pleasant lad. I’ll leave you some money in an envelope for you to take to her. “

“I’ve his personal effects in my saddle bags, perhaps you could take them to her as well, Hoss?” Candy suggested.

The talk gradually trickled back to other things, Ben regaled them with tales of his days at sea, and then Hoss mentioned about Adam’s letter and the hurricane.

“The men talk a lot about your son, Mr Cartwright. They reckon him to have been a good trail boss.”

“He was,” Ben said quietly.

“You must all miss him a great deal.” Candy said and glanced at their faces as he said it. Ben nodded, and Hoss fidgeted,

“Can’t we talk about someone or something else?” Joe said sharply, “I don’t know why Adam had to be mentioned in the first place.”

“Because he’s a member of this family,” Ben said softly, “and your brother in case you had forgotten.”

Joe’s mouth tightened, he stood up abruptly, making the table rock, and pushed himself away

“I know that, I hadn’t forgotten, now if you’ll excuse me”

“Joseph -” Ben thundered, but Joe was not going to be compliant to his father’s orders this time, he hurried from the room, and out into the yard, slamming the door behind him.

“I’ll go and talk to him, Pa. Sorry about this, Candy.” Hoss stood up but before he could leave his chair Candy was already moving from the table,

“I’ll go, if you don’t mind, Mr Cartwright?”

Ben looked at Hoss, motioned to him to resume his seat and nodded at Candy who promptly left the room.

“Joe’s still sore, ain’t he, Pa?”

“Seems to be,” Ben sighed, and picked up a glass of wine, “After all this time you would think he’d have calmed down, accepted things as they are, as we have.”

“Yeah,” Hoss nodded, frowned, and wondered if his Pa really believed what he had just said after all, he didn’t feel he could ever accept the fact that Adam had left the Ponderosa. In his heart of hearts, he didn’t believe that his father had either.

Chapter 20

“What do you want?”

The ungraciously delivered enquiry could have deterred a less resilient man than Candy Canady who took it with a shrug of the shoulders and continued to walk towards the younger man who was leaning against the corral fence and staring into the stars.

“I wanted to sort out this ‘little problem’. I thought in all fairness to your father and brother it should be sorted out sooner, rather than later.” he replied and joined Joe at the corral fence.

Joe was leaning with his back against the fence and his arms hooked over one of the bars, but Candy chose to stand a foot or two away from Joe with his arms folded across the top bar and leaning towards the corral. In the gathering darkness their two shadows pooled into one on the ground.

“I know you miss your brother, Joe. I can understand how you feel, missing a person so much that it seems to leave a hole in yourself, as though a vital piece of yourself has gone and can’t be replaced.” he said softly after some moments of icy silence had passed between them.

“What do you know about it?” Joe snapped, and then he heaved a sigh and shook his head, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, it wasn’t fair.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Candy agreed and for a moment stared out at the stars as though thinking deeply about what to say next. “The thing is, Joe, you have so much here that you seem to be taking for granted.”

“I don’t!” Joe exclaimed with such petulance that he seemed like a little boy having to take discipline from a teacher, and that made Candy smile.

“Well, you have a wonderful father. There’s a saying in the world, isn’t there, that you don’t miss what you don’t have, but sometimes I think that’s a bit glib. A man can yearn for a good father if he hasn’t had one.”

“You didn’t have one?”

“Oh, I did but not a man to respect like your Pa. My father saw life through the bottom of a bottle. When he died no one missed him. And that’s sad, because, after all, he was my Pa.”

“Yeah, guess so.” Joe frowned, he had known many a man like Candy’s father, and had been to school with many of their children. He shivered slightly, and nodded, “My Pa had his tough times, too. When my Ma died he left home for a while. I felt pretty annoyed then, frightened too. I thought he wouldn’t come back, like Ma …”his voice trailed away and he looked down at his feet, then turned round to lean against the bar in the same manner as Candy. “It was an odd time in my life really. I was five and suddenly everyone I loved was leaving home. Ma died, Pa left home. Pa came home, Adam went away to college.” he shook his head, “I couldn’t understand what was going on in my life. The only constant was Hoss. I guess I clung onto him like a barnacle in case he went too.” he gave a rather wobbly grin and cast a glance over at his companion, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” he asked.

“No. Thank goodness. I mean that there were no others to had to go through a childhood like mine. Although once my father died, my Ma married a good man and he taught me a whole lot of things. I remember praying that he wouldn’t die and he wouldn’t take to the bottle. But seemed he’d taken the pledge so that was my prayer answered.”

“And he’s still alive?” Joe grinned.

“Yeah, still alive,.” Candy looked down and kicked a pebble about with his foot. “My Ma died though when I was about 17, so that’s when I left home. I was just glad she had some years of happiness in her life.” he drew in a long deep breath and exhaled slowly, “Your brother must be quite a guy. The men speak well of him. Folk in town have nothing but good to say about him. You act as though you worship the ground he walked on.”

“I -” Joe paused, then shook his head, “No, no, I don’t. Adam and I often clashed over things, we’re different in a lot of ways too. It’s just that when -” again he paused, and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does. It matters to you otherwise you wouldn’t act the way you do. I mean, I’m nothing like your brother, Joe, and -”

“I know that,” Joe interrupted and again he shrugged his shoulders, “JUst sometimes you have a way about you that reminds me of him. It’s like seeing a shadow on the wall and expecting to see the person you think the shadow belongs to, because – because it’s familiar and then someone comes along who’s a complete stranger. You’re like that, a shadow. I want – I don’t want -” he bowed his head, “Adam was like my Pa, he helped raised me, you know? He taught me things and when Pa went away that time Adam was the one who helped me over my grief and to understand my Pa’s even thought I was only a kid. Then he went away and when he came back he was different.” he cast a quick look at Candy who was listening intently, “Know what I mean?”

“Not exactly. Why not tell me?”

“It would take too long. I guess looking back now he left here a kid and came back a man. He was – is – so clever and wise, and I miss him. I don’t understand why he left, although when I read his letters and know that he’s living a life without us, that he’s ABLE to live a life without us, I get so angry. It’s only because – well – it’s like I can’t not feel this way otherwise I’ll lose him completely. He’ll sink to the back of my mind and life will be full of other things and one day a complete stranger will walk back into my life and the Adam I knew was gone forever.” he slumped a little upon the bars of the corral and rested his chin upon his arms. “Guess it makes no sense, huh?”

Candy said nothing for a moment and then produced a picture from the top pocket of his shirt. He passed it over to Joe who looked at it carefully for although the moon was especially bright it was still too dark to get a clear view of the face peering up at him.

“Who is she? Your Ma?”

“No. That’s Ann, and before you ask me who Ann is, well, she’s my wife, except that she isn’t my wife.”

Joe looked at Candy in surprise and then glanced back down at the picture.

“You mean, she’s dead too?”

“No. “ Candy took back the picture, sighed and replaced it in his pocket, “Ann and I fell in love, and against her father’s wishes we married. The next thing I know he’s there, taken her home, and got the marriage annulled. I don’t know much about the legal procedures or the religious doctrines they levelled at me, but I know that when I vowed to make her my wife I meant them. I don’t and I won’t view myself as free to marry until I hear she’s married someone else, or died.”

“You love her that much?”

“I’ll always love her.” Candy replied and stared out into the sky as though Ann was there looking right back at him.

“So you’re holding on too -”

“Yeah, I’m holding on too. Perhaps one day she’ll walk back into my life and my life can carry on from where we left off.” he frowned, and then looked at Joe, “I only told your Pa, he said he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Sure. You can trust me.” Joe smiled and thrust out his hand, “I’m sorry I gave you a hard time, Candy.”

“It wasn’t your fault. It’s just how life is at times.” the older man said as he took Joe’s hand and shook it warmly.

For a few moments they remained together, propping up the fence as some would say, and then together, they walked back into the house.

Chapter 21

Jacob Brown flexed his shoulders and tightened his hold upon the steering wheel. He was a big man, standing 6 ft and 4 inches in his stockinged feet which were big and in proportion to the rest of him. When he had come aboard The Redoubt with the ship’s company Adam Cartwright did a double take for he thought his brother Hoss had signed up and come on board. Apart from having a fine head of hair and at this point of time an excellent beard to accompany it, Jacob Brown was indeed Hoss Cartwright’s double.

Now he put his great strength to good use as he fought the steering wheel so vigorously that his knuckles were white on the fingers of his hands. Sleet, snow and hail pounded the ship as she rocked back and forth under the force of the gales that blew upon her. Adam Cartwright was at the poop deck with the wind lashing snow into his face and eyes, while he screamed orders at the men who worked under the vicious of conditions.

Waves the height of tower blocks crashed down upon the Redoubt, the boards shuddered beneath her and the great masts swayed and groaned.

“Jenkins,” Adam yelled into a passing sailors ear, “Jenkins, get two men, axes, remove the main mast or she will have us over.” a terrible decision to have to make but the force of the wind necessitated such an action. Should they survive the carpenter would soon be able to rig up a jerry mast to replace it.

“Rocks ahead. Steer to port. Steer to port.” the lookout yelled and gestured to the left and the man next to him yelled “Rocks ahead, port side, steer to port.”

“Heaven help us -” Jacob groaned as he forced all his strength to turn the wheel.

“Haul hard, haul hard. Keep her steady.” and Adam Cartwright was there his hands grabbing at the wheel and his body strained alongside Jacob’s to keep the wheel steady.

“Helmsman, port side, turn her to portside. Cartwright, I need you here.” Captain Lewis shouted but his words were blown from his mouth as with a mighty crash the mast came down and was cast, along with the rigging and sails into the sea.

Waves smashed into the ship, plunged down through the hatches and into the holds below. Men lost their footing and were cast this way and then that way as the ship fought to survive the mountainous waves.

“Rocks to starboard. Rocks to starboard.”

The cry echoed down through the line of men all struggling to remain upright and hanging on to whatever appeared stable enough to keep them safe. Jacob and Adam hauled with all their might against the wheel as the ship once again plunged downwards into the depths.

‘This time,’ Adam thought, ‘she won’t right herself’ and he saw his father’s face, the gentle smile and dark eyes, and braced himself for the shock of being cast into the icy waters.

But she did right herself, soaring upwards and seeming to be poised in mid air for a moment before plunging back down again.

Doctor Fletcher was knocked off his feet when a butt of wine was sent crashing into him as the water fought a battle down below. Men were being thrown from one side to another and had not a sailor passed by to grab the Doctor by the hair and armpit’s the man would have drowned.

It was only mid day and they had fought the gales since the previous day. Even now there seemed no indication of daylight as the sun and sky were blotted out by the elements. Hailstones had pelted them so vigorously for so long that they were now numbed, equally so with the cold.

“Get Brinkley to secure the mast head.” Adam yelled to a passing sailor

“Aye aye, Mr Cartwright” came the reply only for another man to yell ‘Brinkley’s gone, sir, washed overboard.’

“You then – secure the mast head.” Cartwright ordered and the man staggered beneath the onslaught of the winds to do as he was ordered.

The wheel sprung in their hands and together Jacob and Adam fought to maintain control. Jacob Brown knew his own strengths but he had been fighting the storm and the wind for so many hours now that his legs were shaking from the stress that came as a result of the tautened muscles, and he was feel his body draining of energy. There was little he could do now, his body began to slump forward and he slid to the boards.

“Howard, take him away, Jackson – take his place” Fletcher yelled, “Mr Cartwright, can you -” he was unable to say more as the sea rose to envelope him.

Jackson was beside Adam now and both men put all their strength into controlling the wheel and, therefore, securing the helm. Fletcher was carried along the deck and prevented from being swept overboard only by the fact that he got entangled with the rigging from the mast head.

Thunder scudded across the sky. The ship shuddered a little more and Adam felt as though very soon each one of them would have to surrender to the forces that were destroying them. His body was numb from the constant battering of hailstones and sleet, the screaming winds and cascading waves that poured in torrents upon them seemed never ending. Jackson was shouting something about the fo’c’stle breaking up when suddenly the storm passed.

It was the hailstones and sleet than ended first, and a slower abating of the waves that steadied the ship. The wheel was no longer fighting to gain control but was now amenable in the hands of one man. Gingerly everyone began to find their feet and walk as normal without the dangers of being cast overboard.

“Fogarty,” Adam cried to one of the officers on the poop deck, “Pipe all men to assemble on deck. We need to know who is missing or injured.”

Fogarty saluted smartly and proceeded to pipe the hands on deck. Adam waited, clenching and unclenching his fists, feeling the numbness of them, wondering when the pain would start as the blood warmed up to flow through the veins. He closed his eyes and it seemed as though everything was spinning around and around in his head.

“All assembled, sir.” Fogarty’s voice pierced through the fog in his brain and he forced himself to attend to the quarter deck where the men were assembled.

How weary, bedraggled and ragged they looked. The marines were, like the seamen, all in sagging sodden clothing. He walked up to them and surveyed them with a kindly eye, knowing that they, like himself, must be wondering just how they had managed to survive such a storm.

“Mr Miller, proceed with roll call.”

Mr Miller stepped up smartly, and the names were called out. Every so often there was a pause. Perhaps someone else would supply an explanation as to the whereabouts of the one who did not or could not respond to his name, perhaps there was no response and one could only conclude the worse. Of the sixty men on board ship, plus the 25 marines, two had been swept overboard. Two had died of their injuries. One man had his leg amputated, the Doctor was nursing a few broken ribs, Mr Fletcher has a concussion. There were various other injuries, of a lesser nature.

“Very well, lads, you all did well. Now we need to get the Redoubt ship shape once more. Mr Pollard, you and Simpson must set to and get a jerry mast to replace the main mast. Proceed, lads, set to your duties.” Adam cried and the men dispersed immediately, obedient and willing to heed his command. Adam turned to the Captain who was dabbing a cut above the left eye with a soaking wet handkerchief

“Captain, may I have your permission for the mens allowance of rum to be given them now? They are frozen to the marrow and would find it of comfort.”

The Captain nodded permission granted which gained him more popularity than anything else he had done since assuming command. He drew Adam to one side.

“We shall be in New York in two more days. Thank God we weathered that storm. We have a good ships crew, Mr Cartwright, they all did well.”

“They did, sir.”

“You also, sir.” he smiled at Adam and shook his hand, “I wouldn’t doubt that there’s a promotion in this for you, Adam.”

Adam heard the words, nodded and smiled. When the Captain left the deck Adam walked to the side of the ship and glanced down at the sea far below. There was still quite a swell on the water, but nothing like what had already been experienced. He stared down at the inky depths and struggled to conjure up his father’s face once more to his mind.

“Mr Cartwright?”

He turned and saw Jacob Brown standing by his side,

“Yes, Mr Brown.”

“I just came to thank you for your help. If we had lost control of the helm the ship would have been a goner.”

“I know,” Adam nodded, and turned to resume his gaze upon the waters, “I hear that the days of the clipper ship are numbered, Mr Brown. Do you think a steam and steel ship would have fared any better today?”

“Well,” Jacob scratched the back of his head, “Who’s to tell, sir? I know many a clipper ship would have gone down today though. It was the heart of the ship that kept her afloat, and the heart of the ship is a good ship’s crew, all pulling together.”

“Well said, Jacob.” Adam replied quietly, “Now, go and get your head seen to and your tot of rum. You have another shift in just under four hours.”

“Yes, sir.” Jacob Brown smiled, he didn’t have to say ’and so do you, sir’ because he knew that Mr Cartwright would have known that already.

Chapter 22

There were letters awaiting him. The Captain had gone on shore and put in his report, been given his orders and returned with a mail bag burgeoning with post for his crew. It was always an exciting time when the men were piped on deck in order to receive their pay and their mail. The First Officer, Adam Cartwright, read out the name, paid him and handed him his post, if there was any. It was common practice for those who had received mail to auction it off to the men later, when they were below decks. Once pay and mail was disposed off the names would be read out of those men who were given shore leave.

On this occasion Adam preferred his cabin. Taking his letters with him he sat at his desk and opened letter after letter, put them into chronological order and began to read.

His heart sunk with dismay upon reading about Ben being ambushed by Jefferson. He remember the mean little man and his gentle wife very well, and could even recall the cause of the disagreement that had happened between them. So he eagerly read on to learn that Ben was now well, had signed a good contract for lumber at one of the new mines and that a new librarian had moved into the town who had seemed to have taken a shine to the handsome widower. He learned also that Candy Canady had become a close friend, so much so that he now had a room in the house. Joe and he were now inseperable ‘buddies’ and that the three men worked and played hard together.

Adam read that section and a faint frown furrowed his brow. He was not a jealous man, such emotions he felt to be negative and a waste of a man’s energies, but yet he felt a little pang of something within himself, a feeling that went along with the old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. In Joe’s letter particularly he got the impression that Joe had found himself a replacement for his eldest brother and imagining the three of them riding into town together gave Adam quite a jolt.

It was therefore with mixed feelings that he read this particular section of his fathers letter to him:

“I am concerned about Joe. Over the past few weeks he has changed somewhat and I can’t quite put my finger on the reason why. Of course he has been rather moody and touchy since you left, as I told you previously he didn’t take to your leaving and for some time he was quite an embarrassment with regard to Candy. Now he and Candy are close friends, thankfully, not to the exclusion of Hoss, who is happy to be part of the trio.

For a while after befriending Candy Joe seemed very settled, back to himself one could say. Candy has moved into the house and has proven himself to be a good worker on the ranch. I am considering asking him to take on the role of foreman. But that is not the matter about which I am concerned. It is the general attitude Joe has to things just at this moment.

I have asked him if there is a lady hovering on the scene and he laughs, no, there is no lady. Perhaps had there been one he would not feel as he does, but when I ask him what he means by that he just shrugs and shakes his head. He talks a lot about what is happening beyond the Ponderosa. New lands opening up and he wonders what they are like and what is happening there. He reads the news tabloids with the close attention only an old man usually gives to them. No doubt he will disclose what is on his mind in time.”

Adam re-read the letter and then picked up one from Joe with a corresponding date. He opened it and wondered what revelations there would be in it, and just how much influence this Candy could have had on his younger brother to make him so restless.

He scanned the pages first to prepare himself for what was to come, but it was a very good humoured general correspondence with little beyond anecdotes about some of the antics they had been getting up to, the work they had been doing, the new barn that was being built. Only one line caused Adam some concern when he put it in line with his father’s comments:

“There seems so much going on in the world just now, new cities being built, new territories opening up. Sometimes the Ponderosa just doesn’t seem as big as it used to be.”

He sighed and carefully folded the letters away. It seemed to him as though his memories of home were fading away, only in his dreams was everything sharp and real again, making him wake up some mornings expecting to find himself in his room with the smell of Hop Sings cooking wafting up to him.

The last letter he had written to them was when he was in London and the Captain and some others of the crew had been taken ill. That had been his last correspondence with them. He took out pen and paper and began to write down the date, place and time when there was a knock on the door and a midshipman stepped inside to say that the Captain requested his presence in the state room.

Adam paused by the mirror as he was about to leave his quarters. He straightened his cravat, smoothed down his hair and the neatly groomed beard that he had grown during the past year. He looked at himself and tried to find the man he had been several years earlier, the man in black, that elusive memory from what seemed another age.

The Captain looked at Adam and waited for him to approach the desk before standing and extending his hand to him,

“Adam, Mr Cartwright – I have my new orders here and also your commission as Captain has been confirmed. Congratulations.” Captain Lewis shook Adam’s hand and then clasped his hands behind his back as though he had accomplished quite a feat with which he was very well pleased. “Let’s drink on it, shall we?” he suggested and walked to a side table where some glasses stood with the tantalis.

“Is there any mention of an assignment, sir.” Adam took the glass of wine and held it in his hand as he waited for Lewis’ reply.

Sometimes a commission could come through but no ship provided, so the newly appointed Captain would have to hang around on an enforced leave until a ship became available. Other times he would have orders to take over a ships command immediately which meant a rather rapid dispersal of himself and his possessions from one ship to another, sometimes from one harbour to another in a quite different state.

Lewis smiled and turned

“Oh I think you’ll be pleased with your ship, Captain Cartwright. It’s the Redoubt.”

Adam’s dark eyes widened in surprise and yet he flushed a little with pleasure as the Redoubt had proven a vessel more seaworthy than any he had previously known. Lewis continued,

“Also the ships’ company will remain here. Your orders are here -” he passed a leather pouch across the desk to Adam.

“Thank you, Captain Lewis.”

“Oh don’t thank me, Adam, your gained your commission on your own merits. My reports on your conduct have only been honest and truthful, and my recommendations sincere. I am only too pleased that everything is to your liking.”

“And what about yourself, sir? Where is your assignment?”

Lewis nodded, drank a little of the wine and then set the glass down upon the table,

“The illness I contracted when in the Atlantic and forced us to stay in London was – is – more serious that at first thought. I shall have six months leave, stay with my sister in New Hampshire, and see how things go from there.”

“I’m sorry, I know how much you love the sea, and the Redoubt.”

“Yes -” Lewis refilled his glass, paused to turn to Adam and filling the glass he had. “Yes, I shall miss the Redoubt, and all of you. I shall officially take leave this evening. That will give me time to clear my things away. I do wish you well, Adam Cartwright.”

Adam nodded thoughtfully. Captain of his own ship, and that the Redoubt no less. Abel Stoddard would have been proud of him. He looked at the desk, the room – when Captain Lewis walked away from this, it would belong to him.

Chapter 23

There was always so much to do when in harbour. Some men had extended shore leave but if orders were that the ship had to sail before their leave was completed and they had a particular respect and affection for the Captain they would cut it short in order to continue service with him rather than risk being allocated to a ship with a less agreeable Officer.

Other ranks were the same, they would ‘swop’ ships with others if there were ships companies in which they referred to sail. It was to Captain Cartwright’s credit that the only man to leave the Redoubt, apart from Lewis, was the Doctor. So it was with great pride that Adam had the men piped up on deck to be given their orders. The fact that he knew each face there, some of whom had survived the hurricane and loss of the Ainola, and that they freely chose to continue service with him, made him feel almost light headed with emotion.

He felt even greater elation when Jacob Brown yelled “Cheers for our new Captain, boys” and every man there gave a mighty rousing three cheers which brought a blush to Adam’s cheeks.

The roll call was made, and all men were present except the new Doctor. Adam read out their orders and the time the ship was to depart from harbour. The men who had not yet enjoyed shore leave were given the freedom to do so and the reminder to be on board ship before night fall. Another rousing cheer went up as the men going on shore leave scrambled to leave the Redoubt with full pockets and the hope of enjoying every minute they had on land.

Adam watched them go and for a few moments was lost in thoughts of his own when he was aware of not being alone. He turned to find Jacob Brown standing close beside him,

“I just wanted to say how well pleased I am at your appointment, Captain.” Brown said with a smart salute.

“Thank you, Brown.” Adam smiled.

“Not going ashore, sir?”

“No.” Adam’s smile faded and he shook his head, “I have letters to write to my family.”

“Oh yes, of course, the great Ponderosa.” Jacob nodded and gave a grin, “I recall you telling me tales about your home, sir, and your family.”

“And you, Jacob? Aren’t you going ashore?” Adam asked not wishing now to discuss his family with anyone.

“No, sir.” Brown stepped back as Adam turned in order to return to his study, “Mr Cartwright, sir? Permission to speak?”

“Of course, what is it?”

“I jest wanted to tell you, sir, that I’ll be watching your back for you, sir. I won’t never forget how you saved my life in that storm, and when the hawser broke and nearly took me over the side. You won’t regret it, sir. I’ll make sure no harm ever comes to you.”

A faint smile hovered over Adam’s lips, and his eyes darkened slightly, he nodded however and straightened his shoulders,

“Thank you, Jacob.” he replied.

“I ain’t forgot you saying how I reminded you of one of your brothers. So, if’n it’s all the same to you, sir, I’ll take such a brotherly interest in you so as you don’t have to be concerned about anything.”

“Thank you again, Jacob.”

“Strictly off the record, Captain.”

“Of course,” Adam nodded.

Jacob Brown saluted smartly and stepped back to allow Adam passage back to the Captains study. Such a conversation would not be permitted once at sea. Adam knew as he passed through the door into the ‘holy of holies’ that he had taken the step that removed him from the normal contact with his men. It was something to be regretted for it had been something he had always enjoyed, and something that had helped him keep his ‘ghosts’ at bay.

He sat down at his desk and looked down at the half finished letter he had written to his father. For a while that was all that he could do, stare down at the words that now contorted themselves across the page, and he wondered how he could or whether he would tell his father that at present he felt himself to be the loneliest man in the world.

Orders were to sail to New England, and it gave Adam a warm feeling to know that his ship would be sailing into the harbour where he had been born. The Redoubt may even rub keels with The Wanderer were she still sail worthy.

From his position on the bridge he watched the harbour opening up to them. There he could see the row of houses and shops, bright in the morning sunlight and the colour of the flowers shimmering against the white stone walls. His eyes wandered in search of the house in which he had been born. They had only a few hours stop over for this was where they would take on board the new Doctor and various stores that would be necessary for their next trip.

He could hear the men at their duties, the rattle of the anchor chain, feet padding across the decking. But his eyes were fixed to the row of houses and his mind was floating back in time to previous visits here, when Abel had been alive, and when Abel Stoddard had died.
The ship weighed anchor. He commanded his launch to be made available and offered any of his officers to enjoy going on board with him. The first Officer and the Sargeant of Marines requested such and the three of them were rowed across to the wharf in good time.

Adam confirmed the time to return to the launch and then left them to their own devices. He himself wanted only one place to go and with a sigh he strode pass the houses and took himself off to the cemetery.

There was a bench seat under a tree close to the graves and upon this he sat, removing his hat and resting it upon his knee. He raised his face to the sun and closed his eyes as his mind trickled back in time … Abel Stoddard, Eli and his obsessions, the mother he had never known. He must have sat there for an hour before moving to stand at the graveside and to look upon them for possibly the last time in his life. The stone roses engraved upon his mother’s headstone were greyer than ever now, and had lost their sharper outline and a little moss had gathered on the north side which he rubbed away with his thumb. He said his farewells and then replaced his hat. He saluted the grave of his grand father, wondered if the old man would have been proud of him, and then walked away, his back straight and his eyes moist.
Chapter 25

Candy Canady had proven himself to be a first rate ranch hand. As Joe sat on the top rail of the corral fence to watch the next horse being broken he began to think upon the other man’s experiences. At the back of his mind a little voice told him to leave it alone because he would end up with the awful ache he’d been carrying around inside him for so long, and why spoil the day? But one look at Candy as he shot out of the stall in the saddle of an evil looking brown mustang sent Joe along the familiar pattern that he seemed to have set himself for days now.

Candy was the same age as Adam, which meant he was twelve years older than Joe. He was good humoured, mature and a person comfortable with himself. Unafraid to face anyone down, yet gentle and kindly, generous and open hearted. So far so good. Joe cold admit that he was probably in much the same league as his friend.

But Candy could talk about being places, not just Yuma, San Francisco and Sacremento. He had been to places where only Indians still lived. He had had adventures, real adventures, not just falling off a horse during bronco busting, not just stopping stage coach robbers or being in a posse riding after some wasted individuals for Roy Coffee. Candy had experienced life and the problem for Joe was that he failed to see that he himself had experienced life too but in more narrow confines.

He smiled when Ben came and sat beside him. He could tell that his Pa found it a little less easy to climb up the corral rails, and the thought slipped into his mind that if he went away perhaps something would happen to his Pa that he wouldn’t find out until much later. He shook that thought away. It was a fear they lived with every day and had, at times, had to face.

“Alright, son?”

“Sure, Pa.”

“Candy’s a good horseman, isn’t he? Sure has a good wrist. Ooooh, that wasn’t such a good idea. Couldv’e got himself unseated there, dear me, what is he thinking of? Oh, well done, Candy!”

Joe sighed as he listened to his fathers commentary on the manner in which Candy was breaking in the horse. He wondered if his father would actually miss him around the place if he did go. He bit his bottom lip – of course his father would miss him, after all he was his youngest son. But as a ranch hand, as a man about the place … perhaps his place could be easily filled.

Hoss came and leaned against the railings and watched without saying anything. It occurred to Joe that Hoss had been unusually quiet during the past week. He had even stopped eating as much.

“You alright, Hoss?”

“Sure, I’m jest fine. Yourself?”

“I’m fine too.” Joe grinned, “Candy’s having a bit of a tussle with this one.”

“Yeah, so I can see.”

Joe listened to the sigh that followed the comment. It occurred to him that Hoss must be in love, but if he were he hadn’t said anything. He pursed his lips and looked down at his brother,

“How about going into town later? We could get a drink or two.”

“Yeah, if you like.” came the almost sullen response.

Joe frowned. He had never known Hoss to be so unwilling to ride into town for a drink before. It must be love. He clambered down and stood beside his brother,

“What’s wrong, Hoss? You in love or something?”

Hoss gulped, shook his head and blushed. How could he tell his little brother that he lived in fear of the day when Joe would up and ride out of the Ponderosa, out of his life perhaps?

“Well, something’s wrong. You always liked going for a drink in town, now it looks like you just want to be on your own. Well, fair enough, I’ll go with Candy when he’s done.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to go with you, Joe.” Hoss protested, “I was just wondering if you really wanted to go or whether you were jest humouring me.”

“Huh, why should I just be humouring you, you big ox?” Joe forced a laugh, “I like a drink in town as much as you do, don’t I?”

Hoss grabbed at the peace offering and smiled, he slapped his brother on the back and nodded, winked and then turned to watch the rest of Candy’s ride.

“He’s a good rider, ain’t he?”

“Yep, he sure is.” Joe replied, and leaned against the railing. “Good thing he rode into the Ponderosa that day, ain’t it?”

“Yeah, I’d miss him if he were to go now.” Hoss said and then gulped, he wished he hadn’t said that, but the fear of anyone leaving, especially Joe, was so much crowding his head now that it just blurted out.

“Why should he leave? He’s got a good job here, and friends.” Joe replied, rather defensively.

“Yeah, but we ain’t his family, are we?” Hoss responded rather tetchily, and concentrated on watching the fight between man and beast that was going on before him.

Joe sighed. Two days ago he had received a letter from his half brother, Clay Stafford. Clay was another one who had travelled around and got first hand experience of life beyond the Ponderosa. He was travelling in Argentina now. Fancy that – Argentina. Joe had to go to the atlas to find out where it was and then Pa had told him about it, because Pa had been there once. Seemed everyone had been everywhere – except him. Oh, and Hoss of course, but then Hoss was happy where he was, a proper home grown variety and breed.

Ben clambered down and stood beside them. He smiled and put a hand on their shoulders,

“Well, Candy did a good job there. Did I hear you boys saying something about a drink in town? I need to go in and see Roy. Mind if I come along?”

“Sure, Pa.” Hoss grinned and looked at Joe, “That’ll be fine, won’t it, Joe?”

Joe smiled, nodded. He loved his Pa, he loved his brother – but he had to admit that there was such a tussle going on inside his head and pulling at his heart right now that he wished that he was already a thousand miles away from both of them.
…………………….

“Excuse me, Captain, but I think you should come on deck and see this …” Fletcher paused at the door and waited for the Captain to move away from his desk, pick up his hat and follow him from the cabin. By the time he had reached the deck Captain Adam Cartwright had his hat on his dark head and his naval jacket buttoned.

There was a considerable noise coming from the port side of the ship where the men were crowded together looking over the side and shouting either to one another. Several officers were standing to one side encouraging the men to haul at some ropes but when Adam was seen approaching them they became quiet. One of the Midshipmen stepped to one side and saluted before informing Adam that they had found the remains of a ship floating by and there were men clinging for dear life on them.

“Should we haul them up on board, sir?” the Midshipman asked.

“Of course, I thought you were already doing so.” Adam replied with a raised eyebrow and a small smile on his lips.

“Yes, sir.” the Middie replied and hurried back to join the other officers.

Adam approached the crowd of men who stepped aside to let him through, although the men hauling on the ropes, Jacob Brown being one of them, continued to do so.

There were indeed men clinging to the remnants of a ship. In all Adam counted ten men. He drew in a long deep breath and looked at Fletcher,

“They look as though they’ve been like this for some time.”

“Yes, indeed, sir.”

“Get them on board as soon as possible. Fisher, go down below and get the Doctor immediately. Allsop, these men will need fresh water, put some rum in it, and get blankets.”

The two men scurried in opposite directions to obey the orders. Men were now hanging from the rigging to overlook the operation of getting the shipwrecked men aboard. Some of the men were too exhausted to seize the ropes that were lowered to them and realising this was causing problems Adam ordered that a boat be lowered with several men to haul the victims aboard. This was done with a promptitude borne not only from human kindness but also from curiosity.

“Fletcher,” Adam murmured to his First Officer, “Tell the men to continue with their duties. If they all persist on converging to this side of the ship we’ll tip over.” he smiled as he spoke but the Officer obeyed immediately. It did little good for the ship’s discipline and morale for work to cease no matter how curious the reason may be for it to stop.

The first two men to clamber aboard and then subsequently collapse in a heap on the deck were two officers. One gasped a desire to speak to the Captain but then passed out, while the other was already unconscious before he had hit the deck.

“Take care of them, Fletcher, and when they’re strong enough bring them to my cabin.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Adam returned to his cabin with a feeling of foreboding in his bones. His orders had been to rendezvous with the ship Avenger in this area. They had, in fact, been at anchor for two days for that very reason but there had been no sign of her. She was a well built ship with a good turn of speed and her Captain was known to be efficient and disciplined. Adam had been anxious for the past twenty four hours when it had become obvious that the Av enger had not been at the rendezvous point.

The two ships were to combine and work together to track down and stop a practice often referred to as ‘black birding’ among the islands of the south seas. This practice was nothing other than slave labour recruitment. Since the 1830’s the term Piceroon was used to describe those who combined piracy with slave trading. Since the abolition of slavery in the American states had dried up the lucrative trade there, the slavers continued to ply their trade lucratively elsewhere.

Had they confined their means of trade among the islands no doubt the American ships would not have deemed it necessary to be involved, but far too many merchant ships had been attacked and destroyed to allow such a practice to continue. The Piceroons not only stole all the merchandise but they would murder in a most cruel fashion the seamen who manned the ships. Those they did not murder were taken as slaves and sold to the plantations of the South Pacific islands. Some seamen would even become part of the pirate team rather than spend the rest of their days labouring on some cruel plantation. They would continually raid the islands, pillaging from trading company’s warehouses, carrying off everything they happened to find and could take to their ships.

It was some time before there came a tentative knock on the cabin door and the Officers entered. They seemed much more robust now although both still suffered from the ravages they had endured. Adam indicated the chairs for them to sit and asked his steward to bring refreshment for them, and also to ask First Officer Fletcher to attend.

“I can see you’ve been through a terrible ordeal. Can you account for any other men to be alive than those we have already found.” he asked.

“It’s possible some may still be alive, but we ten have kept close together. We were in number up to 17 but injury and sharks have taken their toll. I am First Officer Warren of the ship Avenger. We were expected to rendezvous with you here.”

“Yes, that’s correct.” Adam said, “What of your Captain?”

The two men looked at one another, the spokesman of the two shook his head,

“He was killed.” and he bowed his head and struggled to control his emotions for a moment before being able to continue, “He fought as well as he could but there were too many. They hacked him down -”

“Captain Hargreaves was one of the bravest men I’ve ever known,” the other Officer said quietly, “He did not deserve to die in that fashion.”

The steward and First Officer now entered the cabin so there was a pause as coffee was poured out for all, and refreshments which were declined. Fletcher looked at Adam and waited for his captain to speak.

“The Avenger was attacked, Captain Hargreaves has been killed.” Adam informed him, “I presume by the Piceroons we were supposed to be getting rid of?”

“Yes, Captain, the very same.” the man struggled to get to his feet, “First Officer O’Brien reporting for duty, sir.” he paused, and looked down at his companion, “Master’s Mate Jones of the ship Avenger -”

“Captain Adam Cartwright and First Officer Fletcher, of the ship Redoubt.” Adam replied, and he waited for O’Brien to resume his seat before he asked the man for a detailed report of what had happened.

“Six days ago a ship hove into view flying the distress flags. Her signals were indicating that she was a Dutch vessel in need of assistance. Of course we went to her aid without realising it was a ruse for her to get close enough to jam our rudder with wooden wedges so that the Avenger could not be steered. They used grappling hooks to board the ship. They were heavily armed with pistols, daggers and even carried with them hand grenades made from wine bottles filled with gunpowder. Had we not realised until it was too late that it was an enemy vessel we would have out gunned it but it was too late.”

“Surely Hargreaves could have still ordered the guns to be fired upon the ship.” Adam said, his brow heavily creased as he thought of the power of these ships.

“They were too close, sir, had we fired upon them it would have destroyed us as well.” O’Brien sighed, “We were out numbered, out guessed.”

“But your ship was destroyed anyway?”

“Oh yes, they didn’t want any evidence of their whereabouts to be discovered. I think they intended to scuttle the ship so she would sink to the bottom without trace, but some of us got free and attacked them. The result was -” he shrugged, “at least some of us got away.”

“Have you any idea where they would be now?”

“I don’t, sir. We saw nothing of them all the time we have been in the water.”

Adam nodded thoughtfully and then looked over at Fletcher,

“See that these men are cared for and then come back here.” he spoke without looking at his Officer, his eyes were already scanning the map on the desk which indicated the boundaries for his ship.

Pirates and buccaneers, Corsairs and Picaroons … how romantic they would sound in the novels that were churned out for the masses. Perhaps there was always some romance in the doing of what was wrong … the dashing highwayman, the reckless robber. Adam sighed, and leaned over the map to concentrate on what was to be done.

Strangely it was the approval of various nations to allow privateers to sail the seas and loot the merchant ships of enemy countries that had created or authorised pirating. These lawful privateers had flourished until 1856 when the majority of maritime nations signed the Declaration of Paris which banned letters of marque, legalising privateering, and therefore outlawing them. Unfortunately once the veil of legality was whipped away they were revealed for what they really were… robbers, murderers, slavers and the navies of each country was now used to enforce the law.

Fletcher knocked and entered the cabin, followed by the officers of the Redoubt all of whom removed their hats and awaited their instructions. Adam turned to regard them carefully.

“It had been our intention to join forces with the Avenger, but as you see we can no longer do that so we have two options before us. We can turn tail and return home. Or -” and he looked at their faces carefully, “We can take the fight to them.”

“You’re asking our opinion, Sir?” Fletcher asked doubtfully.

“No, I’m telling you the two options we have before us. Our orders were to remove those Piceroons that we came across with the Avenger as our ally. By my understanding there are two Dutch ships within four days sail of us. Once First Officer O’Brien is refreshed enough to join us here we shall proceed.”

“Yes, sir.” the men looked at one another.

“Any questions, gentlemen?” Adam crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the response,

“We are going in pursuit of them, sir?”

“Of course. I need the latitude and such from O’Brien, that’s all. There’s only so much sea between them and us …” he smiled slowly, “I should imagine they’ll be looking for us so it shouldn’t take too long to find them.”

There were some brief smiles, some anxious frowns, but they nodded in approval and waited for his further comments.

“I want the men piped on board for assembly within the hour. I want each man on board to know exactly what I want them to do. Dismissed.”

Chapter 27

O’Brien was very clear in giving the proper co-ordinates of where they had been attacked and proof was this was becoming more evident with the density of wreakage that was being found. Several more men were hauled from the ocean, most of them too weak and emaciated to make their rescuers feel they had done them any favours apart from them dying in some degree of comfort rather than becoming shark bait.

They continued following the direction so the Avenger’s first Officer and was within the boundaries that Adam had referred to as the area where the Dutch would be patrolling. It was as they were keeping a look out for the Dutch ships that a sail was observed on the lee bow.

“Mr O’Brien,” Adam passed him the telescope, “Does this ship look familiar to you?”

For some moments O’Brien was silent and then sighed deeply before returning the telescope to Adam.

“Yes, Captain Cartwright. She’s the vessel that attacked us alright. She’s flying the American flag -”

“I noticed that.” Adam replied quietly.

“It’s just a ploy to get you close to her. Once she’s close enough she’ll ram your rudder so you can’t steer and then board you.”

“You know I have to trust you on this, Mr O’Brien. Possibly she could be one of our own ships and if I fire on her I won’t remind you of the consequences.”

“Aye, sir, it’ll be considered an act of treason.”

Fletcher, standing nearby to Adam licked his lips nervously. He glanced over his shoulder to see how many other men would have over heard this conversation. No man there would want to be accused of treason. But then, no one would want to be drawn so close to the ship as to be boarded by her should she prove to be the slaver.

Adam pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. His brothers would have recognised the obvious signs of some plan formulating in his agile brain and waited to find out. He clasped his hands behind his back and watched as the sails of the ship loomed closer.

“Mr O’Brien, I must have your positive guarantee that the ship approaching us is indeed the one that attacked you.”

Once again O’Brien put the telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon. He observed it long and hard, then there was a sharp intake of breath,

“It’s the picaroons ship, I swear it. She’s flying our colours.” he passed the telescope to Adam who passed it to Fletcher,

“Can you make out the name?” he asked his First Officer.

“No, Captain Cartwright.”

“Captain, the master’s mate who was brought up along with me, he’s well enough to come on deck and swear to it that the ship approaching us is the one who attacked us. I swear, sir, I would not be lying to you.”

“I know, Mr O’Brien, but for the sake of my crew I have to be certain for I wouldn’t want them to suffer unjustly by obeying my orders.”

The Master’s Mate was called up and scanned the ship through the telescope. He lowered it and with a sombre air returned the telescope to Adam,

“She’s the one that jammed us – there’s no mistaking her. She may be flying our flag, but she’s also got our colours on display. Her Captain must have been really sure that there would be no survivors to identify her.”

“She’s flying the American flag because she must know we were supposed to be rendezvousing with you” O’Brien cried, and he shook his head sadly, “The men they took as prisoners must have told him that the Redoubt would be hereabouts. They were expecting you.”

“No element for surprise then,” Adam smiled drily. It was hardly possible to sneak up on anyone in open sea so the Officers smiled dutifully, “Pipe the men aft.”

Once the men were assembled Adam walked to them and stood before them with his face calm, his dark eyes gleaming and a slight wry smile on his lips. He looked with approval at them all, even noting that some of the men who had come from the wrecked Avenger were present,

“Now, my boys, you see approaching a ship flying the American flag. I don’t want any one of you to be thinking you’d be committing an act of treason by firing upon her as we have the sworn word that she is the picaroon who destroyed the Avenger and over the years some valuable merchant ships of ours. I have no intention of letting her get close enough to us to disable us. It’s just the one ship after all, and we’ve licked more than one before in our time so this one we should be able to dispose of before we pipe to dinner. To your stations …”

“Mr Fletcher,” Adam turned to his First Officer, “get the sail trimmers from the guns, for I want to fight under sail, we have a good wind and should be able to out manouvre them. Mr O’Brien, I believe you would want to take some action against this ship.”

“Indeed sir,” O’Brien nodded, looking eagerly for orders.

“Very well. Depress the foremost guns so that the shot goes under the water, not over them. Every shot must count as swiftly and as accurately as possible. She must be disabled before she has a chance to get close enough to board us. Starboard, Mr Brown.”

“Starboard it is, Captain.”

The ship turned to starboard. Every man there had adrenalin pumping through their veins and awaited the first order to fire. The Redoubt was well armed, what a seaman would say showing a very good set of teeth for she mounted sixteen guns. The guns were prepared ready and every man there had his pistol, or his dagger, at the ready.

“Steady now, Brown, steady.”

The other ship was now nearing a mile away and had adopted a ploy of creating smoke screens by setting fire to yellow sulphur. O’Brien cried out to Adam confirmation that it was definitely the ship they were after, for he now could see clearly the name painted by the figurehead.

“That’s reassuring to know,” Brown muttered under his breath knowing that he, like some others on board, had been more than a little concerned that their Captain intended to fire upon a ship flying the American flag.

They could now see through the smoke screens that the deck of the other ship was full of men with their boarding netting triced up. Adam flexed his shoulders as though preparing to offload a heavy burden.

“Over to the lee guns, fire as they bear when we go round them. Hands by, lads. Quarter master, tend the boom sheet. Port hard, Brown.”

“Port it is, sir.”

The Redoubt turned, her sails billowed with the wind and her guns were discharged. The broadside raked their sides before they even had their guns displayed.

“Be quick, men,” Adam shouted, “Load, reload. Stand by your guns and prepare to fire again. Fire now.”

Boom Boom crashed the guns, the ships shuddered as the guns recoiled. The other ship still had not returned the Redoubt’s fire, for she had no power in her sails to do a sharp turn and was a more cumbersome ship whereas the narrow stern of the Redoubt make her more efficient in her manoeuvres.

“They seem to be backing away.” Fletcher cried.

“Give them another broadside as we pass.” Adam yelled, “Stand by the same guns. Stand by to haul over the boom sheet. Brown, helm amidships.”

Now the other ship realised they had lost the advantage and would be unable to disable the Redoubt. Her attempt to catch the wind in her sails and circle around the other ship had only succeeded in bringing her closer to the guns which discharged another good broadside into her. This time she answered back with guns discharged but they were badly aimed and only two hit their mark.

“She is trying to get away,” Fletcher cried and put a telescope to his eye, “Captain, the Dutchmen are approaching on the lee side.”

“Good, they can watch us finish this up before they go back to their own waters.” Adam replied and ducked as some bullets hit the mast, sending splinters scattering like shrapnel.

“They must be wondering why we’re firing on a boat flying our own flag.” Fletcher said, wiping blood from his cheek where a splinter had cut the skin.

“If they’re that concerned they can ask about it afterwards.” Adam replied, watching carefully as the other ship listed rather and the men on its decks started to throw their lethal grenades in the hope that they would cause maximum damage to the Redoubt’s men. “Fletcher, make sure they cause no damage.” Adam said calmly as though it were the easiest thing in the world to stop a grenade from exploding once it had hit its target.

The Redoubt tacked slightly distancing herself from the other ship so that the grenades mainly feel harmlessly in the water. One struck the main boom but it was a glancing blow and the damage was little.

“She’s seen the Dutchmen.” O’Brien cried, his face blackened by the soot of gunfire, “She’s trying to out run us.”

“You mean, she’s running away from us, Mr O’Brien.” Adam replied calmly, “Well, we can’t have that, can we? Anyway, where can she run to? She can’t go into Dutch waters for she’ll have two ships to fight then, and she won’t be able to outrun us. What do you think she’ll do?”

“She’ll not surrender. The Captain’s one of the cruellest men I’ve ever known.” O’Brien shook his head ruefully.

“Were there slaves aboard, do you now?”

“We were never on board her, but we heard the shouts of men who were terrified of what was happening. I would think, Sir, that if she had slaves on board her then, she must have off loaded them by now.”

Adam nodded. The Redoubt was closing in on the other ship again, and once more he gave the order to fire, once more the ship shuddered as gun after gun was discharged. He called out the order to move leeward once again distancing the ship from the other so that their grenades proved of little power.

“She’s going to fight now.” he said quietly, “Her Captain has realised he has nowhere to run to. Mr Brown, starboard, hard.”

“Aye, Captain, starboard it is …”

Adam once again flexed his shoulders, he took his pistol into his hand and waited

a32;

Chapter 28

“Mr Wilson?” Adam called up to the lookout “How’s her head?”

“South West by south. Southerly, sir.”

“And what do you see?”

“They’ve run down the flag, Captain and replaced it with their own.”

“Good,” Adam murmured, “Now they have revealed themselves in their true colours and the Dutch will have no need to worry about what’s happening now.” he paused, “Now, tack her, press her hard, boys.”

So it was that as the Esperanza swung to port side so also did the Redoubt, keeping always a healthy distance to avoid the grappling hooks and the boarding nets that would bring the picaroons on board her. Each way the Esperanza turned she was shadowed by the Redoubt who would give her a broadside every time she ran parallel to the other ship.

“Her main mast has gone. She’s lost her sails. She can’t go any further now.” Adam observed to his officers, “Now, what a maverick she is – where does a Captain go when his ship falls apart one wonders?” and a slight smile touched his lips as he spoke, his eyes fixed upon the other ship which was now floundering.

“He’s a ruthless man,” O’Brien replied, “He’ll want this ship so he won’t waste his guns on us, he won’t want the Redoubt sunk.”

“No, that he won’t.” Adam replied.

The Redoubt shuddered again as another volley of shot was sent over to the Esperanza, and one went through the hull just above the fore bits. Now the picaroons strove to hurl over more of their grenades, and fired with rifles with, sadly, some success for several of Adam’s men fell injured or dead as a result of the steady gun fire.

“Captain, they are lowering the boats and preparing to board us.” Wilson yelled from his vantage point.

Adam now turned to face his men who had began to gather in groups awaiting his orders. The gunners never left their places, sending such broadsides to the other ship that sent much creaking and groaning of the timbers. They paused now to hear what their Captain had to say,

“My boys, prepare yourselves to repel boarders. Fight hard, your lives and your ship depend upon it.”

Immediately there was a rush to the sides of the ships and as fast as grappling irons appeared to fasten into the wood so the seamen of the Redoubt chopped away at the ropes to send the other men plunging back into the sea or to crash into their boats.

Fletcher reeled back when a bullet hit him in the shoulder but resolutely he stood his ground and prepared to fight hard. Adam, who had remained upon the weather-hammock rails holding by the main rigging felt the ship rock as the other fought back with their guns but the ship recovered well and he yelled out the order to his men to give the other ship, the Esperanza, a broadside that would silence her for good.

The battle continued on for another fifteen minutes before the end came. There came the strange, unnatural silence as often befalls a battleground when the fighting is ended. The miserable sound of groans from the injured, the gasps of those taking their final breaths, the cries for help from those who see others walking by them.

Adam wiped sweat from his brow, his face was streaked with the soot from the fires and the guns. He narrowed his eyes for they were stinging from the heat and smoke. The smoke from the other ship billowed lazily in the wind and hovered like a black cloud above them. Finding his telescope the trained it upon the Esperanza to see what was happening there. There was so surrender flag run up and there were still men on the decks with rifles poised. He beckoned to O’Brien who despite a cut above his brow still stood near him,

“Take the boats and put an end to this,” he murmered, “Mr Wilson -” he turned, and puased, Mr Wilson was dead, hanging upside down from the rigging. He turned back to O’Brien, “Take whatever men you feel you need. When you have the ship under your control put their men in the brig as prisoners. Then take command of her and follow us into port.”

A bullet from the other ship passed through his hat and he raised his eyebrows,

“The sooner the better, Mr O’Brien, it seems they need a reminder as to who won the victory here.”

O’Brien took several boats crammed with willing volunteers among seamen and marines. The marines were particularly willing to take part in the fray as they had seen their officer shot down by the gunfire from the Esperanza and sought to take revenge.

“Captain Cartwright, we found the body of their leader -” Fletcher jerked his thumb in the direction of a huddle of bodies near the poop deck. “So far we have ten men dead and fifteen wounded. They -” he paused “they have quite a number dead.”

“Put the survivors in the brig as our prisoners. Now, John, take yourself to the doctor and get your wound seen to.”

Adam watched for some moments as the men parted to form recognisable groups, the vanquished, the Redoubt’s men, the dead and the injured. After some moments had elapsed he returned to the bridge and watched as O’Brien encountered the Esperanza. The men had little trouble boarding the wreaked ship. The fighting from the men there was sporadic and half hearted and they quailed before the heat of the anger that burned within the other seamen.
It seemed hardly any time at all before the Esperanza’s colours were struck, and the American flag replaced it. O’Brien appeared on the deck and waved his hat with a wide smile on his face. For him there had been retribution for his fallen Captain, and for that the opportunity to have gained it was warmly appreciated.

Adam took himself to his cabin. It was not for the Captain to linger after such events, although once the report was entered he would go down to sick bay to encourage the wounded. He sat at his chair and laid down his gun upon the desk. Leaning back he sighed deeply and closed his eyes. For a moment he wanted his mind to dwell upon pleasanter things, away from the sounds of the dying and wounded, the stench of burning wood and canvas, of cordite and blood.

He pictured the sun shining upon Lake Tahoe, and recalled to mind the smell of the pine on a warm summers day. He conjured up Joe’s hearty chuckle and Hoss’ warm guffaw. He saw his father’s slow generous smile, the eyes lighting up as they did when hearing something good and pleasant. He wondered, just briefly, what they would be doing right at this particular moment in time.

“Captain?”

He jerked alert and wondered for a moment if he had fallen asleep,

“What is it, Connors?”

“Mr O’Brien sends his compliments and wondered if you would care to join him on board the Esperanza.”

“Yes, of course.” Adam nodded, and followed Connors from his cabin. It would be good to see the other ship and to be able to write in the report their findings there. We would also confirm their rightness on firing on a ship flying the American flag.

O’Brien stood to welcome him on board with a solemn face. He then led him to the Captain’s cabin where, amid the chaos and disruption caused by the battle, was all the evidence of the picaroons dealings as far as paper work was concerned. Chests full of money of different currencies stood on one side of the room, along with a mass of charts and maps.

“There are the names of men who are profiting from the slaves this ship has brought them. There are names here of men – even our men from the Av enger – who were taken to the islands as slaves. But for further proof follow me -”

Adam did so, stepping aside from the bodies that still littered the decks where blood and water flowed with equal liberality. The hatches on the mid deck were pulled open and O’Brien descended followed by Adam who found himself stepping down into the hell of a slave ships hull.

The stench was terrible, and if men condemned those who created the smell as animals then what kind of men could force others into such horrors as what beheld them now. Rows upon rows of boarding upon which were secured the shackles that would bind the men, women and children to the boards, incapable of moving, but very capable of dying, as they did in their hundreds.

The two Officers stood and looked upon the scene with loathing. After some moments Adam put his hand upon Obrien’s arm, turned and mounted the steps back to the deck.

“Well, there is no doubt that it was a slaver. Just be grateful there were no victims on this trip.” he said quietly to the other man.

“You’d have thought that with the abolition of slavery …”

“Ah, legalities are all very well, but you will always find those men who know where there is a market and how to make the most money from it. Legalities don’t come into the question with these people. Denmark led the way with abolishing slavery, it took us some time to catch up but here …” he shrugged and looked sadly at O’Brien, “Well, at least we can make sure these men don’t profit from it anymore.”

“The men they took from The Avenger,” O’Brien said quietly, “We know where they are -” he looked thoughtfully at Adam, “we could rescue them.”

Adam nodded and gave a half smile,

“Yes, I suppose we could.” he replied and turned to lead the way into the Captain’s cabin.

It was as they were enroute to the cabin when a large white bird with black tipped wings hovered through the smoke as though seeking some place to land. O’Brien groaned at the sight of it,

“All we need, an albatross.”

“’Ah, well today! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.” Adam quoted softly and raised a cynical eyebrow while he smiled “Well, what could be more apt,” he said, “but an albatross settling on a dead ship.”

“You’re right, Captain, this ship is dead. “But if I could save my comrades I most willingly would, albatross or not.”

“Are you superstitious then, O’Brien?”

“Isn’t every seaman?” O’Brien replied but all he received in reply was a laugh and a shake of the head.

Chapter 29.

If it had been possible for Adam to have transported himself to the Ponderosa at the time during which he was thinking of them, he would have found himself in the great room with the clock ticking, the flames of the fire licking the big logs, and the comfortable feel of home security that wraps around one at the end of a day.

Ben sat smoking his pipe, carefully writing out a letter to his eldest son. In mid sentence he pauses to look about him at the others in the room. In front of the fire and immersed in a game of checkers sat Hoss and Candy. There was little being said as the game was at the juncture where Candy was about to make his move and Hoss was trying to outguess him and hope he could go other places as a result. Seated on the settee and browsing through a Sears catalogue was Joseph. It seemed to Ben that Joe was particularly quiet and he was still staring down at the same page as when Ben had last looked over at him ten minutes earlier.

“Dadburn it,” Hoss exclaimed breaking the circle of silence as Candy jumped three places and won the game. “That just about does it for me. I think I’ll turn in. I’ve an early start tomorrow morning. What are you doing tomorrow, Candy?”

“I’ve been assigned clearing water holes.” Candy grinned.

“Oh, well, someone has to do it,” Hoss laughed and slapped his friend on the back. “C’mon , Joe, you’re with me tomorrow morning so’s you’d best head up for bed too.”

“Just a moment, Hoss,” Ben’s deep voice intruded upon his son’s arrangements, “Joseph, I want a word with you before you go up.”

Joe started as though only just aware that they were talking to him, he looked vaguely at his father and nodded.

“I’d best be bidding you goodnight then, Sir,” Candy got to his feet, stretched and smiled at Joe, “See you sometime tomorrow, Joe.”

“Sure thing, Candy.” Joe gave the other man a fleeting smile and a brief wave of the hand as Candy left for his room. “See you in the morning, Hoss.”

“Sure thing, Short Shanks.” Hoss replied and made his way to the stairs where he could be heard whistling quite happily as he made his way to his room.

“Anything wrong, Pa?” Joe asked, putting the catalogue down on the table in front of him, pushing aside the checker board as he did so.

“I don’t know, Joe. Perhaps, but I need you to tell me what it is if there is one.”

“How do you mean?” Joe asked warily, looking at his father ’s face for some sign of what his father could have meant.

“Well, son, over the past few months it seems to me, and Hoss, that there’s something weighing heavily on your mind. I thought at first it had something to do with Candy as we could see you had difficulties with him at first but that was soon settled…”

“Sure it was, Pa.” Joe interrupted hastily, “Candy’s a good friend of mine, and I respect him a whole lot.”

“I know, I can see that, and so can he. So what’s happened since to cause you to be so withdrawn. I’m still your father, Joe, and I like to think that I’m also your friend in whom you can confide or share a problem.”

Joe bit his bottom lip and looked down at the floor. He looked so hard that the colours of the rug seems to merge into each other, a hazy blurred swirl of colours. He cleared his throat,

“There ain’t nothing wrong, Pa.” he said quietly.

“Are you sure, son?” Ben leaned closer, and put out his hand to rest upon his son’s arm, he must have felt it tremble for his eyes became darker with anxiety, “Joe, tell me the truth. What is it?”

“I don’t -” Joe paused, then moved his arm away from his father’s hand, and even turned his face away, “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Why not? Are you in trouble of some kind? Is it some girl -?”

“No, no -” Joe looked horrified, “No, Pa, nothing like that.”

“So there is something gnawing at you? You might as well say now while we have this time together, Joe. Otherwise it is just going to grow bigger and bigger until it’s grown out of all proportion and you’ll find yourself well and truly weighed down by it.”

Joe sighed deeply, he bowed his head and leaned his elbows on his knees while he steepled his fingers against his chin,

“Well, Pa, the fact is that -,” he gulped loudly and his eyes darted nervously in Ben’s direction, “Darn it, Pa, I can’t even get to say it.”

“Why not?”

“Because – because if I say something then it makes it real, and then, making it real means having to do something about it.”

Ben leaned back in his chair and observed his son intently,

“Not so long ago I was having a similar conversation with your eldest brother. He was the same as you, squirming about, stumbling over his words, trying to say something without it having any impact at all but at the same time frightened of the impact it would have anyway.” he leaned across the arm of his chair to reach for the matches, he struck one upon the hearth and put the flame to his tobacco, he drew hard upon the stem of his pipe until the tobacco glowed in the bowl and smoke rings coiled upwards.

There was silence for some moments as Joe frantically tried to find the right words. A log, burned in half, fell upon itself in the grate, and the clock chimed the hour. Ben waited a few more moments before he began to speak again,

“In the end Adam just came right on out with it. ’Pa, I have to leave here. I have to leave here in order to find out what I’m not appreciating here, and then when I come home I will have learned to appreciate things a whole lot more than I do just now.’ Is that the way you feel, son?”

Joe blinked, could it really be this easy? His Pa saying the words he needed to say and found so hard. But if he said yes, what would happen then?

“Pa, I guess so. It’s just that I don’t want to go to sea or anything. I just want to see what’s out there, beyond the Ponderosa, and Nevada. I want to see the new territories being opened up, and I guess in a way -”

“In a way what?” Ben asked gently when his son had paused overlong.

“I want to have the kind of experiences you had when you were younger. You know, when you and Adam were travelling west and seeing and experiencing all the things that you did. Pa, for years I’ve listened to you, Adam and Hoss talking about those times. I know they were hard for you all, but at the same time looking back on those things, those adventures, well, you got through the hard times and – and I never had them like that, I have always had security, a home with a roof over my head, Hop Sing to feed us.”

“You mean, you welcome deprivation?” Ben chuckled although his heart was pounding.

“I welcome experience.” Joe replied so soberly that Ben could only take his pipe from his mouth and look at his son as though through fresh eyes.

“Does Hoss know this is how you feel? That you want to leave the Ponderosa?”

“I’ve not told him, I mean, I may have hinted…” Joe’s voice trailed away, the thought of Hoss and how unhappy this would be making him caused his resolve to falter. He looked at his father with large eyes that were rimming now with the dew of tears, “Pa, I don’t want to hurt Hoss. I love him, but I have to do this on my own.”

“I doubt very much if even his love for you would cause Hoss to leave the Ponderosa , Joseph.” Ben sighed, “Although I could be wrong even then. I never thought you would want to leave, not after the way you acted about Adam going.”

“I know. I feel kinda like a fraud now, in a way. But when I think back to when Adam left, I think it was because I was jealous of him. I thought with him gone, it would make it harder for me to go. I resented that as much as I resented him leaving me – and you, and Hoss, of course.”

“Joe, every parent has to accept the fact that their children are only loaned to them. We have to accept that the day will come when they will leave their home to make their own way in life. Adam chose the sea, just like I did.” he paused then and nodded, “I was just a lad of 12 when I ran away to sea but the Captain of the ship knew my father, and sent me back home. Then when I was 14 I ran away again. I ran away because I couldn’t bear to tell my mother that I was going to leave her. I loved her very much but I knew her tears would persuade me to stay, perhaps for another year, and then another year would pass …” Ben shook his head, “I was tormented for a long time by the thought of her face when she found my letter, and her feelings as she read it. I felt a coward, and unworthy of all the love she and my father had shown me. But even now when I look back I know I would have done it just that same way again had I the choice.”

“Did you see her again?”

“Yes, on my first leave. It was 18 months later and she had gone grey, and weary looking, but I remember when she opened the door to me how her eyes lit up and her smile made her ten years younger. Well, never mind, that was then, and this is now,” Ben sighed, “I’m glad I know how you’re feeling, Joe. When you feel the time is right for you to leave, tell us, won’t you?”

Joe nodded slowly, and rose to his feet,

“Thanks, Pa. I was afraid -”

“Afraid of me? Of what I’d say?”

“No. Not that, I was afraid that once I’d said it then I would have to act on it. Now I can make plans openly, and with your help too.”

Ben smiled slowly and stood up, he put his arm across his son’s shoulders and gave him a slight hug,

“Wherever you are, Joe, I’ll always be here to help you. Be assured of that for a fact.”

Joe nodded, whispered a ‘Thanks, Pa’ and made his way to the stairs. His heart felt lighter, as though a great weight had been lifted from it, but his head whirled with the thought of all the things he wanted to do, had to do, before he left. He could hardly believe it. As he closed the door to his room he leaned against it and bowed his head, just fancy that, he was going to leave home.

Chapter 30.

Joe bounced down the stairs in the manner of past times which quite surprised Hoss who, already seated at the table, had become accustomed to Joe trailing down the stairs as though he was carrying a ton weight of bricks upon his back.

“You alright, Joe?” he asked, his blue eyes widening as he told himself what a stupid question that was to have asked when everyone could see that Joe was perfectly alright, in fact, more alright than he had been for a long time.

“Yeah, sure.” Joe smiled at his father and his brother, “Candy gone already?”

“Yep, he thought the earlier he started on them water holes the sooner it would be all over with.” Hoss glanced over to his father who was looking rather solemn, more solemn than usual. Hoss then glanced at his brother who was positively glowing with positive joy in life. “Are you alright, Pa?” Hoss asked Ben, for the contrast in appearances gave him an itch of concern upon recalling the fact that Ben and Joe had been closeted together the previous night for some time.

“Yes, Hoss, I’m quite alright, thank you.”

“I jest wondered seein’ how little brother here is just about bustin’ his breeches with delight over something and you’re looking like you lost every dime in your bank account.”

“Sorry, Hoss,” Ben smiled slowly and then looked over at his youngest son, “Are you going to tell Hoss your news, Joe?”

“News?” both men repeated, Joe’s voice going rather squeaky and Hoss’ voice plummeting down to the depths. “What news?” Hoss added.

“I – I was going to tell you later, Hoss. When we were together and – er – private.” he cast a reproachful glance over at his father who looked totally unconcerned and obviously felt that Hoss needed to know sooner rather than later.

“Tell me what?” Hoss sunk back in his seat and gave his brother a long long look. Then he sighed deeply, nodded and stood up, threw down his napkin and pushed himself away from the table, “It’s alright, I know what it is already, you don’t have to say nothing”

“You don’t know, Hoss, you’re only guessing.” Ben said quietly, “Come back to the table and let Joe tell you what’s on his mind.”

“I know what’s on his mind, Pa, I knows it becos he’s been dropping little hints about it for months now. I know becos he couldn’t hide it from me no more than Adam could…” Hoss paused in mid stride towards the door, and then turned to look straight at Joe, “You’re leaving here, ain’t’cha?”

“Sometime, Hoss. Not just yet?” Joe replied very quietly, wishing more than anything that he could have enjoyed this bubble of excitement he had woken up with for at least another 24 hours before it burst into the reality of ‘dealing with things’.

“Wal, it’s all the same really, now, or then, doesn’t matter, fact is you’ve made your mind up to go and that’s that.” Hoss turned and the next thing they heard was the thud of the door slamming shut.

“Pa, I was going to tell him, honestly I was. I wouldn’t just run out on him.”

“He needed to know now, Joe. He’s been simmering with worry about it long enough it was only fair that you told him as soon as possible after telling me.”

“I know. I – I’ll go and talk to him now, shall I?”

Ben sighed and nodded, and as Joe left the table he cast another anxious look over at his father before he also left the room.

Hoss was in the stable leaning against the bars of Chubbs’ stall. He was stroking his horses’ neck and just struggling hard to keep his emotions under control when Joe walked to his side and leaned against the bars alongside him.

“I’m sorry, Hoss, but I have to go.”

“Yeah, so you said.”

“Do you understand?”

“No, doggone it, no I don’t understand.” Hoss replied and his words came out of his mouth all strangled up and he turned away from looking at Joe so that his little brother wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes.

“Hoss, I really do need to go, you know. It isn’t that I don’t love you as much as I ever did, it’s just that I – I have this huge itch inside of me to go and see what else there is out there apart from the Ponderosa. Try and understand, Hoss?” and he placed his hand on the big man’s arm, but Hoss shrugged it off,

“I gotta get on with some work.” Hoss muttered, “You don’t have to come with me. Best I get used to doing it on my own now, anyhow.”

“It’s alright, Hoss, I’ll come, after all -”

“I said, I’ll go on my own.” Hoss snapped angrily, and walked by his brother without even realising he had knocked into him and sent Joe staggering back against the stall bars.

He rode Chubb hard and fast out of the yard, and even faster after that. He just wanted to put as much distance between himself and his brother as he possibly could so that he could find his own place to pause, and fight through the emotion that was now threatening to choke him.

In the stable Joe rubbed his shoulder and watched the dust settle back upon the ground. He turned and walked slowly back into the house, back to the table and sat down,

“I don’t remember Hoss acting up so uptight when Adam went and left home.” he grumbled.

“Well, that’s because Adam and Hoss’ relationship is different. He looks upon you as the baby brother he’s always loved and protected. Adam was the brother he loved and respected.”

Joe frowned, he wasn’t sure whether he liked what his father had said, nor whether he agreed with the sentiments, but he said nothing but poured out coffee with the realisation that his leaving was going to cause his brother a lot of heart ache.

“Did Hoss think Adam was right in leaving?”

“He couldn’t understand it, anymore than he’ll understand why you want to go. He could accept Adam’s decision though because Adam was the eldest and because Adam had left here before, and he had come back. Hoss is happy enough to assume that his brother will come back.”

“So will I.”

“Well, Hoss has to work that out for himself. Give him time, he’s only just been given the confirmation of his worse fears and he’s hurting.”

Hoss dismounted from Chubb and walked slowly through the waist high grasses towards the beach of the lake. It was here he had come to think over Margie’s rejection of him some years back. And it was here that he had come to consider over Adam’s decision to leave the Ponderosa. He loved the water as it sparkled beneath the sun and reflected the blue skies. He loved the smells, and the way sea, earth and sky combined to make a circle that was so perfectly balanced that he could only rejoice in its creation.

But not today. Today he fell upon his knees and wept. The tears trickled down his cheeks and he rubbed them away with his hands. Then he buried his face in his hands and just let the tears fall. He had cried like this when Ma had died, when after the funeral he had come to be alone. Adam had found him as he always did and they had stayed together for several hours, him crying and Adam sitting, unmoving, with his arms around his brother.

But there were no comforting arms today. Only a huge ache in his heart. An emptiness where his little brother had been.

“Shucks, don’t be an idjit.” he mumbled and snuffled to himself, “He ain’t even gone yet. He may not even go. Doggone it, Hoss Cartwright, you sure are making a right fool of yourself, you knew all along he was going to leave, he’s been hinting enough for any sensible man to know for sure he was going to leave. Oh Joe …” his voice trailed away as he thought of his little brother, and memories crowded into his brain and tumbled one over the other to make him even more miserable than ever.

For Hoss Cartwright it was like his whole world had just fallen apart.

A t the back of his mind a thread of logic worded phrases to remind him that not everyone was like him, happy to be at home forever. He had to consider the differences in age as well as in temperament. But it hardly helped at all. Hoss was a man of deep feelings and before he could face Joe again he just had to pour them out, give them a good shake up and then try to stuff them all back into some semblance of order. Once done he would face Joe, talk it over like two sensible men, and then get on with life.

But not just yet; not for a little while yet.

Chapter 31

When Hoss returned home it was late in the evening. Ben was standing by the big window with a cup of coffee in his hands, but his eyes dark and introspective as he worried about his sons. Candy sat in the blue chair close to the fire attempting to extract a splinter from the palm of his hand. He appreciated the fact that he was able to live in this house, and sit at the table and share food with them, but he was not a member of the family. As soon as Hoss entered the house and closed the door behind him, Candy stood up and after giving Hoss a warm smile announced that it had been a long day and time for him to get to bed. It was a tactful withdrawal and one much appreciated.

Of Joe there was no sign. Cochise had not been in the stable when Hoss had ridden in. For a moment Hoss stood in the middle of the room and looked about him. In the future, he thought, this is what it will come down to … Pa and me.

“Alright, son?” Ben asked him, moving away from the window now that the need for his vigil was over.

Hoss put down his hand, and slowly untied his gun belt. He placed it carefully on the bureau before he looked up at his father,

“Any coffee left in the pot, Pa?”

“There is,” Ben said quietly and watched as Hoss poured out some of the hot steaming liquid, “Where’ve you been?”

“Shucks, Pa, I’ve only been – thinking.” he frowned and swallowed down the coffee. “Pa, I done wracked my brains something orful, but I can’t understand why they’d want to go.”

“You didn’t give Joe much time to explain how he felt, son.”

“I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, honest truth, Pa.” Hoss sat heavily upon the settee and for a moment drummed his fingers against the arm, “Why don’t I want to go? Is there something wrong with me?” his brow creased and he sighed miserably.

“Well,” Ben sat down and leaned towards his troubled son. His dark eyes scanned Hoss’ face and noticed how this son had suffered through the day, he clasped his hands together and rested his elbows on his knees, “I remember whenever we stopped at some settlement on our journey here, Adam would come to me and say ‘When are we going, Pa. This isn’t the place for us, is it?’ but you would come to me and say ‘We are stopping here, ain’t we, Pa? We ain’t leaving, are we?’ You see, even right back then you were so different. You were like a little homing pigeon wanting a roost to settle on, and Adam – well, he was like an eagle always soaring upwards looking ahead to something new. “

“And Joe? What about him? I always thought he’d never leave here, that he was like me in how he felt about it here, Pa.”

“Joe, well, what can you expect from a little boy who would listen to our stories about moving on, travelling, the hardships we faced … without our knowing it we planted those seeds in his mind, and they’ve grown, taken root. Now he wants to do his share of travelling and facing hardships.”

“Shucks, Pa, birds and plants …” Hoss wrinkled his nose slightly, “Pa, you and I know that Joe is as likely to run into trouble as soon as he leaves our back yard. He could break his neck any day of the week just falling out of bed. How’s he gonna handle leaving here on his own without getting into trouble. And, if he does, how would we know? How could we help him?”

Ben shook his head, and his clasped hands tightened so that the knuckles whitened, they were silent for the space of a heart beat before he said softly,

“Son, don’t you think I’ve already thought of that?”

“Then, he can’t go, can he? For his own good … you should tell him, Pa, he has to stay put.”

“I can’t do that, Hoss. He has to do this for himself because if he doesn’t, we’ll lose him altogether. This way he’ll come home to us some day, a more fulfilled man, perhaps. If we force him to stay for any reason, the resentment will just built up until all the things we love about him will be poisoned by it.” Ben stood up and leaned against the chimney, for a moment he stared into the flames before turning to his son, “We have to put our faith in the one who looks after those we love, Hoss. He’s been doing it for a long time now, and we shouldn’t have any doubt about his ability to carry on doing so.”

Hoss was about to speak when Hop Sing came into the room, and after glancing from father to son he approached Hoss with a shake of the head and a wagging of the finger,

“You very bad boy. You not come home for supper and now supper all dried up and no good. You be very hungry now. Serve you right if you be hungry all night long. “

“Aw, Hop Sing -” Hoss protested.

“Good job Hop Sing know you come back and be hungry. Now you come eat what I keep in kitchen. You come and eat all up or you in big trubble.”

Hoss sighed, got to his feet, and was about to follow Hop Sing when his stomach protested its emptiness very volubly. This sound was music to Hop Sing’s ears for he began a shrill tirade of scolding in Cantonese that would have scalded Hoss’ ears had he understood the language well enough.

Ben watched the two men leave the room, and for some moments listened to the sound of their voices. Then he bowed his head and whether he was thinking over the things they had said, or was saying a prayer to the one in whom he placed his trust one could not say.

Chapter 32

The Governor of the Island of ……… was more than magnanimous in the greetings he sent out to the two Naval Officers from the United States. The fact that the two men were asked to wait by the Governor’s equerry while he ‘prepared himself for their visit’ made Adam wonder what kind of a martinet this man would turn out to be.

As he waited in the antechamber of the Governors state room Adam thought over the events during the past few days since they had encountered the picaroons ship. The Dutch Captains had both accepted the explanation, particularly so after being escorted around the slavers’ ship. They had reacted with such abhorrence that they had shaken Adam’s hand and thanked him profusely for helping rid the seas of such scum. They also appreciated the fact that had Adam not been there to deal with it more than likely they would have been forced to do so in due time.

During the conversation it transpired that the Dutch were building faster ships, made from steel and run by steam, for the Dutch fleet the days of the clipper ships were now over. Adam accepted the fact with a shrug of the shoulders, it was progress after all. A ship dependent on the wind was, after all, no rival to a fast moving steam ship that could move like a bullet regardless of the weather.

He had also discovered by going through the logs of the picaroons’ ships that slavery was still a thriving concern in the south seas. It were as though the abolishing of it in America and Europe had concentrated it into this area. Looking through the lists of plantation owners who bought and sold slaves was like opening Pandora’s box.

His agreement to work along with O’Brien to release the men from the Av enger was the natural thing for a Naval Officer to do. The men were American born and bound to the United States in their naval duties. But, he told O’Brien, it had to be done in the correct manner. Politics, policy and protocol first he had said.

So here they were, kicking their heels in this vast ornate and over decorated room while the highest official of that island decked himself out to greet them. Adam was pacing the floor with his hands clasped behind his back when the doors to the state room were opened and they were beckoned in to greet the Governor.

He was a tall man, very erect in his bearing and his hair, what was left of it, was greying. His dark eyes were piercing and denoted a cunning that made Adam feel uncomfortable. But he greeted them both quite regally and indicated that they could sit in his presence.

“We recently encountered the ship Esperanza which we understand has been terrorising your waters over the past few years, Sir.” Adam stated.

“The Esperanza has indeed been a scourge and a plague for far too long. Yes, they had, with some others ships full of their filth, the worse living beings on this earth, caused us much hardship. They have carried off our men and women. Ruined crops burned down villages. What happened when you encountered her?”

“We fought her. She’s now a wreck that we are going to tow back with us in order to claim prize money. However -” Adam stretched out his long legs, “we wanted to deliver up to you, Sir, the 23 men that we have as prisoners. We have heard that you are very fair and that you will afford them justice and the requisite punishment.”

“They are picaroons?”

“All of them. Yes.” Adam inclined his head and then leaned back in the chair which creaked a little under his weight, it was such a flimsy gold painted little thing.

“And the Captain? Is he among them?”

“The Captain is dead.”

The Governor smiled coldly, and for a moment just stared towards the two men as though unaware that they were still in the room, then he nodded,

“That is very good. These other men you will bring here?”

“They are already here waiting for your instructions to -”

“They will be dealt with, you have no worry about it.” he waved his hand regally as though the thought was the deed. “Is there anything else?”

“There was a great deal of plunder in the Esperanza. Looking through her log books it would seem that most of it belongs to your islands, to your industry. We have that here also.”

The Governor allowed a small smile to play about his lips and his eyes couldn’t hold back from showing the glint of greed,

“Is there much gold?”

“A considerable amount, Sir.”

“That also is very good.” the Governor smiled.

“There is another matter I would wish to put before you, Sir.” Adam drew himself up straight backed and looked the Governor full in the face, “Recently one of our ships was attacked by the Esperanza. Of course as they were picaroons and therefore a body of men that belonged to no nation it could not be considered an act of war on the part of yourselves or any other island. They captured a number of our men and sold them to a plantation owner here by the name of Legrand.”

“Legrand is a very powerful and rich man in these islands.” the Governor said nervously.

“Well, the fact remains that he had unlawfully taken a number of United States seamen, purchased them as slaves and is using them as such. We would ask you to intercede on our behalf and get them released.”

“You ask a lot.” the Governor replied with a lift of the eyebrows.

“We have already given you a lot, Sir. It could be that my Government would consider it an act of war on your part if you appear to condone the purchase of American seamen as slaves in your territory.”

The Governor bowed his head and then sighed. He picked up a pen and rolled it between his fingers before he looked up and shrugged,

“How many men? Do you know their names? Are they rich men?”

“There were 11 men, we have their names on a list here.” he leaned forward and placed a list of names on the desk, “The matter of their wealth is of no importance. They belong to us, as American citizens.”

The Governor made a pretext of reading the names before letting the paper slip through his fingers back onto the desk.

“I shall see what I can do for you.” he said again, with a slight shrug.

“I hope to see all eleven men on the quayside by four o’clock this afternoon.” Adam said coldly as he rose to his feet, “Thank you for this audience, Sir.”
“The bullion – I shall send some men to collect it, and the prisoners too.”

“It and them are at the quayside already, Sir. But our men we would like to have there by 4 o’clock.” he reiterated before giving the man at the desk a slight bow and leaving the room.

O’Brien looked at him and shook his head,

“He won’t do anything.” he muttered as he put on his hat.

“No, but he has until 4 o’clock to prove it.” Adam replied.

“And then?”

“We’ll see …” Adam smiled cold, and with his back straight and shoulders square he strode away from the Governor’s apartments as though he couldn’t leave there quickly enough.

Chapter 33

As soon as the door closed behind the two Naval Officers another door of the state room opened and a tall fat man stepped into the room. He was a magnificent figure being so tall, even though he was now running to fat it was easy to appreciate he must have been a very handsome man when younger. Dressed in very expensive garb he made the Governor of the Island look drab in comparison.

“Did you hear what our illustrious visitors had to say, Legrand?” The Governor asked, picking up a small gold box which he snapped open to take a pinch of snuff which he inhaled into both nostrils as he waited for Legrand’s reply.

Legrand walked to the window where he could see the two men striding across the courtyard.

“Yes, I heard. I didn’t like that man Cartwright. Arrogant. Like all Americans he talks as though we were nothing. He has to be taught a lesson.”

“I think your Captain Salvadore did try, but failed.” came the sarcastic comment in response, “Personally I liked him, he was honest and if he had some pride then -” he shrugged “why should he not? He is a brave man and rather naïve if he thinks he will get everything he wants.”

“Pah.” Legrand huffed and watched Adam and O’Brien board a carriage which was slowly turning in the courtyard. He saw Adam’s raised face looking up at the building and out of caution stepped back out of sight.

“So? What do you intend to do?”

“Gold bullion is not to be ignored. As for the picaroons, we’ll deal with them as we usually do, keep the fittest for the plantations and hang and tar the unfit. That will keep everyone happy. As for the American seamen …” he frowned, he shrugged, “They’re a surly lot, always spouting out their rights as Americans, always starting fights. Perhaps we can arrange a compromise, of sorts.” he smiled and turned to the Governor, “I shall go now and make some arrangements.”

“Legrand, let me give you some advice. I don’t think Captain Cartwright is a man to be crossed, so if you are going to make some compromises I would think very carefully how you go about them.”

“You actually dare to give ME advice?” Legrand smiled slowly and his heavy eyelids half hooded his eyes, “You now make me laugh. Am I a man to fear shadows? Believe me, I have no fear of this man Cartwright. And you, Governor, should no better than to offer advice to me. If it were not for me, you would not be sitting in this office now but would still be a puny clerk in my warehouse.” he snapped his fingers and with a sneer on his face he turned and left the room.

The Governor watched him go, bowed his head and walked to the window. The carriage was now well out of sight but he looked for it even so. What a joy it would be if this Captain Cartwright could get rid of Legrand as well as having despatched Salvadore.

In the carriage Adam had settled back to think about his plan for action. His glance up at the palace had provided him with what he had expected to see, another man standing at the window other than the Governor, and this man, he instinctively knew, would be the infamous Legrand whose name he had heard, not only from the Governor, but from the picaroons he had questioned and the men at the quayside.

He closed his eyes, allowed his chin to rest upon his chest and allowed O’Brien to assume he was sleeping.

_Chapter 34________________

After some time had elapsed Adam raised his head and took his watch from his pocket. It was a gold hunter, very handsome and a gift from his Grandfather which he treasured. He flipped up the ornately decorated lid and looked at the time, before closing the lid, looking quite smugly pleased about something, and slipping it back into his pocket.

“Driver.”

“Yes, suh?”

“I find we have an hour or two spare so take us for a trip around the island, please. One that will get us back to the quayside before 4 o’clock.”

The driver touched the brim of his hat with the tip of his whip and turned the horses heads away from the harbour and took them for a coastal trip. Adam smiled at O’Brien,

“Now then, let’s relax and enjoy the journey. Take note of the bays and coves, the lagoons and tranquil beaches as we have the time to spare, best to enjoy and learn.” he sighed contentedly and stretched out his long legs, “I doubt very much if we will get our men back, as you know, O’Brien. But we have to act carefully because men of Legrand’s kind are quick to accuse others of the very sins they themselves commit.”

“And the Governor?”
“Just a pawn in Legrand’s game. Often times the man at the top is merely a puppet operated by far more powerful others. I don’t know much about the history of this place but I believe there was a military take over a few years ago and since then they have had two Presidents and four Governors. Somehow or other Legrand seems to have been a consistent figure throughout.” he ran his hand over his dark hair, still as dark as ever and curling over the collar of his naval jacket.

“So what do you intend to do?”

“Nothing until 4 o’clock, except to enjoy this ride of course.” Adam smiled and passed a hand over his neatly trimmed beard. “It’s only after then that we know how the deck is stacked against us. That’s when we shall play our hand.”

O’Brien nodded doubtfully and sighed heavily. He looked out at the passing landscape and fretted over the seeming delay and waste of time, while the Captain sat beside him taking a very eager interest in what he saw as the carriage passed along. He pointed out the coves that nestled below, hidden by cliffs and lush green foliage, with the splash of colours from the beautiful tropical plants that abounded there. He exclaimed over the elegant curves of a lagoon with the silvery beaches as though he had never seen one before in his life . When the coachman indicated it would be time to return Adam merely nodded in agreement and suggested they went by way of the plantations, a more inland journey than coastal.

O’Brien showed more interest now, craning his neck to see the plantations and to scour the workers for a familiar face. But the public road was too far from the plantations for them to be of any use and he fell back, disappointed.

“Captain Cartwright, you saw the list of names of the men who were taken, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Well, to be honest with you -” he paused, and sighed heavily, “I probably should have said before but one of the men if my cousin, Jotham. He was brought up with me more like a brother than a cousin and we joined the navy together. I swore to him that I would find him and get him home safely. As they dragged him away I just had time to call out to him. He would know I was alive, and that I would do everything in my power to get him free.”

“Why are you telling me this, O’Brien? Do you think that one of the men being related to you gives him greater merit over the others? Do you assume that I would be more determined to rescue them because of his being one of them?” Adam crooked an eyebrow as though surprised that he was even having to put such questions to the other officer.

“No. I just wanted you to know that whatever you decided to do -” O’Brien paused, “I have to keep my promise to Jotham.”

“Of course you do, I understand that only too well. I have a younger brother who was constantly in trouble. My other brother and I were always having to haul him out of scrapes so I can quite understand how you are feeling. But you have to remember that we are representatives here of our country and if we act rashly it could be misinterpreted to Legrands advantage.” he pursed his lips in the familiar way that he had, and raised his eyebrows a little, “If my brother were among those unfortunates I would do everything in my power to get him free, believe me, I would.”

Once again he took his watch from his pocket and checked the time. Satisfied he asked the driver to go faster in order not to be late as when they stepped from the carried the clocks in the township chimed four o’clock exactly.

The Governor’s men were already there carrying away the chests of bullion and loading them upon wagons. The picaroons, a rag tag bunch of men now, were being put in chains and pushed into line by the militia who used the butt of their muskets to achieve their ends. As Adam and O’Brien walked down towards the highest ranking Officer present who appeared to be waiting for them several of the chained men called out in appeal to them.

“Captain Cartwright, Captain Cartwright -” cried one wretch, stepping out of line to approach Adam, “Please, sir, have pity. Intercede on my behalf and let me go free. I’ll serve aboard your ship willingly, sir. I was taken by Salvadore from my ship several months ago and forced to work along with these men. I am not like them … I beg you, sir.”

“Whatever your origins, it can’t be helped. You willingly worked along with them for I know as a fact that no privateer or picaroon need take any action if he chooses not to do so. If you had not agreed their terms they would have sold you as a slave or had you killed.” Adam shook his head, “I’m sorry, you took arms against my ship and my men, and you also took part in the death of Captain Hargreaves and his men. If I took you to America you would have to stand trial there, so there is little point in delaying the inevitable.”

“Do you know what they will do to us -” another man cried out, “Do you?”

Adam sighed and walked on. He knew very well what would be done with those men who stood trial and were found guilty. They would be hanged, and their bodies tarred, and then they would be put in cages and hung for all to see so that everyone could see that justice had been done. He walked on until he was face to face with the Officer who saluted him politely and handed him a letter with a large red seal on it.

“Where are my men?” he asked the Officer coolly as he ripped open the letter.

“We have brought here seven men, Captain Cartwright.” the Officer replied and gestured to a group of men who stood close to Jacob Brown and some other seamen from the Redoubt.

“Only seven? What about the other men?”

“The letter explains it, sir. Who am I to ask?” and the crafty man shrugged, grimaced and stood at ease, waiting for some reply or comment from Adam who was still reading the letter.

Adam said nothing for a while, his face was inscrutable as he refolded the letter and slipped it into the pocket of his jacket.

“Thank the Governor on my behalf, Captain. I see there is nothing more to be done. We shall secure our ship and the Esperanza and depart on the evening tide. Please convey my thanks to your superiors.” and he gave the Officer a curt nod of the head by means of farewell and walked away.

O’Brien now hurried to the seven men and went from one to the other of them searching for his cousin, but he was not among them, nor could any of the men tell him anything about Jotham. They themselves, despite their slavery being of such short duration, were dirty, ragged and emaciated. One man could barely stand on his feet and collapsed on the way to the boat, being carried aboard by Jacob and lain between the thwarts with considerable care.

“Is your cousin here?” Adam asked O’Brien who shook his head and looked wild and confused. “I see -” the Captain said and stepped into the boat to take his seat among his men and the seven who had been rescued. Reluctantly O’Brien took his place beside him.

The boat cast off and the men bent their backs to the oars to cross from the quayside to the Redoubt. The sun was still hot despite it now being early evening. Very soon the darkness would descend with typical tropical suddenness. As they rowed further and further from the shore O’Brien felt that he would never see his cousin again.

Chapter 35

Jacob Brown had to duck in order not to crack his head on the frame of the door as he stepped into Adam’s cabin. He found his Captain leaning over his desk with an assortment of papers laid out before him which he was carefully scanning. He didn’t say anything to Jacob but turned his attention to a large scale map that was unfurled on a chair. He picked it up and set it down over the other papers, before trailing a finger along a route. He then paused and turned to Jacob,

“Well, now, Jacob, are the men we’ve just brought on board?”

“The doctors seeing to them, Sir. Just thought I’d mention that another of our men died as a result of the fight with the Esperanza. Oh, and the man I carried on board … he died as well.” Jacob rubbed his chin, “Doc says he must have had a weak heart or something and couldn’t stand the heat.”

“Really?” Adam grimaced, “I would have thought if he could stand the heat on board ship in a midshipman’s berth he could have withstood it anywhere. But it’s a pity all the same.” he glanced down at the map again, as though deep in thought before he looked up at Jacob once more, “I’d best go and see them, there’s some questions I need to ask of them.”

“I presume you intend to get the other four men away from the islands, is that right, Captain?”

“Why? What would you do if you were Captain, Jacob?” Adam paused in the act of buttoning up his tunic and looked at the big man thoughtfully.

“Oh, best not ask, Sir. I’d probably go in and shoot the whole place to blazes.” Jacob Brown grinned from ear to ear.

“Well, that would be one way of dealing with the matter, I suppose.” Adam said with slight smile.

They left the cabin and seeing his steward appearing, Adam asked him to get his Officers assembled in the cabin, also Mr O’Brien. He then made his way to the sick bay where the injured men of the Redoubt were being tended as well as the 8 men from the Av enger. Every man there who could stand rose to their feet and saluted.

Adam looked at them all in turn, said a few words in passing to his own men, all the time wishing they could be in more salubrious conditions for the cramped quarters of a sick bay on board ship was never ideal. He then approached the 8 men,
“Welcome aboard the Redoubt, gentlemen. Who is the senior officer here?”

“I am, Sir.” a thin lanky red headed man stepped forward and saluted smartly.

“Your rank?”

“Midshipman, Sir. Name of Hathaway.”

“How are you feeling now?”

“I’m alright, Sir. I just needed to get out of there and rest up a little. Once I get some shut eye, some decent food I’ll be able to get back to work, Sir. Most of us will be come to that -” and he glanced at the other men who warmly murmured their agreement.

Adam glanced up at the doctor who nodded his agreement. Adam once again surveyed them and stepped closer to them

“Why were only 9 of you sent back and not the whole number of men taken from the Avenger?”

“Dunno.” Hathaway shrugged, “I’ve been trying to figger it out for myself but it makes no sense. One thing though, Captain, the owner of the plantation is a big man, name of Legrand. He has a particular hatred of Americans. He was encouraging his overseers to humiliate us at every opportunity they had … that’s what killed off Maher. They gave him a flogging and left him hanging in the mid day heat so’s all the flies could get to him. If’n I’d had a gun I don’t know who I’d have shot first, the Overseer or Maher.”

“Captain?” another man stepped forward, “Thomasin, Midshipman.”

“Go ahead – what do you have to say?” Adam asked quietly.

“Just that those four men you were speaking about before – they were taken away from the plantation two days ago. I saw them being taken out from the fields by one of the Overseers and two guards. They were put in a wagon and driven out of the place. I didn’t see ’em come back.”

“You didn’t know this?” Adam asked the midshipman, Hathaway.

“Thomasin mentioned it, Sir, but it still doesn’t give any reason why they weren’t brought back with us. Unless they’re dead.”

Adam frowned and said nothing. He then signed to Hathaway to follow him, thanked the other men and left the sick bay with the midshipman following him.

When he returned to his cabin his Officers and O’Brien were already there, and rose to greet him. He walked immediately to his desk and pointed to it,

“Mr Hathaway, whereabouts here were you kept?” he asked and then stepped back while Hathaway looked down at the map and after some moments pointed to an area which Adam then marked with his pen. He then made a swift calculation and then looked at his officers,

“It seems the four missing men were taken from the plantation some days ago. They never returned.” he glanced at O’Brien who had visibly blanched, “Now, thanks to Mr Hathaway we can pinpoint exactly where the plantation is here …” he pointed to the mark on the map, “which means that this cove here …” he trailed his finger across the map a little to the coastal outline, “ is the best place for us to leave the Redoubt and set out to find them. The cove, I noticed today, has a deep draught and sufficient cover to create a natural camalflage. I don’t think we could hide there indefinitely but unless Legrand is really suspicious of our leaving and is keeping a lookout at every cove and lagoon on the island we have some hope of being hidden for sufficient time. “

“If he is suspicious wouldn’t that be the first place he would think of looking for us?” Fletcher asked thoughtfully.

“Very true.” Adam nodded, “I did say that was where we would leave the Redoubt …” he smiled, paused as there came a knock on the door and the steward entered with refreshments for them. “Don’t worry, gentlemen, I know exactly what you are concerned about, and have no plans for Legrand to find the Redoubt that easily.”

“When do we leave?” Fletcher asked, looking thoughtfully down at the map and then up at his Captain.

“John, you will be staying here. I shall need you here to take command of the Redoubt in my absence.”

“But -”

“And the Doctor will have my scalp if I let you come with us when your wounds will still be needing his attention.” Adam continued, then turned away with a slight frown having noticed the looks that passed between his officers at the mention of scalping. Sometimes he forgot that these men were the well brought up off spring of the gently reared from states that had never seen a real Indian in their lives and scalping was something one did not mention in good company.

“Yes, Captain, of course.” Fletcher acquiesced in a softer tone of voice.

“Don’t you have any idea why Legrand took my cousin away, Hathaway?” O’Brien asked his fellow Officer who shook his head,

“I’m sorry, Mr O’Brien, I don‘t.”

“Mr Hathaway, you had better return to sick bay and in passing please ask the helmsman to attend to me at once.” Adam said curtly and returned to look through the papers.

As the doors closed he shrugged,

“I’ve been reading the log for the Esperanza, and some personal papers that Salvadore was foolish enough to leave behind. It seems Legrand and the Governor were hand in hand with him, taking in a share of the profits from Salvadores pillaging. It would do these islands a lot of good if we can clean it up a little.” he paused as Jacob entered, “Mr Brown, I want you to set the co-ordinates here and here -” he pointed to the map, “and set the Redoubt as close to shore as you can. You’ll have further instructions later.”

“When do we leave, Sir?”

Adam smiled,

“Five minutes ago, Mr Brown.” he replied in the tone of voice that caused Brown to do a quick about turn and head aloft.

“Mr Fletcher, would you please make arrangements for the two dead seamen to be dealt with once we are away from shore. Mr O’Brien, no doubt you would wish to accompany us on this – er – little survey.”

“Yes, please, Captain.”

Adam smiled, he knew had he been in O’Brien’s place and it had been Little Joe or Hoss that had been taken to wherever Legrand had taken them, he would have been equally as eager.

Chapter 36

Jacob Brown steered the ship to the co-ordinates given by his Captain. Mid-way they weighed anchor in order for the two dead seamen to have a prayer said over them by the Captain before they were dropped into the sea. Dead men on board ship were considered bad luck by the seamen who were, as O’Brien had earlier observed, all superstitious.

Then the Redoubt set sail again, trailed by the frail and shattered Esperanza, which was manned by a few men on board under the authority of Hathaway. The sea was an oily black heaving mass sparkling with diamonds as the moon shed her light down upon them. It was a silent passage across the coast line to the cove where the two ships slid as close to shore as possible.

“Weigh anchor.” came the subdued order.

“Anchor aweigh!” was the soft response.

There came a splash as the anchor entered the sea, and then within minutes the jerk as the chain tautened as the anchor gripped the sea bed.

Jacob turned to face Adam who was approaching him,

“Mr Brown, do you recall my instructions to you?”

“Certainly, Captain. Once you are on shore I’m to go to the lagoon S.W of East of here. There’s an inlet into which the two ships can lay by.”

“Very good. Legrand isn’t stupid, he’s proven that to have existed here for so long. It is possible this whole thing is a set up to reclaim the Esperanza and to get the Redoubt as well.”

“And bring shame on the whole American fleet.”

“A good turn of phrase, Jacob, well done.” Adam smiled in the darkness, and put a hand on Jacob’s shoulder, “I’m sorry you couldn’t join us, Jacob. I could have done with you being with us.”

“Why, thank you, sir.” Jacob said with surprise in his voice, and as Adam turned to go the big man saluted him with even greater respect.

Yes, Adam thought, he would have liked to have had Jacob near by, although Jacob would probably not have thought it much of a compliment had he explained that the only reason was because of his likeness to Hoss. Adam sighed deeply, with Hoss at his side he had always felt confident that he could win anything. Hoss had been like – well – a bulwark. A shield. He smiled to himself and made his way to the boat where the men were waiting for him. Jacob may have been physically like Hoss, but there the similarity ended.

It didn’t take long to go down the rope ladder into the boat and then the men bent their backs to their oars and through the dark waters the two boats -O’Brien in command of the other – passed as swiftly as two arrows, and as stealthily as serpents.

They beached the boats and hid them high up beneath the large leaved plants. The tide was rolling in and would soon erase their footprints and the marks of the vessels. Silently, stealthily, they slipped into the wilderness that massed together close to the sands.

They moved swiftly through the overgrown verdure of forest until they reached the edge of the plantation and here Adam deployed several men as sentries to ensure that their way back to the boats was protected.

“Remember, if anyone comes along don’t harm them, but make sure they are silenced and don’t let them sound off an alarm.” Adam whispered earnestly.

Now they advanced towards the plantation and upon reaching the first building they crouched low, in a huddle together. Once again Adam deployed several men, pointing to various strategic places for them to remain concealed and giving them the same instructions as previously. There was nothing he wanted less than to harm innocent victims of Legrand’s making, nor to spread alarm by any his guards and overseers sounding out an alarm.

The new day had dawned and with its arrival the work force were leaving their shelters and making their way into the fields of sugar cane. There was the babble of voices as men and women made their way to their labours. Behind the walls of one building the seamen crouched low and waited for them to disappear into the distance.

The overseers came next, some riding horses and holding their whips curled innocently in their hands as they followed the workers. Some walked along, more in the attitude of guards, armed with rifles. They kept looking nervously about them, as though expecting at any moment to be attacked from some unknown source.

Adam beckoned his men to come closer,

“The guards came from the large building on the left. I doubt if all of them have left there yet. It may be the best time to go in there and see if they can give us any information about our men. Three of you, come with me. Mr O’Brien, stay here with the men, keep hidden here. Don’t create any trouble no matter what you see or hear in my absence.” he particularly looked at O’Brien whom he felt less aware of his abilities to be patient at times like this, his own men had been tested over the time he had served with them, but O’Brien … he raised his eyebrows and received a reluctant nod of the head from the other man.

The four men sidled along towards the larger building. Upon reaching it Adam indicated that they remained where they were while he had a look around. Keeping close to the wall he approached a window and raised his head to look inside.

There were six men lounging about the big room. Some were playing cards, another was lounging against the door frame, another appeared to be sleeping. There was a low hum of voices. After some moments with the appearance of no other person Adam returned to the three men.

“Keep close to me. I’ll go in and you immediately follow. Jackson, there’s a man on the left of the door, stop him from getting the drop on me. Are you ready?”

They nodded and swiftly followed their Captain who stepped into the building with his gun in his hand, and before any of the men could react Jackson had the man by the door stretched out on the mud packed floor, and the other two seamen were inside, their guns levelled threateningly at the men in the room.

““Jackson, stand close to the door, make sure no one enters here. If anyone comes let them enter the building, disarm them and keep them covered.” he ordered, then he turned his attention to the men who were grouped like sheep in the corner of the room, their eyes showing white with fear, “Anyone of you speak English?” he asked in fluent Spanish.

Not one man replied, but Adam noticed those who had reacted sufficiently to the question for him to feel that they would understand something of the English language, so he next addressed them.

“Four American seamen. Where are they? Does Legrand have them?”

Still no response. One of Adam’s men stepped forward, his rifle cradled in his arms,

“Do you want me to slap them around a bit, Captain?” and as though to emphasise his words he spat onto the floor.

Two men gulped and swallowed hard, and Adam pointed them both out to Meadows, who grabbed them both from the group and hauled them in front of Adam who indicated that that was as far as any ‘slapping about’ would go.

“The four Americans, seamen, like us – where are they?”

The two men looked at him, looked at one another, shook their heads. Adam lowered his eyes and frowned,

“It’s a shame they don’t understand what I’m saying, Meadows.” he sighed.

“Yeah, a big shame, Captain. Shall I …?”

“No, no …” Adam raised a hand, and pursed his lips, “I was thinking the poor wretches can’t earn much. Legrand is a man who likes the best pickings. These men would get barely an existence in pay. I was quite prepared to pay them … “ he took out some money from his pocket and began to count out some of the coins.

The looks of lust and greed in the eyes of all the men said more than words could tell. One of the two men Adam had felt confident did understand English now put out his hand, and turned dark pleading eyes to him,

“Capitano,” he said, “Four seamen – American – si, we know them.”

From the corner one man cried out to him for silence but Meadows swept the barrel of the rifle in his direction and he backed against the wall. Adam gave the other man a gold coin.

“Four American – Legrand takes them to the big house on the hill.”

“Are they still there?” Adam asked, producing another coin and holding it towards them between finger and thumb,

“Si, they never leave there. Legrand has big – ‘ow you say – ‘ole in ground under house.”

“Are they guarded?”

“Si, always.”

Adam pressed the coin into the man’s hand. He looked at them thoughtfully before asking the next question,

“Are they still alive and well?”

“My wife, she cook food for them. Four men still alive.” the man nodded a tousled head.

“Will you come with us and show us where the hole in the ground is?”

The man backed away a few steps, his hands clasped close to his chest as though to still his beating heart. The other man nodded,

“I take you. You give me money?”

“Once we get there and more when we have the men safely out of here.”

He nodded again, and turned to his companion and spoke some words of their native tongue, which had enough Spanish in it for Adam to roughly get the meaning of what was said. Adam turned to Meadows,

“Tie these men up and gag them. Don’t let them cause any trouble. Don’t fire your gun because if you do the whole lot will be down on us like a herd of buffalo.”

Meadows nodded, not quite sure what a herd of buffalo had to do with anything but appreciating the meaning. Adam slipped out of the building and returned to O’Brien and the other men with the Guard at his side.

The sound of footsteps approaching made them creep back into the shadows, Adam whispered to the guard that it would be better for him to act as naturally as possible, or it would be the worse for him. From the shadows they watched a thickset man come towards them, pause to say something to their man, and walk on.

“You come, follow me now.” their guide whispered and putting their full trust in him and his love of money, they followed along closely behind him.

Chapter 37

The small group of men followed their guide closely, keeping close to the shadows and hugging the walls of buildings. Once two Overseers came strolling around to the back of a building armed with rifles and machetes. Upon seeing the seamen they threw the rifles down and one made a brave attempt to use his machete. Both men were dealt with by Adam’s seamen, and tied with their own sashes and gagged. It was at this point that Adam gathered his men around him, while with one hand he held tightly to the back of their guide’s loose shirt.

“I’m not too happy about this,” he murmured, “Those two men didn’t have any idea of how to use those rifles, they weren’t even carrying them safely . I’ve a feeling that Legrand is expecting us and has armed his men accordingly.”

“How much do you think we can trust him?” O’Brien asked, pointing to their guide who upon seeing the attention was upon him started wriggling in an attempt to escape.

“Well, I had put my trust more in his love of money than anything else.” Adam sighed and thrust the wretched man away from him and into the arms of two of his men. He took out his pocket compass and checked their position carefully, then he shook his head as he replaced it in his pocket, “From Salvadore’s notes Legrand’s house is east of here, he’s been leading us away from it.”

The guide cringed back, clasping his hands together in an attitude of prayerful pleading,

“Your wife -” Adam said slowly to him, and the man nodded frantically while his eyes went round with fear, “You said she worked in the kitchens of the house. Is that true?”

“It is true, I swear it on her life.” he stammered.

“What is her name?”

“Eurydice”

The men looked at one another as it was a name more associated with myth and ships than a woman in the part of the world they now found themselves.

“Eurydice what?”

“Rodney.”

“Very well.” Adam signalled to his men to deal with the guide who although he pleaded as though his life depended upon it, was promptly dealt with, tied up and gagged and rolled into the ditch along with the other two men.

“Right,” Adam said quietly, “We’ll have to rely on our own instincts now. Come -” and keeping close to the wall of the building they scurried in the direction that Adam’s compass had indicated to be easterly.

Legrands house was like himself, ostentatious and over large. From the direction the guide had led them it could not be easily observed as the hills into which it was built hid it well. But once discovered it seemed hardly believable that they could have missed it.

It seemed to have taken hours since they had left the boats on the beach to have found the house. Checking his watch Adam was reassured that not so much time had elapsed as he had feared. He glanced up at the sky and the unremitting sun shone as brightly as ever.

Keeping under cover the men watched the movements of the people at the house. There were guards everywhere, holding their rifles and machetes and appearing to keep scrupulous watch around them. Adam grimaced and O’Brien whispered

“Do you think they are using Jotham and the others as some kind of bait?”

“Possibly. I can’t work out why though.” Adam whispered in return.

“You said he would want a ship, possibly our ship to replace the Esperanza.”

“Yes, but why? I mean, I know how involved he was with Salvadore and the slave trade around here, and he would want to replace the Esperanza, but he’s far from stupid. He’d be putting a lot of things in jeopardy …” he paused as from where they were hidden they could clearly see the driveway to the house, and now a carriage had arrived pulled by four magnificent white horses.

They crouched down and watched as the Governor and a woman, no doubt his wife, stepped down from the vehicle and mounted the steps to the building. In no time at all they were swallowed up inside.

“We can’t waste any more time.” Adam said, “Stay here.”

“Where are you going?” O’Brien cried, grabbing at his arm.

But Adam put a finger to his lips and gestured to them to keep down. Then with a nonchalant air he left their covert and strolled in the direction of the building. None of them were wearing their uniforms, they were what in naval terms would be referred to as ‘mufti’, casual civilian clothing. Adam would not have initially drawn attention to himself unless the guards were particularly curious and noticed that he had the build and bearing of a man not customarily seen about those parts.

He walked to a group of boys who were scrabbling in the dirt and playing a form of game called Jacks. Speaking to one of them and producing a coin, he asked the child to fetch Eurydice Rodney quickly as her husband had been taken ill. Not exactly an untruth for ‘Mr Rodney’ was going to wake up eventually with a very painful headache.

The boy bit the coin, nodded after pocketing it, and ran off towards the back of the building. The other children jumped about and demanded jobs as well, anything in order to have a coin of their own. But Adam admonished them to be quiet and to continue with their game. He in turn walked to the shelter and shade of the big wall that supported the steps to the house. He glanced up at the sun. Time was ticking away, slowly perhaps, but inevitably.

Chapter 38

There are times in life when situations are such that unless something is done then opportunities slip by and nothing is gained. Adam had felt in just such a situation as he had looked across from their covert to the house and wondered how they could possibly reach it without being seen. He had at first dismissed the idea of just sauntering across the drive but it had not taken long to realise that the guards were too busy lolling around doing very little.

Like so many islanders these native born people took all their duties with such nonchalance that one wondered if they could ever be assembled into an orderly disciplined army. Adam had noticed that many of them had left their rifles where they themselves should have been, in order to meet together to play a game of dice, or just stand around to talk. It may have been on Legrand’s mind that there could be an attack of some kind from the Americans, but it was obvious that the seriousness of the matter had not really trickled into their heads.

Of course, when the Governor and his lady had rolled up in the carriage they had been more than happy to snap to attention and show themselves very proficient in handling their machetes and rifles. They had done so with a great deal of noise and attention seeking but as soon as the couple had entered the building they had swiftly returned to the more important things in their lives.

So there had indeed been little risk to the Captain as he had strolled from his well hidden den, chatted to the children and then taken shelter against the wall of the steps. Not many feet from him tall trees and shrubs grew in an abundance throwing out a dark shadow that also helped to obscure his presence.

He was so well hidden in fact that O’Brien began to panic. As the minutes ticked by he became increasingly fidgety and restless, and eventually made a move as though to cross the driveway himself in search of the Captain. His arm was immediately seized by one of the Marines who had accompanied them,

“Sorry, Mr O’Brien, you’d best stay put here. Captain said to wait until he came back to give us orders on what to do next.”

“I know, but as we can’t see him how do we know what we have to do next? What if something has happened to him? How’d we know? Can you see him?” O’Brien’s voice rose a little as he glanced from one face to the other.

“No, but then neither can the guards, which is what he’d want. Now, just be patient, Sir” he didn’t say it but O’Brien could almost hear it … ‘like a good boy.’

He shrunk back and waited. The palms of his hands began to sweat and he realised that his heart beat had began to go faster. The other men remained calm, saying nothing, just waiting.

Suddenly there was a rustle in the bushes and everyone of them stiffened and reached for their guns or knives, then relaxed when Adam emerged with a young woman. He had her held tightly by one arm and his hand was clapped over her mouth,

“Here, Jackson, you have her. Don’t let her utter a sound. She fights like a cat and has the claws and teeth to prove it.” Adam smiled as he thrust her over to Jackson who promptly covered her mouth with his hand. Adam pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around his hand, and then put a finger to his lips as he looked at the woman. “Eurydice, listen to me. Your husband is safe and well, but his remaining so depends a lot on you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

She nodded, her eyes were like slits as she observed him with loathing. She still struggled but now it was more in an attempt to show she was an unwilling party to whatever was about to take place than for any other reason. Her long dark hair fell across her shoulders and now a tear trickled slowly down one cheek. Adam felt acutely sorry for her, but in the situation they were in there was little he could do to stop her fears for he quite accepted the fact that their presence was terrifying for her.

“Your husband told us that there are four Americans in the house. Over there …” he gestured towards the building and she turned her eyes in the direction of the house and nodded, “He said you would know where they were hidden. You work in the kitchen, yes?”

She nodded and pushed aside the sailors hand,

“My husband? You hurt him?”

“I’ve told you already, he’s quite safe. But his safety depends upon your help.”

She rubbed her wrist slowly, and her face became thoughtful as she looked from Adam to O’Brien, and then the other men. Then she nodded,

“I know where they are. What you give if I take you there?”

Adam jingled the money in his pocket, and she nodded.
“I take you to kitchen. You follow me and I take you then to the four Americans.”

Adam nodded and looked at O’Brien,

“You come with me. Jackson, you take the men to get the carriage and horses round to the kitchen door.”

“How’d you mean, Captain?” Jackson asked, his eyes wide in confusion, “The carriage and horses?”

“You saw them, didn’t you? The Governor drove up in it.”

“Yeah, but -”

“But what?” Adam sighed impatiently.

“Horses, Captain?” The men exchanged uncertain looks between them.

“Ain’t never handled a horse before, Sir. We’re seamen. How’d you steer them things anyhow?”

Adam shook his head and looked at O’Brien,

“You had best go with them, O’Brien.”

“No,” O’Brien shook his head, “No, sir, I mean, if you don’t mind I’d rather go with you.”

“You’re disobeying orders?” Adam said, raising his eyebrows and pursing his lips as though he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“You may need me there, Sir. You can’t go in alone.” O’Brien pleaded, and he looked at the other men, “You can handle the horses, can’t you? Any of you?”

“It’s alright to act as if it’s the most natcheral thing in the world, Sir,” one of the men said rather resentfully, “But you and the Captain are used to being among them creatures, being as how you were landlubbers at one time. Thing is, we’ve been at sea all our lives and even when we were on land I for one never came near a horse.”

“Saw ’em, in the streets, so to speak.” another piped up.

Adam raised his eyebrows again,

“Enough of this nonsense, you’re wasting time and disobeying orders. Now go and get that carriage and get it round to the kitchen door. I don’t mind how you do it, but – do it.”

The men nodded and began to creep through the undergrowth. Then Adam looked at O’Brien, nodded as if in affirmation to what was to happen next, and taking hold of Eurydice by the arm stepped back onto the drive.

Eurydice was a pretty woman and was more than aware of the fact. She flounced a little as she made her way to the kitchens, having two handsome men in tow was quite an experience and the thought of her being the rescuer of her husband and the subsequent authority she would wield over him as a result quite elated her. Then, of course, there was the money. She had seen the coin the boy had been given just to get a message to her, so she thought, how many more coins would there be slipping into her pocket and for what? Just leading them to the Americans. So simple.

A sentry by the door winked at her, and she winked back. He leaned over and chucked her under the chin and she laughingly slapped his hand away, and gestured to her escorts. They passed through the kitchen which was in the usual disorder as the mid day meal was being prepared. A large woman yelled over to Eurydice and she yelled something back which was received with a shrug of the shoulders.

From the kitchen the two men were led along a dark corridor, down some steps where a sentry lounged against the wall. He was rolling a cigerette, his rifle was ten paces away from him. Seated at a table dealing out some greasy cards was another sentry, his rifle was resting against the wall. As they passed the two men one of them called out something to Eurydice and she replied with a toss of the head which made the two men laugh. Adam took one of the rifles as he walked pass it which action went completely unobserved by the men.

They went down more steps and then Eurydice turned, and pointed to a large wooden door. She tossed back her dark hair, and smiled,

“Americans in there. Now, I go.”

“No, you stay.” Adam replied.

“No, I go. You say if I help you find the Americans you give me money and let my husband go.” and she promptly stuck our her chin and opened her hand for the money.

“I said that if you helped us you would get some money and your husband would be safe from harm. Now, getting in was easy, now we have to get out and we’ll need your help.” Adam smiled although his eyes were dark with annoyance for time was ticking away and she was going to waste more of it.

“No, you give the money now.”

“When we are out of here.” Adam replied, “Do you love your husband, Eurydice?”

“Sometimes.” she tossed her head again, and shrugged.

“It’s locked,” O’Brien whispered.

“Of course it is,” Adam replied, “Eurydice, go back and get the keys.”

“No. That pig out there, always he want to kiss me and cuddle me. He is a pig. He sweat like a pig. You want key, you go.”

Adam looked at O’Brien and nodded over to the steps, which, to coin a phrase was as broad a hint as could be given in the situation. O’Brien mounted the steps and hesitantly entered the chamber where the two sentries were now in heated discussion.

O’Brien didn’t understand the language but he could tell from the gestures and facial expressions that the loss of the rifle was now the topic of this conversation. While they were so involved with the matter of it’s disappearance he looked for the keys and was relieved to see them on the table. He stepped forward to reach out for them when one of the sentries turned and shouted something at him.

He promptly stiffened and turned to the two men. He pointed to his mouth and gurgled ’argh argh’ and then to his ears, hoping they would interpret that to mean he was a deaf mute. The sentry approached him, and spoke to him, and again O’Brien shook his head, pointing to his ears and mouth.

The sentry gave him a push, and another, until O’Brien was pushed up against the wall, at which poin the kicked the man soundly on the shins which made him dance a little until a swift uppercut to the jaw sent him toppling down like a log.

The other sentry gave a shout, and hurried towards the one remaining rifle which O’Brien had also reached for in his anxiety to get out of the chamber. There was a subsequent tug of war until O’Brien succeeded in pulling the rifle out of the wretched man’s hands and striking him across the head with it. Like his companion the man went down, hitting the floor with a resounding whack.

Adam had come, seen what was happening and grabbed the keys while he could; he eventually found the right key for the lock and opened the door to, not a hole in the ground, but a dark damp cavern. It took some while to find the right keys for the locks of the shackles that bound the men to the iron rings on the walls but once found they were soon released.

Once the natural exclamations were made, and O’Brien and his cousin had hugged one another, Adam told them what to do next and they hurried away from their prison. Mindful of the sentries, one of whom showed signs of coming to his senses, Adam instructed that they be locked in the cell, relying on Eurdice’s good sense to see to their eventual release.

They made their way back to the kitchen without anything going wrong. The sentry they passed on the corridor assumed that the sentries were taking the prisoners elsewhere and after some saucy comments to Eurydice who was quite enjoying for flirtation with danger ignored the six men completely.

In the kitchen the big woman once again shouted over to Eurydice who replied that she would be back. The big woman came and barred their way, and in her native tongue demanded to know what was going on? Why were six burly men coming through her kitchen? What was the meaning of prisoners being taken without shackles? Her demands, spoken loudly, aroused the interest of two of the other kitchen workers who came over and gave Adam a shove, demanding to know who he was as he didn’t look familiar.

All of these questions were spoken in the native tongue and at speed so that Adam could only guess at their meaning. He gave the kitchen hand a jab in the stomach with his elbow and followed it up by swinging the rifle and catching him in the chest. Eurydice started screaming for her money and her husband, and the big woman ran to pick up a big knife used for gutting fish.

O’Brien was dealing with the other kitchen worker when he saw the big woman coming towards them at what Jacob Brown would have described as ‘a good rate of knots’ with the knife in her outstretched hand ready to run through whoever came first in her way. She was bellowing like a stuck pig herself and looked like some wild valkyrie on the war path. Adam was closest to her and the most likely to be run through but managed to side step her advance, grab her by the wrist and throw her backwards so that she tumbled over in a rather undignified fashion with her skirts flying over her head as she went.

The six men now rushed for the door with Adam and O’Brien swinging the rifles in the hope that it would deflect the advances of the two men. Eurydice ran with them, her constant shrill whine for money being even louder than the rest of the racket combined. As he turned at the door Adam threw some coins into the kitchen which brought about such a scrabble and rush to the floor that they were able to make the rest of their way without pursuit.

The carriage with the white horses were waiting for them and the carriage door opened.

“On top with me,” Adam commanded O’Brien as he clambered up onto the driver’s seat, where he was confronted by the startled and terrified eyes of the Governor’s coachman.

“Sorry, Captain, you said to get the carriage here by any means possible and he was the only means I could get my hands on at the time.” Jackson cried.

“Well, we don’t need him now.” Adam replied and pushed the man off the seat, while Jackson scrambled down and perched himself on the postillion’s foot rest at the back of the carriage.

The horse’s started as soon as Adam had touched the reins and the carriage bounced away with a speed that brought freedom swiftly nearer than anticipated. Behind them confusion reigned, as shouts and curses were initially to be heard but then followed by the sharp sounds of rifles being fired.

Down towards the wrought iron gates hurtled the wagon with Adam handling the reins with a confidence that no one else but himself could possibly have appreciated. The guards at the gates initially stood at attention expecting to see the Governor and his lady in the carriage but hearing the rifle shots and the noise that was gathering momentum as more and more men realised something was untoward was going on and were giving chase they immediately attempted to shut the gates to prevent the carriage passing through.

It was too late, however, and the carriage went through unscathed. More rifle shots were fired and now O’Brien and Jackson, who had taken Adam’s rifle, fired back with far more accuracy than the men who pursued them.
But no man was a match for those white horses even though they were having to haul a heavily laden carriage behind them. The path was downhill and the speed was exhilarating bringing back to Adam’s mind the number of times he had encouraged the Ponderosa’s horse drawn wagon to go at top speed whenever he was able to do so.

He pulled up at a strategic point and clambered down, opened the door to the men inside who hurried out and ran into the lush evergreen jungle that shut off any view of the sea. Now they made, with great haste, their way to where the boats had been hidden, and once there pulled their boats from their hiding places.

From among the undergrowth the seamen whom Adam had left at various locations in the compound now emerged to help haul the boats free. They pushed against the sides of the boats sending deep ruts into the sand as the vessels slid smoothly towards the waters.

As the bow of the first boat touched the rippling wavelets so it seemed as though men appeared from every where behind them. Rifles were fired and bullets flew over their heads. There were yells and screams from their pursuers that were as bad as any Indian war whoop that Adam could recall hearing, and he urged his men to push ahead or be lost.

“OBrien, you know where the Redoubt is hidden.” he called out to the other Officer, “Make haste to get to her and then set all sail for home. Put your backs into it, men. Hurry, hurry now.”

More shots were fired and now Adam turned and fired back, behind himJackson did likewise while at the same time he jumped into the boat which was now buoyant upon the sea. Adam was knee deep in the water now and was about to spring into the boat himself when he fell. His fingers released their hold on the side of the boat and in the water a plume of red swirled into the eddies of the water washed up to the beach.

Jackson leaned over to grab at him and then fell himself as a bullet hit him squarely in the chest. O’Brien was screaming to them to row as hard as they could and they were screaming back

“The Captain, Sir, the Captain’s fallen.”

“Put your backs into it,” O’Brien cried, “Or you will all be dead men yourselves.”

Disciplined to obey orders the men bent to their oars, rapidly distancing themselves from the two bodies that floated in the waves of the emerald green pure waters of Legrand’s island.

a32;

Chapter 39

Adam Cartwright opened his eyes to see the hazy outline of a face looking down at him. He could smell cigar smoke, it was strong and unpleasantly close. Pain shivered through him along with waves of cold sweat. He clenched his teeth and closed his eyes again in the hope that somehow he would be able to shut himself away from the moments that were to follow.

“Captain Cartwright?”

A caressingly warm voice seemed to whisper in his ear and once again he opened his eyes, narrowed them in an attempt to get everything into focus, everything and everyone. A big man, fat, with greasy sallow skin was looking down at him with a cigar clamped between yellowing teeth. There were beads of perspiration dewing his brow and glinting through his beard and oiled hair.

“Well, Captain Cartwright. Welcome back to the living.”

Adam closed his eyes again, and turned his head away. He felt incredibly weak and still the pain constantly ebbed and flowed through his body. A hand shook his shoulder, not roughly, but enough to make him groan aloud.

“Leave him, Legrand. Can’t you see he’s in pain.”

Another man’s voice that came from some distance away but that seemed familiar. Adam opened his eyes again and turned his head in that direction, peering through a smog created by the cigar smoke as much as the haze visually due to the injury he had sustained.

“Ah, he recognises your voice, Governor.” Legrand said and stepped back a few paces. “Well, perhaps you should come here and speak to him. Tell him that he’s been a very naughty boy and that if he isn’t a little co-operative now it is possible he will never see his homeland again.”

“Legrand -” a note of protestation, perhaps desperation could be heard in the voice, in that one word.

“Remember, Governor, you carry a title now, but it means nothing without my being right behind you all the time. Now then, come here and speak to him.”

Adam’s vision was clearing now and he saw the big man step back to be replaced by the man he had met the previous day. He waited for the man to speak,

“Captain Cartwright, we need to know where is your ship? It is important that we find it and if you know -”

“Get away,” Legrand cried impatiently, “What are you doing? You speak to him as though you are a beggar?”

The real Governor of the island now stepped in front of Adam , and snapped fat fingers at some out of Adam’s view. Immediately hands came from behind Adam and raised him up from the settee upon which he had been placed. The movement was rough, and created a stabbing pain that made him gasp, but he bit down on his bottom lip to stop himself crying out. He inhaled a shuddering gasp of air, and with some effort straightened his back, shrugging off the support of whoever had been behind him.

“What do you want, Legrand?”

“Your thanks for one.” the fat man replied, and he puffed on his cigar again, and looked coldly at Adam through the swirl of smoke, “We saved your life. You could have drowned with your friend in the waters and no one would have noticed or cared. We bring you here and lavish care upon you…” he waved his hands in the air as though in a gesture of one who could not understand such a lack of gratitude.

“Well, thank you for saving my life.” Adam replied quietly “So? Why did you?”

“You are not here to ask Me questions. I am the one who has questions to ask. You come here and invade my home, steal my guest’s carriage, threaten my servants … how dare you, sir.”

“How dare you take prisoner American seamen. How dare you make a mockery of my request to have them released.”

“Your request? Your demand? Do you think because you are American you can come here to make demands on me? I care not for Americans who think so much of themselves that they come to our islands and demand from us.”

“I made no demands from you until you took my men. My ship removed from your seas a scavenger, a thief, who was terrorising your people. Your people deserved more than what you have been giving them. MY people should have been awarded some thanks instead of being taken prisoner by YOU!”

“There -” Legrand shrugged and waved his hand and the cigar in a vague circle above his head, “There is his lies. He makes accusations against us, Governor. Like all Americans he twists the truth.”

“I gave you the bullion from Salvadore’s ship. I gave you his men. Where is the falsehood in that?” Adam asked, leaning a little forward now as the pain was beginning to nibble through his nerve ends and make him feel weaker than ever.

“There are other things that were in Salvadore’s ship. You didn’t give me everything.”

Adam smiled slowly and leaned back against some cushions, temporarily at least they provided him with some support,

“And why do you want my ship?” he asked softly.

“Because it suits me to have it. When I want something, I reach out and I take it. That is sufficient for you to know. Where is it?” Legrand lowered his head in order to look more closely at his captive.

“I don’t know.” Adam attempted to shrug, he managed a movement of his shoulders, a vague parody of a shrug.

“You think maybe I am a fool?” Legrand hissed and he stepped back, his nostrils flared and his fat lips quivering.

Befor e Adam could comprehend what was about to happen the mans hand struck him across the face, he felt the sting of something cutting the skin of his lips and there was blood suddenly in his mouth,

“I still don’t know.” Adam replied.

Legrand’s hand was about to fall again when the other man stepped in and seized it, gave the fat man a long look of reprobation before he turned to Adam,

“Captain, I am sorry about this, but we really do need to know where your ship is. You have no idea how important it is.”

“No, perhaps not, but even so I can’t tell you where my ship is, nor should you expect me to tell you.”

“You are being very foolish -” Legrand said coldly.

“Then tell me for what reason you need it.” Adam replied, and placed a hand to the area of his body that hurt the most. He was surprised to feel the warm blood on his fingers as a result. For a moment he tried to remember what had happened, and hazily recalled wading through the water towards the boat, “What time is it?” he asked, his voice very low and the question oddly compelling.

“It is three o’clock.” the Governor said, “We brought you here from the beach. You were nearly dead from drowning, and the wound in your shoulder was bleeding badly. Legrand has a doctor who cares for his workers here, so he has come to see if you are well enough to help us with our enquiries.”

Adam looked from one to the other of them and then shook his head,

“I don’t know where the ship is now,” he sighed and his head rolled back, his eyes closed and the colour slowly drained from his face.

“Get that fool doctor back in here.” Legrand shouted, striding to his desk and pulling on a bell rope.

“He could be dying,” the Governor said, “Why can’t you accept the fact that he’s telling you the truth?”

“Because he’s lying. That’s what they do – the Americans, they lie all the time.” and he pulled at the bell rope again.

“I don’t think he is lying,” the other man protested, “I think he’s telling you the truth. He wanted to know the time, didn’t he?”

“What has that to do with it?”

“Perhaps he knew where it was when he left here, but now, at 3 o’clock he doesn’t know. That means …”

“Ah – that means that he knows they would sail without him?” Legrand paused in throught and then shook his head, “You think I am stupid? You think they would go without their Captain?”

At this point the door opened and several men burst into the room. One man, soberly dressed and easily identified as a doctor, went to attend to Adam while the other two men approached the desk.

“Well? What is the problem? Have you found the ship?”

“Only the Esperanza, and she is in flames.” came the reply, delivered in such a timorous manner that Legrand wondered what other news there could be, “There was no other ship. Nothing.”

“There has to be -” Legrand shouted and thumped his clenched fist upon the desk.

The two men glanced at one another, shook their heads and retreated quickly as a tirade of abuse was hurled at them as they closed the door.

“We must find another way,” the Governor murmured, sidling to Legrand’s side and observing the doctor with his patient, “If there is no ship -” he made a gesture of hopelessness.

“He knows where the ship is,” Legrand replied and strode over to where Adam was regaining consciousness after the doctor’s ministrations.

“Tell me, Captain, whereabouts is the ship now? Where were you expecting it to be at this time today?” he leaned down close, looking deep into the dark eyes of the younger man.

“Juan Cuevier” Adam whispered and he sighed deeply, “I gave O’Brien instructions to take the ship to where Juan Cuevier is …”

The two men straightened their backs and looked at one another. The Governor went pale, and his shoulders went slack, while Legrand just stared in disbelief at Adam. He promptly dismissed the doctor who scurried out of the room and disappeared to the safety of his home. Legrand approached Adam again,

“You know about Juan Cuevier?” he asked bitterly.

“In Salvadore’s log. He kept a journal. It was all there … what you planned to do, and how you were going to do it. But – had to get my men back first -” Adam tentatively touched his wound, the doctor had padded it well and it felt much easiser, he looked up at Legrand, “I don’t know why you have this deep hatred for all things American, Legrand, but I can promise you this … you won’t get to use an American ship to do what you intended, and you won’t achieve what you and Salvadore had planned. It’s over for you, Legrand, all the years you’ve stolen from these people, and enslaved them, terrified them. It’s over.” he turned to the Governor who had stepped back with his hand upon his heart and the other over his mouth as though to stop from crying out, “I’m sorry, Sir, but it’s over for you too.”

“My wife -” the man cried, “My wife. We can still get away from here.”

“No. I’m sorry about that – but we took your carriage.” Adam looked at the wall where a large golden clock in the shape of a sun burst ticked away the hours, “I suppose you could presume upon someone to lend you a wagon -” he suggested.

Chapter 39

Juan Cuevier was a tall thin man. His prematurely greying hair and the haggard hollows of his cheeks and sockets of his eyes indicated only too well the ravages of the hardships he had experienced in his recent times. He was seated at his desk when O’Brien was ushered into his presence and raised his head wearily to regard him,

“I was expecting a Captain Adam Cartwright,” he said drily, “Who are you?”

“Lieutenant O’Brien from the ship Avenger, sir. Our ship was destroyed by the Esperanza captained by Perez Salvadore.”

A light shone in the man’s eyes, a sudden almost fanatical gleam at the name of Salvadore, and he stood up to face O’Brien with more confidence in the news that was being brought to him,

“Well, where is Salvadore?”

“Dead. Captain Cartwright rescued us and pursued the Esperanza. She is now burning at sea.”

“And where is Captain Cartwright?”

O’Brien’s adam’s apple jerked convulsively, and he blinked rather rapidly before he said in a reverential tone of voice,

“Dead, sir.”

Cuevier bowed his head for a moment out of respect for the deceased and then sighed,

“Well, that is not good news. What else have you to tell me?”

“Captain Cartwright gave explicit orders that I was to hand these to you, sir.” and O’Brien held out to the other man an oilskin wrapped package. “It was found in Salvadore’s cabin. Captain Cartwright said to give it to you and to offer you any assistance you should require in whatever you decided to do.”

“Very well.” Cuevier took the package and then looked at O’Brien, “I am sorry about your Captain, but at times like these there are always casualties. Please, if you would wait in my ante-chamber I shall get someone to bring you some refreshment while I read through these documents.”

O’Brien made a polite bow and left the room hearing as he passed through the door Cuevier giving instructions to someone to attend to the Officer. He walked to a window and looked out at the views before him, but he could see none of its beauty, all he could see was the scene as he left two men to die. If only Cartwright had not made him promise that no matter what happened … even should he die … O’Brien shook his head, seamen get used to death, the departure of comrades, but sometimes there are those that one meet who become more than just a comrade, a bonding of heart and soul that creates a closeness. O’Brien sunk his head upon his breast, and sighed.

He was disturbed by the sound of footsteps and looked up to see a young woman holding a silver tray upon which was something to drink and eat. She smiled and placed the tray upon a table and then left him alone, to his misery and his memories of a gallant man.

He had been alone for fifteen minutes when he became aware of a buzz of activity all around him. Doors were slamming and men were hurrying back and forth. Men in uniforms strode to Cuevier’s office, full of self importance and the air of having something to do at last. O’Brien rose to his feet and was about to ask what was happening when a servant approached him and requested that he joined the others in the Excellency’s study.

There was a nervous air about the thin man now. The haggard face was rouged with the colour of excitement and passion. He stood tall and with his shoulders back, and his grey streaked beard seemed to bristle with energy while his eyes no longer had the dull weary look O’Brien had seen earlier, but were gleaming with a joy associated with men of action about to engage in warfare.

“Mr O’Brien, let me introduce you to my war cabinet…” he cried, gesturing to the six men standing with O’Brien in the room, “the papers you sent me have given me all I needed to know of Legrand’s plans and methods. Gentlemen -” he turned to address them, seeming to have forgotten about the introductions, “It would appear that Legrand intended to capture an American vessel, and to have Salvadore use it as a means of opening a battle upon us. We would have assumed the Americans had taken leave of their senses and instead of wanting to open negotiations for better trading between our people and assisting us in removing the picaroons and slavers from these islands, were declaring war upon us.
“Had we retaliated there would have been information sent to the Americans that we had fired upon one of their ships while they were in pursuit of their duty and hoping to negotiate a trade treaty with us. In short – we would have been annihilated.” he shrugged, “What could we have done against the Americans. A futile few moments of mindless slaughter.”

“What about the Governor, Excellency? And Legrand?” asked a man who seemed weighed down by the amount of medals on his chest.

“Well, we know that Governor Emmanuel is just a puppet of Legrands, do we not? So we are not surprised that that he is in agreement and endorses these proceedings, even though it could have resulted in the needless death of many of his own people. Now, we no longer have to conduct our warfare against Legrand in the dark. Our fight can now be in the open and at last we can remove Legrand and Emmanuel and give our people what they deserve. Peace and prosperity.”

There was a murmur of assent at this proclamation. O’Brien felt a little out of his depth, as though he had stepped into the middle of something, then he realised that he had actually stepped into the ending of something far greater than first envisaged. He cleared his throat

“Sir, is there anything you would like us to do?”

“No, young man.” Cuevier smiled and approached O’Brien with a gentle look on his face, “No, for diplomatic reasons it would be better if you kept your men and your ship in the harbour, and peacefully remain there. This is a matter for my own people to settle for themselves. Should we fail -” he paused and heaved in a deep breath, “but we shall not fail. Come. We have things to do.”

O’Brien stepped back and watched as a small cage with a pigeon in it was brought to Cuevier, and placed upon the desk. He took out the bird and placed a small cylinder upon its foot and opening the window cast it out to the wind. Everyone in the room watched as it took flight, O’Brien among them.

“We have our people within Legrands compound and working as his servants. They are just waiting for a signal to act. That -” he gestured to the window “contains the signal. By the time our forces reach Legrand our people there will have done all that is necessary. Soon,” he paused and looked at his officers, “soon we shall be releasing the doves of peace. Now, gentlemen, let us make our plans. Mr O’Brien, may I bid you good day, and we shall meet again, soon.”

Chapter 40

Adam Cartwright was finding it more difficult to keep his eyes open with every passing moment. The tension between Emmanuel and Legrand was so strong that the air seemed to pulsate around them. He was now unable to comprehend what they were saying as they were speaking in their native tongue but the anger, the hatred, was like vitriol spilling from their mouths.

He leaned against the cushions and wondered why he felt so very weary and weak. He had been the recipient of so many bullets in the past but he could not recall feeling so tired. He must have lost so much blood. He closed his eyes. It seemed as though some whirling darkness was just waiting to suck him down again, and he remembered the sensation of falling face down into the sea and how the water had filled his nostrils and throat. He recalled the almost pleasant sensation of drifting into death, once he had stopped fighting it.

There was a bang. His mind registered it as a gun shot but his eyelids were too tightly shut now. He just wanted to drift away, it was so pleasant just drifting and having nothing to worry about. He could think about Pa …

“Wake up, fool.” a harsh voice bellowed in his ear and a hand was shaking his arm and causing the pain to sear through him, across his chest and making him gasp for breath.

He forced open his eyes and saw Legrand staring down at him. The fat oily face was contorted with rage, with hate, and the eyes were now bloodshot and starting out of their sockets as though about to fall out. Adam blinked and shook his head, he raised an arm with great difficulty. Everything in his body was sluggish, his brain seemed to be malfunctioning, he wondered if he were drunk and then dismissed the idea as he had been given nothing to drink.

He was being hauled up onto his feet by Legrand and another man, but not the Governor. He saw a glimpse of a man’s body stretched out upon the carpeted floor and his brain told him Governor Emmanuel had obviously lost the argument.

“Leave me alone,” he said, and he could hear that his voice was slurred, and the attempt of push the two men away was clumsy, ineffectual.

“Shut you mouth, you pig of an American. Or I shut it for you.” Legrand hissed.
The door closed with what seemed to Adam a very loud bang. He wondered if everyone in the building had heard it. He pushed once more against the hands that supported him,

“Leave me alone, let me die here.” he muttered.

“You die when I say. Now shut up and move.” Legrand gave him another brutal push that sent more pain through his body, but this helped to clear away some of the fog that was numbing his reflexes so that he was more able to walk without stumbling.

A door opened and they were outside the building. Adam was not sure where they actually were but Legrand and the other man continued to haul him forwards, so that he was seeing things now in a blur of colour. The drift of fresh air helped clear his head even more now, and he found himself able to think more clearly. He mentally back tracked the things that had been said by Legrand and Emmanuel as well as by himself, and recalled that the panic had set in when he had mentioned Juan Cuevier.

“What do you think Cuevier intends to do now, Legrand?” he asked in a near normal voice and the fat man paused and turned to him with a face that was ugly with hate.

“If Cuevier knows what I had intended to do, if he has documents to prove it, then there is nothing he would not attempt to do now.” he released Adam’s arm to turn and look into the Captain’s face, “What does Cuevier know?”

“Oh, whatever and everything that Salvadore had written down in his journals. You should never trust a thief. But then, you would know all about that, being one of the biggest thieves in the south seas. Salvadore knew he couldn’t trust you, Legrand, so he wrote everything down so that in the event of things going wrong he could take his papers to Cuevier or perhaps some foreign power who would deal with you.”

“You speak very bravely, Captain. We’ll see how brave you are when we leave here and have you on board my ship.”

The two men hurried through the luxuriant undergrowth dragging Adam along with them. Everywhere there seemed a most unnatural silence. Adam stumbled along with them, the pain acting like a stimulant to his brain so that although his legs were weak from loss of blood and shock, his mental faculties were sharp and everything he was seeing and hearing seemed extraordinarily sharp and acute.

Legrand stopped now and gave a sharp whistle. Men emerged from the shrubs and uncovered a launch into which Adam was pushed. As the boat was pushed into the sea with Legrand seated in the thwarts facing him, there came the sound of gun shots. All the men in the boat turned their heads back in the direction of Legrand’s house and plantation. There were other sounds now. The unpleasant sounds of many people baying for blood.

“Seems you got out just in time.” Adam commended Legrand, “You obviously know Cuevier very well to have realised he would have organised something like this so soon after receiving Salvadore’s papers.”

“I didn’t think he would be able to act so quickly as this -” Legrand scowled, and drew a pistol from the pocket of his coat. This he held in one hand, while he caressed it fondly with the other.

“You do know how to use it, don’t you? Oh, of course you do, I presume it was you who prematurely deposed of the Governor.” Adam goaded.

“Shut your mouth.” Legrand hissed, “Or you will find out for yourself how well I can use this.”

The boat was in the water now and the men were bending their backs to row. Adam looked about him, and saw some miles out a brig dancing in the waves. It was not very big but built well enough to have some speed on her. He put a hand to his wound which was beginning to bleed again.

“Why did you want to involve America in this war with Cuevier?” he asked quietly, “Was it just because you hated Americans so much?”

“Cuevier is my half brother.” Legrand said suddenly, some moments after Adam had spoken, as though he had needed time to think about his reply, “He was the son of an American woman. I was the son of a slave girl. He had everything. I had nothing.”

Adam shrugged, as though the personal life of the man meant nothing to him. He stared out at the brig wondering how he could manage to take her over and sail her to some pleasant bay and do some fishing. He shook his head, and wondered if he were becoming delirious.

“Sir, sir …” an excited cry from one of the men and a pointed finger and they turned to observe plumes of smoke rising from where the house would have stood.

“So soon? So quickly?” Legrand groaned.

“I should imagine Cuevier had some people working for him in your compound. It has been done before, if I recall rightly. Yes, a sort of Horse of Troy situation really,” he gave a laugh, mirthless though it was, “Nothing new under the sun as the good book says”

“Will you shut up!” Legrand hissed, “Or I throw you over board for the barrcuda to eat for lunch.”

“My apologies,” Adam waved a frivolous hand and sighed, “I think the drugs that doctor gave me has made me a little light headed. Please go ahead with your story -” he forced his face to look dutifully interested.

“What story? My life? Pah, what is the point. Thankfully I have enough gold hidden away to fund a return to the island, and enough men loyal to me.” Legrand turned to look at the ship, and nodded, they were making good head way, “We shall soon be on board my ship.”

“Why do you hate Americans so much?” Adam thought to ask, “Was it because of your stepmother?”

“She was not my stepmother. Only the mother of Cuevier. Why do I hate Americans? Because they have the power to support men like my half brother, and to help him.”

“You’re a wealthy man, you could benefit your people. You don’t need America’s help.”

“That is what I think too, but not Cuevier. He wants to make trade deals with your country, and then he will be dependent upon them. Then they will suck all our wealth from us, like most wealthy countries do. I have been to America. I have seen how they are in their big cities. But now you have had your own war, and you are weak. Now would have been a good time to have involved you in a war here and to have weakened you further.”

Adam said nothing to that, but watched Legrand play with the gun. He wondered why the fat man had not shot him down in the state room along with the Governor. Perhaps to use him as a bargaining ploy? He wondered how long it would be before Legrand realised that he was of little importance in the grand scheme of things, and was therefore, expendable. How long would he have to live then?

There was more commotion now from the island from which they were retreating. Guns were being fired upon them although they were already out of reach and the shooting was a waste of time and ammunition.

“Fools.” Legrand hissed, “Fools all of them.” he stood up in the bow of the boat and shook his fists at the mass of people who were assembling on the beach, some of them hauling out boats of their own in order to get pursuit of them, “Fools all of you. You’ll find out to your cost that it doesn’t pay to fight me. You’ll all pay. You’ll all pay the cost, believe me.”

“Sit down, man,” Adam ordered and tugged at Legrand’s pants, “You’ll have the boat over if you continue prancing about like an ass.”

Legrand pulled away, affronted by the touch of his enemy’s hand upon his person. He pulled away and at the same time swung the pistol towards Adam. He fired and the recoil knocked him off balance. The boat swayed to left and right, and then keeled over sending one and all into the water.

Chapter 41

Adam did not have time to think or wonder where the bullet had gone as the boat flipped over and he hit the water which opened up to receive him and swallow him down. The first thing a seaman does if it appears the ship is going down it to remove his boots and heavy clothing, but with this unexpected event Adam found it hard to do as he continued to sink downwards.

By using his feet he succeeded in kicking off his footwear and then struggled to reach the surface. The wound he had previously sustained certainly hampered everything he knew he had to do now, although the buoyancy of the water helped as he propelled himself upwards with his one arm.

Upon reaching the surface he wiped water from his eyes and looked around him. He could hear the shouts of the men around him and this reminded him that what had appeared so long while he was sinking was in fact only a trifling few moments. Some men were struggling to swim towards the overturned boat and an ominous red stain was spreading around one unfortunate who had received the bullet so carelessly fired by Legrand.

Adam looked around him carefully. Legrand had to be somewhere among the melee of arms and legs that were splashing about him. He trod water for some moments looking around for some sight of the fat man but there was no sight of him anywhere. He now gave attention to doing something positive about the situation and turned towards the boat which the men had now reached and were attempting to turn right side up.

He swam to them and his hand had just touched the wooden framework when a voice screamed the one word no seaman wishes to hear … “Shark”
The smell of blood. The red stain that was slowly drifting through the water, a calling card to any predator of the sea.

The men were yelling now, and swimming frantically towards the boat, all having the same intention in getting her the right way up so they could board her and not have vulnerable legs dangling for a shark’s hors d’ouvre. Adam felt the same frisson of fear trickle through him, after all, he was a wounded man and the flow of blood from his wound was an open invitation for a shark to come dine upon him. He pushed upon the boat along with the other men and with a feeling of relief mingled with delight it flipped over.

Legrand’s fat face was the first thing they saw but when they realised that the dark eyes staring now up at the sky were sightless, and the lips were blue, they did what their own base initial instincts bid them do in the circumstances and pulled him out of the way so that the boat turned without hindrance.

Adam reached out a hand to grab at him as he drifted past before realising that it was going to be difficult enough to get into the boat with one hand. With mixed feelings he left Legrand to continue being carried by the waves while he struggled to get into the boat with the other men. Hands reached out for help, and bodies were subsequently hauled over the side. Now the sixteen men sat mutely silent and waited.

From the ship that had been waiting for them to board there seemed to be a great deal of noise and excitement. Hands pointing and voices yelling. All indicating what they knew to be obvious. A pack of sharks, dark fins cutting through the water, all swimming swiftly towards them.

There was a gabble of voices now as the men in the boat began to panic. Adam watched with a fascinated horror as the sharks came closer and closer.

“Quiet. Quiet now.” he shouted and raised his hand in a gesture commanding quiet.

All they could do was sit and wait. Of oars, there were only six remaining and it they were used then the motion and sound would reverberate through the waters and indicate their presence. He kept his hand raised and looked at them as though willing each one of them to be calm. His own heart was racing. He had seen sharks before and had seen them cut a swathe through twenty men who had been cast into the sea. Only two had survived unscathed and neither of them could explain how they came through unscathed.

At the same time he had seen sharks swim pass as though unaware of their presence, and the older more experienced seamen there had said they were obviously not hungry. Well, if that were the case now, Adam prayed, perhaps there was hope for them yet.

There were now only two dead men in the water, Legrand and the man he had so sadly shot. With fascinated dread and horror the men in the boat watched as the sharks came towards them. Four of them nudged the dead men out of the way and headed onwards towards the boat. One opened its jagged jaws and pulled the shot man down into the waters and immediately three others seized upon it resulting in a feeding frenzy that attracted the previous four who lazily turned back as though they also wished to take the opportunity of the meal.

The resulting frenzy in the bloodstained waters rocked the boat from side to side, so that all there had to cling to the thwarts and oarlocks in order to maintain their seats. Adam was more aware than ever of the pain in his shoulder but as much as he wanted to tear his eyes away from the spectacle that was taking place before his eyes he found impossible to avoid. He clung with his one good hand to the boat as though his life depended upon it and prayed heartily that by God’s loving kindness the sharks, the nightmare, would soon pass.

Legrand’s body, buoyed up by so much fat, was turning slowly and being tossed by the waves caused by the sharks threshing of the waters. Now the men watched as the body plunged down beneath the waters and a bloodied stain drifted upwards immediately followed by Legrand who bobbed up much like a cork cast upon the sea. Down he went again and there was no disguising the fact now that the sharks had moved on to the next entrée.
Adam turned away. The sight sickened him and he felt his head reeling. He had in his lifetime seen many terrible things take place before his eyes, sights that even now could return in his dreams to haunt him. But this was something so perverse to human nature.

The boat rocked. Several men cried aloud in panic and from the ship to which they had been drifting ever closer came frantic cries to accompany those of the men in the boat. The boat bucked, was turned around and around, flipped from left to right. Adam saw the bloodied jaws of a shark yawn wide open just a foot away from him and he closed his eyes. This then was how it was all to end and all so very far from home.

After a minute had ticked by he opened his eyes. Blood stained the waters and something that had once been part of Legrand floated upon its surface. The sharks were gone. Gone into the depths of the ocean and the boat was steady, rocking gently too and fro as though their passing by had been nothing at all.

Now there were shouts of delight and the native seamen showed their relief in an exuberance that nearly threatened to overturn the boat once again. Adam could only drop his head into his hand and thank God for their deliverance. The only victims of the sharks had been those dead already, and therefore, beyond pain. The horror was over.

Chapter 41

Hands reached down to grip the hands of those from the boat who had succeeded in clambering up the rope ladder overhanging the ships side. Adam, who was well used to mounting up the rigging of the tall ships upon which he had served, succeeded in reaching the top and was grateful for the hands that hauled him onto the deck.

Barefoot, his wound bleeding profusely and soaking wet, he felt far from the Officer that had left his own ship earlier that day. Now that all the men from the boat were on deck they looked at him and from their appearances it was obvious that they were now wondering who he was and where exactly he fitted into the scheme of things.

“Who is the Captain of this ship?” he asked, his deep voice loud enough to sound authorities but soft enough not to be arrogant and overbearing among a native people who were naturally submissive but proud.

“I am.” came the answer.

A tall young man, obviously well bred, walked towards him. He was, surprisingly, wearing an official looking uniform in white, with gold braiding so much in evidence that with the sun shining it hurt the eyes to look upon him for too long.

“I am Captain Adam Cartwright from the American ship Redoubt. I need to talk with you in private.”

“You are the Captain of the American ship? Ah, I saw her in the harbour not an hour ago. A beautiful vessel, Captain.” he extended his hand “I am Captain Enrico Fernandez.”

Adam nodded, shook the proffered hand and in silence followed the younger man into his private quarters. It was sparsely furnished. Compared to the cabin of Salvadore this officer was practically a pauper. Adam found a chair and sunk into it gratefully. He looked at Fernandez and was about to speak when the Enrico put a hand up to silence him,

“I am no fool, Captain. I can see what is going on over there -” he jerked his head in the direction of what had been Legrand’s plantation, “ and I saw what happened to Legrand. It has been a long time in coming, but now, at last, we can say that we are at last free from the parasite that has been sucking the blood out of his people for far too long.”

“Are you on the side of Cuevier then?” Adam asked quietly and the Captain smiled as he poured out a glass of port for his guest which he handed to him before speaking,

“Captain Cartwright, do you know how many Governors and Presidents we have had over the pass three years? Thankfully with Legrand out of the way and manipulating things matters can settle down and we may have some decent governship -” he frowned and shook his head “the word escapes me but it may be possible that Cuevier who is a decent man, as well as brave, will restore some harmony and stability to our country.” again he paused and shook his head in dismay, “My apologies, Captain, I am neglecting my duties as your host. I see you are wounded -” and immediately he rang a bell which was promptly answered when his steward stepped into the room, “Get my doctor here, immediately.”

Adam raised a dark eyebrow and smiled slowly. He must look a strange sight in his dirty bloodstained and wet clothing, no shoes, and unkempt beard and hair. He was about to speak when the room began to spin and Enrico appeared to recede into a tiny pinpoint of white surrounded by darkness until even that light was snuffed out when he was totally engulfed by the dark.

Chapter 42

O’Brien watched as the brig sailed into the harbour. He was leaning against the side of the Redoubt and thinking over the events of the past few days when he had first noticed the white sails approaching gracefully towards him and he thought what a lovely appearance she had as she dipped in and out of the clear blue waters. He was considering whether or not to hail her when he realised she was sending up a signal for the Redoubt and putting his glass to his eye he read it carefully.

“Mr Brown, come here and read this-” he exclaimed, “Tell me if it says what I think it’s saying?”

Jacob Brown left his place at the hammocks and took the telescope from the Officer. After scanning the signals he gave a gasp of delight and a whoop,

“If you read that the Captain was alive, Sir -”

“I did, Brown.” O’Brien’s eyes were dancing with relief and excitement, “I did.”

“My word, Sir, there’s a rumour going around the fleet that Captain Cartwright has more lives than a cat, and now, for sure, I believe it.”

“What else did you read?”

“We’re to take a boat over with his uniform.”

“Good, that’s what I read too. Get the men to organise the boat and -” he paused and bowed his head, “and ask Mr Fletcher if he could join me on deck.”

Jacob nodded, touched his brow with his forefinger, and quickly hurried to comply with O’Brien’s requests. It was not long before Fletcher was standing beside O’Brien.

“Mr Fletcher, Captain Cartwright is safe and well on the brig. He would like his uniform sent over. I do apologise if I exceeded in my duty, I forgot for a moment that I was not of this ship’s company and overstepped my ranking.”

“We’re of equal ranking, O’Brien.” Mr Fletcher said quietly, “and Captain Cartwright has entrusted you with duties, has he not? Apart from which, you don’t happen to belong to any other ship’s company, do you?” he smiled and then turned to face the brig, “Pretty little thing, isn’t she? I should imagine she has a nice turn of speed too. I wonder where the Captain came across her?”

“They say on the fleet he has more lives than a cat.” O’Brien murmured, echoing Brown’s words earlier and Fletcher laughed,

“That’s a fair summary of our Captain.” Fletcher agreed and then turned his attention to the ordering the steward to prepare the Captains cabin for his return, and to bring his uniform on deck to be sent to the brig.

The steward and Fletcher, as First Officer of the Redoubt, left the ship not long after and were soon being shown into Enrico’s cabin. The steward went to the sleeping area of the cabin where Adam had been able to recover, wash and clean himself sufficiently well after the doctor’s ministrations. Even so the steward showed some alarm at the state the Captain was in, and in silence help him into his uniform.

It was a far more presentable personage who stepped out into Enrico’s cabin. Smart in his uniform and his injured arm in a sling, Adam looked at the two officers and smiled,

“Well, Captain, I think it is time we took our departure. May I wish you and your country every success.” he said in his dark voice, and he extended is good hand to have it shaken by the other Officer.

“I am sorry to see you leave, Captain Cartwright. Perhaps we shall meet again?”

“Perhaps.” Adam replied, and then took a deep breath, “Cuevier will be in need of good officers like yourself to bring stability to your country, you realise that, don’t you?”

“My country -” Enrico shook his head, “I do not think she knows what the word stability means, for when she gets it she tosses it aside like an overloaded donkey.”

“Then perhaps it is men like you and Cuevier who could show her how best to use it to her advantage. Thank you for your help, Captain.”

Enrico saluted the injured man, and then followed him on deck from where he watched as the three Americans descended the ladder to the launch below. The spontaneous cheers of the seamen when they saw their Captain descend the rope made Adam’s cheeks redden, and the Officer above envy him.

O’Brien had assembled the remainder of the crew to greet the Captain as he was piped on board the vessel. Once again there were cheers which Adam accepted with a smile and an uplifted hand of thanks. He turned to O’Brien and smiled,

“Everything went well then?” he asked.

“Yes. But he asked us not to interfere.” O’Brien replied, with a lift of the eyebrows.

“In that case we shall not. Mr Fletcher, get the men ready to leave harbour.”

“Where are we headed, sir?” Fletcher asked as he followed Adam to his cabin.

Adam paused for a moment and then smiled,

“38.90505 N, 77.01616 W” came the reply as he pushed open the door of his cabin.

“Very well, sir.” Fletcher nodded and turned, paused and then looked back at his Captain who was carefully lowering himself in to his chair at his desk. He smiled and nodded again, before leaving the cabin, and closing the door quietly behind him.

Left now on his own Adam bowed his head and rested it upon his hand. Overhead he could hear the sound of the seamen’s feet, and through the door the muted sounds of the Officers calling out their instructions. He was aware of an intense weariness that ate into his bones now. Slowly he unbuttoned his jacket and edged himself out of it, before loosening his cravat. Then he leaned back and closed his eyes as he listened to the sound of the sails being unfurled, the soft splash of water as the anchor was being drawn up. He recognised Brown’s voice repeating the co-ordinates given him by Fletcher and the shout of a laugh as he realised where they were heading.

Adam sighed a long long weary exhalation of breath. If anyone had asked him what it was he would like to be doing right now he would tell them he would want to be sitting on the banks of Lake Tahoe, with Hoss on one side and Joe on the other. The sun would be shining down on them, and Hoss would be barefooted with a string tied to his big toe at one end and the other end floating in the lake for some fish to nibble upon. Joe would be chatting about his latest love, pulling daisies up, scattering grass. It would be perfect. Just perfect.

Chapter 43

The package came along with the mail. Hoss felt a quickening of the heart when he recognised Adam’s handwriting and gave the little package a hearty shake. It was addressed to his Pa and Hoss wondered whether or not he would be able to persuade Ben to open it up before they got home. He placed everything in the saddle bag and slung that over his shoulder, thanked Sam Gubbins politely and headed for the door,

“Hey, Hoss,” Sam paused in the act of licking the nib of his pencil, “Is it right what I hear tell about Joe?”

“About Joe? What about him?” Hoss asked, narrowing his eyes and giving Sam a sharp look.

“About how he’s bent on leaving the Ponderosa?”

“Who told you that?” Hoss demanded, thrusting out his jaw challengingly and squaring his shoulders as though preparing for a fight.

“I can’t recall just now. Figure it must be right though as I heard him talking about it myself.”

“Then if’n you knew it was right why stop me and ask.” Hoss said and without waiting for any further comment he opened the door and stepped out onto the street, making sure he slammed the door shut behind him because Sam Gubbins hated it when folk did that.
He stopped now and looked up and down the street. How many, he wondered, knew about Joe’s wanting to leave home. Oh sure, it had not been mentioned at home for some time now, but the boy had that restless itch all over him. There wasn’t going to be anything Hoss could say or do that would stop him now. As far as Joe was concerned he was just biding his time, and now that the townsfolk knew then there was no real time left before he did go. Hoss pushed his hat to the back of his head and scratched his scalp, and then wondered if there was any possible thing he could do to stop Joe’s departure.

He had stewed on it for so long now that it was like revisiting a long worn out track in his brain. So many different plans and ideas that he had worked through and planned out only to dismiss out of hand. Always because Joe would present himself before him as large as life and happy. In fact, Hoss had to admit, now he had got Pa and himself knowing about his departure Joe had seemed happier than for a long time.

At the Bucket of Blood saloon Candy glanced up as the batwings opened and Hoss strode in. Candy could see instantly that there was something upsetting the big man, the usual genial smile was replaced by that faraway look of dismay and disbelief that Candy had seen too often lately. He ordered his friend a glass of beer and waited for Hoss to join him at the counter,

“Anything wrong, Hoss?”

“No,” Hoss picked up the glass of beer and sipped it. “Should there be?”

“No, if you say so, Hoss.” Candy smiled, “Haven’t seen Joe or your Pa anywhere have you?”

“Not yet.” Hoss replied glumly and he looked in the mirror behind the counter with his blue eyes and a faraway look on his face.

Not so long ago when he looked in the mirror he would see a tall man in black standing beside him, or lounging in one of the chairs by the table. There would the tousled headed youth on the other side, with a wide grin and twinkling eyes, bubbling with life and fun. Yeah, Hoss bowed his head, life and fun. They went hand in hand where Joe was concerned. Now it seemed the only fun he had in life was thinking of ways to get away from everything they had here. It was hard for Hoss to understand and he glanced up at the mirror again and saw the concerned features of his friend looking at his reflection in the mirrror.

“I’m just thinking,” he said quickly.

“Yeah, sure, I can see.” Candy replied and ordered another glass for them both.

“Fact is, I was thinking how it seemed not so long ago when it would be me and Adam with Joe, standing right here, looking in that mirror and talking over what to do next. Won’t be long before there’ll just be me …”

“And me …” Candy smiled and slapped Hoss warmly on the back.

“Yeah, I guess so, until you decided it’s time to move on.” Hoss sighed heavily.

“Look, Hoss, it happens all the time, you know. Kids grow up and they want to move on.”

“I didn’t.”

“No, not every kid does, but most do. If you let them go, they’ll more than likely come back.”

“That’s if they go into a nice safe job, kind of back East in an office somewhere, where they can’t get into no harm. There’s Adam at sea being blown about every which way, and now Joe wanting to go and explore new territories full of all manner of Indians about whom he knows nothing.”

Tom the bartender leaned across to them,

“So it’s true then, Joe is leaving the Ponderosa?”

“Yeah, p’raps, someday.” Hoss growled.

“Heard a rumour back along that he was going, but he still keeps coming in reg’lar, so I thought it must be just a rumour after all. You know how rumours get about some in a town like this.” Tom nodded his head and then heaved a sigh, “Won’t be the same without Joe here. It was bad enough when Adam left but he’d always seemed the kind to drift on. Couldn’t say the same about Joe, he always seemed steady like yourself, Hoss.”

“Yeh, sure, I know.” Hoss emptied his glass and sighed.

It wasn’t fair. Too many people in town knew and too many people wanted to let him know that they knew. Hoss had had enough. He looked at Candy,

“If’n you see my Pa and Joe, tell ‘em I’ve gone home.”

Candy nodded. Hoss picked up his saddlebags and walked from the saloon looking every bit like a man with all the troubles of the world upon his shoulders. Candy and Tom looked at one another.

“He ain’t happy about it, is he?” Tom said.

“That, my friend, is an understatement.” Candy replied and then he picked up his hat and followed his friend out of the saloon.

“No need for you to come home with me, Candy. You go and enjoy your time off work. I jest feel like I need time to myself.”

“You’ll have plenty of time to do that soon, Hoss. Why not stay put and wait for Joe and your Pa to join us?”

Hoss’ brow crinkled in concentration and then he shook his head,
“No, dadgumit, I jest feel too full of the miseries to stay put here.” and he stomped off in the direction of his horse.

The saddle bag containing the mail and the package bumped against his shoulder as he walked, his head bent low and his dark eyes clouded with sadness.

……….

Joseph Cartwright had decided not to join his father, Candy and Hoss in town. He had decided that just for a few hours he wanted to be alone. There were things to think about that concerned his future, things that he had been thinking about for so long now that he could no longer think about them clearly. He rode slowly through the tall Ponderosa pines to where his mother’s grave had been made, so many years ago now.

He didn’t come here so often now. He couldn’t even recall the last time he had visited like this, impromptu was the word that came to mind. They came as a family every year on the anniversary of her death and placed flowers at the foot of the headstone. But his coming, just on his own, had become very occasional now.

It wasn’t that he had come to talk. He was pass that stage now, and had decided that so far as conversation went, well, you don’t get a conversation with someone who’s dead. No, that’s for sure. He felt a lump of dryness in his throat and coughed to be rid of it. Just through the next clump of trees and then he would be there. The grave would look like it always did, and he would sit where he always sat and stare out to wards the lake.

It was so quiet and so peaceful. The lake just shimmered so blue and silver, no wonder she had loved it so much. Little ripples tingling over the surface of the water. He stood there for a moment and took off his hat.

The smell of the pine trees was rich and heady, the dry duff beneath his feet reminded him of time passing. He turned to face the headstone, and reached out towards it,
“Thing is, Ma, I just need to go. I keep saying I’m going and I said it weeks ago, and yet I’m still here. Was that how it was for you? You left New Orleans for a new life here. You were happy though, weren’t you, Ma? You never regretted it for a minute, did you? I can remember the way you laughed, sure, I can, Ma. Sure I can.” he paused and captured the memory of the young woman who had such a happy laugh, “Remember how you would sometimes put on that pink dress, the one that was always so like a silk bubble. Remember how you used to get Pa to dance with you and how he’d say no, he couldn’t dance and you would laugh and tell him to stop telling lies in front of the children.”

Joe sat down where he always sat, and pulled a daisy out of the ground. He twirled it round and round in his fingers for a minute, staring down at it.

“Y’know, Ma, it was so hard to tell Hoss about leaving here. He doesn’t understand. I think he did kind of understand about Adam, because Adam had gone away before and Pa had said that there was something in the blood – for the sea, I mean. Being from a long line of seamen it was in the blood. But what excuse can I give except that I just want to go.”

He placed the daisy down at the foot of the headstone and then slowly read the words engraved upon it as though he had never seen it before. Then he slumped, his elbows on his knees, his chin resting in his hands.

“I could try to explain to Hoss a million times over, but he’ll not understand. I can’t find the right words, you see. I can’t even explain to myself. It’s just a feeling. Like someone’s pulling me away from here.”

He turned to look at the headstone again, and then smoothed over the soil with his hand as though it were a blanket that needed the creases taken from it.

“I can’t explain to him what I can’t explain to myself. Ma, what can I do to make it easier for Hoss?” he slumped over again, and sighed.

“You don’t have to explain nothing,” Hoss murmured, stepping from out of the shadows, “I don’t understand why you want to go, because you’re you and well, you ain’t me.” Hoss grimaced, “But I know folks do have to go and fit their lives around things other than being just here at home. I’m sorry if’n I’ve made things harder for you, Joe. I never wanted that to happen, I know that you have to do what you feel you have a need to do. That’s how life is …”

Joe said nothing to that, but he rose to his feet and approached his brother.

“I didn’t know you were here, Hoss.”

“Guess not, otherwise you wouldn’t have been so free talking to yourself.” Hoss grinned.

“I wasn’t talking to myself.” Joe replied and cast his eyes to the gravestone.

Hoss said nothing to that after all, hadn’t he come to the grave to do exactly the same thing as Joe? He smiled and gave his little brother a big hug, one that was warmly reciprocated.

“Let’s get back home. Adam’s sent Pa a package and I’m just about dying to find out what he’s got in it.”

“Sounds interesting.” Joe smiled and picked up his hat, “Any mail for me?”

“None smelling of perfume if that’s what you mean?” came the jocular reply.

They walked away together, each one of them hiding their real feelings beneath a thin veneer of humour. It was as though, suddenly, they didn’t know what to say to one another anymore.

a32;

Chapter 44

Ben was already in the study when he heard the sound of his sons’ return. He paused a moment with his head raised to listen to the sound of their footsteps upon the boards of the porch, and then sighed contentedly. He had listened to those footsteps for many years now – the scampering of a little boys boots, the whisper of a baby’s bare feet – he smiled and returned to his ledgers.

Seated in the blue chair, so long his eldest son’s favoured seat, Candy sat, reading a book that he had picked up nearly a year earlier and at this time had succeeded in reaching chapter 9. He also paused and waited for the two brothers to enter the house as he thought back to the mood Hoss had been in at the saloon earlier that day.

“Hi, Pa. Candy.” Hoss was first into the house, and tossed down his hat and began to unbuckle his gun belt. He stepped back for Joe to come in. “I brung the mail, Pa. Adam’s sent you something. It’s in the saddle bags thar.” and he tossed the saddle bags onto the back of the settee, “Any coffee brewin?”

“On the table.” Ben said, leaving his ledgers in favour of the mail. A package from Adam? How exciting! He rubbed his hands in anticipation. “I wonder what he’s sent us?”

“You won’t know until you open it and see.” Joe chortled, and he tossed the package over to his father who caught it deftly. “What’s the post mark?”

“Washington D.C. and written not so long ago either. Are there any other letters from him?” Ben looked up to view Joe’s face and smiled in anticipation as he watched Joe sift through the mail.

“Here’s one addressed to Hoss, about 18 months old and post marked British Honduras. Ever go there, Pa?” he raised an eyebrow at his father and Ben shook his head. “One for you, Pa, but it must be about -” he squinted “shucks, it’s been just about everywhere before finally getting here. We’ve had other letters from him since this one was written. Two for me -” he waved them gleefully, “and the other letters are from whoever!” he shrugged and grinned and flung himself onto the settee.

“Any for me?” Candy asked, wondering if, just possibly, there was a letter from Ann, some news that would bring some hope to his heart but Joe shook his head and muttered a soft ‘no sorry.’

Joe read through the oldest and most battered looking letter from his brother, he smiled as some parts and looked serious in others. He ripped open the envelope to the other letter and glanced up at his father

“Ain’t’cha going to open the package, Pa?”

“Yeah, go on, Pa. Open the package.” Hoss urged, his own letter tucked securely in the top pocket of his shirt.

Ben smiled, and then pulled off the red wax seal, and began to untie the string, which only added to the younger mens impatience, but he was an old seaman and nothing was wasted by ripping and pulling things apart, his eyes twinkled at them as he pulled back the paper.

“Dear Pa, Hoss and Joe

My apologies that this letter is so brief. Here I am in Washington D.C. having just returned from the South Seas. Reports of what occurred there somehow filtered through to the Admiralty and the day after we docked I was told to go and see the President. So I went with two of my fellow Officers who had been mentioned in despatches with myself, and we met the President, Mr Andrew Johnson.

It seems that around 1861 President Lincoln ordered that medals be struck for courage and valour, and so I am enclosing here what Mr Johnson gave me. I thought you should have it, Pa.

The Redoubt has been refitted and I am to leave tomorrow. Hardly time to catch breath. My first Officer, Mr Fletcher, has been promoted to Commodore and will be serving on a new ship, named The Barracuda. He has gone from clippers to the new modern steam and steel ship. The Admiral tells me that when I return I shall receive a promotion, but that was told me with a nod and a wink, or as we would say, between him, me and the garden gate.

I think the days of the clipper ship are coming to an end. In the name of progress we give way from beauty and dignity to speed and aggression. However, I am digressing and time is fast running out.

I send you, Pa, Hoss and Joe, my very warm feelings and assurances that I miss you all very much.”

For a moment they remained in silence and then Ben slowly opened the first box and found, nestled within purple velvet, the Congressional Medal of Honour. They looked at it with slight awe and then looked at one another.

“Wonder what elder brother did to get that?” Joe whistled, barely daring to breathe.

“Thankfully we know he survived, whatever it was, most of these medals are awarded posthumously.” Ben said, slowly closing the lid of the little box.

“Kinda pretty, weren’t it?” Hoss mused, taking it from his father and opening the lid to have another peek, “Worn around the neck, huh? And look, got his name and such on the back.”

“1862 was the year they were initiated.” Candy said looking at it with respect after Hoss had handed it over to him, “The anchor shows that this is for naval duties.” he handed it back to Ben, “You must be very proud of him, Sir.”

“Yes, I am.” Ben said solemnly, “Very much so.” he looked up then and smiled, his eyes turned towards Joe and Hoss, “I’m proud of all my sons. I always have been.”

“Hey, Pa, you have to show Hop Sing -” Joe cried, and smiled broadly as Ben hurried off to Hop Sing’s domain.

The smile slipped once Ben was out of sight and Joe wandered over to the big chimney upon which he leaned as he gazed down at the fire,

“Sure makes it seem pretty small around here now, don’t it?” he observed.

Candy and Hoss looked at one another, raised their eyebrows, and sighed. Candy shrugged,

“Well, guess it depends on how you look at it, Joe. I don’t think anyone could call the Ponderosa ’small’.”

“No, I guess not.” Joe picked up the poker and began to prod the logs with it, so that sparks flew up the chimney and gathered like so many red ants upon the soot that had built up upon the rocks over the years. He watched as they slowly twinkled out of existence, “I just meant -”

“We know what you meant, Joe. You don’t have to spell it out for us – again.” Hoss said, and with a sigh he excused himself saying he wanted to read his letter from Adam in peace, even if it were out of date news.

“He doesn’t understand.” Joe muttered, watching his brother mount the stairs.

“No, he doesn’t, no more than you can understand why he wants to stay put here.” Candy smiled slowly, “Joe, you’ve talked about going for so long now, do you think it’s fair to leave your brother is suspense about what exactly you do intend to do? The whole towns talking about your leaving, you know? How do you think he feels when folk keep telling him about it?”

“I didn’t know folk knew about my plans in town.” Joe darted an anxious look towards the stairs, “I guess I should start do something instead of just mouthing off about it.” he stared down at the fire and gave the logs another prod, “I’ve never been without Pa and Adam and Hoss in my life before, I guess I’m just hanging on because I’m not sure whether or not I can do it.”

“A man can do almost anything if he sets his mind to it.” Candy replied quietly “Your brother has certainly proven that, hasn’t he?”
Joe nodded thoughtfully, he didn’t like to mention the fact that Adam was a quite different person to himself, and that his decision to leave was not done on an emotional whim which, he felt, his own desire was based upon. He turned aside from his musings and looked at Ben who had returned to the room with the box in his hand and a smile on his face,

“Pa, I hate to mention it right now, but I think I should really get down to making plans to leave.”

Ben stopped short, he stared at Joe, and then he stared at Candy, and then he looked around the room,

“Where’s Hoss?” he asked in his deep voice, deeper by a trifle now, but detectable to his son who gulped nervously

“He wanted to read Adam’s letter in his room.”

“Very well. I think you should discuss your plans when we are all together, Joseph.” and he turned to his study.

They heard the safe door open and then close. Adam’s medal was now locked away safe and sound awaiting its owner.

Chapter 45

“My dear brother, Hoss

There’s so much I want to say in this letter but for some reason I can’t quite find the right words in which to say them. I’ve read letters from Pa and Joe that kind of hint at the fact that Joe may want to leave the Ponderosa. It may be that by the time you get this letter he will have already gone from you, or, perhaps, have changed his mind and settled back down.

Being so far away and with communication so difficult and erratic, it is hard to know what is happening, or even why. Well, perhaps I can understand the why –

There is little point in my asking you how you are feeling about all this. I can recall that evening when the Reardens were at the Ponderosa after Joe had got shot. I would have given anything to have turned the clock back that day for that not to have happened, but it did, and I think it made me realise how frustrated I was with life there. I recall spouting off some Thoreau, and you patiently listened and then expressed how you felt about the Ponderosa, about home. You spoke pure poetry then, Hoss, well, I think your heart was speaking for you.

Joe’s heart doesn’t speak that way, Hoss. It never will. That is why, if he is intent on leaving, you have to step back and let him go. When I come back, Hoss, I fully expect to find him at home too. He has French blood in him, he’s a romantic, he’s a whole mass of contradictions and he’s a young man. It’s time for him to go out and test his mettle, without us.

Be patient with him, Hoss. Be gentle on yourself too, don’t blame yourself or think that perhaps you did something wrong because he feels that way – it has little to do with you in one respect. What it does have to do with you is that all you have done for him, and been for him, is partly what will bring him home again.

Take care of Pa for me, Hoss. Write back just as soon as you can. I am off to the south seas now and I don’t know when I shall be back. Hopefully your letter will reach me soon …

Your brother always
Adam”

Hoss sighed and re-read the letter. It had been written so long ago now, and yet was so pertinent for now. He slipped it back in its envelope and put it under his pillow. Later, after supper, he’d read it through again.

The meal was pleasant enough. They exchanged some of the things that Adam’s other letters had contained, and Candy worked hard to keep the atmosphere as light as possible knowing, as he did, that Joe was chomping on the bit to tell them his decision.

Hop Sing had cooked a special meal in honour of the medal Adam had achieved and Hoss surprised them by eating with more enthusiasm than he had done for some time. It caused Ben to wonder if Hoss was of the opinion that Joe was not going to go after all, that he could relax now and assume that everything was going to be just as it always had been. He glanced occasionally over at Candy to see if the young man had similar thoughts but Candy was too busy talking, joking, and making sure he didn’t catch anyone’s eye.

“Pa – can I speak now?” Joe said as they finished the meal and stood up to take their last drinks to the other part of the room where they could relax near the fire.

“Yes, son, say what you have to say.” Ben said quietly and sat down in his big leather chair and looked at Hoss.

“Is it about your leaving?” Hoss asked, blinking rather rapidly and gulping hard.

“Yes, it is, Hoss.”

“Then you’d best git it said, hadn’t you?” Hoss replied and sat down on the settee as though he needed to have something solid beneath him.

“Well, I guess I should. I’ve been putting it off for so long now that you might have thought I’d forgotten about it. The fact is that I’ve decided it would be best if I left at the end of the month.”

“That’s two weeks away.” Candy said quietly.

“Yes, that’s right. It’s just about the best time of year to travel though …” Joe replied in rather a rush, and he looked at Hoss, “Don’t you think so, Hoss?”

“Sure it is,” Hoss replied, “Guess you got your route planned as well, huh?”

Joe nodded, he bit down on his bottom lip and turned to look at his father who was looking thoughtfully at the fruit bowl as though it contained all the answers to all the problems in the world.

“Pa? Is that alright with you?”

Ben looked up and saw his son’s anxious eyes, and nodded. He remembered when the young man had been a boy, worried about a homework assignment and would look anxiously up at them for help, when he had been a small boy who had just found that he could walk… he remembered so much when he looked now into the young face that held a look of apprehension, of pride and nervous excitement. He nodded again,

“It’s fine, son. You have to do what you feel is right, for you.” and he smiled while his heart shivered inside his chest.

“Best get the maps out and show us whereabouts you intend to be heading, shortshanks.” Hoss said and rose to his feet.

“Yeah, sure I will -” Joe bounded up, and hurried over to the desk where he began to pull out maps, “Of course, you have to realise a lot of these maps are out of date now. New territories are springing up everywhere so there will be boundaries having to be drawn up all over -”

Ben followed them over and listened. He could hear another eager voice pointing to various points on an old globe that his father had kept, and how they had patiently listened, nodded their heads, enthused and slapped him on the back. Except that his mother hadn’t slapped him on the back, she had caressed his head as though he were her only infant and she feared she would never see him again. Then he had gone, feeling as though he had wings on his heels and his heart so buoyant and light that it flew ahead of him. It was that never ending cycle, one that went round and round forever and ever.
Later when he was alone, sitting by the dying embers of the fire, he tried to remember exactly what Joe had told them. He sucked at the stem of his pipe and couldn’t be bothered to relight it. He just wanted to think. The creak of a stair made him look up and he saw Hoss coming towards him.

“Still dressed, Hoss? I thought you’d be asleep by now.”

“Nah, I had things on my mind, Pa.”

“Joe do you mean?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Are you alright about his going, Pa?” Hoss looked at his father carefully, wanting to make sure that he could see for himself that his father was telling the truth.

“Well, Hoss, I’d be lying to you if I said I was happy about it. Like I said to you once before, a parent only has the loan of a child. Joe has to grow up now … and we have to let him go.”

Hoss nodded. That was what Adam had written. He sighed and sat down in the chair opposite his father,

“Sure was a fancy old medal they gave Adam, weren’t it Pa?”

Ben smiled, nodded, and he sighed. As he stared into the fire he wondered where his eldest son would be now, all those miles away at sea. Was he safe? Would he come home?

Chapter 45

a32;

55.56 south and 67.19 west lies Cape Horn. Loved and hated by seamen over the many years since it’s discovery in the 17th Century made men aware of this unique terrible passage. 1,400 feet of harsh rock reared up from the sea and the sea threshed continuously as though still in its labour pains. This stretch of water between Cape Horn and the Diego Ramirez Islands was more than sixty miles wide but the violent weather conditions found in the area made it unpredictable and violent.

Despite the violence of the weather and geographical conditions sailing around the Horn became the accepted route from New York to San Francisco, particularly from the time of the Californian Gold Rush in the 1840’s. Waves higher than 65 feet could be reported upon by those who survived the journey, and those that did qualified to be part of a superior class of seaman, the “Cap horniers.”

Adam Cartwright had rounded the cape twice during his career in the navy. Once in the Redoubt under his own command. Now, in a convoy of eight ships, he was fighting the hostile environment once again.

They had seen a pod of whales earlier that day, a beautiful sight and one that had sent the men racing to the side of the ship and trampling the hammocks under foot rather brutishly. It was not the first time such beautiful mammals had been sighted, but each time the heart soared at their majesty and dignity as they ploughed through the waves.

The wind had been less severe and the men had asked if they could lower a boat to give chase and harpoon one, but the Captain had refused to allow them. At first there had been a dissatisfied grumbling but it soon gave way to gratitude when the Horn reverted to type and battered them as vigorously as any man could remember.

The eight ships struggled onwards. Each man in his own ship could well believe that they were the only ones alive to face such perils and to pray that they would survive to see the storm end and their ship cruise into safer waters.

Adam, at times when his men and his ship were in peril, never deserted the bridge. Never an Officer who would stand to one side and just direct orders, he would often step in and do the task himself should he see that there was none other to do it. To his men he ranked as one of the best Officers in the fleet and for a man who had turned to the sea later in life than most his prominence was often likened to that of a meteor in the firmament above.

Jacob Brown had struggled for some time to assist several men in recovering a 12 inch manila hemp hawser before it fouled in the Redoubt’s propeller. Struggling against the force of the winds and the rain, the sleet and snow that lashed against them the men were tossed one way to the other. Losing his footing the big man grabbed at the hawser only for it to snap in two and rewind with such suddenness and ferocity that it slashed against his leg

Adam, having already been making his way to give assistance, grabbed at an axe which was fortunately still in place close to hand, and slashed against the hawser with a determination that exceeded logic. His men, seeing the helmsmans plight and recognising their Captain’s attempts to free the man abandoned their own tasks to assist them, so that within several heart stopping moments Brown was free was his near death.

The agony of his injury had sent the man unconscious and he lay spread eagled out upon the deck which was awash with the sea and his blood.

Signalling to several men to take the helmsman below to the sick bay Adam worked along with the other men to rewind the broken hawser so that it could not be sent flailing with the wind to cause more injury and pain among the crewmen. It was a task hard enough at the best of times but now, fighting against the conditions wrought upon them at the Horn it took the six men ten minutes of intense struggling to achieve the task.

Two days passed before they sailed into calmer seas and each man on each vessel was a hero in achieving tasks beyond the normal reach of men. Two vessels were lost. There had been no sight nor sound of their passing. Each vessel had fought their own battle for survival and when the battle was over they looked about them thankful at their own deliverance and sorrowful for the loss of the two vessels and the hundreds of men who had lost their battle against the Horn.

Jacob Brown opened his eyes at the touch of a hand upon his shoulder. After blinking a little to focus he saw the face of his Captain looking down upon him, and smiled.

“You saved my life, sir.” he said quietly and extended his big calloused hand to the younger man who shook it warmly.

“I and six others, Jacob.” Adam replied with a smile, “How are you feeling?”

“Glad to be alive, Sir.” Jacob said with undeniable warmth to his words, “I hear that two ships didn’t make it.”

“The Vigilant and the Scott.”

“Good ships, Sir. I sailed one time with the Vigilant under Captain Marriott. But it’s often the way when there’s a convoy fighting the Horn, and impossible to help them when all hands are fighting for their own lives on board their own ships.”

Adam nodded, and looked about him at the other men who were in their hammocks bearing the evidence of their wounds. Jacob put out a hand and placed it gently upon the arm of his Captain,

“I hear we lost several men, Sir?”

“Yes. Two men washed overboard and not known until too late. Crewman Willets, died from head injuries.”

“Ah, he had six children, sir.” Jacob sighed, “This isn’t the life for a married man, sir.”

Adam only smiled and was about to get to his feet when Jacob’s grip on his arm tightened,

“Captain, I shan’t never forget what you did for me. You saved my life, and you also saved my leg. Had it not been for you that old hawser would have wrenched my leg off as clean as a whistle. I’ll never forget it, Sir, and I swear should you ever be in need you just whistle up for me.”

“I recall you made the same promise once before, Jacob.” Adam smiled wistfully, and shook the man’s hand, “Be grateful that our men are so well disciplined that an axe was where it should have been at a time when it was most needed.”

He stepped away from Jacob Brown now and went to attend to other men whom he knew would be glad and grateful for a few moments of personal attention from their Captain. Jacob Brown’s promise was forgotten during the course of time, but it was one that was to be fulfilled, one day.

There was a stench in the sick bay that was unavoidable considering it’s close confines so he gratefully returned to the fresher air of the deck. It was not long before O’Brien was standing at his side, and like his Captain, stood with straight back and hands clasped behind him, eyes far out to sea.

“What are you thinking about, Sir?” O’Brien asked eventually.

“Oh, well -” Adam shrugged and grinned rather sheepishly, “I was thinking of my family.”

“As was I earlier, Sir. I should think there would not be many who would not be doing so today.”

Adam nodded, and his eyes clouded over a little as he thought of the many widows and orphans that would have resulted from this journey and the tragic subsequent losses.

“Well, O’Brien, have you sailed around the Horn before?”

“No, sir.”

“In that case you become part of the elite having survived your first journey. It means you can wear an earring on your left ear or on your chest. Did you know that?”

“Several men told me that, sir, and also that I could now urinate to windward.” O’Brien grinned.

“Yes, but don’t make a practise of it,” Adam laughed, “you may be a ‘cap hornier’ now, but the wind still has a mind of its own and no respect for anyone.”

O’Brien smiled and looked out at the horizon. He sighed heavily and then looked once again at his Captain. Perhaps there was a strand of white in the black hair now that had not been when they had first met, perhaps the eyes were more sunken in the hollows of their sockets, and perhaps the mouth did not smile as much as it once did, but still he saw before him a handsome man, a proud and resolute man. A man of whom he could proudly say “Captain, oh my Captain …”

Next Story in the Captain Cartwright Series:

To Fly with Eagles
Captain, Oh My Captain
The Commodore
Invictus
Carpe Diem
A New Command
A Duty to Live
All Those Tomorrows
Written in Stone

Other Stories by this Author

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Author: Krystyna

10 thoughts on “Captain Cartwright # 1 – To Soar on Albatross Wings (by Krystyna)

  1. So….first things first (and for me Hoss is always first :-P) …. I just ache for him. How lonely, even w his Pa and other friends. I have two sisters with whom I am very close, and it would be heartbreaking if they just both pulled up anchor (see what I did there? ?) and went away for unspecified amounts of time. Of course everyone has to go his/her own way, that’s absolutely true … but I feel for him. (And I hope Joe figures out what he’s looking for.)

    Great story of Adam at sea, and I’m definitely curious what you have planned for him next. Adam is definitely the sort who would quickly rise to the top, and his actions in this story show why. Loved the ‘more lives than a cat’ thing …

    I very much enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

    In closing, I would like to say that I just laughed when Candy had made it to chapter nine in a year. I sometimes wish I read slower — would be running out of interesting books far less often that way — but maybe not that slowly. ?

    1. Oh so good to know you enjoyed the story , PSW. I hope you enjoy the series especially as you are a Hoss fan…there is love and romance and heroic deeds awaiting for him! Please forgive some fumbles re Candy, I never saw the BZ series with him and didn’t really know his background or the story with Ann, so made it up as I went along. The next story ..well, I just hope you really enjoy it, no ship in sight … But lots of Cheyenne!!

  2. Well, 3 ,summers ago I started this series. Absolutely loved every word of it. Last summer, I ventured into the deep blue sea and read this a second time (all the way through two times now). And believe it or not , this is the beginning of my third summer ! Guess, like the summer holidays , picnics and family, I am spending my summer with The Cartwrights. (concentrating on Adam of course) It now has become a part of me every summer. Thank you so much for this gift…………………..

    1. Debbie, What a lovely comment. You can’t imagine how it makes me feel to know you go on this voyage with Adam every summer. I hope it feels as fresh and exciting every time you start reading the adventure. To be honest, I don’t know what else to say, I am quite overwhelmed..thank you so much for telling me.

  3. I’ve just finished reading the CC series (and the Home is the Sailor stories as well) and I love the adventures, the character developments and the clever plot twists. I’m afraid I’m not so eloquent to describe how thankful I am to have found this masterpiece. Reading your stories was like watching a new series. I even dreamt about them, woke up with their voices in my head… Just wonderful. Now it’s not so bitter sweet to watch the sixth season of BZ anymore, because you created a believable future for Adam and the family. All of the characters (the old and the new ones) are so real. You did a fantastic job. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and looking forward to the next installment in the Home is the Sailor series. Thank you!

    1. I am really very touched by your comment, Piriac, I have had some wonderful, wonderful comments before but no one has said theybeven dreamed about the characters before, that really has made my entire MONTH!! Thank you so very much. As I have said to others previously I never realised how many would come to love our Captain so much over the years, and here I am, still writing about him. Thank you again…I am busy writing the latest adventure of the families now . I hope you will enjoy it too …Krystyna

  4. I’ve been wanting to start this series since reading “I Shall Cherish You Forever”. I read Albatross last night and couldn’t stop. Your imagery and language are incredible. With all the “sailor speak” I could taste the salt air and hear the old wooden Clipper ship creaking under the Captain’s feet. It was easy to feel the pain of separaation that the Cartwright’s felt, never knowing what Adam was doing and waiting months for any word. Then knowing what things Adam was getting involved in, oh my, they would make his family worry more (though I’m sure Ben had some idea after being a Sailor). I could feel Adam’s loneliness and homesickness but alas duty calls him to another port. I’m looking forward to getting to know this world much better.

    1. Oh my, how encouraging this comment is …you cannot imagine what it means to a writer to get such an enthusiastic response to a story written a while back. It brings waves of nostalgia of the time it was first released on Bonanzaworld. I so hope you enjoy the remainder of the series ..I never thought it would prove to be so popular. Thank you so much, I truly appreciated hearing from you…

  5. I just finished this story and wanted to write about it immediately! I loved all of the Joe and Hoss moments, the many memories being flitted around between persons and the adventures of our dear Captain! Your stories always take me to places of emotion that is thrilling and inspiring. The point when that medal was received, I could taste the family’s pride in their member to have achieved so much and yet the pain of never knowing if that precious absent member was alive or not at any given time was pure torture. It made my heart swell with pride and joy too yet I could feel the longing as well, acutely so. Well, I am on to read the next episode and can’t wait to see the brothers reunited again for more heart stopping moments!! Thanks, Krystyna, for your talent and for dozens of hours worth of deliciousness!!

    1. Deliciousness…what a scrumptious word thank you so very much indeed, Miss Kitty. I have to admit I put all I have in my possession into those stories as I have grown to care for them all so much. Yes, the brothers and a father endure much in these stories, and ignorance of where Adam could be or what he could be facing is torment for them. Your enjoyment of the story is a joy, Miss Kitty…thank you

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