Using this translation turn the pages a bit odd - sorry




The Son of the PHANTOM

a novel by Dale Robertson, Withman Publishing Company 1944

CHAPTER ONE -- THE FIRST PHANTOM

It was in the year 1544 that the merchant vessel Adventurer, sailing out of Yarmouth and commanded by the doughty Captain James Allen, ventured into an unknown portion of the Indian Ocean, in search of the fabled Indies. With Sir Gerald Nelson, the ship's owner, at his side, the tall, black-bearded Captain Allen scanned the sea horizon with his glass. Suddenly, he uttered a low exclamation, held . his glass steadfastly on a fixed point. Sir Gerald watching him anxiously, shot Allen a questioning glance as the mariner finally lowered the instrument and turned toward his employer.

"What say you, Captain?" eagerly asked Sir Gerald. "Are we in sight of the long-sought goal? Speak up, man!"

Captain Allen smiled quietly at Sir Gerald's anxiety. "Sir, I know not what shore may lie yonder," he answered. "But land of some sort is within a day's sailing -that I doubt no more than that Henry VIII still reigns supreme in England." He handed the glass to Sir Gerald, and smiled again as the landsman somewhat awkwardly raised it to his eye.

Sir Gerald was still trying perplexedly, a minute later, to discern the dark line on the horizon miles away when the cry came from aloft: "Land ho! Land to port! Land two points off the port quarter!" Then a low cry broke from Sir Gerald's lips as at last he separated sea and sky from what appeared to be, at that distance, a low-lying land mass.

Captain Allen barked an order to the helmsman, then turned and smiled in obvious pleasure as a sturdy youth burst forth on the quarterdeck and rushed to the side of Sir Gerald. "Father," exclaimed the boy, "have we indeed sighted the Indies?"

The man lowered the glass, handed it to Captain Allen and gazed fondly at the boy. "We have," he said, then added, "At least, so we hope."

The lad, brown-haired, with strong, regular features and eyes of flashing blue, was Eric Nelson, the only son of the ship's owner -and destined one day, though he knew it not, to become the first man to be known as the Phantom, the almost legendary figure that stalked through page after violent page of world history, and founded the long and illustrious line of the Phantom.

Right then, however, he was plain Eric Nelson normal, healthy English lad, full of energy and curiosity. He wanted mightily to look through the Captain's glass to see for himself that first glimpse of a land of mystery, but hesitated to ask, lest he seem overbold and impatient for a youngster. So he crowded against the rail instead, and fixed his blue eyes on the distant horizon. Then, although he did not reveal it to his father and the Captain, he was sure that he could see it -he could see with naked eye what the Captain from the deck could only see with the assistance of the glass, and the hawk-eyed tar aloft had managed to see from the vantage point of height. That was the first revelation -the first of many to come -of the physical superiority which he enjoyed over other men and which was to serve both him and others well in succeeding years.

Captain Allen had estimated that the land they sighted would be reached in a, day's sailing, with favorable winds. His estimate, as usual, was accurate -but the good ship Adventurer and her gallant crew never touched the shore. Late in the afternoon of the same day on which the landfall was raised, a strange vessel bore down on the Adventurer from starboard. No response greeted Captain Allen's hail, and, suspicious, he tried to tack away and escape, but it was too late.

A black flag was run up on the other ship, which was soon skillfully maneuvered within range. A murderous broadside heeled over the Adventurer and tore away half her rigging. She was at the mercy of the pirates. Twenty minutes later a bloodthirsty crew of Singh cutthroats boarded the merchant ship and overwhelmed the valiant but poorly armed defenders.

The lad Eric fought well at his father's side, wielding a cutlass with the strength of a grown man, and with an instinctive skill that amazed Captain Allen when the old sea dog cast an occasional glance at him in the midst of his furious activity of shouting orders and firing his pistol. Then the Captain saw Sir Gerald fall with a cry of agony, his throat torn by a ball. The lad Eric staggered to the old man's side, his cheek bleeding from a nasty slash. Having no choice, Captain Allen shouted to his crew to give up.

There followed a horror which Eric Nelson was never to forget. Having ascertained that the Adventurer carried no treasure, the pirates proceeded to torture and slaughter the survivors of the captured vessel. Some of the merchant sailors, realizing what was to happen as two burly, brown-skinned brutes took hold of Captain Allen and bound him to the stump of the mainmast, jumped overboard. Others fought with their bare hands until they were cut down or overpowered. A few cowered fearfully or went to their doom quietly -at first; before they died they screamed and moaned and begged to be killed quickly.

The Captain, however, maintained a stoic calm to the very last, although his face was twisted in pain. Looking on, unable to tear his eyes from the hideous scene, Eric Nelson was thankful that his father had died from his bullet wound before the howling, cruel corsairs could torture him. Silently, Eric pondered the older man's last whispered words: "Right such wrongs, my son -remember me, and right such wrongs.

Somehow, then he knew -dimly, intuitively-that his life was to be a dedication and a service: a dedication to justice, and a service to the poor, the wronged and the oppressed. This he knew, perhaps more nearly felt -even though he then had no right to expect any more of life than a few brief minutes of existence. He reasoned not, for reason he could not. He only accepted the flashing insight into the future which fate at that precise moment granted him.

Captain Allen was dead, his weight dragging against the rope that bound his now lifeless body to the mainmast stump. In a final act of wanton brutality, a grizzled, evil-visaged pirate drew his sword, hacked the dead man's head from the body, and tossed it over the ship's side with a derisive howl. It seemed to be a signals quickly the few pitiful wretches who still were holding grimly on to life, despite their suffering at the hands of the merciless pirates, were put to the sword.

Abruptly, two of the pirates noticed the boy, kneeling beside Sir Gerald's still body. They called to the others, who advanced slowly and, it seemed to the lad, menacingly, until he was surrounded by the cutthroat crew. But they seemed to have had enough of torture and death. One of them, seemingly the leader, a fat, greasy, one-eyed Singh, with an old scar twisting his mouth and two fresh cuts on forehead and right cheek, began to speak in a strange tongue, addressing the boy.

Of course Eric did not understand the words, but slowly he grasped the pirate's meaning. The man's words and gestures meant that Eric was being asked to come with them. When he was sure this was what was asked of him, his eyes flashed defiance; scornfully he shook his head. Slowly, he rose to his feet, stood tall and proud, waiting for their next move. Some fingered their swords and daggers, but even they seemed to hesitate to attack the immature, handsome and defenseless figure who stood so fearlessly facing them, amid the dreadful scene of death and destruction. Impatiently, they turned away and prepared to abandon the ship.

Silently watching, Eric observed that although half of them immediately clambered back aboard their own craft, carrying with them whatever plunder they had appropriated, the rest went below decks of the merchantman. He supposed they went below to make a more thorough search for booty. Was he to be left alone on a floating derelict, he wondered, as he watched the men who had returned to their ship cast off some of the crude grappling hooks which had bound it to the Adventurer during the fight.

The answer came to him with a warning of peril. As the men who had gone below emerged on deck, carrying articles of clothing, a few valuables and several muskets they had found, together with some trinkets from the hold, Eric's keen nostrils smelled smoke. Next he saw thin wisps and tendrils of it issuing from an open hatchway. Alarmed, but still not knowing fear, he looked contemptuously at the fat Singh, who, as the last of his men clambered into the pirate ship, advanced again on the lad. Grinning maliciously, he pointed toward the rising smoke, then gestured toward the pirate craft, ending by crooking a beckoning finger at the boy.

The handsome lad glanced at the smoke, now beginning to form a black column of menacing size, then back at the bulky figure of the pirate chief. For a fleeting moment, he thought of accompanying the man, much as he loathed and hated him -perhaps he might get a chance to kill him and escape the pirates' clutches upon reaching port. Then he looked back at the dead body of his murdered father and, his inherent courage reasserting itself, he shook his head, his lip curling in defiance at the astonished corsair. Suddenly, a savage expression replaced the look of momentary surprise on the fat man's face and, without warning, he struck a tremendous blow at the boy. Eric started to dodge, but be was too late. The punch landed on the side of his face and, as he sank senseless to the deck, the pirate turned and, without a backward glance, swung his heavy form aboard his own vessel.

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