Fair Blows the Wind
My name it Tatton Chantry and unless the gods are kind to rogues, I shall die within minutes.
My two companions are dead, and those who came to this shore with us have fled, believing me already killed. Their boat bobs upon a gray sea flecked with the white of foam and soon they shall be alongside the Good Catherine.
I am alone. I am left without food, without a musket, with naught but the clothes in which I stand . . . and a sword. I also have its small companion, a knife.
Crouched at the base of a gnarled and wind-racked tree, I wait with pounding heart. For they will come now, for me. My two companions are dead, and they must know that I am alone. One against many.
My lips are dry, and my tongue keeps seeking them. Am I, then, a coward? Death hangs over me like a cloud. Am I, whose blade has sent so many others to their deaths, afraid to die?
I can flee, I can hie myself down the beach, running until they bring me down like a frightened hare.
A Chantry flee? True, the name is not mine. I have but claimed it, used it, found it helpful. Dare I dishonor it? Dare I be less than the name deserves? I have carried it proudly. Therefore if die I must, I shall die proudly, even though the name is not mine and I die unheralded at the hands of savages.
They have killed some of those who came with me, but was I seen? Is it possible I escaped notice? Do they know that I am here? Do they delay killing me only to despoil those already slain.
We had come ashore for fresh water. Our casks were filled , all were aboard the ship's boat but we three, two of the hands and myself, and we had lingered to look about. They started back at the call, but I saw a corner of something projecting from the sand, and paused.
Arrows struck the boat, doing I know not what harm to its crew, and spears were thrown, but most fell short. Then some good lad fired a musket.
The ball caught a savage in the face and he fell, his head half blown away. Shocked, the savages stopped their rush and the boat gained the current and was gone, downstream and to the sea.
Then the savages were stripping the two dead men, muttering and exclaiming over what they found.
Now a faint breeze ruffled the leaves, and I crouch, waiting. Cold sweat beads my brow, trickles into my eyes, and I dare not move for fear my motion will be seen. Very still am I, for they are but thirty yards away and often within plain sight.
Is this to be the end of me? Of Tatton Chantry? The last of his line, the first of his name?
There lies the ship; the boat is now alongside. How I wish I were on it, to climb aboard!
The water casks are being hoisted aboard, and finally the boat itself. Before long my companions will be relating the story. Soon they will sail, and I alone will remain upon this barren shore. Alone, but for the savages . . .
I wait and watch . . . Now the sails shake free, the wind takes them and the Good Catherine moves.
Something within me dies. I have never been one to weep, nor to bewail my fortunes, which God knows have been ill enough, and I cannot find it in me to don the mantle of Job. Perhaps it is that I am Irish. We Irish wear the cloak of adversity with style.
I wait . . . the sails of my ship drop below the horizon. The squabbling of the savages has ceased.
They will come now. I shall meet them as my father's son should meet them, sword in hand. If I am to die, being the last of my line, let me go well that my ancestors need not feel they bred in vain.
Very well, then! I shall go to meet them! If there be lives beyond this, let them make ready. I shall go to meet them now.
They are gone! Did they despise me, then? Did they think me too meek a man for their killing? Or did they simply not know I was here.
The two dead sailors, good men both, lie horribly cut about the face and body . . . mutilated.
To them I doff my plumed hat in silent tribute, for they did what they were set to do on ship and shore, they lived and died as men. Yet had they been even the lowest of scoundrels I would have wished them alive with me, for now I am alone.
What am I, Tatton Chantry, to do, marooned upon this shore with nothing!