The Stranger on the Rocks Chapter 5 Extract
Although the view was the same, there seemed to be a different atmosphere hanging over the cove. The sky wasn’t the brilliant blue it had been when King Neptune appeared; it had a darker reddish glow, which felt a bit threatening. The waves were churning roughly in the distance before crashing onto the shore.
‘It looks like there’s a storm in the air,’ said Joe, who was used to going to sea in all weathers. ‘We’d better hurry up and try out the kite before we get caught in it.’
So they unfurled the kite and took turns at trying to hoist it into the air. Eventually Rose managed to hurl it up and it circled around their heads like a seagull. ‘Hooray!’ cried Mabel and Freddie. But all of a sudden a sudden deep boom drowned their cheers out. It sounded like an explosion or a firework and was shortly followed by another ‘boom’, which caused everyone to turn towards the left hand side of the cove.
In the far distance, emerging from behind the rock face, the bow of a ship appeared. It had three tall masts and a very curved prow decorated with elaborate carvings. Small clouds of bluish smoke drifted around it as it glided slowly across the sea.
‘Look at that!’ Joe cried, ’what a fine craft, it don’t look like a fishing boat to me.’ He peered at the ship and added, ‘I think I can see a gun deck with cannons. Perhaps it’s a warship. I think they’re called galleons?’ As they watched, several more grand galleons appeared behind the first, travelling in a convoy towards the other side of the cove. As the leading ship got closer to the shore the children could make out a foreign flag flying from the tallest mast.
‘That’s a Spanish flag,’ said Rose, ‘what could they be doing here?’ Her question was answered with a deafening blast as cannon fire exploded in a row along the side of the ships, followed by clouds of smoke. The children screamed as one of the cannon balls landed in the sea near enough for them to see it splash below the waves. They ran and took cover behind some of the giant rocks. From here they could continue to watch as the ships attacked. As Joe had predicted, the weather had turned stormy and the waves were lashing against the sides of the ships. Everything was clouded in black gunpowder smoke.
‘I don’t understand. Whom are they attacking?’ asked George. Just then, at the other side of the cove, another group of ships of a slightly plainer design glided silently towards the galleons and opened fire. The children cheered as they noticed that the tattered flag at the top of one of the galleons was the Union Jack. As the storm got worse and worse, with howling winds, thunder and torrential rain, some of the Spanish galleons began to turn back, only to be smashed against the rocks or to sink in flames after being set alight by the English ships. On the shore the children heard a terrible crack as one of the masts was hit by a cannon ball and splintered to pieces. Eventually nothing was left except a few planks of wood bobbing on the waves and a cloud of thick black smoke. Or so it seemed.
When they were certain it was safe to come out from their hiding places, the children stood up and looked towards the shore. The storm was beginning to blow itself out and the sun had set, changing the sand to a shadowy grey. Everything seemed calm; but lying on the sand was a dark and shadowy shape. The shape of a man!
He was lying motionless on his front, his face pressed into the sand. ‘Oh my goodness,’ whispered Rose, careful not to be heard by the stranger on the shore ‘look at that poor man –do you think he’s dead?’ George shivered slightly (only a chill from the rain he told himself) and replied, ‘well there’s only one way to find out! Who’s coming with me?’