Under the jolly roger, p.1
Under the Jolly Roger
Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber
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Orlando Austin New York San Diego Toronto London
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Copyright © 2005 by L. A. Meyer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
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Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
First Harcourt paperback edition 2007
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Meyer, L. A. (Louis A.), 1942–
Under the Jolly Roger: being an account of the further nautical
adventures of Jacky Faber/L. A. Meyer.—1st ed.
Sequel to: Curse of the blue tattoo.
Summary: In 1804, fifteen-year-old Jacky Faber heads back to sea where
she gains control of a British warship and eventually becomes a privateer.
[1. Orphans—Fiction. 2. Sex role—Fiction. 3. Pirates—Fiction.
4. Seafaring life—Fiction. 5. Sea stories.] I. Title.
ISBN 978-0-15-205873-9 pb
Text set in Minion
Display set in Pabst
Designed by Cathy Riggs
A C E G H F D B
Printed in the United States of America
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Again for Annetje...
Martha Marie Meyer
and Nancy W. B. Lawrence
"Ishmael!" I call out as I skip down the gangplank of the Pequod, my seabag on my shoulder. "Good sailing to you!"
"And to thee, Jacky," he says. The boy stands by the rail watching me leave the whaler for good and ever. "Thee are sure thee will not marry me?"
I swear, these Quaker lads are so cute with their thees and thys.
"Go find yourself a nice girl, Ishmael," I say by way of answer to his proposal. "Not one that stinks of whale oil!"
"I thinks thee smells just fine, Jacky Faber." I know he is genuinely sad to see me go, just as I am sad to see the last of him. I blow him a kiss and give him a final wave and go down the gangplank and step onto the wharf and hence onto the land that is England.
I was brought on board the whaler three months ago after I had run away from the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls in Boston, which is where my mates on HMS Dolphin had dumped me after finding out that I was a girl, which was against the rules. Their rules, not mine.
Aye, they put me off the Dolphin even though I was a perfectly good sailor and was just made Midshipman, even. Before I was found out, the only person aboard the warship who knew that I was a girl was my own dear Jaimy, to whose home I am now going to travel to find out what's up with him. I ain't heard anything from him since he left on the Dolphin, leaving me behind, alone and friendless, and in a strange land.
Things didn't go at all smooth for me at the Lawson Peabody School, where they tried to make a lady out of me and I gotta say they didn't have much luck in the attempt. In fact, there wasn't that much left of the Lawson Peabody, itself, after I got done and lit out, the school being up in flames behind me, with a good bit of Boston burning merrily as well. And it wasn't all my fault, either, no matter what anyone tells you.
After I got clear out of the city, I had run on down to New Bedford, a port well to the south of Boston, and 'twas there I found a whaling ship, the Pequod, lying alongside a busy wharf. Bold as brass, I walked up to the table on the pier where they was signing up sailors for the voyage and applied for a berth, presenting myself as a seasoned sailor, which I was. This got a good, hearty rouse of laughter from all assembled, but against all odds, I was signed on as companion to the Captain's wife, who was great with child, and as teacher for her little boy, as well as being cook's helper. The Captain was taking his family along, which whalers often do, until such time as his wife had her baby, and then wife and children would be debarked in England to stay with relatives for a time. So, not only would I get passage back to London and maybe to Jaimy, but I would also get a quarter of a share of the ship's profits as pay. And, I would surely pick up more knowledge of seamanship, which I know will come in handy someday. Although I've had my ups and downs, I've always been pretty lucky, by and large.
After provisioning and signing up the rest of the crew, we finally set sail and left the land behind us. I soon found that bein' on a whaler wasn't like bein' on a Royal Navy Ship, no, not at all. The Captain is still the Lord and Master of everything and everybody, but the day-to-day hard discipline and rigid regulations just ain't there. Everyone is bent toward the Almighty Profit and anyone who can add to that profit is held in high esteem, and anyone who slacks off ain't treated all that kindly. So, when they found that I could steer a course, trim a sail, and stand a watch, I was added to the watch list. Daytime watches only, for a while, and then, after they knew they could trust me, nighttimes, too.
The crew was a rough bunch, of course, but I was used to that, and I quickly made friends with them all—especially with Ishmael, and, of course, with Patience, she bein' the Captain's wife and a perfect joy. Heavy with child though she was, she was always jolly and brave right up to and through the birth of her fine, fat daughter. In addition to my other duties, it was understood that I was brought on board to help Patience during the birthing, but when her time did come in the middle of the night in the midst of a living gale, I was no help at all. She had to comfort me when it was all going on, which was probably not what the Captain had in mind when he signed me on board. But I did hold her hand, and when the baby finally slid out all slippery and bloody, I picked it up by its feet as I was told and I saw that it was a girl. I slapped her tiny bum and she coughed and started wailing, and I laid her down and cut and tied the cord as I was told, and then I cleaned up mother and child as best I could in the tiny cabin that was pitchin' up and down and back and forth with the wind howlin' like a demented banshee outside. I got a clean cloth wrapped around the baby and put her on Patience's breast and kept sayin' I'm sorry, I'm sorry over and over, but Patience said I did just fine and she wanted no other midwife in attendance for future babies, none other than Jacky Faber. As for Jacky Faber, her own self, she's more than a bit glad that her own adventures in birthin' babies are at least a few years off in the future.
So I'm bouncing merrily on down the pier, gratefully suckin' in the air of my own country once again, and there I see the Captain and Patience, who's got our lovely little Prudence cradled in her arm and my star pupil, Increase, by her side. I embrace Patience in farewell and we babble our good-byes and I give Increase a kiss, him being the son of the Captain and his missus. Part of my job was teachin' him his numbers and letters, and though he was a willing and bright student, he really wanted to be out and off in the riggin' and I could hardly blame him, bein' of a like mind myself. I give him the farewell kiss and he says, "Yuck," and rubs the kiss from his cheek, but I don't hold it against him, and just ruffle his curly head fondly. He is a good boy.
The family is leaving
As the Captain handed his family up into the coach, he turned to me and said, "Farewell, Faber, and Godspeed. Know thee that I hate to lose a good sailor," which for him was a long speech. 'Cept when he was goin' on about that whale. Then he never seemed to stop. I nodded and thanked him for taking me on board and he turned and left, his peg leg tappin' on the pier as he went 'round the coach to the other door to mount up. When he is in, the coachman gives a chuck to the horses and they are gone.
On the wharf, too, is the First Mate, Mr. Starbuck. He is overseein' the off-loadin' of the barrels of the whale oil, it already being sold and paid for. My own quarter share is snug in my money belt, the gold coins being warmed by my belly, next to the coins I had earned playin' and dancin' in the Pig and Whistle in Boston and actin' in the theater with Mr. Fennel and Mr. Bean.
We had excellent luck in baggin' the poor whales, which nobody can ever again tell me is just cold fishes—I learned that to be true the first time I jumped onto the back of a whale brought alongside and felt the heat of its dying body comin' up at me. The men were there with flensing tools, blades with long handles for strippin' off the blubber that would be passed up on hooks to the deck where the great cauldrons were fired up for boiling down the blubber into oil for the lamps of Britain and America. I had a different job and a disgustin' job it was: Along with the big barrels of oil there on the deck, there are smaller casks of spermaceti, an oily, waxy goo that's taken out of a pit in the sperm whale's head—and that was my job, to shovel out the stuff into a pail while the rest of the crew stripped the remainder of the creature of its parts. It is hard to believe that spermaceti is used for makin' ladies' perfume, as it sure didn't smell very perfumy to me, sittin' there on the whale's head, scoopin' out the stuff.
I don't think I'll be signing on a whaler again, as it's a nasty business.
I turn the corner and the Pequod goes out of my life forever. It is September in the year of 1804, and I am fifteen years old. I think.
I go on down the street, lookin' for a coach to bear me away for London, 'cause right now the Pequod is docked in the port of Gravesend, which is about twenty-five miles east of the big city. I'm hopin' to get in a coach and get some distance on my way and then stop for the night at a nice clean inn and have a bit of a bath and have my clothes cleaned of the whaler's smell before I head into London proper.
I know that I'm holdin' back from just divin' straight into London, 'cause I don't know what's waitin' for me there, in regards to Jaimy. I didn't get any letters at all from him when I was in Boston, not even one, the whole time we've been apart. I don't know if any of my letters got to him, either. I don't know if he thinks of me at all or if he's gone off with some other—someone prettier or grander, or more of a lady than me, which wouldn't be hard to find. Lord knows I didn't do too well at that lady school—I'd have been run off for sure by now if I hadn't caused the place to be burned to the ground.
I don't know anything about anything, so I will have to just wait to find out and then get on with things, with Jaimy or without, and...
There! A coach is loading and is pointed in the right direction. I go up and find that the coach is going to Greenwich and will only cost me one and four if I ride up top, which is fine with me 'cause that's where I'd want to be, anyway, out in the air instead of bein' buffeted back and forth in the stuffy coach with the swells. And, I can get another coach for London early the following day. Perfect!
My seabag is thrown up top and I sling the Lady Lenore in her fiddle case over my shoulder. The Lady is a fine, fine fiddle that I got sort of legal-like, which is a little uncommon for me, I know, and I've been practicing on her like crazy the past five months and I'm almost getting good. I settle myself into the seat next to the driver and we are off, rattlin' through the port town, which quickly thins out into small shops and farmsteads. The driver and me starts sharin' a few tunes together, it bein' a beautiful day and him havin' a fair baritone and me pullin' out my fiddle and pennywhistle and holdin' forth in my usual loud and brazen fashion. It ain't too long 'fore a couple of the swells in the coach below climb out and join us up top and soon we've got a real party goin', laughin' and singin' and makin' the miles fly by.
Finally we pull up to a respectable lookin' house and I hop down and get my gear and I go up to the landlord and ask for a room for the night. He looks at me all suspicious, like I'm goin' to be up to no good, and what with one of the swells still singin' out loud behind me, I can't say I blame him. But I tell him that I'm strictly an entertainer with a nice clean act, and, "Speakin' of clean, I'll be needin' a bath, too, so if you could arrange for one, Sir, I'd be most pleased. And, speakin' of acts, maybe we could set up somethin' for tonight in your main hall, hmmmm?"
We settle on two one-hour sets for half the room rent and whatever tips I can pick up. I haul my stuff off to my room, after telling one of the fancy young men with whom I had shared a song or two on the way here that I would not be sharing my room or my bed with him, thank you, no matter how pretty he is or how sweet his words of love. I get ready for my bath, my wonderful bath, my first bath in three months, which is what I'm wantin' right now over any young man. Almost any. I'd take Jaimy right now, I would, dirty as I am, as he's seen me filthier than this, that's for sure, and yet he still said then that he loved me.
I take a deep breath and think on that. That, and the fact that I might see him tomorrow. That, and I'm afraid of what will happen when I do.
There's a tap on the door and a young girl's voice says, "Miss? Your bath is ready."
I am sunk up to my nose in the lovely hot water, with great gobs of suds drifting about me like ships on the ocean sea. My knees stick up out of the water and I name my left one there to be Gibraltar and the right one to be the coast of North Africa and now the mighty ships of suds sail majestically through the Strait. With a puff of my breath, I speed the great galleons of suds through the channel like a fair and following wind. That one shall be the Raleigh on which Davy sails—whoops, a little rough weather there, Davy? Did you run aground on mighty Gibraltar? Tsk! Sorry, Mate. And that one is the Endeavor, which holds Tink, and that one's the Temeraire with Willy on board, and there, that fine shapely one there, that is the Essex, whereon my true love Jaimy lies—Midshipman James Emerson Fletcher, that is. That one sails all pretty right between my knees and on toward my toes. I slide a little bit up against the high back of the tin tub to let my chest come halfway out of the water. Let's see if we can get the boys to come sailing back to me. I wriggle my toes to send the ships back upstream.
There's a rap on the door and once again I sink beneath the waves, but it is only the girl, this time lugging a large steaming pitcher. "More hot water, Miss?" she pipes. She must be all of ten, the daughter of the house, dressed plain but clean.
"Bless you, child, yes," I sigh, relaxing back into the water. She pours it in over the edge. The new hot water swirls about me, making what I thought was hot before seem now to be merely warm. "And there'll be an extra penny in it for you if you bring me another in a little while."
The girl leaves and it's time for me to stop daydreaming about ships and shores and start getting down to the business of washing the stink of the whaler off me.
I'm soaping my armpits and wondering—I had heard that fine French ladies had the hair under their arms shaved and the hair on their legs, too, but I never got a chance to ask Amy whether that was true or not. She, being very proper, wouldn't have thought it a decent question, is why I never asked. Amy Trevelyne was my best friend back at the school, but she sure ain't now, that's for sure—not after I shamed myself at the big party at her house last spring by getting stupid drunk and bringing disgrace to her family. Besides making a complete fool of myself, I got Randall hurt and almost killed and it's no wonder she betrayed me to the Preac
Looking at my toes sticking up at the other end, I reflect that my toenails could use a bit of a trim so I haul the right foot up and start gnawing 'em off all neat and trim with my teeth. It's easy to do since they've got all soft with the hot water. Thinkin' back on Amy and hairy armpits puts me back to thinking about Mistress Pimm. She was the headmistress and tried her best to make a lady out of me. Well, some things stuck, Mistress, and some things didn't. I pull up my other foot and fix up its toenails in the same way. I know I learned enough to act like a lady, if I'm dressed for the part, but I know, too, that I'll never actually be one. Not down to the bone.
I've found that boys seem to like me, though, and that has been a constant surprise to me, since I consider myself quite plain and even a little bit worked over—I've got a scar under my left eyebrow, which makes the hair of it come in white, and I've got sort of a welt on my neck from when the pirate LeFievre strung me up that time—usually you can't see it, but if I get excited, it flares up red. There are other scars, too, but mostly in places what can't be seen. No, I am not beautiful—that Clarissa Worthington Howe back at the school sure showed me what was a beautiful and cultured lady, that being her, and what was not, that being me. So, I don't know. ... Maybe Jaimy's found someone more pretty than me and that's why. ... just stop thinking that way. You just go round and round and that's not going to help...
I spit out the last toenail clipping and turn to my hair. I dunk down face-first in the water to get it good and wet, then come up like a dolphin and start in to soaping it up. After it's good and soaped and rubbed all in with my fingers, it's back down under to rinse. My hair has gotten really long, in spite of the singeing it took on that last day when the Lawson Peabody burned to the ground along with the church that was next to it and the stables, and maybe other stuff, too. ... I don't know. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. Poor Mistress. I hope they build you another school, this time one of brick that I can't burn down. You were fierce, but you tried to do your best for me, in your way.