The British Navy ship was stuck on a reef, and the French allies had promised to tow them back to deep water. Fernand hated this towing business. A messy thing where so many things could go wrong, and their ship could be the next one in danger just because their captain and rear-admiral wanted to be the good guys and help some Brits. Supposedly allies, or so the Duke d’Orleans, the Regent, was saying now, after having said totally differently for as long as Fernand could remember. The Navy sailor could care less. He liked more the Spaniards than the Brits, and they had been a longer time and more reliable ally. But well… this was not the sailors’ business, this was politics.
He trusted the helmsman and the sailing master, but he didn’t trust the stupidity of those who were able to set themselves on the rocks, first and foremost, waiting for them to tow them out of danger, and now to help them back afloat after beaching the ship. They were able to do anything foolish again! Well, what to expect from a Navy which was doing everything upside down – including fighting from the winward gauge, when the correct one was leeward!
However, this time not the Brits were the foolish ones. His messmate, Jean, was the one to squeak and fall from the rigging.
”Man in the water!” he shouted, not knowing if the man could swim or not.
Fernand could, so he jumped after him.
A wonderful sight was soon in front of his astonished eyes: yes, there was the dizzy lad from Port de Paix, still alive presumably, but there was also a sunken shipwreck… A galleon, as it looked.
First, he saw only some large coral rocks and some remnants of olive jars, speckled with barnacles, which were used to store oil and food in the ship’s galley. Then, a bit to the right, there was a chest. He could see Jean nearby, but the dubloons and the golden rings first took his mind and made him grab them, two handfuls, and put them into his pockets. Then he tucked some jade figurines and a few more coins in his shirt, knowing that the sash would keep them in place
Only then he got hold of the lad, pushed him up and made sure they both had their heads above the sea and could breathe.
Why would he have expected that the new lad, who was with them for a couple of months or so, was able to swim? No, it seemed that it was up to him to help Jean remain afloat… At least, unlike others he had heard about, this lad was quite conscious and he didn’t struggle to get them both drowned. Maybe it was only because he hadn’t got to swallow much seawater. A rope was thrown to him, and he tied it securely around Jean’s waist.
”Sir, there is a Spanish galleon down there! Look what cargo it has!” he reported to the second lieutenant, taking the figurines off his soaked shirt, while the dubloons and pieces of eight spread on the deck, one of them rolling far away, until it stopped at the boatswain’s feet. But the five golden rings and the dubloons from his pocket, remained his, undeclared.
„I found a treasure under the water, about there. It’s a galleon, and a chest full of gold and silver. I guess if we go all who can dive and take each one a different corner of the chest, we might get it out and keep it closed, otherwise the money would spread on the seafloor,” he told the officer.
”I need volunteers who can dive!” the lieutenant ordered. „Get the treasure on the deck. Midshipman La Bruyere, supervise the action, count and make a detailed inventory.”
”They can draw up any inventory they want,” Fernand thought. ”I am not going to give them my five golden rings, and I am not going to sell them either. One will be meant for my engagement, whenever it will happen, and one as a wedding ring. The other three could be kept until old age, because today has been a memorable day!”
At the same time, it seemed the Brits had found the other side of the sunken ship, with the associated treasure, as well. A treasure? Captain Wesley Stewart thought. And the French were there to hear about it too! That was something worth thorough investigation… and then a negotiation among officers of both ships, how to share it. No matter how much Wesley wanted the glory for himself, it was fair to share it with those who had given him a hand in need.
”You are invited to dinner tonight,” he shouted across the distance towards the French captain. ”With the Admiral and the lieutenants, naturally.”
It would be an interesting dinner, given that it was based on what was found on the island, with some additions from the captain’s pantry, but an even more interesting discussion…
”Lieutenant!” he turned to the first officer he saw in front of his eyes. ”Send a few good divers to investigate and report to me when you’ll learn the details about the shipwreck and the treasure. And you are invited to dinner in the company of our allies.”
The tricky manoeuvers had been done, the “Sovereign” was floating elegantly like a swan in the Man of War Bay. Wesley first congratulated his sailing master and the helmsman for their success. Then, he looked, pleased, at his lieutenant who managed the treasure recovery operation. At the same time, he didn’t hesitate to follow, spyglass in hand, the similar movements aboard the French ship, thinking who caught more.
”It is still enough time until dinner. Make sure the divers bring up everything they can, and that the purser, the boatswain and their mates count everything properly! We need clear evidences what we have found. Those who keep anything for themselves before counting and sharing, will be punished!” he instructed both Mr. Ashworth and the boatswain at the same time.
Right then, a new load of pearls got fetched to his feet. The divers were good, indeed.
Things had happened quickly. The French Rear-Admiral was paying attention to the maneuvers, studying both Marion’s and Gadou’s navigation skills and the British captain’s orders. He hadn’t looked at his second lieutenant until the coins dropped and the noise made him want to investigate. The silver pieces left him breathless. A treasure?
Right then, Captain Stewart invited them all to dinner, and Captain Laurent accepted immediately, thanking his counterpart. Which meant that, apparently, the Brits had found the treasure at the same time. The discussion upon dinner would be, no doubt, about sharing the treasure… and about the problematic claim ”who had seen it first?”
”I’ll sustain, during the discussions tonight, that each ship should keep what their men had brought up,” the Rear-Admiral stated.
It was nice to know that even the worst misadventure, how this hurricane had proven to be, had a silver lining – or a gold one, in this case.