The 25th of August, The Year Of Our Lord 1803.
Much of the night prior had been spent by the men on board the HMS Forsaken, in lamenting our multitude of misfortunes. For not only had our main mast been torn from our ship and burned before our eyes, but nigh on all the sails of the fore and mizzen masts had suffered at the hands of our tormentors.
When, at last, the sun broke over the horizon, we became acutely aware that the sails were in such tattered disorder that it would be beyond the powers of even the most accomplished seamstress (who prides herself upon her dexterity and swift needlework) to complete the task of darning them with sufficient haste. Thus we were sailing with scarcely two jibs left entire.
I am sure that many a Captain may, hither, have abandoned their senses with indecent zeal rather than attempt to overcome such difficulties. I believe such was the case with Captain Welles, God rest his soul. Yet it was scarcely three hours past breakfast before Captain Quaid stepped forth onto the deck, his arm heavily dressed in bandages, for the splinter in his palm was no trifling injury. He addressed us in a manner we all knew to be indicative of the fact that he had a plan to discover if any man amongst us had a plan that might aid the continuation of our survival.
“Gentlemen, I have a plan to discover if any man amongst you has a plan that might aid the continuation of our survival.” Said he as he summoned us to is quarters.
Leaving the lower ranks to wash what blood had been shed during the battle from the decks, we officers followed the captain and it was not long afore were ensconced within those rooms and tea had been served. Unfortunately Captain Quaid could not claim to be in possession a particular flair for public speaking, his disquisitions were ne’er blessed with great deliverance. Indeed many of his perorations were wholly forgettable; Thus I was dismayed to find that the gathering would be not be brief. Yet fortunately the parlours at the stern of the ship are of an opulent decor that is quite reminiscent of my home. They display an indulgence of a truly patriotic taste for fine furnishings. I am almost entirely certain that no French vessel, for all it’s gilt carvings, can boast such an abundance of luxuriant in one suite, and I was most comfortable there.
I confess I cannot recall the trivial minutiae of the conversation, nor the finer points of the resulting scheme, as, in order that the men’s spirits might be lifted I was prevailed upon to pay the fiddle.
“Mr Matelot, we beg of you Sir.” Came their entreaties; “Might you be persuaded to indulge us with some music, for you play as well as any accomplished young woman of noble birth plays the piano forte. And we are monstrous desirous of one of your pretty tunes.”
I was all chivalry as I acquiesced to their request and departed instantly to retrieve my instrument from my own quarters. As I played some of the men danced a hornpipe and when I had finished obliging them with a piece of my own invention (the composition of music is a peculiar partiality of mine, and I blush to admit that I have something of an aptitude for it) the particulars of the scheme had been decided and our new course determined.
I believe in essence the scheme was this; that we would set sail, in as pleasing a fashion as was currently within our power, to some region or other of the tropics, and find thither a forest from which a suitable tree would be felled and fashioned into a main mast.
And set sail we did. Though it ought be remarked upon that with our assortment of torn sails, blackened with gunpowder, dancing a cotillion in a light breeze and so many of the men in a shocking state of bloodied undress, we bore so striking resemblance to the cursed pirate vessels of myth that we were, like as not, safe from attack.
The 26th of August, The Year Of Our Lord 1803.
Yet despite the comfort that we would not be destined to be set upon by picaroons, heaven did not preserve us from the elements and we had soon been caught by some of the most violently natured squalls I had ever had the unhappy fortunes to meet. the fearsome gusts took hold of what little of the sails remained and full filled the jibs. Without so much as the courteous convention of forewarning the Forsaken was haled far off course. How far I could not say, but at that moment I pitied Messrs Burns and Smith, for what hope did they have keeping the ship steady. The ship lilting hither and thither until nigh on four score and twenty men were taken ill, the captain was among them.
As I stood fast once more a gust of prodigious force blew across the deck, and young Frank, whose stature is uncommonly diminutive even for a boy of eight, was swept away with it. As the boy flew from the starboard side I had but moments to act. Seizing a rope that had come away from a topgallant I hastened to his aid, grasping his hand just afore he could take his involuntary leave of the ship. I fastened the cord about his waist and bound him to the mizzen mast. All the while Frank cursed.
“Damn this tempest to the deuced inferno of hell itself! Curses to whatever dashed knave of Gods rules this turbid sea! This be truly the most damned feculent storm I have ever been miserable enough to encounter! I’ll be damned if it don’t send us all to the locker!” Were his ineloquent exclamations. I am of the supposition that Frank has had the advantages of neither a nurse maid, nor a tutor, for only the absence of such things would explicate the familiarity of one so young with curses so objectionable. I had every intention of chastising the boy for his excessive vulgarity and exhort him against such conduct when in the presence of a gentleman. But just as I fastened the last knot the Forsaken listed upon the the port side and all hope of keeping sound footing was lost as a barrel came loose, striking my legs and casting me turbulently toward the edge of the ship. I fell, with a velocity that was everything alarming, until I reached the edge of the deck. With reactions so prompt I feel sure they would be the envy of many a cut purse, I took hold of the balustrade and hung from the vessel, the tumultuous waves catching my feet.
As I clung to the sodden timber, filled with terror of my imminent expiration, I beheld a phenomenon that few sailors can claim to have seen and, perhaps fewer still would believe. For all at once the wind did cease and desist. The gusts dissipated, the sea became calm, it’s surface becoming so very tranquilly undisturbed that is soon resembled a pleasingly polished looking glass. As the Forsaken righted herself and came to rest upon the unwavering ocean, cries of joyous delight arose from the junior sailors who believed we had found salvation. While all the while we amongst the company who were better accustomed to being at sea found ourselves in the grips of a dread more usually associated losing ones fortune at the gaming tables. For we know such stillness was a far superior disaster to any cloudburst’s Cyclone; we were becalmed.
The 27th day of August, The year of Our Lord 1803.
We are still in the doldrums, not a singular breath of wind has crossed the decks these four and twenty hours together. Thus there is nought of note to write.
The 31st of August, the year of our Lord 1803.
We are still afloat upon waters so still one can amend one’s toilette in the perfect reflection the seas provide.
Many of the men have succumbed to hopelessness and run mad about the decks. Captain Quaid endeavoured to deliver a rousing sermon to all. However it would seem that the sailors were in no humour to hear platitudes, particularly when delivered in a manner so devoid of feeling, the midshipmen and the ships surgeon threatened mutiny if he did not desist.
I’ll readily admit that since we became becalmed dates are lost to me. I can scarce remember how many sunrises or sunsets we have born witness to since the winds evanesced. Thus I shall merely say that we were, ten to one, in the latter part of the month of September, in the year of our Lord 1803; when I too lost all hope that we should ever feel a sea breeze upon our visages. we knew it would not be long afore our stores began to run low. I lay upon the deck, and turned my gaze heavenward, for the stars offered a little diversion, and was soon in a state of stupefaction.
I do not know whether it was a miraculous wind or merely the currents of the tide that had carried us, but whence I awoke, and glanced, what I believed to be southward I saw the sight that my spirits had yearned after for so long … Land.
“Land. We are saved, saved, we have reached land, land! And bless our souls there are trees!” Was my passionate cry as I gazed at the horizon, for before us, but a little distance away, lay a stretch of coast whose aureate sands were bordered by the very tallest, and straightest trees one could have the power to envision.
We were suddenly overwhelmed by relief and desperation in equal measure and a peculiar feminine hysteria broke out amongst the men. I believe even Captain Quaid made ample use of the embroidered handkerchief, which we were decided was a love token from a young lady. Such was our eagerness to reach the sand that we waited but long enough to way anchor, and sans lowering the boats, we leapt from the ship and swam ashore in spirits of overpowering merriment.
Being becalmed for so lengthy a time had robbed me of both my strength and fortitude of mind, and I was overcome by a restless exhaustion. The remedy for this ailment and to so prolonged a confinement was solitude. So taking my leave of the scene of delighted rejoicing, where above three and thirty men were shamelessly weeping as though they were young ladies who had lately received word that there betrothed was lost at sea, I embarked upon a promenade.
However as I reached a reef of rocks that protruded into the ocean I soon feared that the doldrums had also robbed me of my senses. I was all alarm as my eyes began to deceive me and before me upon, the rock I beheld an unearthly creature of ethereal beauty.
Atop that rock, not four and twenty paces away sat a Siren.
To be continued.