John Talbot crossed the great ship to find an out-of-the-way corner in the stern. Another day aboard ship was coming to an end. He watched as night engulfed the wooden masts. The bow dipped and swayed in the waves. As the sailing master, he had charted Captain Garrity’s course this morning and now Quartermaster Swain was overseeing operations. He marveled at the agility of riggers and sailors who worked to trim the sails for the quieter winds. The boatswain barked instructions to the riggers. He was a gruff man, hardened from years at sea, yet showed proficiency in his task.
John thought back to the beginning of his stay on this ship. Like many of his fellow shipmates, he now found himself a member of a ruthless crew of slave traders. His commission in the Royal Navy had come to an abrupt end just two short months ago with the capture of the H.M.S. Annamarie. Many men died during the foray, but his position as sailing master of the Annamarie assured his survival with Captain Garrity.
As darkness settled in, John reached into his binnacle, pushing aside the instruments of his profession, and feeling the pebbled leather of his Bible. Observing the workings of the ship always comforted him and brought to mind the teachings of His Lord. Whispering into the Caribbean breeze, the Spirit caught his prayer and held it fast. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”1
“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.”2
John snapped to attention, surprised to see the quartermaster’s imposing figure standing over him. “So, Sir, you must know our Lord’s word.”
“Aye. A lot of good it’s done me on this accursed ship.” His expression showed no emotion. His dark eyes brooding.
“The Lord has a plan for you, Sir, even if you don’t understand it yet.”
The quartermaster raised his eyes to the disappearing horizon, quiet and pensive. “I left my family back in England years ago. Don’t know what’s become of ‘em.”
“I should have been returning to England next month after my commission ended. I was to be married this coming April.”
“There ye go. See? We’re both trapped in a life we don’t desire. There’s no escape; not one as I’ve seen yet. The Capt’n’s always treated me fairly, though. Guess it’s all I can expect.”
John stood up, moving to the railing behind him. His gaze seemed to pierce the darkness, seeking, praying for direction. The warm winds washed across his face, ruffling his long brown hair.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”3
“What was that ye said, Preacher?”
A smile played upon John’s face. “Preacher? I’m no preacher.”
“Aye, you are. You’re our sailing master, aren’t ye? Our navigator . . . our conscience.”
“Work out your own salvation, Swain, with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”4
“Are ya crazy? We’re pirates, not saints.”
“No, not crazy, just full of hope for ye, Quartermaster Swain. The Lord don’t see pirates. He sees a ship of fellows—God’s fellows.” John’s eyes misted over.
“This blackbirder ain’t no place for the likes of ye, Preacher.”
“I can’t say as ye might be right, Sir. However, the Lord tells me this ‘ere’s the place for me and you. I’m stayin’. How about it?”
The quartermaster’s expression was veiled in the inky Caribbean night. “Aye, I’ll stay. There’s fellowship even here.”
1 I Corinthians 12:4-6, KJV
2 I Corinthians 12:18, KJV
3 Philippians 4:7, KJV
4 Philippians 2:12b-13, KJV
Binnacle - A wooden case or box, which contained compasses, log-glasses, watch-glasses & navigational instruments
Blackbirder – slave trade ship
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