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And, irony, above all Nature’s faculties, was the feathery quill which had signed that smile across his sheepskinned face, lurking, with its perfect quality of surprise, often proving more verb than noun in his cat-like many lives’ maneuvers. What else might have inspired such an aviary angel, let alone cause its messenger to appear just there, precisely then. That same force which had so moved a parrot had fashioned a friendly Florida ‘cracker’, equally hungered for by both avian and human. Squatter Judah’s thrown pebble dislodged the squawking bird-brained savior, and both now flew to that reward they both craved.
This particular salvation-in-waiting had come to be of so vital geographic assistance to the future (now former) U.S. Senator by dint of Congress’ enactment in 1842 of the Armed Occupation Act, enticing one William Whitaker to settle what is now Sarasota. Such a bill of fare’s repast (4) possessed a strange aftertaste, as Mr. Whitaker was known to be sympathetic to runaway slaves; largely owing to the memory of those same pursuing Union troopers’ malicious disruption of goods and supplies reaching even neutral frontiersmen like Whitaker, Benjamin found himself, after a sojourn of tremulous cain
-raising nights, at the homestead of another of that law’s beneficiaries, one Major Gamble (a.k.a.,‘I am Judah’s constant reminder of fateful irony’), embarking upon a scrounged humble yawl from Whitaker Bayou for British Bimini, and Britain, that other Eden awaiting this able son of Adam’s abler
Federal agents, now frothing these waters, soon intercepted the vessel, poised to extract several pounds of flesh from the plump fugitive, the debt owed a scofflawed nation adjudged by the mercilous, Lincoln-avenging Stanton. Enter, now, Judah’s Old Testament deity, stage director, crafter of things benighted (as well as those lighted), actual deus ex machina of the five acts of Judah Ben-Harried. At his (holy) host’s direction, Benjamin became a lesser Shylock, in skullcap, apron, and soot-smeared face, the Jewish cook of an already motley crew, and, voila, the quality of mercy, alas, was not strained
Now ashore in the Florida Keys, our ‘chosen’ thespian wasted no time obtaining a small craft and guides for the crossing of the Florida Straits. In keeping with its occasional wrathfulness, his hovering deity deigned that its chosen tribesman endure rough seas, in the form of a sudden waterspout storming their dinghy, this natural agent less dissuadable than the bluecoats. Swept in the direction of those Keys’ sandy shores, now was Judah.........‘Sitting on a bank, weeping again my fathomless wrecks, this music crept by me upon the waters, allaying both their fury and my passion with its fair sweet air.’
Such music as there may have been was fast-faded, as his next ship, laden with a cargo full of sponges, embarked for the Caribbean, only to have its thirsty little passengers expand with moisture, bursting the very hold which belied its name, landing our more tragic than heroic lesser Odysseus in a lifeboat, overfilled with seawater and recurring irony’s own night-hued Negroes, with, at leat, one oar----very near Bathos’s infamous‘Upthe Creek’.
One final trial awaited our, now, less courtly lawyer, by fire. His final aquatic carriage went ablaze and made for emergency docking at St. Thomas, British Virgin Islands (a re-berthing
, as 1811 had first birthed him thereabouts); still smoldering, the ship, nonetheless, sailed for England. She might have been named The Southern Cross
, as his grip upon her railings, after all his fitful embarkations, was as if nailed to her. (7)
He nightly hung about the deck, his eyes fixed across that ocean named for another, albeit mythic lost continent; contemplation of his own forlorn landscape was his reverie. Holding in his hand a few memento CSA two dollar bills, valueless to him (save for their fair likeness of that hand’s owner) or anyone, he enlisted the salty wind as his newest elemental ally, fire having done the yeoman’s work with his other sundry papers. The proverbial language of the synagogue echoed: ‘For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more’. ‘Omain’
, he added, his Hebrew percolating. ‘And, yet, there is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune’
. (8a) Prompted further by night personified: ‘I have done the state some service....when you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am...speak of one who loved not wisely, but too well.’
Lost Shakespearean PlayER, ‘Sir kNight, Benjamin of Judah‘, Found continues...