March 28th, 2021

Beyond the Ocean's Edge

And the Story Keeps Going!

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"Gone Fishing"  Nothing to do with the Stone Island Sea Stories, but thought you might enjoy it!

Here's a little of Chapter Nineteen, "A Perilous Voyage," from Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story.  (In fact, these are the opening lines of the chapter.)

Pierce sat for a long time in the governor’s outer office.  Because it was now well into the southern winter, and as mild as it was at this latitude, a fire burned on the grate.  The room was hot and sweat trickled down his back and pooled on his abdomen.  His full dress uniform was damp, and he felt the carefully prepared crispness of his neckerchief disintegrating as perspiration steadily soaked into it.  At long last the governor’s secretary rose and nodded.  Pierce stepped into the inner office.
            Phillip King simply said, “About damn time, Pierce!  I was thinking that you had floundered!”
            “To the contrary, sir,” Pierce answered politely.  “As can be seen.”
            “And the transported convicts?”
            “On the island, sir, with Mr. Smythe.”
            “Oh come, come, my dear, sir.  That tale of a legendary island is true?  What do you take me for, sir?”
            “I was quite skeptical until I saw it, until I was actually there.  Indeed, there is more to the world, this world than we see or know.”
            Captain King, Governor of the Botany Bay Colony snorted in disbelief. “No doubt you’ve set them ashore somewhere to fend for themselves.  A most callous act if I do say so.  I understood you would make a cursory search for the island to humor Smythe and then bring the convicts here.”
            “If such was intended for me to fulfill my commission, sir, it was never passed to me.  Quite naturally I doubted the island’s existence.  Had we not found it, we would have arrived some two years ago, along with the transported convicts.”
            “And what’s this nonsense, Pierce, here in your report?  Combat with a sloop-of-war?  Reversed colors in the Union Flag?  New nations?  New lands?”  King had gazed steadily at Pierce, his eyes full of amazement as well as condemnation.  “Detained? Most improper, sir!  And most improper, accepting so-called citizenship from another nation.”
            “A nation you believe does not exist.  But if it does, they offered it as a means of obtaining our liberty.  If it exists, and should I find myself there again, I will consider myself a citizen of that nation.  Here, I am, as I have always been, a loyal subject of His Britannic Majesty.”
            “My God, Pierce!  Such admissions might be construed as treason.  It is only due to particular orders I have regarding your voyage that I do not immediately place you under arrest.  Yet I wonder that someone else should command Island Expedition upon her returns to England.”
            “I see no need for that, sir.”  Pierce was now warmer than he had been while waiting.
            “Seriously Commander, I wonder about your health.  It may be that the strain of command and a long voyage are too much for you.”
            “It would seem, sir, that the entire ship’s company is afflicted as well.”
            “How so?”  Phillip King raised a critical eyebrow.
            “Every one of them can and will back what is documented in the report.”
            “Coerced?  Promised something in return, no doubt?  You certainly seem a conniving sort.”
            “Indeed not, sir.  What would any of us have to gain, formulating such stories?”
            “I would not hazard a guess.”
            “But I do agree that the story is beyond the bounds of believability.”
            “You do?”
            “With certainty, sir,” Pierce answered.  “It is only because it is so unbelievable that I insist it is true.  Someone in the highest levels of government, must have believed even a little of the possibility.  Else, why did the mission take place?”
            “I would think,” King responded, “that perhaps there are some in government whose sensibilities might be questioned.  Beyond that, it no doubt proceeded on two levels.  In a practical move, the first was to cause the Frogs wasted efforts searching for the island.
Hopefully they would have diverted ships away from European waters, and perhaps would have tipped their hand regarding resumption of the war.”
            “A possibility I was instructed to watch for.”
            “Secondly, it was to quietly get rid of Smythe.  He was a distraction and a real bother to many in His Majesty’s Government.  Allowing the voyage satisfied all factions.”
            “But what of the freedom colony, sir?  Other than verifying the island’s existence, was that not that the prime reason for the journey?  What about the transportation of convicts determined to have been unjustly accused or unfairly convicted?”
            “Surely it was to pacify Smythe and his odd sense of justice.  It gave him the incentive to leave and quieted his supporters.  No doubt, some in that damned British Island Expedition Organization really believed that aspect of it.  Regardless, you ferried over a hundred undesirables out of England.  That is the prime thing, and depending upon the situation upon reaching England, you may have a chance to bring off more.”
            “Perhaps sir, some thusly removed might be those who make ill use of those honestly in the King’s Service.”
            “Now Commander, do not be hasty in your remarks.  Pray, sit and have a glass of Madeira.  Relax and calm yourself.  If it pleases you, all in the King’s Service often feel ill used by our seniors.”
            “Aye, I’ll concede that, sir,” sighed Pierce
            “While I doubt the details of your report and wonder as to your mental stability, I shall not insist upon relieving you of your command.  I will offer you the chance to resign.  It would not be a violation of my orders to do so.  The schooner, your crew, and you will still be enroute to England.”
            “As offer me a choice, I must refuse and remain in command.  As to water, stores and other replenishment, sir?”
            “We have somewhat limited stores at hand sir.  Do requisition only what is truly needed.”
            “In that case, sir,” said Pierce, “we are well provisioned.  We departed Stone Island only a few weeks ago.”
            “Damn Pierce!  I was thinking to forget your imaginative tales.  Now you mention that damned island again.”
            “I had thought, sir…”
            “Oh, damn my eyes, sir!  Remember not to mention those details of your voyage in my hearing!”