CHAPTER NINE Continues …….
But Gavin had also seen them and grabbing a rope, slicing it from the rail with his dagger swung across the gap and landed aboard the other ship. He caught the baby and with the other hand the bundle as it was being tossed into the sea. But he couldn’t catch the boy. Horrified he saw the lad fall into the water.
Gavin tossed the bundle across to the Mary-Lou, noting Maloney was bringing them back along side. He could see the lad’s small head bobbing in the ship’s wake.
‘Michael! Catch!’ Gavin bellowed and threw the baby with all his strength across the gap.
No sooner had Michael caught the child than Gavin was diving off the Italian’s ship into the water after the boy.
Michael gave the baby to his sister and turned to the rail. He saw Gavin reaching the child and the men throwing him a life line. The Italian in his Spanish ship was tacking away from them.
‘Renaldo your days are numbered!’ he bellowed ‘When I catch up with you, and I will, you shall wish your mother had drowned you at birth!’
‘Ha ha ha! My friend, farewell!’ Renaldo cheerfully called back ‘I hate to fight and run away but we shall parry another day! Let me know if you have any more long lost relations to bring you!’
The ship was too far away now to exact any kind of retribution and at an angle that his guns would do no damage at all, should any be dragged out of the clutter his gun deck was in and loaded with whatever could be found in time to fire.
In exasperation of a quarry lost Michael let out a massive guttural roar and slammed his hands on the rail, as Gavin and his small charge were hauled aboard.
They rolled the boy on his stomach and pushed his back as if to push out the water within him. The lad choked and spluttered and finally vomited, Gavin picking him up out of the mess of water and helping to bring up more. Finally Susie reached him lifting his head as she pushed his sodden hair out of his eyes.
‘Kaga?’ she asked the boy
‘Mumma.’ He replied holding his arms out to her and she took him from Gavin clutching him to her and crying in relief.
‘Thank you.’ She told Gavin looking up into his eyes. ‘Thank you for saving my babies.’
‘You’re welcome.’ Gavin replied looking stunned.
Rhiannan was standing with Susie holding the small baby. She saw the look on Gavin’s face. Where there had been hungriness for Rhiannan there was astonishment and awe for Susie. Michael saw it too and stepped between Gavin and his sister.
‘Thank you Fairchild, assist Maloney now. Maloney get us to Stanley as fast as the wind can take us.’ He bellowed walking Gavin away from his sister. ‘Rhiannan take Susie below…’
‘We are running out of cabins.’ She prompted him ignoring the young mother’s sudden realisation Rhiannan was female.
‘Maloney get that rat out of my cabin and into the sail hold now.’ Michael bellowed in frustration.
Rhiannan saw a vein in his temple throb and she reached a hand up to stroke it tenderly. He looked down at her and seeing her smile relaxed a little grabbing her hand and kissing it.
‘Susie this is my intended wife Rhiannan. Rhiannan,’ he collected his sister under his arm ‘I am proud to present you with my baby sister Susie.’
And then suddenly he was crushing the girl to him, child in her arms and all. ‘I thought you were dead! How did you escape the Indians?’
‘I will tell you all later brother. First I must see to Kaga my son and his sister Alexi.’
She pulled away from her brother and put her boy down on his shaky little legs. Michael immediately squatted to his nephew. ‘Kaga huh? Hello I’m your uncle Michael.’ He smiled at that realising he was just that, an uncle. ‘Your Mumma is my little sister like Alexi is your little sister, and this is my ship.’
The effect was magical. The boy opened his eyes wide and stared at the man.
‘Come along, we’ll take you below and you can get dry and have something to eat.’ Rhiannan offered, passing the small baby to her mother and holding out a hand to the boy.
From just the few dark skinned natives she had come across on this voyage she imagined Native Americans to have similar features. This boy was a mixture for sure, dressed in the soft leather of his culture, beaded and trimmed with fringes and feathers and with his shock of black hair longer than his shoulders and falling into his piercing brown eyes. As much as he had his mother’s bone structure and a paler skin colour from what she imagined a Native American to have, his eyes and that hair told her he had native blood.
‘Are you hungry?’ she asked an echo from her own dark past suddenly popping in her mind like a bubble in the broth. How long ago it seemed since she first remembered someone had asked her the same question. She was unsure the boy even understood her. She rubbed her tummy and playacted eating and humming appreciatively the imaginary morsel in her mouth. The boy smiled and copied her and she smiled back. ‘Yes you’re hungry. Come along then it has to be breakfast by now!’
Trustingly the boy put his little hand into hers and they went down to her cabin.
Her first action was to strip the bed that Jake no longer occupied, and throwing the sheets into the passageway to be dealt with later. Susie stood and watched her hugging her son and baby to her. Rhiannan turned feeling better and saw their startled faces. She smiled hoping to ease their worry.
‘Sorry, I’ll have to really scold those sheets clean before anyone uses them again. Now what can I find you to wear?’
Susie picked up her bundle she’d brought down. ‘I have things.’ She told Rhiannan.
‘Oh good!’ Rhiannan returned smiling in relief. Susie was as slender as she was but taller and she’d have nothing for Kaga. ‘Here you can use these to dry yourselves.’ She offered an old blanket that she’d cut and hemmed to make towels from. ‘Can I assist?’
‘You don’t need to but the company would be nice.’
Susie talked in stilted fashion. It was as if she was remembering an old story to tell. Rhiannan realised she was remembering not the old story but the language that she may not have used for some time. She squatted down to help Kaga.
‘How old is Kaga? Is that right?’
‘Yes Kaga. The wise woman said he would be the writer. He is three this winter.’
‘She will be one next summer.’ And then Susie burst into tears.
‘Oh Susie, Susie what is it?’ Rhiannan asked standing up and hugging the young mother.
‘I miss their father so much.’
‘Their father?’ Rhiannan was about to show her true ignorance. Somehow having a younger generation around seemed to make you feel grown up. ‘Where is he?’
The girl shook her head. ‘I don’t know. They took him back into the mountains on a cart to make the road. While he was gone people came and took me and the babies. I didn’t see him again.’
‘Oh my! Oh my poor Susie, that’s awful! Does Michael know?’
‘How can Michael know this is the first I have seen him since the Shoshone took me as a child.’
‘The what?’ she asked breathlessly it sounded like a horrible monster like a dragon from Grant’s books. ‘How long ago?’ she asked
‘Five winters now.’
Rhiannan noted the strange references to seasons and not months and years. Five years with the natives in America could have been very different than five years in London as she’d been. Her mind wanted to explore the differences, try to work out what they were and why. But now was not the time, perhaps later in the evening or in the morning when her time and her thoughts were her own.
‘Muraco, my man,’ Susie went on as she tended to her son ‘He saved me from the bad ones of Shoshone who wanted to kill all the white men and get them out of our country. He killed two of them to get me away. Because of that I stayed with him. He was very good to me. His family were very good. I lay with him and we became married and then I had Kaga. He was so gentle with me and so happy about Kaga. But before I knew of Alexi he took me to the sea, to the city. He wanted to give me my life not his. I liked his life. I liked the tribe and the work and the goodness. But he said it was no longer safe there. They moved up into the mountains and he took me to the sea.
‘I hated the city. It was loud and noisy and the people were dirty and angry. Every night as we lay in the little hut he built us I begged him to take us back. He said it would be different he would get work and then we could have a house but I wanted to go home to the tribe.’
‘What about your family, Michael, your parents?’ Rhiannan asked quietly and soon wished she hadn’t. There had to be a pretty horrific reason why Michael would not tell her of his family, especially his sister. As far as she knew Maloney and the crew were his family.
‘The Shoshone killed our father. They attacked our mother and our grandfather. I saw it all and then they took me. I couldn’t see Michael as they put me on their horse and galloped away screaming in victory. I thought him dead too. The family of Muraco became my family and I missed them dearly. I still do although it is such a wonderful thing to have Michael again. He has become so tall so man like. He was sixteen when the Shoshone took me. It was his birthday and father had let him go fishing. I was ten. I wanted to go with him but mother wanted me to stay and help her with the special supper. We were to bake him a cake. I went to find eggs and saw my duck dead. I took it crying into my mother and that’s when they came.’
She froze, her hands screwing up the towel that she was holding her eyes staring out at nothing as her mind relived the horrors she’d seen that day. She’d sat hugging the dead duck as the tall crazy one came in holding high a scalp of blonde hair screaming in victory then he attacked her mother. He’d been laughing wildly as he hit her and had his way with her ripping her clothing and making her accept him. Then he yelled out bringing in his men to have their go.
The last one of his men had come in with two eyeballs in his hands and then held them to his own eyes before eating one and trying to get her mother to eat the other. He forced it into her mouth but she spat it out and he hit her and pushed her onto the bed and had his way with her too.
That’s when he saw Susie trying to hide in the corner and screaming his tongue yodelling scream of victory he leapt off her mother and picked Susie up. Susie dropped the duck hitting and kicking the man both she and her mother screaming “NO!” over and over. The ringing of it still deafened her.
She clawed for her mother but he kicked her mother away and carried her out. Susie had seen the blood on her grandfather’s face, his legs were broken his eyes bleeding and she knew it was his eyes that the crazy one was playing with. She threw up all down the man’s back she didn’t care what he was screaming she wanted to die. And then as they galloped over the fields she saw her father laying, his head a mass of blood and she threw up again.
‘Susie? Susie?’ Rhiannan was hugging the girl’s shoulders worried that she was standing shaking and totally non-responsive. ‘Michael!’ she screamed. ‘Kaga go get your uncle Michael.’ She tried and then as Susie started to gag and froth at the mouth Rhiannan screamed for help.
Gavin ran to the cabin door first followed by Furness.
‘Help me.’ She pleaded with them.
Gavin needed no asking as he automatically stepped in and collected Susie, effortlessly lifting the girl who was now twitching and fitting. He lay her on the bed and sat with her, holding her flailing arms and trying to keep her still.
Rhiannan looked about grabbing the towels they’d dried themselves with for Gavin to cover her. Kaga had gone but the baby was crying on Rhiannan’s bed.
‘Furness, get me salts.’ Gavin ordered and the man fled back down the gangway. ‘Someone, get Michael.’
Michael was with Maloney in the captain’s cabin looking at the charts and setting their course. The boy came in crying.
‘Hey there Kaga.’ Michael greeted them then frowned. ‘What’s this?’
‘Mumma Mumma.’ Kaga was crying
‘What about her? Are you lost? Well you just sit up with me and she’ll come find you soon enough.’ He picked up the boy and sat him on his knee ‘Probably happy to have him out of her hair for a bit.’ He commented to Maloney
But Kaga was not happy to sit on his lap. His Mumma was sick and the nice lady had said to get his uncle Michael to come. He grabbed the pencil lying on the table and in the corner of the map drew a picture of a lady. ‘Mumma.’ He said
‘Very good Kaga, you draw very well. I can see her braids and the feathers…’
Kaga jumped down and grabbed his uncle’s arm ‘Mumma! Mumma.’ He yelled pulling Michael.
‘Okay okay I’m coming.
Michael got up and followed the boy down to the cabin below.
The boy ran in and jumped up onto the bed with his sister and Rhiannan met him at the door in a real dither.
‘Are you deaf man? I was screaming and screaming for you.’ She admonished him
‘What’s going on?’ Michael caught Rhiannan to him and then looked over to see Fairchild holding his sister on the bed. His blood boiled over. ‘Fairchild get off her!’ He roared and strode over to knock the man senseless with one punch but Rhiannan grabbed his arm and hung on.
‘No! No, he’s helping! She’s sick! She just stopped and then she started shaking and … and … oh Michael I was so scared!’
‘Why? What is wrong with her? What were you doing?’
‘Nothing.’ Rhiannan said stunned that he would accuse her of any wrong deed.
She realised there and then that no matter his love for her there was a stronger bond with his sister and she felt sad she had none like it.
‘I’ve seen similar before.’ Gavin said. ‘It comes on for no apparent reason and then it passes eventually but you have to hold them so they don’t hurt themselves.’
‘Is she possessed or something? Did those devils that took her steal her soul?’
‘Listen to yourself man.’ Gavin cut him off, his tone condescending. ‘That’s medieval speak. She is not possessed she is just sick. She has a mandalay that with no warning stops her; through no fault of her own or anyone else’s.’
‘Can we fix it?’
‘I’ve not seen anyone cured of it.’ he replied.
‘How …?’ Rhiannan began and stopped herself. One thing she’d learnt on this long voyage is that to know a man’s history could be a very dangerous thing. To ask for it could have you killed.
‘My mother’s sister suffered it. My grandfather had her put in the asylum. I visited with my mother. There was nothing the matter with my aunt except that sometimes she would have these episodes. In the asylum they made her worse. The last time we went, her eyes were black the sockets bruised and she couldn’t really talk and she sat staring at her feet dribbling. My mother cried all the way home and we never went back.’
‘That’s horrible.’ Rhiannan cried her hands gripping Michael’s arm for a different reason.
Susie was coming out of her fit. Her hands were holding Gavin’s arms and not just clutching involuntarily she coughed blinked and closed her mouth and then focussed on Gavin’s face which he wore a warm smile. ‘It’s okay, I got you.’ He told her reassuringly.
‘My babies.’ She whispered her eyes closing.
‘Rhiannan and Michael are taking care of them.’ He told her ‘You just rest.’
‘Muraco.’ She whispered and went limp as sleep took over her.
‘You’re welcome.’ Gavin replied interpreting the word as some kind of grace.
Rhiannan didn’t think it appropriate to correct him. She saw the happiness in his face, it was as if not only had he helped Susie but in some way he’d redeemed himself with his aunt.
‘She’ll sleep now, I don’t know how long for.’ He turned and said to them.
‘I should make her bed properly then. Could you lift her?’ Rhiannan asked and didn’t have to ask twice.
The mate turned and collected the sleeping woman into his arms and striding to the windows stood swaying with the swell holding her to him as if she were a child. Rhiannan thought they looked good and then remembered he was doing it so she could make up the bed. Michael helped her which made the job somewhat harder to accomplish. Even so the mate seemed reluctant to lay her in the clean sheets as Rhiannan held the top covers back. He took the covers from Rhiannan and tenderly tucked them in about the sleeping girl. She watched him hold back where she was certain he would have preferred to bend and kiss her and then he turned to the boy sitting patting his sister.
‘Want to come play with me boy?’ he asked. He held his hand out to the child who smiling held his arms up and Gavin collected him up into his arm. He looked down at the sleeping baby, tracing the blanket away from her face with one finger, and then turned his attentions back to the boy taking him out of the cabin.
‘I think our first mate is somewhat besotted.’ Rhiannan smiled up at Michael.
‘If that man thinks I can stand him pawing at my sister…’ Rhiannan put her fingers over his lips.
‘Better your sister than your wife though.’ She said up to him her eyes twinkling.
‘You were awake, you knew he wanted you?’
‘Some men just cannot hide their private thoughts.’ She smiled at him. ‘Can it be wrong if it makes a woman feel special?’
‘I was so wrong to introduce you to Roulade.’
‘Were you really?’ she looked up at him under her eyelashes and his insides melted.
‘Mike,’ Maloney was at the door. Sorry but ‘I’m still not confident we’re where you think we are.’
‘You minx, mind my sister and my niece.’ He growled at her and left the cabin to her soft laughter.
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.
Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.
I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼