In this chapter from Heathcliff: The Lost Years, Captain Collingwood has received word that many African slaves might be available at a notorious slave fort on the Guinea Coast called Gold Coast Castle. The slave fort has been the scene of much vicious recent fighting between African tribes, Heathcliff and the crew learn as their ship approaches.
© David Drum
As the ship passed the mouth of a small river the Englishman cried, “Gold Coast Castle’s at hand, captain! That way! Maneuver your ship into the harbour.”
Captain Collingwood took the helm, with Mr. Bugg at his side pointing the way. Using only her topsails, the Commerce glided into a small natural harbour partially hidden behind a long spit of tree-covered land.
“Gold Coast Castle! Just as I told you, captain!” the Englishman said.
“I see it,” Captain Collingwood replied.
“You’re the only ship in the harbour! You’ve got the best of this, man, thanks to me. You can get all the best flesh for yourself.”
“To pack this vessel and depart quickly is my fondest wish,” said Captain Collingwood. “I pray it comes to pass.”
“It may well come to pass,” said the Englishman.
In the fading light of the afternoon, Gold Coast Castle floated into sight like an image from an Arabian dream. The sprawling fortification sat high atop a rock cliff. An iron cross atop the tallest of the white castle’s four turrets reflected the last rays of the afternoon sun.
“She flies English colours, captain,” announced Mr. Coil, lowering his brass telescope.
“The castle was built by Portuguese slavers, captain, years ago,” the Englishman said. “Fortunately, we English drove them away.”
Beyond the castle Heathcliff saw what appeared to be a single house built in the Tudor style, and a small circle of mud huts at the edge of the jungle.
“Lower the anchor,” called out the captain.
Heathcliff hurried to the capstan. They winched down the anchor and it struck bottom at ten fathoms. Gold Coast Castle faded away into the darkness of the night, with only a single light visible on its lower floor.
“You must fire your cannons, captain,” said the Englishman. “Blast out your intent to trade, so that all in the castle may prepare.”
“That’s not the custom in any slave port I’ve set foot in,” said Mr. Coil. “I’ve been up this coast a few times.”
“It is the custom here,” the Englishman retorted. “In this part of Africa, you must show force. The slavers respect only power.”
“No harm in a bit of cannon,” said the captain.
The captain ordered the crew to the starboard cannons. Before long, eight loud reports rang out over the water. Heathcliff noticed the single light inside the castle go out. The sulfurous odor of black gunpowder lingered in the humid air.
++END OF CHAPTER++
David Drum’s 111-chapter epic, Heathcliff: The Lost Years tells what happened to Heathcliff during the three years he was absent from Wuthering Heights. The book is available in paperback, e-book, and as an audiobook from Amazon, Apple, Audible.com and may be special ordered from any bookstore.