I am German by birth. My father never told me how he was taken into indentured servitude in England. He was named Frederick Packer. I am named Alfred. I was born into servitude. I never knew another life. Sr. Darkbridge held my papers and those of my father. I never heard mention of my mother. Sr. Darkbridge was a practicing Puritan and let no man go by that was not chastised for not believing as he did. He seemed to hold dear the principle that only through constant beatings should a young man be led into a goodly life, yet I saw no evidence of a bloody shirt upon the children of the others in the society. I came to believe that the wretched man simply enjoyed inflicting pain. I was told that my back held evidence of more lashings than a lazy slave was wont to bear in a lifetime yet I was but thirteen. This hardened my heart and I tended to show a stern countenance. Ah, my face.
I caught the pox when I was eight or so. I was left alone to live or die. I lived yet was horribly marked. Women cringed at looking upon me and children stared from a distance.
As an indentured servant I was taught many small, rough skills that free men cared not to perform themselves. I was strong and handy yet I was still beaten until my blood flowed at least twice a week, simply because my master could.
The Society took ship for the colonies in 1649. I knew not why. My father caught the bloody cough during the trip and died. None mourned him but me as his shrouded corpse slid into the sea. For the first time in my life I was alone.
I did not rail at my circumstances. There were many others aboard ship whose papers were held by the Puritans, bought just before the voyage to the new world. I was certain that their heaven on earth was to be built on the backs of their slaves.
Once we arrived in a place called Connecticut the real work began. Fortunately it was early summer and the brutal weather was gone lest most of us perish from weakness, ill-feeding and sleeping in the freezing cold. We cleared land, built cabins, dug wells and constructed privies. I grew so tired from my efforts that I barely had the will to eat much less clean myself or my garments.
I was awakened early one morning by the stroke of a rod across my ribs, causing me great pain. I quickly grasped the hand sporting that rod and threw my filthy blanket over them. Then I proceeded to purge fifteen years of frustration and undeserved beatings upon whoever was stupid enough to awaken me. I found Sr. Darkbridge to be nought but bloody rags when I threw back my rough cover to see who had received my ire. I sat back on my heels with a small smile on my face. All I could think was "so the worm turns". I dragged the corpse to the household privy then dumped him in the pit. I smiled once again, sat and eased my bowels. I had learned to kill in vengeance and feel nought but satisfaction.
I could not stay in the village. I would have been whipped, beaten, burned or pressed to death. Regrets? I had none. I was totally unrepentant though I did not glory in the kill though I did take advantage of it.
I took a small waxed chest that had made the voyage, emptied it of the papers that it had been tasked to protect and placed within it the items that I might use to build my own life. The thing was four feet long by two feet deep by three feet tall, built to conform to the proportions required for storage in the ship's hold. I loaded it with all manner of carpentry tools, a few good kitchen tools, a heavy copper pot, two heavy kitchen knives, a tin box of good beeswax candles, both of the house fire making kits, The few coins kept by the old man, a hank of rope, a folded canvas, a felling axe and a shovel.
I knew that it was much too heavy to heft, much less carry for any distance. The work shed held a one wheeled barrow with high sides. Within it went the chest, the old man's portmanteau filled with good linen sheets and woolen blankets, a five gallon puncheon filled with salt, a small ten-gallon barrel filled with flour, A tripod with chain and hooks, the house's one good iron kettle, a small water barrel and as much clean canvas and cord that I could latch onto. I dressed in the best the house had to offer then started down the path to the seashore.
It took me several months to learn the ins and outs of the scavenger's life. I was robbed of all I had more than once. Eventually I became incensed to the point of retribution. I tied a rock to the end of a hefty water-smoothed limb, then crept up behind the last brigand that had last robbed me and brained him. I got back my own and more. I left him with his head split open on the low beach for the crabs to feast on. I had learned to kill in retribution and make an example of my victim.
I kept traveling south, keeping to the coast. I ate more than my fair share of clams and mussels. I was near a town called Brick. The coastal reefs supplied me with enough shellfish to live on and some flotsam from the coastal wrecks to burn for firewood and to trade for necessary supplies. I survived there for over two years.
It was some eight days after a strong blow. The weather had held bright and windless for days, then another short yet violent storm blew up overnight. I followed the seacoast looking for whatever the storms had washed ashore.
A twenty-four foot long high-sided dagger board sailboat had made its way between the rocks and onto a sandy beach. The sail had been torn to shreds by the high winds. This was the best salvage that I had ever seen. I hurried down the shoreline to it and thrust myself half up-and-over the side to see what was within. I promptly turned and emptied my stomach on the sand. There were three ripe bodies within. Once I had cleared the slime from my mouth I once again carefully peered over the side.
One man was more stout than the other two. He wore the blue coat and gold braid of a ships captain. It appeared that he had bled out from a gash in his upper thigh. One other was dressed as some sort of ships mate. He appeared to have died from a rude blow separating his skull from his spine as his head laid unnaturally. The last was dressed in canvas slops. He had died from a ball fired through his chest. At his hand lay a hatchet. I pulled myself over the side and searched the bodies for any valuables. The captain kept a tidy little purse at his belt and had died with a discharged flintlock pistol in his hand. These I gratefully seized. He also bore a fancy dirk and a large emerald ring that quickly became mine. I took his fancy hat and coat then tossed his body over the side. The mate had nothing of value on his person but was laying on a fascine knife--a broad-bladed tool boasting a sharpened hook, all on a two-handed haft. It had been well used in place of a boarding axe as the bloodstains on the blade told their tale. The last man again bore nothing of interest. I tossed the both of them over the side then jumped overboard myself. I had a desire to quickly remove the craft to a less-populated beach so that I might keep the boat and its contents to myself.
After shouldering it off the beach I jumped aboard and poled the craft down the shoreline until I reached a small cove, quite close to where I made my rude home beneath the root ball of a storm-flattened tree. I grounded my new craft and tied off beneath some overhanging limbs. There I felt I was protected enough to pause and take stock. There were several chests within the dory. One was quite long by comparison to the others at over four feet. I opened it and, to my joy, found it to be a ship's carpet entry box. Another large square box held ledgers, much of the captains finery, a small sewing kit, a second flintlock pistol and supplies to clean and reload them several times over. I also found a till, a locked box that jingled wonderfully. Another chest, quite large, held packets, jars and sacks of spices which strongly perfumed the air when opened. It was well-waxed to keep its contents safe from the sea and weather. After consideration I felt that this was the top tier of portable goods from the ship.
After cleaning the blood and seawater out of the scuppers I carefully examined the boat's rigging and got the idea of how it was sailed. It obviously required new canvas. I had a canvas sheet in my stores which I cut and seamed into a serviceable though shortened sail. I rigged the boat well enough then loaded aboard my meager possessions, taking care to include a pair of casks of sweet water. I found that the captain's clothing fit me well enough for a man that had been starved so I took on the role of a distressed captain whose ship had been blown out from under him. I hoped that the lack of my letters would not ill-serve me. I had my numbers, for they made sense. I learned them on my own. However, never having been schooled, reading and writing escaped me.
I followed the trade into Norfolk harbor, where I obtained a broad-brimmed hat to cover my scarred features, several changes of rough clothing, good boots and brogans. I then closely observed the price of spices in the market and proceeded to dicker myself into quite a pile of silver. I noticed quite a few evaluating glances passed my way but a good stare and an exposed brace of pistols left me safe.
I needed a secure place to call my own. My disfigurement did not lend to easy accommodation in town. I felt that my only opportunity was to gather stores and explore up river.
.... There is more of this story ...