The 21st Day of September. The Year of Our Lord 1803.
My sudden declaration that we ought, sans permitting another moment to pass, construct a raft, was not immediately met with the awing wonderment that the deviser of such a scheme might expect.
“A raft?” Repeated Young Frank with youthful incredulity. “What accursed madness is this?”
Despite Frank’s objections and continued cries of “Folly, t’is accursed lunacy, for no raft could survive such a perilous stretch of such deuced strong tides!” It was not too long until the crew were wholly persuaded and we had begun to construct a vessel large enough for the elegantly elaborate arch and all of our company (who would form our wedding party). As the crew sought the finest trees for the hull, from beyond the golden sands, I too made my way towards the tree line. However t’was not sea fairing timbers that I sought but fruits and other such delights. For no marriage can be considered respectable if one’s wedding party is not extended the courtesy of a wedding breakfast (such a want of sweetmeats occurs only in Cheapside, I am certain).
Gentlemen of the admiralty I shall not do you the disservice of a canonical recounting of the particulars of the raft’s construction, nor my search for culinary indulgences. All that is necessary to say is that both vessel and breakfast were completed to my satisfaction in a number of hours which was the very essence of elegant haste. Soon enough we had cast the raft out to sea and were sailing, for we had the most rudimentary of rigging, out to the ocean beyond.
Mademoiselle De Bourbon had had the foresight to engage her time in her toilette. She had fashioned a bridal gown from what appeared to be Captain’s table linen which had been brought ashore with coincidental fortuity. She had also collected, from those shores an abundance of florae which were all exoticism in their adornment of her tresses and her bridal posy. Upon seeing her thus beautified, for Sirs despite her being quite human she was once more ethereal, I was quite robbed of my breath and remained so for longer than I dare to admit. We stood together upon that worthy deck before that worthy captain, beneath that worthy arch and were overcome by every good feeling one associates with ones marriage. It was then, in tones which spake plainly of the ardent affection that we felt for one another that we repeated our vows before the crew of the Forsaken and God.
However afore we had taken each other for man and wife, the elegant proceedings were suddenly interrupted by a sharp cry from the vessel’s starboard side.
“Ship! Ship Hoy!” Mr Burns’ call rang out loud and true and captured all of our attentions. We turned instantaneously and cast our gaze to the horizon and thither we saw it. It’s sails full unfurled by the wind, the English colours flying atop its mast, our salvation.
As though it were a pre-decided scheme, all among us began to vociferate as loudly as was within our power, all the while waving our arms in a manner that was great wanting in dignity, but then what care had we for dignity when rescue may soon be a possibility.
“Save Our Souls! I am nigh on married. I cannot perish thus! Pray, Save our Souls!” Cried I for the seventh time as my bride did the same at my side.
But at length we came to understand that the ship was at too great a distance for its crew to either see us or hear our appeals. As the ship continued upon its course, every moment threatening to leave us forever in her wake, we were left with but one choice.
Frank had long been known upon the Forsaken as ‘The Fish’. For he was an uncommonly accomplished swimmer, and no matter how oft we cast him overboard into the raging seas, young Frank would unfailingly return. Seizing the boy, Mr Robert’s and I pitched him forcefully into the waves and Captain Quaid commanded him to swim as though the very lives of his crew depended upon him. But upon these words Frank replied with a shrewdness that was nigh on insolent
“Captain, the lives of every deuced member of this wretched crew of damned knaves does depend upon it.”
“Quite so.” Returned the Captain. “Then you must swim in a manner exactly calculated to suit such mighty peril.”
Frank did not yet move, but instead regarded his master and commander with the utmost perplexed confusion, and I believed myself to understand his difficulty. I stepped forth and addressed the boy in a tone that I hoped was indicative that he ought swim as though the accursed devils of hell itself were at his deuced heels;
“Damnation to it all Master Frank, you must swim as though the accursed and damned devils of hell itself were upon your deuced heels!”
Frank diverted is departure through the waves by not a moment longer and was soon scarcely visible as he fled through the restless and storm tossed seas.
We were not idle during the boy’s absence, for as he evanesced from our sight we prevailed upon Captain Quaid to recommence our marriage ceremony, and once more he was all obliging good nature in inventing a pretty sermon which, while lacking in any canonical passages of scripture (it would seem that such texts had been lost with the reverend) it was more than a little poetic and succeeded admirably in its pretence at an authoritative lecture upon the nature of matrimony. By it’s conclusion Mademoiselle Marie Caroline Antoinette of the house of Bourbon, the siren as was, became Mrs Matelot; my wife.
At the close of the Captain’s sermon we would wait not a moment longer. There, upon that deck, before the crew with whom I had sailed since boyhood, our hearts wholly filled with the dual joys of the hope of salvation and matrimony, we exchanged our first embrace
All the happy merriment one usually associates with a marriage day soon followed and despite the restrictive confines of the raft’s deck we danced a cotillion and the quickstep upon it. I confess, readily enough to you, Gentlemen of the admiralty that the delights of being so very lately wed and the exuberance of so gay a wedding party (as well as a good deal of rum, for it would seem that many a man among us had succeeded in keeping a bottle of the liquor about his person) had driven all thoughts of young Frank and the English frigate from my mind. As I danced with my bride (does not that sound well?) I was therefore unburdened by any disquietude of spirit that mights more usually plague a sailor waiting to be saved from the wreckage of a ship torn asunder by a maelstrom. Therefore I found myself to be be more than a little surprised when, upon spinning my lady about during a peculiarly flamboyant reel I saw the afore mentioned frigate approaching us at a speed which, by every billowing of its sails spake of salvation.
The crew, who not having had the advantage of acquiring a wife, had perhaps not been as happily diverted as I and were therefore, sooner overcome with sentiments of relief and superlative joy as they understood that master Frank had been successful in his endeavours. All about me the men began to run mad upon the raft as they cried in delight; “Hazar! We are saved! We are saved!”
Indeed, one gentleman, though I shall not shame him further by telling you his name, fainted as though he were a young lady at her first ball. Soon my wife and I were among the men of the Forsaken as they danced the hornpipe in jubilation at so fine a prospect of rescue.
I partook too in their expressions of greatest impatience as the wind all but died away and the ship drew towards us at a rate so slow that I am all doubtful doubt that they were traveling at above one singular knot. By and by we grew fatigued by such seemingly interminable waiting. But at length, as the sun sank below the horizon and the moon arose illuminating our wedding party the frigate drew near enough to lower it’s rowing boats and send their crew to our aid.
September the 22nd, The Year Of Our Lord 1803.
The first of those happy vessels was soon along side our own raft and I was all genteel attentions in handing my dear wife into the boat and seating myself aside her (Gentlemen, pray do not believe me to be usurping my captain’s authority or reaching above my station by thus saving myself first, I felt such a thing only proper as I was now accompanied by a lady, who must, on account of being a delicate female, be rescued first). The Captain swiftly followed and deeming this first boat to be quite full, for any more personages would have proved objectionable, the midshipman began to row for the safety of his frigate, which I feel ought be named the HMS Salvation, but was in truth named the HMS Innominate.
And thus we were saved. We were once more upon a ship belonging to the navy sailing ‘neath English colours and I am quite certain you shall not need me to explicate our fine and happy sentiments when first we heard that the worthy HMS innominate was bound for Portsmouth (I am acutely aware that our good fortune sounds most improbable but then the most veracious oft are).
Hither I shall conclude this ship’s log for the HMS Forsaken is now quite gone, what remains of her crew is safe and bound once more for familiar shores. Furthermore I feel certain that the particulars of our return will be noted in the fair hand of the Innominate’s Captain. My duty is done and I shall now turn my attentions to arranging my affairs, the most pressing of which shall be finding a house for myself and my wife, Marie CAroline Antoinette, the Siren as was.
Thus Gentlemen of the Admiralty, I bid you Adieu.