While the various adventures of the other wide- spread heroes continued, Michael was still stuck at the back of a slave ship heading for London. He had now succeeded in retrieving both of his weapons, the lack of which, fortunately, the slave-master never seemed to notice.
It had only been a couple of weeks since Michael had been captured, and already the ship had reached its destination. It was currently poling up the Thames River in London itself. After a lengthy interval of monotonous poling, a halt was called and the slaves rested. A minute later, Scarface and another man, who was evidently the “captain’ of the ship, emerged from the cabin, went over the side, and disappeared into the busy London traffic.
The two slavers made their way to the residence of the “Lord Dampish” they had mentioned in Africa. Upon reaching the highly polished front door, the captain roughly seized the ornate door knocker and swung it hard against the door several times.
Presently, a servant appeared at the door, peeking through the small hole. “My master does not desire acquaintance with uncouth creatures such as you. Good day.” The servant turned to walk away.
“Oh, shut up!” the slave traders answered “he knows us already, and we’ve got urgent business with him today. Let us in before someone notices!”
“Very well, how shall I announce you?”
“As his brothers.”
With a rather scared look on his face, the butler opened the door immediately, allowing the ragged sailors to push him roughly out of the way as they entered the richly furnished house.
The owner of the house evidently had extremely expensive tastes, as was shown by the fine Persian carpet on the floor, the exquisite (and purely ornamental) gold chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, several rich oriental tapestries hanging on the walls, and one or two stained-glass windows.
The three men strode down the long hall for a few minutes, reaching an elaborately carved door. They paused in front of the door while the butler announced their presence.
“My Lord, there are two men outside who desire to speak with you about business matters.”
“Send them in” said a weak voice on the other side of the door.
The butler threw open the double doors and the ragged slavers strode in and immediately seated themselves in the two oversized stuffed armchairs on their side of the desk.
The man who had called them in was wearing, in the fashion of the times, an elaborate powdered wig, a long scarlet overcoat, pristine white knee breeches with gold buttons down the sides, white silk stockings, and leather shoes with gold buckles.
He had his back turned to them as they entered. He was rifling through some documents in his hands, while endeavoring to block any sight of the contents of the safe in front of him as he did so. He was not successful. The two men in the chairs caught a fleeting glimpse of a large pile of gold as the other man, hastily shoving the documents back into the safe, shut and locked it.
He turned swiftly and stared at his visitors, nearly collapsing into the chair behind him.
“Nigel? And Saul?” he gasped “You survived?”
“Aye,” Nigel, the bald one, answered “You thought you had left us for dead when you marooned us in Africa three years back, but, seeing as we’re forgiving fellows, we’ve come to sell you the best of the stock. We have a surprisingly fit specimen to sell you that could probably prove very handy at anything you put him to. What will you pay for him?”
“I can’t do this anymore!” the wigged one shrieked, tearing off his wig, (revealing a large mop of dirty brown hair), and slamming it on the floor, leaping up and down upon the wig as he continued berating the others. “I can not stand to be a fence for your inhumane activities!’
Nigel and Saul watched this sudden burst of emotion without giving any sign that they cared what the other said. When he was done, they casually repeated their offer.
“We tell you, he’s the best of the stock, so what will you pay for him?”
“You don’t understand!” Samuel shouted “I’m in dept! If I don’t have another one hundred pounds by tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have nothing at all! I’ve been selling everything I own!”
“Notwithstanding, you’ll take him anyway, because I know what you’re like” Saul answered. He and Nigel got up and walked out of the room, leaving their de-wigged brother behind to ponder the situation.
Sure enough, before they had gotten very far away from the house, Saul and Nigel turned and saw Samuel running after them, wig in hand.
When he had caught up, Samuel spoke, saying “I’ve got a hundred pounds; that is my limit.”
“That will be ample.” The others answered.
“Tell me” Samuel continued “what does this lad look like?”
“Quite dashing, I can tell you,” Nigel responded “or at least he thought he was: hair all slashed off randomly, ripped and torn clothes, muscles you could see through his shirt, and nice dark skin, but he’s white underneath; oh, and one other thing: he was carrying this handsome little pair of knives. He tried to act as if they belonged to him, but I took them anyway. I’ve got them right here in my belt to show you.”
“What knives? I don’t see any knives.” said Samuel, looking back.
“What? No knives?” Nigel exclaimed, feeling the back of his belt. “Why, that dirty little sneak must have slipped them back out when I wasn’t watching! I’ll get him for that.”
The three men broke and charged back to the boat. By the time they had arrived, Michael had released himself and the rest of the prisoners, by the use of the knives he had taken back from Nigel.
Once he had released himself, and all the other prisoners in the ship, he set about attempting to make them understand what he meant to do.
By the time the three slavers had returned to the ship, Michael was so excited at the prospect of what he would do that he had been shouting at the Africans for the past several minutes. The last thing they heard him saying before they hurried aboard was “we will prevail!” The men stared at each other for a moment, wondering “we will prevail? The prisoners!” The men clambered up the nearest available ropes, readying their weapons on the way. When they reached the top, they were met by Michael, ready to throw, and backed by every prisoner from every deck, all unshackled.
“Treacherous dogs! Come to my aid, my crew!” Saul yelled, raising his sword and preparing to charge.
Without moving a muscle, Michael said, in a low tone everyone could hear “You’ll die if I want you to, because the crew can’t help you now. I can finish you off easily from this distance.”
“You’ve killed my crew!”
“The crew hasn’t got what they deserve, yet, but they will, soon after you three.” At a few words from Michael’s interpreter, the Africans surrounded Saul, Nigel, and Samuel and disarmed them.
“This is mutiny!” Saul screamed.
In the same low tone, Michael answered “There is no mutiny on a slave ship. There is only liberation. Do you consent to become my prisoners, or do you want to walk free? I know the answer you cowards will choose. Jump for it.” There was a slight pause as the three were led to the edge of the stern. Then Samuel gave in.
“I will stay under your guard.” He said “please. I can not swim, and dare not show my face in the city again anyhow.”
“Very well,” his brothers said with smirks on their faces “you can go into hiding with this boy, while we will be toasted by our underworld brethren.”
Suddenly becoming solemn and resolute, Samuel retorted “Very well to you too. You are not my brothers anymore. I will see you hang if it takes my last breath.” He tore off his wig and dropped it in the river. “I have drowned to my creditors. My name is John Crane.”
“You’ll never catch us alive, you’ll see.” With this last mean remark, Saul and Nigel leaped into the river and swam back to shore.
Michael turned and shouted “Release the crew! They shall row for us!” He turned to John Crane and said “I applaud you, sir. You are one of the bravest men I have ever met, even though you did not look that way at first.”