“It was rotten meat and weevily bread / Leave her Johnny, leave her! / Eat her or starve, the Old Man said, / Leave her Johnny, leave her!” --sea shanty
Elizabeth’s bedchamber was bare. Her high, paneled poster bed had been robbed of its curtains and bore a shabby counterpane. The frame was exhausted and smelled like something was slowly molding between the sheets. That was why she spent the least time possible in bed, slipping into the worn covers only for a few hours a night.
She had in fact taken to falling asleep on her small table, once meant as a vanity, and that was where morning found her. She woke from a dark sleep, her body tense and aching from her position, hunched over the table. Her face and hands were stained with the black ink of the map that she had been drawing before falling asleep on top of it. The map was drawn shakily, unsure; she’d been trying to plot the course from Jamaica to England with the aid of nautical pamphlets that were several years the worse for wear and probably inaccurate.
“Mrs. Turner,” said the maid, from behind her.
“What is it, Es—?” Elizabeth blurted, wiping her face embarrassedly and almost forgetting herself in her haste. Estrella, her maid for eight years, had vanished the night of the attack on Port Royal, a year and a half before. There was still an emptiness in Elizabeth that kept wanting to look up familiarly at Estrella’s face. But Estrella was no more; there was Harriet, who was dour, about thirty, and had lost several of her teeth. She feared nothing and was suspicious of everyone.
“There’s a man in the parlor, Mrs. Turner.”
Elizabeth shook out her skirt, embarrassed but not surprised to have found herself falling asleep in the same gown she had worn the day before. She was about to snap, “Yes, of course,” but, as she smoothed her flighty hair down, she asked, “Is he waking?” She looked at Harriet, who gave a hobbled curtsy by way of answer. Elizabeth wiped her hands on her skirt again, deciding, quite sensibly, she was sure, that she didn’t care in what state Jack Sparrow saw her. Being alone with him on a palm-fringed scrap of sand in her under-things could certainly have no equal in terms of impropriety.
As she walked briskly into the parlor behind Harriet’s awkward, limping gait, Elizabeth’s tall shoes clacked on the floor. When dismissed, the maid gazed at the prostrate shape of Jack Sparrow on the floor, suppressed a hoarse giggle, and left the room. Elizabeth herself succumbed to amusement. Here was this terror of the high seas, sprawled out and passed out on the floor, his patched and mismatched attributes coated in dust, his mouth slightly open. She saw that he was stirring, and soon a dark beringed finger flew from his side to rub his black-lined eyelid. A groan escaped him as both of his bloodshot bug eyes popped open.
He was hung-over and disoriented, Elizabeth thought smugly. The most mercenary part of her wondered what price she might receive monetarily to haul him, deranged and drunk like this, into the fort. None of that, she solidly reprimanded herself;Jack was her friend, and furthermore, he had pledged to help her in her scheme.
“Good morning, Mr. Sparrow,” she said lightly, with a hint of mockery in her voice, as she swept past him to retrieve the empty brandy bottle and tumbler from the floor.
“Mornin’,” the pirate replied, gingerly pulling himself to an upright position and coughing to stifle an ill-timed hiccup. Holding his head between his hands and shaking himself back to reality, he added, “It’s Captain Sparrow.” He began to comb his wind-woven hair between his dirty fingers, trying to brush out the crumbs from the floor. He belched and muttered something like an apology as Elizabeth set the empty glass on her marquetry table. “Why’d you let me drink s’much?”
Elizabeth turned, torn between gleeful surprise at his half-baked state and real sympathy. “Imagine me ‘letting’ you do anything.” She peered at him, almost convinced he couldn’t remember who she was, where he was, and why he was on the floor. “I thought you could handle your liquor.”
He lurched to his feet comically, somehow managing to lose his battered hat in the process, the trinkets in his hair jingling in harmonious protest. “ ‘S not me fault me wanderin’ vagrant status prevents me from tasting the fullest of the vintages . . .” He eyed her. “. . . Mrs. Turner.”
Elizabeth jammed her fists onto her hips in surprise. He did remember. He hardly looked seaworthy, but she had to smile at his outrageous appearance. They had been through much together, certainly not by choice, but they were alive—in some ways because of each other. For a moment, he seemed to share her look, smiling a little, as if in understanding. She had to look away: his smile, when genuine, warmed her heart in a way she would admit to no one. He shouldered his pistol belt intently, then said cheerily, “I think I’d best be off. I’ve tarried here too long.”
Elizabeth’s smile faded. “Wait a moment. You can’t leave yet. I’m not ready.”
Jack looked at her, visibly confused, playing with the ends of his moustache as if engaged in deep philosophical thought. “What d’ye mean, not ready?”
Elizabeth strode forward quickly, as if leaving no room for doubt. Her pretty, youthful face—already prematurely furrowed with worry lines—steeled in a grim look. “Our agreement. You agreed to take me to London and . . .” She waited for him to catch on. Light dawned in his dark eyes, but then his look grew trivial—she knew what he was going to say. Savagely, she barked: “We shook on it!”
Sparrow chuckled, taking a few steps toward the young woman with his characteristic languorous gait. “Mrs. Turner, the things we do in our weaker moments . . .”
His disingenuous tone, designed to placate, incensed her. “I swore I’d pay you half my inheritance! A month’s trouble and-and-and your fortune made!”
Jack stood in front of her, considering. “What is’t you need to do?” he asked dubiously.
Elizabeth picked up her skirts in anticipation. “I have my things together,” she put in eagerly. “I just need to get changed into something suitable.”
He had been chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip as he had been listening to her, but once she mentioned the word “suitable,” he gave her the insincere look he often reserved for those of the fairer sex. “I seem t’ remember you havin’ no qualms about chasin’ ‘round the Caribbean in—” his wide eyes comically bulged as he traced a female shape through the air “—naught but a shift . . .”
Elizabeth flushed dramatically. She found herself swimming in a red haze, anger flooding behind her eyes. Her limbs seemed to move of their own volition. She strode forward. Her hand slammed across Jack’s chest, as if to knock the wind out of him. Instead she wrenched his pistol from the belt and drew it out. “You seem to be under the impression that I had a choice in the matter!”
They both stumbled back. Her arm trembled, but steadily she held the gun at arm’s length and pointed it at his head. Jack’s hands hung in the air around the pistol belt, frozen there in shock. The look he gave her was only mildly concerned, as if the haze of drunkenness had not relinquished him completely. “Wha’ are you doin’, love?” he asked softly, staring into the barrel as he might have glanced at the gibbet in the distance.
“You have to keep your promise, Jack,” Elizabeth insisted firmly, her voice shaking like that of a young girl. Her voice may have been trembling, but her hands were surprisingly steady. Jack glanced at her dubiously. She sucked back a sob of frustration and pent-up anger, anticipating him. “Even if you still carry one shot, I can’t help but hit you at this range.”
Jack looked into her eyes. His voice was soft. “S’not even loaded.”
Elizabeth’s first—and justified—response was to lower the pistol and check the powder and bullets. But she mastered this novice’s reaction and held the gun steady at the level of the pirate’s eyes. “I don’t believe you,” she said, her brow contracting. She cocked the gun, inhaling deeply to drown out the unbelievable sound of her hammering heart. I don’t want to kill you, Jack, she thought. Stop being such a fool.
“Don’ be such a fool, ‘Lizabeth,” Jack said gingerly. When she made no response, he appeared to be considering his options, though his black-rimmed eyes bulged in obvious alarm when she cocked the pistol. His twitching fingers grasped at the air, a sign to Elizabeth that his mind was at work. Sure enough, he began taking a few dainty, cautious steps toward her, shuffling and with a conciliatory look.
“Don’t move any closer, Mr. Sparrow . . .” Elizabeth threatened, shivering a little as her arms began to grow tired. A little bit of sweat broke out on her forehead. She licked her upper lip, tasting salt.
Jack stopped and cleared his throat. He nonchalantly scratched his head underneath the dark red of his scarf. He folded his hands in front of his chest, a steeple. “You wouldn’t do . . . it,” he declared politely, though his raised eyebrow betrayed his lack of conviction.
Elizabeth swallowed, her shoulders quivering. “All right,” she said crisply, losing no face as she pulled the gun away from Sparrow and lined the barrel against her temple. The metal was cold, and she was beginning to feel feverish.
Jack threw up his arms in complete despair. “Jus’ like that boy!” he exclaimed. “Impossibly self-sacrificin’!”
Elizabeth’s lips were tight in a grim mockery of a smile. Though her finger trembled on the trigger and easily could have meant the end of her life, she was confident that she would not have to resort to shooting herself. In truth, she much rather would have shot Jack than herself, but she knew his weakness for lost causes.
“You ‘ad too much to drink las’ night,” was Sparrow’s exasperated reaction.
Elizabeth scowled at him. “I didn’t drink anything last night!” Jack shrugged his shoulders cheekily. “You know that if I pull this trigger,” Elizabeth said slowly, playing her trump, “it won’t look like a suicide. It’ll look like murder, murder by someone desperate, a desperate pirate, and who should happen to—”
“All ri’,” Jack said quietly, holding out his dirty fingers in surrender.
Joshamee Gibbs liked nothing better than the bitter taste of whiskey from his own personal flask. Sure, he could drain a dirty mug or two of ale easily enough in a Tortuga dive, but it was his own drink that he took to best. The air was mild and cool this morning moored behind the craggy rocks, out of sight of Port Royal harbor. “ ‘S going to be a winnin’ day, says I,” he bespoke robustly from the quarter-deck of the Black Pearl.
“Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning,” cackled the red parrot as it bobbed its head idiotically from Peter Cotton’s shoulder.
“Ah, yer bird be daft, Cotton!” Gibbs snapped, throwing two burly arms at Cotton in exasperation. Cotton, having just completed his task of scouring the side ladder, gave Gibbs a quizzical look before turning away. “Dah!” muttered Gibbs, taking another hard swig from his flask.
“You drink yourself to death someday, Mr. Gibbs.” Gibbs turned and saw the lithe shape of AnaMaria, who had evidently just swung down from the jib-boom, repairing a section of the wood. Up there was the best place for the lassie, Gibbs thought privately, peering rather pointedly at her backside. Scratching his steel-grey sideburns with a woeful grin, he reflected that perhaps his old prejudice against having the weaker sex aboard had been proven false. Figure or no figure, she was an able seaman.
“And what it’s to ye, Miss AnaMaria, should I drink meself to Duffy?” Gibbs dryly observed as the young Creole woman joined him on deck.
“Oh, ‘tis nothing at all to me, I assure you, sir,” AnaMaria replied blandly. “I might enjoy being firs’ mate and your share of the booty, that’s a fact.” She regarded Gibbs primly before reaching inside her trouser pocket for a spyglass. As she brought it up to her eye, Gibbs offered her a swig from his flask. She shook her head firmly, the soft dark hair under her broad hat and bandana blowing. “I see enough men lose their senses with the drink.” Her pointed look left Gibbs in no doubt of whom she meant.
“You sure smoke up a storm with yer tobacky-weed,” Gibbs commented sulkily, wrapping his great, brawny arms across his chest after tucking the flask away.
AnaMaria laughed from behind the spyglass. Gibbs had to admit there was nothing so lovely as the sight of a beautiful woman clad in a pretty dress, but AnaMaria didn’t look half bad in her men’s gear of hat, bandana, paisley-print calico shirt open at the throat under a mean-looking necklace of cowries and shark’s teeth, her broad belt, wide trousers, and knee-high boots. She seemed to be able to sense his staring at her and flicked an angry look at him before squinting at the horizon. “Jack was supposed to be back over an hour ago.” She looked up at the limp sails.
“Oh, aye, Miss,” Gibbs said. “but ye know Jack—‘as a habit of miscalculatin’ time, Jack does.” He looked at her covertly. “You wouldna be worrying about our ol’ Jack, now—?”
“Don’t be daft, man,” she snapped. “Thought we was to keep to the Code, is all.” She placed the spyglass back in her pocket.
“Haven’t I told ye enough times, woman? Code is more like guidelines. The sooner you learn that, the better.”
“Forgive me for tryin’ to give some purpose to this here rough-and-tumble life we lead,” AnaMaria said coldly, glancing back at the sailor Moises who was now lazily ascending the rope ladders on the mizzen mast.
“Look here, madam: ‘twas one thing I couldn’t abide about His Majesty’s Royal Navy.” Gibbs stuck a stubby finger at her. “That was: them rules, rules, rules all the time. Stodgy. Stubborn. Keep clean about the brisket—”
“His Majesty’s Royal Navy,” AnaMaria interrupted with extreme sarcasm, “would never let a woman on board its ships unless she were a—”
“I don’t know about yer past, an’ I don’t care to!” Gibbs went on, cutting her off. “If the Black Pearl is anything—if piratin’ is anything—it’s fer doin’ as the wind calls, as ‘twas natural.” Gibbs’ look turned philosophical, like a physician about to deliver a treatise. “Well-oiled a crew, we be. Navy ‘as to issue orders. We, we just understan’. Understan’ it without Jack having to say more than a word. Natural-like.”
AnaMaria rolled her eyes. “Fascinating.”
“Wind in yer sails, wind in yer sails,” added the parrot as Cotton strode by to go below deck.
“See, Cotton agrees,” Gibbs muttered.
“Damn the man who stole my boat!” AnaMaria muttered.
Several of the pirates turned and looked at them. AnaMaria played with the brim of her hat nervously. “Honestly, woman, ye’re a right mercenary,” Gibbs said darkly.
“Your nose is once again fallin’ into other people’s business, Mr. Gibbs,” AnaMaria said, narrowing her eyes in a significant look. A chorus of rowdy laughter was going to accompany Gibbs’ retort, but they were interrupted by a cry from the top of the main mast. Crimp, light and suited for high yard work, was calling down below, “Ahoy! Boat off the larboard side. I think it’s Captain Sparrow.”
AnaMaria rushed to the larboard side of the hull, straightening up when Gibbs gave her an I-told-you-so look. “Ah, very good,’ the old salt said. The crew busied themselves as best a pirate crew could to look good for their captain, and even AnaMaria had to admit they shined up well on occasion. They watched the little rowboat, hardly seaworthy, come in closer. The sun was high and glinting on the waves, but they were almost certain there was someone else in the boat beside their fearless leader. This puzzled them, but not overmuch.
It wasn’t until Jack emerged from the larboard side, having climbed up the rigging, that any questions could be asked. He appeared, the imitable Captain Sparrow, eyes black-rimmed and swimming, and there was a scowl on his face that could challenge Old Hobb.
“Welcome back, Captain Sparrow,” said Gibbs circumspectly, half-saluting.
“How are you rascals?” Jack growled, a tiny smile showing through his moustache as he surveyed the crew, trying to look menacing. “Keeping my ship in good working order, I hope.”
“Aye aye sir!” shouted one of the crew, at which everyone chuckled. Their laughter was interrupted, however, by the sight of Elizabeth Turner climbing up over the side, following Jack. Was she put out that he hadn’t helped her? Perhaps. She landed on the deck with a shout.
The crew fell silent, even Cotton’s fidgety parrot. Gibbs gasped. “Miss Elizabeth!” He ran forward to help her down. She took his hand, weather-cracked as it was, warmly, happy to see a familiar face. “I have to say I never thought I’d see the likes o’ ye again!”
“Yes, Mr. Gibbs,” Elizabeth replied. “And it’s Mrs. Turner now.”
Jack stood off to the side, slouching in his gentleman’s coat, and with his hat rakishly cocked to the side. He steadfastly refused to look at Elizabeth or at the crew, and developed a passionate interest in a knot hole on the deck railing.
AnaMaria was glaring steadfastly at him until Elizabeth exclaimed aloud, “AnaMaria!” Everyone looked at her. “It’s just that—I thought you would have your own ship by now.” Everyone looked at Jack.
“Aye, I should,” she said pointedly, narrowing her eyes at Jack.
Jack clasped his hands together merrily. “Well, as the ‘ole crew seems to be interested in our new passenger, I’ll leave ye t’get better acquainted.” He glanced at Gibbs. “Mr. Gibbs, I expect you t’oversee our making way.” Gibbs opened his mouth. “S’an order, Mr. Gibbs, just follow the course we planned out, eh?” He touched the side of his nose significantly, winking. And he dashed down the decks to his cabin and slammed the door.
Elizabeth bit her lip and stared. The crew stared back. Gibbs, fingering anxiously for his flask, shrugged. AnaMaria eyed him. “Get t’it then! You, there!” He thrust an oxish hand at Angus Duncan, stumbling as usual. “Hoist the sails, and be quick on’t! We’ll catch the wind yet!”
With a bit of hesitancy, the ragged but sound crew had leapt to action, weighing anchor and tipping their hats over their eyes to hide from the rowdy sun. Elizabeth stood awkwardly near the prow where she had stepped off. The Black Pearl, light and fast as she was, immediately gulped the wind in her sails and shoved off. Elizabeth brought her hand to her eyes, shielding herself from the sun, as she peered up at the top mast, fast catching in the wind. She realized she probably should have added a broad-brimmed hat to her ensemble, which complemented her figure not much. Her hair stiffly plaited down her back, a faded red neckerchief around her throat—no one but she knew it was Will’s that he had managed to leave behind. Her leather jerkin and heavy men’s coat—with sleeves too long for her—hung over her wool breeches that ended a little below the knee; her clocked stockings, held up primly by unseen garters, were the only uncompromisingly feminine piece about her.
At her booted feet was a leather trunk, embarrassingly monogrammed with her father’s initials in gold filigree. She tried to hide it with her feet, noticing—or believing she did—that some of the pirates had taken a curious interest in it. They were Jack’s crew, certainly, but she still wasn’t entirely sure she could trust them. Not that there was really much of value in it: her money she kept in a pouch on a string slung down her shirt. Her bag contained a few articles of clothing, including a skirt should she ever need to appear properly attired, some cut bandages in case the surgeon was as scatterbrained as Jack. A map of London. But these things certainly set her apart from the others who, she was sure, had little but booze and talismans to call their own.
As if confirming her own nervous state of mind, Elizabeth turned and found the woman called AnaMaria sidling up to her, hands in her trouser pockets. A carved pipe dangled from the belt at her waist.
“Elizabeth Turner,” said AnaMaria.
Elizabeth tried to smile, the muscles in her face tightening involuntarily. “Yes. And you are AnaMaria, so I gathered. I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced.” She held out her hand.
AnaMaria looked down. She thrust her palm into Elizabeth’s. The dark, rough, salt-hewed hand of the sea-woman, whose nails were flailed to scraps by her work on the top masts, completely dwarfed Elizabeth’s, pale and diminutive. AnaMaria hocked up and spat overboard. She let Elizabeth’s hand go with a shrug. “Aye, we haven’t.” She looked sharply up. A thick hempen cord had come lose from its halyard and was threatening to dislocate from the sails. “Throw me that rope, there.”
Nonplussed, Elizabeth hauled the rope, slung it around her shoulder, and threw it to AnaMaria. AnaMaria handled it in short, yet fluid movements, tying hefty sailors’ knots through it. Elizabeth could only stare in awe. AnaMaria squinted. “And aye, I should have my own boat by now. And while ye may be wonderin’ why exactly that hasn’t come to pass, I seem t’have a more pressing question meself.”
“Ye showed yerself capable enough of keeping alive, but if ye’re married an’ all, whatchabe doing’ out on a pirate ship?”
The question was pointed and threatening. Elizabeth recalled AnaMaria’s suggestion when the Interceptor was under attack to auction her off to the unholy miscreants aboard the Black Pearl. There was no reason to believe she wouldn’t do something similar again. There was, therefore, no reason to tell her the truth.
“Well, really, AnaMaria, I don’t see what it is to you.” She smiled, falsely sweet.
AnaMaria’s shoulders hunched. Then she laughed. “No need to get up in arms, milady,” she said with a silky mockery reminiscent of Jack’s. “Crazy is as crazy does . . .”
Elizabethhad heard that before. “Crazy like Jack . . .”
“Excuse me, ladies,” came the voice of Gibbs, who, by the look of him, was trying desperately not to laugh. Elizabeth and AnaMaria turned, both gazing at him with cool stares. “B-but I am charged by, uh, the C-Captain,” he sputtered, “to bring Miss Eliz—I mean, Mrs. Turner, to her—er—quarters.” He coughed. “Right away.”
Elizabeth’s skin was burning with the prolonged exposure to the sun and the curious conversation with AnaMaria. She stooped to grab the brass handles of her trunk as she followed Gibbs down into the lower decks. It was damp and acrid below though not particularly cool; she was relieved, however, to find that the overwhelmingly stale scent of rot and decay that had flooded the decks the last time she’d been aboard the Black Pearl was gone—mostly. There was the scent of human toil, but that at least was natural. She wrinkled her nose. Also sulfur, which she had heard was used to purify the air from time to time. At least these pirates had some semblance of cleanliness.
They quickly came to the gun deck, where the crew slung their hammocks. At first Elizabeth thought they were sacks of gunpowder, heavy with their burden, hanging from the deck above and swaying with the current of the ship. But then she realized they were in fact, raggedy quilts, burlap sacks, and the like. She was a little put off by the fact they were right next to the guns but at least the open deck allowed for some ventilation. Gibbs was grunting as they weaved between the hammocks, devoid of their occupants. He showed her to one far aft and in a corner by itself. She remembered how she’d once spoken to Commodore Norrington (when he was still a captain) about Navy accommodations. “Each seaman is allotted no more than fourteen inches, Miss Swann,” he had said.
“That doesn’t seem like very much,” she had said softly. Now she saw that it wasn’t. She was surprised to see a small curtain of pale pink fabric, filched from God knew where, separating it off from the others. Gibbs cleared his throat. “These be your ‘commodations, Mrs. Turner. I know they might’n’t be the cabin-cots ye’re used to, bein’ a lady an’ all—”
Elizabeth affected a laugh, dry even to her ears. “Mr. Gibbs, as you well know, the first night I spent aboard this ship, I was huddled in a corner of the captain’s dining cabin.”
“Well, I cannot argue w’ that,” exclaimed the rough old sailor, clapping his hands together with a terrific noise. “Anyhow, Cap’n ordered me to erect this little curtain for yer convenience.” He fingered the material daintily between his fingers like a young bridegroom would the apple-cheeks of his bride.
“Indeed,” said Elizabeth. Could Jack really be so thoughtful? she wondered. A fluke, surely, or some ulterior motive. There was always an ulterior motive for Jack. “Does AnaMaria have a curtain?”
Gibbs gazed upward, humming, drumming his broad finger against his chin. “Not when I come to think o’ it, though needs be she’s accorded certain privileges what we call ‘alone time’.”
Very comforting, Elizabeth thought. “Well, if she doesn’t have a curtain, I certainly don’t need one.”
“No, s’awful bad luck to mix womanly concerns amongst this lot,” said Gibbs, troubled. “Women on board a sailing ship—I’ve always said—“
“You once told me,” interrupted Elizabeth, “that singing pirate shanties would bring the cursed pirates down upon us, do you remember that?”
“Well, I were right, weren’t I!”
Just then, a rolling wave bumped them back and forth. Elizabeth knocked her forehead on a lintel beam but recovered. “Damn ‘em if they can’t steer a ship but to doomsday!” Gibbs snapped, shaking his fist upwards. “I had better get back up on the poop deck.”
“Wait!” Elizabeth cried. “Am I to stay here?”
“You are to take t’opportunity to rest,” said Gibbs carefully as if reciting from a practiced script. “And frankly, missy, I think you could use a coupl’a’winks.”
“Oh?” Elizabeth touched the black circles under her eyes involuntarily, then her hollow cheekbones.
“I . . . uh . . . heard about yer father.”
Elizabeth shuddered a little, not meaning to react at all. “Yes,” she croaked in a voice that gone very faint.
“I’m very sorry fer yer loss, ‘Lizabeth.” Gibbs, his brows mournfully raised like a London Thespian, reached a hand to pat her shoulder and then drew back. “What I knew o’ the governor—which wasn’t much, I admit to ye—he were a good man, very gentleman-like.”
Elizabeth felt her head pounding. “Yes, thank you,” she whispered. Gibbs whipped out his flask and offered her a drink. The smell of the alcohol alone was enough to bring her to her senses, but the thought of consuming anything resembling rum made her wave the offer away. “And, Mr. Gibbs,” she said, “this may seem highly irregular, but where might I put this chest? It contains some very valuable items, and . . .” She looked at him guiltily.
“I see,” Gibbs said cryptically. “A pirate’s motto is to ‘take what you can.’”
“Yes,” said Elizabeth, “I heard Will say that once.” She caught herself but it was too late. The pain in the cavity of her chest stung unmercifully. Gibbs opened his mouth to say something, but was prevented by another swell of the ship. “Blast it!” he cried. Then he said to Elizabeth, “I will take your trunk to the Cap’n’s cabin, where ‘twill be safe.”
Of course it will, she thought sarcastically.
After Gibbs had gone, Elizabeth gingerly sat into the crook of her hammock. It was true that she had never crossed an ocean in the greatest of comfort, but the thin canvas seemed neither inviting nor safe, especially swinging so close to the cannons. She thought of Port Royal, quickly becoming no more than a speck seen on a clear day from the top mast. She was leaving it behind, and God knew where she was headed next.
Her thoughts naturally turned to Will. She remembered being in the hold of the Interceptor with him as he tenderly but clumsily tied a bandage around her injured hand. She shivered. She could see Will’s dark brown, expansive eyes, glowing with affection and kindheartedness at her. How she did long for his arms again, for his sweet caresses and the words he would whisper to her . . .
She was alone. She thought about Harriet and the footman, cook, and groom still left at the Governor’s mansion and if they would flee immediately, find passage on a schooner out. Would anyone in Port Royal even notice she was gone? Her father was dead. James Norrington was oceans away. Gibbs, she thought desperately, Gibbs at least still has some kindness for me.
“Straighten up, Elizabeth,” she said to herself, stiffening her spine, rocking listlessly in the hammock. “This is no time for self-pity.”
What could she have done? She was practically rotting in Port Royal, rotting of internal fear and loneliness. At least now she might have a chance, however small, to find her husband. She had to find him. Jack was right to scoff, she thought. Apart from planning the aim of her great scheme, she had not so much as figured a bearing for the voyage, and hadn’t thought how a pirate ship was supposed to sail up the Thames and drop her into her uncle’s lap.
Could she trust Jack? she wondered. She had nearly had to kill him to earn his part in the adventure—who was to say he wouldn’t break his word and just ignore her presence on the ship? He was the captain, and the crew was certainly beholden to him. If even a few had stood up for her, Elizabeth was certain no one could convince Jack Sparrow to do anything he didn’t want to. She had hoped her lure of gold and a letter of marque would be enough to tempt him, but now she was not so sure.
Her thoughts had made her feverish, and her head had begun to ache. Bitterly, she murmured to no one, “Perhaps I should take some rest after all.” Rest? What she really wanted was fresh water; she was so hot all of a sudden. New perspiration had formed on her forehead over her extremely pale skin. She gulped, remembering how listless, how detached from her body it had felt when she had caught the fever. With that, she slid into the hammock, kicking off her boots. For a few moments, she lay in sweaty agony, beginning to feel sea-sick in addition to faint. Then, everything changed . . .
Someone—a man—was speaking to her in a low, careful voice, and she knew there was a certain importance in what he was saying. But who was it? And why couldn’t she understand him? She felt her limbs burning up and losing feeling, and she hadn’t any breath at all to say, “I can’t breathe!” She was feeling so hot, much too hot, on fire, and then cold, so very cold, but couldn’t even see anymore . . .
All at once, she felt much more at ease, as though she had gently settled. But she was still very cold, her skin feeling brackish, clammy. She gasped and choked out a throat full of water, spilling it over her side where it gathered in her stringy hair. She opened her eyes, shocked that they had been closed, and a thousand sensations assailed her at once.
She was chilled, her gown soaked and clinging wetly to her. Heavens!—she wasn’t wearing her gown—she was dressed merely in her thin, wispy chemise and bodice of batiste. No wonder, then, she was so cold! Where on earth had her gown gone? Why was she indecently sprawled on the gangway below Fort Charles, peering into the ocean, instead of upon the parapet, nervously avoiding Commodore Norrington’s gaze?
“Never would’ave thought o’ that!” a voice said above her. It was a marine’s voice, she thought at once; she knew it vaguely.
“Clearly, you’ve never been to Singapore,” said another voice, this one entirely unfamiliar. She noted vaguely that the corset in which she had so recently been suffocating was gone to wherever her gown had disappeared. She tilted her head upwards—the sunlight was hurting her eyes—to look at the new speaker.
For a brief instant, a halo of light clouded her vision, and she could neither see nor move. She prayed in girlish anxiety, I hope it’s Will, even though her rationality knew it could not be. But soon she realized she had never seen a face before like this. It was not Will Turner by any means, but a man leaning over her with a short dagger in his gnarled, sooty hands and a strange expression on his face. His age she could not immediately determine. He was tanned in a way that immediately signified to her an old salt. There was something glinting strangely in his teeth. Ah. Some of them were made of gold.
Suddenly her mind started to work, choking into action. She must have fainted, fallen from the parapet into the ocean, and been saved by this raffish-looking individual who bore some great resemblance to the pirates she had read about in several broadsides. He was crouched over her, the two marine sentries holding their ground nervously. The lobster-red of their uniforms (indeed, she had nicknamed them lobsters when she was a child) contrasted tellingly with the wild state of the man looking down at her, as did their pasty and confused faces, while his seemed to contain a vast amount of mystery. She had just thought of thrusting her elbows underneath her body in order to view her rescuer more clearly when he reached one dark hand toward her. She started, shocked that a stranger might have the impudence to caress her near-bare breast in plain view of all assembled—Oh. Well. He had taken up the pirate medallion on its chain around her throat and was lifting it, gazing back at her. “Where did you get that?” he asked in a cryptic voice.
If Elizabeth had even been able to form a reply—she was far too mystified by the unknown man’s strange interest in her pirate medallion—she was prevented by the cutting voice of the Commodore. “On your feet,” he said imperiously, bringing an undoubtedly sharpened blade to the throat of the man leaning over her.
“Elizabeth!” she heard her father exclaim, followed by the naval tattoo of several pairs of feet running down the gangway. Her father hauled her to her feet, bundling her up in his ornamental coat. “Are you all right?”
Elizabeth could see her father’s worried look without even glancing at him. Elizabeth loved her father—he was generous, indulgent, and erudite—but in many ways naïve. The worried look that would crease his brow was almost tiresome to her as more of a reflexive action than an expression of genuine concern. “Yes, I’m fine,” she muttered, looking instead at her rescuer, dripping and damp as she was as he gazed warily at the Commodore.
Then she saw one of the marines holding the open sides of her corset, salmon pink, like a fish freshly gutted out of its skin. Her father saw as well, looked at the stranger, and blustered, “Shoot him!”
“Father!” Elizabeth snapped, nonchalantly dragging the medallion back into her bodice and out of sight. “Commodore, do you really intend to kill my rescuer?”
Elizabeth looked at James Norrington, his eyes dark and inscrutable. The others around them shifted uncomfortably. She hazarded a glance at the man who had just saved her life. He looked back at her and, pressing his fingers together in a sort of salute, (Elizabeth had seen an illustration of a Hindoo doing the same) nodded effacingly to her.
“I believe thanks are in order,” said the Commodore crisply, holding out a jacketed arm. The pale lace at his cuff trembled. Elizabeth took a step closer to the raffish-looking man. He was staring in a sort of cautious dumbfoundedness at the offered hand. Eventually he evinced one of his own, with a daintiness Elizabeth could not reconcile with his appearance. She jumped, too, when the Commodore tore the faintly dirty shirt sleeve away from the other man’s wrist. Elizabeth sucked in an incredulous breath. There, plainly for everyone to see, was a small scar in the shape of a ‘p.’ She winced along with the pirate. She’d heard of, but never seen, the pirate’s brand. “Had a brush with the East India Company, did we . . . pirate?”
“Hang him!” Elizabeth’s father snapped, his arm still protectively around her.
“Keep your guns on him, men,” Norrington ordered. “Gillette, fetch some irons.” Elizabeth heard, rather than saw, Lieutenant Gillette’s small form dash up the gangway. Her attention was focused on the pirate. Norrington tore away the pirate’s sleeve, revealing a blue-stained tattoo further up his tanned arm. Elizabeth couldn’t make out what it was. “Well, well . . . Jack Sparrow, isn’t it?” Norrington dropped the pirate’s arm with absurd disdain.
Elizabeth took another step forward, trying to pull away from her father. Jack Sparrow! Of course, that tattoo must be of a bird in flight, she mused. The description now made sense: the peculiar arrangement of his hair—supposedly trinkets collected from every man he’d killed—the eyes supposedly burned black from gazing at the depths of Hell—well, she could see now it was only eye-black—though she had expected him to be much taller . . .
“Captain Jack Sparrow, if you please, sir.”
“Well, I don’t see your ship, Captain.”
Elizabeth waited for the stunning response worthy of printing in the annals of pirate literature: a cutting, but not overly vulgar barb that would set down Commodore Norrington—who already needed a good setting-down—quite bewilderingly. Something she could repeat with pride to the other females at the fort and watch them, sickeningly, go into the vapors.
“I’m in the market, as ‘t were,” said Jack. Elizabeth slumped.
“He said he’d come to commandeer one,” said one of the roly-poly marines self-importantly.
“Toldja he was telling the truth,” snapped the other one. “These are his, sir.” He shoved a bundle toward Norrington. Elizabeth peered forward anxiously.
Norrington handled the .69 caliber sea service pistol, commenting with a smug, “No additional shot nor powder . . .” He opened the rectangular case of a compass, grimacing at it, “. . . a compass that doesn’t point North . . .” He drew out the simple cutlass—nothing to the Commodore’s dress sword, to be sure—and scoffed. “And I half expected it to be made of wood.” Jack smiled faintly as Norrington glanced at him scornfully. “You are without doubt the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.”
Elizabeth chewed the inside of her cheek. She was almost certain the Commodore knew Jack Sparrow—if this was him—had sacked Nassau Port without firing a single shot. Clearly, the fact that his current armaments were sub-par had little bearing on his quality as a smuggler, buccaneer and overall miscreant. Clearly, Commodore Norrington was undervaluing his abilities.
Jack apparently thought so as well, as he replied with a proud, “But you have heard of me.”
Elizabeth had hoped he would go on and boldly relate some of his exploits (for example, his impersonation of an officer of the Spanish Royal Navy, a rousing tale to be sure). But it was then that Gillette returned with the irons. The Commodore seized Sparrow by the elbow and dragged him forward to be chained. Elizabeth slipped free from her father’s grip, heedless of his coat which she let fall from her shoulders. “Commodore, I really must protest.”
Norrington appeared to ignore her, perhaps too embarrassed by the fact her light bodice and skirt were still wet and clung to her body in a way not befitting a proper lady. Elizabeth glided in front of Gillette and the pirate to face the Commodore. Her speech was genuinely felt, but she had wanted to plead clemency on the behalf of a pirate since she was about ten years old. “Pirate or not, this man saved my life.”
Norrington regarded her carefully. “One good deed is not enough to redeem a man of a lifetime to wickedness.”
This was a time-honored sentiment, one that Commodore Norrington took deeply to heart, Elizabeth knew. However, she was about to go on in her tirade anyway when Sparrow commented from behind her, “Though it seems enough to condemn him.”
Norrington answered with a humorless, “Indeed.”
Elizabeth was thinking of what next to say. She was most surprised when a chain was thrown across her throat and she was thrust against something hard and damp. She gasped out of reflex. From the shocked look on her father’s face, she could suppose what had happened. The betrayal sat ill with her.
“No, don’t shoot!” cried her father desperately.
Elizabeth could hardly swallow, her windpipe pressed against the hard, unyielding links of iron. She felt the cold, wet clothing belonging to Jack Sparrow against the bare skin of her neck and backs of her arms. Er—yes, her arms. Her arms were free. She wondered if . . .
“I knew you’d warm up t’ me,” Jack Sparrow sneered in her ear. She stiffened at the hotness of his breath. Well, this is really the end, she thought to herself, breathing fast. Death at the hands of a pirate.
“Commodore Norrington! My effects, please, and my hat.” He pulled the chain tighter across her throat. Her hands reached around his wet trousers. She wondered if she punched hard enough, if she could knock out his kneecaps . . . The Commodore hesitated. She did not really expect James Norrington, scourge of piracy though he was, to allow anything to happen to her. All her life, she had thought that meeting a pirate would be rather exciting. Well, it was . . . simply not in the way she’d expected. Elizabeth breathed in silence, feeling for once in her life very grave fear. This was quickly overpowered by her overwhelming anger, disappointment that not only would this Caribbean legend allow himself to be captured, but that he had betrayed her.
“Commodore!” Sparrow roared. She found it curious that she could feel the vibrations of his throat against the back of her head. “Elizabeth,” he said insinuatingly, touching her ear with his lips—how dare he!—and she flinched. “It is Elizabeth, isn’t it?”
It hurt her throat, but she barked out, “It’s Miss Swann!”
“Miss Swann,” he rejoined, his voice soft in her ear, “if you would be so kind . . .”
As to what? she wondered with true horror. She looked at the Commodore in confusion. She was heartened by his expression of anger, frustration, and a touch of anxiety. “Come, come, dear, we don’t have all day!” Sparrow crooned. Norrington held out the pile of Sparrow’s effects, dropping it into Elizabeth’s arms.
She had barely caught the bundle when Sparrow spun her around to face him. As he did, he snatched the pistol out of the bundle, holding it with one hand as he continued to hold her close with the manacles. She was not the type of young lady, she admitted in that moment, to be overly modest. But red circles of embarrassment—as well as anger—flared up in her cheeks. She scowled magnificently. “Now if you’ll be very kind . . .”
Had the bundle of effects not remained in her arms between them, she was convinced she would have been pressed flush up against him. One of his arms, manacled, was draped over her right shoulder in the casually possessive manner she might expect such a ruffian to use with his wench, or whatever (clap-ridden) female he called his own. As it was, she found herself staring straight into his eyes. For a moment, she almost forgot herself and said aloud, “The broadside artists don’t do you justice.” From them, she had been led to understand that Jack Sparrow was quite ugly. In fact, she found that he had not had the pox (or at least there was no visual record of it), that he was not missing an eye, and that, aside from the gold teeth, he was actually rather good-looking.
She was so shocked with herself for succumbing to such an inane, base thought at such a time that her fury rose up in her body to such a degree she would have been glad to rip off Jack Sparrow’s head with her bare hands rather than acknowledge she had ever found him anything but detestable. She picked up his three-cornered hat and slammed it on the crown of his head, then threw his pistol belt over his shoulder and cinched it tightly—let the devil suffocate for all she cared—to which he replied, “Easy on the goods, darling.”
His eyes shone. He held the pistol vaguely at her temple. “Sticks’n stones, love. I saved your life, you saved mine. We’re square.” She was certainly going to protest this course of reasoning, but he quickly spun her back around again to face the crowd. Now he was holding the pistol—no additional powder nor shot, you idiot, she thought—and moving back slowly.
She was heartily annoyed that her wet clothes were sticking to his, making this awkward amount of contact even more distressing. She cringed as the warmth of his skin seeped through the thin material as he held her tight against his chest, though the chain around her throat had loosened—now he had one arm draped over her in a terribly impudent manner while still holding the pistol to her head. She was almost certain he had no intention of ever firing it at her. “Gentlemen, milady,” he said, breathing again in her ear, “you will always remember this as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!”
The chain almost knocked the bridge of her nose as he lifted it up, shoving her away from him as violently as if she were the one with remarkably foul breath. She slammed into the wall of soldiers, awkwardly landing in Commodore Norrington’s arms. He at first reacted to her with surprise and clumsiness. Then he seized her firmly, and she allowed herself to be comforted by that firmness. But still she gazed behind her to watch Sparrow’s escape, until he disappeared from view . . .
Elizabeth shot awake, staring with some confusion at what she thought was the ceiling. She quickly realized from the not-so-gentle rocking motion that she was at sea. The Black Pearl. Her quest to find Will. She groaned, wiping the cold sweat from her forehead. She didn’t feel at all well. She was annoyed and disturbed that of all events, that was the one that her mind chose to dream about. She brushed her cheeks against the harsh canvas.
She heard the faint but unmistakable sound of four bells up on deck. Four bells. Eight o’clock, she thought, shocked to think she could have slept so long. She swung out of the hammock, a little light-headed. Once she sat up, she began to feel a little more capable of conducting herself. She tumbled into her boots and took a few halting steps toward the upper decks.
Night was descending on the ocean. Clouds were drifting by silently overhead, and the Black Pearl was making good time as gusts of wind filled all the masts. The quarter-deck was empty and dark and the lantern nearby swung mournfully. Elizabeth watched one of the crew, in silhouette, hoist up the rigging for the jibs. She turned toward the wheel, curious as to who was steering.
She turned, a little shocked. Standing behind she recognized the shape of Jack Sparrow, though she could barely see him. He was outlined in shadow, and it was an unnerving effect. She gulped a little; he was standing there silently, almost menacingly. “Y-yes?”
“Will you accompany me to my cabin?” It was a question but certainly not a request.
“Of course,” she said quietly. He did not acknowledge her response but instead turned sharply on his heel and headed down below for his cabin.
Elizabeth followed closely. She had to admit to being slightly apprehensive, as the last time she had stayed in the captain’s quarters of the Black Pearl, she’d had the opportunity to stab a man in the dining cabin and then be chased about the ship by the undead. Though she’d since learned not to be so easily frightened, the memories were like those of a particularly troubling nightmare: they lingered like a ghost upon her pillow.
Now at least she was not clothed in an awkward gown, but in the mannish clothes borrowed from her husband. She felt slightly more self-contained, as if the difference between a skirt and trousers might mean she would be taken more seriously. She had guessed rightly that anything to do with Barbossa would disgust Jack as much as it disgusted her. Gone was the dark opulence; the day cabin was bare and serviceable, with many stubs of candles illuminating the gallery windows. Elizabeth saw the remains of a meal, hastily finished and small to begin with, through the open door of the dining cabin, the napkin and crumbs shifting nervously with every roll of the ship. She contrasted it with the enormous, orgiastic feast Barbossa had treated her to and felt slightly nauseous.
Jack took two large steps away from her and landed in a chair that looked suspiciously like it had been stolen from a post-captain. He sat at a small table littered with dozens of maps. There, too, were the tools of a navigator’s trade: the sextant, the rulers, the small squat pencils
Jack noticed her staring and drew the map at the edge of the table closer to him. He looked at her and did not offer her a seat though the horsehair sofa—again, obviously stolen from a naval vessel—was unoccupied. She stood at attention like a midshipman. “ ‘Ad a pleasant rest, did you?”
His indolent tone made her defensive. He was insinuating laziness or something worse, and she did not like it. “Yes,” she lied.
He rubbed his dark eyelid with the edge of his thumb, turning over the sextant in his hands idly. He peered up at her boredly. Suddenly he stomped to his feet, throwing himself across the table dramatically. “This is your last chance!”
She took a step backward. His eyes were wide and glaring at her, the whites contrasting tellingly with the black around his eyelids. His moustache was twitching over his lip; he was drumming his fingers on the table menacingly. Elizabeth cleared her throat. “My last chance for . . . what?”
Jack cocked his eyebrow at her, turning all at once very grave. “Piracy . . . is a ‘anging offense, Elizabeth, as you well know. We’re still close enough to Port Royal . . . ”
Elizabeth looked down at the table, Jack’s dirty, short, and frayed fingernails pointing to a craggy piece of earth on one of his maps. This was certainly true. She’d been very comforted in this knowledge when she’d been kidnapped by Barbossa. Later she realized hanging would do that man no evil. Then the practical policy she had called into question when Jack himself had been waiting with a noose around his neck. There really was no alternative. She looked up at him. “I have nothing left in Port Royal. This is my only option—surely you can understand
. . .”
He gazed at her in silence, then slumped loudly into his chair. He cleared his throat, staring pointedly at the maps. “Very well. Because you refuse my magnanimous offer, I will be forced to change our course for the voyage.” Elizabeth stepped forward to look at the maps. He saw her and gathered them up hurriedly, rolling them up and shoving them below the table.
She sighed and forbore from chiding him for his childishness. “I hope you’re not thinking of sailing the Black Pearl up the Thames, Captain Sparrow.”
He looked at her darkly. “I would keep the questions an’ complaints to an absolute minimum ‘f I were you, considerin’—”
“I’m not an idiot, Jack, I’m not a lazy lady of fashion either,” Elizabeth exclaimed loudly. “I’ve been living amongst ships since I was twelve years old! If you expect me to just—j-j-just crumple up in the face of danger—”
“Mrs. Turner,” said the pirate quietly but with emphasis. Elizabeth shut her mouth. “Can you climb to the upper yards to repair the topsail?”
Elizabeth looked down. She was not a lazy lady, to be sure, but neither was she an able seaman. She clenched her fists. “I’ve never tried.”
Jack stood up again, looking at her with obvious disdain. “Do you know how to wind a deadeye or steer the rudder in a heavy wind an’ fog?” Elizabeth took a step forward angrily, remembering the anger from her dream which had been violent and bitter. Jack took a long, languorous step backward, his scarf following like an elegant train. He looked quite the impressive, implacable pirate captain, one hand outstretched as if daring her to protest her ignorance. She sighed heavily, glaring. “No,” he said coldly, rolling the word scornfully. “You’re little more than a green hand.” He shook his head. “You would never make a member of my crew.”
Elizabeth slammed her fist against the table, causing the sextant to jump and skitter across it. “Look, Jack,” she snapped, her voice brittle, “I’ll do whatever needs to be done.”
“Oh good,” said Jack cheerily, rubbing his hands together as if in front of a merry fire. “Start scrubbing, tarring, slushing and sweeping the decks at four bells tomorrow morning.” Elizabeth’s shoulders, so taut in anger, slumped in deep disappointment and frustration. These puerile tasks, these bits of humiliation, were used aboard naval vessels as forms of punishment. Jack flashed her a winning grin, mostly gold. Why was he being so unkind to her? she wondered. Making it as difficult as he can, the scoundrel, she thought. He couldn’t still be angry about the rum runners’ island? She narrowed her eyes to very unbecoming slits. He must really be annoyed to be forced, for once, to keep his word.
She placed both hands upon the table, leaning over it. “This is going to be a very . . . long . . . trip.”
“Naturally,” said Jack loftily, smiling and giving her an impudent wink. “Therefore to occupy your time, you will be making suitable things to wear.” She stiffened. “Come, come, dear, you don’t ‘spect you can sashay into London in jack-boots and trousers, do ye?” She stared. “If this venture’s to succeed—” his voice was low and intimate, and for the first time she felt as if she were not talking to a stranger, “—an’ I ‘spect it will—you must look the part of the ‘appy, well-off young bride.” He clapped a hand admiringly on her shoulder. She pulled away from the sickeningly innocuous heat of that gesture. He stepped back, leaning under the table. When again upright, he tossed a yard or so of damp pink calico at her. “I took the liberty of acquirin’ this for you.”
She glared. “You mean you stole it.”
He held up a ringed finger in her face. “I received it . . . as a gift. I will of course take the cost out o’ what you owe me at journey’s end.” He clinked his rings together appreciatively.
Not withstanding that vile assumption, Elizabeth examined the cloth in shock. “This isn’t the kind of fabric a woman . . . of means would wear.” He frowned. She thought about what he had perhaps meant by “gift.” “Or did you not know that?” She smiled knowingly and threw it back at him. He caught it, now scowling and tossed it to the floor.
“Fine. When we reach Tortuga, you may select the fabric you desire.” There was a forced calm to his voice, and she continued smiling, wondering if she had at last gained the upper hand.
“Tortuga?” she asked, at a loss, the word like dried coconut on her tongue. She had heard of and read of the place, and what she had heard of it from Will did not endear it to her.
“To refit and gather supplies for the voyage,” said Jack succinctly.
Elizabeth nodded dutifully. “Well, I will need a sample of your clothes and will need to purchase fabric for you . . .” She trailed off, noticing he had turned away and was placing the confiscated maps in a drawer along the wall. “Jack, you will have to blend in as much as me if there is to be any measure of success.” He ignored her. The Black Pearl rolled a little, and a bottle of what she could only assume was rum slid across the floor and landed against Jack’s boot. He picked it up, looked at it, and said coldly, “Good evening to you, Mrs. Turner.”
“But, wait, Jack, I have to teach you—”
He walked toward the door to his sleeping cabin, opened the door, and having walked through without so much as acknowledging her, slammed it shut.