Tom Watson and the Pirate’s Gold

It was late morning and still many hours before the shop would close. Tom’s father, Merchant Douglas, was helping a customer. Tom was straightening up the seed display. “Why can’t people put things back in their proper place,” he complained to himself. When a new customer entered, Tom stopped what he was doing and greeted the woman holding the hand of her small son. “May I help you find something,” he asked, just as his father had taught him.

“I’m looking for some cloth to make napkins. Do you have that, or do I need to go to the weavers,” she asked?

“We have some material from Weaver Tom’s shop here. He has a better assortment if you don’t find what you like. Let me show you what we have,” Tom answered and led the woman to the back of the shop.”

As she was looking through the selection, she dropped her son’s hand, and he quietly moved away. When out of reach, he was off like a jackrabbit with Tom hot on his heels, protecting the various items that caught his eye. More than once Tom had spent many hours reorganizing the havoc after a youngster had ransacked the shop.

“The day goes so slow here in the shop,” he thought. Like all days, this one finally ended. As Tom and his father walked back to their home, Merchant Douglas said, “You were a big help today, Tom. I know you would rather be outside on a day like today, but my shop will one day be yours. You are learning a trade, son.”

“Yea, Pa” was all Tom said. It was the same thing his dad said every night walking home.

His mood changed when Merchant Douglas said, “You been working hard in the shop, Tom. I know you need more than learning a trade. Tomorrow can be your day, a day off to do whatever you like to do.”

Tom woke early the next day before the sun came up. He was not going to waste one moment of his day. He made breakfast and waited impatiently for his pa to wake. Merchant Douglas rose with the sun and was pleased to see his son and breakfast waiting for him when he entered their kitchen.

“Good Morning, Tom. What a nice surprise, you and breakfast this morning. I expected you’d be gone by now.”

“I’m all ready to go, I’ll leave as soon as we’ve eaten, but I know you like to know where I’m heading when I leave the village.”

“I appreciate that, son. Where are you off to?”

“I thought I’d head into the mountains along the east side of the island, walk along the sea cliffs. I know where there’s a pinberry patch that should be ripe. I’ll bring a bucket and bring some home. Other than that, I plan on just walking around and seeing the island and ocean, no real plans at all.”

They finished breakfast and cleaned the kitchen.

“I’m off, Pa. Be home before the sun goes down. Let’s go, Squeak.”

Tom reached his arm down and his pet rat, Squeak, ran up his arm.

Squeak was more of a friend than a pet. Tom had a special way with animals. It wasn’t that he could talk to them so much as they knew what he wanted and did what he asked. He and Squeak had been together for some time and have had many adventures together.

Squeak settled into his shirt pocket, head and shoulders popped out, ready to go.

“Bye, Pa,” Tom said as he left the cottage.

“Bye, son, be safe.”

As Tom got out of sight of the village, animals would come up to the edge of the path to greet him. A family of rabbits, a mother with three kits, was the first to show up. The air was full of bird song. As he climbed into the mountains, a fox, a bevy of quail, and a lynx greeted him. The day started exactly as he hoped, a beautiful day.

Walking along a ridge, Tom saw a ship anchored in a lagoon. He watched as a longboat was lowered into the water and loaded with men and two chests. Tom saw the Jolly Roger and knew these men were pirates. A tall man in a purple coat stood near the end of the boat. Tom knew this was the captain.

“What have we here,” he asked Squeak?

As the pirates rowed towards the island, Tom climbed down the cliffs staying out of sight. Near the edge of the sea, Tom looked and saw where the pirates were going. As the tide went out, a cave in the rock face appeared. Tom and the pirates waited for a half-hour until the opening was big enough for the longboat to enter, which it did. Tom sat and watched. Not long after entering, the longboat came out and headed back to the ship.

The pirates were about halfway back to their ship when Tom said to Squeak, “Let’s see what’s in there.”

He took off his pack, stripped down to his pants, and slipped into the water, Squeak right behind him.

Squeak was the better swimmer and was in the cave long before Tom reached the entrance.

Tom entered the tunnel and swum a short distance. He came upon a beach that fronted a cave that led up into the mountain. Leaving the water, he walked into the cave. Squeak was nowhere in sight. At the top, he found a small cavern and saw the two chests near the back wall.

The cavern was dry and the air fresh. Tom knew vents were leading to this cavern and that it was above the high watermark.

After a quick examination of the cavern, Tom went to the chests and opened one. Sure enough, gold, more gold than he’d ever seen. The second chest was the same, full of gold.

Pirate’s gold, thought Tom. He knew better than to take any, and he closed both trunks. As he was heading to the beach to leave, he heard the pirates. They were coming back. He looked around, and there was nowhere to hide. He found an out-of-the-way spot at the rear of the cavern and tried to make himself as small and invisible as possible.

The pirates came into the cavern carrying two more chests.

“Put them down with the others,” the captain said. “That’ll do, lads. Let’s get back to the ship.”

One of the pirates saw Tom crouched against the wall. Pulling his sword, he said, “Well, what have we here? Take a look, Cap’n.”

Soon Tom found himself surrounded by pirates all pointing their swords at him. He looked from one to another but said nothing. Scared did not begin to describe his feelings.

The captain reached down and grabbed Tom by the arm, pulling him to his feet.

“Want me gold, do you, boy?” said the pirate. “This is not your lucky day.”

His legs felt all rubbery and didn’t want to hold him up. “No, sir,” was all Tom managed to say.

“Never liked skewering women and children,” said the captain. “Tie the boy up at the water’s edge. Let the tide and crabs take him.”

Two pirates jumped at the command, and soon Tom was sitting at the water’s edge, trussed up arms and legs.

As the pirates rowed away from the cavern, the pirate captain said, “Good-bye lad, next time I see you, you’ll be a pile of bones.”

When Tom could no longer hear the oars splashing the water, he called, “Squeak, where are you?” In no time, Squeak was sitting on his lap, his nose twitching, staring up at Tom.

“Get me out of these ropes, boy,” and Squeak jumped down and started gnawing on the rope that bound his arms. Tom was free in no time and swam out of the tunnel to where his clothes were.

Tom was climbing back up to the ridge when he saw that after a short time at the ship, the longboat left again, this time heading away to the south.

“Let’s see where they’re going. If they go far enough, they’ll be in wild man country.” Tom said to Squeak. “They can’t be going there. The wild men are cannibals. No one goes there.”

He went a long way and was leaving the mountains towards the jungle that covered the south side of the island. Before entering the jungle, he saw the longboat go up a river that flowed into the sea.

“Let’s keep following them, but we have to be careful. The wild men live in this jungle. We don’t want to get caught by them.”

The longboat came to a waterfall and pulled to the shore. Four of the pirates took barrels and headed to the falls.

“They’re here to refresh their water supply,” Tom whispered to Squeak.

The pirates went about their business and before they knew it, they were surrounded by a group of wild men, looking at the points of six-foot-long spears. One pirate pulled out his sword and was immediately killed, impaled by three spears. Seeing his fate, the captain told his men to drop their weapons. The wild men led them into the jungle away from the river.

“They’re in a fine pickle,” Tom explained to Squeak. “The wild men will eat them for sure. No one deserves that.” Tom quietly walked to the river’s edge, looked downriver, swam across, and hid in the bushes. He watched and listened.

“Looks like we’re okay so far, Squeak.”

A troop of baboons came to the river’s edge. Tom stood and faced the alpha male. “Hello, my friend. I could use a little help.”

Of course, the baboon didn’t understand the words, but he understood that Tom wanted something. “Hoot, hoot, hoot,” he said. The other baboons gathered around.

“I want to follow those other humans, and I don’t want them to see me. Can you lead me to where they’re going and let me know if they’re watching the trail behind them?”

The baboons had a little “Hoot hoot” with each other and soon took to the trees in the same direction that the wild men went.

Tom followed closely after them, knowing no wild men were waiting in ambush.

The baboons stopped moving and sat in the trees looking forward. Tom saw the village, ten or twelve huts arranged in a circle. He waved his appreciation to the baboons and looked for a place where he could better observe the village.

The pirates were nowhere in sight. As he watched and waited, a group of wild men came out of one of the huts, one wearing the captain’s purple coat. He must be the chief, Tom decided.

“We have to save them from the wild men”, Tom told Squeak. “Head over to the hut and see if you can untie the captain. I’ll move around and see if I can get in from the back.”

By the time Tom entered the hut from the rear, the captain was untied. He was freeing his three men, all had been staked to the ground.

“You’re the last person I’d expect rescuing me and my boys,” the captain said when he saw Tom. “This must be your rat. Pirates don’t like rats, but this guy’s okay with me.”

“He’s with me, alright. We better get going and be quiet. If they catch us, they’ll post a guard and we’ll never escape. This way,” Tom said as he left through the hole he cut when entering.

As they moved away from the village, the baboons joined and followed in the trees. Soon they heard yelling from the village. Tom knew their escape had been discovered. He looked and saw the alpha baboon. “Can you slow them down, my friend?” he asked?

As Tom and the pirates kept moving towards the river, the baboons fell back. When the wild men appeared, they threw branches and stones at them. They dropped out of the trees onto the wild men’s backs, pounding and biting before retreating to the trees to pounce again. The wild men fell back towards their village and the baboon’s “Hoot hoot” loudly announcing their victory.

Tom and the pirates made it back to their boat without incident. The barrels of water were still in the boat. They grabbed their swords and started down the river, Squeak and Tom with them in the boat. They left their fallen comrade behind.

Once out of the river and heading back towards his ship, the captain said, “What’s your name, lad. I’m Captain Mike and me and my boys are in your debt.”

“I’m Tom Watson,” answered Tom, “and this is Squeak. I’m from Port St Claire, the village on the north side of the island. My pa is Merchant Douglas, who runs a shop there.”

“Well, Tom, pirates like to keep the whereabouts of their treasure a secret, and you know where I’m hiding mine.”

“I don’t need your treasure, Captain Mike. We live comfortably in our village. I’ll keep your secret,” Tom answered.

Captain Mike signaled for his men to pull into a beach where there was a path leading up into the mountains. “I believe you, Tom. Here’s how we’ll leave it. As long as the treasure is in the cave, it’s as much yours as it is mine. Take whatever you need, whenever you need it. If you’d let us stay in the wild men’s village, we’d have ended up in their dinner pot, and the treasure would be yours anyways.

“If you ever feel the urge to sail around the islands in these parts, look me up. A pirate’s life is not all murder and mayhem. You’d be welcome as a member of my crew.”

Tom thanked Captain Mike and said his farewells. The longboat rowed back to their ship, and Tom climbed back up the mountain to the ridge he was following that morning.

He was home before sunset with a bucket full of pinberries.

“Hi Son,” his father greeted. How was your day? Anything exciting happen?”

“No, Pa,” he answered. “I had to chase the crows away from the pinberries is all. I had a real nice time. Thanks for giving me the day off.”

Reader, writer, life-time learner, friend. Today’s ambition, increase kindness in the world.