IV. English Soil
The American frigate Animus sailed into an English port, and
captain, Darling, disembarked to a less than friendly welcome. To
begin with, the portmaster had refused the ship entry, until the
American ambassador, a seasoned man named Kirk Stewart, produced a
letter written by the American president, George Washington himself,
explaining his purpose and mission. They had been allowed to dock,
and, then, only reluctantly; Captain Darling was made to pay a thirty-
second of the ship's worth to stay in port. Overall, the ship was
worth nearly six thousand dollars. Since he could not remain in
English waters and expect to pick the delegation up later, Darling
parted with the outrageous sum of one hundred eighty-seven and a half
dollars. It was agreed the Captain himself would lead the landing
party, and the ship be left in the hands of its capable Leftenants.
As Darling walked down the plank and stepped onto English soil,
could feel the cold glares of the townsfolk, the unspoken disapproval
of everyone, and he knew that were using a sort blanketed
intimidation to get what they wanted; they wanted the Americans to
get out of England. Stewart fidgeted and kept trying to polish off
his hair, while Darling looked upon the citizens of that town as
little more than helpless wanderers, slaves to the whim of the whole,
not having any real ideas themselves. "Here are Americans," Darling
perceived them thinking. "Obviously, since they are rebels and
troublemakers, the whole lot of them is bally well no good. Get out
of here!" He only sighed when one such number of the townsfolk told
him something similar, almost verbatim.
With horses reserved in advance, Darling, Stewart, and a small
company of his fellow sailors rode their way towards London, with no
English guard and nothing to prevent any stray highwayman from doing
what he wished with them. After a day's ride, they stopped in the
countryside and made a makeshift camp. That is, they made a fire and
laid blankets on the ground.
The campfire crackled and burst, licking its flames against
provisions Darling had the foresight to bring, and a rather large
rabbit one of the men had sense enough to catch. Stewart brought out
a spice from the Orient, something called Atsui, which made
everything spicy and hot to the tongue. Only Stewart himself ate meat
with such spicing on it.
"So..." Stewart said, coughing over his meal. "How
long will it take
us to reach London?"
Captain Darling looked up at the sky, and quickly positioned
according to the North Star. "We rode twenty miles today. At that
pace, we should reach London in about six days." Darling laid a
little ways away from the fire, his hands supporting his head on the
"Six more days like today!" Stewart exclaimed. "I
don't think I can
handle one more day of that hard riding, let alone six!" He coughed
again, and thumped himself on the chest.
"Your rear end will just have to make do."
The lights in the sky illuminated the lights below; throughout
world, sources of light could be seen from within the stream of the
sky, each man creating his own private sun, whether to give him
light, heat, or both. Small suns flickered all over the world, and,
twenty miles east of Bristol, one such flame stayed alight for
travelers seeking peace on foriegn soil, seeking respite in a
moderately hostile land. Among these travelers, eight in number, one
of them stayed awake in the night, thinking about his future. This
man was an enlisted sailor, John J. Cook, who served aboard the
He was thinking about his wife at home in a small, rural town
Pennsylvania named Bethlehem. He had a house, for what he could buy
on the small wages he received for his service to his country, and
although the house was dilapidated and in constant disrepair, he and
his wife were superlatively happy living there, in complete freedom,
a notion that before had seemed to them impossible.
John J. Cook was born in the region of Gloucester, England,
migrated to America, hearing of the wonderful autonomy the country
had for itself. He made the move in 1785, at a time when the
burgeoning nation seemed like a bright shining light to some and a
twisted, mishappen darkness to others. He at once took enlisted into
the 'New Navy' as it was called, because the trip he had made over
from England to America had entralled him. He was at once captivated
and made nauseous by the sea, the infinite waters stretching out
forever, until you met a piece of land that didn't quite seem to
belong, when he took into account all the distance that spanned his
When he returned to his own small town in 1787, he found himself
wife and settled down. His wife was working in candle-maker's shop,
and thinking of becoming a candle-maker herself. She was very good at
it, and the demand was always high, except the problem of her
business John knew well. Wax had to sometimes be imported from
elsewhere, and the first place America turned to was its northerly
neighbor, Canada, which hadn't really made its mind whether it was
going to be French, Indian, English or neither of these. By the time
John J. Cook was assigned to a new type of frigate, the Animus, which
was Latin for something or other, (John's first idea was that it
meant something like dog or wicket) the year 1790 had come and John
was considering resigning the service and simply moving in with his
wife back in small Bethlehem. He missed her something terrible on the
long missions, and there wasn't enough vacation time, not as much as
he would have liked. He missed his wife.
He thought about all of these things under the starlight and
stars held only one answer for him- someplace there was a land that
wasn't filled with incomprehensible political intrigues, somewhere
there was a land where he could be happy, because he was free, and
somewhere there was a land he had everything he had never known he
wanted. Somewhere....there was home.
The sun began to rise on London, and in a manor on the outskirts
the city, a boy dreamed. He was a young man, aged fourteen, with
wavy, curly hair, and an innocent look about him. Beside him, on the
grass, lay a book concering navigation by starlight and a half-filled
glass of lemonade. The young man opened his eyes and suddenly
remembered he had fallen asleep looking at the stars. He heard the
sound of birds chirping all about him, and he discovered he was
slightly damp from having lain in the dew all night.
He rubbed his eyes and yawned, stretching his arms outwards.
sat up and saw a squirrel sniffing about hesitantly, its tail arched
and its eyes peering out from each side of his head, always on the
watch for possible dangers. Then the squirrel saw the young man and
relaxed. It promptly sat on its bottom and thrashed its tail about a
"Well, hello, Mr. Squirrel..." The young man said, stifling a yawn.
The squirrel cocked its head sideways, as if it were trying
understand what the big, booming voice had just told it. Then the
young man extended his hand and the squirrel jumped up on it.
"That settles it. We've got to find you some nuts today."
He got up
and looked around for some trees. The squirrel remained perched on
his hand, expectantly waiting something, even though it had no idea
what that something was. The young man spotted a decent looking tree,
and at once shook a branch with his free hand, causing many small,
varied nuts to fall down.
The squirrel leapt onto the ground and then turned back to
man and made a peculair noise. The young man laughed. "Well, you're
welcome, Mr. Squirrel."
Then he heard someone calling out for him. "Horatio! Horatio!
are you?" And he knew it was his mother. He began to walk towards the
sound of her voice.
"What is it, mother?" Horatio said as he approached
the front porch
of the manor. He knew he had waterlogged his shoes and made dirty all
the rest of his clothes, but he really didn't care.
"Horatio! You had me worried near to my sick-bed!"
His mother, a
tall, strong woman with somewhat disheveled brown hair exclaimed,
putting a hand to her chest. "Where were you last night?"
"Oh, it's nothing really. I was watching the stars and
I fell asleep
on the lawn." In one gulp, Horatio finished off his lemonade. He
noticed also that his book had gotten a little wet, but only the hard-
bound cover. If the pages were fine, that was all he cared about.
"But, but, Horatio! You shouldn't do that!" His mother
the glass from his hand and looking him in the face.
Horatio merely shrugged. "Cheer up, mom, it's not like
I hired a
carriage bound for Edinburgh." He walked in the house, his black-
buckled shoes striking the wooden floor with a musical lilt.
His mother followed him in, and, after depositing the glass
kitchen sink, came out to the dining room, where he was, and began to
wring her hands. "By the saints, Horatio, you're going to fill my
hair with gray yet."
Horatio's eyebrows perked up and he perceived the depth of
grief. "Well, I'll tell you what, I'll make us both breakfast this
morning, all right?"
Horatio cracked open an egg and spilled its contents into a
Beneath it, the wooden fire crackled within its own iron doors. On
one burner, had eggs, and on the other he had retrieved a chunk of
cheese he was melting to be mixed in with the eggs. He chanced a look
at the kitchen table and saw his mother, bags under her eyes and a
tired look about her, and he thought that maybe it wasn't such a good
idea to go running off and doing who knows what all the time.
As he went through the motions of making scrambled eggs as
knew, his mind wandered off to the Naval Academy. As long as he could
remember (which, considering his age, wasn't too far at all), he
wanted to ride a ship, to see what was out there. The idea fascinated
him that there could be other countries than England. He wondered
what they would be like, and decided that if he should chance an
occasion to go to one of those places, it should be so exotic and so
strange that he would not recognize the land as land, nor the people
as people. But this is what made him want to go even that much more.
Horatio's mother looked up from the table to see a plate full
steaming, yellow and orange eggs being handed to her. "Thank you,
Horatio..." She said quietly, and began eating.
"So, mother, when is dad to be coming home?" Horatio
asked over the
"He wrote that he will be home as soon as the malaria
over in Jamaica. He said he was returning in a ship called the
Indefatigable." Horatio's mother said kindly.
Horatio himself felt struck by that name, as if it would have
profound affect on his future.
Ambassador Stewart awoke in the morning with a kink in his
heard the rustling of leaves and the pattering of rain against the
ground. With an unsettling certainty, he knew that he was wet, sore,
outdoors and out of his mind to have ever signed up for this mission
of peace. He groaned at got to his feet, feeling the muscles within
his body whine at having to stretch themselves beyond the capacity to
which they were not accustomed.
He saw that the crewman, John J. Cook was up and rousting up
breakfast, more rabbit, but he couldn't find Captain Darling
anywhere. He contented himself, therefore, with sitting by the fire
and trying to warm his damp body. He suddenly heard a shout:
"Hey, the old man's up! We've got to move out!" Stewart
the voice as coming from Captain Darling.
Stewart sighed and merely began to mount his horse, hungry,
sore all over. He didn't know why they were all in such a buggered
hurry, only he didn't want to be left behind. He pulled a strip of
beef jerky from the pouch on his saddle, and dully considered what an
unusual breakfast it was.
"Well, fancy that." One of the Animus' crewmen said
jovially. "We say
to move out, and the Ambassador is the first one mounted. We should
have done it sooner, Captain!"
"Yeah, alright." Captain Darling's voice said. Then
Stewart saw him
walking into the sunlight, the whole of him eclipsing the sun. "Well,
let's move on, crew."
Stewart tugged his boot into the horse's side and very much
were back home, in bed...
After seven days of hard riding, the American Ambassador and
escort reached London, and, after some confusion, was conveyed to King
George's personal gardens. The gardens were filled with flowers and
trees; it gave Captain Darling the impression that he was dealing with
an utter fop. However, when he got his first glance of the tyrant
king, the man who had oppressed the colonies at every turn, where he
expected to see an unbalanced individual, as George was widely reputed
to be, the man's eyes were only iron, and his composure made of
Captain Darling was intidimated by the figure of the King,
Ambassador Stewart merely came forward and shook the man's hand,
beginning the pleasantries. The crewman had been assigned a room in
the Royal Palace, as the King thought their prescense would detract
from the aura the gardens presented. That left only the Captain
himself and the Ambassador.
"First of all, since you have summoned me here, sir, I
must let you
know that I am glad, at long last, to be done with that godawful horse
riding." Ambassador Stewart sat with the English King before a row of
"Very well." George began to brood within his own
thoughts. "I shall
make my meaning plain. I must confess that I have not cordial to your
nation in the past, but that was in my madness. I am not myself in
this state, and thus, if any action performed in the grip of madness
is an injustice, it cannot be weighed against myself, but against my
madness. Now, as I have regained my faculties, it is my intention to
form a working alliance with our own nation and America. I have
summoned you here, Ambassador, to take the first step to forging a
treaty to that effect."
As the King and the Ambassador talked, Captain Darling's mind
work out the nuances of it; Stewart had been called by the King. Did
that mean some sort of relationship existed between them both, and if
so, to what purpose? Darling resolved to involve himself further in
the meeting, so he could find out what really was happening.