Desperate to reach London in time to save his father, Michael had ridden three horses to the ground after taking each of the last two in the dead of night. At last, severely saddle-sore but thoroughly relieved, he reached the gate of London at dusk on the fifth day after he had left John Crane behind in the coastal town. Slipping off the horse just inside the gate, he crawled to a nearby storefront, leaned against it, and fell into the deepest sleep he had gotten in the past week.
It seemed like only moments later that he was roused out of his slumber by the harsh voice of an angry Englishman. “You, boy! Take my horse! Put him up at the Royal Arms, and be sure it’s done well, or there’ll be some aching backs around that place when I come for him!”
Not wanting to be followed by yet another angry Englishman, Michael took the horse without a word and strode off toward the center of the city, knowing if he were to stop and ask where the place was, he would be detained immediately. As it happened, the place was not far from Trafalgar Square, which was where Michael had decided to go first, reasoning that he could find any building more easily from the center of the city. Having put the Englishman’s horse up well in the stable, Michael circled around the building to the back door.
As he came into view, the proprietor of the establishment put his head out of a window and called “We don’t serve street boys like you! Not at the front door, and not at the back door neither! Take yourself off to some place better suited to the likes of you, like the sewers!”
“Do you serve those who are looking for work?” Michael called back sharply an instant before the man slammed the window shut.
“Only on Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings, from four to eight! It’s now Thursday,” The frustrated landlord shouted back. “Be off with you!” Slamming the window shut, he disappeared.
Michael waited for several minutes to be sure that the coast was clear. When he had decided that it was, he crept to the doorstep. Using his knives, he had quickly forced the door so that it could be easily pushed open. Opening it quietly, he stepped inside and shut the door once more.
Even when he was inside, he went unnoticed. Desperate to hear what news there was, he sidled over to the bar, picked up the nearest dish, and hurried out into the main room. Once there, he stopped and waited until he spotted the man, made apparent by his frustrated gestures, who had obviously ordered the particular dish Michael was holding. Hurrying over, Michael set the dish down carefully, saying “I’m sorry, sir. I’m new here.”
“So new you didn’t know who had ordered what? How long have you been working here?”
“Exactly two minutes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, sir, I have other people to serve.”
Walking briskly back to the kitchen, Michael had served three more people before anyone stopped him. The fourth time Michael returned to the kitchen, he came face to face with the owner. “And what do you think your doing with that there plate of beef?” growled the burly host.
“Exactly what I look like I’m doing” Michael replied quickly “Taking it out to the man who ordered it. What did you think I would do? Eat it?” Without waiting for an answer, Michael strode off, carrying the aforementioned plate of beef.
When he placed the dish before the man who had requested it, the man wasted no time in getting to the point. “What’s the news?” he asked, as he began to make speedy inroads into the meat before him.
“To speak the truth, I don’t know the news myself.” He replied “I only repeat what I hear others say, and what others are saying is that Admiral Whiddake has captured the American admiral Anthony Mellino.”
“That he did, and a fine fight it was, too. I was there on the deck with his lordship, and I saw it all.”
“Really? Would you tell me about it?”
“Surely. Now, let us say this beef bone stands for Whiddake’s ships, and this carving knife shall do for the Americans. There was a heavy fog coming in off the coast, so neither side could see the other. So we waited until the Americans came to us. After a while, they made a mistake and decided to show lights. His lordship, when he sees that, orders all the boats out, so as to board and attack without damaging the prizes. A few minutes later, we stood on the deck of their flagship. they were completely surprised. I will give it to them that they did their best to try, because we lost many more men than we should have. The real fight, though, was between the officers themselves. It is widely known here that his lordship has no equal when comes to hand-to-hand combat, but, my, did Mellino give him a battle! It was up and down and all over the ship until the Americans’ colors were struck, more than half a glass later. All in all, we lost ten ships, but they lost half of theirs. Mellino is imprisoned now, but it won’t be long, in fact I’ve heard that it will be this afternoon, that Mellino is to be executed, on the theory that a dead man can’t attack you again.”
“Thank you, sir. I was worried that I might be too late to see it. I’ve come a long way.” Rising swiftly, Michael returned to the kitchen and left through the back door without stopping once. Five minutes later, he stopped a passerby, asked him where the American officer was being kept, borrowed a quill, and continued on his way. On his way to the prison, he passed a notice which was advertising Anthony’s impending execution. Tearing it from its place, he stopped long enough to scribble a short message. When he finally reached the prison, he dropped flat to the ground and whispered “Father? Anthony Mellino?”
A sleepy voice replied “And what do you want? I’ve had enough of you idlers about.”
“Well, you’ve changed.” Michael replied, flinging the message, with the knife stuck through it, into the cell, where it stuck in a crack exactly as Michael had wished it would. Then, Michael left without another word.
later that afternoon, Michael watched the world go by, as the scaffold was erected, the crowds arrived, and finally as his own father made the slow, humiliating ride to the end. Unnoticed by anyone as Anthony mounted the steps, Michael made his way to the rear of the scaffold, waiting for the moment.
“Anthony Mellino, you are therefore sentenced to hang by the neck until such time as you shall die.” pronounced the overdressed and overwigged judge. This was the line Michael had been waiting for. During the speech, he had climbed upon the platform itself and had begun to slice through the bonds around Anthony’s hands. The executioner had until this moment been too surprised to act, but now, seeing what was happening, he abruptly pulled the lever, causing Anthony to drop suddenly.
Reacting instinctively, Michael moved his blade in an instant, slashing the rope just under the knot of the noose, which caused Anthony to continue to fall until he hit the ground. Leaping down after him, Michael said “Quickly, father! I brought blades for both of us! If we move quickly we can get horses and be out of here today!”
Taking the sword Michael held out to him, Anthony said “You lead. I’ll hold the rear. But how are we going to get a ship to take us home?”
“We’ll find one! Just be careful not to kill anybody!”
With that, the two fugitives rushed out at the crowd, brandishing their blades. Wantonly knocking people aside, they had soon come to the tavern Michael had worked at that day. Rushing into the stable, they loosed the officer’s horse and one other, turned them toward the gate of the city, and rode off, as fast as they could go.
Days later, on the coast, Anthony and Michael found a smuggling cutter which would take them on before the mast. The ship left port that day, and was soon well on it’s way towards America.