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You’ll Go No More A-Roving By Timothy C.

Phillips

The coast burns in the sun like the fever in my brain. I stare out of the wavy cabin glass from my bed. The world is a swirling dream. We are off West Africa? San Juan? Barbados. Yes, I remember now, Barbados. Two weeks to get here, the old haunts are disappearing. The Royal Navy is everywhere. I am ill. No; I know it is more than that. This time, I am dying. The men mutter in the shadows that I have not long. When I first fell ill, I needed a place to convalesce, that much was certain. A wanted man finds few places to water and rest, and I am most certainly wanted. We took this ship last Christmas off of Florida. I was duly elected Captain, and Mr. Sullivan her quartermaster. We renamed her Fallen One, then drew up articles and pledged to go in her, and live the pirate’s life, and declare war against all nations of the world. So it was that between the Caribbean and the coast of Western Africa, we took twelve prizes since that time, seldom to firing a shot or drawing blood. We fly a black flag with a skull device, so that all would know that they should submit to us, or that they shall have no quarter, should we be forced to take them by arms. I have been lenient with those who readily handed over their goods, and this kindness has returned to me in the form of a large bounty placed upon the heads of myself and those of my crew. I have allowed many witnesses to return alive to the ports of Christendom, They have identified and renounced me, Red Jack Ryan, and so now I am wanted throughout the known world.

The Crown has placed a bounty on my head, payable in either £500 or a like amount of gold and silver pieces of eight. But I fear the fever that burns me up will cheat the hangman his fee and the bounty hunters their fortune. My men are loyal but they sense my end is near. They long to divvy up the loot and retire from this life. We have had a good run. If only I might live to enjoy my own five shares. The surgeon we captured off Jamaica has made me drink enough rum and Laudanum to float a dinghy, but I have, at last, bid him take all physic away. The stuff gave me terrible dreams and did nothing to break the fever. I can keep nothing down me but tea, and so my strength slowly is ebbing. I have the feeling that if I can make it into port and lie abed for a time, I might yet live; a man who is sick on the water must grow well on land. But there is no port that we dare put into. Barbados is the last port wherein a ship like ours may seek safe harbor; civilization has slowly put chains on every island the Caribbean, and almost all of the old hotspots have a squadron of British warships straddling their harbors, now. All of the old buccaneers are gone now, also; hanged, forced to take pardon, or gone to the bottom; Edward Teach, Stede Bonnett and Calico Jack Rackham, all gone the way of Old Captain Tew; up the gibbet or down to the deeps; the time of our kind draws to a close, in this modern time. It is 1722, and things are far different than they once were. The orange rays of the sun slant into the cabin window. The warm glow diffuses the world further, somehow; things that were once real growing indistinct. I am losing my grip on this world. Strength that was ebbing with each day is now growing fainter by the hour. Now a man pokes his head in and bids me come to the deck. Koso is his name. He is a new man, a black African with no English, taken aboard from a Portuguese sloop, upon which he served as a slave;

he pledged his loyalty to me and this ship and I set him free, to share in the spoils with the rest of us. If such a life may be called free; we are hunted, our livelihood all but a thing of the past, and Captain Jack is dying. Still, he may leave this ship a fee man, in some port that abideth not slavery. This was the last great act of Red Jack Ryan before the distemper found him. I gesture to Koso to aid me, and I lean heavily upon him as we go out to the deck. There is no use in trying to act strong now. I know death is in my face, and there is no hiding it. There, upon the horizon, I see them; tall ships of the line, a squadron of the Royal Navy come to root us out, we last ragged vagabonds of the sea. Now Mr. Sullivan is at my elbow. Orders, Captain? Orders? I turn to my friend after a moment and see the fear in his eyes, and now I look around the rail and see that the other men are staring like boys, wide eyed and silent, children caught misbehaving, dreading the lash. I push Koso from me, stand by will alone upon the deck that sways slowly beneath me. Or perhaps the sea is calm today, and it is I that sway? I laugh at the thought. I weave slowly over to the rail. A breeze finds my face and I breathe deeply. The English are driving hard towards us. There is not enough sail on the Fallen One to make a run for the coast, and even if we did? There is no harbor left for the likes of us. “Haul up the ensign, Mr. Sullivan. We will fight our way through.” I manage to mumble. My voice almost cracks with the order, but the men manage a gutsy cheer. Koso catches me as I stumble a bit on my way back to the cabin, and I sit down a bit heavily in my chair near the glass. The sails of the tall ships are growing larger, and I know a spirited battle is in the offing, a battle we cannot hope to win. But the light is failing, here in my cabin, just now.