Castle Roland

The Trader

by Charles Bird


Chapter 3

Posted: 24 Dec 15


Copyright © 2012-2015 by Charles Bird

SS Alpaco

The characters, localities and happenings in this story are the products of the author's imagination or, are used fictitiously. The story is copyrighted and is the property of the author and may not be copied, reproduced or retransmitted without his express permission.

From Chapter # 2; Toby was talking a mile a minute and Joe was taking in every word. Paul guided them all over to The Camel, where a buffet lunch had been prepared and everyone was invited. When Joe and Toby finally got to their house, it had been a long day, fueled by high emotion. Toby could barely keep his eyes open as his Papa walked him into his bedroom and helped him get ready for bed. Tomorrow was soon enough to meet the housekeeper and to talk about living arrangements while Joe was at sea.


The house that Joe had leased was over in Paddington, in a semi-rural area. It was a large home in an upscale neighborhood, set back from the road, with a privacy screen of trees hiding a huge front porch.

Mrs. Collins, the widow lady that Joe had hired as their housekeeper and nanny, although, after seeing Toby, Joe was not going to call her a nanny in front of the boy, was already living in her own small apartment at the back of the house. Toby was almost as tall as his father and showed promise of developing muscles of an athlete.

Sir Edward had assisted Joe in obtaining an automobile, a two door Humber. They had loaded all Toby's luggage in the back of the car and started for home.

Joe was surprised at what little luggage the boy had and he asked Toby if there was additional luggage being shipped. Some of the cases felt as if they were empty. Toby looked down at his feet and replied, "I don't deserve any more than what I got."

Joe clenched his teeth, nearly snapping his pipe stem in two. He said nothing but vowed he would get to the bottom of that statement before the next day was out. He also thought he ought to purchase replacement pipe stems in the very near future as he suspected there were going to be more horrors told him about Toby's life with his mother.

They drove out Haymarket Road before turning off for Paddington. When Joe turned into the drive for their house, Toby's eyes grew wide, he said, "WOW, this ain't no dump!"

Joe stopped the car and turned to his son, what did you expect?"

Toby replied, "David told me you had a shack out in the bush…" The boy looked down at his feet and rears were beginning to accumulate beneath his as he continued, "He told me you were a tramp and your ship was a tramp that the creditors were after you to reclaim the ship you had cheated them out of."

Joe was seething, but he held his temper as he interrupted his son, "Toby, you are my son, MY ONLY SON, you are the son of a successful sea captain who owns his own ship free and clear. There is no way MY SON is going to live in shack anywhere, let alone out in the bush!"

He drove up to the front of the house and stopped the car. He turned to Toby and asked, "What else did this David tell you?"

Toby replied, "He told me you was gonna make me work for my keep and that I could forget about going to school, they didn't have schools in the outback! He also told you is nothing but a sailor annnnn and aaa…….""

Joe reached for his son and hugged him tight, "Son, your stepfather lied to you, Sydney is not the outback and there are schools here. If you want to work, you can work with me on the Camel, but only during school holidays. As for anything else, we will take it one day at a time. You will see, I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, I speak three languages fluently and can make myself understood in another four laugages."

Toby was in tears, "Papa, they told me terrible things about you and that…….."

Joe interrupted him, still holding him tightly, "Son, whatever they told you is wrong and, after you get settled in, lets you and me have a nice long talk and get to know each other like a Father and his son, his ONLY son!"

Joe brought Toby out of the car and helped him wipe his tears from his face. They climbed the front steps together, where Mrs. Collins was waiting for them.

She had fixed them a light snack to hold them over until supper. She had grown children of her own and knew about the appetites of growing boys. There was a pitcher of cold milk on the table and a plate of ham sandwiches with chips to tide a growing boy over until supper.

Toby dove in to the sandwiches while Joe brought his few bags in from the car. Mrs. Collins raised her eyebrows at the pitiful few bags the boy had brought with him. Joe said to her quietly, "Later, I will tell you what is going on. Bye the way, do you know where I put my new pipe stems" He was holding his pipe in two broken sections.

It had been a long and exhausting day for Toby and Joe could see his eyes drooping, so he took the boy upstairs and showed him his room, telling him that he could take a nap and they would unload his luggage later.

Toby's eyes had hardly closed when he was sound asleep. It was the most restful sleep he could ever remember and there were no hateful half-brothers to torment him.

Joe came back downstairs, thoroughly discouraged and not knowing what to do for his son. Mrs. Collins brought him a cup of tea and she sat down across the table from him. She thought for a few moments and then said, "Captain, you need to get that boy some decent clothes first. He can't ever be a man when he is dressed in a child's clothes!""

She held up a small suitcase that had been left in the front foyer, "Look at these rags, that boy can't wear this, it would be indecent! After he wakes up, you and I need to go to Myerson's and outfit Toby in clothes he can wear and not be ashamed."

Joe sat there seething, wondering if his own demons were coming home to roost. Joe brought in the remainder of Toby's luggage and Mrs. Collins went through it, salvaging the few articles of clothing that were decent. The rest landed in the "rag bag".

She took the clothing that Toby could wear and placed them in the Kenmore, everything smelled of filth and sweat. The rest, she put in the cleaning locker to be used as rags. She had to run Toby's clothes through the Kenmore twice before she was satisfied.

She was hanging out Toby's clothes that she had washed out, on the clothesline and Joe was on the telephone with his freight agent, lining up a cargo for the next week. He turned around to see Toby peering down the stairs, with a frightened look on his face.

Toby said in a voice near to tears, "Is it permitted for me to come downstairs, Papa?"

Joe nearly choked on his pipe, further endangering the brand new pipe stem and went to the boy, "Of course you can come downstairs, this is your home, not some sort of jail. You are my son, everything here also belongs to you."

Toby jumped down the stairs and ran to hug Joe, tears were flooding down the boy's face as he said, "Oh, Papa, you don't know what it was like. I had to ask permission to do anything and I wasn't allowed to play or be around my half brothers and sister. They said I would do things to them!"

Joe carried the boy into the parlor and they sat down in the chair. Joe was holding the frightened boy on his lap. Joe asked, "Why in the world did they say something like that?"

Toby started crying even harder and buried his face in Joe's chest, "'cause I , Iiii, I like other boys."

Joe again again bit the stem of his pipe off for the second time! He hugged Toby and replied, "So what? Did you ever do anything to them?"

Toby got a shocked look on his face and said, "Never Papa, that would be wrong!"

Joe knew that it was the wrong time to mention his own problems, so he said, "Don't you worry about what has happened in the past, you are a new person in a new country and Mrs. Collins and I are going to see to it that you fit in just fine here."

When Mrs. Collins was ready, they all went out and got in the car for the drive to Myerson's Mercantile. (a large department store found throughout Australia)

Toby was amazed when his Papa and Mrs. Collins started piling up clothing for him to try on. He never had more than two pair of undershorts in his life, nor had he ever had a pair of trousers that were brand new and never worn before by anybody else, let alone fit properly!

A young Clerk Assistant hovered by, taking the clothing that Captain Turner and Mrs. Collins handed him. By the time they got to the shoe department, Toby's head was swimming, Joe set out hiking boots, dress shoes, play shoes and some running trainers for him to try on.

He tried to protest, "But, Papa, I don't need all these shoes….."

Joe cut him off, "Maybe you don't need them right now, but you are going to have them if and when you DO need them!"

Joe even had him fitted for a suit, complete with fancy dress shirts and ties. Joe then had him fitted with fancy dress oxfords to go with this new suit.

Joe made arrangements for all the clothing to be delivered to Number 223 Dorcas Road in Paddington and they proceeded to walk from the Mercantile. Joe noticed Toby looking longingly at a racing bicycle. He went over to Toby and asked, "You know how to ride one of these?"

Toby replied, "Oh. Yes Papa, my, eer eer ah friend Carl used to let me ride his.

Joe understood immediately and he waved the clerk over, asking if they had a bike like this one is stock.

The clerk replied, "Yes, sir, but they are kind of expensive."

Joe said, "Measure my son's legs for height and I want a bicycle delivered to my home at Number 223 Dorcas Road in Paddington by tomorrow morning.

The young clerk looked at Joe and replied, "Aye, Aye, Captain, sir!" With a wide grin on his face as he saluted the Captain and in a short time that boy, "Gerald Gringsberry, would be a steward on a Turner ship earning more than three times what he was making at the department store!

They returned home and Mrs. Collins started preparing supper. Soon delicious smells began to float in from the kitchen. She was fixing roasted lamb, baked potatoes, peas and duff, with her own special fresh pineapple cake for dessert.

Joe sat down with Toby and they discussed how Toby's life was going to be living with his Father. There would be no more second class citizen life for Toby and, other than keeping his room picked up, there would be no servitude work picking up after others. He didn't have to remove the dirty dishes from the table, nor was he to eat his meal after everyone else had eaten! He did not need permission to do anything, only to let him or Mrs. Collins know if he was going to leave the house. He could have a hot water bath or shower every day and more often if he felt he needed it, and he was to use a CLEAN towel each time he bathed.

Joe was not sure that Toby truly understood and he watched as Toby was looking around for the separate table where he was supposed to eat his supper. Joe suspected what he was looking for but he said nothing when Mrs. Collins called them for supper.

Toby stood at the door, not knowing where he was supposed to go. Joe took him by the hand and gently led him to the table, pointing to the chair at his left.

His eyes grew large as Joe carved the lamb and began placing slices of meat on Toby's plate first. Mrs. Collins then loaded up his plate with a huge baked potato, fresh peas and a large duff, soaked in meat juice and gravy.

He looked down, shyly and whispered to Joe, "Papa, I have never eaten at the big people's table before."

Joe smiled, hiding his clenched teeth and replied, "Well then, eat up. This is YOUR table as well as mine!" Joe was grinding his teeth in anger and his temper was turning his stomach sour.

It was at that exact moment that Toby realized his old life was done with and that he was a Young Man in his Papa's house! He relaxed and ate the most wonderful meal he could ever remember, never realizing that his Papa was seething in anger.

He asked questions of his Papa, his Papa's ship and he especially wanted to know about the other boy, Gyles McPherson. He was amazed that Gyles was the son of a real English Knight and Earl. Joe promised to invite Gyles over the next day.

That night, a Young Man went to bed, his head whirling with all that he had experienced that day. He had left a life of an unwanted boy child in America and had arrived as a loved son and a Young Man in Australia.

As he drifted off to sleep, he had a mixed vision of kangaroos, bicycles, fancy clothes and a knight in shining armor. That knight wore Gerald's face!

When Joe came upstairs to go to bed, he peeked into his son's room and saw Toby fast asleep with a huge smile on his face. For the first time in a very long time, Joe, at last, felt at peace with himself. He would learn from his son to walk erect and hold his head high, showing no shame to anyone.

Mrs. Collins went to bed in her apartment downstairs, contented that she had done something good that day and had helped a young man come to terms with his life! She suspected that she had also helped the boy's father along the way.


Joe went back to the ship the next morning, leaving Mrs. Collins to ride herd on Toby.

The Shipping Agent had filled the remainder of the cargo hold with machinery for the pulp mill in New Zealand. They planned on sailing as soon as total load had been delivered dockside.

Joe wondered how Toby would take his absence when they left three days hence.

Joe spent the morning signing all the bills against the ship and making arrangements for fuel to be delivered the next day. James had food delivered that afternoon and the Chief Engineer had ordered three hundred gallons of lube oil for the main engine. Everything should be there the next day and they would spend the day putting it all away, so they could sail the day after that.

Joe was debating taking Toby with them, school would be out for summer holiday very soon and they would be back well before school began in June. He asked his crew and they had no problem with it, so, he decided to think upon it.

He got everything done that needed his attention shortly after noontime, so he decided to return to Paddington and get to know his son better. As he drove into the car park, he spotted Toby out riding his new bicycle. Toby waved at him and sped over to give his Papa a hug.

About that time, Joe spotted Gyles coming hell bent for election around the corner of the house on a bicycle only slightly different than Toby's.

Toby said, "I eeere ah asked Gyles to come over, they only live a little way from here. Mrs. Collins said it was ok."

Joe replied, "Sure, that's fine. Gyles is always welcome here."

Toby looked relieved and Gyles said, "Come on Tobe, I'll race you to the roundabout!" The two boys took off, both pumping their bicycles furiously as they raced down the road.

Mrs. Collins came out on the porch and remarked, "Captain, those two are like two peas in a pod, they could easily be brothers!"

Joe thought to himself, "This is what I have missed all these years!" He straitened his shoulders and stood tall as he saw his son and his new friend head for the house.

The boys returned and conned some iced lemonade out of Mrs. Collins and flopped themselves down on the floor of the porch, talking and giggling to each other. Gyles was only slightly older than Toby, but they were nearly identical in size. Joes saw that Toby needed to put on some weight, it was obvious he had not been eating well for a long time.

Joe stood at the window and could see the happy smile on his son's face and it warmed him through and through. It was the first family happiness he had experienced in the many years since his own childhood.

He told Mrs. Collins that he had to sail in two days and sounded her out about his idea to take Toby with him, since school was out for the summer.

She said, "You better ask that Gyles too, those boys are about glued at the hip!"

Joe thought that was a pretty good idea and he telephoned Sir Edward about the idea and he thought it was great. He said, "Let me fly it by Gyle's Mother, but I don't think she will object. Have Gyles call me to ask permission."

As soon as the boys returned, Joe asked Toby and Gyles if they wanted to go with him on the Camel to Port Lyttleton and back. Joe could see the boys had already formed a bond of friendship and both were excited about the voyage.

Joe pointed to the telephone and told Gyles he had to ask his Father's permission.

Sir Edward knew the ways of teens and he had already spoken with his wife about the matter and she had agreed. They both knew that Gyles liked boys in a special way and they had already noted his special attachment to Toby.

When Gyle's Father told him he could go, both boys went off like a Buck Roger's Rocket Ship! Nothing would do but both boys just HAD to go to Gyles' house to pack! RIGHT NOW!

Joe waved them on, hardly containing his laughter until they were out of hearing. He then burst into laughter and he had to stagger to a chair to recover.

Mrs. Collins stuck her head in the parlor and said, "Another hungry boy for supper?"

Joe was laughing so hard, all he could do was nod his head!

Before Joe thought it possible, the two boys were back, each had a grip across their handlebars, containing Gyle's clothing and toiletries for the voyage.

Toby had never been on a cargo ship before, so he had to rely on Gyles to tell him what was going to be needed. Gyles had traveled with his Father on the Camel to Port Lyttleton and pretty much knew what to expect.

The boys went upstairs and proceeded to collect clothing and toiletries for Toby. By suppertime, they had everything collected and stacked beside the front door.

After supper, they all listened to the Magnavox for a while and then hit their beds, tomorrow would be a busy day. The boys were asleep before their heads hit their pillows, they had played hard all day.

Joe's alarm went off at 5:30 am and he jumped up to shave and shower before the boys drained the hot water boiler. He was going to have to ask the Chief if he could "soup" the damned thing up. With a teenaged boy in the house, OR TWO, it was either that or to purchase another one to go side by side! It was already the largest heater Myerson's sold.

Mrs. Collins had set out a covered dish of pastries and the makings for tea. Joe knew there would be goodies on the Camel, there was no way Cookie would let boys starve, the rest of them maybe, but not the boys! He was learning quickly about the rearranged pecking order on his ship.

It was 7:30 when they got to the ship, Joe had to put the Humber in their warehouse and locked the door before they boarded the Camel. He showed the boys to the guest stateroom and he went about the business of getting underway.

Slack tide was at 8:45 and at 8:44, Joe pulled on the ship's horn, giving notice he was getting underway, astern. He backed out, into the central harbor and gave the helmsman the order for Ahead, Slow as they slowly swung around, the ship pointed to the open sea. This event was announced by yet another use of the Ships huge air horn. For a small ship, The Camel had a very loud voice.

He set course to the southwest, headed to clear Stewart Island before heading north to Port Lyttelton on east coast of South Island in New Zealand.

It was a short voyage, but they had additional deck cargo that had to be delivered to Noumea on New Caledonia Island, further to the north. They would be stalled at Noumea for a few days as there was only very primitive cargo handling facilities there.

Against his better judgment, he allowed himself to be talked into carrying a return cargo of copra for delivery back at Sydney. At least the copra would be stored on deck and would not foul the hold.

They were to take on a whole hold of lap pulp for the paper mill in Sydney. It was calm sailing until they reached Stewart Island, then they picked up the remnants of a typhoon and they bounced and tossed all the way into Port Lyttelton.

Fortunately, neither boy got seasick, in fact they both thought it great fun. Joe grumbled and growled, as his own stomach was threatening violent explosion. He tried every sailor's trick he knew to keep his breakfast where it belonged and he was successful, just barely.

They offloaded the machinery at Port Lyttelton and filled the hold with bales of the lap pulp before departing for Noumea.

It was a five day journey north to New Caledonia and Joe decided to try the boys out as helmsmen during the daylight hours. Greg Stewart, one of their senior AB's (Able Bodied Seaman) watched over the boys as they each took two hour stints steering the Camel and Greg said both boys did very well. Joe's buttons were in danger yet again.

The offloading of the cargo for Noumea went as slowly as Joe had feared and the huge bins of dried copra had to be manhandled on deck before they could be lashed down. At least they were not being stowed in the hold, he reminded himself.

As they headed back out to sea, the copra smelled as bad as they had remembered it and the boys made it a point to stay up on the bridge as much as they could. They were above the stink and the motion of the ship blew the smell aft and away from the bridge. In doing so, by the time the coast outside Sydney came over the horizon, both boys had become pretty damned good helmsmen.


The story will continue, it is May of 1934 and war clouds are on the horizon. Joe stumbles across a remarkable opportunity to purchase a sister ship to the Camel and Turner Marine Services is begun.

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