First Kill

Log of the Arthur:

March 11, 1701: Some of the crew have tayken ill. Illness also spreads among the captives. Those brought on board first, upon our arrival, doe decay and grow lean, and some are sick. – C. A.

March 13, 1701: Deaths are occurring more frequently now among the captives and crew. What medicines are avaylable aboard ship are being given to both, tho they rapidly deplete. Dead of consumption: Arthur Hill for whom the ship is named. – C. A.

In an age when the realities of life were earthier, not so easily buffered by the comfort and convenience of modern technology, infrastructure and affluence; in an age when men were forced to hunt for their sustenance and for the needs of their families, every boy knew the emotions of “first kill”. Exhilaration tempered by sadness, aggression tempered with guilt.

There was a time when men of honor would stand up against the evil that surrounded them, a time when honor meant something and men were intolerant of those who preyed upon the weak and defenseless. Often that intolerance led to death. Sometimes, as in the case of Cain and Able, death came in the form of sacrifice by the blood of one who was good at the hands of one who served evil. Sometimes the roles were reversed and good triumphed over evil, as in the case of Collin Aldworth. Still, the taking of another’s life, good or evil, will change a man. When that life is a man’s first kill the change can be profound.

excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar


“It was this additional duty that brought Collin into closer contact with the wounded Negro boy, number seventy-four. The morning was particularly warmer than most, as Collin waited for the captives to assemble on deck for their morning meal. A commotion broke out at the main hatch as the male captives were coming up the ladder from the hold. Horace Blythe had given three of the Negroes a certain measure of freedom in exchange for their cooperation. One of these “overseers” lashed wildly into the opened hatchway with a small whip Blythe had given him. None of the other crew of the Arthur seemed to pay the slightest attention to the incident, but Collin rushed over to see what the fracas was about.

When he’d drawn close he could see the boy, number seventy-four, on the ladder, just below the hatch combing. He struggled to climb up while carrying a small, obviously sick child with him to the deck. Each time the boy stepped up the ladder, the huge overseer would lash him with his whip, shouting in his incomprehensible language and driving the boy back down. Presumably the overseer was ordering the boy to drop the sick child and come out alone, but the boy, clearly determined, would have none of it. As Collin drew near, the boy attempted once again to climb out, but, as before, the overseer lashed at him with his whip.

On this third attempt a young female, among the captives already on deck, became hysterical and launched herself at the overseer. The huge Negro threw her down and began beating her unmercifully an event that the other crewmen found great humor in, all goading the overseer into more severe action, while something very different overcame Collin. He found himself filled with a rage such as he had never known. It exploded within him, consuming his entire being, body, soul and mind. It blinded him to fear and indecision, thrusting him free of the bonds of law, or concern for consequence, or the morality that had mired him for so long on this voyage.

He moved swiftly up from behind the overseer, as if compelled there by an invisible power. When the overseer pulled his whip back to strike again, Collin, grabbed hold of the end and pulled with all his might, jerking it from the overseer’s grip. The huge Negro turned on him, angry and embarrassed to find that a boy had so easily yanked the whip from his hand. At that moment, still filled with a powerful rage, Collin swung the whip catching the overseer full on the nose with the heavy wooden handle. The overseer covered his face and stumbled back with a yell while the Arthur’s crew laughed and cheered this new entertainment.

It wasn’t a moment before the overseer, wounded in both face and pride, advanced on Collin in a menacing rage. Collin swung the whip again as hard as he could, but the overseer grabbed the handle and wrested the whip from Collin with ease, yanking him off his feet and dragging him a short distance across the hard, wooden deck. When Collin let go, the overseer drew the whip back to strike him. Collin jumped to his feet, drawing the pistol he’d been issued just as the whip struck his left shoulder. It wrapped around his neck and the flared end slapped him hard on his right cheek, opening a gash that quickly bled. With his own blood flowing freely for all to see, Collin aimed the pistol in his hand and before the overseer could yank him off his feet a second time, he fired squarely at the man’s heart.

A blinding flash brought the pistol in Collin’s hand to life with an explosion of white smoke and flame. The recoil jerked the pistol from his grasp and the loud report brought everyone aboard ship to silent attention. The menacing overseer jerked upright, his feet lifting from the deck as the heavy lead ball struck him. He tumbled backward, clutching his chest and, as the smoke cleared away, Collin stood over him, still livid, his knees quaking beneath him, threatening to buckle, the smoking pistol lying on the deck at his feet.

“Whot in God’s name is going on here!” Captain Doegood demanded to know as he hurried across the deck from his cabin.”

Indeed, “What in God’s name is going on here?”


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