Bewildering Stories

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The Vanishing Isle

by Norman A. Rubin

The traffic that passed the pile of granite aptly name the Empire Society was rather heavy with a stream of vehicles rushing to the suburbs after the long day. The weary drivers concentrated on the driving as they listened to the news on their radios that blared the dramatic news of daring rescue of an eminent explorer and crew off their swamped cabin cruiser near the Bermuda coast. Tidbits of news sifted from the noise of traffic that told of a private expedition headed by a man named Jocko Harris to investigate a legend about an island with beaches strewn with pirates’ gold. “Vanishing Isle” was last legible words to be heard from the excited newscaster as impatient drivers hooted their horns loudly to so called slow drivers, drowning all sound.

Within the imposing three-storied building the sound of traffic did not penetrate the thick walls; the windows of the establishment were closed to the cold of an October’s evening. The dim rays of the half moon filtered through the slight openings of the thick curtains of the Empire Society, a known establishment that catered to those of money and fame.

The time was the seven in the early evening hours. The staff was engaged in their individual duties in the preparation of the dining at eight with cocktails. They walked with slight quick steps on the carpeted floors as they readied the upstairs dining room.

The spacious and well-furnished clubroom of the establishment was well populated by the esteemed members in the comfort of their leather armchairs. Some were reading the tabloids with one or two asleep under a crumpled newspaper; others in small groups or pairs were sipping their early tot of whisky or bourbon, no ice, and engaged in conversations of their choosing. Subdued lighting from glass wall lamps and reading lamps gave them the required privacy.

At a far corner of the clubroom two astute gentlemen were, like some of the other members, sipping their tot of whiskey and engaged in hushed conversation. They were comfortably seated in the deep brown of their armchairs, only moving to take their refreshment from the centred coffee table.

The astute gentlemen were both know practitioners of law. One whose name was Dr Milton Hamilton, was a prominent attorney; the other, the Honourable James Compton was an esteemed judge of the bench. They were more or less similar in dress with the dark grey worsted buttoned on the correct second button; stiff-collared white shirts; and polished, dark leather shoes.

Yet despite the same mellowness of their ages they were of different physical characteristics. Dr Milton Hamilton was slightly cadaverous and middling in stature; his thin clean-shaven features, topped with the grey of his hair, were creased through the toil of years. The Honourable James Compton, a bit older, was rotund in appearance on a hefty body. His walrus moustached features were fleshy and topped with a balding scalp.

The esteemed judge seemed to be the leader of the conversation holding his friend to an awed silence. “As I was saying it was more of lark when a group of us clubbed together and formed an enterprise in search of the treasure of a notorious buccaneer. The fortune of gold coins and jewels was supposedly strewn on the beaches on one of the small uninhabited islands off the Bermuda coast. Heh, heh, I dare say so as it was more of a fanciful dream. Well we chipped in our share of the monies for the cost with the understanding that any finds will be shared equally.”

“My dear fellow, you being such a learned scholar, to fall for such fantasized scheme,” the attorney chastised his compatriot.

“It was the idea of Jocko Harris. He is such a charming chappie and known to be quite honest in his dealings. The good fellow was regarded as an intrepid adventurer and explorer whose explorations were renown to astute scholars.

One could recognize him immediately, as his short stance was that of a Napoleonic posture. He always had a smile on his florid features with a good word to all. We were so hypnotized by his laughing blue eyes that when he spun tales of beaches strewn with pirates’ gold we were like simple yokels ensnared into his scheme. Off course the sum demanded was not a large amount, as the group of investors was fairly large, about thirty souls.”

His honour, Judge James Compton paused for a few moments, gave a few ‘harumpfs’ to clear his throat. Then he took of sip from his tot and continued in his tale. “The words of Jocko Harris told of the past incident that happened to a pirate by the name of Gama the Red. Jocko told of the buccaneer’s career from his first act of rapine and plunder to that island that saw his chests of stuffs and treasures ripped open and scattered on the sands. It was story of horror written in blood, but at the end nature saw to the retribution to the privateer.”

“Do tell! It sounds quite interesting,” interjected Dr Hamilton.

“You’re right my dear friend. You’re correct, as it is an interesting history. It seems that Gama the Red was quite notorious in the eyes of the reigning powers of the Caribbean islands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially the lords of Spain. His square-rigged ship with the skull-and-crossbones flying from the mizzenmast was a feared sight in the eyes of captains of merchant barques.

When this pirate set upon a merchantman, there was no escape. With shot and ball tearing his topsails and splintering the white oak planks and the tall pine masts, the captain of the beleaguered vessel had no choice but to raise the white flag. It must of been a terrible view in his eyes to see his cargo being plundered, his men bloodied before walking the plank, and the woman passengers strung over the railings of the pirate’s vessel and their virtue uncovered. The last of the captain’s misery was being tied to a broken mast on his fired ship.”

Dr Hamilton just listened spellbound and simply nodded to the words of his companion.

“To continue! There was a rare moment in history in the middle of the seventeenth century when there was a peace accord between the rival powers. Within the pact there was also a mutual agreement to protect trading barques and clippers sailing the seas, which meant eradicating the swashbucklers by shot and steel; those taken prisoner marched to the tripping beat of the snares to the gallows, after a fair trial, off course. Gama the Red took notice and he took to a search for a suitable island to store his accumulated loot.

“Gama the Red knew of the string of uninhabited islands off the Bermuda coast, which he decided to be suitable to his needs. It was low tide when the two-master entered the waters in the middle of the necklace of islands. The buccaneer climbed the main mast till the lookout posts; then with the scan of his bronze telescope he search out the tiny dots of land. “There, that’s the one, its full of caves,” he cried out triumphantly.

“With the harsh barking of commands the members of the crew scurried about the barque; some with a ‘heave ho’ took hold of ropes and removed from the hold four chests of varied stuffs of treasure; others winched the long boat from its deck hold to the calm of the sea. Under the command of Gama the Red, the chests were placed under the sheets of the craft. Then the crew of the long boat shipped their oars and headed for the shore of the chosen island.

“As they rowed they were suddenly beset by heavy tidal currents that reached high velocity of a to-and-fro motion of the sea. Soon high winds rose roughening the waves to a height of up ten feet and more. The crew had to fight for the control of their longboat, but to no avail as they were in the mercy of the tide and current.

“The last sight of Gama the Red was that his chosen island was disappearing in the heavy rise of the tide. A backward glance towards his ship saw empty seas. A large wave hit the boat and overturned it, to the dismay of the captain and the crew, who struggled desperately in the churning water. There was only one survivor, a top man who managed to hold onto a pair of oars.”

“My dear James, you will have to enlighten me on the sudden change of the tempers of the sea. One moment the seas are calm and the next moment the water are story with high pounding waves, queried the puzzled Dr Hamilton. “A real puzzler, if I do say so myself!”

With a ‘harumpf’ or two, the goodly judge fingered his walrus-type moustache and started to explain. “You will have to forgive me, as I am not of a scientific mind, but somehow I will make the facts somewhat clear. It seems that island of Bermuda lies in a peculiar position to the ocean currents. It is where the Gulf Stream meets headlong the cold currents from the north and south. When these currents meet, the tides are more prominent. In this area, tidal currents reach high velocity. The tide can rise fifty feet or more from low water, depending on the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. Dear Lord, did I say that?

“From what Jocko Harris told, when Gama the Red entered the waters around the string of islands, the tides were near the end of the low-tide cycle. According to Jocko, the pirate was not fortunate, as in that part of the Atlantic the mixed tidal currents churn to a high velocity. The result was that the wind generated a flow of currents and waves that reached a height of sixty feet. The following results were quite obvious.

“I do hope my scientific explanation was quite understandable. All this hocus-pocus of currents and tides are beyond me!” stated Judge Compton after a ‘harumpf’ or two.

“Capital job your scientific explanation, if I do say so myself! Do carry on..”

Judge Compton settled back in the comfort of brown leather, “My dear James there is no final end to the story. As Jocko Harris explained the legend of ‘vanishing isle’ started when a British two-masted frigate picked up the survivor, after his long ordeal in the brine. He was quite delirious when he was dumped on the deck mumbling in his delirium the past events. The captain of the brig listened attentively and when the words ended ordered the poor devil to be strung up on the yardarm according to British naval regulations concerning privateers.

“The legend of the ‘vanishing isle’ with its gold-strewn beach passed from mouth to mouth, with variations, off course, till this very day. Well, Jocko Harris heard of it and being such an intrepid explorer took the reigns of adventure and started to search and investigate the intriguing legend. Off course it intrigued the group of investors to part with a bit of their capital.

“The first expedition was exploratory in order for Jocko Harris to learn about the tides and currents along this string of isles off the Bermuda coast. He was a bulldog in his pursuits, wearing down the most obstinate official. His energetic drive paid its dividends, which equipped the good man with detailed maps, weather charts, and a bit of historical data.

“One interesting fact that was heard; it seems that some of the isles was improperly recorded as being property of the British authorities. Since these isles are not in their jurisdiction, it means ‘finders keepers’ to any existing treasure, if any. But Jocko, good man that he is, stated that only the coinage would be ours to share; the artifacts found will be donated in our names to a London museum”.

“To continue! The second exploration proved quite exciting. Jocko, like his predecessor Gama the Red, shipped his cabin cruiser to the center of the archipelago during the low tide. And like the buccaneer of old searched out the various islets and his choice was equal to...”

The hushed silence of the club was disturbed by a soft beat of a gong held by the steward; he tread softly the carpeted floor calling softly, “Gentlemen, dinner is served!”

“Well there is the call to the feeding trough. Heard they have boiled turbot on the menu,” exclaimed the learned judge.

As the two elders rose, the jurist blurted out, “The rare five-guinea gold coin of King James II of 1687, one of the coins found on the island, fetched forty thousand sterling at the Baldwin auction in London. Quite rare! Do remember the details when Jocko Harris stated that the British coin market could bring good prices for the coinage. I dare say our investment might prove profitable.”

“This way Milton.”

Copyright © 2003 by Norman A. Rubin

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