I am, on the whole, unfamiliar in distinguishing birds. But I would swear it on the lord himself, that no less than three of those type that are said to signify death, flew over me during that second week of April.
Having been born an Englishman (indeed that is an important point in this little story), I made my ablutions early, and I had such a sensible relationship with God so as to know that he is not capable of creating a beast of such unpropitious portent.
Indeed I was wrong. Though I thought nothing of it at the time. And my mother was long gone; so she shan’t have told me otherwise. In short, I lived out that month how I normally should; that is to say, in a state of penury, my earnings of prior employment now deplete. So it was that time of season in which one seeks to voyage again, and under any sort of captain willing.
It has never been my wish to recount the story of this very particular hardship as I do not dwell on the things of anguish, suffering and fatigue like my mother-in-law likes to do. But through my years I still find the situation to be of such troubling circumstance that each time I play it in my mind I become more and more lost, further from reason and altogether concerned for the health of the mind of man.
It is here that you will meet a sea Captain called Captain Sir Roger. And if you think that is too many titles for one man to have, I can only say that I quite agree with you. In my time, I have never met so capricious a fellow as Captain Sir Roger. So wieldy was he, so flighty and strange that to this day I have not known his motive for being so. If you do come to understand what was meant by his character, I would be very much interested to know your thoughts, for at the present, after so much of my time has been spent in thought toward it, I almost consign myself over to never thinking about such a thing again.
Now, I do not die in this story as you may well know, but I was so strangely close to it when I needn’t have been. And so I recount to you my deliverance, or more specifically, my near deliverance from certain death.
In late May, I rode my last into Portsmouth and was quickly advised to the Smuggler’s Inn where I might find a fishing captain by the name of Hastings. I enquired first after he, to which the corpulent fool of an owner, who at this time looked half in slumber from drink had not an intelligible reply. And when I enquired after a room next, only then was I more taken care of. He ushered his boy over to me and I was escorted toward the captain and served neatly with a drink for my trouble.
“Can ye be ready to leave as early as tomorrow morning?” said Captain Hastings, “If ye can trouble ye self to serve the Boatswain I’ll get him to show ye the ship. One of the mates is prone to pleasure spectacles on shore and we haven’t seen him in the past week so ye’ll take up his lot, ey?”
“Yes, thank you. I am in your debt!” cried I.
Certainly I thought I was the luckiest man in the world to come into work so suddenly. And even if someone had told me there and then of what was to come, I wouldn’t have believed them. But to think that I willingly agreed to take up precisely someone else’s ill lot is extraordinarily harrowing.
“We travel west” said the Boatswain to me, “Round Cape Horn.”
I was familiar with the route as I had done it thrice before and on the last vessel the Sailing Master had shown me the maps and the methods one uses to navigate them. So wonderful a thing is navigation, taken from science and mathematics and applied to our great cause of spinning round the world and feasting off of its largesse. Of course, it has limitations as you will see; the limitation being that navigation is of no use if one does not know where they wish to go.
In three days we had left the shore and travelled briefly round the landside, we didn’t come upon so much as a brisk breeze and so the ship stayed smooth and true. It took forty more days however for the tide to turn. By my estimate we were nearing Cape Horn when those strong Southern winds grew vast, the sea churned its molten mass along the stern and sent us into a frightfully tumultuous storm. The likes of which send all the men in the vicinity to death and it indeed sent our ship to a very early death.
The main mast snapped and cracked and fell, catapulting the weight of the ship over and into the sea. All the men were delivered to the same fate except strangely, that of me. The sea rolled over me and gripped at me with a passion. The storm hardly giving me room to breathe for as soon as I surfaced the rain threatened to drown me.
To this end I gave myself away and I could not have told you how long it would of been before I awoke. I may have risen after three days just as the son of Christ. Or I might of risen after a sennight to be sure. But what is more likely is that I awoke the next morning, just as the tide rose to my feet and so I was to rise too.
I was situated on a little sand bank, the plot size being roughly twelve steps by twelve steps, the ocean on every edge. The wreck of the ship I could not see and so I thought it to have been consumed wholly by the ocean and certainly there was no land in sight, save my little island. If no ship was to pass by I would not have been found, nor could I provide for myself on the desolate lump of land I fell on.
You see, this is what I mean by navigation being partially fruitless. By the sun and the stars I knew whence I was, but by the same sun and stars no man could yet find me. And after days and days I gave myself over for lost. There was not a single action I could perform as to better my chances. Fate was my God and I began to pray to him for deliverance.
I was in the midst of such a state when at last I saw the flag. That great British flag flying high among the ocean. I at once entered my most vociferous state, I gave everything to be heard, to be sighted by that vessel and it turned in toward my little home and weighed anchor a short boat ride away.
Yahooing from the forecastle was who I thought to be the captain and next to he, a little bald gangly man who I was later told was the quartermaster.
“Who be you there?”
The Captain’s clothing was utterly grandiloquent. No expense had been spared as to their design.
“It is I! The name is Adamson, Sir.”
“Adamson,” repeated the quartermaster. “He says his name is Adamson, sir.”
“And what do you think you’re doing on that stupid little island?” asked the Captain.
“My ship, sir…” said I, “It was beaten up in the storm and has perished, all the men lost except I. And now you have come to save me! Hurrah! You have come for me.”
“Come for you? Jack, this man thinks we have sailed here, to this exact part of the Earth expressly to save him!” The quartermaster laughed as the Captain continued, “Why, I, the great Captain Sir Roger, cannot think of anything more odd for a person to say. I have certainly not come to save you! My man, I am from England, where we do not save anyone but our own!”
“Well, indeed then, I am grateful that I am English,” said I. “I’ve been English since I left the womb!”
“Nonsense!” said Captain Sir Roger. “If you were English I dare say you would be in England! Of which you are not and your ship is nowhere in sight and therefore does not display the flag.”
At this point, I thought the Captain to be having me on as they say. For here was my knight in shining armour and he was putting up a fight to save me, but of course, it was a particularly odd sort of fight; one does not often have such a conflict with their own saviour.
“I plead to you,” said I. “Deliver me from this place and count me as your own. I appeal to your better natures; I am an Englishman after all! Do I not look like one? Ask your man there, Jack, Jack, do I not look like one?”
“I am blind.” said Jack.
“He is blind,” said the Captain. “My quartermaster is blind. Cannot see a thing two spaces in front of him.”
“You have a blind man as a quartermaster? But how does he navigate if he cannot see-?”
“You fork-nosed jobbernowl!” cried the Captain. “Are you always so discriminatory toward people with no eyesight? You detestable man. You hark-lumped fiend!”
“Hark-lumped fiend-” mimicked the quartermaster.
“I should shoot at you at once!” cried the Captain. “Better yet I should leave you be!”
“No please, I implore you. Choose any member of your crew and get him to look at me, they’ll tell you that I am what I am.”
“The crew is all below at this moment.” said the Captain.
“What crew, sir?” whispered the quartermaster to the Captain.
Captain Sir Roger laughed suddenly, “Uh, the crew Jack, all in slumber and unable to be roused-”
“Oh, oh yes!” said Jack. “All below, all in slumber.”
This had silenced me shortly. Did this man explore the seas with no crew to command but his own quartermaster? And a quartermaster with very poor eyesight? It puzzled me exceedingly.
“Do not leave one of your own here to die,” said I. “You think I am not an Englishman, but I am one, I am one I assure you. Only, I am abroad from home. I am lost. And think how wondrous it is that you are lost also. That you are lost and have found me!”
“As you say, I am abroad like you,” said the Captain. “And as you also say, I have come to the point in the sea where you have been lost to civilisation. You are undoubtedly lost. But to declare me lost for being here as well- that is nonsense. I tell you. The word lost is relative. And when one is described as being lost, does not one say that you go round in circles? Why, when we go on a ‘voyage‘ as the French call it- A voyage of the sea faring kind- it does not matter whether one goes round in circles. In fact, you are bound to go in a circle, the earth is very limited as such. So, it is true that every naval voyage goes round in circles and none of us are lost dear man, we all have some divine purpose, dear boy.”
I began to give up all hope that I could possibly talk round a man of such insatiable a nature. And though I tried to apologise for any ill grievances I had caused him, all was in vain. I saddened, became destitute and pleaded my origin of birth once more.
“Do you have papers declaring you to be so?” the Captain asked of me.
“No sir, they were lost in the ship wreck that sent me here.”
“And do you have papers declaring your ship to be wrecked? How on Earth is one meant to believe your ship is wrecked, if it is wrecked as you say it is, the ship would be at the bottom of the ocean. And how is one meant to see a wreck towards those depths in which only the whale dives? My man, you must have papers of your ship being wrecked. I shan’t believe you otherwise. And what ship did you say it was? What artificial name have you of this ship?”
“My ship was called the Arbour, Sir.”
The Captain frowned momentarily in thought.
“The Arbour? Do you speak of the Arbour which left from Portsmouth?”
“Yes! Yes the exact one!”
I gasped, shocked at his recognition of the ship.
“Well, Jack?” said the Captain. “Do we not have mail onboard for that ship? the Arbour. What did you say your name was again?”
“Adamson,” said I.
“Adamson,” said Jack.
“Adamson,” said the Captain. “Jack go below and retrieve the mail for Adamson.”
“Sir, yes, Sir.”
Finally my praying and imploring had gave way. This was to prove it, my mail was to be my deliverance; delivered to me by the deliverer who was to deliver me. All the joy of new hope flushed through me, for I was to board this man’s ship and set a course straight for home. I declared never again to set out on such an adventure. Never was I to leave the homeland for fear of them disowning me as this man had done.
The bald man arrived again at the forecastle from below, he held out to his captain a wad of letters and papers, bound by a string.
“For Adamson, Sir, of the Arbour.”
“Yes, let me see at them,” said the Captain. “Yes, well, here you are then, Mr Adamson. Your mail promptly delivered to you.”
The Captain threw the package over the sea and unto the sand.
“Thank you” said I. “Now do you wish to send a boat out so that I may board your ship, Sir?”
The captain tutted harshly.
“What?” he said. “Not again! Jack, this man thinks we have come to save him again.”
“But sir- my mail, please I beg of you, I am an Englishman. This is proof. Surely, this is proof. I will swim out to you if you do not desire to send over a boat.”
“Do not swim out.”
“I will!” cried I. “I will swim out. I will do it now!”
“If you do I will shoot at you.”
I stopped resignedly in my tracks.
“Even if you are an Englishman, it does not matter one jot. You see, how do I know that you have not encountered savages on this little island of yours? That you have not been dissuaded from our culture and religion? If that is the case, the English cannot take you as their own.”
“It is impossible,” said I, savagely. “You can see this island from end to end. It is no bigger than twelve steps by twelve steps. I have not encountered another human soul from the time my ship was taken by the storm until this day when I have met you. You can see, there is only me that stands here, and now there is me and you and your blind quartermaster. That is all. I have had enough of you. You are absolutely outrageous, devoid of all sense, lost to all reason. Send me a boat and I shall board your ship and you will drop me off at the next port that you see fit. Otherwise away with you and I will await my next fate.”
“Indeed, just as you say.” said the Captain. “Away with us Jack, leave this insipid savage where he is.”
And just as soon as I had gained my hope, I had lost it again. The ship gaining speed and sprawling away and out of the horizon. Again I was alone and in bleak circumstances. My mail had beaten all odds to reach me but I could not yet be delivered. My lord had given me one hope, one shining glimmer in the rough but a useless man had sailed it.
It must be thus incredulous to you that I should have stayed alive to have written this account, but it is my honest word to you that those events in which I have described are as true as my lineage. Overwhelmingly and boringly true. And so I will have to surprise you again by saying that not two days later another English ship came by. This time the Captain didn’t even see the need to ask me who I was before hauling my person to safety.
When I arrived back on home soil it was like nothing had so much as minutely changed. No one wished to disavow my word and I could not be the happier for it. Only after many years has it occurred to me that the Captain Sir Roger, of that first ship that came by my little island, might not in fact have been English. For how can someone of such a disposition, with no morals or intelligence, no purpose and no discernible motive be that of my creed? And I have often thought if for whatever reason, the lord had given the job to Captain Sir Roger that he intended for Noah in the antediluvian, the world would not have been saved, and all our struggles, all our loves and hopes would have been for nought.
Thank you for reading my short story, it was initially written after I read Robinson Crusoe and is sort of parody of the text. If you would like to leave some feedback you can do so in the comments or you can contact me over on my twitter by clicking the link here and magically apparating there. Any thoughts of yours are much appreciated.
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