Fishahwk Droppings Home Page

Broken Branches: Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Claire gave birth to Miles, whom she named after her favorite uncle while hoping that her son would see as much success as he had.  For Uncle Miles was even richer than his brother, Claire’s father, Graham.

However, Claire’s vision for her son’s future soon became partly cloudy at best.  For her father refused to recognize her son as being a true heir to the MacTavish family fortune, and Graham swore all on the ship to secrecy about little Miles’ true identity.

Graham then concocted a story about Claire taking pity on an abandoned newborn she had found in the hallway to her hotel room in Malta, which is where she was headed before being captured by the pirates.  Claire did not like it, but being the obedient daughter she was, along with being so very grateful for her father coming to her rescue, she agreed to go along with his scheme.

Some might think of young Miles’ situation as being rather strange.  For he was not recognized as being a true member of the MacTavish family while still being afforded all of the privileges entitled to the firstborn son of Claire.

Miles did not really mind, and he enjoyed a fairly happy childhood.  Hearing his mother crying in her room at night did make it very hard for him to maintain a genuine smile on his face at times, though.

Claire refused to entertain any suitors because of feeling unclean from what had happened to her in Alexandria.  When Miles reached eighteen years of age, she entered a Catholic convent in northern England, where she spent the rest of her days on earth in solitude when not serving the poor and needy in some way.

Soon after Claire entered the convent, Miles took a position as a simple crewman aboard one of her father’s merchant ships.  He soon distinguished himself as being a very able seaman, and five years after coming aboard, he was made the captain of the ship.

While docked at the port of Gibraltar, Miles met an absolutely gorgeous girl by the name of Maria.  Around six months later, they were married in a lavish ceremony put on by her parents.

They both swore that it was love at first sight for each, but it took a little convincing to bring her parents around.  For her parents did not like the idea of Miles being out to sea for months at a time while leaving their daughter behind to manage the household by herself.

Miles won over Maria’s parents by developing a program on his ship that allowed for the families of the crew to sail with them from time to time.  Making it easier to institute such a program was that he had only allowed men of the highest character to remain members of his crew over the years.

Bruce MacTavish had always been a very good big brother to Claire, as well as a kindly uncle to Miles.  When he took over the running of the merchant fleet after their father died in a freak accident that involved being crushed by a huge barrel of Italian wine being offloaded one of his ships on the docks at Leith, Bruce took a special interest in Miles’ career, and he was quite intrigued with his program to allow family members to go on voyages from time to time.

Bruce even considered an expansion of the program to include all of the ships in the fleet, as well as letting all of the company employees and their families go on voyages at least once a year.  For he could see where that could make the employees happier, and happier employees could make for a much more profitable enterprise.

There were many issues to address before the program could be fully implemented, though.  Not the least of these was a re-design of the ships.  For after Claire had been held for ransom, her father stopped his ships from taking on passengers in the hope of making them less of a target for pirates, and what space had been allocated for passenger cabins was converted into extra cargo holds.

Miles suggested that the best course of action would be to have new ships built, which would have enough room for cargo, passengers and added armament, which Bruce readily agreed with.  Whenever a new ship was ready to go to sea, one of the old ships was offered for sale, and since the old ships were well known as being some of the fastest on the high seas, all of them sold very quickly at good prices.

Even with the added armament, security was still of great concern.  The solution arrived at was to have three ships sail together, which both greatly discouraged pirate attacks and encouraged the shipping of more goods on MacTavish ships.

Much cursing from pirates could be heard in many a seedy tavern around the Mediterranean—not to mention on both sides of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.  The same could be also heard coming from crooked merchants and slave-traders, of course.

Several of the crooked merchants in Tripoli pooled their dwindling resources, and eight pirate captains were hired to go hunting for MacTavish ships and work as a team to ensure their capture.  Although they were reluctant to try trusting one another for a change, the pirate captains could see where sailing as a fleet could be quite profitable for them all.

A couple of weeks later, the pirate fleet spotted three MacTavish ships off of the northern coast of Crete, and they could not have picked a worse time to engage.  For Miles was in charge, and his three ships were carrying several large cannons forged outside of Istanbul and headed to Algiers.

The forward lookout of Miles’ lead ship spotted the pirate fleet before they spotted the MacTavish ships, and Miles had two of the large cannons brought up on deck out of the cargo holds of each of his three ships and made ready to fire.  This made it possible for him to engage the pirate ships at least two miles before his ships came within range of their biggest guns.

In the first volley, five of the pirate ships were sunk while another was left crippled in the water.  The second volley sank the other two pirate ships, and the crippled pirate ship did not attempt to fire on the MacTavish ships as they drew closer to see what aid they could render.  Yeah, I would have been more inclined to finish off the crippled ship, but Miles was a much more honorable man than I naturally am.

Miles towed the crippled pirate ship into a port on Crete for repairs, and he asked the authorities to not arrest the captain and crew on the spot.  His reasoning was that it would be better for them to be allowed to go back home with a message that the same fate awaited all who dared to harass ships at sea, and the authorities agreed.

Miles’s message was obviously taken to heart.  For pirate attacks on MacTavish ships stopped completely, and attacks on other ships declined dramatically.

Some might insist that the sea air had something to do with it.  For Miles and Maria had a total of twelve children by the time they were through.  Needless to say, it was quite a time had by all onboard when their six boys and six girls were old enough to go on voyages altogether.

Miles and Maria had decided to make their home in Edinburgh, but their children spent as much time in Gibraltar as they did Scotland.  Her parents insisted on it, and Miles was always very glad to accommodate their wishes whenever he could.

On one voyage to Port-au-Prince on the island of Hispaniola, Miles had his in-laws, Maria and all of their children, along with Bruce and his lovely wife, Sophia, onboard.  Since Bruce and Sophia were often seen sitting at a table with Maria and her parents talking about how Miles could be an even better husband and father, Miles did not think he wanted them all onboard again.  Oh, he knew that their talk was meant in jest, but it still made him somewhat nervous, which endeared him to all of them all the more.

Miles and Maria tried to do their best to make sure of their children not turning out to be spoiled brats, but they were outnumbered.  For Bruce and Sophia had been unable to have children of their own and decided against adopting because of how Miles was still being treated by other members of the MacTavish family.  So, time spent in Edinburgh could never be considered dull and dreary for Miles and Maria’s children.

Oh, and Maria’s parents were quite serious about not being outdone by the Scots.  So, time spent in Gibraltar was always practically non-stop fun and games for their grandchildren.

Miles tried to enforce a little discipline on their children while they were still fairly young by assigning duties for them to perform when they were out to sea with him and away from the family members who would spoil them rotten, but the ship’s crew mutinied against Miles’ good intentions.  For various crewmembers would sneak around and complete the work while Miles was off taking care of something else and swear the children to secrecy, which did not take much convincing.

All in all, there was no need for Miles and Maria to worry.  For all of the girls earned high marks in school and married very well.  As an added bonus, it was not long before they started spitting out grandchildren for their parents to get even with.

The three oldest boys absolutely delighted their parents by wanting to become captains of MacTavish ships, which they each accomplished while earning great respect from all in the company by working in almost every aspect of the business before taking the helm of a ship.

The next two boys started out on that route, but decided that they liked working with shippers and receivers more than actually transporting their goods.  They both graduated from Oxford University with law degrees and helped to greatly expand the MacTavish business empire over the years.

The youngest of the bunch was Angus, who went in a very different direction.  Oh, he worked as a simple crewman on several voyages during the summers of his teens, but he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his Grandmother Claire and be of direct service to the poor and needy instead of just giving money to charities.

When Miles heard of Angus’ plans, he wished he had not made his mother’s entry into the convent sound so noble, and he seriously considered forbidding Angus from joining a monastic order closely associated with his mother’s chosen convent.  He even thought about taking Angus to work on the MacTavish docks in Baltimore, Maryland and keeping him there until he changed his mind, but Maria talked him out of doing anything drastic.

With great reluctance, Miles finally gave his blessing.  For he had come to the conclusion that he might lose his son forever if he tried to stand against what Angus believed was the calling of his heart.

No comments: