The Occasional Random Excerpt
(note: unedited versions from early drafts, may have errors)
Shipwrecked on the Florida coast, Jesamiah Acorne spent a disturbed night, then heard some interesting news:
“Rue! Rue? Wake up!”
Had anyone been awake to witness Jesamiah’s self-indulgent misery during the night they would not have believed the man urgently shaking his friend’s shoulder to be the same person.
Rue was stretched out beneath the shade of a palm, legs crossed at the ankles, the wide-brimmed grass hat he had fashioned pulled low over his eyes, arms folded across his chest. He shoved the hat from his eyes, stared at Jesamiah squatting beside him, closed his eyes again and resettled his hat.
“Go away.” He added something crude and explicit in French.
“Listen! I have news! Bloody superb, gift from God news!” Jesamiah’s excitement was unmistakable. Like a boy on his birthday.
“It ‘ad better be,” the older man growled, removing the hat and waving it ineffectually at the irritating buzz of insects. “I do not take kindly to being woken from my afternoon nap.”
“Three more survivors have straggled ashore, down in the next village.”
“Très bon for them! As long as they find their own shade I am most ‘appy for them.” Annoyed, Rue replaced his hat.
Jesamiah snatched it, tossed it away.
“Will you damned listen? They are Spanish.”
The Frenchman was unimpressed. “Unless they are natives, so is everyone along this stretch of coast. Even you are ‘alf Spanish, your mother was Spanish you are able to speak the language. In case you ‘ad not noticed, we ‘appen to be idling in Spanish territory.”
“They were from a Spanish vessel. One of a fleet.” Jesamiah ignored the sarcasm, had his hands on Rue’s shoulders attempting to shake sense into him. “A convoy of galleons. Galleons, Rue. The entire fleet went down. Carrying gold from Mexico; packed to the fore-deck, bloody great, treasure
Interest was twitching. Rue uncrossed his legs. “You are serious?”
The grin swept over Jesamiah’s mobile face. “As serious as a duck’s arse, mate! Word is spreading as wild as fire in the hold; they were on their way to Spain from Havana, were hit by the same hurricane that did for us. All of them Rue, all laden with gold bullion and silver, precious gems and barrels
of indigo. The wrecks are scattered along God-knows how many miles of reef.” Hunkered on his heels he rested his forearms on his thighs, giving a moment of quiet silence for the implication to sink in.
The wind scurrying in from the Atlantic was strong on the far side of the dunes, among the scrub and vegetation its bluster dropped considerably. Here, it was more of a whispering breeze, its voice a very
quiet, continuous, sssss, a muted harmony whispering with the muffled whissh of the ocean.
“A fortune’s in the holds of those ships, Rue. A fortune run aground an’ sitting there with only fish and crabs to shit on it.”
Slowly the Frenchman smiled, a sweep that split his face from ear to ear. “Or for someone with enterprise and skill to salvage it, non?”
Scratching at his beard growth Jesamiah pondered the genesis of a plan. “No Rue, for someone with a fast ship and the savvy to go one better. I’d wager the Spanish are already running around like their arses are on fire. The stuff was destined for the King’s treasury, wealth he cannot afford to lose. They’ll be all over the Florida reefs these next few months, reclaiming what they can. Plenty of sharks too – and I am not talking of fish. Pirates ‘ave as much a nose for the smell of gold as do our finned friends for blood.”
Rue sat forward, his eyes gleaming, hooked. “So what is it you propose?”
Rising to his feet, Jesamiah strode a few paces to the top of the dunes, thinking. Unprotected, the wind hit him in the face and the sound of the surf churning on to the beach and roaring in his ears was startling. He stood there, legs widespread, hands on hips staring into the emptiness of the wild Atlantic. The air smelt heavy with salt, was humid, with an undertone of damp earth. He drank it all in, breathing it deep into his lungs the sight, sound and feel of the sea.
Turning his back to the ocean Jesamiah spoke his thoughts aloud, the wind streaming through his hair and blue ribbons laced there. “They will have to store what they salvage somewhere. Build a warehouse along the coast? Somewhere easily accessible from the sea but with fresh water, and practical to defend. Probably near to where the main body of the fleet went down.”
Remembering the torn carcass of the Salvation added, “I’m not going to risk the hazard of shallows, reefs and the more deadly type of shark for nothing more than a few pieces of eight. Not when all we have to do is let the Spanish do the collecting while we bide our time, learn where this storehouse is, then sail in and take what we want.” There was no trace of the despondency of last night in his eyes. Nothing but an eager alertness.
“Mon ami, Capitaine, it is an excellent plan but are you not forgetting un petit matter?” Rue lifted his hand, held finger and thumb close together indicating something very small. “We are not in possession of a ship.”
Jesamiah stood there, his bare feet sinking into the white sand. Stood there grinning. He spread his arms, palms uppermost. “So we get one.”
“D’où – from where?” Rue climbed the dune joined him on the top. With an extravagant sweep of his hand, he gestured towards the wormriddled jetty that served the village. Pointed at the two leaking fishing boats and their own battered longboat. “Are we to use one of those? What do we do? Beat a merchant crew to pulp with the oars?”
“Our longboat will take us to St. Augustine. From there we find a passage to Virginia, we can talk ourselves aboard or something. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to do so.”
“Virginia?” Rue spluttered, raising his arms in the air, exasperated. “‘The sun ‘as got at you? Why, in the name of God, do we wish to go to Virginia?”
“To get us a ship – keep close-hauled, man!”
Rue brushed sand from his bare legs. “I ‘ave a feeling I do not wish to be knowing this but tell me anyway. Why do we need to go all the way to Virginia to get us a ship?”
Folding his arms Jesamiah smirked. “There are eight of us. Eight men to find and take a suitable vessel. We need to get something easily, something sleek and fast, and preferably something that has a cargo we can sell immediately to entice a full crew. We might strike lucky and find what we want in St Augustine, but we would have to get out past the fort. With that battery? We do not have the men or time to sit on our rumps and wait for something to come to us, therefore, we go to where I know there will be what we want.”
What happens next?
The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy, 1716
The Place : The Pirate Round,
from the South African Coast to the sun-drenched Islands of the Caribbean
Capt. Jesamiah Acorne is only a fictional character, of course, created by me on a Dorset beach in the last week of October several years ago.
Voyages Five and Six
other excerpts are archived
Voyages Five and Six
other excerpts are archived