WE BEGIN OUR RETURN
It was settled finally by the intervention of Neems , who, firstly, told us to be quiet and remember all the sacrifices we had made and not to endanger the safety God had now bestowed on us. This quelled us and in a short time we were in each others arms again. And so at length Dona Teresa, Pastor Neems and I sat in our tent amidships on the San Fernando and attempted to count our blessings aided by some robust prayers from Neems. We had escaped danger yet again, even so the future was fraught with danger. We carried our enormous treasure which could at any moment ensure our death, by frontal attack , treachery or deceit. Even without our treasure the passage we pursued was an extremely dangerous one.
I took comfort and strength from the presence of my Beloved, who calmed my spirits and uplifted my heart with love and the strength with which she faced danger.
She was much taken with Pastor Neems and realized his quality and made him promise to marry us when we reached England , a prospect which lifted my spirits to the clouds of heaven.
I made sure I walked around the ship armed to the teeth and even Dona Teresa went to her ablutions carrying a Spanish knife and pistol in her belt..Wherever she went she attracted a small crowd of admirers from amongst the crew, who watched her like a pack of dogs regarding a bitch in heat. Her hot Spanish blood was so ferocious that she would not hesitate to kill any man who would attempt to take her honour, nevertheless it was a constant anxiety.
The food we had entailed differing variants of chicken and rice, fortunately there was large quantities of Spanish wine available, which meant we never had to taste the foul ,pestilence infested water.
Neither did we encounter my old friends the Buccaneers, though the San Fernando was well armed with twenty cannon and the crew looked desperate and villainous enough to hold their own. But in reality the courage of the filibusters was so extreme as to sweep all less resolute mortals aside, regardless of odds or material advantage, except with a heavily armed battleship.
The passage from Panama to Jamaica took about a week and is very memorable to me , because I spent nearly all this time very close to Don Teresa, because even though we had never been married this was really our honeymoon, in which we both sought passionately to requite the new life that had been given us.
Poor Neems was forced to efface himself on most occasions, in the interests of delicacy and the sanctity of the Cloth.
And so these endless repeated acts made our love grow into glorious profusion, exhaustion was brief to be replaced by endless renewal, Dona Teresa showing herself a mistress of all the arts pertaining to the cooking of La Longue Figue as they call it in the Caribbean..
Eventually it was decided to leave us on the coast of Jamaica, because of the hazards involved in A Spanish ship landing at Port Royal when, even though there was peace in Europe, there was No Peace Beyond the Lines, meaning that regardless of the political situation in Europe, England and Spain were in a state of continuous warfare in the Caribbean itself, a situation which was of course very advantageous to The Buccaneers, as attacking the Dons, as they called the Spanish ,was their chief source of revenue. We landed just before dawn at the end of the year 1671,separate boats being provided for the burros and the treasure, though I saw fit to ride fully armed in the latter. I wished to avoid any last minute treachery. I paid off the Captain who, in the circumstances, had played a most useful role., as we parted, he gave me a wink as if to indicate that he thought me a man of the most extraordinary good fortune, which of course was very true. To my relief he did not smack Dona Teresa on the backside, but he certainly looked as if he was going to.
We stayed on the beach awhile gathering our spirits and then with instructions on how to reach Port Royal, we set off into the jungle just as the sun was rising, a glorious spectacle. It was dispiriting to have to encounter yet another arduous journey, but there was nothing for it, only the strong in heart could achieve our goal – and the who could know what lay in front of us – everlasting happiness on the coast of Cornwall, far from the malarial islands of the Caribbean. Eventually we found the river, which if we followed according to the Captain, would take us to within a few miles of Port Royal – and then home to England. In the river we saw our old friends the caimans, though on this occasion – thank heavens – they kept their distance, we saw snakes and Jungle panthers, but are party was too strong and they slunk away from us.
We travelled for several days until at length I saw in the distance a trail of smoke which indicated human activity and with great joy in our hearts we made towards it, crossing through jungle with great energy and determination and then we reached the source of the smoke itself – a group of white hunters gathered around a fire. Having served alongside the Buccaneers – the biggest villains this side of Hell, I was not unduly concerned by their cutthroat demeanor, though I should have been given the nature of my cargo.
I left Dona Teresa and Neems at a safe distance and walked towards them .
“Good morning,” I said ,in what I hoped was a strong clear voice, I looked carefully at each man in the eye. There were half a dozen of them, each in varying stages of crapulousness; in the centre was a white haired rogue of great corpulence, wearing bright red breeches, who was clearly the leader.
As I approached he laid his hand on his musket.
“Stay, sir, we are friends,” I said,in an emollient tone.
“English?” he asked, with unconcealed suspicion.
I sighed with relief, despite the fact that that it could well be premature, most of the biggest rogues in these parts were English..
With deliberation he stood up and cautiously offered his hand
“Darius Smith – late of Portsmouth……and now a wilderness hunter…..these my companeros ',he waved a hand in the direction of the five other men..
I shook his great hand, but withdrew it quickly in case somehow I felt I might lose it , if he kept it too long.
“We have just arrived from the Panama Coast – are we on the right route for Port Royal?”
Smith looked at me with renewed suspicion and then round at his men – a climate of opinion seemed to be developing..
“What the devil were you doing in Panama – the Dons hang all Englishmen they can find there.”
“We accompanied Captain Morgan in his attack on the City.”
Saying this was definitely a good idea as the tension in the party seemed to be broken and a certain amount of favourable whispering began.
‘Well, sir, that was a grand affair and a great blow against the Dons – you are very welcome here and we will help you all we can.”
He looked at me with an expression that would not have been out of place on the face of my own father.
“Well, tis truly remarkable, you must set down with me. I have some meat about to cook. You may purchase some of it by telling your story – and with your companions,” he said indicating Dona Teresa and Neems. His face was covered by a white beard, but his expression seemed amiable enough, nevertheless there was something in his eyes which put me on the alert. I did not necessarily attach much significance to this, as being on the alert was necessary with everyone one met in this part of the world – as malfeasance was liable to occur through absence of vigilance.
Nonetheless, we happily accepted Smith’s simple hospitality and ate our fill of hunted meat and drank strong ale which reminded me of home – we were a long way from there yet. Smith’s hospitable treatment certainly did not cause me to lower my guard and kept a weather eye on him as we sat around the fire. But by degrees my mistrust began to disappear as he listened with delight to our story of the Sacking of Panama and the rescue of Dona Teresa.
I felt a tremendous thirst for Smith’s ale and he happily slaked it with a knowing grin. His gang watched us without intermission from the other fireside, but the more ale I took on board the less I cared about them at all.
I eventually fell asleep and dreamed a wild dream of riding a crazy horse which would not stop and careered through town and country, which looked very much like Cornwall. I looked behind and saw Father and his retinue attempting to catch up with me and rescue me, but they were too slow and I lost sight of them and then fell into a pestilential swamp, my horse disappearing into the filthy ooze – by the stars, I’d had my fill of these sorts of occurrences! As I followed the noble steed down into the mud, I felt the mud on my lips and then I jerked awake, with a cry to see Darius Smith and his gang disappear into the jungle, herding our burros with sticks.
I stood up and rocked on my feet, the world spinning round,, my head feeling that it would split into two. When I attempted to run after Smith I fell over again and once again lost consciousness..
When I awoke sometime later the fire was dead and when I searched for my pistols and cutlass they had all gone, more to the point so had my Beloved and my dear friend Alfred Neems. This returned me savagely into complete consciousness and following the trail I ran after them into the jungle shouting and cursing in my exasperation, indeed I entirely lost control of myself and careered down the jungle path like an elephant on brandy.
So furious was I that I did not notice a low, sturdy branch of a tree which lay in my path, I ran unrestrainedly towards it and failed to duck, and struck it at full speed thus rendering me unconscious once again. How long I lay there I know not, but when I awoke it was dark and it took me some moments to recollect what had happened to me. I felt my forehead upon which a huge lump had appeared, I weaved my way unsteadily and almost drunkenly through the jungle, but the traces of the thieves seemed to grow weaker and to disappear into the undergrowth. After walking for several days in the jungle and living on fruit and clear water from the streams, I eventually reached Port Royal in a lamentable state, more dead than alive. To enter such a nest of Rogues in such a state was very dangerous, but I had no choice.
I wandered around Port Royal all day attempting to find information about a boat to England, but as I had no money and my offers to work my passage were met with derision, I had no luck.
I wandered down the main street in the fierce heat, my mind firmly fixed on the hopelessness of my position with no hope of rescue, but then I was dimly aware in the distance of a man with a black hat who seemed strangely familiar, he was walking with a strange jerky gait, which also seemed familiar, he was breathing heavily and appeared to be muttering to himself. As I drew alongside him I realized it was my dear friend Alfred Neems! He looked across at me and took out a small object from his shirt. He handed it to me.
It was a silver dollar!
“Here take it, lad….thy need is greater than mine……vaya con Dios” he added in an unexpected lapse into the Spanish language. He was just about to walk past me, when I grabbed his arm and exclaimed with all the delight I could muster.
He looked back at me with an anxious expression, then his face caved in to a huge smile.
‘Henry! My friend of Caius College!” It was great to see my old college friend in these circumstances..We embraced unashamedly and Neems smiled once again, a smile that could boast fewer and fewer teeth. He told me of his forced abduction at the hands of Smith and his crapulous henchmen, he told me that as far as he knew Dona Teresa was safe and had not yet been dishonoured, my stomach lurched as I heard this news and for a few moments I had difficulty standing, but I could have kissed the man for telling me this news, even if it turned out not to be true. He told me that he had managed to escape, by commanding Smith and his ruffians to pray and he had stolen away , he had tried to take Dona Teresa with him, but she was bound fast against a a wagon and he was unable to release her. This equally cast me down and I felt murderous anger towards Smith and his crew for daring to hurt my Beloved. Neems told me that they were drinking away the treasure in a tavern on the the edge of the town, the Green Cockatoo. On my switchback of emotions this inspired me anew, Neems had managed to steal some of the treasure and so we had about two hundred Spanish dollars, which obtained us a room for the night, along with food and drink and a whole arsenal of weaponry, to ensure the rescue of Dona Teresa and the saving of the treasure, though which of the two was the more precious I leave to idle speculators. I purchased a very large blunderbuss, which could fire many pieces of shot at once, four pistols, two of which I gave to Neems, a cutlass, dagger and two knives and enough powder and shot to blast a whole army out of life.
I spent a tormented night thinking only of my beloved and tired and exhausted in the morning I prepared for her rescue. Neems followed me out onto the street intoning prayers, which attracted the contemptuous notice of passers by, this being the haunt of followers of Beelzebub, not of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not that this was in any way a deterrent to my companion.
We wandered around for most of the day, visiting each point of the town several times and engaging numerous of the inhabitants in conversation – this was normally stilted as my Spanish was limited to lover- like endearments, while Neems command was confined to religious terms, however, my flair for languages enabled me to some extent instinctively realize what was being said to me and eventually I was able to gather that our party had been seen, heading North into the hills.Which seemed a strange place to escape to when there were so many boats to enable one to enable one to disappear bound for a far distant location, but to hear this news was a great relief as it meant that I had a chance of rescuing Dona Teresa. But even so there seemed little chance of achieving it against a fully armed party, who outnumbered us four to one. True love can give a man superhuman courage, I could only hope that that would be the case in my particular instance.