07/01/2007 - The Captain's legs felt like noodles and his eyes darted to and fro across the deck of the ship in search of rope. He had just arrived, having run the entire distance back to the ship to retrieve it.
Some men Matthew sent from the camp had reached the shore before him. They were wading into the shallow surf, filling buckets with sea water and darting back through the treeline.
The rope was coiled in the corner and Captain Rogers' hands trembled as he reached to grab it, but he refused to pause and rest now. Though he was exhausted, his devotion to his daughter and Duke drove him forward. He quickly lept from the railing onto the sand and followed one of the other soldiers into the thick foliage lining the beach. The branches were flipping into his face as he ran, but it barely slowed him. He was running nearly full force when he collided with Matthew, causing them both to take a sprawl.
"I'm sorry, are you alright?" he asked.
Matthew replied by taking the rope from him, and stating urgently, "I'll take this the rest of the way. I can see you need a break."
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"Duke!" The man had never been so glad to hear his own name. He tried to reply, but the smoke choked his words.
As if from nowhere, cold water splashed down over Duke's head. Far from irritated, Duke was relieved to taste some of the salty drips as they rolled down his face and into his mouth. The sudden outpour thinned the smoke and Duke could see Matthew descending on a rope with two more buckets full in his hands.
"I'm sorry, Duke." Matthew said. "I came as fast as I could!"
Though Matthew was speaking he never diverted from the task at hand. He set one of the buckets down and emptied the other over the largest part of the fire still blazing in the corner. Not wasting a moment, he retrieved the second bucket and was ready to toss it as well, when he saw that all that remained of the flames were a few smoldering embers. He dropped the bucket in relief and fell to his knees, trying to catch his breath. The water from the second bucket flowed out like a miniature tidal wave until it slowed to a steady trickle as if it were a tiny river around Matthew's knees. Matthew, like Duke, did not mind the water at all. Inside this cave-like hole, the heat seemed to be trapped and the air felt heavy.
When Duke and Matthew reached ground level again, it was like reaching the surface of water. The air seemed pure and clean and much easier to breath. Duke and Matthew took deep breaths as they were helped out of the underground cavern by some of the soldiers.
Captain Rogers was there to meet them. "How is your arm, Duke?" he inquired taking Duke's right elbow.
Duke winced and pulled it away. "What happened to it?" he said looking down in surprise.
"When I arrived, your sleeve appeared to have caught fire" Matthew said, leaning in for an examination "That's why I poured a bucket on you before I even came down."
Duke leaned back. Even the grassy terrain felt cool and refreshing. "It felt like my whole body was on fire."
"It doesn't look bad." Matthew concluded.
"Is Charlotte at the camp?" Duke asked.
"Yes," Captain Rogers replied. "She's awake and she seems to be fine. She wouldn't stop talking about some sort of secret treasure she thinks she found in the cave below," he motioned toward the underground cavern they had just escaped.
"Well, if there was a treasure it's gone now!" Matthew sighed.
"I think she'd recieved a hard knock on the head when she fell, but there doesn't appear to be a concussion. We'll keep an eye on her tonight, but she seems none the worse for it. You two on the other hand..."
Matthew and Duke smiled at each other. "I'm a lot better now that I know Charlotte is alright."
"Me too," Matthew added.
"After today, I suggest we all get a good night's sleep!" Captain Rogers laughed.
"There are a few wounds I think need to be dressed," Matthew sighed, understating the situation after the day's events. "I think I'll be up for quite a while."
"I know you have a special ability with medicine, Matthew, but you need the assistance of it now and then, too, and I think I'm pronouncing myself Dr. Rogers – just for tonight. I prescribe a good night's sleep before we set sail tomorrow. I'll take care of the other men and if I need assistance I'll call you."
"Aye aye, Captain." Matthew laughed and the three of them followed the other crewmembers back to camp.
Duke knew he should be asleep, but for some reason, he couldn't rest. Though his body was relaxed, his mind seemed to be running a thousand miles. He was concerned about Charlotte, of course, but what seemed to be occupying his thoughts were some of the things he'd learned about his parents. Not the Captain and Mrs. Rogers...his parents. This was the first opportunity he'd had to really think about it. Growing up, Duke had often wondered who his parents had been and what his life might have been like, had he been raised by them, and not the kind strangers who had taken him in – the Rogers, or by the Silverado's pirates.
He still believed the Captain of the Silverado knew more than he had indicated. Duke wondered if there was a chance they could still be alive.
His mind flashed back to the conversation he and Captain Rogers were having when they came upon Marooner's Point earlier that evening. The Captain was about to tell Duke the name of his predessesor who, Duke had concluded based upon the matching stories from the pirate Captain and from Captain Rogers himself, must be his real father. He rolled over onto his stomach and looked in the Captain's direction. He appeared to be sound asleep. Duke knew this was not important enough to wake him, so he just continued to muse until at long last he fell into a deep sleep.
Sometimes the ocean waves had seemed threatening and tumultuous to Charlotte while out upon the Carribean Sea, but today, they were tranquil. It felt nice to be on a peaceful ride, and the sound of the water lapping against the ship was comforting. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath of the fresh ocean air. Charlotte really did love the ocean and she was so wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn't hear Duke approaching.
"Well, if I didn't know any better I would have thought I was in Heaven," he said, leaning back against the railing beside her.
She started, then smiled at him. "Forgive me, Duke," she laughed, "I didn't hear you approach!"
Duke went on, "So tell me, how did an angel end up on the same ship as me?"
Blushing, Charlotte turned to face the water again. "I was just enjoying the sound of the water..." she said, embarassed.
"We haven't had the chance to speak with one another since we were aboard the Silverado together," Duke continued. "How are you?"
"I am doing much better," Charlotte said, then added with concern, "I hear you didn't fare as well?"
"I should be fine with a few prayers and a few days... By the way, you may tell your papa he's not such a bad physician! And why don't you tell me about this treasure they speak of?"
"Oh, Duke! You wouldn't believe what happened!" She exclaimed turning to face him again. "I first heard from Walton Crayford! He was an enemy spy all these years. He was sent to find a secret he claims one of our captains held, but the captain he sought is no longer alive. He tried to take me back with him, but I refused, so he left me on that horrible island!"
"What did your father call it...?" Duke wondered aloud, crossing his arms thoughtfully, "Marooner's Point," Duke concluded. "Where have I heard that name before?"
His eyebrows furrowed as he searched his memory. Charlotte sighed, "Don't you want to hear the rest?"
"I'm sorry, go ahead," Duke replied, shaking off the thought and looking Charlotte in the eye.
"I could tell someone had been trapped on the island not long before me and while I was there I found this!" Reaching into her pocket, she produced the skeleton key.
Duke took it and slowly ran his fingers over the ornate designs. Then, he squinted. "It says, 'Harold Robertson' --"
"What says 'Harold Robertson'?" It was Captain Rogers, who happened to be passing as Duke spoke.
"This key I found, Papa!" Charlotte exclaimed excitedly, taking it back from Duke and running over to her father with it. "I found it on the island and I believe I found the treasure it unlocks, too, but that's when I fell."
"I'm glad you never unlocked it," Captain Rogers replied. "It's not a treasure this key unlocks!"
"Did you know him Papa?" Charlotte queried, referring to the name on the key.
"Indeed I did," he said solemnly.
"What was inside the chest, then?"
"No one knew that except him. What I do know is it brought more harm than good for most of his life."
Duke walked over to join them. "Well," he said, "Whatever the chest held, it's now been burned up in the fire..."
"It's just as well," the captain sighed. "This traces back to our discussion on the ship last night, Duke, about my predecessor."
Duke's ears perked up.
"The man who was the captain immediately before me was kidnapped by the crew of the Silverado because they wanted this." He held up the key. "The captain before me was Captain Harold Robertson."
...Continued next month!