Chapter 4

Pirates in the Library

 Tuesday, Week 1

 

         Robin was munching through toast and jam when he looked up to see Mrs. Fitzgerald enter the kitchen accompanied by a man in gray trousers and matching flat cap, who was softly whistling some old-time tune.  “Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke, Robin, this is Mr. Carpenter,” said Mrs. Fitzgerald, introducing the man that was standing a good half a foot above her.
         “Hello!” said Mr. Carpenter, with a wave of his cap that revealed thinning gray hair.  “Thanks Adelaide!”
         “Mr. Carpenter, I’ll ask you to remember the proper etiquette while in front of the Pembrokes,” said Mrs. Fitzgerald, given him a deep frown.
         “Yes, yes of course, sorry Adel…I mean, sorry Mrs. Fitzgerald.”
         “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Robin’s dad, rising from his stool and offering his hand, which was taken in a firm handshake.
         “You can call me Charles if you like,” said Mr. Carpenter, shaking back warmly and with Mrs. Fitzgerald now out of earshot.  “Only probably best not to while in front of Adelaide, if you know what I mean!  Anyway, should be getting started outside – have been in London these last couple of weeks with my wife visiting our son and his family.  Didn’t realize you folks were coming, else I’d have tried to rearrange it.  Although not sure what I’d have done, had to pick up the grandkids.  Anyway, should be getting to work – that grass needs some serious mowing for starters.”

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         Robin and his parents planned to spend the day exploring Armorica, and taking the bus into the city center they were dropped off at the top of a wide cobblestone street.  Winding their way through backstreets and alleys, Robin gazed at the foreign assortment of shops they passed, from The Broken Teacup Café and Bakery emitting the sweetest smelling of aromas, to Maela & Mervin’s Monsters & Myths with dark curtains handing in the windows hiding whatever was inside, to Tree House Building Supplies, Inc. that was coughing out wood shavings.
         Walking along a palm tree lined path that bordered the ocean, they passed a sign to The King James, before turning to head back inland.  Coming upon the tourist information office, housed in a small one story building covered with uneven white plaster, Robin’s dad had to duck slightly to get under the door frame.  A bell jingled their arrival to a rosy-cheeked lady in a thick red sweater and mauve glasses who sat behind the counter.  Robin couldn’t understand how she wasn’t absolutely sweltering.
         As his parents chatted away, Robin studied a large annotated map of the island that hung on a side wall.  Engrossed in its many sketches and notations, his ears pricked up when he heard his name.  “Yes, Robin needs to go there to find a subject for his school project.  He’s going to do something about Corentin.  Would you have any good ideas?”
         “Well,” said the lady, still looking unfathomably cool to Robin as he turned around, “there is some very unique flora and fauna on the island, on account of our position in the Gulf Stream.  Did you see the palm trees yet?  And then there are some plants that grow only on this island.  We always like to say we’re like a mini-Galapagos!  Without the turtles, of course!”  And with that she let out a girlish giggle.
         “Where do I need to go?” asked Robin, thinking that there was no way ever that he was going to write about flowers.
         “Oh, to the library,” his mum replied, looking over to him.  “To research your school project.  Might be a good idea to get it started, especially as we’re here today.  I do rather like Annie’s idea, don’t you?”
         Robin was not quite sure how to answer that without offending both his mum and ‘Annie’, so went with the option of a shrug of his shoulders, and a “Yeah, maybe.”
         “Well,” said Annie, talking directly to his mum, “it’s only a five minute walk from here, so you folks are in luck.  And it really is a most splendid library, dates back to the 1870’s you know.”
         With directions in hand, they were about to leave when Robin noticed folded up versions of the map that he had been studying, priced at £2 in the glass case to the side of where Annie was sat.  His decision to purchase one was immediate.

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         A few minutes later they were stood looking up at a grand pillared four story stone building as gargoyles stared back down at them from underneath wide gutters.  Across the top were words etched large into the stone, which Robin assumed had to be Latin or Greek or something like that.  Whatever, they could have meant Tomato Picking Factory and he would have been none the wiser.
         Once inside, Robin’s parents helped him find the local interest section on the map, before leaving him to look around as they went for a cup of tea at a café on the front.  Traipsing up the wide white marble staircase that dominated the library’s center, he was soon scouring aisles upon aisles of books on the third floor looking for something that he could write his school paper about.
         Nothing he could find seemed of the slightest interest, as the likes of Corentin Architecture, Fish of the North Atlantic, and A History of Tin Mining sapped him of all inspiration.  Wandering back down to the section entrance, some cardboard cutouts off to the side caught his eye, and he went over to investigate.
         There to meet him was a two-dimensional pirate, who, with a hook for a right hand, a patch over his left eye, and dressed in black with a skull and crossbones bandana, was staring at him eye to eyes.  Guarding the other side of the bookshelf was a large galleon, although one that was in an apparent state of distress with a large hole carved in its bow by some fierce looking cardboard rocks.  Above them both hung a sign with black writing on a red background that read 'Pirates & Shipwrecks', with 'and their place in Corentin folklore' in smaller letters underneath.  Now this, thought Robin, looked like something worth writing about.
         Looking through the shelves, he pulled out the biggest book he could find; a black hardback with its jacket missing entitled Pirates in Corentin – Tales of the Famous Eight.  Sitting down at a broad wooden table that was set up with mini cutouts of pirate ships and treasure chests propped around, he flipped open the book and was instantly hooked.
         Broken up into eight main chapters, there was one for each of the most famous pirates to ever sail Corentin's shores.  Thumbing through the pages, there were various sketches of different pirates and pirate ships, stories of great adventures, and many dastardly sounding names like Brutus the Blackhearted, Inferno Jack, and Diamond Earl Dallows.
         Absorbed, Robin didn't notice the girl with the auburn ponytailed hair that came and sat down opposite him, her own book laid out in front of her.  That was, until she gave a small cough.
         Peering up from reading about Mad Seamus McManus and his terrorizing of local shipping merchants in the 18th century, he saw the girl looking inquisitively at him with tranquil green eyes set above lightly-freckled cheekbones.  “School project?” she asked.
         “Yeah,” said Robin, fiddling with one of the pirate ship cutouts.  “How did you know?”
         “Why else would anyone be in the library during the summer holidays?  And besides,” she added, turning her head around to look out the window, “it’s a fantastic day out there.  Teachers are super cruel.”
         Robin wasn't used to complete strangers talking to him, and he slid back slightly in his seat as he glanced over at the squares of sunlight that were framed on the floor.  “So, you too?”
         “Yeah, we have to write a paper for our History class based upon a famous sea voyage.  So I thought I'd do mine on shipwrecks,” she said grinning, holding up A History of The Shark's Teeth.  “I don't think it's exactly what our teacher meant!”
         “What are the Shark's Teeth?” asked Robin as he pivoted back on his chair.
         “Oh, you obviously aren't from Corentin, are you?  They’re really famous rocks down off of the southwest corner of the island that have caused loads of shipwrecks.  I'm going to pick the worst one I can find.  What's yours about?”
         Robin held up his book, not sure which question to answer first.  “Pirates – I’m going into secondary school next year and our new form tutor told us to write a paper on anything we like over the summer.  And no,” he continued, feeling a little like an imposter for some unexplainable reason, “we're just here in Corentin for the summer.”
         “Cool!” said the girl, holding her hand up in a small wave that made the orange plastic bracelet on her wrist slip down her arm.  “I'm Millie.”
         “Robin,” waved back Robin.
         “That's mean having to write a paper already.  I didn't have to do that last year, and neither does my brother Olwenn this year,” said Millie, using her thumb to point over at a tall slim boy in a checkered red and yellow button-down shirt who was looking at a bookshelf a couple of rows down.  “Although, he'll probably write one just for fun anyway,” she added, raising her eyes to the ceiling.
         Robin was in the middle of filling Millie in as to why they were visiting Corentin when the boy came and sat down, his brown hair so light that it was bordering on being blonde.  “Hi, I'm Olwenn,” he said, his chair scraping across the floor.  “Millie’s brother.”
         “Yeah, he knows already.  I was telling him about how much you love books,” said Millie, making circles with her thumbs and forefingers in front of her eyes, imitating Olwenn's glasses.
         “Very funny,” said Olwenn, who looked across to talk to Robin with a slight shake of his head.  “She's just jealous because I'm brainier than her despite being a year younger.”
         “Not true, I'm just not a nerd,” she shot back, sticking her tongue out at her brother.
         Robin was trying to work out if they were serious or not when he heard a familiar voice over his shoulder.
         “Hi dad!” said Robin, swiveling around.  “This is Millie and Olwenn.  Millie has to write a paper this summer too.”
         “Hello Millie.  Hello Olwenn,” said Robin's dad, holding up his hand in a static wave.  “Did they help you find a topic for your project?”
         “Pirates!” smiled back Robin.  “I found a really good book too.  Where's mum?”
         “Downstairs, looking at the magazines.  Ready to go?”
         “Yep, absolutely,” lied Robin, picking up his book and rising from the table.  “Nice to meet you both.”
         “You too,” said Olwenn.
         “Good luck with your pirates!” said Millie.
         “Thanks!  Good luck with your shipwrecks!” replied Robin, and with that he was off towards the stairs with his dad, giving them a quick wave as he started his descent.

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         Back at the house Robin studied his book while laid out on the grass in the back garden.  Reading through the introduction, he was soon lost in incredible tales, from Inferno Jack burning all of the ships he captured, to Gentleman John Jones, who was renowned for setting free all captured sailors at whatever the next island was that his ship would reach, to Mad Seamus McManus who once purportedly captured three ships in a single day.
         Looking at the eight chapters, he decided to start with the last one – Captain Viruz Longshadow and the pirate ship Firemast.  It was a story that he was soon lost in.  The first known sighting of the ship had been in 1806, when a small French vessel carrying cargo from the new world was captured by Longshadow and his crew soon after it had left Armorica, where it had stopped off on its voyage home.  The following pages were filled with stories of daring and adventure, and the chapter finished with a thrilling conclusion.
         It was now the year 1812 and Captain Longshadow and his crew were the most feared pirates on the eastern side of the Atlantic, having ventured far down the coast of Africa in their pursuit of plundered treasures.  However, a tragic fate befell them early in the morning of August 8th while the majority of the crew were secretly onshore at Smuggler's Cove on Corentin.  Only it wasn't so secret, and acting on a tip-off, local law enforcement, assisted by a British naval vessel that was in port in Armorica at the time, ambushed the crew in the depth of night.
         A vicious firefight broke out in the cove, and by the time the fighting was over all of the pirate crew were dead, while five law enforcement members had also been killed, who would come to be known as the Firemast Five.  However, Captain Longshadow was not among those pirates who had been in the cove, and in turn the naval vessel went in search of the pirate ship, which it found two days later to the northwest of the island.  A high speed chase across the waves ensued, one which would quickly be engulfed by a powerful thunderstorm.  As the skies roared and the ocean crashed around them, the naval vessel lost sight of the pirate ship, having to anchor to ride out the waves.  Once the thunder had passed they restarted their pursuit, but no sign of the Firemast was ever seen again.
         Just as he finished reading, dinner was ready, which they ate out on the patio.  Afterwards Robin went to his room to tape up his new map on the angled wall above his bed, spending a long time studying it as he awed at the amount of places annotated, picking out Smuggler’s Cove on the western shore.  Compared to back home, where the highlight of Upper Knowlford was its slightly-historical church with its malfunctioning clock, he considered himself to be in an adventure-paradise.