The Adventures of Tom Watson and Squeak the Rat
Tom was the son of a Merchant Douglas in Port St. Claire. He did not like working in his father’s shop because he didn’t like selling things. While his father was not happy about it, he let Tom spent some of his days exploring the hills and forest outside the port city.
It was Tom’s grandpa who first took Tom into the hills. Grandpa did not like buying and selling things either. Mostly, he was a fisherman. Also, Grandpa gathered fruits and berries to sell and do small repairs for the people of Post St Claire. He spent most of his time alone until Tom was born, and when Merchant Douglas said it was okay, he would take Tom on long walks around the island. He taught Tom to names the places he passed so that he always knew how to get home. Grandpa taught Tom to call his first bird and to ask it to sing for him.
Tom had a gentle heart and loved the beauty of the trees and flowers. All the animals knew Tom was their friend. They came to him when they needed help, and Tom helped them. He removed thorns from their backs and cleaned and dressed their cuts. Tom learned the ways of the animals.
Once Tom was out of the town, he would call a whip-poor-will to sing for him as he walked, filling the area he passed with music. All the animals knew when Tom was near. When Tom was around, the fox and the rabbit were friends, and no animal harmed another.
Tom’s father knew nothing of Tom’s way with the animals. He thought Tom was wasting his days wandering through the hills. He worried about Tom’s future and thought Tom needed to spend time with people and learn a trade.
So one day, Captain Jack of the sailing vessel Deliverance entered the merchant’s shop for supplies. Merchant Douglas spoke to the captain about his son, and together they struck a deal, Tom would sail on the captain’s ship on the following day working in the galley.
When Tom returned home that night, his father told him of the Deliverance, Captain Jack, and about Tom becoming a sailor. Tom was very excited. The next day, with his belongings wrapped in a blanket, he went to the dock and reported to the first mate. As the high tide started falling, Tom sailed out of Port St Claire’s harbor, his first day as a sailor.
Life aboard Deliverance was full of new experiences. Tom learned to prepare food in the galley, where he spent many hours peeling and cutting, cooking and mixing. When not working in the galley, he had duties like swabbing the deck. Tom learned to do these tasks right the first time. Before long, seeing that Tom was a good worker, the other sailors wanted Tom to help them with their jobs. Soon Tom was friends with all the sailors.
Before a month had passed, Tom had become a fair sailor. He knew how to hoist the sails and tie off the sail lines. Tom could tell what the weather would be from reading the clouds and by the feel of the breeze. He learned how to read a map and know the direction they were going from the sun and stars.
Even though Tom was a sailor now, he still had his animal ways. One rat that Tom named Squeak became a very close friend. Squeak stayed with him every night in his cabin. Tom brought him little treats, like bread crusts and apple cores.
One day Tom knew a storm was coming by the dark clouds gathering in the east. By late afternoon, the wind was gusting, and the rain started to fall. As night fell, the waves were crashing down on the deck, and the wind was howling. All the crew worked into the night, trimming the sails and battening down the hatches.
Tom did what he could do to help, but the other sailors had no time to give him instructions. Mostly, he saved small items from falling overboard and stayed out of the way. Just before dawn, as the storm was calming, Tom saw Squeak come topside. Squeak was hit by a wave and nearly washed overboard.
Tom cried out in alarm and ran to Squeaks aid, just as another wave was cresting. As Tom grabbed Squeak, the wave hit. Both of them went over the edge. Just before leaving the deck and falling into the choppy water, Tom grabbed hold of a small barrel. Into the sea went the boy and rat. When they surfaced, the Deliverance was gone.
The sun rose, and the waters and the winds calmed. Tom put Squeak on the top of the barrel and wrapped his arms around it. The barrel he grabbed contained apples. Tom and Squeak cleaned the salt from their mouths as they ate the sweet fruit.
While floating in the middle of the sea, gently rolling with the waves, Tom tried to think of things to do, but nothing occurred to him. After an hour or so, a school of dolphins came and circled Tom and Squeak. Sensing Tom’s gentle way, they offered help.
One large dolphin who Tom named Kee-a-kee, swam close to Tom and offered him a ride. Having no better idea, Tom put Squeak on the top of his head, reached out to the dolphin, and let go of the barrel. As soon as Tom had a firm grip, the school of dolphins raced off with Squeak and Tom.
After what seemed a very long time to Tom, he saw a patch of land on the horizon that grew in size as they approached it. As the dolphins swam into a small lagoon, Squeak jumped into the water when he saw the land. Both swam to shore, leaving the dolphins playing in the lagoon.
That night Tom crawled under a bush at the edge of the beach. He pulled some large leaves over him for blankets and fell asleep. Squeak remained by his side but did not sleep. He stood guard all night to keep Tom safe.
The next morning, Tom woke with the sun shining brightly in his eyes. Tom and Squeak set out to explore the island. Tom was very hungry, and luckily Squeak was a good scout. He led Tom to a small grove with fruit trees and a freshwater stream.
After what Tom thought was the best meal of his life, they continued to explore the island. After searching for a few hours, they found a small dry cave. It was halfway up a mountain overlooking the lagoon, only a short distance from the clearing where they had found the fresh water and fruit.
Over the following days, Tom made the cave into his home with a log for a chair, dry grass for a bed, and large leaves for blankets. He gathered shells, driftwood, and interesting rocks that he kept around the cave.
He explored a lot of the island but found no signs that anyone had ever lived there. Soon he befriended all the beasts of the island. Wherever he went, the birds filled the air with their music. Animals came to him when hurt, and he helped them. But Tom had learned to enjoy being with sailors, and he was lonely for other people.
Back on Deliverance, after the storm had quieted and the ship returned to normal, they discovered Tom was missing. The next few days, they looked everywhere aboard and sent their dinghies out in all directions. Finding no sign of Tom, they sadly went back to their duties and continued on their way.
The trade route Captain Jack was following went near to Tom’s island. It was on the navigation maps. But the island was not near enough to be seen from the ship, and they had no reason to look there. They knew that no one could swim that far, especially not a boy Tom’s age.
So they sailed right past the island on the way to their next destination to sell their cargo. When the holds were empty, they bought more cargo and sailed to the next port. Many weeks and many ports later, they returned to Port St. Claire. Captain Jack sadly told Merchant Douglas what happened to his son.
Douglas was heartbroken when he heard the tale of his missing son. But he knew Tom was smart and resourceful and that he would find a way to survive. Douglas had a feeling inside him and was sure he would know if Tom was gone. Merchant Douglas asked Captain Jack to keep up the search and to find his son Tom.
In addition to the fruit he found on the first day, Tom found many different vegetables and spices. The dolphins brought him fish that he dried in the sun. With the skills learned in the galley, Tom made many tasty meals. He and Squeak grew healthy living on the island.
Tom swam with the dolphins, and he ran with the great jungle cats. He played with the monkeys in the trees and taught the parrots to talk. His best friend Squeak was always with him. Even so, he was lonely. He never stopped thinking about ways to get off the island.
Kee-a-kee was always the first to greet him when Tom came to the lagoon to swim or gather shells. After many days of swimming together, Tom learned how to move with Kee-a-kee so that they moved gracefully through the water as if they were one.
Together they started taking longer swims. Tom fashioned water bottles from coconuts and made a harness so that Squeak could go with them. Their first long trip was around the island. It was a large island. They started at sunrise and returned to their lagoon after the sun had set.
Tom knew the trade routes were to the west of the island. He asked Kee-a-kee to help him find a ship. But he did not know how far away the trade route was or when ships would be passing. Every few days, Tom, Squeak, and Kee-a-kee would swim to the west for half a day. When the sun was in the middle of the sky, they would turn around and return to the island.
One day after many weeks of these trips, Tom saw the sails of Deliverance. In the crow’s nest was a sailor, looking for Tom as Merchant Douglas had requested. The look-out could not believe his eyes as Tom approached the ship. The captain and crew could not believe their ears when he yelled, “Dolphin rider on the starboard side.”
Tom said goodbye to Kee-a-kee, thanked him for his help, and climbed aboard Deliverance with Squeak. Captain Jack greeted him, and the crew cheered. None had expected to see Tom again. That night there was a great party, and Tom told his story of being saved by the dolphins. Over the following days, things on the ship returned to normal, and Tom became a sailor again.
After visiting several ports, buying and selling cargo, Tom returned to Port St. Claire. Entering his shop, Tom ran into his father’s arms. Each was very happy to see the other. As they hugged, Tom’s father said, “I knew it! I knew you were okay. I love you, Tom”.
Tom was glad to be home and did not sail with Deliverance when she left a few days later. His time as a sailor had done what his father had hoped. He had learned how to buy and sell things by trading at the ports he visited. He also enjoyed being with people and helping his father in the shop, almost as much as he liked being with the animals in the hills around Port St. Claire.
A few days a week, Tom would leave the shop to roam the nearby hills with Squeak perched on his shoulder. Since Squeak was a boat rat, Tom kept a bed in his room for him made from a wooden box, with soft rags that reminded Squeak of his day’s on board ship.
And so ends this adventure of Tom Watson, but Tom will have many more in the years to come.