Wait! Think…he needed to think. Why was he in the water? Concentrate, he had to concentrate. He laughed, or a dry croak which passed as such, he had time. He had all the time in the world.
Slowly, he began to remember. As long as he didn’t try to force the memories they began to come back. He remembered when the watch sighted a sail on the horizon and the murmurs among the crew. There were many fears at sea, storms and monsters, Jonahs there be. Terrors were a bound, and in 1863 one of the major terrors of the sea, strange as it may sound, was another ship.
The captain called for his glass, everyone tried to look busy and waited. The voyage had been long enough, and though the journey had been filled with wonders and visits to exotic places, many of the crew just wanted to return home. They were in no mood for anyone or anything to interrupt their journey they depended on the ship’s master to make it so.
Robert looked over the rail, wiping his hands on a rag. He had just finished the dishes. His life at sea thus far had not been as glorious or adventurous as he had dreamed. He had met no damsels in distress, nor had he saved his captain in a mutiny or rescued the ship single handedly. He washed dishes, took care of chickens and pigs when they carried them, cleared tables and in short did every dirty job on the ship that required his attention. Life at sea was not like the books he had read. He of all people wished to return home to the comforts which he had underestimated. He missed his mother’s cooking, the privacy of his small bedroom, the people in their store and the daily grin of his father. But now…the crew was talking and there was a rush in their whispered voices, they were uneasy and Robert, who was feeling farther from home, was becoming nervous.
The Captain gestured for his First Mateand they had a hurried consul. Captain Collier was a man well versed in the ways of the sea spending most of his professional life in the Atlantic trade, which could show its hand in a merciless way if so inclined but he had no experience in any sort of naval action, for that he turned to his one legged First Mate, Anton Kiddler, a former American Naval Officer, bitter at missing out in the War between the States due to an injury from six years before retiring him from service. There was still fire in his eyes and if he could prove himself, well just maybe…
“No doubt about it Captain,” said Kiddler with a rueful smile, bringing down his glass, “that’s the ALABAMA, and damn if she ain’t hot on us!”
This news turned heads and brought frowns as well as wide eyes, the Confederate raider, the C.S.S. ALABAMA under the command of Captain Raphael Semmes, who many identified with the help of the press and the insurance companies as a demon of the seven seas.
The GREEN LEAF like many merchant ships was armed to protect itself against pirates in Asian waters. But this was not a rag tag group of Malay sea pirates bearing down on them. It was a naval vessel with naval weapons, naval training and a crew subject to naval discipline. In short, the GREEN LEAF and it’s crew were in trouble. The ALABAMA didn’t have a reputation for nothing. It was well deserved.
Captain Collier ordered studding sails set, putting out as much canvas as the GREEN LEAF could handle to push the clipper through the ocean waves with a speed the ships were renowned for. Distance was quickly being made. Collier and Kiddler grinned at each other, they were winning the race and the crew was visibly relieved, patting each other on the backs, they were not to be a prize, but damn if it wouldn’t make a good story, bad luck for the Rebs, good for a drink or two…or at least that’s what they thought.