As we walked the cliff-path down to the harbour, Jordan gave me the news that we needed to re-store with powder and some shot, if we needed to increase the normal manifest! Port-de-Paix seemed the most convenient place, but after the raid by the slaver gangs, did the armourer still have stock? Was the armourer still alive? Was the armoury still there? There was only one way to find out! First port of call would be Port-de-Paix.
Whilst we talked and planned, my thoughts kept drifting to Anna! My lovely wife…I hoped she would be alright with Doc Crossley to look after her , I had great confidence in Doc Crossley, but I knew that childbirth was a very difficult time, with many women succumbing to disease, fever and death during the course of the pregnancy and the ultimate labour. Although Anna was nowhere near halfway through her confinement, the perils of premature miscarriage were well documented!!!…. I was fearful for us! Although the bleeding had stopped, I was still anxious, still concerned that it would herald the loss of our child! I dreaded the thought that it might mean the loss of Anna! Her fever had dissipated somewhat, but she was still ill! Her words “Go Crees!!” still echoed in my head! Had I done the right thing? Or…had I done the thing that everyone wanted? I relished the thought of taking revenge for the lost villagers, for the families of those killed or crucified! My pulse quickened at the thought of action again! God! I hoped I was doing the right thing!
We approached the harbour. Just a few lanterns on the stern of the “Anna Baptiste” showed in the darkness! I wondered if the gangway sentry was at his post? Was he slumbering? I touched Moses arm, bringing my finger to my lips “Shhh! Let’s see if they’re awake!” His white teeth gleamed in the darkness, he turned to Jordan to give him the message, and, we slowly, and softly approached the gangway on tiptoe!
“Who goes there! Stand and show yourself! I am armed!” The cry echoed across the soft darkness!
We held our breaths! Standing completely still! I could see Moses was smiling, his teeth glinting in the starlight!
“Watch on deck!!! Alert the watch! Watch on deck!” there was a running of feet on the holystoned decks,
“Come out and show yourself! I will shoot!” The alerted watch meant business!
“AHOY Anna Baptiste!” I shouted “ Captain Allen, 1st Mate Samuels and Gunnery Officer Jordan approaching! Permission to come aboard?”
“Aye! Sir! Permission granted Captain sir! “
We had reached the bottom of the gangway, only to find, as we looked up to the ship’s side, a brace of muskets and a pistol pointing in our direction!
“You can put the arms away ….er…” I looked to Moses for help.
“Is Seaman 1st Sheriff Cap’n suh!”
“You can put away the arms Sheriff! We’re coming aboard!”
There was a distinct clatter as the muskets and other side arms were laid down. We climbed the gangway and entered the bulwark gate in the side.
I saw Sheriff standing stock still awaiting my comments. Next to him stood both Gilby and No9!
“Well done Sheriff! Well done all of you! I expected you all to be slumbering!… No such luck eh?… Nice to see you were keeping a good watch! We could’ve been a raiding party! Well done!!”
“Gilby? Raise the officers if you please! I want to see them in my cabin in….er…10 minutes!”
I turned and made my way aft to my cabin, closely followed by Moses and Jordan. As we entered I turned and addressed Moses over my shoulder. “I think Sheriff did a good job of challenging us tonight, whilst standing his watch Number One! I think that might be worth rewarding! What is he at the moment? A Seaman 1st class? I think he would make a good Leading Seaman don’t you? What are your thoughts?”
“’E is always show good promises Cap’n suh! Never slackin suh!”
“What do you think Mr Jordan?” I asked as we gathered around the table.
“Well sir! I would like to have him in my Gunnery crew! He is bright and trustworthy! He is also a Seaman, which might make that difficult I know, but he is a first class Seaman! Good lookout in the tops too!”
“Good! See to it Moses that he is made-up to Leading Seaman! And query if he would like to join Mr Jordan’s gunnery crew!”
“Aye Aye Cap’n suh!”
I walked to the drinks locker, and poured some claret from the decanter into three glasses.
“Spread the chart of the area Guns!” I passed him the decanter, to use as a paperweight….quickly passing another three across the table! The decanters had a very wide base, about eight or nine inches across, shaped in a triangular form they were very good as paperweights! Jordan quickly spread the chart out, placing a decanter at each corner! I fetched a pair of dividers and a navigator’s slide rule from my desk. There was a tap at the door!
“Come!” I hollered.
Gilby entered doffing his woollen cap!
“Officer suh!” he stated, then stepped aside to allow them all to enter! They didn’t look best pleased to be shaken from their slumbers! Perkins spoke from their midst.
“Welcome back aboard Captain! I would just like to say that all of us, the Officers and the crew, are aware of your personal circumstances, and, although we are delighted to have you back, we would have no qualms about undertaking the task under Mr Samuels sir, if you had decided to stay alongside Lady Anna !….erm…..(he looked embarrassed)…that is all I have to say sir!….but…welcome back!”
“Thank you Mr Perkins! Thank you all! Lady Anna is in good hands! Doc Crossley will be staying ashore! Now men! To business! Here is the chart…..here…(I pointed to the tiny island of Pelantenka)…here is the island these scum use as a base now! Mr Samuels and Mr Jordan have helped formulate a plan of action! I would just like your thoughts on it before we sail! Oh by the way Mr Perkins! We sail on the tide!”
He looked thunderstruck! “On the tide Captain?….Aye aye sir! Then I’m afraid I must leave you all to your deliberations whilst I prepare the ship for sea!”
“Very well Mr Perkins! Come back when you’ve set things in motion and I’ll fill the gaps for you!”
“Aye aye sir!”
He was gone! Running out of the door and along the passageway! I could hear the echoes of his voice carrying around the ship.
“All hands on deck!! Prepare to get under way!!…..ALL HANDS ON DECK!!!”
My thoughts slipped to Anna! “Oh Anna…. my love! What am I doing????”