Nothing against Tony, of course...;D
In the week since Michael had perpetrated his escape from the slave ship, he had had the ship poled back down the river, maneuvering it so surprisingly easily that he had the ship back out in the open sea in only three days. Once there he was stuck in an awful predicament. He had no time or way of teaching the Africans how to manage a ship properly, but if he switched them with the crew and sent them down to row again, he would nullify his impulsive attempt to give them freedom. He had thought of this problem before they reached the coast because he had very little need for any propulsion but oars until that point. Finally, after discussing the problem with John Crane, Michael resolved to have the ship turned back toward land, run it aground, and let everyone go their own ways.
Even though they not far from the coast, so close, in fact, that they could still see it, it took the crew of slavers pulling the oars the better part of two days to reach the shore once more. As soon as they had beached the ship, Michael made sure no one remained on board. He had to force most of the crew, those who wanted to float the ship once more and return to their trade, away on the point of a knife. The liberated Africans, though, fled in a body as soon as the ship touched land. Michael and John Crane waited until the last of the reluctantly beached slavers had disappeared into the distance before they finally disembarked themselves.
Once they had finally descended to the shore, Michael asked his fellow traveler “Have you got flint?”
“Here. I nearly always carry some hidden in my bag. The extravagant clothes were really just a cover for the business deals of those despicable men who used to own this ship.” Crane replied, tossing a small bag across to Michael, who dug through it until he had found what he wanted. With the flint in hand, Michael drew one of his knives and begun striking it with the piece of flint.
“Why do you want a fire now, in this heat?” Crane inquired, surprised at the boy’s action.
“Had a feeling some of those slavers would hang around, waiting for us to leave so they could float their ship again without hindrance. This’ll put a stop to that.” Michael replied calmly, reaching out to pull in a large piece of driftwood. His sparks soon caught on the dried out wood. When they were well established, he picked up the torch and heaved it with all his strength toward the vessel in which he had lately honed his muscles, and his desire for revenge against England.
The pair watched silently for several minutes as the fire took hold and began to burn the ship. Finally, John Crane broke the silence, asking Michael “What are you planning to do, now that you have determined to remain on land?”
“My part in defeating England, of course. I may do it easily enough, as I am only a boy, and no man knows who I am. It’s my father they’re after.”
Without another word, Michael turned away from the shore and began to march inland, back toward the cities. He resolved to find the mouth of the Thames, which he had lately brought his ship out of, and follow its course back by foot until he had reached the heart of London. He did not think of what he would do once he had arrived there, as he trusted that by that time his father would have reached England and he, Michael, could, by inquires, eventually find him and come back aboard his father’s ship.
John Crane, finding himself left alone on the shore with no company besides a burning hulk, hurried after the boy, throwing off his coat to save the weight of carrying the nearly useless article. When he had caught up with him nearly two hundred yards later, he said “Your plan seems good enough, in theory, but what shall you do if your father never arrives?”
“He defeated the English last time. He’ll want to do it again, just to prove he can. Which leaves me in no doubt that he will come to London.”
“Why would he? He is a man of the sea. The Thames is not the sea. And in defense of my countrymen, I believe they will be on the watch to catch him this time, which leaves open the possibility that he will come to London; only not in the manner he might wish.”
Michael did not have an answer to this statement, so he held his silence. After walking for nearly an hour, they stopped on the edge of a field, watching the farmhouse they could see about two hundred yards farther inland.
“What do you make of it?” Michael asked John Crane “Is anybody home?”
“Not by any sign that I can make out. I believe it is safe to approach more closely.”
Without another word, they proceeded to approach the cottage, throwing themselves flat upon the ground at intervals of about ten feet. But before they could reach the house, they were spotted by the farmer, who had been away collecting wood for the night’s fire. “You there! Halt! What are you doing, creeping up on my house like a pair of robbers?!”
From his position on the ground, Michael pulled one of his knives out from his belt and asked “Should I?”
“Don’t be stupid, boy.” Crane replied in a frustrated tone. “We aren’t here to kill everyone we meet. I will handle him.” Rising from the ground, Crane strode toward the farmer, who had not moved from his position. “Greetings, man. We did not mean any harm to you or yours. We only meant to inquire the distance to the nearest post station where we could pay for horses.”
“Really? That is hard to believe, seeing as I caught you lurking about instead o’ coming to me front door. But as you mean no harm, I’ll let you go. The town is about two miles farther along the road. The inn you want is the first you come to from this side of the town.”
“Thank you. Come now, boy!”
Michael rose quickly and ran to catch up with Crane, who was already walking away toward the road.
“When we’ve reached the town, what will we do?”
“I will decide that when we have come that far, if you are so good as to restrain your hand from jumping to those knives every time we see someone. I am not doing this out of any regard for anyone; only because you claim your father is an Admiral bound for England and I have the decency not to leave you to wander through the countryside till you die of hunger.” replied Crane in a frustrated tone.
“I decided to go this way! I could fend for myself well enough if you weren’t following me around everywhere!” Michael retorted hotly.
Crane, who had been struggling to keep his temper in check while witnessing Michael’s impulsive, I-can-do-what-I-like- nothing-will-ever go-wrong manner, could no longer hold it in and finally exploded now. “Don’t act that way again! To me! Or your father! Or anybody else! If you ever get home, you can thank me then! I expect you to follow me, and listen to me, and you will not give me any more cheek about how you are so all-fired perfect and could do anything you like without any help! You are not the hero you think you are, you would not get back to your father without any help, as you have no money, and you would surely not survive if you insist as you do that you must draw your blades on everyone you see! Come along!”
Stunned into silence, (no one had ever berated him so loudly before) Michael came, albeit slowly.
Neither of the travelers spoke a word until they reached the edge of the town, nearly two miles off. Once they had arrived, Crane continued walking until they had reached the inn the farmer had named. When they reached the place, they lost no time in entering and seating themselves at the nearest empty table.
Catching the eye of the landlord, Crane called out “Ale and a plate of beef!”
After a short time, the landlord came to their table, bringing the food and drink Crane had called for. Looking at Michael, the man asked “Is not the boy also hungry?”
“He says” Crane replied as he began to carve his meat “he can fend for himself if I let him. I’m letting him.”
“Well then, boy,” said the landlord when he heard this “you’d best come along with me to the kitchen. We’ll find something for you in there.”
When Michael hesitated, Crane exclaimed “Go on! You’re not getting any of this!”
His course determined by Crane’s emphatic refusal, Michael followed the owner into the kitchen, where he was seated at a small table and a plate of leftovers from recent orders was shoved in front of him.
“Eat that. We don’t spare more for people who don’t pay.”
Picking at the diverse jumble on the plate, Michael asked “Do you know how long it would take to reach London?”
“I’ve never gone that far myself, so I can’t tell you. Why?”
“I’ve been separated from my father. I was told he would make for London. When I get there I can find him. What news of the war?”
“The war? You ask about the war? But I thought everyone had heard of the British victory several days ago!” The owner replied in astonishment.
“Victory? Is the war over, then?”
“No, not over. But if you remember the last one, capturing Anthony Mellino may well be counted as an omen of our impending success over America this time.”
Michael did not wait to hear any more. Leaping up, he ran through the building, out the door, and had leaped upon the post horse and ridden off in the direction he had been traveling, before anybody could lay a hand on him.