"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 50 Abandon Ship p543~549

During the last two hours aboard the SHY LADY,
everyone had been busy. The activity was constant that
remind one of bees busy at work. The dead had been
brought out on the ice and covered. MacDonald said a
few words for the sake of decorum, five minutes later all
were at their assigned tasks. Sleds and dogs were
brought out and loaded with food, water, tents, furs, guns
and ammunition.
The hold with contained the alcohol had been sealed
for the better part of a week. On deck were 10 barrels of
beer, 100 bottles of whiskey, 15 bottles of brandy, 10
bottles of vodka as well as a few bottles of wine they had
left. They butchered the livestock they had and hung the
meat from the shrouds. Near the trypots were 4 blocks of
cheese, 20 pounds of tobacco, 2 barrels of sugar, 10
barrels of salt beef and 8 barrels of salt pork.
MacDonald and Denhard walked amongst the packed
sleds and barking dogs. All those on the exodus were
allowed five pounds of personal belongs, no more.
MacDonald had collected the ship’s logs, two sextants,
his long glass, his pocket watch and a tin type of Bess.
He didn’t consider the logs as personal but necessary, for
Mason (if he was still alive) and the insurance company,
the sextants they would need to get them out of this
mess.
And then as if ten minutes had passed, the two hours
were up and the crew and the inuit were waiting quietly
on the ice.
“We’re ready Mr. MacDonald,” said the third mate.
MacDonald nodded and looked at the people before him.
The nine that were injured were on sleds and made as
comfortable as possible, the other forty people stared at
him, their lives in his hands. He could hear someone
walking from behind and he didn’t need to turn to know
it was Lak. Ahnah broke away from the others and joined
the first mate.
“Good, MacDonald. I’m pleased,” said Lak.
“Wonderful,” grunted MacDonald, “I’m glad one of us is
happy.” He turned to see an outsider standing with Lak.
Out the corner of his eye, he could see Ahnah’s features
harden into a mask of hate.”
“Hullo, Luv,” said Jenson with an evil leer, “That scar I
gave ya, suits ya darling.”
“You’re an impressive man to cut a girl like that,” said
MacDonald. “Bet you kick dogs and children too.”
Jenson looked at the black man hard. “Don’t try me, I
can put a nigger down as fast as I can cut a girl.”
“You’re a big man, alright,” said MacDonald.
“Bigger than you and don’t you forget it boy. We got
your fuckin’ ship and you ain’t got nothing, not even a
pot to piss in! Nothing ‘cepting a bunch of worthless
fuckin’ Eskimos and a crew who can’t shoot to save their
arsses.”
MacDonald turned his attention from the sadistic
coward and spoke to Lak. “We took what we needed.
You’ll find food and drink on deck. That should keep you
and your people happy.”
“Thank you MacDonald. Where will you and your
people go?” asked Lak in a casual manner.
“He wants to know where we’re going, Aesop?” said
Ahnah.
MacDonald looked down at the dirty snow. He was
tired and his face showed defeat. It was if everything had
caught up to him within the last minute. “Tell him… I
don’t know. Just away from here.”
It had the desired effect. To Lak, MacDonald was a
beaten man, all the better really. The outsiders would
perish and by the looks of things, so would most of the
Inuit. As long as there were a minimum number of
survivors it could only enhance Lak’s reputation.
“No bad feelings MacDonald, it’s just business,” said
Lak.
MacDonald nodded after Ahnah’s translation. “Yeah,
just business.” He walked to the sleds when he heard
Jenson call to him.
“This ain’t dark Africa, ya know what I mean boy?!
Don’t get lost!”
MacDonald continued to walk without turning around
listening to the black hearted Englishman laugh. “Don’t
worry Ahnah, you’ll see that son of a bitch beg yet.”
Approaching the sleds, he looked at the third mate. “Is
all in order Mr. Denhard?”
“Aye Captain MacDonald, we’re ready to go.”
“Then let’s move.”
From the deck of the SHY LADY, Lak watched the
pathetic exodus. His men were already drinking what
they could find on deck, beer, wine, whiskey, vodka. They
would all be useless within the next hour, not that it
really mattered. He already had some of the younger
members offloading gear from the ship, they would have
to wait for their drink. Besides what he wanted could be
accomplished in two days, three on the outside. “Ogwah,
inspect the ship and get another group to start gathering
all the rope and canvas they can remove and anything
else you see that might be useful.”
“As you wish Lak,” said his loyal subordinate.
“Get Jenson to help you.” said Lak a little distracted.
Something was bothering him. It was so easy, maybe
that was it. MacDonald giving him the ship, it had
almost been too easy.
Lak walked about below decks, this craft, this ship,
which was made by man intrigued him. The outsiders
were capable of many things that he knew. They were
not all stupid like the bumbling fools that accompanied
Keelut. Men like MacDonald and the one called Mason
were certainly different, he was sure of that, they would
have to be. He poked his head into the various
compartments that he came across. It was obvious that
the departure had been a hurried one. The deck was
littered with various and broken items, glass bottles and
pieces of china, tin cups, forks and spoons. There were
smells he was unfamiliar with and some that were. Some
of the men above had started cooking strips of meat in
the galley and on the trypot furnaces forward. Lak
walked into what was formally Mason’s cabin and looked
about. It was larger than the others he’d soon so he
assumed this to be the captain’s living space. These
people certainly valued their comfort, he could see that.
Their understanding of hardship was limited to brief
moments when their easy life was interrupted. For an
Inuit, that was life. There was a photograph of a woman
among the clutter of a writing desk, a girl who looked
somewhat like an Inuit in a strange dress. Was this the
captain’s woman? Her skin appeared soft and clean. Lak
wondered if she was good to lie down with, if so then the
former captain of the SHY LADY had made a wise choice
in his bedding companion. Too bad he would never see
her again.
Ogwah walked about the ship. He had never been on
anything like this before and he found it interesting and
a little difficult that men could build such large things.
Jenson accompanied him and he found his ceaseless
babbling annoying and did his best to shut him out,
though he was not completely successful.
“Well, we hit the old jackpot on this one, ehh Ogwah!”
The Inuit had no idea what the outsider was talking
about, only that he appeared to be very happy but
Ogwah did see many strange things. He wondered what
people used all that he saw for, there seemed to be so
many pieces about him. This was going to take some
time.
Jenson liked what he saw. He didn’t know what exactly
Lak had in mind but he finally felt as if he were being
justly rewarded. Yes he was beginning to see the
advantages of staying with Lak and his band of thieves.
He was sure that the old Eskimo would make it worth
his time, yes he was sure of that!
MacDonald, Denhard, Ahnah and the others continued
their trek south. It was slow moving. The band had lost
much and felt dejected. Could MacDonald get them out of
this? Would Lak keep his word and not kill them? Many
doubted it.
“Denhard,” said MacDonald. “We’ve got to move this
people faster.”
“Yes sir,” said the third mate, “but with this many
people…”
The captain nodded, “I know, just do the best you can.
You go forward, I’ll take the rear so send me Rivers and
two others who can shot reasonably well.”
“Crew or Eskimo?”
“It don’t matter so long as they can shoot.”
“Aye sir.”
Ahnah came up to the two men. “We should probably
send some people ahead to look around?”
MacDonald nodded, they were going to need a clear
path to get out of there in a hurry. “It won’t hurt. Ahnah
pick two sleds, when they find a smooth patch have one
of ‘em return so we can get everybody going in that
direction.”
“Aesop,” asked Ahnah, “are you sure this idea of yours
is going to work?”
The black man shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know,
we’ve got a little time but not much. We’ve got to move,
we have to put some distance between us and the ship.”
Three hours later, the SHY LADY was in the distance
and from the lights aboard looked like a small toy.
Denhard made his way to the rear and met with
MacDonald. “Anything yet, sir? I mean it’s about that
time ain’t it?”
MacDonald shook his head, “No, not yet.”
“Ya think it will work sir?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “It should, Lord, I hope I
haven’t killed us all.”
“Me too. Sir,” said Denhard. The exodus continued slow
and steady.

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