I wrote this fantastic story when I was either thirteen or fourteen. I must have just finished a sea novel; judging by the year it should have been an abridged version of The Mutiny on board HMS Bounty. I have always taken myself very seriously, and if I would like to be a mix of Graham Greene and Mark Tully now, in those years I was an aspiring cross between R L Stevenson and the Bronte sisters, with a bit of Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame thrown in. My stories were therefore an odd mix of archaic (or ridiculous) language from different periods and continents. The Indian cinematic influences were brought in through a dash of sentimentality.
Now, having stumbled upon my diary from 2000, how can I deny you a cheerer-upper to combat the Sunday blues? Here you are, then, one of my first properly recorded stories, produced entirely unchanged for your amusement. I can’t bring myself to destroy my old diaries- my grown-up self has a good laugh at them, even as the teenaged self of long ago is affronted at the utter lack of respect. But I know I shall never give up laughing at myself, so there isn’t really a choice here.
This story was written before the emergence of Life of Pi or the Pirates of the Caribbean, so the minor coincidences in names are naturally unintentional. I can’t say the same about Titanic though. Also, I might have intended to write a novel and then turned it into a short story, so do not fret if the pirates don’t come in soon enough.
The Pirates of the Pacific
We steered by the beacon on board our ship, the ‘Pole Star’. She glided smoothly in the water, as the full moon shone down on her. The men were merry-making; it was a long, long time since they had had some fun. It was the fifth month of our voyage. We had gone from coast to coast, selling and buying goods. We were now headed towards Indonesia, and hoped to do some good business.
As I sat thinking thus in my cabin, someone knocked. “Come in!” I called out.
Jonathan Parker entered. He was a tall, muscular man, with a big jaw and a baritone voice. An Englishman, Parker was very reliable and one of the best deck hands.
“Sir, could you please step out for a minute? There’s something important to discuss,” said Parker to me.
I got up and walked out with Parker. Outside, in the passage, stood another of the deck hands, Robert Martinez. He was a little Spanish man with a thin moustache.
“Uh…um…sir, I must confess now.”
I was shocked. Confess? I had always known Martinez to be a very honest man.
“Sir, I have been pilfering our stocks of fruit and beer. But today, I thought how difficult it would be without supplies, since we aren’t stopping soon. Please forgive me,” Martinez hung his head in shame.
I was stunned. I had least expected Robert Martinez to do so. But I had to punish him, as was the rule. Therefore I was forced to order ten lashes. Martinez didn’t complain but bore it silently.
We were sailing comfortably. The sea was calm, and the days were sunny and fine. We talked of our families- wives, children, parents- and friends. Though we did miss them, most of our homesickness was wiped away due to the strong bonds that existed among all of us. I, as captain, did my best to keep it peaceful.
Then one day, Andrews came to me. “Sir, there ain’t no fruit on board. We also need water.”
I looked at him for a while, then told him, “Keep a look-out for any island where we might get some food.”
“Aye, sir,” said the man and walked away.
I wondered if this was a plot for the men to run away from the ship. So I went myself to check the supplies. But, when I saw that we really needed food and fresh water, I felt a trifle ashamed of myself for having thought so.
We finally found an island, with fruit trees growing aplenty, and a clear, cool stream, flowing across it. We gathered a lot of fruit and stored water in our barrels, and set sail. For about a month we sailed, until we reached Indonesia. We bought a good deal of silks and spices. This was to be our last stop before going home, so we all purchased gifts for our families. I bought some violet silk, pattered with light pink roses, for my wife, Annabella. Jonathan Parker, who was a bachelor, bought a lot of light blue silk cloth, and distributed it among us, to give to our wives to make handkerchieves (sic). “God bless his kind heart,” we thought, and all of us gave him keepsakes. I gave him a sword, which was exquisitely crafted in India. He thanked us all profusely. On the whole, we had an excellent month-and-a-half in Indonesia.
Then it occurred. On a starry night, on the smooth surface of the ocean, we sailed peacefully. As we wound up our celebrations for having spent a happy year-and-a-half on the ‘Pole Star’, we heard gun-shots. I raised my head and looked around. Pirates!
We had least expected pirates to come upon us. The unmarked ship drew closer and closer. Most of my men were drunk. How would they defend themselves against the bold, confident bandits? I braced myself and called Parker. He grouped up some of the sailors, who were either partly drunk or not drunk at all. We got our ammunition ready.
By this time, the pirates had started climbing onto our ship. They pushed and pulled men, and looted the place. They were guided by a strong, muscular man, with a stock of brown hair and a huge S tattooed on his arm. It seemed familiar. I drew up courage and, somehow fighting against the bandits, reached their leader. I called out, ”Samson!”
He turned. Yes! He was Samson! Samson Silver, my childhood friend.
“Samson! I’m Edward North, your friend. Believe me! Look here, my man!”
Samson pulled out his mask. There they were- the bold grey eyes, and that smiling mouth. He slowly whispered, “Eddie, I can’t believe it’s you.”
He turned towards his men. “Stop it, men! We’ve got the wrong ‘un. Stop this instant. They’re friends, not foes! Harvard, take care. Not a soul on this ship should be hurt.” He looked at me. “Edward! I’m very sorry. If I’d known it was you…” his voice trailed as he sank on his knees. I kneeled by him.
“Samson, what drove you to become a pirate? You were a merchant, weren’t you?” I questioned.
“I was, once upon a time. But, four years ago, my ships capsized, and with them was lost all my wealth. My wife died, leaving behind my son, Harvard, and my daughter, Rose. Circumstances drove me to become a pirate, and all these men you see, are men with similar pasts as mine. I’ve not had the heart to use stolen money for business, so I’m continuing being a pirate.” He smiled sadly. “But now, I don’t have to leave my children behind as I had to while I was a merchant. This handsome lad is Harvard. Wait a second, I’ll get Rose.” He called out to the man on his ship to fetch Rose. The man went down and promptly returned with a woman. She was helped onto my ship.
“This is Rose, Harvard’s younger sister.” The girl was very beautiful, with blue eyes and long, brown hair. She looked at me and smiled shyly.
Samson turned to the surprised men on the ship and said, “We are the best of friends, men, and none can separate us.” Introductions were made. When I told Samson that I could set him up in business and provide his men with jobs, he was overwhelmed. “And,” I continued, “if you like, Rose could marry my son, David.” He consented and looked at his daughter, as she shyly hid her face in her brother’s arm.
I’ve been asked at times why I don’t write stories; surely there is no room for doubt now? But there is plenty more where this came from.