The somber crew sat as comfortably as they could, some on coils of hawse, others up in the rigging and finally some sprawled on the deck itself.
The last of the old sea salts said, "Aye," reluctantly and at that instant the fate of the ship was sealed.
In good spirits some six months back, the ship Pilgrim's Progress had sailed from Boston ever southward with the goal of salvaging the mountains of gold that had sunk with a Spanish treasure fleet off the coast of Florida the previous year. Unfortunately they were not the only ones with this idea, and had found an ocean of competition circling above the Spanish wrecks.
Too many of the money-hungry crews of these other ships had been turned away from the great treasure, and now they plied the sea lanes in search of fresh prey, perhaps less rich but certainly more available than the undersea wonders of the Spanish Flote. The Pilgrim's Progress, though she carried nothing more than supplies for meager survival had been attacked twice by even more desperate men, some of whom had given up dreams of gold and now wanted more for food and clothing.
She had survived the two pirate attacks, but of her 6 cannon she had but 5 left and in a fire that broke out in the last combat, half the ship's stores had been destroyed. Most tragic of ll though, was the loss of the Progress's original captain -- a firm but good-hearted man, who had been struck in the chest by a splinter from an exploding yardarm.
Hungry, angry, dispirited and with no strong leadership the crew had begun to grumble and to rumble. The question of Piracy was raised by one particularly odious sea-lawyer... and at first, no man supported it, but no one spoke against it.
Back home in Boston, Salem, the Cape, many of these men had families whose survival relied on a successful voyage. Returning home empty-handed would be a death sentence for these men and their loved ones.
The day of the vote the ship lay becalmed off the coast of the Carolinas.
"Aye," repeated the sea salt. His was the final vote, the last agreement to "going on the account" a popular euphemism for turning pirate. They had all voted the same, as was to be expected -- they would all hang together.
Each man knew in his heart that there was no going back. The vote had made them an enemy of all nations -- subject to torture, murder, mutilation and shameful execution by any that might catch them.
Following quickly came more votes.
A thick set and terrible fellow famous for his strength and his anger had been named captain -- Captain Beckett. He had single-handedly brained a pirate to death by smashing his skull against the mainmast in the last attack... something that stood out in the mind of the crew.
Mister Ustartes, a reliable fellow, much liked by the crew was chosen as the Quartermaster. Quartermaster, as the crew's representative would follow their will and make all the daily decisions for the ship, in contrast to the captain who became the sole authority in time of combat.
Daégon was named ship's gunner - a valuable position... even if most gunners seemed to be deaf by the end of a voyage.
And little Claude remained, as always, the cabin boy.
Now that they were all officially pirates there was but one step left to take: the signing of the articles.
The articles read as follows...
Every Man Sworne by Book & Mirror to be true to these Articles, & to his Ship Mates, is to have a Vote in Matters of Importance. He who is not Sworne, shall not Vote.
Every Man to have Equal Right to ye Provisions or Liquors at any time & to use them at Pleasure, unless Scarcity makes a Restriction necessary for ye Good of All.
Every Man to be called ffairly a Board Prizes in turn by the List of ye Company. Every Boarder is to have a Suit of Cloaths from ye Prize.
The Captain & Officers are to be chosen on Commencement of a Voyage, & on any other Occasion as ye Company shall deeme fit.
The Power of ye Captain is Supream in Chace or Battle. He may beat, cut, or shoot any who dares Deny his Command on such Occasions. In all other Matters whatsoever he is to be Governed by the Will of ye Company.
Every Man shall obey Civill Command.
He who first sees a Sail, shall have ye best Pistol, or Small Arm, from a Board her.
Ye QuarterMaster shall be first a Board any Prize. He is to separate for ye Company’s Use what he sees fit & shall have Trust of ye Common Stock & Treasurey until it be Shared. He shall Keep a Book shewing each Man’s Share, & each Man may draw from ye Common Stock & Treasurey against his Share upon Request.
Any Man who should Defraud ye Company, or another, to ye Vallew of a Dollar, he shall suffer Punishment as ye Company deeme ffit.
Each Man to keep his Musket, Pistolls, & Cutlass cleane & ffit for Service, upon Inspection by ye QuarterMaster.
Good Quarters to be Granted when Called for.
Any Man who Deserts ye Company, keeps any Secret, or Deserts his Station in Time of Battle, shall be punished by Death, Marooning, or Whipping, as ye Company shall deeme ffit & Just.
Not a Word shall be Written by any Man unless it be nailed Publickly to ye Mast.
Any Man who Strikes or Abuses another of our Company shall suffer such Punishment as ye Company shall deeme ffit & Just. Every Man’s Quarrel to be settled a Shoar with Sword & Pistol & be Adjudged Fair Fight by ye QuarterMaster.
All Lights & Candles to be put out before 8 a Clock at night. If any Man continues Drinking after that Hour, he must do it on ye open Deck. That Man who shall Smoak Tobacko in ye Hold without a Cap on his Pipe, or carry a lit Candle without a Lanthorn, shall suffer Moses Law (40 Stripes less one) on his bare Back.
No Man to talk of breaking up our Way of Living until Each has Shared a Thousand Pounds.
If any Man should lose a Limb, or become a Cripple, he is to have 800 Dollars out of ye Common Stock, & for lesser hurts, Proportionably.
Ye Captain & QuarterMaster are to have two Shares of a Prize, the Sailing Master, Boatswain, Gunner & Surgeon, One Share & a Half. Other Officers One & a Quarter Share. Each Man shall share Plunder Equally. Boys shall have a Half Share.
After a quick review of the articles, Captain Beckett took up the quill and scrawled his name.