The Last Voyage of the Overett
Our mission was to facilitate trade with the natives of the isle of Mundroga. Four years ago another East India ship, the Valiant had found a cluster of islands by accident. Their compass malfunctioned and they ran off course, the distraught captain wished to correct course but a boy in the crow’s nest spotted land. The Mundroga natives were of Caribbean descent, black to brownish skin, armed with spears made from island trees. They did not attack on sight, instead the captain established relations with the tribe. The crew stayed for two weeks, and traded mostly random items from aboard the Valiant in exchange for pearls. The natives turned out to be excellent swimmers, masters in the art of holding breath. They dived into the shark infested waters and returned from the deep with bulky and large clams. The pearls that some of these shells cultivated held little value to the tribe, they gladly traded them. There were a barbaric people, lacking education and culture. The pearls that the Valiant obtained held such unique and rare beauty that each of them sold for a fortune.
My job was to assure that the trade is fair, mostly of course from the point of view of the East India company. This entailed keeping watch on both the captain and his crew. Just in case they feel entitled to a greater share of the proceeds, then what the company is willing to pay them. This caused tension between myself and the other occupants of the vessel. Captain Hawkright looked at me with clear disdain and at times the crew even spit at my feet when I walked by.
Besides myself we had another outsider appointed to the ship. This person however was treated with more respect than I, much more indeed. This could be attributed to the gown the man wore, but it has to be said that the priest had a stern and commanding quality about him as well. Father O’Furi was an Irish Catholic clergyman, serving his duties in a small church in London. He prayed with and preyed upon a community of Irish immigrants, who were unlucky to be his congregation. Father O’Furi was to the jovial and respectful vicars of the Church of England like a Bengal tiger compared to a snail.
Unfortunately for me the end of the first week was the last of my good times aboard the Overett. The seas were kind and gentle, the weather miraculously pleasant, yet my stomach turned ill. I heaved and hurled over the edge of the ship. The crew took joy in my misery, but it all stopped when I kept rejecting my food for three consecutive days. It was hard for me to keep water down. They suspected an illness among us, but no other sailor got sick. I remained confined to my cabin, my bed became a cold cradle, my personal hell on earth. I laid in cold sweat, hallucinating and muttering. Dread and great terror shook my emaciated body. The captain came to see me. He told me straight that if I die, he would be better off, and he’d have my corpse thrown overboard for the sharks. This didn’t lift my spirits. Father O'Furi came as well after five days. He told me he saw the chariot of death ride atop the waves in a fiery blaze, he thought the reaper might come for my soul. Yet – he added with cold disdain – I should not beg for last rites, since he considered me an enemy of god. When or what I have done to earn his ire I had no idea.
Tiny shells were cracking under my feet as I tread the sand. Rufus found broken barrels, clothes and rubble washed up on the beach. Clear tracks showed evidence that we were not the only survivors. We hurried towards the inner part of the isle. It’s geography turned out to be quite vertical. Cliffs, hills and even a mountain rose up high. I had to climb stones and rocks which appeared to be volcanic in nature.
Father O'Furi survived the waves. Most of his gown was intact, however the bottom of the cloth was torn, appearing as if bitten off by sharks. He stared at me, from between his dried lips a gravely voice boomed:
– So god decided to take the strong and courageous, but kept the ill and weak alive. He truly does work in mysterious ways. I have scoured the whole island and scouted the waters nearby for our captain, but I'm afraid his soul is in front of saint Peter as we speak. But for such a wretched clerk to tread the tides of hell and live, I'm actually impressed Cornelius!
The remaining sailors became agitated. They combed every inch of the island, hunting bugs, and eyeing the top of the strange trees for fruits. They were also looking hungrily at Rufus, so I took him for long walks along the shoreline. I myself took to hunger better, since I was already in such an emaciated state. I saw my stomach go inwards and my ribs protruding. I was pale as a sheet despite the constant barrage of sunlight and I must have had the visage of a shaggy scarecrow. Rufus was also quite hungry I imagine. He went ahead sniffing vigorously. I had heard scampering nearby and my canine companion rushed out. When he came back he held a dead rat in his jaws. I pet him and hugged him and spoke softly to him.