Oldroyd and the Fanny Fearless, Part One
by Hannah S.

 

(second in the series, The Adventures of
Oldroyd--first was Just What Happened to Midshipman
Oldroyd?)

Spiraling down, down into depths of nothingness,
nothing but a few precious bubbles of oxygen left and
tons of pressuring greenish brine, it seemed all the
forces of nature were working against one little speck
of man in a vast ocean. Far above him, stormy seas
churned and boiled under velvet clouds, rain hissing
on the surface like the glass splinters of an ice
storm. Of course, the man subject to the indecisive
water could not see these things. Salt was grating at
his eyes; throngs of seaweed were constricting around
his arms and legs, and one thought was flowing at the
water's speedy pace through his brave little head.

"Where am Oi?"

Now, that was indeed a question. He didn't have a
compass. He didn't have a chart. He didn't even have
much air left in his limited lungs at the moment, for
he had been struggling underwater for quite some time.
He had made it to the surface at first, of course; the
seas had been calm the day that Pellew threw him
overboard in a tidal wave of fury. But he had been
growing tired. And hungry. Yes, very hungry indeed. So
hungry that he began to wish he had one of those poor
creatures from the former mice games to nibble on. Mm,
dee-licious, the young fellow thought as he was swept
along that first day. Mouse. Yum, yum.

The seas were unfortunately not his ally. Not even a
close acquaintance (anyone who knew him knew this
already). No sirree, not today; the seas were a brutal
enemy. They flogged the mouse-hungering man with their
treacherous waves until strength was something foreign
to his limbs. Then the storms had began. Clouds
gathered and watched the man toil for a moment, and
finally erupted with lightning and rain and ferocious
wind.

Yes, it was a sad day for former Midshipman Oldroyd.

The storms had brought him down at last. Now he was
trapped in something that felt like a whirlpool.

Well, I've never been in a whirlpool, thought Oldroyd.
That's something new.

He only had one regret. All right, two regrets. One,
that he hadn't been able to say good-bye to his pet
turtle Lucifer (Lucy for short). Two, that he hadn't
been able to say good-bye to Styles and Matthews, the
other two thirds of the Gleesome Threesome.

Not a threesome anymore. Not even gleesome. They'd
have to get another name now, and it was all his
fault. What would Styles say at a time like this?
thought Oldroyd.

Ah, yes. "This is all you, Oldroyd. You bloody idiot."
(WHUMP)

Oldroyd shrugged a little as doom grew closer. It had
been a good life. He had made friends, lost friends,
forgotten friends' birthdays, and even became
Midshipman for a little while.

Now, I suppose, it's over. Eh? He smiled, even in this
deadly dark place. It'll be all right, he thought.

Then he lost conciousness and his head nodded into the
current as his body was tossed to and fro, to and fro,
over and over for what seemed like endless hours in a
deep, frothing ocean.

 

"'Oo's this?"

"Get 'im aboard, and we'll see."

"Oi'd say 'e's dead boi naow, look's at 'ow 'e's
a-floatin'!"

"Let's not jump ta' conclusions. Gray! Gi' 'im o'er
the side. Quickly, now."

"Y'reckon 'e were floatin' out 'ere through that storm
last noight?"

"If THAT'S true, Jepp, then I don't doubt what you
said 'bout 'im bein' dead by now. We barely 'scaped
that 'un without a scratch, eh?"

"Look--'ere 'e comes."

"Easy wi' that thing, Gray, you'll knock 'im senseless
against the side 'afore 'e makes it to tha' deck!"

"Looks a li'tle doubtful t'me, Jonny...well, 'ave a go
a' that! Oi thank 'e's movin'!"

"Hoy--check 'im 'afore 'e chokes 'imself, Gray. Don't
batter y'self, friend, you're all roight."

"Loike a freezin' fish, eh, Jon? Ha-ha!"

"No toime foh' jests, Jeppy. This felloh's near
feverish. Be'ter get the surgeon."

"Surgeon! Hoho, what a joke, on this ol' bucket.
You're a reg'lar comedian, Jon."

"Ye can give me salt 'bout it later. You know 'oo Oi'm
talkin' abaowt. Get Hybels over 'ere, double quick."

Oldroyd awoke to fitful gags. He was hopelessly full
of saltwater, disoriented, and a little bruised from
his barely conscious journey up through the air and
onto a hot wooden deck. The sun was shining, but he
was as cold as ice cream in the North Atlantic.

Praising himself inwardly at this little thoughtful
analogy, he choked and spluttered, squinting up at the
two foggy figures above him. He couldn't quite get
them into focus.

Oh, no, he thought. I've been captured!

"'Oo are you?" he managed to whimper uncertainly.

"Wha--By 'Jorge, Jon, 'e speaks our dialect!"

"Well, 'ow 'bout that?" The second foggy figure knelt
down beside the shivering fellow.

Oldroyd didn't know what they meant. Are they speaking
French? he wondered. Do I know French? Am I captured,
or what?

"Where d'ya suppose 'e came from?"

"'At's obvious. 'Ave a go at 'is uneeform. Bri'ish
Nivy, no doubt."

"Wonder 'ow 'e got out 'ere. So what 'appened to ye,
friend? Get swept o'erboard in 'at storm last noight?"
Oldroyd decided to answer. "Not quite..."

"Well don't give y'self an 'ard toime, sir. Hybels is
'ere, 'e'll get you on yore feet." A third foggy
figure had appeared now. "Then y'can tell us what
'appened. Maybe we'll get'cha back t'yore ship an'
all, wot? 'Ere, Hybels, get 'im below."

Oldroyd's eyelids drooped. He fell unconscious again.

*********************************************
England. Mailbox. Sausage. Three.

Oldroyd tried to arrange his thoughts. They were a
little scattered at the moment.

Fish. Rigging. Pellew.

Pellew?

Storm.

Water.

Ship...

He blinked his eyes open as he remembered where he
was. Vaguely. He hadn't actually SEEN where he was
before, but he had known it was someplace safe.
Somewhere he could sleep without seaweed riding up his
trousers. He looked around and saw that he was in a
hammock in a small room, where another man with a trim
mustache stood mixing up something in a mortar and
pestal. What was that fellow's name again? Must have
been what the other one said earlier...Nibbles?
Hibbles? Eyeballs?

Hybels.

"Mr. 'ybels?"

The man glared back at his patient.

"You arrogant youths always do tend to butcher my
name."

Oldroyd was horribly confused. "Aw--sir, Oi meant no
disrespect, y'see, I just--"

But Hybels was already deep into his own melancholy
drone. "No respect, never, never any respect for the
man with any SENSE about this place, no indeed. They
plop me on a ship bound for Spain; I'm rescued by a
fishing boat full of vagabonds in sailor suits. Oh, I
try to be grateful, little ignorant sailor. I do. But
try--just you try to be grateful--when they stuff you
in a hull hardly big enough for a cabin lad, reeking
of their foul grime, and invite you to dine on their
unusual delicacies of cold squid, and the like. Ha.
You look at me now as if you don't realize the danger
you're in. Woe, woe upon me. May the Heavens be good
to me after this drudging interminable voyage. You
will find out soon, o ignorant boy. You will see how
utterly DREADFUL it is."

That certainly was depressing. "Em, can y'tell me what
ship Oi'm on?"

Another shadowy, plaintive stare. "If you can call it
a ship." Hybels mopped his forehead with a sopping
cloth. "Tell me, boy, would you call this a ship?"

Oldroyd thought for a moment. I suppose, he thought, I
could call it a boat. But no, it looked like a ship.
It FELT like a ship. "Er...what else could it be?"

Hybels laughed inaudibly, bitterly. "You wouldn't want
to hear it." He shook his head distantly. "You'll see,
soon enough. You'll see how dreadful it is..."

Obviously this wasn't getting anywhere. Oldroyd flexed
his muscles.

"Oi'm feelin' alroight, sir. May Oi go up top?"

"Certainly, certainly. The sooner, the better. It
means I'll be rid of you quicker."

"Thank 'ee, sir." Oldroyd hopped down and made his way
to the upper decks, wondering what he would find
there.

 

As Oldroyd, former Midshipman of the fancy frigate
Indefatigable, stepped out into the open sea air he was met with
distorted babble and a blast of ocean water. The ship, he
observed now, was perhaps little more than half the size of the
Indy. It was leaning profoundly against the current, against all
of the few laws of nature Oldroyd happened to know of, and soon
he found why this was.

"We can't 'old out against this, sir! It's too much!"

"Nonsense, Gray! What did Oi tell you??"

"An idiot never gives up, sir!"

"Yes, an' it'll do y' good to remember it! Hold fast to that
line!"

The ship groaned as it leaned further portside, and a wave
smashed over the tilted deck. Oldroyd lost his footing for a
moment in the slippery slush of the swell ("Try saying that with
a lisp," he thought quirkily to himself) and he steadied himself
against a heap of rabble.

Oldroyd proceeded to discern the likeness of the two noisy
figures at the bow. Gray, closest to Oldroyd, was towing at a
line that seemed to be strung into the churning brine. He had a
youngish gentle face that wore an utterly stupid look about it,
and somewhere beneath the stringy mop of light blond hair there
were two gray eyes--hence the name, Oldroyd supposed--that
glowed with energy. Near the helm stood an older fellow whose
voice Oldroyd recognized from earlier. He thought it was the one
called Jon but could not be sure...not that he was ever very
sure about anything. So he made an effort to shout distractingly
to the commanding sailor.

Unfortunately another monstrous wave hit the deck at that
precise moment, so all that came out was:
"Ah--" CRASH.

Oldroyd tried again.

"Exc--" CRASH. "--to--" CRASH. SWISH. "--you c--" CRASH. "Are--"
CRASH. "?"

After several minutes Jon noticed that the man he had fetched
from the sea had come out, and was now trying to say something.
He scratched his head. "I'm sorry, I don't hear a word you're
saying."

But all Oldroyd heard was: "Sorry--" CRASH. "--do--" CRASH.
"--ing."

Somehow Oldroyd interpreted this as a challenge to a duel, and
he was flustered beyond imagination. He had never fought a duel.
"Fine, then, at dawn!" he meant to say.

But all Jon heard was: CRASH. "--awn!"

Somehow Jon interpreted this as an insult, and drew a pistol
that he kept around just to frighten the crew.

Confusion reigned, as is imaginable. Waves crashed, fists swung,
and fish flew. But rather than recollect all of that, the
overrated scene of the Great Fish Fight of 1799 will be
dismissed at this moment. For there were larger, fishier, more
ridiculous matters at hand.

"Sir!" The urgent cry came from Gray. "'Elp!"

The line he was holding suddenly launched down underwater,
towing him with it. Gray flew up over a pulley and dropped down
quickly, then disappeared into the water, his screams reduced to
a trail of bubbles.

Jon let the fat half of a cod he was holding fall to the deck.
"Idiot!" he shouted. "I told 'im to hold fast! But did 'e?
Nooo!"

Oldroyd could see something more important. "Sir, look! She'll
go down if we don't do something!"

Indeed, the line must have been attached to something very
weighty, for it was pulling the ship down too far to one side.
"We'll be parallel with the waterline in half a second!" Oldroyd
observed, and he noticed that that was the smartest-sounding
thing ever to come from his mouth.

"We're done for now," Jon groaned.

Oldroyd shrugged a little. He turned around, wondering what they
could do. Surely they had to get Gray back up, if that was
possible, and above all save the ship. He still wasn't quite
certain what was going on, but that logical, wise piece of his
mind that existed somewhere was working hard now, and Oldroyd
had an idea.

To be continued...