End of 14th Entry: …the Boer War which was still raging and all the world appeared to be flocking into “The Old Tavern of the Seas.”
Glancing at the crew the boy felt a thrill as he sensed how close reality was to fiction. The skipper had a brother who was a rebel – he himself had uncles and cousins fighting on both sides. His father was in the Town Guard, his father’s brother in an irregular mounted regiment of wild young bloods from the four corners of Africa, refugees from the mining fields most of them – his father’s house was an open home for soldiers of England, lavishly entertained though his family was a large one and his people had to battle desperately to keep their heads up on a Civil Servant’s salary and war prices.
It was jolly exciting he thought, “wonder what Mother thinks with Uncle Will a prisoner-of-war – darn thrilling having had two Uncles with Cronje, and Uncle Toby and those big Australian cousins of his with Roberts, all in the same battle. What would happen if Uncle Toby charged in and met Uncle Will or Uncle Jack? Of course, Uncle Toby would use the bayonet and of course he would win because he was “fighting for England”.
Those were the days when England’s Might stood like the Rock of Gibraltar and a man spoke not of Britain or the British Empire but of England and England’s Colonies – as the dwellers in the wild far North trembled and feared the King of Beasts so the Nations of the world hated and feared the Island race, Britannia the Pride of the Ocean: Rule Britannia, The Soldiers of the Queen and “they may build their ships my lads” were the songs of the day and the Union Jack waved proudly Mistress of the Seven Seas.
Looking at the skipper Mick wondered if it was really true that he and the stroke oar were the men, who climbing the buttressed tower of Lion’s Head, had hauled down the Union Jack and hoisted the flag of the South African Republic.
The Red Duster
They had an armed guard on the mountain now and perhaps the skipper would be shot trying to repeat the daring deed. His eye fell on the two young Malay half-breeds who pulled between bow and stroke instantly his mind swung to a tale of Gomes filled with thrills of Rajah Brooke, Sea Dyaks, Land Dyaks and those champion men of the seas the Malay pirates “The Orchid Hunters” darn fine yarn that.
Sir James Brooke
Out to sea, a great sailing ship was coming down the wind like some monstrous white bird. “She’ll be English won’t she Jack? Full rigged ship by the look of her – coming from Australia”. The bow oar cast a glance over his shoulder and sent a long yellow stream from his mouth to meet a curling wave.
“You blooming youngsters think you know a mighty lot when you doesn’t know nothing!” he answered. “She’s Yank – and a four-masted baroque – running afore the wind makes her look like a ship – bringing wheat.” “How do you know she’s Yank?” asked the boy crestfallen.
“She’s carrying skysails ain’t she? British ships don’t carry ’em any longer, not to my knowledge they don’t and I left the sea afore you was having napkins changed I did.”
A cry of “Hold Water” from the skipper broke the thread of the boy’s musings as to how Old Jack would look as the central figure in a scene entitled “walking the plank“.