Mississippi jack, p.1
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       Mississippi Jack, p.1

           L. A. Meyer
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Mississippi Jack


  Mississippi Jack

  L. A. Meyer

  * * *

  Being an Account of

  the Further Waterborne Adventures

  of Jacky Faber, Midshipman,

  Fine Lady, and the Lily of the West

  * * *

  Harcourt, Inc.

  Orlando Austin New York San Diego London

  * * *

  Copyright © 2007 by L. A. Meyer

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced

  or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

  including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and

  retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work

  should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or

  mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,

  6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

  www.HarcourtBooks.com

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Meyer, L. A. (Louis A.), 1942–

  Mississippi Jack: being an account of the further waterborne adventures

  of Jacky Faber, midshipman, fine lady, and the Lily of the West/L. A. Meyer.

  p. cm.—(A Bloody Jack adventure)

  Summary: In 1806, the exploits of Jacky Faber continue as she

  heads west to avoid capture by the British and discovers adventure

  aboard a keelboat on the mighty Mississippi River.

  [1. Voyages and travels—Fiction. 2. River boats—Fiction. 3. Orphans—

  Fiction. 4. Mississippi River—History—19th century—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.M57172Mi 2007

  [Fic]—dc22 2006034709

  ISBN 978-0-15-206003-9

  Text set in Minion

  Display set in Pabst

  Designed by Cathy Riggs

  First edition

  A C E G H F D B

  Printed in the United States of America

  * * *

  As always, for Annetje...

  as well as for the Meyer and Lawrence families

  and for Team Gayle, too

  Prologue

  Boston Harbor Early Summer, 1806

  Yes, we sailed into Boston Harbor on that glorious day, all of us up on the deck of the Juno, we, the students of the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, having recently delivered ourselves from confinement most cruel on the vile slaver Bloodhound.

  And yes, it was an absolutely perfect day—the sun was shining, the breeze was cool and light, and the sky was a brilliant blue. As we stood into the harbor, we were met by a multitude of small boats, all within them hallooing and waving and blowing horns. Fireworks were set off and brightly colored smoke bombs were exploded. We could hear bands playing on every jetty that we passed, the city having already received word of our salvation and imminent arrival. All flags were out and flying.

  As we approached Long Wharf, for that was plainly our destination, Dolley, Clarissa, and I stood together, back from the others. We had decided that our last act as Division Officers would be to designate ourselves as the last ones off. It suited Dolley's sense of rightness, Clarissa's sense of aristocratic privilege, and my sense of the dramatic.

  Dolley, like the others, was in school dress, the clothing in which we all were captured. Clarissa, having no dress, or any other clothing for that matter, it having been left on the deck of the Bloodhound, was dressed in my maroon riding habit. She looked splendid, and how could I deny her? It is her way, I know that now, and I know we could not have gotten through what we did without her. So, let her preen, for she had earned it. I had thought of wearing another of my fine outfits that were stuffed down in my seabag, but, no, best to remain modest for a change. I was wearing my school dress, too, newly cleaned and pressed as best HMS Juno could do it.

  Yes, my wound had healed up quite nicely and now hardly bothered me at all, which is remarkable since I'd almost died from it all those weeks ago. And yes, my worries that the officers and men on this British ship would discover my true identity gradually fell away as our journey continued and I was treated with the utmost courtesy.

  Yes, all is well, I reflected, as I looked around at the happy scene on the deck of the Juno. I knew Captain Rutherford couldn't wait to get rid of us. He had bent on all sail to get the last bit of speed he could, to get us up here as fast as the ship would go, both on our voyage from the middle of the Atlantic, where we had been rescued from our tiny lifeboat, to New York, and hence here to Boston. Discipline on his ship, as far as the midshipmen and junior officers were concerned, had gone completely to hell—many of our girls had been flirting outright with the young men, and the young men, astounded at their luck to find thirty or so young women in various states of undress in the middle of the ocean, were certainly easy prey for their charms. I'm sure many pledges of undying love and devotion were exchanged, and, who knows, maybe some of them might turn out to be true. Even little Rebecca's thirteen-year-old self had found a midshipman her own age, and they had been holding hands and making cow eyes at each other these past precious days.

  I looked upon my dear Sisters and reflected that many of the parents of these girls would be surprised in these daughters who have been so miraculously returned to them, as they are not the same girls who gaily left on that fateful day. Yes, they have been through much, but they survived through their own strength of will and, because of that, may very well not be as accepting of the manners and roles that were formerly assigned to them by their families and by society. They might very well be trouble, and yes, you may mark me on that.

  The instant the Juno was warped to the pier and the first line thrown over, a flag was hoisted on the masthead of the Customs House and immediately every church bell in the city started to peal out, and they did not stop.

  The gangway was lowered without great ceremony, and the girls swarmed off the Juno, having been formed up in their last muster of Sin-Kay's alphabetical line. They did not mind, for it gave them great joy to see little Rebecca run first down the gangway and into the arms of her family, then Ruth, then Sally, then all the rest.

  Now there goes Annie and Helen and Dorothea and... There's Higgins!

  Oh, my God, Higgins, and Peg and Mistress beside him ... and now Connie and Martha go down and ... There's Amy and Ezra!

  And there ... No, it can't be. There, next to Higgins. Oh, Lord, it's Jaimy ... Good God, it's really Jaimy, standing there smiling up at me and reaching up his hand, and the tears pour out of my eyes and down my face and they are tears of absolute joy.

  My happiness is complete.

  Dimly, I sense Clarissa, who still stands next to me. "So that's him, eh? Well, he looks presentable ... Good chest ... fine leg...," she says. "Well, even though I owe you one in that regard, I might let you keep him." And with that, she turns and follows Dolley down the gangway, head up, the Look in place, to the cheers of her Sisters.

  It is now my turn to go. I have not been able to take my eyes off Jaimy's as I float, as if in a dream, to the gangway. I put my foot on it, and then...

  And then two bayonets cross in front of my chest and I hear the Captain intone, "Miss Faber, by order of His Majesty, King George the Third, you are under arrest on the charge of Piracy!"

  PART I

  Chapter 1

  My name is spoken and the damning words are pronounced and I see the bayonets cross my chest, and all the fond hopes that were rising within that chest die. I am found out.

  I drop my seabag. Maybe I can make it over the side and into the water, I think desperately and lunge for the side, but then two hard, heavy hands grasp each of my upper
arms and I am held fast and then pulled back from the gangway, back from Jaimy and all my friends, and back to what I know will be my doom.

  After my years of military service, it is my instinct to obey the authority vested in a British captain and yield myself up, but, No! Not this time, not with Jaimy not fifty feet away. No! No more Good Soldier Jacky, no more Obedient Midshipman Faber! I twist my head to the side, thinking to bite the hand that holds my right arm, and so be able to draw my shiv from its sheath hidden in my left sleeve, but it is all in vain—the marine senses my intention and pulls his hand out of range of my teeth by hauling my arm behind my back. Ow! Damn!

  I squeal and squall and struggle and squirm and curse them all to Hell and back, ten times over, and while I try to bring my heel up into the left marine's crotch, he is too tall for that, and the two just hold me all the tighter. All I can do now is watch as this all plays out around me, and cry out in total frustration and rage. So close. Oh, Jaimy, so close...

  A stunned silence falls over the formerly festive crowd. What? What is going on? I dimly hear a parent say. Who? What? Piracy? I hear from another dumbfounded onlooker. She's just a girl! Why are they holding her? How could—?

  Clarissa Howe, being the last one down the gangway, is the first to react to my arrest. She turns and charges back up, crying, "Like hell she is! Run, Jacky! Run!" and she launches herself at Captain Rutherford, as it was he who uttered those damning words.

  The crowd is now roaring its disapproval, and others come storming up the gangway.

  "Get her off me, dammit!" shouts the Captain, flailing his arms against Clarissa's onslaught of fists, fingernails, and teeth.

  "Let her go, you!" snarls Clarissa, baring her teeth for an assault on Captain Rutherford's defenseless nose. His nose, however, is spared that grisly fate as the arm of a burly Bo'sun's Mate encircles her about the waist and hauls her to the rail.

  "But what do I do with her, Sir?" bleats the obviously overmatched Bo'sun, as he endures a torrent of blows and curses from the struggling form he holds.

  "Throw her overboard, that's what you do!" roars Captain Rutherford, outraged at this unlooked-for chaos on his holy quarterdeck. "And pull up the gangway!"

  Clarissa shrieks as she is tossed over the rail, a shriek that is cut short as she hits the water.

  If the sound of the splash as Clarissa Worthington Howe enters the chill waters of Boston Harbor gave the Captain any cheer, that cheer would have been quickly dampened by the grim sight of Chrissy, Rose, Hermione, and Minerva, who had wrested themselves from their parents' joyous embraces to string their bows at Katy Deere's command of "Dianas! To me!" and now followed her up the not-yet-pulled gangway, arrows nocked and looking for targets.

  I can see Katy's eyes narrow as she sizes up the situation and pulls back and lets fly her arrow, which wings across the quarterdeck and thuds into the chest of the marine at my right hand. I expect him to drop my arm and fall to the deck, but he does not, for Katy's aim was true, too true—it hit him directly in the middle of his chest where his two white leather belts cross on his breastbone. I doubt the arrow, which had a crude nail as an arrowhead, even pierced his skin. Even so, he stares down at the arrow in horror. I try to jerk free again, but his grip is still strong in spite of his amazement at the thing sticking out of his chest.

  Chrissy King pulls and aims and lets fly at Captain Rutherford's neck, but her father, charging up the gangway, shouting, "Christina! Whatever are you doing?" manages to jostle her enough to spoil her aim, and her arrow buries itself in the mast a scant few inches from the Captain's outraged face. I know that this is a man who has faced murderous cannon fire, cruel clouds of flying splinters, and the peppering of bullets from enemy sharpshooters, but I know also that he has faced nothing like this.

  "Cut the gangway!" he screams, and two men run up with knives and cut the ropes, sacrificing the Juno's gangway to the riot. The gangway crashes down to the water, spilling the rest of the Dianas into the harbor and preventing any more arrows from being loosed in the direction of the Juno. Chrissy's father, Mr. King, also joins his daughter and her friends in the muddy water.

  Pandemonium rules on the dock. The rest of my Sisters, denied access to the ship, grab fruit and other things from the vendors on the wharf and wing them toward the officers on the deck of the Juno, often with great effect. But not, however, on my two restraining marines, who continue to hold me in an iron grip. I try stomping on their feet, but though they grunt, they do not let go.

  "Arrest them!" shouts the Captain, rushing to the rail and shaking his fist at the crowd. "You, there! Constable! Do your duty," he orders the confused Constable Wiggins, "or, by God, I'll blockade this godforsaken harbor and starve you all to death!" The Captain then takes a well-thrown fish to his face and staggers back, his great dignity gone, and he is reduced to wiping the fish slime out of his eye and cursing the fact he ever picked up this pack of goddamned Amazons from the middle of the goddamned ocean.

  I see Wiggins furrow his brow over his piggy little eyes, and I know he is thinking: The female in question, that Jacky Faber: bad. Authority in the person of the British Captain: good. He nods, then blows his whistle, and he and his henchmen wade into the crowd, swinging their rods.

  "Get her below!" yells Captain Rutherford. "Put her in the brig! And keep watch on her. Yeow! Damn!" He ducks as another arrow whizzes by his head. It appears that not all of the Dianas went down with the gangway.

  I had seen Jaimy try to struggle up the gangway. Oh, Jaimy! Don't! It won't work! Go back! But with the crush of girls and parents, he could not gain the quarterdeck, and now with the gangway fallen, there is no hope of him boarding. Could I not have spoken to him, embraced him, been with him, if even for a moment? Oh, why am I denied even that? I slump down, defeated, in the hands of my captors, who begin to drag me to a hatchway.

  As I am pulled back from the rail, I lose sight of the people on the wharf, but I can see fish and vegetables and various animal parts continue to rain down on the formerly spotless deck, and I can hear the howls of rage and the curses that continue unabated from the crowd. A bucket arcs through the air and hits the deck, spilling bloody chicken heads across the booted toes of the still-lined-up officers. And above it all, there's Wiggins, sounding like an enraged bull as he bellows orders to his men, who attempt to control the mob.

  One of the marines kicks open the hatch, and I am shoved toward the hole, but then I hear: "Release her or I'll kill you where you stand!"

  I snap my head around and see that Jaimy has managed to get on deck and is facing Captain Rutherford. He must have crawled up Two Line, just like when he was a ship's boy, and now he's red in the face with fury and he is drawing his sword. No, Jaimy, don't. There's too many of them!

  Captain Rutherford puffs up, his face as angry and red as Jaimy's, as he pulls his own sword and roars, "A boy dares come aboard my ship, dressed in the uniform of my service, and addresses me thus? I fear it shall be you, Sir, who is killed, not me!" I see him nod at officers who stand behind Jaimy, but Jaimy does not. A large man pins Jaimy's arms to his sides before he can get his sword even halfway out of its scabbard.

  Jaimy sputters in helpless rage, "God damn you to Hell! Get them off me! Stand and fight me like a man!"

  Captain Rutherford calmly puts the point of his sword at Jaimy's throat and demands, "Just who the hell are you and what is your concern in all this?" The sharp point pricks Jaimy's neck and a bright spot of blood appears and runs several inches down the blade.

  Don't tell them, Jaimy! I silently mouth and shake my head. No, they'll take you, too!

  But to no avail, no, as Jaimy is angry beyond all reason. He puffs up and shouts in the Captain's face, "I am Lieutenant James Emerson Fletcher of His Majesty's Royal Navy, I am affianced to this girl, and I demand satisfaction of you!"

  "You shall have neither the girl nor the satisfaction that you crave," replies Captain Rutherford, smiling slyly. He withdraws the point of his sword from Jaim
y's neck and wipes the blood from it on the arm of Jaimy's coat and then sheathes his sword. "I have need of a junior lieutenant. Mr. Henshaw, see that Mr. Fletcher's name is entered into the log of the ship's company." An officer next to the Captain nods. The Captain goes on. "You are now under my command. I am now your Captain. Reach for your sword again or utter one more threat against me and you are a dead man. Hanged from that yardarm, as per Navy Regulations. Understood?"

  Jaimy strains against the arms that hold him, never taking his eyes off those of the Captain. He is beyond coherent speech, but the Captain is not. "You, Sir, have been read into the ship's company and you will go back to England with us! Your apparent interest and past association with this criminal female will be viewed as quite suspect! I may tell you that, Sir! Quite suspect and with the greatest suspicion!"

  Just then I see the head of little Rebecca Adams appearing above the Juno's rail. Having seen Jaimy climb the rope, she must have figured she could do the same, and she was right. 'Tis plain that she slipped out of her school dress and did the climbing in her undershirt and drawers, our old fighting costume on the Bloodhound. Then Caroline Thwackham's head appears at the rail, then Beatrice's, then Annie is over, and then...

  And then they're all over the ship and up in its rigging.

  "God damn it! God damn it to Hell!" screams Captain Rutherford, upon seeing this. "Get them down! Get them off my ship!"

  Rebecca, before she heads up the ratlines, plucks a few belaying pins from their rack along the rail and begins flinging them at those who would pursue her. Yelps are heard from those sailors who get too close to her. Having fended them off, she sticks a few more pins in the waistband of her drawers and climbs aloft.

  The attempts of Jaimy and my Sisters to rescue me renew my spirit and I jerk my arms suddenly and, yes! I manage to get away from the marines for just a second and I head for the side. If I can just get over! If I can just...

 
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