The Code of Aquinas

The Code of Aquinas

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The Code of Aquinas

by George J.  Galloway

Chapter 1: Blood Brothers

 

Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland

Christmas Eve, 1813

“Tough” Gilly Morrison shed a tear. From a distance he watched his best friend Michael Dooley, Jr. ship out on the proudest privateer ever to leave Baltimore. Gilly wanted to be on that ship more than anything in the world. She was the Baltimore clipper The Chasseur, captained by the luckiest and most audacious seaman in the War of 1812 – Tom Boyle. Dooley was fortunate to get a berth assigned as a powder monkey, running gunpowder from the magazine below and amidships to the cannon on deck.

On any ship, gunpowder was treated with extreme caution. The safest place on board for gunpowder was below decks towards the center, away from any incendiary objects and enemy fire. It took agile young boys to quickly replenish the cartridges of the gun crews by running down the ladders to the magazine and back up again. In battle, this was a highly dangerous job because the powder monkeys were expected to deliver their precious packages without incident while being exposed to enemy sharpshooters firing from their masts.

If the privateer’s cruise was successful, young Dooley would earn a small fortune. Every sailor on board was entitled to a share of the prize money in capturing British merchant ships and the cargo they carried in their holds.

But Gilly knew his friend didn’t sail on The Chasseur in search of prize money. Dooley’s father was impressed by the British months earlier and forced to enter into their navy. Impressment was a scourge to every seafaring American town. Because of their continuing war with France, England relied on their naval superiority for its very survival. The availability of men to work these ships was becoming scarce. American seamen were increasingly compelled to serve in the British navy to fill the gap. Impressing a sailor was like pronouncing a prison sentence. This meant Mike Dooley, Sr., might never again see his son or the beautiful Baltimore harbor he had come to love since leaving his home in Ireland many years before.

Michael wanted to make the English pay for his father’s impressment and, in an innocent, adolescent way, help to end the war sooner so his father could come home to him. Gilly understood this more than anyone. Still, it left a hole in Gilly’s gut just the same.

Gilly was supposed to be “tough” or resilient enough to withstand just about anything. He was an orphan abandoned shortly after birth and left in a basket on the steps of St. Patrick’s Church on Market Street, in Fells Point, swaddled in a blanket. A note was attached that read: “Please baptize and raise my baby because I cannot. God forgive me. His name is Gilly Morrison. His father was lost at sea and I have no means to provide for him. He will always be in my prayers.” The note was signed “Mother.”

What made Gilly so “tough,” however, was more than the fact that he was an orphan. He was crippled since infancy. When he was old enough, Doctor Williams explained to him that he had suffered a broken femur in his left leg before he was abandoned on the steps of the church. The leg had never healed and this left him growing up with a severe limp and considerable pain. Gilly bore this handicap with a smile, hence his nickname. This was also why he couldn’t join Michael on the privateer. Walking on land was difficult enough; trying to traverse a ship’s deck, even in calm water, would be altogether too painful, and possibly a liability for other members of the crew. Gilly never used a crutch or cane; he simply accepted the pain as a fact of life. Watching Michael Dooley about to sail away was a different kind of pain entirely.

At five-foot-eleven Gilly was tall for his thirteenth year. He had a lithe body, weighing no more than one hundred and twenty pounds. His soft, blue eyes-the color of a cloudless sea-sky-offset perfectly his curly, rust-colored hair, and his pearly-white teeth which burst out when he smiled, as he often did.

He was raised by Father John Francis Moranvillѐ, the French Sulpician cleric, who was the pastor of St. Patrick’s Church and the director of St. Patrick’s Free School and Orphanage. Father John was assisted by the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society, a group of compassionate women who raised funds to support the church, school and orphanage. Despite his left leg, Gilly grew into a fine, strong young boy thanks to loving, instructive care.

The Chasseur was about to weigh anchor. Wives, children, parents, sweethearts, and friends of the ship’s seamen waved and wept goodbye. Unexpectedly, an elegantly covered chaise, pulled by a white pony, clip-clopped onto the quay. Gilly groaned in disbelief. It was Desiree, the daughter of William Pechin, the aristocratic editor and owner of the Baltimore American and Daily Advertiser. Known to readers on the Point as The American, it was the most influential newspaper in all of Baltimore and a consummate supporter of the republican administration of President James Madison.

Leaning on the door outside the Dooley family cooperage, Gilly heaved a long sigh of dismay. “Leave him alone you rich brat … Michael, why did you have to fall for this pampered princess?”

Desiree descended her carriage and waved at Michael Dooley. Michael quickly looked at Captain Boyle anticipating his approval to leave the ship. Boyle nodded, reluctantly. Every other member of his crew had already said their goodbyes. Michael scampered over the side to Desiree’s carriage. She presented him with a perfumed, silk hankie, and curtsied. Michael removed the blue bandana he had tied around his neck, gave it to Desiree and bowed. This nauseated Gilly because he knew the rich young beauty was using Michael for her own amusement and he couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Thank God you’re shipping out, Michael,” Gilly whispered to himself. “Thank God.”

Michael had met Desiree working as a newspaper boy for The American, selling papers for the past year. Desiree possessed all the attributes of Venus. Her deep, chestnut-colored eyes were complimented by her light, auburn hair, which she wore loosely, in ringlets around her shoulders. She was blessed with rosy cheeks and permanent dimples that became even more evident when she smiled. She always wore dresses that were cut low displaying a swan-like neck, and pert breasts. Her waist was so small she didn’t require a girdle. Standing erect she was a statuesque five-foot-seven, taller than most of the boys she knew.

Of course, Michael Dooley fell in love with Desiree. Boys his age have a tendency to be entrapped in the web of manipulative young girls, especially when the boys believe the attraction to be mutual. A smile from a pretty girl, a pat on the hand, perhaps a well-timed sigh and a flutter of eyelashes may just be routine social skills for a blossoming debutant; to boys like Michael, however, it was concrete evidence of undying affection. Hence, he was at her beck and call and almost begged to be toyed with.

But, when war was declared and after Michael’s father was impressed into the British Navy, his priorities changed. Michael’s mother had died of “The Fever” that had swept Fells Point the summer before. After his father’s impressment he was all alone in the Dooley’s fine red brick house on Thames Street. His feelings for Desiree had not changed drastically; they were just knocked down a peg or two.

Michael felt the need to contribute, in some way to the war effort. His chance came with the opportunity to serve aboard Boyle’s privateer. Desiree didn’t like that. She was used to having her way when it came to suitors, not that she needed more of them. Yet, she acted like the brave girl on the docks bidding adieu to her hero as he sailed away risking life and limb for the cause he ardently believed in. This was the reason for Gilly’s nausea. Desiree had duped his best friend with guile intentions and now had him in the palm of her hand.

“Go away, Michael, and Godspeed to you. Go away and forget the likes of Desiree Pechin forever.”

*****

As The Chasseur got underway, Gilly remembered how Michael became his best friend. It was the year before war was declared, right after Michael’s mother died. They knew each other since they both attended St. Patrick’s Free School. But there was an invisible wall between them. Gilly was an orphan. Michael was the only son of the most successful tradesman in Fells Point and the owner of the Dooley Family Cooperage. Gilly knew he was nearing the age where he would be contracted out as an indentured servant for a period of years to one of the trades in the city.

This was the lot of both boys and girls at the orphanage, who had no money or family to support them. Father Moranvillѐ instructed the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society to arrange for civil and compassionate indenture. He would have the final say before any contract was signed. The contract would always insist on apprenticeship, so that the child would learn a trade and be able to make a living after the contract had expired. For a boy, this would include a roadmap into becoming a journeyman and later, a master of his craft. For a girl, servitude could never extend beyond the age of eighteen, when the servant, the family she served, and the Benevolent Society would discuss options such as marriage, religious vocation, and business opportunities.

Religious freedom was a must, and so was time for continued schooling. In many instances Moranvillѐ refused placing his orphans in servitude at all, instead negotiating a daily wage until the orphan was capable of making their own decision as to what they wanted to do for the rest of their life. If circumstances permitted, there were other possibilities besides indenture: moving out West, where land was plentiful and where skills in the arts of agriculture, horticulture, and husbandry were desperately needed; service in the American Army or Navy; or the vast opportunities to make one’s living from, or on the sea. There was one, big difference between orphans at St. Patrick’s and elsewhere: education. Students at the school-both boys and girls-were instructed in English, penmanship, mathematics, Latin, poetry and prose, navigation, and religion.

If not under contract, the orphans were sent out to families and businesses throughout the city in the afternoon before they were required back for dinner and independent study. In short, their minds were expanded, their skills developed, and their prospects greatly enhanced; all within the context of a religious discipline that would guide their lives.

Yet, there was always the wall between servant and master. So the children at the Free School, innately, avoided close association with “their betters.” Gilly could easily become an apprentice at the Dooley Cooperage. That would mean he would be working for Michael. Nobody talked openly about it – it was just there – like a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

That line was inadvertently crossed one day at St. Patrick’s Church. Both Gilly and Michael were serving as altar boys at Father John’s Sunday Mass. Gilly noticed Michael was having a problem with the mechanics of the Mass and stumbled in his Latin responses. Gilly also saw that there were tears in Michael’s eyes. One of the orphans who worked as a servant girl at the Dooley’s home on a per diem, Jessica Farmer, a favorite of Gilly’s, had let everyone know that Mrs. Dooley had died of “The Fever” the day before. Why Michael was serving the Mass today, Gilly couldn’t fathom. He should be with his family in mourning.

The funeral Mass was well attended. Artisans, craftsman, seamen, ship owners and captains crowded St. Patrick’s to pay their respects. Teresa Dooley was well liked on the Point and would be deeply missed, especially by Jessica Farmer who saw Teresa as a role model.

 During the funeral Mass, Gilly glanced at the front pew and found Michael’s forlorn face. How must it feel to lose your mother? Gilly, of course, had no memories of his own mother. He wished he had and he often wondered about her: about what she looked like, what she did, whether he had a brother or sister or a father, any kinfolk at all. It seemed strange coming from nowhere.

He had always planned on having a big family with lots of kids he could take fishing or on a family picnic. Growing up at the orphanage wasn’t bad; he knew that, especially at St. Patrick’s where there was indeed love and protection. Yet he couldn’t help but picture a stable home with parents and siblings; what they would do together and what they would share. In his daydreams, his imagination would soar and he would think about holidays, especially Christmas, with everyone gathered around the table – a hot turkey basting on a spit, pastries cooling in the pie safe, maybe even a decorated tree with presents underneath. But then he would wake and shake off these desires. Orphans shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves. They were surrounded by other orphans who had the same dreams, the same desires, and the same experiences. Yet they didn’t talk about them. Their lives were a patched quilt of quiet disappointments. To survive, one had to rise above self-pity.

Gilly rang the bell at the consecration of the Mass. All eyes contemplated Jesus in the host that Father Moranvillѐ raised over his head. Jesus had a mother, Gilly thought. In the Good Book, it’s said He gave her to everyone as their mother, too. This gave him immense comfort, and brought a smile to Gilly’s lips.

A few days later, Gilly penned a poem for the school newspaper. Mr. Pechin gave his permission for the school paper to be printed at the offices of The American. Gilly, the best writer at the Free School, was also the school paper’s editor and wrote:

Love is a gift.

Freely given, joyfully accepted,

freely given, oft spurned;

freely given just the same.

It is an anchor, a tether, deeply rooted.

Oblivious to tide, distance, tempest.

Freely given, it simply is and always is.

Death?

What death?

At St. Patrick’s, Michael approached Gilly.  Michael was holding the school newspaper; his hands were shaking and his eyes moist. “Gilly, this is wonderful. It reminds me so much of my mother. Thank you for writing it.”

“Thanks Mike. I wrote it after your ma’s funeral.”

 “Michael, if you don’t mind, Gilly. That’s how they can tell us apart – me and my pa I mean. Everyone calls me Michael and everyone calls my pa, Mike.”

Gilly smiled, stretching his tanned cheeks, and revealing a dazzling set of white teeth. A line was being crossed but neither Gilly nor Michael was conscious of it.

“All right then, Michael it is, if that’s what you want. Listen, I was just about to make my way to the wharf to see the regatta. It should be a fine competition. Would you like to join me?”

Michael hesitated, remembering he had to check on the family business about incoming orders. “Sure Gilly, I’d love to. Do you mind if we stop at the cooperage first? I’ve got some work to do with my pa.”

Gilly and Michael walked down Market Street to the wharf on Fells Point. Michael took note of Gilly’s limp and shortened his stride a bit. At the family business, Michael introduced Gilly to his father, Mike Dooley, Sr.

“Ah, so it’s yourself is it,” Mike bellowed in a soft, Irish brogue. “My son tells me you’re a story teller and a fine poet, the best on the Point.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dooley. I do like to write now and again.”

“Keep it up then, boyo. This country needs more voices who can truly speak to a man’s heart and give comfort to his soul as God is my witness.”

Michael and his father reviewed the books of the cooperage as Gilly looked around at what might someday be his fate. There was nothing there to be afraid of. The business was alive with work and honest industry. He could, if need be, choose this living after all. He could sign a contract that would make him indentured for five or seven years or so. Suddenly, the fear of servitude left him. Only, there was something that troubled him – what about his writing? That, after all, was his love, his reason for being.

“Are you ready, Gilly? My pa and I are finished here. The race on the river is about to begin isn’t it?”

“In about fifteen minutes. I’ve got a penny on the red sail. She’s faster than anything on the water,” Gilly said, confidently.

“No bets for me, Gilly. I know near nothing when it comes to competitive sailing. But, I’ll cheer for your red sail anyway.”

Before leaving the cooperage, Gilly looked back on Mike Dooley working up a good sweat creating barrels and casks for the sea captains and their ships. He immediately developed a sense of kinship with him. Working with a teacher like him, Gilly thought, wouldn’t be bad after all.

The red sail won the regatta and Gilly was jubilant. Michael invited Gilly back to the Dooley’s red brick house on Thames Street for dinner. Jessica Farmer was there preparing the meal.

As Michael and Gilly entered the front door, Jessica, who had been reading from the Dooley family Bible, quickly put it back into the large cedar chest in the living room.

“Well hello, Michael. Do we have a guest for dinner tonight?”

“Yes, Jess, we do. You know Gilly Morrison, don’t you?”

Gilly smiled, sheepishly. Somehow, he knew, he had crossed over a line. “Good evening, Jessica. Can I help you with something in the kitchen?”

“No, everything is already done. I’ve made chicken and dumplings. Michael, will your father be joining us for dinner?”

“He was finishing up some work on the barrels when I left him a couple of hours ago. He should be here shortly, I think.”

At that moment Mike Dooley entered the door. He had a somber look on his otherwise cheery face. He took a seat in front of the fire in the small living room and lit his pipe, which wasn’t his custom. He would usually do this only after dinner. “Well, lad, let’s get to the point. I’m not one to be beatin’ around the bush. I’ve got sad news for you, Michael.”

Jessica listened from the kitchen door. Michael and Gilly took the two remaining seats in front of the fire. “What you saw at the cooperage today was the last of the orders for casks and barrels.” Michael had seen earlier this afternoon that no more orders were listed in the books, but he hoped it was a temporary lull in business.

“The war between the Brits and the French has ruined our sea trade. If we can’t ship our products to foreign ports then there is no need for barrels and no need for a cooper.”

Michael gazed, trustingly, at his father’s face, wondering what that would mean. “The British have us stopped up like a cork in a bottle,” Mr. Dooley continued. “If we can’t send our merchant ships abroad with the God-given resources of this country to freely trade with other nations then we, as an international seafaring community, are done for. Why, even when we do try, the British Navy stops our ships and impresses our sailors with impunity. I fear there is no other course for this country than war. Until then, to save our business and the home we live in, I must go to sea as a ship’s carpenter.”

Now, Michael knew why his father lit his pipe before dinner. Life would be different from here on in.

“The Mary Lynn ships out in two days. She’s a fine brig with a worthy captain and crew. She’ll sail close enough within our own borders to avoid bumpin’ into the English and French. Then, if all looks safe enough, we’ll sail down to the Caribbean and fetch some molasses. With the profit from this ship’s voyage we can keep the cooperage and our home. Michael, I know you’re busy with selling your papers and with school, but I have to ask you to do double duty. Check on the cooperage every day. Make sure we fill the few orders we are given. Our reputation depends on it. You know I can’t trust your Uncle Bob to do this.”

Michael’s Uncle Bob was a great salesman and fighter. He had sailed with the legendary Joshua Barney in the Revolutionary War. But he was also a drunk and certainly no businessman.

“Jessica, darlin’,” Mr. Dooley called into the kitchen.

“Yes, Mr. Dooley?”

“Are you willing to stay on here at the house while I’m gone? It’ll be a month or so.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll be here for as long as you need me. I owe your wife that much, anyway.”

“Good lass, you’re a good girl and will be sorely needed. Michael, my son, while I’m gone I may miss the opportunity to give you the code of our family, the treasured Code of Aquinas. I know you’re looking forward to it being revealed to you on your thirteenth birthday.”

Mr. Dooley rubbed his nose and eyes in extreme disappointment. After all, he was looking forward to it, too. “I know, my son, these are hard words for you to hear. You know I wouldn’t put this burden on your back if I could help it. I’ll ask Father Moranvillѐ to give you the words for me if I haven’t yet returned.”

The father saw the sadness flash upon his son’s face.

“When I come home we’ll talk about it, I promise you. As God is my judge, I make this vow.”

Mr. Dooley clapped his hands together to dismiss the melancholy that had filled the space between father and son. “Well, now, enough business and bad news. If my nose is any good at all, I’d say it was time for chicken and dumplings. Let’s eat.”

From that day forward, Gilly and Michael became fast friends. There were few secrets between them. When they had leisure time, which didn’t occur often, they spent it together fishing on the Patapsco, always talking about whatever was on their minds: girls, school, girls, fishing, girls, the upcoming school athletic competition, and girls.

After stopping in to see the pastor of St. Patrick’s Church and visiting Teresa’s grave, Mr. Dooley sailed on the Mary Lynn with the outgoing tide and little fanfare. There were only a few souls on the docks to say goodbye including Michael. With his mother dead and his father headed down the Patapsco towards the great Chesapeake, Michael felt completely alone. Is this how an orphan feels all the time, Michael wondered, thinking about Gilly?

A few days later, Gilly stopped by the cooperage to see how Michael was coming along. What he saw surprised him. Michael and his uncle Bob were busy filling new orders that came pouring in after rumors out of Washington reached Baltimore that war might soon be declared against Great Britain. War meant businessmen, ship owners, and investors in the shipping industry might soon see opportunities they’ve never dreamed of before. A war would necessitate the building of ships for immediate coastal trading, for privateers to capture and confiscate enemy merchant vessels, and for American naval defenses. All of these ships would need barrels for water, food, and a hundred other things stowed upon ships that needed to be kept for long periods of time.

Michael wiped the sweat from his brow and spied Gilly standing in the doorway. “Gilly I’m glad you’re here. I need to talk to you about something.”

“Sure Michael, whenever you’ve got time. Looks like you don’t have much now.”

“No, I don’t. I sure wish Pa hadn’t shipped out on the Mary Lynn. If he could only have known about the war talk out of Congress last week I’m sure he would never have gone. Even I didn’t realize how serious it all was and I read my newspaper every day!” They both laughed at this.

“Listen, Michael, you go back to work and help your uncle. We can talk any time after things quiet down.” Walking back to the orphanage, Gilly was convinced Michael was going to ask him to apprentice at the cooperage. Gilly recognized this would be an ideal opportunity for him – for any penniless orphan. He could learn a steady trade that would always be in demand along the wharves of Fells Point or any coastal community in America or even around the world. He should jump at the chance to join the Dooley family cooperage.

The increase in business at the Dooley cooperage was overwhelming Michael and Uncle Bob. Gilly wondered why Michael didn’t send for him. Surely, the cooperage needed help. But, Uncle Bob hired a clerk by the name of Samuel Snipes and two brothers by the name of Smith who were farmers in search of fortune in the big city and who would work in the back room fashioning barrels out of shaped staves and iron hoops: Dooley barrels, guaranteed to be, as was the mainstay of the Dooley reputation, completely air tight and waterproof.

And then the lights went out in Michael’s young life. The Mary Lynn returned to Fells Point, but without Mr. Dooley. He had been impressed into the British Navy. Even though he had fought with Washington and Lafayette at the siege of Yorktown; even though he had established a popular business in Baltimore and ran it successfully for over a decade, he was impressed because he had a slight Irish brogue and for no other reason.

News of the impressment swept the Point. Michael was devastated and sunk into a deep depression. No one could talk to him. He did his work, faithfully, for it was in his blood. But he avoided all human contact if possible, not Gilly, not Jessica, not even Desiree. He worked at the newspaper, went to school, and labored at the cooperage as he always had. His spirits were cheered a bit when he was named as a member of the Deptford Hundred, the volunteer fire brigade that was the pride of Fells Point. Uncle Bob, who was the foreman of the brigade, made this happen. After a fire on the docks destroyed a local tavern, Michael, sooty and sweaty from fighting the blaze into the morning hours, dragged himself home and washed his slight body in the back of the house. An unexpected knock on the door startled him. It was Father John.

“Good morning, Michael, and a blessed birthday.” Michael had forgotten all about his birthday. Father Moranvillѐ then proceeded to relate to him the Code of Aquinas that has guided the Dooley family for over five hundred years. The code his father should have given him. The words of which his father had sworn they would talk about. “As God is my judge, I make this vow,” his father had said.

                                                  *****                          

Michael was swamped with hawking The American, his schoolwork, and keeping up with the avalanche of orders at the cooperage, even with the addition of Samuel Snipes and the Smith brothers. But there was one thing he desperately needed to tend to. One autumn morning Jessica Farmer arrived early at the Dooly home to make breakfast before Michael reported to the offices of The American.

“Hey, Jess would you do me a favor?”

“Of course, Michael, do you want something special for dinner tonight?”

Michael shrugged his slight shoulders. “Sort of, Jess. When you get back to the orphanage would you ask Gilly Morrison if he would like to go fishing after school today? We could meet at the pier and maybe bag some rock fish and bring them home for supper. Would that be okay with you, Jess?”

Jessica turned from the fire and wiped her hands in her blue apron. “But why don’t you just ask Gilly yourself at school today?”

“I’m not going to school today,” Michael stated flatly. “There’s too much to be done at the newspaper and a lot more at the cooperage.”

Jessica served him his breakfast. There was too much of Teresa in her not to hold her tongue. “You never miss school, Michael. Not before or after the war was declared. Not before your mother passed away or after your father was impressed. I know you’re extremely busy. You know your mother, the Lord rest her soul, and your father, God help him, would not approve of this. You also know Father John will not stand for it. Talk to him this morning or he’ll come looking for you. Oh, and you two had better catch something for me to prepare for supper or you’ll be dining on strawberry jam on stale bread tonight.”

Despite the backload of orders at the cooperage, Michael took the afternoon off to go fishing. He did take Jessica’s advice, however, and stopped by the rectory to explain to Father John before going to the wharf. It was early November, and the wind off the waters of the Patapsco spoke of a cold and damp winter season in the offing. Gilly arrived silently behind him.

“Fishing at this time of year, Michael?” Gilly whistled between his teeth. “Do you suppose there are any fish left for dinner?” He sat down on the pier and prepared his tackle and bait.

“Jessica says they’ll be no dinner tonight unless we bring it home ourselves.”

They both laughed. As they cast their hooks into the water, watching the corks on their lines bob gently in the ebbing tide an odd silence overtook them. But Michael knew that for him time was precious and he needed to speak out.

“Gilly, I want to talk to you about something very important to me.”

“The fish aren’t saying a word, Michael. So go ahead.”

“I’ve just received the code of the Dooley’s thanks to Father John.”

Gilly nodded. “I heard your father mention something about it before he shipped out on the Mary Lynn. He said if he wouldn’t be back in time, Father John would give you the words.” Just then, Gilly whistled and started giggling.

Michael was annoyed. “This is nothing to laugh about. This is serious.”

Gilly put his arm around Michael’s shoulder. “I know it is. I’m sorry but I thought you wanted to talk to me to sign on as an apprentice at the cooperage. Jaysus, Michael, I was that certain of it. I also tried to reach out to you after your father was impressed, but you were despondent and needed time alone. I respect that. Sometimes an orphan needs that, too.”

Michael was astonished. “You, Gilly Morrison, signing a contract to be indentured for, what, the next five to seven years with all of your God-given talent? Why you’re the best writer and poet at the school, maybe even the whole of Baltimore.”

“Michael, I’ve turned thirteen, too, and It’s time for me to start to consider what’s to become of the rest of my life. I have no money and no family, and I cannot continue to be a burden to the good people at the orphanage.”

The fish weren’t biting at all. But their thoughts were far away from fishing. Gilly still had his arm over Michael’s shoulders. He was older only by two weeks, but had all the attributes of a big brother.

“Hey, Michael, wouldn’t you want me to apprentice at the cooperage?”

“Of course, Gilly, who wouldn’t want to have you working in their shop? But, I was thinking about something else besides apprenticeship. Something I really can’t explain right now. But certainly something I want to talk to you about later.

Gilly was confused. “Then why did you want me to go fishing at this time of year? I haven’t had a nibble by the way and I’m getting mighty cold.”

Michael reached into his basket and pulled out a sharp fishing knife. He placed the knife over his index finger and sliced his skin. He winced from the sharp pain. Then he handed the knife to Gilly.

“I need you to be my brother, Gilly. I can’t explain it all now, but if you agree to do as I have just done I will be eternally grateful.”

Gilly had heard of the ritual but had never performed it. It was as if Michael was reading his mind. He needed a brother, no – he longed for one. With tears in his eyes he took the knife, extended his finger and sliced it just as Michael had done. Michael firmly shook Gilly’s hand. They both smiled as the blood oozing from their fingers intermingled and became one.

“Gilly Morrison, you are now my brother. In all the trials and triumphs that come into our lives, you will always be my kin and I yours. And because of this I can now freely share with you the code of the Dooley clan.”

“Tough” Gilly Morrison remembered all of what his “blood brother” had told and entrusted to him as he watched The Chasseur slip out of the harbor and gently make her way down the frigid Patapsco River and onward to adventures unknown.

 

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