It was time. The sun was high and the waves were rolling over the blue water. The Silhouette was resting at the docks awaiting her maiden voyage on the open sea. Her crew was busy, bustling around on the deck making sure everything was perfect. Families were saying good-bye to their loved ones, biding them a safe voyage and an enemy destroyed.
There were many sailors aboard this ship. Young, old, middle-aged, all coming from different homes, all going for their country. There was a father squeezing his children one last time. A young boy, around the age of 16, was consoling his weeping mother on the shore.
The sails were up, everything was ready. The young boy left his mother, taking one last look into her weeping eyes. They made his heart cry out in pity and sadness. “Don’t go, Silas,” she whispered, “I’ll never see you again; I can’t loose you too.” She grasped on to the edge of his shirt and pressed her head upon his chest. Her cries wrenched her whole body.
He tried to push her off but she just held on tighter. “I have to go, mother,” he tried to console her; “You must understand that. I will see you again.” His voice cracked as he pushed back the tears. He pulled himself away and hurried toward the gang-plank. He couldn’t turn back. He had made his choice.
* * *
Looking back at it now, it was the most heart-wrenching choice he had ever made and ever will make: To serve the country of his birth in his father’s stead. His mother had discouraged it, but he knew it was his duty as a citizen of England and in honor of his father.
It was a dark night when the boy’s family had received the letter of his father’s death. He had been fighting in the Caribbean. Pirates were threatening the colonies and his father’s crew had been sent to defend them. Pirates were heartless beings who cared only for material wealth; they bestowed no mercy.
It had only been two weeks ago and England was sending more sailors over for the cause. There was such an empty hole in the boy’s heart. He had to get away, and serving his country seemed to be his only way of keeping his father alive in his heart. The navy was willing to accept anyone.
He signed up. “Silas Rutledge”, he wrote on the sheet. There were thirty or more names as well. All willing men, some of whom he knew or heard of, but most were strangers. They were to be under the authority of Captain John Ellington. He sounds like a noble man, Silas thought, a good captain.
Deeply grieved was his mother when she heard he had enlisted. She had just lost a husband and now she was losing a son as well. She tried to persuade him not to go, but these attempts were fruitless. He was a stubborn boy, just like his father. His mind could not be changed.
For the next week Silas prepared to leave for the Caribbean. His heart and mind were indifferent to life. Deep in his thoughts he started to second-guess himself. His father died fighting, would he? Did he enlist to Death? I am no coward; he told himself, I am not afraid to die. His mother’s pleas were tugging at his heart. But to give in now would be to turn his back on his country and be branded a coward.
* * *
It was time, there were no turning backs now. Leaving his weeping mother, Silas walked as boldly as he could onto the deck of the Silhouette. He could hear the cries of the small children as their father left. Back then he didn’t realize that it be the last time he would ever see him again.
The Silhouette was now leaving the docks. Silas waved to his mother. He hoped and wished that it wouldn’t be the last time he would ever see her. Finally he turned his back on his old life ready to embrace the new. He knew not what lay ahead. All he could see was a blue sky and a wide open sea.
After five weeks at sea, The Silhouette finally sighted land. The beautiful bay at Port Auston shone like a sapphire among emeralds. Silas could not believe what lay before his eyes: Almost a heaven on earth.
It was to be their base for the next 6 months, then they might be moved somewhere else in the Caribbean. Of course if buccaneer pirates assailed the port their stay would be longer.
Silas had learned a lot at sea. He learned how to rig the masts, climb up to fix the sails, but mainly on how to keep the ship clean, sanitary, and sharp. Captain Ellington demanded it. He would have the best looking ship in all the seven seas. Not only did he require neatness of the ship but also of its shipmen. Each sailor had to be neatly trimmed, prompt, and, as the ship, sharp. If one failed to meet these expectations they would be whipped with ten lashes of the captains own belt. “As the ship,” he would say, “are her shipmen.”
Silas fortunately had never experienced this personally, but watching it was enough. But he could not hate Captain Ellington. He was their leader into this beautiful world; a captain worth respecting.
Though he was the youngest aboard the Silhouette the older sailors respected him, took him in, and taught him the many things his father didn’t have time to tell. They told stories of the battles they had fought in and how horrible the buccaneers were. But their stories mainly were about how beautiful the women were in the islands of the Caribbean. “The islands are beautiful,” stated Johnny Cricket, a friendly sailor, “Aah, but even more so are the women.” He would laugh and go on telling his stories of the islands gorgeous women.
Another thing Captain Ellington was stern about was the drinking of rum on his ship. He would not allow it. He could not have drunken sailors manning his ship. He said they did enough drinking off the ship that that should be enough to satisfy their thirsts. Although rum was banned from the ship, a few sailors managed to smuggle on a bottle or two.
The Silhouette was docked and the sailors began unloading supplies that were brought from England to the colonists of Port Auston. Men came to pick up the goods, some would be taken to market places, but most of it would be stored. A few beggars came to see if they could snatch a bite or two.
The sailors would stay in the fort until called out to duty or sent back home.
The tired sailors made their way on the dirt roads to the fort. Many markets and small shops lined the streets selling exotic fruits and vegetables, or fine cloth and fresh bread. Homeless beggars wandered around begging for pity from those more fortunate than they. They would pick up the trash in the streets that was half eaten by rats and covered with diseases. This they considered a meal.
There were many side streets off the main road where the poor folk’s houses were. They were small houses made of wood, which showed how meager their lifestyle was. Silas could see people working in their small gardens trying to make something grow. He could smell the aroma of a skillful cook making a pie from scratch.
Looking up he saw large beautiful brick houses looking down over the town. They were the residences of the more wealthy who lived here at Port Auston: the governor, the banker, perhaps a captain’s family, and of course a land owner or two. The prestige of Port Auston they were. The beings that made this town known; the ones who always wanted more.
After their long walk through the town the sailors arrived at the large wooden gate of the fort. A large fort it was, made of stone, brick, and wood. High towers stood spread out on the top of the fort looking down on the town, looking for enemies. The guns shined on the high platform where men in red stood on duty. Gun holes were cut out all around the fort. Yes, a strong fortress this was at port Auston. The British flag flew high above the fort. It stood as a symbol of pride for all men under it.
Upon walking inside Silas saw several dwellings. It was a large fort so some families lived inside it. The protection from the thick walls made it a comfortable lifestyle.
The sailor’s quarters were almost like in the ships. They were small rooms housing about ten to twenty soldiers. They slept in hammocks hung from the ceiling. It was a filthy place to sleep. There was a slight smell of drunken men who hadn’t washed themselves in the passed year. The floor was dirt, hard packed and dark. Rats scurried around hoping to find a little morsel leftover from ones dinner. Silas’s crew was no longer sailors, for a time, but soldiers.
They had finally arrived. Silas hoped it would be a peaceful stay without any fighting. Yet somehow he felt tense, especially when he was on duty.
He was on duty almost 24/7. Even if he was just walking the streets looking at shops; he was always in his red uniform ready to be called into action at any moment. The only time out of his uniform he had was at the end of the day, when the night shifts woke up and he slipped into his hammock and drifted off to sleep.
A day came when he was patrolling the main road of the town outside of the fort, when a sweet smelling aroma was caught in his nostrils. He looked up and saw he was in front of the bakery. But through the large glass window he saw something more.
All the sailors’ stories were true. The women of the islands were beautiful. She was working hard kneading the bread and all covered in flour. The brown strands of her hair were falling out of the loose bun. It was not long when she happened to look up. And there he was standing like an idiot staring at the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He quickly realized his rudeness, and gave a little wave, and continued on down the street, her image never leaving his mind.
The next day, he placed some extra coins in his pocket. He was hungry for some fresh bread.
Again he smelled the wonderful bread baking and the aroma was drifting into the street. He hesitated before entering, fearing she would not like him or think him rude for staring.
Bravely he walked in and there she was kneading as before, and then baking it to perfection. Silas walked up to her and asked for one loaf of bread.
She looked up, obviously recognizing him from the day before. “Two pounds,” she said briskly.
His heart fell. He had only brought one pound. “I’m sorry I don’t have enough. You see I only brought one pound. I don’t have that much money so I have to save what I have.”
“What are you saving it for?” she inquired, “Rum?” At night most of the soldiers went to the inns and got drunk. In fact they were known for it.
“No,” he answered, “I left my widowed mother back in England, see. And I wanted to write her a letter of my well-being.” Hopefully, thought him, that she would pity him enough for saying the truth.
Her keen eyes searched him a bit, looking for honesty, but then her stern face changed slightly. It showed compassion. “Well,” she hesitated, “One pound will do, I guess.”
His prospects were brightening. “Thank you so much,” he said with instant gratitude.
“Why do you want a loaf of fresh bread so badly? What do they feed you up at the fort?”
“Stale bread, moldy fruit, and some kind of mush,” he recalled, “But I really just wanted to meet you though. I don’t know too many people except for my shipmates. I wanted to meet a citizen.” It was a bold statement, he knew, but maybe she’d see his ignorance and take pity on him.
“Well then,” she said extending her hand toward him, “I’m Mary Thomas, you are?”
“Silas Rutledge,” he answered taking her hand.
“Well Silas Rutledge,” she smiled, “Now we’ve met.”