I paced restlessly, waiting for the crew to assemble! Finally, after what seemed an age, Perkins came to tell me that the lower decks had been cleared!
“Yes Perkins what is it?” I turned to face him, he had doffed his cap, and was fidgeting with its brim.
“Sir…two of the women have somehow learnt of your intentions, and have asked to come on deck also!”
“Very well Mr Perkins! So be it!”
“Captain! With due respect sir…I don’t think it’s a sight for our female guests to witness!”
“Noted Mr Perkins! But…… they have suffered at the hands of men like these! It will enable them to lay the ghosts somewhat! My order stands!”
“Aye aye sir!”
His face was troubled….he donned his cap and left! Was I doing the right thing! I thought not!!..…but….I felt justified after witnessing the result the inhumanity of men such as these! I donned my cap and went on deck!
“Captain sir…lower decks cleared…with two female guests present!” Jordan had come to confirm the crew were assembled.
“Very well Mr Jordan! Bring the prisoner to the rail if you please!…..and…make the main lower yard the gibbet!”
“Aye aye sir!”
He hurried to do my bidding. The gathered crew were silent…a shuffling of feet…men stepped aside and parted to allow Moses and the prisoner to be brought before me.
The Arab was trembling visibly, his face ghostly pale. I raised my hands and called for silence…I noticed the faces of three of our rescued women at the back of the group! Sail cracked overhead as the topmen crammed on sail…the lower main yard still remained furled.
“Men…I have called you together to witness a solemn duty! You have seen horrendous sights in the past few days! We have watched, helplessly, as women and children have drowned! We have seen the result of the barbarity of scum such as this! Some may say, that barbarity in return is not the answer! However, I cannot let that sway my decision…if this creature is given safe passage and released ashore, I feel he will commit grave crimes again! He has committed acts of barbarity against women and children…acts that might well have included murder! Acts that have been testified to, by some we have rescued! Murder!!….cruelty in the extreme!!….the rape of innocents!!! There can be no court of justice in any land that would allow him to live on! I have therefore passed the only sentence I feel fit! This is a burden I take upon myself…I will answer for this execution to any court…and…..I take the responsibility upon myself solely! I have therefore set in the ship’s log…that this is my decision…and my decision only! You will carry out my order Mr Jordan to hang this person until he is dead! I will brook no quarter…nor will I accept any pleas! My decision is final and binding! Carry out the order Mr Jordan!”
There was silence as I finished my address! There was a mumbling and jibbering from the prisoner….he looked up at me…his eyes full of terror. But…in one final act of defiance he spat on the decks and cursed in his own language!
A six inch manila was thrown over the lower yard and belayed to a belaying pin at the mast…a noose was quickly tied, and, a cask furnished for the prisoner to stand on. I looked at the faces of the three women captives! Their eyes shone with strange light! There was the hint of a smile on one woman’s face!
Our prisoner was lifted onto the cask, the noose was placed around his neck and slipped tight against the right side of his jaw!
From somewhere there came the stamp of a foot…a rhythmic slow stamping….taken up by more and more of the crew…..thump!…thump!…thump!….each beat about a second apart…thump!….thump!! I knew then that the crew were giving their approval in their own way, no words need be spoken! I had taken sole responsibility….they need have no fears…and this was their reply!
Jordan stepped down from his task…the stage was set! All eyes turned to me!
I nodded at Jordan and Perkins!
“Carry out my order Mr Jordan! And may his God have mercy on his soul!”
The cask was kicked away simultaneously by both Jordan and Perkins….the slaver’s body jerked, bucked and kicked for a few seconds then …his body stilled!
We waited a full ten minutes in silence before taking his body down. As Jordan took the weight…..Perkins slipped the noose….Jordan looked askance at me! I needed no prompting!
“Over the side with him Mr Jordan!!! SET SAIL ON LOWER MAIN!!” I turned away, there was a large splash, the job was done! Softly a cheer rose from the rear of the crew….one of the women was cheering….another joined her…then the crew joined in…until the whole assemblage was cheering! I felt only sadness!
I knew I would answer for the execution….but I would even face my God (if there was one) with my head held high!
I suddenly realised that the first of the women to start the cheering had been mute since we had rescued them all! Maybe that was justification in itself????
I also was suddenly aware of the wind….we had a good wind… a steady wind!!! Perhaps my whistling had helped? Who knows?
(To be cont.................)