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Chapter 4 To Sea
Iwoke up. It was dark, but I could hear the sounds of a ship in strong winds. And then I knew. I was somewhere near the bottom of a ship, and we were at sea.
I hated my uncle! He was a bad, dangerous man — I knew that now.
' I was stupid!' I thought.' What is going to happen to me now?'
After some time, I fell asleep.
A light woke me. A small man with green eyes looked down at me.' How are you ?' he said.
I couldn't answer. The back of my head hurt, and he looked at it. Then he began to wash it.
' It'll hurt for a long time,' he said.'Did you have any food?'
' I can't eat anything,' I said.
He gave me a drink from a cup, and then went away.
When the man came again, the captain came with him.
' Why did you bring me here, Mr Riach ?' the captain asked.
'You can see, sir,' said Riach. 'He's very ill. He can't eat. And there's no light in here. We've got to put him in the seamen's room.'
' He will stay here,' said the captain. He turned away.
Riach put a hand on his arm and said,' I'm the second officer on this old ship. Nobody pays me to murder—'
'What!' shouted Hoseason. 'You know me! I'm a hard man, but I'm not a murderer. Are you saying the boy will die ?'
' Yes, he will,' said Riach.
' All right,' said Hoseason.' Move him.'
Five minutes later, a man carried me up to the seamen's room. There they put me down on a small bed. Then I knew nothing for hours — or days.
The men tried to be kind to me. They gave me back my money
— most of it.
'You'll want it,' they said.'The ship is going to the Carolinas.' At that time — when I was young — people sold men for work.
Black men and white men. That was my uncle's plan for me. The ship's boy, Ransome, came in from the roundhouse
sometimes. Mr Shuan, the first officer, often hit him and hurt him badly. But to the men, Shuan was a fine man. 'The only good seaman on the ship,' they said. 'And not a bad man when he isn't drinking.'
Day after day and night after night the ship fought its way north in strong winds. I got better and stronger, but I could not leave the room.
One night, at about twelve o'clock, a seaman came down for his coat. After some time, the men there began talking.
' Shuan hit him too hard this time,' they said.
Who did Shuan hit? We all knew. We did not have to ask the name. Suddenly, Captain Hoseason came into the room. He looked round, and came to me.
He spoke quite kindly. 'We want you to work in the roundhouse,' he said.' Go now.'
I ran up from the seamen's room. The strong sea came up across the ship and nearly pushed me into the water. Then a kind seaman helped me. He showed me the roundhouse.
On my way there I went past two other seamen. They carried Ransome down to my old room.