Suddenly the door to the captain's cabin burst open and Captain Jeb Donte strode out on deck.
When he saw the men lounging about, he bellowed, "Get up you lazy lubbers! Trim the sails you worthless good-for-nothing scalawags!" Sailors scrambled to accomplish their tasks as their captain stormed about, barking orders. Within a few minutes the sails had been trimmed, the decks cleaned, and every man ready to enter port.
"Hersley! Bring us in to the wharf!" roared the captain from the bow.
"Aye aye, sir!" replied the first mate, spinning the wheel skillfully to dodge a fishing skiff, he then guided the Eagle directly towards the wharf.
"Dump the sails, and be quick about it! Lem, Tom, prepare to tie us up." shouted the captain. Sailors scrambled to secure the sails, and Lem and Tom took their positions.
"Cap'n’s bein' a bit grouchy today," commented Tom as he worked with a coil of rope.
"Aw, it's normal after a voyage as unsuccessful as we've ‘ad" replied Lem.
"Down with the anchor! Secure your ropes, Lem!" bellowed the captain.
"Aye aye, sir!" Lem shouted back as he threw one end of the rope to a dockhand. The man caught it and twenty or so men grasped it and began to haul in the Eagle.
"How many men did we lose anyway?" Tom asked, returning to the previous conversation.
"Twenty-four to the Brits, six to the fever, that makes thirty in all," answered Lem. He tied down his rope and continued, "We was lucky to get out at all after that litl' scrimmage we 'ad."
"Aye, I know it. We got off with migh'y litl' killed for what we got into with 'em lobster-backs," Tom replied, touching a bandage on the side of his head. "I got to feel first ‘and what Brit’s cannon balls feel like. Lucky I got out alive."
The Eagle was slowly pulled alongside the dock and secured. Sailors released the anchors and the steady “Clank! Clank!” sound of the chain was followed by the heavy splash of the anchors hitting the water. The gangplank was lowered and the crew rushed for their personal belongings before they charged noisily off the ship and dispersed themselves among the local taverns on the wharf front. Only Captain Donte, first mate Bruce Hersley, second mate Lem, Harvy, and the man in charge of the guns, Tom Prince, remained on board.
The captain turned towards the men, and they snapped to attention. He looked from man to man, then spoke.
"Hersley, you and I will see to getting some of the men back here and help reload the ship with supplies. Understood?"
The weathered old sailor bobbed his head once, "Aye aye, sir!"
"Lem, Tom, I've a different assignment for you two. We lost a heap of men to the Brits and the fever, as you know. I want you to go on shore to get the best replacements you can find and get them back to this ship one way or another," the captain said. He said, finishing his sentence
with a wink at Lem.
"Aye aye, sir. I think I can manage that," replied Lem with a sly grin and return wink.
"And be sure they're no lubbers, either. We leave early in the morning, so don't go get yourselves drunk, you hear? Dismissed." The captain spun on his heel and disappeared into the cabin. Lem stuffed a pistol in his belt and walked down the gangplank and on to the wharf with Tom right behind him.
"Where to first?" asked Tom as they strutted down the waterfront.
"First we stop at a couple o' taverns and get as many men as possible who is so liquored up they can’t see straight to sign on without 'em knowin' what they're doin'. They'll wake up when we’re in the open sea. If'n we don't get enough men that-a-way, we just try an' drum up the rest of the crew," replied Lem, running a calloused hand through his long matted brown hair.
"Let's get to it," said Tom. The two of them came up to a dingy tavern and entered.
The next morning the Eagle set full sail for the open sea. The ship had been resupplied with food, sailing equipment, and weapons and ammunition. Lem and Tom had done their jobs well and the crew worked on their respective tasks like an experienced crew.
"Lem!" came the harsh shout of one named Dan Keeler.
"What?" Lem roared back from the forecastle.
"Captain wants to see you!" Dan yelled back.
Three minutes later Lem was standing before the captains desk.
"And how is it with the new crew members?" asked the captain.
"Fine. Some of them were furious when they woke up and found out their sailin' plans had changed, but they'll get o'er that," Lem answered with a crooked grin.
"Good," said the captain, "Is that all?"
"N-no," Lem responded hesitantly. He fingered his beard for a moment before continuing. "I met one of the men that signed up, on a street corner. His name is David Mitchel. He had been a-preachin' to some o' the soldiers and a-prayin' for the successful defense of America in this 'ere war. When he came on board I snuck a look in his sea chest and found a Bible."
"You signed a religious man on board!" the captain shouted, jumping to his feet, “All religious men are land-lubbrey softies!”
"He said he'd been to sea afore, and so far he's proven himself good on a ship," Lem replied rather sheepishly.
"Well, he'd better not start a-preachin' on board my ship!" growled the captain.
"It's a bit to late for that, cap'n. But he don't just preach an' pray, he works too," said Lem.
"I don't want him preachin' on my ship, but we can always use extra work. Lem, I want you to see to it that he gets enough work to cut that preachin' right out of his mouth!" snapped the captain.
Lem grinned wickedly, "I can see to that sir. I'll show him to the men as the hypocrite he really is!" He saluted the captain, spun on his heel, and walked out of the cabin. The first sight that met his eyes was a group of men standing around David Mitchel. As he walked closer he caught some of the conversation.
An old sailor named Chad Jansen was speaking, "I can understand if the Jesus you talk of died for rich and good folk, but He wouldn't care for the likes of us sailors. Why, we're the scum of the earth, so bad that only the sea accepts us."
"But that’s the thing, Chad," replied David. "Jesus died for us while we were still his enemies! He prayed for the men who killed him!"
"Naw!" scoffed Dan Keeler, "No one's brave or lovin' enough to do that."
"Jesus does. He cares for each of us. He saved me from the wretched sinner that I was," David replied.
"David Mitchel!" Lem called.
"Aye aye, sir?" David said snapping to attention.
Lem threw him a mop and ordered, "I want you to swab this whole deck, from stem to stern! Make 'em shine like they never did afore!"
"Aye aye, sir!" David saluted. He then turned over the bucket he had been sitting on and went to fill it with water. Lem stood still, mouth gaping open. He had expected at least a complaint.
He suddenly clamped his jaw shut and snapped, "When you're done with that I want you to clean the captain’s quarters!"
"Aye aye, sir!" David replied without breaking his rhythmic mopping. Lem opened his mouth to speak, then closed it and tramped off below deck. David continued scrubbing.
"Why does you put up with him ordering you around?" the contentious Dan Harvy asked.
"Well," answered David, "The Bible says to obey the authority put over us. Besides, Jesus endured a lot worse than scrubbing decks." Dan shrugged and leaned against the main mast.
After a while he walked off and got a mop himself. David looked up in surprise.
"Got nothing else to do," Dan mumbled in explanation to David's perplexed look. David nodded and the two men set to work side by side. Lem watched from a distance and huffed.
"He may be all religious right now," he muttered quietly to himself, "but I'll show him!"
"Why are you and the cap'n so again' him?" a voice sounded at Lem's elbow and made him jump. He spun around to face Tom Prince. Tom continued, "He's done only good so far, and he's a hard worker."
"Yeah, he 'as done nothin' bad to ya? or anyone, other than sayin’ that our whisky ain’t ‘godly’" said another sailor. A small group of sailors was beginning to form around Lem, listening for his reply.
"I...um...uh...well, he's...religious and...um..." Lem grew red in the face as he stammered for words. He suddenly spun around and dashed for the hatchway to the hold. The men stared after him and snickered.
"That’s what I thought," Tom said. "Undeserved hatred. That David is such a man that you can't bring a thing against him." He turned back to the deck and bellowed, "Come on boys! Man your guns! We want to be nice an' practiced by the time we meet them lobster-backs!"
All the sailors dropped their work and scrambled to the cannons.
"Ready your guns!" Tom shouted at the top of his voice. As the men heaved, shouted, rammed, loaded, and fired, Lem stood back and watched with a scowl on his face. He fingered a pistol in his belt and stared hard at the back of David Mitchel. He had been made to look a fool by Tom because of David, and David’s influence had already nearly replaced that which Lem
had once had.
"One day," Lem muttered, "One day Mr. Mitchel, I'll have my revenge!"
To be continued...