The man holds his head high and looks his accusers in the eyes. His stomach churns with fear, but he is determined that it doesn’t show. The eldest of the two men facing him demands again his confession to having stolen some of the contraband that had arrived by boat the night before. Once again he denies all knowledge of it, but he knows in his heart that they won’t believe him. He knows who the real culprit is, but he will not betray his own brother. The other men around him move closer, cutting off any way of escape. Behind him, the heat of the fire in the blackened stone fireplace reminds him that there is no way out that way either. The younger of his two accusers brings a long thin whip out from under his cloak and unfurls it. The blows rain down on the accused man, who falls to the floor still protesting his innocence, his arms up vainly trying to protect himself. Blood from his wounds spills onto the hearth of the fireplace. The men around him urge his attacker on. The whip wraps itself around his throat, stopping him from breathing. The world goes dark and the pain ceases.
‘What do you want to drink?’ a woman’s voice says. It is the First Mate. We are sitting in the Black Dog pub in Weymouth, supposedly the oldest one in the town. My mind had drifted after reading some of the pub’s history on the menu instead of choosing my food. It seems that the fireplace which we are sitting in front of was the scene of a grisly murder between smuggling gangs in 1758, but in this case an innocent man was killed.
We order soup. The menu tells me that the name of the pub comes from the Black Labrador dog owned by a previous landlord, which he had bought in Newfoundland and brought back to Weymouth. People would come from miles around to marvel at the colour of the dog, and the landlord became rich from charging them to see it. It’s a good story, but we are a bit sceptical of people paying to see a black dog, even in those times. But the soup and sourdough bread is good.
We finish our lunch and amble down to the seafront. It is hot, and we toy with the idea of sunning ourselves for half-an-hour in two of the many deckchairs on the promenade, until we realise that they need to be hired for the day. Besides, it seems obligatory to wear a panama hat, which I don’t have, so we content ourselves with an ice-cream surrounded by shouting children and crying babies. At least it is in the shade.
Further on we find a Punch and Judy show, but unfortunately it is closed and the next performance is tomorrow. We feel we have missed out on an essential piece of British beach culture. In the distance we can see the chalk cliffs and the entrance to Lulworth Cove where we were the day before.
On the way back to the boat, we watch an old rocker playing on his guitar. He is good, but we are concerned about his partner who doesn’t seem to have been fed for several months!