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Treasure Hunt: Chapter 1

"He’s so old he can barely put on his own socks, let alone decipher old maps”


large black ship sailed on the ocean. At the helm of the ship stood a tall man with a patch over one eye and a wooden peg in place of his left leg. He wore a long cape that barely concealed the pistol tucked into his sash and the saber dangling next to his leg.

A heavyset man with a brutish face and wide shoulders appeared at the captain’s side.

“Captain, I have bad news….”

“What is it, John?”

“The passage between the Straits of Majerto seems not to lead where we wanted to go.”


The captain slammed his fist onto the railing of the ship.

“How could this be? Another mistake? Another two weeks of wasted time?”

“Don’t worry Captain, we will find the island eventually.”

“Oh, I have no doubt about that. My dream will be fulfilled one day, one way or the other. I only fear that by the time we finish our long voyage there won’t be too many men still standing by my side. Our food supply is depleted and so is our money. We can’t afford to be making all of these navigational errors!”

“I agree…. If I may be so bold as to speak my mind…?”

“Go ahead.”

“Thank you. I believe that most of the time we’ve spent spinning in circles across the ocean is due to the blunders of the man you’ve hired to be the ship’s chronicler and mapper.”

“You think Kotty is at fault?”

“I have no doubt. He’s so old he can barely put on his own socks, let alone decipher old maps.”

The captain sighed.

“Summon him to me immediately.”


John, the captain’s right-hand man, turned to summon Kotty, when suddenly something appeared on the horizon.

“Captain, there’s a ship heading straight toward us!”

“Aye, I see it. Sound the alarm and gather the sailors with their weapons. Load the cannons and prepare for battle. If anyone means to test our firepower, let them have it.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”

Moments later the sound of a horn blasted through the air. Close to 50 sailors armed with swords and pistols assembled on the deck. As the oncoming ship drifted closer it became obvious that there was no threat.

“It’s a ghost ship, boys. Put your weapons down.”

The captain peered through his telescope with his one good eye.

“There doesn’t seem to be anyone on board. I see several cannon holes punched into her hull. She’s taking in water and beginning to tilt. I reckon she’ll capsize before the day is over.”

John sheathed the ax he kept slung across his back.

“Should we just steer around her, then?”

“No, prepare to board.”


“You heard me. There may be treasures aboard. And if you find any living souls, bring them to me unharmed. Now gather a few light-footed sailors and go!”


When the two ships were directly passing by each other, John launched a heavy rope attached to an anchor onto the deck of the other boat.

“Follow me!”

The men used the rope to cross the gap over the thrashing waves below.

“Pull your swords out, boys, and stay close. I’m not convinced there’s no one still breathing on this ship. If you see someone, kill him. We don’t need another mouth to feed on our boat. There’s already no food for us. Just look for treasure and move quickly.”

The men searched the boat from top to bottom, jumping with fear every time it tilted to its side. Water sloshed around their knees as they cracked open chests and broke through doors, yet discovered nothing of value.

“I’ve caught a live one, John!”

A sailor dragged forth a small, olive-skinned boy who had peyos hanging in front of his ears.

“Well, well, well…. You’re the only survivor?”

“Yes, please don’t kill me!”

“I don’t really have a choice, boy. We can’t afford to share our limited food supply with a worthless weasel like yourself. Besides, I see those sidelocks… I never cared much for Jews.”

“John, the captain said he wanted us to bring any survivors back to him.”

“Oh, please. The captain’s heart is too soft for his own good. Do you know the only reason we’re short on our supplies is because he allowed sailors who were sick and going to die anyway to be given food and drink until their last breath? Bah! What a foolish decision! And now we’re all suffering for his so-called good heart. Enough talking, kill the boy and be done with it.”

“You’re prepared to ignore the captain’s explicit orders? What’s next, a full-blown mutiny?”

“Maybe…” John’s eyes glittered dangerously. “We’ve followed him faithfully for too long, searching for a magic island we’re not even sure actually exists! Unless we begin to see some success from our voyage very soon, I may just decide to lead a revolt and commandeer the ship myself.”

“So be it, but I don’t feel comfortable killing the child. Let the others do it, if they want.”

The other sailors all shook their heads.

“I’ll do it myself, then. Besides, I don’t have a choice now, seeing as the boy has just heard my plans against the captain.”

“Please let go of me! Stop!”

“Come here, boy! I’ll make it quick!”

“What is going on here?”


“I see you found a survivor. Why is your sword out?”

“I, uh, was just interrogating the boy to find out if there are any treasures on this ship.”


“Nothing here. Just the boy…”

“Very well, let’s go before this ship capsizes with us in it.”

“Captain… what about the boy?”

“I thought I already told you what to do with survivors, John. Are you becoming hard of hearing?”

“No, Captain.”

“Good. Bring the boy.”


Once safely aboard the captain’s ship, the boy was brought into the captain’s cabin.

“What’s your name, child?”

“Tuvia. It’s a uh, J-Jewish n-”

“I know where the name comes from.”

“Oh, s-sorry, I just a-assume-”

“Don’t assume anything while aboard my ship. Not all the men with me are as kind as I am. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them hate me now for keeping you alive. You’re another mouth to feed and we’ve had a very, very difficult voyage. So best be suspicious of everyone and trust no one.”

“I-I want to go home….”

“This is home, boy. You’re stuck with us now.”

“Where are you headed?”

A strange look crossed over the captain’s face.

“Best be headed off to your cabin, boy. Rest up. We have a long journey ahead of us….”

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 797)

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Tagged: Treasure Hunt