Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sons of Orpheus--Chapter 2----free download.

CHAPTER 2 FREE DOWNLOAD FOR SONS OF ORPHEUS BY NEIL COLEMAN www.authorneilcoleman.com 2 Sunda Straits, October 15, 1862 The village appeared deserted at first. Adi thought that the earthquake’s effects had reached even this far from his own village, but he could not see any damage. Indeed the village seemed surprisingly prosperous; drying racks laden with a bountiful supply of fish and well built, large dwellings. One in particular stood out, possibly the home of the village chief. Adi observed a scattering of people going about their daily business. On closer inspection however, he noticed a general movement towards the waterfront. Adi joined them, apparently unnoticed or causing any concern amongst the villages. There was an air of excitement mixed with darker expressions, but the overall mood was certainly one of curiosity. He heard smatterings of conversation (although the dialect was a little different to that of his home village) centring on the ‘foreign’ ship. When he finally reached the shoreline he stopped in his tracks. A vessel, about one hundred foot long and quite wide at the stern lay anchored in the bay. It had the appearance of a ship that had been through a great deal of misadventure; scrappy sails, damaged timbers and a missing mast. Even from the shore, a thick oily smell wafted to those watching. Adi overheard snippets of excited conversation. A fisherman ventured his opinion, ‘It’s a whaler. What’s it doing here?’ Another added fearfully, ‘Seems to have sickness aboard—looks like it’s been through a storm.’ A growing sense of unease began to ripple through the villagers, as those bravest amongst them who had taken it on themselves to investigate the ship began to return with rumours of ‘terrible events’. At the same time Adi noticed a sleek looking vessel leaving the ship’s side. It was one of the four whaling boats that were used to chase the mighty beasts once they were sighted. As is came closer to shore, Adi could see that the men aboard were unkempt and appeared to be very weak. The villagers let out a collective gasp as the boat nudged its way onto the golden sands. ‘Stay away!’ ordered the chief. ‘They are devils and bring trouble.’ His words had an immediate effect and most of the crowd fled from the shoreline and peered out through the nearby undergrowth and palms. A look of concern swept over his face as he noticed Adi standing alone on the shore. ‘Who is this boy?’ he asked, before hiding himself with his subjects. Adi was not so constrained. His curiosity overcame any fears he had about the appearance of the men on the boat, or the chief’s question. His own village was well inland and he had seen few white men apart from visiting officials, who had demanded taxes and gave little in return. He himself had never ventured more than two days walk from the village. ‘Don’t go near them boy!’ shouted one of the villagers. Adi ignored him. He timidly approached the beached boat. The sailors appeared to have used the last of their energy to make the shore and were now close to collapse. Adi did not need to understand their language in order to appreciate their dire need. One of the sailors had a similar skin colour to Adi and he managed to make himself understood, albeit with a slightly different dialect from the one Adi spoke. ‘We need help,’ he stammered, ‘the storm, many days at sea---water all gone and food made bad by sea water.’ Gradually the situation became clear. The chief summoned up enough courage to join the group, wanting to avoid his people’s scorn if he didn’t show some leadership. He did not want to be shown up by a mere boy, especially one from elsewhere. He ordered water and food to be taken to the ship and over the next few hours Adi gradually gained a level of acceptance from the villages. People began to ask questions about him. He had appeared from nowhere, yet fitted in as if he was one of them. Apart from a few minor differences in language and clothing (although Adi’s travels had left him with only vestiges of his clothing) Adi could well have been one of them. He was accepted by the ship’s crew as well, and his sense of humour helped to lift the mood of those he helped. When the chief heard that Adi had arrived from a distant village, he decided to wait until the ship left before he made any moves to enquire further into his sudden appearance in his village. Adi enjoyed his interactions with the crew and very quickly began to pick up rudimentary phrases of English. The crew of the Plymouth were delighted at his efforts and he had them just about falling overboard with laughter when he misused a phrase or repeated some of their more robust language. ‘Hey, boy. Come and ’elp with this. Those other useless twats are only good for sitting on their arses.’ Adi looked at the crew member, who was missing a few teeth, giving him a piratical appearance, before sitting on a barrel. The crewman laughed uproariously before indicating with his hand his intention. Adi moved towards him. ‘Don’t worry boy, you’ll get the hang of it. You’re a good lad.’ Adi’s good humour and cheerful disposition also endeared him to Captain Tobias Smith, an amiable resident of Philadelphia. He noticed how the crew had gradually accepted Adi as one of them. It had become obvious to them that Adi did not belong to the village; thus a gradual adoption had occurred and by the end of the second day since the whaler’s arrival, Adi was staying aboard with the crew. Whilst not rich, the village had access to an abundance of fresh vegetables and many different kinds of tropical fruit, along with a huge variety of seafood. In just a few days there was a noticeable improvement in the health of the crew. The warm climate and exotic environs worked wonders on the storm-ravaged men. Spirits rose considerably and although the Captain was restless about getting back to sea, he allowed his men a certain amount of latitude, quite unlike the usual regime he insisted upon while chasing the whales. Repairs were made where necessary, however the missing mast remained a problem; one that necessitated a visit to a much more substantial port. The Captain knew that the port was a few days sailing away at Batavia, but that presented a problem he preferred to avoid. If the Plymouth called in at Batavia, he needed to stay well clear of a minor colonial official, who had a major score to settle. It was all about money, a gambling debt that the persistent official was determined to collect. He had avoided this problem for the last three years, and had no intention of using his depleted profits from the recent failed whaling expedition to pay this dubious debt. ‘I’m not paying that greedy bastard. I reckon he swindled me anyway,’ he mumbled to his First Mate. The First Mate was more than happy, as he too had good reason to stay well clear of the port. He had run afoul of a ‘Madame’ in one of the local brothels on the previous voyage. She did not take kindly to patrons who had absconded without paying their debts. When he considered his options, the Captain decided to make the much longer journey to Sydney, where he would find the necessary facilities to make the repairs. The Captain surveyed the scene before him. The villagers had come out in a profusion of gaudily festooned canoes and fishing boats to farewell the Plymouth. His ship was now well provisioned and the villagers had been paid for their services in money and goods. The chief had been particularly pleased when presented with one of the new rifles that had recently become popular. Adi made sure he was out of sight from the shore. He had heard from one of the villagers that the chief had some questions for him. He blended in with full knowledge and acceptance of the captain. Adi’s skills and adeptness at rapidly climbing the riggings and his ability to learn other ship-board duties had persuaded the Captain that when the ship left, Adi’s inclusion was a foregone conclusion. Now as Adi watched the bay recede into the distance, his thoughts turned to the future; to the far off Sydney in Australia. He had been told that Australia was a huge and almost empty land, full of unusual animals and people who looked very different to himself. Indonesian Sea, South East of Bali. Even in pristine condition the Plymouth was not a particularly fast ship. She had been built for her capacity to serve the needs of processing the huge whales and to store the end product for delivery to her home port. Now, minus a mast she was even slower and less manoeuvrable. The Captain was pleased to see that the Plymouth was making good progress and after a week’s solid sailing with favourable winds, he calculated that they were just south of Bali. He would have loved to have made port at the exotic Island but he was determined to forge ahead, knowing that conditions could change incredibly quickly, putting the lumbering vessel at risk. As the days passed, Adi settled into life aboard the ship with relative ease. He loved to listen to the crew boasting of past deeds and the crude banter between the men. His English improved enough for him to constantly badger the First Mate to include him in a whale chase. Captain Smith’s main concern was to deliver his ship to Sydney without any untoward incidents that could lessen or slow his journey, but if any opportunities presented themselves in the form of a few sperm whales, then that was even better. Several hundred miles southeast of Bali, the Captain decided to launch two of the whale boats to exercise the crew and to introduce Adi to some of the challenges of the chase. When the whale boat was launched, Adi almost jumped in, bringing further bantering from the crew. He refused to let the men’s teasing get the better of him. His natural stubbornness carried him through the four hours of torturous, back-breaking rowing. The oars were very different to the paddles he had used in the canoes back in the village and the muscles used were quite different, leaving his back and upper shoulders feeling like they had been beaten by an angry assailant. The next day Adi was perched serenely in his favourite place, high above the gently swaying deck. The Plymouth was well to the southeast of Bali and the horizon was clear of land except for a few small islands; some of the thousands that make up the scattered archipelago. Adi was aching from the experience of the day before, but that did not lessen his yearning drive to push himself even more strenuously. His attention was momentarily drawn to a spout about five hundred yards to the east of the Plymouth. Adi knew immediately that this was his first sight of a whale breaking the surface and expelling the spent air from its lungs. Adi lost no more time in wasted thoughts and yelled out for the first time in his life, ‘Thar she blows!’ He watched impatiently as the deck below became the scene of furious activity and descended as fast as he could because he was also going to experience his very first chase. When he reached the deck, Adi searched for his crew and once located, he joined the whale boat as it was lowered over the side. He put his pains from the day before behind him as he joined the men for the chase. The whale was one of three that had surfaced. The boat sped through the water as the lead hand encouraged the rowers to extend themselves, using language that Adi was rapidly becoming used to and indeed quite adept at using himself. ‘Come on ya bastards. Put ya backs into it. My sisters could do better!’ ‘Oh yeah?!’ the burly crewman next to Adi shouted. ‘I reckon you’re right there mate. She gave me a real good time last time we were back home eh.’ Adi wondered what his family would think about his new skills. For now, he pushed these thoughts aside and concentrated on his new adventure. The huge beast was just ahead; close enough for Adi to smell the foul odour. Adi was amazed at its size and pure raw power as it surged through the waves, still managing to avoid giving the harpooner the chance to thrust his cruel barbed weapon into its massive body. Who would tire first: the crew or the beast? South Pacific ‘Come on. Don’t let that Froggy bastard beat us!’ Alex shouted to the men in the rigging. They were sailing parallel to a French frigate, about a mile to the west. It was a rare chance for the crew to escape from the boredom of the long voyage to Sydney. Alex’s words were more than matched by the insults from the sailors. The last thing they wanted was to be out-paced by the French ship. Alex chose to ignore their colourful language. When the Captain ordered the engine room to engage the steam engines, the Orpheus increased her speed and gradually pulled ahead of the other ship, eliciting even more lively insults from the crew. Alex stood next to the captain, satisfied that the Orpheus could have easily extended her lead, given that they had barley used half power from the engines. ‘There, that should show them that they needn’t tangle with us and expect to win,’ the captain stated smugly. Alex decided not to point out that there was a world of difference between the two ships; not the least being that the French ship was without steam and was at least thirty years older. As the captain wandered off to his cabin, Alex thought about the stories he had heard about Sydney, especially the area near where they intended to dock. The taverns were reputed to be lively and well used to providing for sailors too long from shore. He did not intend to disgrace himself but a few quiet ales in good company would not go amiss. Indian Ocean, November 1862 Captain Pickering sat in his comfortable chair, one of the few luxuries he allowed in his sparsely furnished cabin. It included his well-stocked wine cabinet. He didn’t trust his cook to store his cases of wine with the rest of the Emerald’s stores. On the odd occasion, he shared his stock with a lucky guest, but tonight he was alone. The captain cast his thoughts to the voyage since leaving the Canaries. They had made good time and the brief call at Cape Town had passed relatively unscathed. Two of his crew had managed to over-indulge in some cheap local spirits and then challenge some American sailors, equally inflated with alcohol-induced courage, to a bit of rough-and-tumble. He smiled, remembering his own youthful adventures in the same port many years ago. The men had upset the tavern owner and the local constabulary with their mostly harmless attempts to rekindle the War of Independence. A subtle handover of a handful of coins had been enough to soothe the feelings of those most offended. The benign weather had continued since leaving the Cape and with a replenished larder and the ship in good repair, the Captain had every reason to believe that the Emerald could well make Sydney in almost record time for a clipper. He emerged from his cabin to stretch his legs, surveying the build-up of clouds on the southern horizon. ‘Mmmm, looks like we’re in for a bit of a breeze.’ One of the crew scurried past, choosing to ignore the Captain’s ramblings.

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