The year is 1676.
The Unicorn, a valiant ship of King Charles II’s fleet has left Barbados in the West Indies and set sail for home. It carries a cargo of gold, spices and rum. Two days at sea, a good stiff breeze, and the Unicorn is reaching on the starboard tack. Suddenly there’s a hail aloft…
“Sail on the port bow!”
The captain takes a peek through his trusty brass spyglass and says, “She’s mighty close hauled! Ration my rum if she’s not going to cut across our bows! And she’s making a spanking pace! Oho! She’s running up her colours…now we’ll see…”
He lifts up his spyglass again and curses under his breath. “The Jolly Roger! Pirates!…”
He quickly turns towards his crew and barks off instructions. “Ahoy there! Clear the decks for action!…Man the poop!…Stand by to haul the wind!”
Turning on to the wind with all sails set, risking her masts, the Unicorn tries to out sail the barbaric buccaneers. But it’s no use, the pirate sloop is overhauling them fast. They must outwit the pirates. The captain makes a daring plan. He’ll wear ship, then pay off on the port tack. As the Unicorn comes abreast of the pirate, he’ll loose off a broadside. No sooner said than done…
He shouts to the crew, “Ready about! Let go braces! Beat gunners to quarters…”
The Unicorn has gybed completely round. Taken by surprise, the pirates have no time to alter course. The royal ship bears down on them.
The crew wait with bated breath, all eyes on the captain. He raises his sword in the air and shouts, “Fire!”
The guns boom, and the pirate ship is hit. “Got her”, says the captain, “got her”.
But it’s not a crippling blow. The pirate sloop in turn goes about…and look, she’s hoisted fresh colours to the mast-head. The captain raises his spyglass again and gasps!
“The red pennant! No quarter given! A fight to the death, no prisoners taken! If we’re beaten, then it’s every man to Davy Jones’s locker!”
The pirates take up the chase, they draw closer.
Throats are dry aboard the Unicorn. Close hauled, the enemy falls in line astern with the Unicorn, avoiding her guns. She draws closer. Then suddenly, not more than a half a cable’s length away, she slips from the Unicorn’s poop. Then she resumes her course. The two ships are now alongside. The boarders prepare for action.
Grappling irons are hurled from the enemy ship. With hideous yells the pirates stream aboard the Unicorn.
The captains shouts, “All hands to repel boarders!”
A vicious fight ensues. Swords clash violently. Cutlasses are pulled out. Muskets and flintlock pistols fire indiscriminately. The smell of gun powder and burning flesh floats on the waves. Bodies fall on each other. Five men jump on the captain and seize him.
The pirates are masters of the ship. They had hoisted the red pennant – and they gave no quarter. Every man jack walked the plank. They tie the captain to the mast, leave him to die. The captain passes out.
When he comes around, he looks about him. The deck was scrubbed and no trace of the fearful combat that had taken place remained. The pirates passed to and fro, each with a different load.
“What’s happening? Instead of pillaging our ship and making off with the booty, they’re doing the opposite”, the captain mutters under his breath.
Then he spots a man approaching. He wears a crimson cloak embroidered with a skull, he’s the pirate chief. He comes near, his breath reeks of rum. He says, “Regard me well, dog, I am John Rackham.”
The captain replies, “Your servant sir, I am Sir Francis…”
John Rackham thunders at him, “Doesn’t my name freeze your blood, eh?”
“I am Sir Francis, the fearless” replies the captain.
Rackham continues, “Listen dog, you have killed Diego the Dreadful, my trusty mate. More than half my crew are dead or wounded. My ship is foundering, damaged by your first attack, then holed below the waterline as we boarded you…when some of your dastardly gunners fired at point blank range. She’s sinking…so my men are transferring to this ship the booty we captured from a Spaniard three days ago. And what a booty!”
John Rackham opens a chest he is carrying with him and says. “Look at these diamonds! They are worth more than six times a king’s ransom”.
Unimpressed, Sir Francis scoffs at him. “Did you come here just to tell me that?
A scowl comes over Rackham’s face. He thunders, “No, that’s not why I came. I came to tell you that those who annoy me pay dearly for their folly! Tomorrow morning I shall hand you over to my crew. And that flock of lambs know just how to administer a lingering death!”
So saying, he laughs sardonically and vanishes below deck. The much feared Jack Rackham puts another notch on his sword. And another representative of the king is sent to his watery grave.
Source: The Adventures of Tintin : The Secret of the Unicorn. One of my favourite Tintin books and perfect movie adaptation material.