The Governor of Jamaica walked his estate, and not from God received his great inspiration.
By the Cedar, the Logwood, the Cocoanut Palm and Palmetto,
By the Ginger Plant and the Cabbage Tree.
From Port Royal two miles down the track, away from the bustle and mess of pirates, the explosions of dragons, men going at each other with the cutlash, a haven – and Sir Benjamin Saintsbury ceased his walk at the bottom of a hill beside a spring. A clear spring of good fresh water, which flowed down from a cleft and pooled into a shallow reef. As if the prophet Moses had struck the rock, but the Governor’s inspiration was not connected to drinking or travelling in a wilderness.
By the Mango, the Breadfruit, the Banana and the Plantain,
The white Bougainvillea, the Periwinkle.
He wondered whether it were truly possible – and scarcely noticed aught else on his path back to his house, call’d his Residence, and for this occupation tripped more than once on the roots and creepers there. If it were possible, this grand scheme, he would need assistance and he knew that Mr Pulpitt should prove the highest assistance he could have on this island. The tutor was skilled in arithmetic, and could make the drawings, and also Sir Benjamin would need to expend on drivers, wrights, hauliers, carpenters, ropemakers, diggers, workmen of all specie. Then, a favourable progress they would have to beg from the gods of Fortune and Chance.
Mr Pulpitt, that white-livered type who has hidden strengths, spent the first days surveying the area, looking at the spring as it bubbled from the cliff and the pebbled strand it made, how then the water soaked to the ground, and so his mind went to hydraulic damming.
He did the experiment in his head, how it would work, how it may be caused not to work by adversity, and in worry because he was not yet convinced they had it right, excavations were begun.
The pebbles soon gave up to the red earth characteristic of Jamaica, and left a muddy bog. Further experiments done with puddling the walls did not bring success, the red earth slithering back as soon as it was placed and crumbling always.
—This island does not have a good clay for our purpose, not as in London. We are creating a morass.
The need was to impose themselves on the world, to defeat it. And Pulpitt took more days, while all the time Saintsbury was pointing with his cane and offering up useless thoughts.
Until Mr Pulpitt looked out at the Main, the sea was swells and danger, he looked back at the terrace on which the estate was founded, yards, only, a matter of… from the Sea… And he realised fully the meaning of Ships and Oceans and reversed the consuetude. He had received the second Inspiration connected with the scheme and how it could be made real, perhaps.
He explained it to his Governor and if Sir Benjamin had any jealousy at not being the vessel of this second Inspiration, he did not say it.
—Now we are playing a great Hand, he replied to Mr Pulpitt.
—That Spanish sloop, the two-master, at Port Royal this year or more, you know it, said Sir Benjamin. Mouldering, that none has a use for, will she sail? If she is not twenty chains from the shore at all times, can she be sailed here?
To Mr Knapp, his second of administration, who sucked at his teeth.
—If the wind is right, and I have eight men to crew her. She is sound enough, I suppose.
—You shall have men, and grateful from the Prison, if it is necessary. And then I will have you careen her.
—Driven onto the beach, is all I require. Mr Pulpitt will explain to you what is to be next.
Knapp still wanted to ask why.
And there she was, by the work of Mr Knapp, the Alcatraz, out of Santander, on the beach and toppled over, which is the true meaning of the Careen, her first last journey done. Then, the swarming of carpenters, and the sawing, the hammering, the breaking down, the splicing by the ropemakers and the carrying by fellows; by these, the ship was brought to its constituting Parts.
A grounding for the iron capstan spindle was dug – this the largest work. The oak capstan was set, and the beams used as longer levers. The Frameworks went up, made of Gaffs and Bumpkins, to provide Stanchions for Pullies. The Sails restitch’d and jointed, then steeped in rope Tallow, a sharper idea than Rollers, given the Incline they had set themselves to fight against.
—Not a third Part of the Ship’s Weight is the Hull, I guess it, said Pulpitt – and he was correct.
The Downhaul and the Lazy Jack,
The Parrel Beads, the Turnbuckles,
Clewlines and Buntlines, the Clevis Pins and the Earings.
Not a piece was wasted in Endeavour, and not a Piece was required extra to that already given them by Providence. All had been divided Hull and not-Hull.
And one July night of the year 1691, unable to sleep for the Morrow’s Act, not at the Cove of dark Flesh, but distracted in hope this would not prove a Embarrassment – Master Pulpitt was a skill’d Calculator and Knapp a skill’d Builder – we have the skills, let us make Jamaica in its first little show become a great Show, he thought, that even the King might hear it, and he began to dream more firmly of success to his Enterprize. He imagined the people in their procession, up towards the Governor’s residence. Saintsbury the Magnificent – they seem’d to call him – and his wife not present among them – great dreamers and artificers – if there was ever any thing so made at a French king’s court or a Hapsburg Court… Did ever a French King? He thought not.
And Pulpit at the same hour hiccoughed with his worries, that his rope tallow method would fail, and be laughed at. His head wobbles; his head will not be cut off if it fails, but he has an Ache in it left.
The French have used the steam of water to drive a rotating wheel, but that is for the future, and now the drivers and their mules stand ready, a good band of crewmen and wights are ready with levers – and if the Hull should veer, others to rescue her.
Mr Pulpitt was warning all to beware of ropes, if they snap, they’ll have your head – which they all know, as Men of the Sea – scurrying down and up in a flurry of sands as a Dervish.
—Come, we are ready.
And before Mr Pulpitt could utter otherwise, Sir Benjamin gave the signal with a wave of his hat, and it began, the eight mules being driven by their Masters, the strain taken up.
The creak of ropes an old mouth of a soothsayer, uttering lowest moans, and nothing.
—Again, I say!
Again the mules were driven and a crackling of rope and wood – when, a-shudder, she made her first move.
And stopped and then went again, further.
A cheer from all the Crew, the Hull began its passage, she had moved some ten yards in the first hour, with the Pullies gearing and the mules excellent to their great battle. The hull is light, in relative understanding, and the grease method is cleverer than rollers, by the steepness of the incline, a slide of rope tallow creating a perfect Road. Though constantly exhorted by Mr Pulpitt to be cautious as they lever past the bumps and obstacles, the Ship went up the Hill.
Over the course of four days, not a rope ever parted and not a man injured And when Sir Benjamin Saintsbury heard that last crack, that doomsday Crack of Hull landed in Receptacle, he praised his Maker.
There into her grave, the once-Spanish ship interred, to be caulked with pitch and allowed to set, with more carpentry work carried out to make decking surrounds and other fitments. After which, the stream diverted and allowed to flow in the pipes. As the first dribbles of water went in, he saw his Inspiration flesh’d.
Three Weeks earlier, a Tub – now making a worthy Tub,
Sir Benjamin bent to cup some of the Water clear. —I was thinking some Fish, Mister Pulpitt.
As well as some Swimmers, but the Grotto Lagoon was perfect in all Respects. It lay in front, a dark green calm Mere, to usher aboard for Divertissement, Nocturnals, Revels.
And not just, Potamids also, or Mermaids as Sailors call them. A Potentate needs make a Splash. He let fall the Water through his Fingers.
‘T was as if he had ordered a Sea be made,
Except the Sea was in the Ship, as he look’d at it,
And more, the Ship – with its Sea – was on the Island,
All of Nature had been subtly revers’d, the Effect to capsize the Senses, without Call on Marsala or Rum. But unlike many Men, who would at an Instant make their Path to Fear, Sir Benjamin took Pleasure for the Land of Imagination and so in these contrary Propositions.
And to call his Grotto a Name, to give it a Mark in Minds,
—The Black Lagoon, he said. She shall be nam’d, and tho’ she travels Nowhere, she shall be a great Wonder.