When the ships reach Macao the men will|
find a fortune in furs in their chests
and on their backs. Excited by the enormous
profits in selling pelts to the Chinese,
both officers and men will petition Gore,
who has taken command of the expedition,
to return to Nootka to collect more skins.
But the standing orders do not specify
any type of commercial activity, and so
with only a few mutinous murmurs, and after
Micky Spencer and John Cave disappear
with the Resolution's long boat, the ships
will set their sails for home, which is
still half a world away, the men colorful,
dressed in Chinese silks, like harlequins.
At sea more than four years, the ships
will finally put in at the Orkney port
of Stromness, to wait out a storm. There
Sergeant Sam Gibson will squander his money
and marry. But Gibson will be dead,
as will Johnny Davis, the Halifax boy,
before the ships reach the Thames estuary
and the Greenwich docks, where the men
will be paid off and discharged immediately.
I put myself inside their skins. I
look out through their eyes. The trees and the sun
and the water are the same. It is a simple
act of the imagination, accomplished without much trouble, except for that
reflexive kickback of consciousness, my knowledge of what is in
store for each of them, their individual deaths, the
absolute certainty that they are all now dead, the certainty
that the now that has
moved through each of them in
turn, is moving through me, towards you.
In fact, it has reached you now.