For a long time, I was a stow-away aboard His Majesty’s ships. But a few years back, I stopped lurking in the shadows, approached the Captain of one of His frigates, and asked to be added to the rolls of His Majesty’s Fleet.
“All are welcome,” the Captain said. “Of course, you must swear allegiance to Our King and endeavor to follow His dictates and precepts, which will change you from stem to stern. And, of course, you will be required to work in some capacity aboard the ship. Are you up for this laddie?”
“That is why I am here, sir,” I said with a faltering voice. “I have been a stow-away aboard His Majesty’s ships for years, stealing table scraps, and hiding in the bilge,” I confessed. “I came aboard your particular ship several years ago, and I have been hidden from your attention by one of the crew.”
He laughed heartily, and slapped me on the back and said, “My good fellow, I’ve known about you all along. You thought you escaped my attention, did you? Why, the entire Fleet knows about you, and all of your mates as well. His Majesty knows each one of those who comprise His ship’s company too, be they on the muster rolls, or not.”
I was amazed at this revelation. Stunned.
“Why, a few days before your arrival here,” he continued, “I received a dispatch from the Captain of the last ship you were a stow-away on. The Packet is quite fast, you see, and flies before the wind, unlike that slug of a brig that brought you to the port where you met up with us.”
“You mean you knew I have been on board your ship, sir?,” I stammered. I was amazed that I had not been successful in remaining hidden.
“Of course, and don’t trouble yourself about it. Now that you are going to be added to the rolls, though, I expect a full days work out of you each and every day. Our Majesty expects everyone to do their duty to the utmost of their ability. Is that understood?”
I knuckled my forehead and said in my most seamanlike voice, “Yes sir!”
“Very good, and welcome aboard Seaman Apprentice Weathers. You have much to learn, and much to do, so get on with it.”
And I have been endeavoring to do just that ever since.