Pirate Island Tales – Episode 6

donkeyTimmy opened one eye, “it’s going to get sorted out isn’t it Granddad.”

“Timmy, I thought you were asleep.”

“I was almost asleep, I only need a little bit more story and then I’m sure that’ll do it.”

“Then close your eyes and I’ll get this story finished so you can get your ugly sleep.”

“Ugly sleep, Granddad; what do you mean?”

“Well, it’s because you are so good looking that it’s only fair that you become uglier otherwise you’ll upset the other boys when you grow up.”

“Oh I see…” Timmy said, not sure if this was true, “…but I want to know what happened when you woke up after knowing for sure that all your problems would be solved.”

“Well, I woke up and I had a plan but I wasn’t sure my father would approve. I counted all the gold sovereigns we had and there weren’t many. We had some silver sixpences, florins, half crowns and crowns and some copper money but they wouldn’t last long on Pirate Island where everything seems to be getting more expensive each day.

Well, that’s not quite true; a bag of tea was still 6 doubloons and that was the same as when we arrived. This had been worth one copper penny. The label on the tea still says 6 doubloons but now that equals a silver shilling which is twelve times as much.

“Perhaps the Old Kingdom was having economic problems and the exchange rate had weakened?” Timmy interrupted.

“Quiet! Go to sleep, this is my story and I don’t want any of your nonsense interfering with it.” I said.

Timmy was quiet and so I continued.

All the gold sovereigns together barely filled the bottom of one purse. I remember when we first arrived I’d brought twenty purses bulging with sovereigns plus a few with silver and copper coins.

I retied the purse and attached it to my belt. Nanny watched as I ate by breakfast in silence.

“You’re not going to do something silly with the last of our money are you?” Nanny asked.

“I hope not.” I replied. “My father’s plans were always good but I’m not sure if my plan is as good as any that he’d had in his time. Living on the farm in the Old Kingdom was easy. I’m not sure that he would have liked us selling up the way we did. That was our plan. Coming here was our plan and so was buying Dream Cottage. Perhaps our plans are no good?”

“Shush, Granddad. Our plans are ours and if they go wobbly then we have to straighten them. Just don’t go throwing our last money away, that’s all.”

I thought about that as I drove the cart down to Pecan Town and hitched it to the rail outside the Galleon Inn. As I had hoped, Solly was inside. He was seated at a table gambling with those who were stupid enough to bet against him. I recognised the Carter and to the side were the same Clever Cloggs I’d seen the day before.

Solly did not see me come in and I watched as he played his game in between gulps of Pecan Firewater, something my father would never have wanted me to drink. Wine and ale should be sufficient, he always told me.

Solly placed three upturned black cups on to the table to show they were empty, everyone checked carefully that this was true. He then turned them over and arranged them in a line, one to his left, one to his right and one in the middle. He placed a gold sovereign under the middle cup and slowly moved it around so that the middle cup was to his right. Ester watched him carefully.

“OK, Ester, which cup is the gold sovereign under. Remember we are not gambling now, we’re just seeing how quick your eyes are.”

Ester was hesitant for a moment and then suddenly pointed to the cup to Solly’s right. “It’s there!”

Solly lifted the cup and there underneath it was the gold sovereign.

“Oh, Ester, if only you had been gambling then you would have won a gold sovereign. Just think what you could have bought with that if you’d won.” Solly looked deeply into Ester’s eyes; daring her. “Go on Ester, gamble a gold sovereign.”

Ester was torn. “I mustn’t. I’ve only one left.” She was weakening, she reached for her purse and was about to say something when I spoke.

“Hello Solly, can I play?”

Solly turned around and saw me for the first time. “Granddad, it’s you. I thought you said that you never gambled?”

“Normally I don’t but when times are desperate a man has to do desperate things.”

Solly took a gulp of his firewater. “So you want to gamble with me?”

I nodded.

“Do you know how the game works?”

“Yes, it couldn’t be simpler. I am very quick, quicker than even you I believe. I’ll take my chances.”

“Don’t!” Ester cried. “He never loses when money is at stake.”

“So why do you gamble with him?” I said looking around the room. “Why do you keep coming back and losing money to Solly?”

They all looked down at the floor, except Ester who tried to explain. “It’s because that’s the way it is around here, and maybe we might win back what we’ve lost.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s time things changed around here. How much are we betting for, Solly?”

Solly made a face. “How much do you want to gamble?”

“Everything.” I said.

“Everything?”

“Yes, everything that I have for everything that you have.”

“Wow!” Solly whistled. “How much have you got?”

I dropped my purse on the table and Solly looked inside it. “Twenty three gold sovereigns against my tens of thousands of sovereigns? That hardly seems fair.” He looked me up and down. “How about you add your cart and donkey… and Dream Cottage… and everything in it?”

I looked at him and watched his cruel smile grow crueler.

“Yes, I agree.”

“Did you all hear what he said?” Solly asked, as he took a piece of paper from his pocket and passed it to the crowd. “Read it and pass it on then give it to Granddad to sign.”

When finally the paper reached me it clearly said that I was gambling the money, the cart and donkey, Dream Cottage and everything in it. Solly had already signed it and so I signed on the place where I was supposed to sign then handed it back to him.

“I knew you would come here today,” Solly explained, “so I had that paper made up specially.” He turned to the dumbstruck crowd, “you are all witnesses that should Granddad win then he takes all I own and if I win I take everything from him.”

Everyone nodded to show that this was what we were gambling for.

“Where’s Nanny?” Solly asked.

“She’s in the cottage.” I replied, wondering why he was interested.

“Do you hear that everyone, Nanny’s in the cottage…” again, everyone nodded, “…and if I remember the bet we made, if Granddad loses then I get everything in the cottage.”

A collective gasp filled the inn and all faces turned my way.

“Very clever, Solly…” I smiled and this puzzled the crowd who thought I’d be horrified, “…but unfortunately for you I’m not going to lose.”

Solly laughed as he showed everyone that all the black cups were empty and then he placed a gold sovereign beneath the middle cup and moved it slowly around a few times until it came to rest at his right.

“Are you ready to bet?” Asked Solly.

“Yes I said but I don’t want you to turn over the cup with the gold sovereign under it, I want to do that.”

Solly did not look concerned. “You can do that.” He turned to the crowd, “you see, I’m even letting him play the game the way he wants to do and that’s not the way we do things around here.”

I turned to the crowd. “What I’m going to do now is also not the way you do it around here. I’m now going to turn over the two cups and the coin will not be underneath them because it’s under the one that’s left unturned.”

Before Solly could stop me I turned over the middle and the left cup and just as I’d said, the coin was not under them. The crowd gasped. I had guessed right, in fact it was as they had all guessed it was under the cup to the right.

Solly’s face went red. “You can’t do that. The coin is not under there!” He moved to turn the empty cup over but before he could reach it I grabbed his wrist and stopped him. With my free hand I grabbed the final cup, lifted it up and at the same time let drop the gold sovereign I’d had hidden in my hand all the time.

“It’s there! Granddad’s won!” The crowd screamed.

At the same time I squeezed Solly’s hand with all my might so that the coin he had also hidden fell onto the table. Puzzled looks soon turned to anger as they came to understand what had happened.

“He had a coin hidden in his hand all the time.” Ester cried. “He was cheating us.”

“That’s right, just as I cheated him.” I explained. “My father taught me all the gambling tricks so that I would know never to gamble.”

The crowd grabbed Solly and dragged him to his palace. They spent hours taking everything he owned and making an enormous pile from it. At the top of the pile were the clothes that Solly had been wearing, apart from his underwear of course.

“What are you going to do Granddad, now that you are the Black Guard?” Someone asked.

“I don’t understand. How can I be the Black Guard?”

“It’s the rules, none of the Clever Cloggs really want their positions but once the money is counted then they have no choice.”

“But I don’t want to be the Black Guard.” I explained.

“It’s too late for that, if you refuse then you will have to leave Pirate Island.”

“Look,” I said, “I’m going to give all your money back to you, then I won’t be the richest man on the island.”

The crowd gasped. “You can’t do that, the money would still be yours because we would only be borrowing it if you did that. There’s not way out, from this very moment you are the Black Guard, you make up the rules and this is your palace.” Ester explained.

What was I going to tell Nanny when I got back to Dream Cottage? I thought I was sorting everything out but I’d just got us into an even bigger mess.

To Be Continued

Timmy opened one eye, “it’s going to get sorted out isn’t it Granddad.”

“Timmy, I thought you were asleep.”

“I was almost asleep, I only need a little bit more story and then I’m sure that’ll do it.”

“Then close your eyes and I’ll get this story finished so you can get your ugly sleep.”

“Ugly sleep, Granddad; what do you mean?”

“Well, it’s because you are so good looking that it’s only fair that you become uglier otherwise you’ll upset the other boys when you grow up.”

“Oh I see…” Timmy said, not sure if this was true, “…but I want to know what happened when you woke up after knowing for sure that all your problems would be solved.”

“Well, I woke up and I had a plan but I wasn’t sure my father would approve. I counted all the gold sovereigns we had and there weren’t many. We had some silver sixpences, florins, half crowns and crowns and some copper money but they wouldn’t last long on Pirate Island where everything seems to be getting more expensive each day.

Well, that’s not quite true; a bag of tea was still 6 doubloons and that was the same as when we arrived. This had been worth one copper penny. The label on the tea still says 6 doubloons but now that equals a silver shilling which is twelve times as much.

“Perhaps the Old Kingdom was having economic problems and the exchange rate had weakened?” Timmy interrupted.

“Quiet! Go to sleep, this is my story and I don’t want any of your nonsense interfering with it.” I said.

Timmy was quiet and so I continued.

All the gold sovereigns together barely filled the bottom of one purse. I remember when we first arrived I’d brought twenty purses bulging with sovereigns plus a few with silver and copper coins.

I retied the purse and attached it to my belt. Nanny watched as I ate by breakfast in silence.

“You’re not going to do something silly with the last of our money are you?” Nanny asked.

“I hope not.” I replied. “My father’s plans were always good but I’m not sure if my plan is as good as any that he’d had in his time. Living on the farm in the Old Kingdom was easy. I’m not sure that he would have liked us selling up the way we did. That was our plan. Coming here was our plan and so was buying Dream Cottage. Perhaps our plans are no good?”

“Shush, Granddad. Our plans are ours and if they go wobbly then we have to straighten them. Just don’t go throwing our last money away, that’s all.”

I thought about that as I drove the cart down to Pecan Town and hitched it to the rail outside the Galleon Inn. As I had hoped, Solly was inside. He was seated at a table gambling with those who were stupid enough to bet against him. I recognised the Carter and to the side were the same Clever Cloggs I’d seen the day before.

Solly did not see me come in and I watched as he played his game in between gulps of Pecan Firewater, something my father would never have wanted me to drink. Wine and ale should be sufficient, he always told me.

Solly placed three upturned black cups on to the table to show they were empty, everyone checked carefully that this was true. He then turned them over and arranged them in a line, one to his left, one to his right and one in the middle. He placed a gold sovereign under the middle cup and slowly moved it around so that the middle cup was to his right. Ester watched him carefully.

“OK, Ester, which cup is the gold sovereign under. Remember we are not gambling now, we’re just seeing how quick your eyes are.”

Ester was hesitant for a moment and then suddenly pointed to the cup to Solly’s right. “It’s there!”

Solly lifted the cup and there underneath it was the gold sovereign.

“Oh, Ester, if only you had been gambling then you would have won a gold sovereign. Just think what you could have bought with that if you’d won.” Solly looked deeply into Ester’s eyes; daring her. “Go on Ester, gamble a gold sovereign.”

Ester was torn. “I mustn’t. I’ve only one left.” She was weakening, she reached for her purse and was about to say something when I spoke.

“Hello Solly, can I play?”

Solly turned around and saw me for the first time. “Granddad, it’s you. I thought you said that you never gambled?”

“Normally I don’t but when times are desperate a man has to do desperate things.”

Solly took a gulp of his firewater. “So you want to gamble with me?”

I nodded.

“Do you know how the game works?”

“Yes, it couldn’t be simpler. I am very quick, quicker than even you I believe. I’ll take my chances.”

“Don’t!” Ester cried. “He never loses when money is at stake.”

“So why do you gamble with him?” I said looking around the room. “Why do you keep coming back and losing money to Solly?”

They all looked down at the floor, except Ester who tried to explain. “It’s because that’s the way it is around here, and maybe we might win back what we’ve lost.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s time things changed around here. How much are we betting for, Solly?”

Solly made a face. “How much do you want to gamble?”

“Everything.” I said.

“Everything?”

“Yes, everything that I have for everything that you have.”

“Wow!” Solly whistled. “How much have you got?”

I dropped my purse on the table and Solly looked inside it. “Twenty three gold sovereigns against my tens of thousands of sovereigns? That hardly seems fair.” He looked me up and down. “How about you add your cart and donkey… and Dream Cottage… and everything in it?”

I looked at him and watched his cruel smile grow crueler.

“Yes, I agree.”

“Did you all hear what he said?” Solly asked, as he took a piece of paper from his pocket and passed it to the crowd. “Read it and pass it on then give it to Granddad to sign.”

When finally the paper reached me it clearly said that I was gambling the money, the cart and donkey, Dream Cottage and everything in it. Solly had already signed it and so I signed on the place where I was supposed to sign then handed it back to him.

“I knew you would come here today,” Solly explained, “so I had that paper made up specially.” He turned to the dumbstruck crowd, “you are all witnesses that should Granddad win then he takes all I own and if I win I take everything from him.”

Everyone nodded to show that this was what we were gambling for.

“Where’s Nanny?” Solly asked.

“She’s in the cottage.” I replied, wondering why he was interested.

“Do you hear that everyone, Nanny’s in the cottage…” again, everyone nodded, “…and if I remember the bet we made, if Granddad loses then I get everything in the cottage.”

A collective gasp filled the inn and all faces turned my way.

“Very clever, Solly…” I smiled and this puzzled the crowd who thought I’d be horrified, “…but unfortunately for you I’m not going to lose.”

Solly laughed as he showed everyone that all the black cups were empty and then he placed a gold sovereign beneath the middle cup and moved it slowly around a few times until it came to rest at his right.

“Are you ready to bet?” Asked Solly.

“Yes I said but I don’t want you to turn over the cup with the gold sovereign under it, I want to do that.”

Solly did not look concerned. “You can do that.” He turned to the crowd, “you see, I’m even letting him play the game the way he wants to do and that’s not the way we do things around here.”

I turned to the crowd. “What I’m going to do now is also not the way you do it around here. I’m now going to turn over the two cups and the coin will not be underneath them because it’s under the one that’s left unturned.”

Before Solly could stop me I turned over the middle and the left cup and just as I’d said, the coin was not under them. The crowd gasped. I had guessed right, in fact it was as they had all guessed it was under the cup to the right.

Solly’s face went red. “You can’t do that. The coin is not under there!” He moved to turn the empty cup over but before he could reach it I grabbed his wrist and stopped him. With my free hand I grabbed the final cup, lifted it up and at the same time let drop the gold sovereign I’d had hidden in my hand all the time.

“It’s there! Granddad’s won!” The crowd screamed.

At the same time I squeezed Solly’s hand with all my might so that the coin he had also hidden fell onto the table. Puzzled looks soon turned to anger as they came to understand what had happened.

“He had a coin hidden in his hand all the time.” Ester cried. “He was cheating us.”

“That’s right, just as I cheated him.” I explained. “My father taught me all the gambling tricks so that I would know never to gamble.”

The crowd grabbed Solly and dragged him to his palace. They spent hours taking everything he owned and making an enormous pile from it. At the top of the pile were the clothes that Solly had been wearing, apart from his underwear of course.

“What are you going to do Granddad, now that you are the Black Guard?” Someone asked.

“I don’t understand. How can I be the Black Guard?”

“It’s the rules, none of the Clever Cloggs really want their positions but once the money is counted then they have no choice.”

“But I don’t want to be the Black Guard.” I explained.

“It’s too late for that, if you refuse then you will have to leave Pirate Island.”

“Look,” I said, “I’m going to give all your money back to you, then I won’t be the richest man on the island.”

The crowd gasped. “You can’t do that, the money would still be yours because we would only be borrowing it if you did that. There’s not way out, from this very moment you are the Black Guard, you make up the rules and this is your palace.” Ester explained.

What was I going to tell Nanny when I got back to Dream Cottage? I thought I was sorting everything out but I’d just got us into an even bigger mess.

To Be Continued

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