A handsome stalwart native of the Americas and a skilled mariner, since first he fell out of his mother’s apron and onto the Eliza Battle, the estimable captain is thunderstruck! Was not the Mary Celeste his first command? Had he not survived all the dangers and privations of service aboard the Pilgrim, that privateering brig owned by Master Cabot? The captain cannot account therefore, for the grim sense of foreboding that grips him like a shroud as this glistening apparition, this shark, bears down upon his vessel. At times the monstrous, glistening beast lies hid beneath the raging waters, but it is soon upon them and as it nears port-side it swerves, and with an agile flick of it’s tail surges upwards out of the water, and arches itself sideways towards the main sail mast.
Are there any words to describe the terrible sight of those gaping jaws embedded with sharp bone-white teeth? I think not!
“Cover your eyes Kitty! Don’t look!”
Drawing his sou’wester violently over her face he turns her roughly in towards his manly shoulders. Alas dear reader that there could be no protecting of this worthy mistress of the high seas from the Shanty-man’s singing as it was most violently interrupted by his terror-filled shrieks! Thunder crackled overhead, lightning struck the ironclad ship dousing it in ethereal light and t’was plain to see the horror which had transpired then!
“And it’s ho! Ho! Aaargh! Get away! Get awa-aargh!”
To have survived several ship wrecks and kidnappings midst these treacherous waters is no mean feat. Alas, then, for man-eating loan sharks! With a final garbled cry of “Help me! Aaaaargh!” with a brief, flailing about of one pale limb, the poor shantyman was gone! Swallowed whole by that terrible beast who like that terrible terrible beast of sea lore, the leviathan, swiftly disappeared beneath the foaming waves. Captain Keeler-Breeze silently threw up a prayer to that patron saint of monks travelling the high seas, St Brendan (it couldn’t hurt now could it?).
“Now he has the taste of man-flesh in his jaws he’ll be back, t’is little doubt of it!” looking up towards the crow’s nest he espied a lithe figure nimbly sliding down the main mast and headed below deck. T’was the valiant Francis Page gone to call the rest of the crew to battle no doubt!
“Kitty! Uncover the Gatling Gun! Quickly! We won’t have long to wait!”
Apprehending in that instant that God had opened a way through which impending death might be averted, Kitty slid swiftly towards the main deck clasping a grapple hook in her gloved hand. She had barely reached the Gatling Gun when a shard of lightning hit the main mast once more sending shards of it crashing towards the deck. Tearing desperately at the oil skin which covered the gun, she heaved it slowly around to face the ship’s port-side. Lassoing herself to the gun’s base she gripped the gun firmly by the barrel and the trigger and steeled herself for the shark’s next attack. Like a ‘tossed shuttlecock to the blast’ the ship reeled back and forth midst the churning waters and t’was all Kitty Grid-Iron could do to cling grimly on to the gun.
“I won’t go I tell you! Noooooo! Nooo! I won’t!”
“Oh but you will!”
“Let me go back to Elspeth! I tell you I won’t do it! I won’t!”
“Ah but you will!” hissed Seamus Geraghty his fierce green eyes were fastened intently on the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose pale blue eyes were awash with tears as Seamus grimly thrust a whaling harpoon into his limp, wet palms.
” You’ll do as you’re bid, if you ever wish to see land again! On deck wid ye! Ye Gombeen fiend!”
At this point it must be said dear reader, that though there is much to distinguish the predatory human being from a lone shark, in terms of mindset their natures are one and the same. For, having achieved his nefarious aim (the devouring of human flesh) and that without punitive consequence, the shark returned once more and he came not alone. O! The follies of venturing abroad on the high seas without knowledge of the dangers that may befall thee! Oh! It has grown most bitter, cold and dark with naught but the ethereal sliver of light, which only does aid the good captain in his journey toward home.
“Shark! Shark! Men to the port-side! Steady your positions! Hold yer course! Shark!”
Whale-spade in hand Seamus Geraghty clambers swiftly aboard port-side in time to meet the fierce onslaught of the shark whose sharp teeth,gruesome close up, bear the adorning fragments of the Shanty-man’s remains.
“I’ll have at ye, ye fiend! You’ll ne’er get the better of us! Come ahead damn ye! Come ahead!”
With a ferocious yelp, such as would chill the marrow of any seaman, he sprang upon the beast spade in hand beating it savagely about the head.
“Have at ye! Ye accursed lone shark!”
Is there anything more brutal than a crew of desperate men drawn on to passionately embrace their leaders cause? For lashed by fierce winds and rains the ship’s crew clamber up and over the ships hull, leaping upon shark after shark with such ferocity that the waters below the ship churn and foam with the shoal’s swift retreat. Such bravery dear reader? Such brutality! The likes of which will be spied many a time ere this arduous adventure is concluded!
And yet, has this particular instance of courageousness been all in vain? For as Seamus’s men clamber back on deck (offering up a swift prayer of thanks to St Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of St Bethel’s Asylum, as well as sailors), the bloodied lone shark attempts another surprise onslaught! Hurrah, then, for Kitty Grid-Iron who flinging herself urgently over the Gatling gun pulls hard on the trigger and it seems as if the very fires of hell issue forth from its revolving barrels! With a piercing shriek the devilish fish falls, plummeting back into the waters and disappearing. Peace at last descends, but there is worse to come.
“Rocks ahead!” cries Lord Grid-Iron albatross in hand, “Abandon ship!”
“Ye will not! Ye will stay and face justice!” growls Seamus Geraghty wondering how amidst all the fracas, he had managed to return below deck, and retrieve the accursed albatross. Nevertheless as the stormy seas continue to break in very fast, all can perceive the truth of his utterances and fastening ropes about themselves and the mid and main-masts, the ship’s crew braces itself against the impending violent collision.
“Tally-Ho! cries Lord Grid-Iron wriggling like an eel beneath Geraghty’s fierce embrace “We’re doomed!”
to be continued…..