Under a renegade Flag (Part 9)
BOOOOM!!! The whole ship juddered, smoke billowed back
across the decks...."RELOAD!!!" I heard the crisp order
from below! The whole side of Lasalle's ship opened up
in orange and black flame and smoke! A direct hit!!!
"Come to Port Charteris! 5 points!" This would turn us
away, making us a smaller target! I raised the glass to
see how badly we had wounded him! With an almight crash,
the Black Swan's mainmast slowly fell across her decks!
Flame leapt into the rigging and along yards and canvas!
As the fire took hold, I saw huge holes suddenly appear
in her sails on the Fore! She was mortally wounded!
Moses passed across her bows with about 20ft to spare!
Phew! That was close! Then...A series of explosions
rumbled across the water!
"Stand by to come about Mr Charteris! Port your
wheel....course 070 degrees!"
The wheel was spun over! The spokes a blur! Halyards
were hauled at lightning speed, and Squalus turned about
on her axis nearly, yards, running blocks and yokes
squealing in protest....she heeled to Starboard in a
sickening motion! Starboard gunwhale nearly under water,
she came around, and settled on her new course to take
her back along the pirate vessel's Starboard side! This
would be suicide, if our previous actions had turned out
not to be!!! I raised the glass again! Zee Schwalbe was
slowing, she was lying low in the water, she had take
the full force of Lasalle's broadside! Huge rents in her
deck belied the true extent of her damage! I turned back
to Black Swan...We were approaching fast from astern
about 70 or 80 yards abeam....I judged the distance to
be 200 yards between us!
"Stand by Mr Jordan! Load and run out Port Side!"Mr
Charteris! We will get to within 50 yards of her stern,
then turn away to Starboard, firing a broadside as we do
so! Hopefully we might hit her in the stern before
getting hammered ouselves!"
"Aye Aye Sir"
As we quickly ran down on the pirate ship....I counted
"Bring her round slowly Carteris! then full wheel when I
give the order!"
"Fire at will Mr Jordan!!"
As the ship turned gently away to Starboard the Port
side guns opened up! BOOOOM!! Once again the vessel
nearly shook herself apart! I choked on the smoke, eyes
streaming, I could not see! But I could hear the faint
cheers across the water from Zee Schwalbe!
"Full rudder Charteris!"
"Full rudder! Aye Aye Sir!"
Squalus heeled heavily to Starboard! I thought Jordan
would be cursing me as he desperately fought to maintain
control of his guns! Gravity was trying to pull them
through the ship's side now!!
"'Midships Sir Aye Aye!"
Squalus settled back on an even keel as the turn away
decreased! I raised the glass! There were both ships,
lying low in the water! Black Swan afire and
sinking....Zee Schwalbe listing badly at about 40
degrees to Port! Both ships were finished!
"Come to Port now Charteris! Make your course 190
We would skirt around Lasalle's ship, or what remained
of her, and go to the aid of Zee Schwalbe!
"Survivors in the water sir!!"
"Ignore them Lester! Ignore them!"
Sharks for the sharks I thought!!!!
Heeling, we turned to Port, we needed to pick our crew
up from Zee Schwalbe.
"Come about Mr Charteris! Steer 125 degrees!"
He spun the wheel and Squalus immediately responded. We
would come alongside her Starboard side which looked to
be the least damaged!
"Mr Lester? How many hands have we lost! I want a figure
if you please!"
I knew there were fatalities back aft on the quarterdeck
area, but some that had been laid flat by falling
rigging might still have been alive as we went into the
final part of the action!
"Still waiting for Mr Crossley (our Doctor) to give me
the figure for dead Sir! But we have 8 wounded, two
serious, they will need amputations!"
"Very well! Keep me informed!"
As soon as time permitted I would go below and check on
the men who were wounded. It was not a very nice duty to
perform, but it was my duty nevertheless!
We were coming down on Zee Schwalbe at a fast pace. I
ordered sail to be taken in and we would manouvre with
the single lower-main!
"Stand by with grapnels Lester!"
50 yards.....30 yards...God! She was a mess! I could see
now, through the telescope, several bundles laid out on
her decks...more casualties!
Had it been worth it? We had scuppered the other two
ships without loss...but this...this was a different
story! Of the crew of 67 originally, I wondered how many
I had left?
Lester came bounding on deck from below to whisper in my
ear that Van Eike could be among the dead aft!!
"I last saw him on deck sir!! He was on the quarterdeck,
right in the forefront of the action!"
We would find out soon enough!
The grapnels flew across the intervening gap as we came
alongside Zee Schwalbe! What a scene of devastation!
Huge gaping holes where her steering gear should have
been...a huge tangle of timber and canvas, ropes and
running rig lay everywhere...she had settled in the
water to within 4 or 5 ft of the scuppers! How long she
would last I couldn't say.
"Get everyone across Lester! look sharp now!"
Men were jumping across the gap from the other ship's
gunwhales....Standing alone and alert was Moses, a huge
calico bandage around his middle! As the crew were
transferring, there came a gurgling and bubbling noise
from below decks on Zee Schwalbe. I could see she was
starting to list!
"Make it snappy men!!" I yelled "There isn't much
Moses stood looking back at the row of canvas covered
corpses on the deck...then sprang across the gap and
landed on Squalus! He ran immediately to where I was
"Good job suh! But high price! 11 men dead an' two
"I don't think there will be time enough to bring the
dead across Moses! Do you?"
"I hav' take da liberty of weight them Suh! The sea??
She do da rest!! Most o' dem have no famille! no
He paused and I could see the pain in his eyes!!
"We have lost the Captain too Moses!" I said "Seems he
was aft when we were hit!!"
His face blanched!! "Da Cap'n Suh???"
"Afraid so Moses! Afraid so!"
"I go aft...speak wid my men suh!!"
"Very well Moses!" There was little I could do, at this
news, to raise his mood! It was sad!!!
"Ready about Mr Charteris! Let's get this ship back to
I turned to look at Zee Schwalbe....she was listing
badly to Port...her decks awash on the portside. I
estimated she was listing to about 50 degrees!...As I
watched...she very slowly lay over on her side, her
stern dropped and her bow lifted...with a huge gout of
white water...she lifted her head high, and slowly sank
beneath the waves! I watched until her mainmast tops
sank slowly out of sight, and all that was left was
flotsam and white, bubbling water!
"Lester is talking to you Mr Allen sir! You're the
Captain now sir!!"
"What is it Lester?"
"It's confirmed about the Captain sir!! And...there's a
small boat about half a mile from where the pirate
vessel is sinking sir! I can't make her out yet!"
"Very well Lester! Where is she?"
"Just beyond near that jumble of mast, stays and yard
I raised the glass....Ah yes! there!!
"Come to course 260 Mr Charteris! Let's go have a look
It looked like someone had made it away from the wreck
of the Black Swan after all!!....I had ignored the
swimmers in the water whilst I took our men off Zee
Schwalbe...they had probably perished in these shark
infested waters! Maybe someone was trying to make it
back to port in a lifeboat?? We would soon know!!!
As we swung onto our new course, I wondered who could be
in the boat? Someone had made it away from the Black
Swan no doubt! And...whilst ordinary seafarers were
swimming for their lives, someone had mustered a boat,
and, made a run for it! There was no intention of
seeking our help was there?
Our quarry lay about 5 miles ahead now.
"Moses!!! Get a couple of hands ready to board her, and
I want every man on board her taken! Alive!!!
"Aye Cap'n suh! Who yo t'ink is on dat boat?"
"We shall soon find out Moses! But, I'll wager it's no
I was a little dubious about the seaworthiness of our
boat, especially after the short, but intense action of
the last couple of hours! Shrapnel had flown in all
directions. I hoped she was still seaworthy!
I watched as Moses and 4 hands cranked the wooden davits
holding the boat....swung it over our Starboard rail,
lowered it to within 3 ft of the water, and waited! As
we caught up fast with the smaller craft, I could see
through the glass that it had possibly 3 occupants, her
small sail made it impossible to be sure. From first
observations, it looked as though our friend "Le Cochon"
had indeed perished, because none of these men had the
same build, clothing or beard! 100 yards to run! I
shouted to shorten sail, and we began to slacken speed!
"Over the side with it Moses!"
The boat's crew went eagerly about the business of
manning her, and then I heard the word from Moses
"Slip!" Pins were knocked out of shackles, and the boat
dropped to the water. Moses immediately took charge,
fending off from us. Oars were manned and dipped, and
the chase was on!
"Mr Jordan? A shot across her bows if you please!"
Word was passed along the deck, I swung the wheel a
little to Port to bring our fore guns to bear....BOOOOM!
Two cannon shot erupted from the gun deck. I raised the
glass to my eye.....Fall of shot...now!!! About 30 yards
in front of her! The second shot even closer!
"She's taking in her sail sir! She's heaving too!"
It was true! As I watched, the small felucca type sail
was taken in, and the boat slowed to a stop in the
water. Our boat now approached fast! I came on a course
to take us alongside her. As I watched, Moses and his
crew pulled away from making for her stern in a direct
approach, instead choosing to approach her from her
"off" starboard side! Good thinking! Put the other boat
between us!! I watched through the glass as the gap
between the boats narrowed. Then, as we drew nearer, I
could make out the figures in the boat standing with
raised arms! Surrender eh? I wondered how they felt to
be on the other end for a change? The two boats were
closing now...30 yards....20 yards....nearly alongside!
I observed Moses, leaning over the side of our boat,
grabbing the strakes of the other craft. Then, they were
alongside, and I watched as Moses and two men jumped
from one boat to the other!
We had about 50 yards left to run to reach them, I gave
the order to take in all sail...and gradually way come
off, and we slowed to a stop..... and began to drift.
Moses had decided to bring the stranger alongside us,
because I could see oars being readied, then set in
their thole-pins...finally, they began to row towards
us, towing our boat astern! good job done Moses! No
repercussions as yet! 10 minutes, and she ground against
our copper-sheathed sides with a squeaking bump! I stood
at the bulwark looking down into her. Only 3 seamen
aboard and some 4 or 5 sacks in the bow! As I watched,
one of our seamen cut the top off one of the sacks,
reached in and withdrew some of the contents! COPRA!!!
Coconut husk! A by-product of the local industry! Well!
"Bring them aboard Moses! We'll have a chat!"
I turned away and walked towards the steerage platform!
Why would they have bothered to load Copra?
I ran back to the ship's side!
"Moses!! Open all those sacks, check the contents, and,
if it's all Copra chuck it over the side! But I want it
I saw the 3 boatmen exchanging nervous glances....!
"Moses! belay that! Stick them with your dirk or
cutlass...just to make sure there's no mistake eh?"
I saw one of the seamen look to the other with a
horrified expression...he started to gabble in French
patois, language of the islands! I didn't understand any
of this language...but I knew Moses did!!
The sailor, jabbering, made a dart for the fore-end of
the boat, but one of our crew quickly knocked him flat
with a belaying pin he had secreted upon leaving
"I think we may have something precious in those sacks
Moses! So be a little careful how you stick them!"
I watched as the big Jamaican stabbed the first
sack....a distinct "Ting"...again..."Ting" followed by a
tinkle of metal! Moses dropped to his knees...slit the
bag from bottom to top.....a deluge of gold and silver
coins and copra ran onto the deck! They had stuffed some
of their ill-gotten gains into sacks and packed them
with coconut fibre!
"Open the lot Moses if you please! We'll have that lot
aboard! There'll be no claimers I'll wager!!"
It was after the second sack had been opened that I saw
Moses dart to grab a sack at the bottom of the
heap!!...he jumped upon it! The other two seamen dragged
the remaining two bags away, and left the bottom sack
exposed! It wasn't tied around the neck like the
"Stick the knife in Moses! Just to be sure!" I shouted,
a wry smile upon my face! I wonder!
The sack suddenly came to life! The neck flew open...and
there....in all his demonic glory (less most of his
beard) was Lasalle! He was bleeding! His left arm hung
limply, and askew from his shoulder! Broken I'd bet! The
blood seemed to be coming from a stomach wound, though
how bad a wound I couldn't see!
"Monsieur Lasalle! What an unpleasant surprise!!!....
Bring him up Moses! Oh! And DO try and be gentle!" I
winked at the tall black, who smiled knowingly!
"Get a rope ladder over the side Lester!....we have
guests!....And Moses?? Get some men to collect up all
the coinage! We might have a little sharing out to do!!"
I looked down into the eyes of a madman! He was foaming
at the corners of his mouth! Muttering oaths in French,
and swearing at all and sundry, he was pushed towards
the ship's side, and, as the rope ladder was unlashed
and dropped over the side, I saw him raise his good hand
and make a slit throat gesture, then spit in my
He would do more than spit in the next hour! A lot of
people, men and women, had paid dearly for this moment!
I was not going to short change them! Or deny them
(To be cont............)