“So…” the captain began, sitting back in the chair and smoking out of the English captain’s pipe. Next to him in a cage was a parrot. “Ye were on the ship as crew?” Warily, the siblings nodded. The pirate captain rubbed his chin thoughtfully, eyeing the children. “Hopkins said we’re in need of a cook and nurse for the men who were wounded…and I need a cabin boy…but I suppose I could use ye.” He paused. “I think I will. Hopkins! Get in here ye..!”
The pirate appeared again before the captain had the opportunity to call him all manner of unpleasant names. “Aye Cap’n?”
The pirate captain nodded at the three children still standing in front of him. “Put these kids to work.”
The pirate nodded. “Aye Cap’n. Should I release them from their bonds?”
“Aye, but search them again first. Just in case they brought something of value up from the hold,” The pirate captain replied. He turned again to the children, his gold earring glittering as it caught the sun shining through the cabin’s window. “If ye don’t do as yer told, or try to escape, or help the others escape, just remember, ye’ll find no mercy in my hands, fer I am Rudy the Red.”
“Awk!” The parrot aroused itself from its sleep. “Rudy! Good boy, Rudy.” It flapped its wings. The siblings looked in astonishment at the bird, but the pirate captain shook his fist at it.
“Be quiet would ye?” he growled.
“But Polly wants a cracker, awk!” the parrot persisted. Rudy the Red ignored it, going back to his pipe. “Polly will be quiet for a cracker…” the parrot put in slyly.
The pirate captain snorted. “Ye will not be quiet if I give ye a cracker! Ye only say that.” He shook his fist at the parrot again and said nothing more.
Hopkins dragged the children out of the cabin, even though they wanted to stay and watch the parrot, and took them off towards where they would begin their work.
On the way to the kitchen, Emily fell into silence. She was thinking about the conversation they had just had with the pirate captain who called himself Rudy the Red. After all, the name “Rudy the Red” meant nothing to them. However, it might mean something to the real captain of the HMS Golden Eagle, so it was a name to remember.
Meanwhile, Hopkins had dragged them down to the ship’s kitchen. He turned and locked the door behind them and cut their ropes. Hopkins seemed to become an entirely different pirate. Looking around suddenly, he made sure no one was near.
“Look,” he began in a whisper. “I’m not one of them pirates. I was shanghaied on this ship as a lad and I’ve not had the chance to make a run for it yet. I want to help ye three escape.”
Emily’s eyes lit up in hope. “You’ll help us escape?” she asked. The pirate nodded.
“What about the real captain and crew of the ship?” Luke asked suddenly.
Hopkins sighed. “I can’t help them; they’ll all have to walk the plank within a week.”
The siblings gasped. “No! We won’t leave the captain to die!” John exclaimed hotly. Luke and Emily agreed.
The pirate shook his head with a frown. “Then I can’t help ye. I can’t free the whole ship!” He paused. “I’ll do all I can, but I’m afraid it won’t be much.”
Luke shrugged. “We’ll manage. We’re very grateful for your help, but we just can’t leave the captain when he needs our help the most.”
There was a short silence, and the pirate ran a hand through his hair thoughtfully. “Ye should get started on your work. If ye don’t do your share the captain will not only give ye a good bit o’ lashes from the cat o’ nine tails, but he’ll send ye back to the hold more dead than alive.”
The siblings shuddered, but all of them knew that what Hopkins spoke was true. They could not hope to find mercy in the hands of the pirate captain, Rudy the Red.
They got to work right away and worked harder than ever. The two boys, John and Luke cleaned the captain’s cabin better than they ever had before, even though the parrot was constantly asking them to “give Polly a cracker”.
Emily went right to work on a dinner for the pirate crew, but she was shadowed by one of the pirates just in case she might think about poisoning any of them. Though her hands shook from nervousness, she completed the job and the crew ate. A few of the pirates who hadn’t yet forgotten their manners thanked her, but she was mostly greeted with sullen silence as she handed out the plates of dry bread and bean soup.
The siblings were allowed to eat together, but they were always being watched and so they had no time to talk about escape.
Emily had to clean up after the pirate’s dinner mess, but the boys were sent back to the hull as soon as they finished eating. She joined them shortly, having finished her job to Rudy the Red’s satisfaction.
They waited until the sound of Hopkins’ boots died away before crawling back into the darkness.
“Captain?” Luke whispered. The metallic sound of chains on wood told the siblings that the captain was awake. Luke peered again into the darkness, wishing he could have even the smallest amount of light to see by. His wish was soon granted; he heard the scrape of a match, and the soft glow of a lantern soon filled the small hull with enough light.
The captain came towards them, and the siblings gasped at the change that had already come over him from one day in the dark. He was haggard and looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week.
“You are safe?” he asked hollowly.
The siblings nodded, and Emily told him about all they had done that day, including the pirate captain’s name and that Hopkins was a friend.
“Rudy the Red!” The captain exclaimed softly, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “I should have guessed that.” The siblings gave each other a puzzled look. The captain quickly explained, “Rudy the Red is a notorious pirate, he has haunted these waters for about five years now, and many of our good Queen’s ships have gone down because of him. Ours probably won’t fare much better.” He sighed deeply and sat down on a near-by crate.
Luke nodded. “Hopkins said you and your crew would walk the plank within the week.” He paused. “He offered to help us escape, but we said we wouldn’t escape without you and your crew too. We won’t leave you when you need our help the most.”
The captain shook his head miserably. “You should have taken the chance. There’s no hope for us…even with the pistol you gave us.”
Emily smiled. “I think we can help more than you think we can. Just wait…”
The captain looked at her doubtfully. “Well, you’re welcome to try, but be careful. If you’re caught it means a fate worse than death.”
The siblings nodded solemnly. They well knew what danger lurked around every corner. Hadn’t they faced danger like this before? The lantern was blown out and darkness enveloped them again. The children crept over to a wall and lay down to sleep.
The children were not used to having to sleep with furry objects running across their legs and arms. Twice Emily almost screamed when she felt the dampness of something touching her face, but she managed to change it into a soft squeak of surprise as she swept whatever it was away from her face.
After a fitful night’s sleep the siblings were not feeling like slaving under the pirate captain and crew again, but they had to or else face a terrible punishment.
Luke and John suffered silently under the captain’s bad mood, but managed to make friends with the parrot by offering it some of their meager rations.
Emily fared better than the boys, since she was mostly by herself in the ship’s kitchen, and even the worst pirates had at least some respect towards her because she was a lady. Even then, by lunch time she was ready to speak to the captain about her plans she had made for escape.