What a Boy Must Do

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What A Boy Must Do

A series of short stories by Ivor Sukwell.

5 The Age of Empire


Blue is for sea


"What you got, then? Anything I can use?"

The Turnkey shook his bald head, sucked air between his toothless gums,

"Nothin' today, Bosun," he said with the right amount of deference to the burly sailor. "Couple of drunks, three maimed beggars and a scrawny boy."

"A boy? What sort of boy?"

"Like I said," the Turnkey shrugged, "Scrawny, an' filthy with it."

"Filth washes off easy enough," the sailor shrugged in turn, "An' scrawny ain't no problem. Better that way, easier for them to get around below decks if they's scrawny."

"That's as maybe," the Turnkey gave a gummy grin, "But I can't give you this one," he said, enjoying his brief moment of power as the town's jailor. "Thief, this one. Got to be hung."

"Two shillings?" the sailor offered, well knowing that the Turnkey had no objections to being bribed.

"Do it if I could," the old man said, hands out, palms upwards to indicate refusal of the offer was not his fault, "But Judge Jeffries likes to hang `em, an' the tradesmen be well put out if he don't hang. Scrawny little thing like him, can't be no more than twelve or thirteen, dance in the air for ages `fore the rope gets tight enough to choke him. Good for business, that. Folk'll want their eats an' drinks while they watches, won't they."

In the cold, dank, damp cell the boy heard every word. The two drunks and three beggars showed no sympathy for his plight if they were lucky they may be released in time to watch him die. He'd wriggle and twist for ages before his small body weight pulled the noose tight enough around his throat to choke the life from him.

The boy knew that was to be his fate, to be a spectacle for the enjoyment of the townspeople. They wouldn't put a hood over his head when they hanged him; the crowd would want to see his face turning slowly purple, his tongue swelling and lolling out of his open mouth, open in the forlorn hope of dragging in air.

He'd piss himself and shit himself; he'd seen enough hangings to know that always happened, and the crowd would jeer as he did so, as the piss ran down his jerking legs and the shit soiled his ragged breeches.

And all for half a loaf of stale bread; bread the baker would have tossed in the filth-filled gutter for beggars to scrabble over if he hadn't tried to steal it first.

A constable had been called, a thief caught, and not for half a loaf of stale bread, but because Judge Jeffries liked to hang, and having him dancing in the air in the market place of a Saturday would drag in the crowds and sell pies and ale.

He'd survived till now, till he was thirteen, and now his luck had run out.

"Can't press him, see," the Turnkey was saying, "Can't press them what's got to hang. Could get away with it if it were a murderer or a cut-throat like, someone who'd be some use on a King's ship, but Jeffries ain't gonna fall for that with a scrawny boy."

"Need powder monkeys," the sailor said.

"That's as maybe," the Turnkey shrugged, "But you'd have to get one of your fancy dressed officers to tell that to Jeffries in the Court this afternoon. Not one of them pimply-faced Midshipmen, neither, he ain't gonna listen to nothin' less than a Captain. An' even then, I still reckons he'll hang him."

The sailor peered though the bars of the cell at the scrawny, skinny, filthy urchin who was sitting, knees drawn up to his chin, head hung low.

Hardly the stuff that made the King's Navy the master of the seas, he thought, but the `Avenger' needed powder monkeys. They had the awkward habit of dying easy and replacements were always needed.

"Wouldn't last half a watch on a ship, would he," the Turnkey spat on the floor, "Much better he hangs."

He'd last his first watch, the sailor thought, though he said nothing, but for how long after that was anyone's guess. The common sailors had another use for powder monkey boys when they were off watch, and the sailors in His Majesty's ships of the line were not noted for their gentle behaviour. That was one of the reasons why replacement boys were always needed.

"Don't think the Captain will bother himself with anything as trivial as that," the sailor said. "Busy and important men, Captains."

The boy lifted his head, stared with dull eyes at the men who spoke so carelessly about him and his soon-to-be fate, and the sailor had a second thought.

The boy was ragged and filthy, his face pinched from near starvation, but washed and with some food inside him he just might attract the Captain's attention. The boy wasn't pretty, not now, but he looked as though he might scrub up to be more than just reasonable and the Captain needed a new cabin boy. The previous one had somehow left the ship, heaven knows how, but gone he was.

"I'll tell him, though," the sailor said, "And if he's in town before that goes off to Court he just might have a look and see if he thinks it's worth his trouble."

"Suit yourself," the Turnkey shrugged, "But I can tell you, sure as eggs is eggs, Jeffries'll have him swinging on the end of a rope on Saturday."

The boy heard the words and heard in them the certainty of his death. He lowered his head again, resting his elbows on his knees, covering his lowered head with his hands, a universal gesture of despair.

He felt tears but he would not cry, not here, not now. He would not give that satisfaction to the men who talked so carelessly of his impending doom. Not here, not now.

Nor would he let tears flow in the Court in the afternoon when the dreaded Judge Jeffries pronounced that he should hang by the neck until he was dead.

He wouldn't cry when they led him to the scaffold on Saturday morning; bite back the tears when the crowd gathered to watch him die, bet on how long it would be before he pissed himself; how long before his bowels voided; how long before he gave up the fight for breath.

He wouldn't cry when they actually hanged him, of course; he'd be far too busy, twisting and writhing and struggling and kicking and clawing for breath. No time for tears then.

It sounded brave and it kept him from being the begging, pleading, sobbing creature he wanted to be. He was a boy, only a boy, and he wanted to be safe, not hung by the neck until he was dead.

There was no escape, no safety for him now, though. He knew that. Other felons could be pressed; cut-throats, murderers, rapists, thieves, all could be pressed into the King's Navy. But not him. He was too young to be pressed, but not too young to hang.

Oh, they could have taken him from the streets of the town, that was allowed by the law, but not from the prison. And he'd spent several of his young years hiding and escaping from the press gangs that roved the port town.

He knew well enough the fate of boys pressed into the King's Navy. Powder monkeys; hauling buckets of black gunpowder from the hold to the guns. Safe enough when the guns were only firing for training for the buckets were lidded then so no spark could fall inside. And if the lid was not properly placed and fastened then lashes would follow. Fifty lashes from the nine-tailed cat could kill a man; half that number would flog the life from a boy.

But when battle came and the great guns were firing three to a minute there was no time then to put the lid on, fasten down the holding rope. Gunners needed powder fast and if a stray spark landed, that was just the way of it.

It wasn't only the danger of being blown to pieces by a bucket of black powder, smashed to pulp by an enemy cannon ball, sliced in half by a huge splinter of shattered oak or being struck by a French musket ball; no, that was just the hazard of war. It was what happened when the ship was not fighting.

He'd heard horror stories enough from the urchins on the docks. How the sailors buggered the boys endlessly; even of boys dying with cock in their arse, their bodies thrown overboard and no questions asked.

Life for a boy on a ship of the line in His Britannic Majesty's Navy was likely to be short and painful.

Not a possibility for him now, though he was going to hang.


"You! Yes, you! Turnkey!"

A voice cut through his thoughts, a voice used to command, used to being obeyed.

He looked up, unclasping his hands and lifting his head to see who it was that ordered the jailor so. The jailor was lord of the Town Lock-Up, no-one gave him orders.

The owner of the voice was splendid, imposing. Dressed in all the finery of an Officer of the King's Navy, and no ordinary officer.

Tall and slender despite his obvious middle years, he stared down his nose at the Turnkey, dislike and contempt clear on his features.

"You! Attend me now, I say!"

Two boys, of few greater years than the wretched creature that huddled in the cell, allowed superior grins to cross their uniformed faces. Midshipmen, enjoying hearing their Captain's voice berating anyone other than themselves.

"I hear you, whoever you might be," the Turnkey gave surly answer, though he knew well enough from the splendid uniform that a Captain of the Fleet stood before him with two grinning Midshipmen who, no doubt, served him as bedmeat when out of their pretty uniforms.

"I," the splendid, haughty figure said slowly, every word underlined, "Am Captain, the Honourable Horace Packet, and you, miserable specimen that you are, have a boy here."

"Could be," the Turnkey acknowledged; neither Captains nor even Admirals ranked above him in his jail.

"I would see him."

"You can have a look," the Turnkey shrugged, "But look's all you can do."

With a sneer that would have withered most men, but glanced off the Turnkey without leaving a mark, the splendid Captain made for the cell and peered at the young wretch on the floor.

"On your feet, boy," he commanded, his face a picture of distaste, offended by the smell of the cell as it wafted up his aristocratic nose.

The boy stood, seeing no point in showing defiance.

The look of distaste remained as the Captain in his clean, fancy uniform, surveyed the abject figure through the bars of the cell.

Dirty, nay, filthy; hair that may be any colour known to hair beneath the greasy filth that matted it. Skinny, nay, scrawny with malnourishment, the boy had a form that, even fed well, would be no more than slender at best. Not that a boy would be fed well aboard His Majesty's seventy-four gun ship of the line that was The Avenger.

He would be fed, though, enough to keep him hale enough to haul buckets of black powder to the greedy guns.

The boy's face could not be clearly determined, covered as it was by grime and dirt, though it showed a snub, upturned nose and a mouth, though the lips were pinched, that was wide enough.

He could see movement on the boy's filthy clothing, movement where fleas hopped and lice crawled, and he shuddered in distaste once more.

He would have turned away, walked from the jail, but there was a wonder that if the boy were washed and scrubbed clean, he may serve a purpose. Captain, the Honourable Horace Packet liked his boys slender and skinny.

The two grinning Midshipmen behind him were both of that nature, and both had earned their position as Midshipmen on his ship of the line bent over a table, their lower clothing round their ankles.

They had not again adopted that position; sodomy was not permitted by The Articles of War, and Captain, the Honourable Horace Packet was a stickler for adherence to those Articles.

No mention in those Articles of powder boys, nor even of cabin boys, should a Captain wish to have one such at his own expense, for those received no pay from His Majesty and so did not exist.

"How," Captain the Honourable Horace Packet asked the slightly taller of the two Midshipmen, "Do you think he would fuck, Mr. Horsepole?"

The Midshipman observed the boy with a contempt no less than that of his Captain.

"Tight, I would venture, Sir," the boy opined, "Were he selling his arse he would not be like to hang for the theft of bread."

"Well noted, Mr. Horsepole," the Captain nodded, "Well noted, indeed. Sharp observation is a prerequisite in a good officer. I commend you."

"Thank you, Sir," the Midshipman glowed.

"And you, Mr. Yarder, what say you?" the question asked to the other Midshipman.

"That Mr. Horsepole has indeed struck the crux of it, Sir," the boy in his pretty uniform agreed, "Though he would need a deal of scrubbing `ere one would approach him with bared prick."

"A deal indeed," the Captain agreed, "And such will be your task to ensure, Mr. Yarder."

Waving a delicate hand in the direction of the Turnkey, Captain the Honourable Horace Packet ordered,

"Release him, man, I will take him."

"Can't do that, your honour," the Turnkey offered a smile that was more sneer than smile, "Belongs to the Court now, he does. Up to Judge Jeffries what he does with him. And like I said, he's most like to hang."

"I hold the King's Commission, wretch," the Honourable Captain came as near to a snarl as his aristocratic manner would permit.

"And that holds no sway over them that's got their date in Court," the Turnkey shrugged, and treated the Captain to a sneer of his own. "There's them that likes to bugger boys and there's them that likes to hang `em. Judge Jeffries be the sort that likes to see them swing."


"Am I hearing your words aright?" the red-robed Judge Jeffries asked, allowing just enough disbelief to tinge his words to imply a hint of insult. "You claim that the need of His Majesty for boys to serve on his ships is so great that this one should escape the fate that so rightly his evil doings demand should fall upon him?"

"The needs of His Majesty in that respect, Sir," the Captain returned the insult by not addressing the red-robed Judge as `Your Honour', "Are the needs of the nation and of all its citizens. The Navy, Sir, is the defence of the Realm against the malice of her enemies."

"And the law, Sir," the Judge thundered back, "Is the defence of those same citizens against the ravages of murder and theft."

"And would it serve those citizens better, Sir, if this boy should hang or if he should, instead, bring powder to the guns that keep our enemies at bay? Should the French prevail against us for want of powder for our guns, what price then for the Law to defend any against rape, pillage, murder and theft?"

The mood in the Courtroom shifted. People had gathered there to see and hear Judge Jeffries condemn the boy to hang, for then they could plan holiday for the Saturday when he would swing for their amusement; but now it was less so, for the fear and hatred of the evil French was greater than the pleasure of watching a boy die.

"I would not have it so," the Judge relented, but sensing the mood of the crowd, did as his own safety demanded. "His Majesty shall have the boy, for none can say I follow not His Majesty's wishes and commands."

The boy stood, amazed in the dock. He was not to hang? Not wriggle and kick his life out on the end of a rope while the people cheered his struggles and death?

Another fear replaced the one he had escaped. He was not to hang, but he recalled the words of the Captain and the Midshipmen in the jail. He was not to hang, he was to be buggered instead.

Since he had been old enough to know of such things, and it was not needed to be of any advanced years on the streets of the port city, he knew that men buggered boys. Indeed, for at least three of his thirteen years he had escaped that fate, for he had no great wish to be buggered.

He had seen the way that some men looked upon him, and sailors were high in the numbers of those who so looked. He had run from the offers of payment for his arse, though selling his arse so would have kept him in food until it was time to sell it again. He had no wish to have prick stuck deep in his arse, but now it was his arse or his neck.

The Judge glowered at the boy in the dock, the boy he had intended to see dance in the air.

"The Law permits me to sentence you to hang," the Judge said slowly and clearly, "Or it permits me to sentence you instead to service on a ship of His Majesty. What say you?"

You can die quite slowly, but perhaps no longer than half an hour, dangling on the end of a rope, piss and shit running down your legs, or you can instead be buggered and fucked till your arse is bruised, swollen and raw and you can neither sit nor stand for the pain. And know the same will happen again and again. How choose you?

Those are the words the Judge meant, the boy thought as he framed his answer.

"I would do my duty and serve the King," the boy said, for a boy must do what a boy has to do if he is to live.


He stood on the deck of the great ship as it lifted and fell with the gentle swell. Still at anchor it was only the tide that moved it so, not the big waves it would later face.

Standing wasn't easy with the movement of the ship, and made harder by the jet of icy water that was being directed at his naked body, drawn straight from the sea by a sailor working a hand pump and aimed by another. A third wielded a long handled mop, washing his skinny flesh and competing with the sailor who aimed the cold, salty jet to see who could have the greater effect on shrivelled-with-the-cold, exposed genitals.

He clung to a rigging rope to hold himself from being washed or mopped from his feet, his slipping and sliding much to the amusement of the three sailors and Midshipman Yarder, who leaned casually against the railing, observing the cleaning, and observing too, the skinny, naked form.

"Has he got a cock, think you, Rough?" Midshipman Yarder asked one of the sailors, peering exaggeratedly at the shivering boy.

"Don't matter if he has or not, Sir," the grinning sailor with the mop answered, "Reckon he got a hole at the back an' that's all that matters."

"Not to you, Rough," Midshipman Yarder, drawled, "This one's the Captain's new cabin boy. Saved him from the rope, he did, for that exalted station."

The sailor lowered his mop, another stopped pumping and all stared at the cold, wet, shivering boy.

"Hope you likes being fucked, boy," one said, not unkindly, "You be buggered right enough below decks as is only right an' proper, but I warrant you'll get little rest in the Captain's cabin." He looked at the Midshipman and tugged his forelock, "Beggin' your pardon, Sir," he said, "Be obliged if you never heard that."

"Never heard a thing, Jakes," the Midshipman shrugged, "Damned gulls making so much noise."

"Obliged, Sir," the sailor tugged his forelock again.

"Enough, now," Midshipman Yarder declared, "I suspect he can get no cleaner. Let him have some cloth to dry himself and I must take him to start his duties."

"You been fucked before, lad?" Jakes whispered as he handed the boy a cloth, and when the boy shook his head in negation, he added, "Make like you're trying to have a big shit. Go in easier that way an' hurt less."

The boy nodded, shivering; he knew the sailor was being kind, but he was fearful of being fucked.

"Does it hurt much?" he dared to ask.

The sailor glanced quickly across to where Midshipman Yarder was leaning against the rail, but the boy officer was staring, pointedly, out across the harbour.

"Some it does," the sailor confided, "And some it don't so much. Most of the boys gets to like it after a while. Don't fight it; whatever you does you gonna be buggered anyway, an' the more you tries not to be the more it'll hurt. Better than hangin' though," he added with a smile of encouragement.

Was it better than hanging, he wondered. With hanging, it would come to an end and there'd be nothing after. Being buggered would happen time and time again; no escape from it, no end to it. That fancy Captain would shove his posh prick up his arse and he had to let it happen.

He hoped it wouldn't hurt too much. He hadn't shed tears when he knew he was to be hanged, and he wouldn't shed any now just because a cock was going up inside him.

Captain the Honourable Horace Packet surveyed the naked, but now clean, boy that Midshipman Yarder had brought to his cabin.

Clean, the boy was quite respectable, the Captain thought. Now the grime and filth had been removed from him he appeared quite suitable for fucking. The numerous bites of fleas and lice would fade soon, and the boy had the skinny frame that was the Captain's particular favourite. The skinnier the boy the tighter his hole was the Honourable Horace Packet's belief, and he did like his boys to have tight holes.

Before indulging in that aspect of the boy, though, it was necessary that the boy learn exactly what his status was, and the Honourable Captain took considerable pleasure in imparting that knowledge to a boy.

"A piece of scum like you," he said pleasantly to the shivering, naked boy, "A common thief, no less, saved from his rightful fate on the gallows, is clearly in need of discipline." He took from his cabin desk a cane, a long, thin, very flexible cane; a cane the effect of which he left no doubt about in the boy's mind as he slashed it, hissing through the air and cracking hard on the desk.

The boy winced at the sound, his eyes betraying his certain knowledge of where that cane would strike next and the agony it would bring with it.

The Captain smiled, a smile of satisfaction; much of the pleasure to be found in caning a boy came from watching him understand and appreciate the pain that was to come.

The boy took the position he was ordered to take; hands gripping the desk, his body forward, legs braced and he gritted his teeth, determined not to cry out when that wicked cane landed.

His determination disappeared at the first stroke, the cane whistling through the air, slashing his arse with a crack as loud as the one it had made on the desk, and he screamed.

Outside the cabin Midshipman Yarder hardened as he listened. He knew the pain that cane brought; had he not done before what a boy must do if he is to earn his place on The Avenger? He too had been caned and fucked by the Honourable Captain and he wondered if that cane would have the same effect on the Captain's new cabin boy as it had on him.

The first had hurt, hurt unbelievably. So had the second, but his cock had grown hard when the third landed and at the sixth he had ejected his seed on the Captain's desk.

The boy did not seed, but when he turned to face his Captain and master after the six agonising strokes, his prick was hard and he had forgotten all about not crying.

"Discipline, I see, you approve of," said the Honourable Horace Packet, placing the cane back on the desk and taking in his hand the boy's hardness. "I am glad that it has had the proper effect on you," he said, gently easing the skin of the boy's cock up and down, "I trust that a similar method of obtaining this effect will not frequently be necessary."

"No, Sir," the boy snivelled, "I will endeavour to please you in any way I can, Sir."

Though his arse was on fire, the hand fondling his cock felt surprisingly good. He'd never been touched before, but he knew at once that it would not need the cane to encourage him to allow such touching in the future.

"I am going to fuck you now," the Captain stated as he began the rather complicated process of removing sufficient of his fancy uniform to make that possible, "And in the future I shall fuck you whenever the fancy takes me."

"Of course, Sir," the boy said, snivelling less now; "You saved me from the rope, Sir. It is only fitting that you should use me for your pleasure."

"Well said, boy," Captain the Honourable Horace Packer actually smiled at the skinny boy, "Well said, indeed." He'd saved the boy from the rope for no other reason than the simple fact that he liked fucking skinny boys, but now it seemed there may be a possibility that this boy had something more about him than just the hole in his arse.

The boy stood, his hands behind his back. He was unaware that this was how any ordinary sailor would stand when before his Captain, or any other senior officer; he stood that way because it placed all of his front on view for the Captain, and though his eyes still were watered with the tears that had been forced from him by the wicked blows of that flexible cane and his arse burned with pain, he had noticed that the Captain's eyes had looked at his thirteen-year-old hardness with something more than casual appreciation.

He was not a stupid boy, no-one survived as a boy on the streets of a dockland city if they are stupid. The Captain liked his cock. Fine, if that's what the captain liked then the Captain could have it, as much of it as he wanted.

His arse would be used as well, he had no doubts about that, the Captain had made that very clear. Having cock in his arse was not something he looked forward to, but it was going to happen so he may as well accept that and make the most of it. If nothing else, it would keep him alive.

An idea came to his mind, an idea from the streets, from the boys he had known who had sold their bodies.

He summoned his courage, swallowed fear and said, with all the bravery he could muster,

"I've heard it said, Sir," he said hesitantly, "That there be those that like to use the mouth of a boy as well as his arse."

The Captain raised his eyebrows, looked thoughtfully at the boy.

"Know you this?" he asked.

"By word only, Sir," the boy quavered, "I have not been so used, nor used in any other way, Sir. But should you so wish, Sir, my mouth is yours to use as well as my cock and my arse."

It was with some trepidation that he took the Captain's cock into his mouth; he had made an offer that the Honourable Captain was not inclined to refuse. The mouth of a skinny boy of thirteen is a delight of a special nature, a satisfaction different indeed to the use of a reluctant hole.

He took the cock into his mouth, determined that he would show no revulsion at the task, and was surprised that there was no revulsion to be felt. It seemed, after a moment, that there was no better place for a cock to be than in his mouth, and his boy's instincts came to the fore as he sucked, licked and probed with his tongue.

There were strange tastes, ones that he had never before encountered, but they did not revolt him, rather they made his own cock harder than it had been, and when his instincts told him that he should grasp and softly squeeze the balls of the Captain while he sucked, the Honourable Horace Packet sighed with pleasure and placed a hand behind his head to guide him slowly up and down the thick shaft he held in his mouth.

Instinct it was that told him when the Captain seeded, hot spunk shooting and filling his mouth, that he should swallow all, and again he was surprised that doing so felt natural and the taste was good.

"It would have been a waste indeed for you to hang," the Captain smiled, "I think you will serve me well."

"I will do all a boy must do, Sir," the boy also smiled. Sucking the Captain's cock had been a pleasure and not a thing of revulsion.

Perhaps being buggered would be so as well.

It mattered not; if sucking cock and being buggered was all it took to stay alive, then it were no great hardship; and when the mighty Avenger rode the deep ocean waves he would ride her Captain's cock in any manner that was wished.

His revenge, if such it were, on those who would have seen him hang, was that when the big guns blasted forth their death and destruction he would stay safe in the Captain's cabin. The Honourable Horace Packet would not chance the loss of a boy with a skilful mouth and willing arse; of that he was certain.