Of Fame Or Fortune
Rich Pearl

Flash Fiction Winner

Commanding the Pembroke, a survey vessel, James Cook's first assignment was the charting of the estuary of the St. Lawrence River. With the fall of Quebec to Wolfe, his fame as a surveyor had been assured. So masterful and accurate were his mappings, they were still in use at the beginning of the twentieth century. A year later, Cook was on the HMS Northumberland when Canada surrendered to the British. Drinking a toast with the Captain, Lord Colville, he began to reflect upon a question.

"I suppose treasure is what you find, whether it be gold or knowledge. For myself, I seek the latter. One day I would like to find a passageway to India through the northwest. Or perhaps I will seek the ice in the South Seas."

"Well, I prefer my wealth in coinage. A Peer must have money to support his title. Why don't we go halvers on this? You keep the fame, and I'll take the fortune."

Raising his goblet, James Cook smiled and said, "Cheers, Mi' Lord."

"And to you, lad, a long and fortunate life."

A clinking of glasses and then they parted, each to his own task. A little less than twenty years later, James Cook lay dead on the beach at Kealakekua Bay. But though his fortune had just run out, his fame would live on through the treasure trove of knowledge he left behind.

First published: November 2002
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