Who is Captain Apples? Is he real? Could such a man possibly exist? Here we present for you the story of the man (and his current affiliates), in as objective a fashion possible, to enable delineation of the multifarious perspectives and interpretations that have rendered him historically impermeable.
Captain Apples, the man
It was on the 15th of February, 1855, that Captain Trevalion Wellesley, illegitimate son of the English ambassador in France and heroic fighter in the Crimean war, was said to have disappeared from his sentry post. There were conflicting stories around the circumstances of this disappearance, the most prominent of which was that he had simply deserted the British army, though there is no formal documentation of this. Similarly, rumours of French record of his demise were also unable to be substantiated. Being the only child of the English ambassador, and an illegitimate one at that, his existence was never fully confirmed, even by his own family. Captain Wellesley hence passed necessarily into myth. It wasn't until the turn of the century that any historical proof of his existence was uncovered, when a journal believed to be the memoir of the Captain, indulgently entitled ‘Leeward Verse in the Language of Dreams’ was chanced upon by a missionary in Southern Angola. The journal was a non-chronological, seemingly confused collection of anecdotes, tall tales, melancholic poetry, bold-faced lies, and to-do lists. There is reference to opium laced all through his writing (traces of which were also found upon the pages, upon later pharmacological analysis), which may account for some of the disoriented writing style. How his journal ended up in a shaman’s hut, many leagues from where he went missing, remains quite the mystery.
According to The Leeward Verse, the nickname Captain Apples, as he became known in the military, originated from the French word ‘pomme’. As the ambassador's simultaneously privileged and shame-bearing son, he was given command of a small unit of cavalry and charged with guerrilla warfare tactics behind Russian lines – a suicide mission, at best. His command comprised both French and British soldiers, some so weak they could barely ride their emaciated horses, most of them outcasts and invalids; cannon fodder, presumably. The French troops took to calling him Monsieur Pomme de tere, or Mr Potato in English, due to his unfortunately large head. Over time, however, and after countless vicious and brave tangles with the enemy, Pomme de tere simply became Pomme. As the English troops caught on to the name, Pomme became Apples - Captain Apples. After being called potato so mercilessly for so long, gentle Trevalion (who had been very sensitive about his moniker) embraced the change whole-heartedly! Against the bleak setting of warfare, the Apple became a symbol, a promise of better times, and the stuff of life to starving soldiers, far beyond the misery and redundant political desires of war-hungry generals.
The sporadic notes in his journal after leaving the conflict in the Crimea are largely nonsensical. However, several small passages do successfully notate Captain Apples’ subsequent movements. Following his apparent desertion, Captain Apples reportedly made his way east on horseback, riding through barren terrain that is now known as Kazakhstan. He then apparently rode north for about a month or so, deep into the inhospitable terrain of the Russian interior, where he penned one of his legendary epic poems - The Nature of Stars and Their Likeness on Fair Earth - before turning southeast, apparently at a whim. He crossed into Mongolia where, tragically, his beloved steed, the brave mare Lily, died of exhaustion. He doggedly continued on foot, sleeping below the night sky in the freezing Mongolian winter, wrapped tightly in the furs he borrowed and stole from villages (always, however, leaving a generous offering of poetry and penicillin in return). It was after many months of this scratched and wretched existence that an emaciated Captain arrived in Jiuquan, a small township in the northern province of Gansu, China. He arrived in the late afternoon just before dusk, starving hungry and in search of food. In this semi-crazed state, he came across a number of bamboo crates full of animals. His typically powerful empathy for animals overcame him, and he released each animal, cage by cage. First came the ducks, who, despite being clearly grateful, didn’t stick around to say so. Next were the monkeys, who made a dash for the tree-line without pause for thought. Finally, Trevalion released a sick, malnourished and starved tiger, who according to later notes from his journal, looked like a tiger skin rug draped over a clothes horse. To his surprise, the tiger demonstrated its gratitude by promptly mauling him. The consequently rather visceral commotion caught the attention of a mysterious local woman, referred to in his journal only as ‘Rose’, who raised the alarm, ultimately saving Trevalion’s life. Rose was reportedly the owner-operator of ‘The White Rose’, a guest house and tavern by official record, though much is implied in the journal’s subsequently hazy entries. Rose, Trevalion’s saviour, nursed him back to health over the next 8 or 9 months, concurrently versing him in the language and culture of the middle kingdom as she did. Captain Apples was to return countless times to the orient, bathing in the vastness of its heritage, tradition, and rich history.
Upon departing Jiuquan, having been furnished with a fine new horse by his erstwhile hostess, the Captain made his way to the port city of Shanghai where he apparently sought passage to South East Asia. This proved more difficult than expected, due to the prominent presence of British navy personnel at that time. Possessing similar vices to many sea-faring men, however, he soon made the acquaintance of a gentleman named Darwin. By the Captain’s description, Darwin was an Irish mariner turned smuggler, who possessed a keen penchant for scotch whisky and French poetry. He also happened to be the Captain of a small, swift schooner, rather romantically christened The Glass Slipper. Life at sea agreed with the good Captain, and he made fast friends with the paltry but formidable crew of the Glass Slipper.From snatches of description in his journal, Trevalion and the crew shared many adventures, some of which were recounted in poetry, some in song. However, none can be appropriately verified, as the ghost ship Glass Slipper did not exist in official record.After a year aboard this vessel, the journal entries virtually ceased, apart from some rather odd to-do lists, including the directive to murder and milk a whale. It does become clear, however, that the gentleman-scholar eventually became rather obsessed with perfume...