|An excerpt from Thatcher, a historical novel of the life of Blackbeard
the pirate, now in progress.
Briart liked this Englishman right away, for he so hated the word dances that accompanied
these mid-sea confrontations, wasting time and energy when bluntness was much more
effective. “Very simple, Captain. I am nothing more than a humble merchant seaman,
carrying goods from Acadia to our customers in the Caribbean.”
“So we are to assume yours is simply a mission of commerce and in no way a threat to
English merchants or our fishing fleet?” Thurmond probed.
“Why, certainly not, Captain! These tensions are bad for business, and I am merely
attempting to make my owners a small profit in honest commerce,” Briart explained, a mild
look of surprise at the captain’s suggestion. “And you, sir, if I may ask – what is your
“We’re hunting French who pose a risk to our commerce,” Thatcher offered, smiling at the
French captain who returned the pleasantry, appreciative of the young man’s candor.
“Well, Messieurs, certainly by now you know friend from foe, so I will trust you to discern
wisely. Now, if you will pardon me, I have customers anxiously awaiting my humble cargo.”
The two groups bid a polite adieu and returned to their initial headings. But as the Focault
began to sail out of visibility, the watch sounded multiple sails off the starboard bow. These
ships were farther afield, but their formation suggested a military convoy, and there was no
mistaking they were French with not a merchant ship among them. Outgunned and not
desiring a scrap with this many ships at one time, the Phoenix tacked to port, giving a wide
berth to the convoy. But as the sails drifted farther to their stern, Thatcher’s curiosity got the
best of him, and he consulted Caesar. They agreed when the flotilla was clearly out of sight
they would follow to their rear and investigate their course a little more carefully. The French
fleet proceeded past the western coast of Bermuda and swung wide to the east of the
Bahamas, continuing south along the Windward Island chain where the six ships began to sail
On July 6, the lookout on the Phoenix once again saw sails heading quick to port, and as the
ship came into view they could once again see their friend the Focault. This time, however,
neither ship offered the pleasantry of the bow guns but sailed a-port one another, slackening
their sails as their guns ran out. The two ships slowly glided along each other’s port rail as
Captain Briart and now Thatcher Edwards took up speaking trumpets and began walking the
length of their ships to communicate.
“Monsieur, I am surprised to see you have changed your course. Has your mission
changed?” Briart offered innocently.
“Captain Briart, when you were a single vessel on a mission of commerce, our mission was
clear. You, however, forgot to mention your five companions sailing in English water,”
Thatcher responded, as the two ships and their guns grew abreast of one another, the two
captains walking and talking along their lengths.
The gun crews stared across the waters at each other, the French faces gawking curiously at
the sober-faced Malagasy, who held their quick matches at the ready but showed no signs of
uneasiness. Standing in the middle of those sixteen portside guns of the Phoenix out of view
of the French gun crew, stood Caesar, quietly and patiently awaiting word from Thatcher
topside. It was a simple command: three raps of his foot, and the French would feel a
broadside without remorse.
Briart smiled and shrugged. “Well, I am a man of commerce, but of course that comes in
many forms. Perhaps I should have added that my client at present is King Louis and his
grandson Philip of Anjou, the heir to the Spanish throne. As I said, I am merely a merchant,
and these ships are my cargo.”
“This is true, Captain Briart. In a certain way we are all merely merchants,” Thatcher stated
as he stood at the port stern of the Phoenix, watching Briart take a similar pose and size up the
two cannon pointing out the stern windows of the Phoenix. “Let me introduce you to my
cargo.” Thatcher smiled, saluted Captain Briart and gave a very quiet yet distinct, “Fire.”
(continued - click below)